From the archives: previous essays on the haiku of Ban’ya Natsuishi.

Adam Donaldson Powell’s preface to the haiku collection “Flying Pope”, by Ban’ya Natsuishi:

A MODERN MASTER OF HAIKU PAINTS THE COLLECTIVE CONSCIENCE.

A gong sounds somewhere in the distance, and in the silence that ensues the reverberations of the collective conscience precipitate a collage of impressions that are at once familiar, and yet far beyond the accepted structures of perception. In this impressive collection of contemporary haiku, Ban’ya Natsuishi expertly challenges and coaxes the reader to join him in a flight of fancy – in and out of reality and illusion – not so unlike the great surrealist Salvador Dali. Both the reader and the flying pope take to the air, suspended above the Earth like an out-of-body experience … observing from afar, and yet experiencing the dream-like state as if it were totally real – as a sort of déjà vu recollection of the fringes between zazen and newspaper headlines … or perhaps the CNN rolling news texts, floating across the bottom of the television screen. While it may be tempting to point out Natsuishi as l’Enfant terrible of contemporary haiku writing, his impudence is not intended to shock. It is, in fact, this sense of detachment in the author that binds together the childlike, the serious, the sarcastic, the humorous and the reflective – resulting in a splattering of surrealistic images that pose far more questions to the reader than give blatant commentary. Because of the masterly free flying construction, the reader is just as easily won over to the haiku of Ban’ya Natsuishi as he/she might be to adventuresome comic books and animated films.

True enough, there is much observation embedded in these pearls of writing: sparkling semi-precious jewels singing, dancing, and jabbering now and then about such themes as politics, haiku writing without seasonal references, the loneliness of papal responsibility, and the burden of conscience. However, the real artistry of this work is perhaps the succession of painterly haiku frescoes, all variations on the same theme: the illusion of consciousness.

Do read this book several times – forward and backwards, and even starting in the middle and proceeding in any direction … sometimes dancing back and forth. There are many hidden levels within the poems, the silent connections in between the poems and in the work as a whole.

  • Adam Donaldson Powell, Oslo, 2008 (based upon the English version of “Flying Pope”). “Flying Pope” is published by cyberwit.net.

 

 

ESSAY ABOUT THE HAIKU OF BAN’YA NATSUISHI.

CONTEMPORARY HAIKU: the renaissance and the transformation.

Literary criticism (2008) by Adam Donaldson Powell (based upon “Right Eye in Twilight”, published by Wasteland Press, USA, 2006, ISBN13: 978-1-60047-016-5 and ISBN10: 1-60047-016-5, 62 pages, paperback, US$12; and “Earth Pilgrimage” (Pellegrinaggio terrestre), published by Albalibri Editore, Italy, 2007, ISBN 88-89618-52-3 and ISBN 978-88-89618-52-3, 146 pages, paperback, €10).

As I sit before the screen of my laptop computer, the fat of my palms resting on the flat area of the keyboard and my fingers poised to attack – I close my eyes and begin to breathe rhythmically, as a concert pianist. I feel both certain of the notes that are about to flow through the tentacles of my body-mind-spirit machine, but immediately become encapsulated by the poetry of my own breathing. And in the cello-like dark mellow tones, underscoring the inevitability of one breath following another, I am at one with the driving impulse behind the art of Ban’ya Natsuishi. That impulse, that drive has many names but is perhaps best described as “satori” (meaning a state of spiritual enlightenment … but also quite simply ‘insight’).

The haiku of Natsuishi have many dimensions, and forms of expression. Perhaps the most common factors are the renaissance and transformation of duality, and the exposure of illusion caused by the folly of spiritual separation. Natsuishi has the uncanny talent of presenting perspectives from all angles – and yet, never contradictory in spite of individual or collective social experience. True insight, and effective artistic communication, is never exclusive or preaching … but rather expanding and questioning. It is exemplified by the ability to combine perspectives of the ‘external looking inward’ and the ‘internal looking outward’, the left side of the brain in tandem with the right side, the virtuosity of a well-trained and natural violinist on an equal footing with the exquisitely understated harmonies of a monk choir.

And still, Natsuishi does not cheat us of a glimpse into his own humanity – in fact, in “Right Eye in Twilight” he takes us along on his own personal journey, which both literally and poetically describes a search for vision (‘insight’). Here, the author invites the reader to accompany him in his rapturous process – ascending toward a state of satori that had nevertheless always existed in each of us from the very first times we opened (and closed) our eyes. It is this nakedness that reveals the childishness in us all – the fear, the frustration, the wantonness, the infatuation with the process itself – and that creates sublime poetry, in balance with our adult, intellectual and rational expression.

From “Right Eye in Twilight”:

A black horse

slowly getting white

in the wood

 

and

 

New York –

the terror of dust

toying with sundown

 

and

 

Water is a white nebula

within me

blown by winds

 

and the very beautiful

 

On a morning swamp

I see

the Palace of Versailles

 

For me, the very essence of the ‘satori’ of Ban’ya Natsuishi is exemplified in the most delicate and sensitive haiku found in the collection entitled “Earth Pilgrimage” (Pellegrinaggio terrestre). Each of these multi-faceted diamonds express both intimacy with oneself, one’s surroundings and with Spirit – free from separation. And yet they do not seek to deny the harshness of living on Terra, but rather allow the reader to see the effects of turning the face of the diamond – just slightly enough to get lost in the momentary light capturing us, our blindness giving true vision for an instant.

A few priceless examples follow:

Shoved off the stairs –

falling I become

a rainbow

 

and

 

From the reed marsh

New York appears

like an old UFO

 

and

 

A new moon –

the sublimity of the orchid

not yet achieved

 

and

 

An almond in bloom

leaning against

cactuses

 

and finally

 

Even in the clouds

a mute and a deaf person

arguing with each other

 

Contemporary haiku art simply does not get any better than as expressed in “Earth Pilgrimage”. It is both a renaissance and a transformation – of the essence, and the ever expanding and contracting nature of the haiku.

And my breathing continues in empathetic harmony, at one with the insight and vision of Ban’ya Natsuishi.

— Adam Donaldson Powell, Oslo, 2008

 

BAN’YA NATSUISHI (JAPAN) which is the pen name of Masayuki Inui, was born in Aioi City, Hyôgo Prefecture, Japan. He studied at Tokyo University where he received a Masters of Arts in Comparative Literature and Culture in 1981. In 1992 he was appointed Professor at Meiji University where he continues to teach. In 1993, he gave lectures at Jilin University in China, and was invited to a haiku meeting in Germany in 1994, and also in Italy in 1995. From 1996 to 1998, he was a guest research fellow at Paris 7th University. In 1998, and together with Sayumi Kamakura, he founded the international haiku quarterly “Ginyu”, functioning as its publisher and editor-in-chief. In 2000, after attending the Global Haiku Festival in USA, he co-founded the World Haiku Association, based in Slovenia. He currently works as the association’s director. In 2001 Natsuishi attended the Vilenica Poetry Festival in Slovenia, in 2003 the Struga Poetry Evenings in Macedonia, and in the same year he worked as the Chairman of The Steering Committee for the 2nd World Haiku Association Conference, which was held in Japan. In 2004 he was invited to the poetry festival at Porto Santo in Portugal. In 2005 he attended the 3rd World Haiku Association Conference in Bulgaria, the 3rd Wellington International Poetry Festival, and presided over the international haiku session of Euro-Japan Poetry Festival in Tokyo. In 2006 he was invited to Poetry Spring in Vilnius, Lithuania and the Ohrid P.E.N. Conference in Macedonia. In 2007 he visited Inner Mongolia and promoted haiku writing there, and also in that year he held the 4th World Haiku Association Conference in Tokyo, functioning as its chairperson. In 2008 he will preside over the Tokyo Poetry Festival 2008 (functioning as the director of the festival).

Among his many awards can be mentioned:

in 1980 he was recommended as Poet of the Year by Haiku-hyôron

in 1981 he won First Prize in a competition sponsored by haiku monthly Haiku-kenkyû

in 1984 he was awarded the Shii-no-ki Prize

in 1991 he was awarded the Modern Haiku Association Prize

in 2002 he was the recipient of the Hekigodô Kawahigashi Prize of the 21st Century (Ehime Haiku Prize)

Main Japanese publications:

Poetics of Haiku, Seichi-sha, 1983.

Dictionary of Keywords for Contemporary Haiku, Rippu-shobô, 1990.

Poetic Spirit of Genius, Yûshorin, 1993.

Haiku: A Century’s Quest , Kôdansha, 1995 (edited).

Contemporary Haiku Manuel, Rippu-shobô, 1996.

Haiku Is Our Friend, Kyôiku-shuppan, 1997.

Haiku Troubadours 2000, Ginyu Press, 2000.

Collected Haiku Poems by Ban’ya Natsuishi: Crossing Borders, Chûseki-sha,2001.

Chibimaruko-chan’s Haiku Class Room, Shûei-sha, 2002.

A Guide to World Haiku, Chûseki-sha, 2003.

World Haiku 2005, Nishida-shoten, 2004.

World Haiku 2006, Shichigatsudo, 2005.

Right Eye in Twilight, Chûseki-sha, Japan, 2006.

World Haiku 2007, Shichigatsudo, 2007.

Renku: A través do ar/Through the Air/A travers l’air, Shichigatsudo, 2007 (co-authored with Casimiro de Brito).

Tenbo Gendai no Shiika vol. 10, Meiji Shoin, 2007 (co-authored).

World Haiku 2008, Shichigatsudo, 2008.

Overseas publications:

Haiku: antichi e moderni, Garzanti Editore, Italy, 1996 (co-authored).

A Future Waterfall―100 Haiku from the Japanese, Red Monn Press, USA, 1999 & 2004.

Romanje po Zemlji, Društvo Apokalipsa, Slovenia, 2000.

Цветята на Вятьра, Matom, Bulgaria, 2001.

Poesia Sempre NÚMERO 17, Fundação Biblioteca Nacional, Brazil, 2002 (co-authored).

Haiku: Poetry Ancient & Modern, MQP, UK, 2002 (co-authored).

Haiku: the leaves are back on the tree, Greece, 2002 (co-authored).

Ombres et Lumières, LCR, Bulgaria, 2003 (co-authored).

Haiku: Poésie anciennes et Modernes, Édition Vega, France, 2003 (co-authored).

Странный Ветер, Иностранка, Russia, 2003 (co-authored).

The Road: world haiku, Ango Boy, Bulgaria, 2004 (co-authored).

Ribnik tišine: slovenska haiku antologija, Društvo Apokalipsa, Slovenia, 2005 (co-authored).

L’Anthologie du Poème Bref, Les Dossiers d’Aquitaine, France, 2005 (co-authored).

Right Eye in Twilight, Wasteland Press, USA, 2006.

ÎMBRĂŢIŞAREA PLANETELOR (THE EMBRACE OF PLANETS), Edidura Făt-Frumos, Romania, 2006.

Endless Helix: Haiku and Short Poems, Cyberwit.net, India, 2007.

Le bleu du martin pêcheur: Haïkus, L’iroli, Beauvais, France, 2007 (co-authored).

Madarak / Birds: 50 Haiku, Balassi Kiadó, Hungary, 2007.

Pellegrinaggio terrestre / Earth Pilgrimage, alba libri, Italy, 2007.

 

 

ESSAY ON BAN’YA NATSUISHI’S WORLD HAIKU: 

EXPRESSION OF EMOTIONS IN THE INTERNATIONAL / MULTILINGUAL HAIKU OF BAN’YA NATSUISHI.

Some old-fashioned “experts” still insist that human emotions in haiku are only to be expressed in figurative ways through depictions of nature, while others are venturing into somewhat more obvious analogies. I – myself – am a bit wary of the pitfalls of falling prey to reading too much into the subtleties of haiku, or to limit the usage of such expressions of subtlety to Japanese culture and tradition.

There are many opinions circulating regarding the mechanics and functions of haiku-writing, as well as some individuals who would seem to maintain that the only good haiku-writers are those who follow strict Japanese tradition. As I have written elsewhere, contemporary haiku – and perhaps especially international haiku and haiku adaptations into other languages – must address many cultural and linguistic differences that may challenge traditional Japanese rules regarding classical haiku, including but not limited to meter, linguistic and culturally-associated rhythms and sounds of words employed, expansion of time beyond “the moment” etc.

I was impressed to read the following in Natsuishi’s essay entitled “Composing Haiku in a Foreign Country” (A Future Waterfall, 2004, Red Moon Press, ISBN 1-893959-46-5, USA):

“[Nevertheless,] not many Japanese Haiku poets have been open to foreign experiences … The main reason is their idée fixe about nature … This situation has effectively prevented Japanese haiku poets from looking at a foreign land from a non-Japanese perspective. Foreign landscapes remain largely alien and incomprehensible.

“A haiku poet in a foreign country has many occasions for inspiration. Many things provoke him to look at them from new and different angles — provide him with a new insight and a different sensibility. This is the way it should be. After all, one principal purpose of haiku is to discover something new in everything and to reveal it to the world …

“More than three hundred years after Bashô, I am trying to create in my haiku diverse, astonishing traditions and phenomena of the whole world.”

It occurs to me that the cultural associative expertise required in international haiku and haiku in translation is perhaps especially significant in regards to communication of emotion – both viscerally and figuratively. While classical Japanese haiku expresses emotions more figuratively than directly, modern forms of haiku and international / non-Japanese haiku forms would appear to be experimenting with and stretching the “old and the traditional” into more “liberal” expressions of emotion and usages of kigo.

Ban’ya Natsuishi is classically-schooled and does employ many traditional Japanese forms in his haiku-writing, but he is also constantly exploring the haiku in literary evolution. His work with World Haiku presents special challenges and many new possibilities in regards to the internationalization of contemporary haiku-writing.

Some outstanding examples of innovative contemporary haiku by Natsuishi follow:

from “A Future Waterfall”, 2004, Red Moon Press, ISBN 1-893959-46-5, USA:

page 13:

From the future

a wind arrives

that blows the waterfall apart

 

page 18:

Cherry blossoms fall:

newspapers

suck in a great deal of blood

 

In Tokyo

the angry flower is

a snow crystal

 

page 23

Into the Sea of Japan

lightning’s tail

is plunged

 

page 31

On my tongue

a temple appears

allegro

 

page 43

Above the sea

lightning violates

the Galaxy

 

Tunisian

blue lightens

the swindling

 

and from “Endless Helix”, 2007, Cyberwit.net, ISBN 978-81-8253-072-0, India:

 

page 42

Perfection

is the symphony of the valley —

a stray sheep

 

Parfaite est la symphonie

de la vallée —

un mouton perdu

 

Sinfonía perfecta

en el valle

la oveja perdida

 

page 48

A cloud beyond any shape —

we have lost

our memory

 

Un nuage au-delà de toute forme —

nous avons perdu

notre mémoire

 

Una nube que tiene

más que todas las formas …

¿ perdimos nuestra memoria?

 

page 50

The sea of tears

always waiting

for our haiku

 

La mer de larmes

attend toujours

notre haiku

 

El mar de lágrimas

siempre espera por

nuestro haiku

 

page 53

Under the scorching sun

I have forgotten

how to love myself

 

Sous le soleil brûlant

j’ai oublié

comment je pourrais m’aimer

 

Bajo el abrasante sol

he olvidado

como amarme a mí mismo

 

Page 87, Dream no. 10

One after another our soldiers bleed to death.

We have lost any reason to press ahead.

We make up the blood pressure readings of our king,

the balance so to speak, of his rivers underneath.

Yet, we raise lances, dash forward,

And my voice is drowned out trying to hold us back.

 

Page Dream No. 12

Scratched.

Beaten.

Cut.

Ice sheds tears.

A beauty dances over this frozen swell.

She falls down by its caprice.

 

It is my premise that expression of emotions in art is not merely a question of perspective of nature, but concerns color, form, verb form, sound, meter and time as well.

In the above examples Natsuishi plays with the “rules” most creatively, experimenting with time (“a future waterfall”), direct and less direct references to emotions, sometimes more liberal approaches to the usage of kigo, and purposeful liberation from 5-7-5 meter in favor of culturally-effective adaptations in English, Spanish and French (I cannot comment on other languages which I do not understand). Successful adaptation of haiku from Japanese (or another language) to other languages is not merely a question of cultural and linguisitic translation but perhaps also entails a oneness in expression in the original language that at times surpasses literary and cultural norms in the mother tongue in order to achieve a more universal expression.

The ability to successfully make creative decisions depends on the artist’s understanding of tradition (where artistic expression norms have hailed from) as well as the understanding of how to employ intentional techniques to achieve desired new forms of expression. Decisions regarding usage of meter, form, sound, suggestion, time, length etc. should be conscious and intentional, and yet give the appearance of evenness and technical ease and dexterity. A technically or emotionally difficult passage in a work of music, literature or art should appear as effortless in execution as a technically or emotionally easy one. Here Ban’ya Natsuishi unabashedly shows his mastery of artistic execution and suggestiveness and his intelligence in decisionmaking and planning — resulting in a natural feeling recognizable by readers from various cultures, traditions and in many languages.

Despite his intellectual and technical expertise, Natsuishi has loftier goals than merely to find new ways of expressing emotions. He says himself: “My concern is not expressing emotion in a new way, but something deeper than emotion is my target.”

— Adam Donaldson Powell, Oslo, 2009.

 

 

A SHORT ESSAY ON PRESENTATION OF WORLD HAIKU.

An essay based upon the following multilingual haiku books by Ban’ya Natsuishi:

MADARAK / BIRDS, 50 HAIKU, including aquarelles by Éva Pápai, translations by Ban’ya Natsuishi, Jack Galmitz and Judit Vihar, published in 2007, Balassi Kiadó, Budapest, Hungary, ISBN 978-963-506-743-5; and VOICES FROM THE CLOUDS,

translations by Leons Briedis, Ban’ya Natsuishi, Jim Kacian and James Shea, published in 2008, Minerva, Latvia, ISBN 978-9984-637-42-5.

World haiku books are generally characterized by bilingualism or multilingualism, i.e. haiku books published with translations or adaptations in one or more languages in addition to the mother tongue of the haiku writer. This is also true of the world haiku books of Ban’ya Natsuishi. Mr. Natuishi’s literary adeptness is well-established – both by fans and reviewers such as myself, and by the international and Japanese literary communities at large. What I would like to address in this essay is presentation — the function of haiku with translations / adaptations in the same book, and the function of haiku together with and in competition with art / photography. In other words: the aesthetic dimensions and considerations.

I have previously commented upon the now-popular combination of haiku with photography: “I have written elsewhere that I prefer photography books without captions and titles … this is often a sensitive and over-debated question. However, I do not believe that it is solely a question of aesthetics or subjective ‘likes and dislikes’ / personal preferences. There are also the questions of functionality, total artistic impression as well as technical questions such as ‘when is more actually too much?’ Are the haiku captions or poetry? Do they serve a complementary function or an interpretative function, and are they (in fact) essential to understanding the photographs? Is the placement of these haiku optimal, or would another approach to combining photography and haiku have a stronger effect? These are all questions that strike me in my own personal experience …” It is important to me as reader and reviewer that presentation of haiku in book form satisfies the underlying aesthetic values of simplicity, space for thought and reflection, and maximal visual interpretation by the reader himself / herself. Furthermore, it is important to me that the haiku and the artwork function both on their own as artistic expressions AND together as complements, but not as explanations or rationalizations of each other. They should not be in competition with one another, and not too interpretative of each other.

This applies as well to presentation of haiku translations and adaptations alongside one another. The number and placement of haiku in translation / adaptation must not create a sense of constriction in regards to space, or be too overwhelming in terms of text. There are many possible solutions to these challenges, including: separating haiku and photography / art into different sections in the book, limiting the number of translations / adaptations, utilizing artistic imagery that is less concrete (eg. abstract imagery, painted calligraphy which gives a simple visual presentation, etc.) or watercolors or another medium that mimics the lightness of haiku to name a few possibilities. Of course, another possibility entails combining haiku with imagery that does not attempt to comment directly upon the visual imagery created by the haiku artist but rather explores the underlying “feelings” in other visual expressions. These suggested solutions might allow the reader / viewer to experience the visual, intellectual and emotional openness of both artistic forms of expression — both independently, and in “indirect” comparison, without the one form competing with, overshadowing or directly leading / affecting the experiential and interpretative process of the reader / viewer.

The Hungarian book MADARAK / BIRDS, 50 HAIKU is a very attractive hardbound book (12 x 18,5 cm), with fine illustrations by visual artist Éva Pápai. The illustrations are aquarelles, sensitively executed and without too much direct interpretation of the contexts expressed in the accompanying haiku. The illustrations are consistently placed on the pages adjoining each haiku in English and in Hungarian, and the original Japanese haiku appear under each illustration. Although this attractive book is not of a standard coffee table book size, the excellent presentation enables it to function both as a work of art and as a small inspirational book that may be carried in a bag or in one’s pocket so as to be read on the bus, the metro, the train … or during a break at work or in between appointments.

One reason that the presentation achieved in this book is so successful is that the illustrations are more than mere illustrations — they are works of art which function both independently and together with the haiku, they are simple in execution and style — thus mimicking and accentuating the lightness and spontaneity and “space” of haiku as an art form, there are only two haiku translations / adaptations to the page — giving a feeling of time and space for personal reflection in a way that the language that is unimportant to the particular reader can (in fact) disappear on the page, and also because the Japanese original haiku are tastefully reproduced with calligraphy in red — thus giving a sense of writing as visual art, as well as writing and art balanced both on the illustration pages and also together with the haiku in English and in Hungarian (on the opposing pages).

In “Voices from the Clouds” (11 x 19 cm, softcover), there are no illustrations or works of art accompanying each haiku. There are however haiku in original Japanese, Latvian and English on each page. In my view, this small book works quite well in terms of presentation. This largely because of the excellent paper quality, the sequence and placement of haiku on each page (starting with the original haiku in Japanese in one line across the top of each page, followed by the Latvian translation / adaptation, and then with the English version on the bottom of each page), as well as the feeling of “airyness” and space created … all of which give the book a sense of completion.

There are many memorable haiku in these two books which are both beautiful and thought-provoking. I will mention a few from each book:

from MADARAK / BIRDS:

 

Old women, pigeons,

winds and gossip

gather in this square.

– page 16

 

A wild eagle

is invited to

the room of mirrors

– page 24

 

Every thing will disappear:

even the rice paddy,

over it a white heron dancing

– page 54

 

To the goldcrest

every water drop

smiles

– page 106

 

and from VOICES FROM THE CLOUDS:

 

In Tokyo

The angry flower is

A snow crystal

– page 23

 

Long, long ago

A fountain

At the bottom of the sea.

– page 39

 

Walking is philosophy’s

Best friend —

Voices from the clouds.

– page 80

 

Wisteria flowers

Suck in our

Sweet nothings.

– page 120

 

If I were to point out one thing that I would criticize with either of these books, it would be the consistent starting of each line with capital letters in the book VOICES FROM THE CLOUDS. Sometimes initial capital letters feel natural and at other times (as in these haiku) they can (in my opinion) tend to disrupt the flow and music of short literary works where lines are supposed to both function on their own and as a continuous flow. However, this is my own personal opinion and experience.

All in all, I would recommend lovers of world haiku to purchase these books, as they are quite worthy of inclusion in one’s permanent collection … for re-reading time and time again, at one’s leisure.

— Adam Donaldson Powell, Oslo, 2009.

 

From the archives: previous literary criticism of the haiku of Sayumi Kamakura.

ESSAY ABOUT THE HAIKU OF SAYUMI KAMAKURA

SAYUMI KAMAKURA: the timelessness of the veil behind the veil behind the veil.

Literary criticism based on “A Crown of Roses”, a haiku collection by Sayumi Kamakura, published by Cyberwit (India), 2007, 70 pages, ISBN 978-81-8253-090-4, and “A Singing Blue: 50 Selected Haiku”, published by Ginyu Press (Japan), 2000, 63 pages, ISBN 4-87944-032-9.

There is much positive to say about the haiku of Sayumi Kamakura. In her recent haiku collection “A Crown of Roses”, and in her haiku collection from 2000 entitled “A Singing Blue: 50 Selected Haiku”, Sayumi Kamakura presents several impressive haiku – all speaking with the ‘quiet authority’ of an artist who knows her impulses and skills so well that she can make herself heard without raising her poetic voice, without over-dramatizing and without overwriting. Kamakura understands quite well the seductive qualities of haiku that are simple … and simply well written, and which exhibit the grace and delicateness of artistic and contemporary international poetry, dancing – in and out of past, present and future; reaching out from Japanese tradition into the world … and again, from the external world, back into the womb of true Japanese intention in regards to haiku.

In the work of Sayumi Kamakura, the “haiku moment” becomes rather the “momentousness of the haiku”. She has the gift of transforming the all-too-common misunderstanding of reductionism to something that is – in fact – larger than life; like the mystery of the bonsai. Art is never about limitation, but rather about playing within structure(s) – and pressing, kneading, pushing against boundaries to give the appearance of being larger than a mathematician’s (or literary/art historian’s, or critic’s) measurements.

Sayumi Kamakura effectively exerts a feeling of timelessness in her haiku, and in the mind and experience of the reader. She accomplishes this by her adeptness in revealing the veil behind the veil behind the veil. The vibrations of the piano cords of her haiku give one a sense of the sublime, ranging from the romanticism of Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninoff or Johannes Brahms to Karol Szymanowski to that of more minimalist composers such as Erik Satie or even Philip Glass – all elements of passion for life, pressing forward and peeking out of a tranquil detachment and understated true emotion.

Avid readers of my literary criticism know that I make a point out of assessing the musicality of poetry – and that I stress that the inner rhythms and rhymes are equally, if not more, important as (than) the mechanical ones. Sayumi Kamakura understands and plays upon the natural music of her haiku. In short, the haiku lover cannot help but be moved by the artistry of Sayumi Kamakura, who complements her intrinsic understanding of the art of haiku writing and philosophy with a certain feminine touch that tickles the ivory keys of the piano with the very authority and grace I have referred to above.

A few of her haiku are phenomenal, some are excellent, and many are quite good. On the whole, these are two short collections that are well put together. A few examples of her haiku that I personally feel are phenomenal follow:

 

A cold circle

called God

or the sun

 

and

 

The end of summer –

water clings

to a sponge

 

and

 

Someday my knees

will be wrapped

in brilliant clouds

 

and

 

The moth’s dead body:

consider it as dust

sent from heaven

 

as well as

 

Having cried out her heart

the sunflower stands

erect

 

and

 

The swimsuit on,

my soles forget

absolutely everything

 

and of course

 

Unable to say ‘I love you’ …

my bare hands, bare feet

implore the mirror

 

Read Sayumi Kamakura’s haiku … and become acquainted with yourself. She is the quintessential “goddess” archetype of the contemporary haiku artist, lifting the veils of everything around her.

— Adam Donaldson Powell, 2008

 

SAYUMI KAMAKURA (JAPAN) was born in Kochi Prefecture, Japan, 1953. She began composing haiku while a student at Saitama University and studied haiku under the guidance of Toshiro Nomura and Sho Hayashi. In 1988, she won the Oki Sango Prize. The lyrical style of her haiku attracted attention, and in 1998 she established the haiku magazine “Ginyu” with Ban’ya Natsuishi, and has been its Editor since that time. She has attended international haiku or poetry festivals held in Japan, Slovenia, Portugal and Bulgaria. In 2001, she won the Modern Haiku Association Prize. Her published haiku collections include: Jun (Moisture, 1984), Mizu no Jujika (Water Cross, 1987), Tenmado kara (From the Skylight, 1992), Kamakura Sayumi Kushu (Haiku of Sayumi Kamakura, 1998). Hashireba haru(Run to Spring, 2001), She co-authored Gendai Haiku Panorama (1994), Gendai Haiku Handbook (1995), Gendai Haiku Shusei Zen 1 Kan (Contemporary Haiku Anthology in One Volume, 1996), etc. She also published, in both Japanese and English, A Singing Blue: 50 Selected Haiku (2000). Her haiku has been translated into English, Greek, Russian, Bulgarian, Portuguese and Korean. She is a member and Treasurer of the World Haiku Association.

 

 

Essays on literary criticism and on multilingual literature.

image

SHORT AUTHOR BIO:

ADAM DONALDSON POWELL (Norway) is a multilingual author, literary critic, and art photography critic; and a professional visual artist. He has published several literary books (including collections of poetry, short stories, and novellas, two science fiction novels, and essays) in the USA, Norway and India; as well as numerous works in international literary publications on several continents. He writes in English, Spanish, French and Norwegian. He has previously authored theatrical works performed onstage, and he has read his poetry at venues in New York City (USA), Oslo (Norway), Buenos Aires (Argentina), and Kathmandu (Nepal). His book “Gaytude” (co-authored with Albert Russo) won the 2009 National Indie Excellence Award in the category gay/lesbian non-fiction. Powell was also the winner of the Azsacra International Poetry Award in 2008, and the recipient of a Norwegian Foreign Ministry travel stipend for authors in 2005. Powell also took initiative to planning and organizing the “Words – one path to peace and understanding” international literary festival in Oslo, Norway in 2008. He has been an author under the Cyberwit label since 2005, and he has published 12 literary books since 1987.

img_1977

ESSAYS ON LITERARY CRITICISM
by Adam Donaldson Powell
2017

I am an author of novels, novellas, short stories, poetry and essays. I also have reviewed dozens of books for various small publishing companies, including cyberwit.net. Cyberwit is extraordinary for many reasons, but the publishing company’s emphasis on being an alternative publishing arena, a place where first-time authors and those who have published less than three books can grow as authors, and a community that promotes new ideas and experimentations in literature by more experienced published authors — that is what I believe makes Cyberwit unique and important for new developments in contemporary literature.

Cyberwit represents “an opportunity” for authors, and it is important to use that opportunity well.

Most authors want serious literary criticism of their books. There are not many professional literary critics, or places for their reviews, at present. There have been many changes in the publishing market and the few high-status literary journals that remain often prioritize celebrity authors or books published by the most respected mainstream publishing companies. Peer reviews and reader reviews on Amazon and other such internet publishing companies are usually short and non-technical.

And then there is Adam. My reviews tend to be essays which are inspired by my experience of reading innovative and well-crafted works of literature. And that is what I feel that works of art should do: to inspire others to be creative in their lives — in whatever expressions that may involve for him or her concerned. Books that do not warrant a review by me simply do not get reviewed by me. Mediocre or unconvincing books, or books that do not stand out in the literary community at large may get reviewed, but perhaps only with a few sentences of encouragement to the author to keep working and improving.

I am very critical of poetry books. Many beginning poets do not realize that writing poetry is one of the most difficult literary forms to do well. It is easier to start writing bigger works (novellas and short stories) and then learn to create “big” with short verse. I do not critique individual books or stories — I critique complete published books; evaluated as complete works of art. Almost all published non-fiction books will have a few typographical or grammatical errors in them, and that is okay. However, a book that is riddled with these problems is not reviewable by me because the distractions make me more into a proofreader than a literary critic. If I reject a book or have advice to the author regarding specific literary problems and technical skills that need improvement then the author should ask the publisher why the book could not be reviewed. It is highly probable that I will have informed the publisher about my reasons for not reviewing the work. This is how we learn and improve. I do not reject reviewing books outright due to theme, form, style or the author’s viewpoints (even though I may not agree with them), but even a provocative or experimental book must be written with literary quality. And the more experimental or provocative the book is the more I will look for literary redemption. Book forewords that are essentially book reviews and which include a technical analysis and defense of the book that I am expected to review are very annoying. I will not review such books. So make up your minds: do you want to have your review in your book foreword by someone you know will write what you want to hear, or do you want an independent review of the total content of your book (including the foreword, preface, epilogue etc.)? In my opinion a book foreword should be short, non-analytical and inspirational. It is your own writing as the author that should stand up for itself.

I have written some thoughts about literary criticism which some authors may find relevant and helpful:

1)

BETWEEN US POETS …

I am adamant about the importance of understanding literary styles in historical, cultural and social contexts, and not merely repeating mathematical formulas and styles when writing – especially poetry. One reason I pretty much abhor most modern rhyming poetry is that few seem to comprehend why their rhyming verse is not as successful as that of famous poets from previous centuries. It is not only about rigidly-formed rhyme and meter, but also about what happens within that overall framework: the consonance and dissonance of rhyme and rhythm that occurs on an experiential level through choice of words, length of words, sequence of words, sequence of images, sounds evoked in the words and patterns of words chosen, the loudness and softness of words and their images – alone and in sequence, the beginnings and endings and overlapping of words, images and sounds in lines, the functions of periods, commas, hyphens, spaces; not to mention the color and psychology of words and sequences of words, and choosing the appropriate level of language. eg. I never use archaic forms such as “Thou” or “O, ….” OR words that most need to consult a Thesaurus to understand — unless I wish to show a change of status, wisdom, character of higher regard or of supposed superiority.

In this way poetry (and prose) takes on a cinematic, theatrical and multi-dimensional expression which more easily engages the reader to relate to his/her own experiences, memories, thoughts and feelings. Similarly, I have written much about the western “haiku moment”. F**k the damned haiku moment, and f**k the 5-7-5 prison if it does not work with your language. The entire haiku should reflect a haiku moment – a state of existentialism, where one breath is not distinguishable from another.

In literature and art and music we are always working to expose the “veil behind the veil BEHIND the veil”. Peeling an onion does not really result in nothingness, but rather a state of being that embraces a confluence of negations and perceptions that have burned their way into the eye-sockets of non-reality of any particular moment in non-space/time. The center of the onion is, if you will: the rhyme inside of / and in spite of / the rhyme.

2)

A LITERARY CRITIC’S LAMENT … for fellow book reviewers, authors and publishers

While many authors of books of poetry, short stories, novellas and essays are concerned with the problems with getting such books sold I would point out that:

1) people are reading such works today, but many are just not spending money on literature unless the author in question is a celebrity or a newly-discovered “sensation”; and

2) many authors underestimate or forget about libraries as important institutions, and of the inevitability of electronic publication taking an increasingly larger place in book publishing.

To make one’s living solely from book publication is not something many of the world’s authors can boast of. Most modern libraries are now digitalizing their collections so that they are available to multitudes. Try to get your books into local and national library collections. Libraries and national archives will have your books in their collections longer than private individuals, and they can be potentially read by several persons long after you have left this world.

Many small press and independent publishers find their authors on the internet. My publisher in India – Cyberwit – found me on the internet, and extended an invitation which I accepted. The rest is history, including many book publications with Cyberwit.net to date. Use the internet wisely … and you will be noticed.

Another thing: I note that many new authors-to-be seem to be offended when asked to share a tiny bit of the initial production costs for their books, when asked to help with marketing efforts, when offered an electronic publication first – in order to test out the market before eventual print publication … GET REAL PEOPLE! It is not ALL about YOU! Writing is an art form; but being an author is a career and a business. Put in the work, prove yourself, pay your dues, build up interest for your work, cultivate a clientele for your writing. That royalty contract you dream of can be yours if you approach the business of being an author in a professional way, and exercise patience. There are small press and independent publishers out there who are looking for the right authors “to work with” (not just to publish once); and there are still some freelance reviewers (like myself) that are working to present your books to the world.

That being said, publishers and reviewers of books of poetry, short stories, novellas and essays seem to be fewer in number than previously, and because production and marketing costs are often higher than possible sales profits in the short run, the author must expect to do more than merely write “a good book”. He/she should actively participate in the marketing process and use all possible venues (of which there are now many in this world of internet, eg. Facebook, Twitter, networking sites, blogs, etc.) to market their works. If mainstream publishers are to prioritize these genres then sales must go up. If small press and independent publishers are to survive and compete with mainstream publishers for readers then they need the help of both authors and reviewers.

Now, serious reviewers of books of poetry, short stories, novellas and essays do have their own issues … some of which are important for authors to be aware of:

1) The fast-paced world of today demands perhaps a new discussion regarding kinds of literary reviews that are produced, and their function. In my opinion, for most literary journals there has to be a happy medium between the overly-academic reviews of the past decades and the one paragraph summations that tell you nothing about why the reviewer feels the book has or has not literary quality – a type of review which is popular today also because of limited space in magazines, periodicals, journals etc.

2) I feel that it would be quite interesting with a discussion amongst literary reviewers about the subject and the art and the occupation of reviewing. What standards, ethics, guidelines are in place today? Is reviewing a thankless job or a useless occupation? What are the important elements of review-writing today as opposed to before?

3) How do reviewers today feel about and tackle the difficulties: in placing reviews, in being honest vs. taking care of the author’s or publishers feelings and needs: communicating the importance for the author of having balanced reviews and not just raves, the stupidity of authors flooding the internet with half-assed reviews of their books so that good ones are not interesting for publication, the problems involved with getting too close to the authors or publishers who wish to influence reviews or publish / quote only the most positive commentaries in order to increase sales etc.

4) How do reviewers feel about communicating to authors and publishers the importance of choosing the “right” reviewer – especially for the first review of the book? Serious literary journals rarely publish reviews of a book that has already been reviewed by several other persons and published all over the internet, or books that are more than one year old (yesterday’s news). Difficulties in getting reviews placed in serious literary journals has an effect upon serious reviewers as well. Reviewers are also interested in “discovering” a unique work of literature or a new exciting author, and being the first man/woman out with a review. I always “google” authors that ask me to review their books to see how many other reviews are already on the internet. And I sometimes decline to review a book if there is little chance of getting yet another review published. There are exceptions: new genres of literature, new voices that are so special or avant garde that they deserve a multitude of critical perspectives, and simultaneous multiple reviews from reviewers in different countries and in different languages upon worldwide book launching etc. Each reviewer must (himself/herself) judge the marketability of a review of a particular book vs. the importance of doing a review anyway either for the sake of supporting a particular work of importance or presenting one’s own literary skills in an essay about a particular work.

5) Is it appropriate for a reviewer to ask an author to tell about his/her marketing plans? I do pose such questions, as it tells me much about the kind of review to write, about the necessity of eventually writing a review that can be tailored by the publisher to be shorter if necessary – while still respecting the context of the criticism, and also much about the longterm motivation and investment the author has. I often review interesting authors more than once in their literary careers, addressing changes and growth and development in their styles from book to book. If the author or publisher is “clueless” about marketing strategies and how a review will be used, then writing a smashing or well-written review can be a waste of time, as most reviewers are constantly looking for more places and more prestigious places to publish their reviews, and the competition is very stiff. Often we compete with ourselves between the various reviews that we write and submit.

Nowadays, many good authors have also been reviewers. Why is it that many reviewers get burned out so quickly? It is perhaps in part due to some of the issues that i have cited above? The job of the critic is to write literary criticism; and selling the book and holding the authors’ hands etc. is really not our problem. It is – however – our desire to get our work published, and in good/appropriate literary journals, newspapers, magazines etc. Usually this is a cooperative effort between the publisher and the reviewer, but authors with “connections” to newspapers, literary journals and blogs that are interested in promoting their work should also actively engage in this marketing work — together with their publisher.

And what about the ethics of charging for book reviews? Many housewives make extra cash by writing short summations of books for large corporations in the USA, and make 50-75 bucks a shot. Good literary reviewers of small press literature usually work for free (unless commissioned to write a scholarly essay). Should reviewers get paid? If so, then by whom – the publisher, the author, the marketing company? And what are the possible ethical conflicts involved in that?

Some authors are highly sensitive to negative criticism, but yet authors crave assessment and “validation” … another interesting topic: the psychology of reviewing and desiring to get reviewed. Are some authors simply not “mature” enough for constructive criticism? And are some reviewers too closed-minded and old-fashioned in their likes/dislikes? I encourage all reviewers to publish their philosophy of reviewing, what they look for etc. from time to time. This will help authors not only in their choice of a reviewer, but also give many authors some helpful insight in their approaches to their own future writing.

How relevant is contemporary literature in non-English language countries for today’s global young people? Should all contemporary literature of quality only be in English? To be honest, in today’s international market publishing in English gives the greatest possible world public … albeit entails much competition. However, the reason that I employ multilingualism in most of my works is to reflect how today’s world is and also to drive up interest in other languages and cultures instead of the standardized/Americanized supermarket culture that is replacing everything all over the world. This is – however – hard work for everyone … but especially for you — the author. Do not expect that a small press or independent publisher has the staff, the resources or the knowledge of several languages. This is a genre that most mainstream publishers will not even touch. Be willing to work long and hard with special publications, and be patient with and courteous to your publisher. Small press and independent publishers are more often than not only 1-3 persons dedicated to keeping new literature “alive”.

If you as a reader or reviewer do not understand or know a word (in your own language or another) in a book … then look it up and learn something damnit! People are sometimes lazy and impatient in today’s fast-paced world society. And authors need to remember that every word is precious. Published writing should not solely be an act of self-gratification or literary masturbation. People do not have the patience for it. Choose your words carefully, and economically. Novelists can learn much from good poets and short, short story authors.

Another thing: let’s bring back the novellas. In today’s society they must be perfect for the on-the-go reader. The problem is that most publishers will not publish collections of novellas, nor will they publish prose that is less than 50,000 words because the book binding should be a certain width to be visible on bookstore bookshelves etc.

I am initiating this discussion because I feel that authors and publishers need to understand what reviewing is like in today’s world: what makes reviewers tick and continue to review etc.

– Adam Donaldson Powell

3)

THOUGHTS ON LITERARY CRITICISM.
LITERARY CRITICISM:
A FEW INTRODUCTORY COMMENTS
BY ADAM DONALDSON POWELL.

Much has been written regarding the history and development of literary criticism, the present “crisis” precipitated by trends and practices in the areas of publishing, marketing and distribution, as well as challenges posed for literary criticism by electronic publishing … including a renaissance of the age-old questions regarding which persons are qualified to write literary criticism, and the purposes and goals of good literary criticism.

All of these topics, themes and discussions are actual and important today. My main concern is to provide authors of literary works (poetry, short stories, novellas, essays, novels etc.) and independent presses and facilitators of self-published books of quality with a new form of literary criticism: which is informative, which incites debate, which challenges author and reader, and which provides entertainment, but which at the same time functions as a marketing tool and an opportunity for authors to consider their own development and accomplishments from the perspective of another literature enthusiast. I review both first-time authors and authors who have written dozens of books, assess individual books as well as compare several books by the same author, and sometimes follow a specific author’s development from book to book.

All literary criticism is subjective by definition. However, it can be helpful for both author and readers of literary criticism to discover new ways of perceiving their own writing, and writing in general. I am not an English professor, or even an English major. I am an author, and yet another who constantly struggles with the same questions, choices and challenges that all authors confront. It is my experience that reviewing others’ writing gives me greater insight into my own. This is (for me) an ever-going process of personal and artistic development.

I am often asked what I look for in poetry books that I review, or consider reviewing. There are many poetic forms being used today, with many hybridizations. There exists both a sense that there are “no rules” anymore and, at the same time, there are some unspoken literary guidelines that determine the probability for successful literary communication – beyond the subjective, and questions of personal taste. I believe that it is important for me as a reviewer to restate what I look for from time to time.

As I have written elsewhere, I look for many qualities including: evenness in quality, diversity in content and form, artistic intent, planning, execution and polish (the degree of polish being both intentional and commensurate with the desired expression), and an overall concept of the book as a complete work of art – beyond an arbitrary “stew” of individual poems. In addition, I pay attention to the author’s sense of originality, political and social awareness, mastery of storytelling, and visual, musical and philosophical expressions indicative of the author’s experiential personal history. I further look for: balance of intellectual rationalism and emotional presence, a solid command of the full palette of language(s) used, descriptive colour, clarity, intentional usage of abstractions, entertainment and theatrical/performance value, humour and occasional irony, and an overall sense of when to use poetic economy versus poetic rapture. And finally I am concerned that the author has an understanding of how to arouse within the reader a sense of personal identification, emotion and engagement – enabling the reader’s ‘inner artist’ to enter into a creative cognitive dialogue with the author, and hopefully even to inspire the reader to embark upon his/her own creative process.

I believe that art is both an intentional and an intuitive process, with many pitfalls: eg. overwriting, non-attention to levels of language used ($5 words can sometimes be more appropriate than $5000 words), stylistic and punctuation liberties that sometimes work and sometimes not, mimicking famous (and usually deceased) writers without sufficiently developing one’s own signature style, and getting all too caught up in – or ignoring – traditions of literature without having thought through why one has consciously chosen this or that style, or a divergence … just to name a few. At the same time, I believe that artists must always keep experimenting in order to grow and to develop further. That means taking risks … and sometimes even falling flat on one’s face. That is okay. We eventually learn from both our own … and others’ mistakes.

So writing is not a static process … and neither is literary criticism. While much criticism for first-time authors can be similar, it must be kept in mind that 1) there is no definitive “correct way” of writing, 2) criticism is personal and subjective to a large degree, and 3) there has never been a “perfect” book (and never will). I do not personally believe that writing a perfect book is an all important goal. Constant experimentation with technique, style, form and language is the real key to self-development and literary development. A not so well received book can be preceded by one or more very well received ones – who is to judge what is “good or not”? And the perhaps “not-as-good” book could teach author and reader much more than the “good” ones.

That being said, I do believe that literary criticism should be balanced – pointing both to that which functions well for the reviewer, and to that which the author might consider developing further or experimenting with in another way in future writing. Every now and then an author gets a complete rave of a review from me, but that is often because the author has managed to impress me in any of many ways that demonstrate overwhelming strength, courage, openness, visual imagery, musicality, movement, theatricality and/or originality … perhaps because I happen to resonate with the author at that particular point in time in regards to a certain form of expression or quality. There is no formula, there is no real checklist or form … it is an objective/subjective process.

Getting reviewed is exciting – for the author, the publisher … but it is also exciting for me as a reviewer to experience the reactions of author, publisher and reader, and to see if my comments help to incite further enthusiasm and growth in the author, and to encourage potential readers and new publishers to consider the author and his/her book(s). And yes, I am always curious as to whether (or not) the author and others share or understand my experience of the work in question. A work of art is – after all – a vehicle for mental, emotional and soulful transport, taking each of us to our own self-designed destinations. Reading a work of literature is – at its best – a dialogue between author and reader.

Lastly, I would like to say that I consider literary criticism to be an art form in itself – a form for expression that is constantly stretching and yawning, recollecting older traditions and recognizing the contemporary and the visionary in authors, and sometimes making associations between diverse forms of artistic expression and artistic disciplines. However, reading a book review or a piece of literary criticism is no substitute for reading the book, and is not a prerequisite either. Literary criticism is only a personal guide and commentary … a short essay containing the reviewer’s thoughts and reactions to having read a work (or works) of literature by another author.

— Adam Donaldson Powell

4)

Cyberwit is a multilingual and multinational community,
and cyberwit.net publishes in many languages. Here are a
few comments on:

PLAYING WITH THE MULTILINGUAL.

From “Le Paradis”, a tri-lingual novella with bilingual poetry by Adam Donaldson Powell:

“Il fait chaud aujourd’hui. Tu n’as pas soif?” asked Erik.

“Afaitu is in one of his serious moods today. He has been trying to get in touch with his spiritual ancestors, and is therefore staying away from the Devil’s brew (you know: pia). But I am certain that he would like some cold water and a joint,” said Eperona with a playful snicker.

“Pakalolo? Sorry man, I wish I did have some marijuana. But I do have some bottled water with me and (of course) a pack of Marlboro cigarettes. Will that do?”

Afaitu graciously thanked his Swedish friend for the water and a cigarette, while suggesting: “Hey, why don’t we take my boat out to a motu and spend the afternoon just chilling out? We can pick up some sandwiches and fruit, and perhaps even some mahi mahi on the way.”

“Mahi mahi sounds good to me,” said Eperona in his slightly post-adolescent manner … grinning, while adding: “and some more beers too!”

Afaitu shot his two-year younger friend a pretend-stern look, and then broke out into laughter.

“What? What did I say that is so funny?” asked Eperona, himself unable to keep from smiling. Erik thought he had been left out of a personal joke, and his eyes quizzically darted from Afaitu to Eperona, finally resting on Afaitu.

“It is nothing, my friend. You have been exactly the same since you were sixteen years old: the joys of your life are so simple. As long as you have fish, women and beer, ‘tu es au paradis’!” replied Afaitu, smiling and throwing a pebble at Eperona.

“Hey, cut it out!” retorted Eperona, as he playfully wrestled Afaitu onto his back, pinning him down with his muscular arms and shoulders. “And speaking of women … should we invite some to join us? What do you think, Erik? I know this hot …”

“Merde! What a fucking braggart. Don’t listen to his crap talk, Erik,” said Afaitu while pushing Eperona off of himself. “You would think that Eperona is the biggest stud and womaniser in the whole of French Polynesia.”

“Et alors!” joked Eperona, now standing over his two friends and thrusting his hips and groin forward in repeated erotic movements – half dance and half sex simulation.

“Damn, Eperona! You look like a raerae or a mahu impersonating an amateur Polynesian dancer for tourists,” shouted Afaitu … causing Erik to laugh and Eperona to pounce on Afaitu again.

“Amateur? Raerae? My uncle is a raerae, so I take that as a compliment. In fact, you should BE so lucky! Here … I will show you how a ‘raerae’ fucks a titoi (a wanker). Roll over … I’ve got something for you!” cried Eperona out as they tussled; and all three men laughed uncontrollably.

– – – – – –

From “2014”, a multilingual and intergalactic novella by Adam Donaldson Powell:

“Ha konwe ilucó Zeta, saj juhe la” (”Greetings our Zetan friends in Spirit, we wish contact”) repeated Eonurai telepathically in Vegan (the language used by the Greys), directing her energies toward the constellation that was home to the Zeta Reticulians. “Ha konwe ilucó Zeta, saj juhe la” … ”If you can hear this message, then please respond. This is Eonurai from Terra, with an important message to you from the Intergalactic Higher Command.”

“Ha konwe Eonurai-at. Saj miile ennwo. Len em Cuezpå. Ken ta sommo ?” (”Greetings she who is Eonurai. We are listening. This is Cuezpå. What is your message ?”) replied the Zetan on the receiving end of the telepathic communication directed at the Zetan Central Command Headquarters.

He then added: “Not to be disrespectful, but we speak English quite well here at the headquarters. Perhaps we should continue in English, as it would be more convenient for us. Your accent is a bit difficult to decipher telepathically.”

– – – – – –

Authors who write bilingually or multilingually usually employ one or more of the following alternatives:

1) to write and publish a work in one language, and then to adapt the work into another language and then publish it again in the new language;
2) to write sections of a work (usually poems) in one language, and repeat all of them into one or several other languages within the same book;
3) to write sections of a book in different languages, sometimes repeating the same small works and sometimes combining adapted and other works in the different book portions;
and 4) combining several of the above-mentioned techniques in the same book, and/or over a progression of books.

I employ all four approaches in my literary publications, and public readings – usually writing in English, Spanish, Norwegian and French, but also occasionally using bits of text in Greek, Arabic, Latin and other languages where appropriate.

Why do I find this fascinating ? First of all, we live in a globalized greater society today where many persons speak and understand multiple languages to various degrees, where few speak “the Queen’s English” anymore but rather national and local adaptations of English, French, Spanish and other major languages, where several individuals and groups of expatriates, immigrants and persons who have lived in many countries and cultures quite naturally employ several languages in the course of a simple conversation – you can hear it on the streets and busses in major cities all over Europe: persons in dialogue with another, in person, or on the cell phone, switching over from Urdu, West African dialect, French or Spanish to perhaps Norwegian, Swedish or Danish, and then to English, and back again. I enjoy matching this phenomenon together with the adjoining mixtures of culture – both as experienced by natives, by immigrants in their new countries of residence, by tourists who are experiencing and learning about other cultures … and also in culturally-hybridized forms, just as hybridized language today.

Secondly, by presenting the reader with this new globalized multilingual and multicultural reality, I hope that several persons will find interest in learning new languages (other than British and North American English) and that many will also begin to challenge their local and national perspectives on world culture today … and tomorrow.
This is not a “new” genre; as many authors throughout history have played with using different languages in dialogues within the same work; and bilingual and multilingual adaptations in all possible forms is as popular today as ever before (especially in the international haiku network). However, the intent to use this literary form to reflect a modern globalized and mixed up cultural and linguistic world is a fairly new concept. We are moving from national literature in translation to multicultural/multilingual literature and “global literature”.

The challenges for writing and publication are immense. Writing generally requires much decisionmaking, and when the question of merely choosing one’s target audience is suddenly opened up to something greater than primarily the English-speaking, French-speaking or Spanish-speaking world, the writing challenges increase proportionally. No longer is it good enough to find the right translation of Hindu ritual texts in the local dialect as practiced in Kathmandu (as I discovered in my book “Rapture”), but I needed to find a dialect that would be understood and accepted by all Hindus in Asia. In the end I opted to translate some of the special texts back to English, both out of global linguistic and religious-cultural considerations. There are many decisions that have to do with level of language used, grammatical and punctuation rules used (for example, which language’s rules should be followed in a manuscript that should show consistency ?), and the complexity of the text and story/poetry, decisions that have to do with whether one wishes to present a culture as a native might or as the outside world peering in (complete with stereotypes that are both promoted and challenged), decisions that have to do with political, religious and cultural values mirrored on all levels and in all perspectives (locally, nationally, internationally, and globally) and the accompanying perceptual differentiations therein, problems with getting language and cultural consultants, editors and colleagues to agree upon the “best” or “most correct” way to translate or adapt a text into another language … and then to arrive at the best possible compromise for presentation in the final book, finding a publisher who will take a chance on publishing a book where he or she does not understand all of the languages used and does not have staff or finances to check every detail in several foreign languages used … and the added responsibility this places on the author. There is much research, much reliance upon others, much insecurity and a lot of adrenalin that flows with expectation until the book has been on the market for at least a half year without a major international scandal or crisis having occurred. Words are not merely “words”, you see. Words have incredible power.

However, the thrills of doing this kind of global writing are also enormous. One gets the feeling that one is truly both “reaching across the world”, and “binding the world together” – contributing meaningfully and intentionally to global communication and understanding through literature. And the mental calisthenics can only be compared to successfully completing a long distance race with hurdles all along the way. It does get confusing sometimes. You need to have a solid base line – as in music – to hold it all together, but the “dance” itself is mesmerizing and offers countless possibilities to both fall on one’s face … and to get up again, and (at times) to soar through space like an eagle – with a view of the world rarely acknowledged in the hub bub of day-to-day situations.

It is my hope that more “global literature” will be written and published in the near future – including the employment of international cyberpunk and international urban dialects as language forms. Language is changing daily, and authors need to keep up … and stay ahead artistically. This is just the beginning of a whole new world of literature.

– Adam Donaldson Powell

5)

LA CRÉATION DE L’ART ET LA LITTÉRATURE EXIGENT UN ENGAGEMENT CONSTANT. PENSEES … DE LA PERSPECTIVE D’UN AUTEUR.

De la part d’un auteur qui utilise activement le multilinguisme comme technique … et également de la part de quelqu’un qui a vécu dans trois pays différents avec trois langues maternelles … je trouve le multilinguisme très intéressant. Bien sûr, je reconnais qu’il y a des problèmes inhérent à chaque langue employée et qu’il faut les surmonter en raison des différences culturelles, afin de ne pas mélanger les mots et les définitions. Parfois j’estime que je n’ai aucune “langue” du tout, entre l’anglais, le norvégien, l’espagnol et le français.

Ce serait plus facile pour moi de vivre quelques années en France et ensuite peut-être un été dans un pays hispanophone au lieu de continuer à résider en Norvège en tant qu’expatrié.

Cependant, je ne suis pas tellement intéressé par l’anglais parfait, le norvégien parfait, l’espagnol parfait ou le français parfait dans mon écriture. D’ailleurs, la perfection existe-t-elle, même chez les monolingues? Je suis plus concerné par l’utilisation des langues dans leurs formes intrinsèques, voire expérimentales. Cela exige souvent plus de connaissance que je ne possède, donc je dois souvent chercher l’aide d’autres personnes et d’autres sources. Il y a beaucoup de recherche impliquée dans mon écriture. Ceci est aussi valable pour l’écriture dans ma propre langue maternelle : l’anglais. Quand je fais une analyse critique de jeunes auteurs je leur dis souvent de penser au niveau de la langue qu’ils utilisent parce que le niveau de la langue conditionne la performance et l’exécution théâtrale, à partir des émotions. Les mots rares ou précieux (des mots compliqués, obscurs et intellectuels) ont leur place et les mots plus populaires ou du language parlé, également. Ecrire – tout comme l’art – implique un engagement.. TOUT LE TEMPS! Quel niveau du langage, de la narration est approprié, et quels effets cela aura-t-il sur le lecteur ?

La création de l’art et la littérature exigent un engagement constant, ainsi que des rajustements, dès lors que la création commence à prendre vie et doit se définir vis-à-vis du lecteur.

Mes lecteurs me demandent souvent pourquoi je suis “contre la rime poétique. Je ne suis pas – en soi – contre la bonne rime pour autant que l’on sache ce qui est considéré comme bonne rime. Je crois que c’est la voix de poésie elle-même qui doit définir la forme … la rime féminine, la rime masculine, des variations sur des styles, pas de rime, le mètre externe, ce que je désigne comme “le mètre interne” (que l’on ne repère pas nécessairement en lisant rapidement la poésie, mais qui est bien là dans sa forme), le niveau de langue utilisé (des mots de 5 € contre des mots de 5000 €) est important car ils donnent le ton, la voix, ainsi que le degré de difficulté de la création. La question est alors celle-ci: quelle langue utiliser et quand (l’anglais uniquement, comme langue principale?) l’utiliser avec les autres langues afin de créer un environnement multiculturel et multilingue ou une culture dite mondiale, en imitant la vie quotidienne dans toutes les sphères d’une culture donnée, en employant de surcroît des dialectes, ou peut-être le mot français ou espagnol au lieu du mot anglais ou norvégien, afin d’obtenir la plus juste expression – exemple: lorsque l’on dit ‘ciao’ en se quittant, dans plusieurs pays -, etc. Les poètes majeurs jusqu’au 21e siècle avaient un appui plus solide dans l’art de la rime. Rimer est beaucoup plus que la découverte de mots qui paraissent semblables musicalement et où le nombre des syllabes comptent. Le Haiku par exemple est beaucoup plus que le nombre de syllabes strict, car en procédant de la sorte on peut arriver à des résultats ridicules. Non, c’est l’esprit du Haiku qu’il faut respecter et non l’exactitude de son mètre. D’autre part, chaque mot possède sa force et son pouvoir de suggestion; particulièrement dans la poésie et les formes littéraires plus courtes – rien ne doit être perdu des intentions et de la force de l’auteur – parfois nous voulons raccourcir ou allonger des textes pour affecter le lecteur ou prêterau texte une certaine identité … cela vaut également pour l’utilisation des mots difficiles que la plupart des personnes doivent constamment consulter un dictionnaire.

La rime qui ne prend pas en compte les effets la musique du mot originel peut inconsciemment ennuyer le lecteur ou transformer une voix pleine d’humour en poésie plate … ainsi, les mots perdent leur signification première, ce qui par la même occasion, neutralise l’essence poétique elle-même.

Quand dois-je me décider quelles langues utiliser et comment ? C’est surtout dicté par la nature et le thème du texte, mais aussi par la culture … ou mieux, par “ma propre perception de la culture concernée”. Dans mon livre “Paradis”, qui est écrit en anglais, en français et en dialecte Tahitien, j’ai essayé de rester le plus simple possible, en m’approchant le plus possible du Tahitien parlé, le français dominant dans ce cas précis, tout en maintenant une certaine distance vis-à-vis des deux autres langues, la poésie anglaise dans le livre est la langue fonctionnelle et descriptive … elle est souvent le fait d’une impatience suggérée et du tumulte interne. Dans le même travail, j’alterne entre poésie et prose afin de créer le sens de la perte du temps et le ‘climat’ du Pacifique. Toutes ces décisions … et d’autres non mentionnées ici … sont consciemment et inconsciemment au travail par le truchement de créations littéraires et artistiques. Plus vous êtes mûr comme artiste, plus vous aspirez à “cette symphonie incroyable”. J’estime être un novice perpétuel … pourtant, je vise toujours très haut en espérant atteindre le paroxysme de la langue que j’utilise, quelle qu’elle soit, allant jusqu’à consulter divers méthodes linguistiques sur Internet, mais là il faut être prudent, car il y a à boire et à manger, et la qualité n’est pas souvent au rendez-vous.

D’autres décisions impliquent le rythme, le cadre, la quantité de détails, la vitesse à laquelle le lecteur entend lire le texte qui lui est soumis : Prenons l’exemple du Candide de Voltaire, ou mon roman “2014 : la vie et les aventures d’un ange incarné” – Il s’agit d’abord d’introduire le lecteur , pour ensuite le laisser voguer dans son imagination en lui donnant l’impression qu’il a écrit l’histoire lui/elle-même.

Beaucoup a été écrit sur règles de l’écriture, particulièrement quant à l’utilisation de la première, la troisième et la deuxième personne. Le défi est grand, car on ne raconte pas la même histoire à la 1ere, 2ème ou 3ème personne, et l’impact sur le lecteur peut être faussé. Un exemple illustre ce que je veux dire: les concertos de piano pour la main gauche seule, comme “le Quartet pour la fin des temps” qui avait été à l’origine écrit pour un violoncelliste ayant seulement trois cordes à son instrument, etc.

Je peux continuer jusqu’à l’infini…, mais il y a une cour de récréation énorme là-bas pour tous les auteurs. Et non seulement pour les auteurs, mais également pour les musiciens, les peintres et les artistes de la scène. Les règles servent à nous donne un contexte et une formation.

Nous devons décider, selon nos propres émotions, comment les utiliser (ou ne pas les utiliser), la palette de styles, de formats, des genres étant très vaste, elle permet à certains même de créer de nouveaux genres qui transcendent le seul roman ou la seule poésie.

AMUSEZ-VOUS DONC ! Et si par accident ou si vous n’écoutez que votre intuition en ignorant le plan original, vous découvrez peut-être un nouveau chemin, allez-y, le voyage risque d’être passionnant.

— Adam Donaldson Powell

img_1980