Saturday, April 30, 2011

Visual Poetry and a Little Something Called the USB Typewriter

This morning Ed Baker sent along a note about visual poetry with a link to a post by Geoff Huff on creating visual poetics via the old school typewriter, entitled "Typewrought".

This reminded me of a little something I ran across this week on a USB typewriter.  Enjoy.

a long day--
the eel catcher writes pictures
on the water
translated by David G. Lanoue


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Friday, April 29, 2011

4th Street Vagaries by Hosho McCreesh

It's not often that my professional jealousy rears its ugly head.  When, however, I see something smaller than I do, done as professionally (or better) as I do, with poets as good as I publish, well, I do get a twinge of the green monster.

Alternating Current's "Pocket Protector" series, of which 4th Street Vagaries is Book 16, is one of those productions.  According to the legend, "Propaganda Press is the small press portion of Alternating Current; info regarding Pocket Protectors can be found at"

Duly noted (& linked to, above).

The sum and substance of this particular production is a thing both to behold and to be beheld, the later specifically in the palm of your hand.


The poet, Hosho McCreesh, is a wonderful practitioner of the small poem, which makes the whole thing a true delight.  Here's a little taste from the book you can put in your shirt pocket and still have room for the sawed off Camels and your favorite pen.

old tires
   tankards, vats.

retention ponds.

new guy
old car batteries
for resale.

in the road,

have worn
something down

to a stain.

                           a man     
     rolling down his window,
 reaching out so he can open
his broken driver's-side door.




There is an overriding sense of despair or at least desperation here.  Who hasn't, at one time or another, been the new guy (washing the resale batteries).   That "something" in the road just breaks your heart with its anonymous something-ness.    Each of these brief, insightful pieces reaches in and just squeezes your heart with a forlorn pain instantly recognizable and painfully reminiscent of similar scenes in our own past and present lives.

Oh, mercy, lord, mercy, mercy me ...

Apart from the excellent work by McCreesh, the layout of this teeny-tiny book is just driving me bonkers with its precision, everything lining up from page to page so nicely and all.   Approximately 60 pages in length, with an illustration on everyone, this little puppy is a steal for $3.  In fact, there are a ton of other great writers in the series including leah angstman, Ed Galing, Michael Kriesel, Alan Catlin, A. D. Winans, and many more.  Get yourself a parcel.  Checks and money orders made out to Angstman Arts and mailed to Alternating Current, PO Box 183, Palo Alto, CA 24302 (for international orders, please first).


This week's featured poem comes from Lilliput Review, #151 from July 2006.  The piece, by Erik Alan Pohl, has a perfect title that sheds a bright light on an enigma, identifying it for exactly what it is.

On how understanding unravels back to the beginning
Once you tell me cultures
part us, you pull a sutra
from the sacred text.

Such a little thread!

But so strong it held the book binding

The book itself
holding the shelf up
that supported even older books.

Here is a flood of fallen words to drown in.
Erik Alan Pohl

Great Japan!
a bird recites a sutra
a monk beats a bowl
translated by David G. Lanoue


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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Wednesday Haiku, #14: Bob Carlton

Wednesday Haiku, Week #14


numberless stars--
I have trouble, too,
counting fireflies.
Bob Carlton

the first firefly
flies smack into people's
translated by David G. Lanoue


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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Bend Haiku Weekend and Issa's Deep Resonance

A couple of notes: above is a flyer for a haiku weekend in Bend, Oregon, that was passed along by site friend and artist/poet extraordinaire, Ed Baker. The full details are here.  Time to book!

In addition, there is a call for submissions for a Haiku Wall that they are creating for the event:
Haiku Oregon CALLS FOR YOUR HAIKU to be displayed at the HSA Quarterly National Meeting & Haiku Art Walk Wall at the historic Liberty Theatre in downtown Bend, Oregon on June 3, 4, and 5, hosted by Haiku Oregon, co-sponsored by the City of Bend, and proclaimed “Bend Haiku Weekend” by the Mayor. Please see full details in Ripples, and at the HSA Website plus more at the Haiku Oregon Website 

Our goal is to exhibit 1000 haiku and we have almost that many already, but please take a moment to email your own favorite haiku that you have written to date, (published with credits or unpublished), under the subject heading "HSA haiku Wall" to an'ya at and just be sure to include your name, city, state and country. We would like to have everyone present one way or the other. We are also displaying haiga and other forms of artwork that include haiku, so please feel free to contact an'ya if you are interested or want to exhibit or know more about this part of the project as well.


In the news department, here's a link to a fine article on the work of Issa that makes a very personal, resonant connection. The author, Toni Bernhard, published it in Psychology Today and passed along the link in a comment to a previous post.

It is recommended reading to help all of us to keep our hats on straight.  Thanks, Toni, and all the very best to you.


in the depths of the lake
billowing clouds
translated by David G. Lanoue


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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Tomorrow: Issa's Sunday Service, #100 (100 LitRock Songs)

From the musical Annie, the song "Tomorrow" is given rock star treatment by Patti Smith, the rock poetess chosen for #100 on the Sunday Service because of her class, style, and respect for the fans that love her.

This has been a great year plus for Patti Smith and I can think of no one who deserves it more.  Though I wasn't as knocked out as the rest of the world by her autobiographical volume, Just Kids, I liked it fine and it certainly brought her much deserved attention.

Now, her rendition of "Tomorrow" I'm knocked out by; for me, a song from a musical qualifies as Litrock, though this is the first one on the list.  It is probably the least likely song I could have chosen for #100, or even from Smith's catalog, but there you go.  It gives me a chill every time I listen to it, chokes me up, grabbing me and not letting go.

When she urges on the late great Richard Sohl to a mildly bombastic crescendo, which she matches note for note, I am washed out on a tide of love, ennui, and beauty.

I dare you to listen twice.  You'll never stop.

As a bonus for the followers of this blog feature, here is an incendiary rendition of her song "Privilege (Set Me Free)" from the legendary boot "Exodus."

If that's not enough, a video performance of the same tune, that hits similar ecstatic heights.  There are many groups that have merged rock and literature, rock and poetry; this song may, however, be the consummate example.

One final note.  There are have been many interviews with  her over the past 18 months, both print and television.  At the commencement address she gave at Pratt University last year, her advice for artists was as basic as it gets (and, as such, as good as it gets):

“My generation had a rough go, dentally….You have a better chance at dental health, and I say this because you want at night to be pacing the floor because your muse is burning inside of you, because you want to do your work, because you want to finish that canvas, because you want to make that design, because you want to help your fellow man. You don’t want to be pacing because you need a damn root canal. Floss, you know, use salt, baking soda, get them professionally cleaned, you know, for a bit, take care of your damn teeth.”


Going into deep catalog territory for this poem from Lilliput Review #97, from July 1997, I think you'll find it  pushes more than one edge for sure.  For four other sample poems, plus a lovely Wayne Hogan cover (& some Jean Cocteau, Harlan Ellison, and Cid Corman, to boot), click the numeral way back there in the sentence before last.  Enjoy.

Before A Beginning (A Prototype)
The shape of each letter shapes the shape
      of the word.  The letters are thin

(think "I").  The word could be wide,
   fat enough to stretch from side

      to side of this page.  This page
is boundary, setting an edge at the shape

   of the poem (think "quadrilateral")
And quick upon this earth that is itself

both page and poem passes the word the source
   of our madness, the shape of our madness.
                            C. D. Chase

by tomorrow
one mountain left...
cherry blossoms
translated by David G. Lanoue


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Friday, April 22, 2011

Gary Hotham: Spilled Milk

Some days I think the highest praise I can say about the work of a haiku poet is that her or his poems suggest the world.

Suggest, of course, is the operative word.  In classical haiku, an image is presented, a feeling conjured, and thus a contemplative source provided for the reader.  The poet interacts with the world; the reader interacts with the poem.  Ideally, as the adage goes, haiku is like a finger pointing at the moon; once you've seen it, you now longer need the finger. This is haiku as spiritual quest, as a way, for both poet in the composing and reader in the interaction.

Gary Hotham's poems suggest the world.

Spilled Milk: Haiku Destinies is a new volume by Gary, published by Pinyon Publishing.  It is a full length collection of haiku, with a brief preface and afterword by the poet.  As Gary is one of my favorite contemporary haiku practitioners, I was very excited to hold this volume and that excitement has proved justified.

There are many fine poems in Spilled Milk.  As an example of what I was trying to express about suggestion, here is a poem from early in the collection:

enough sunrise
a small window
in an old hotel 

On one level, this is simply a perfect image, something a student of Buson might be justifiably proud of.  What makes this a fine haiku is, first, its evocative nature and, second, its emotion.  At first, I was tempted to say its joy (and, for me, it is joy) but the emphasis, the word the poem turns on, is its very first: enough.  I realized, in my hasty rush to meaning, that this is a word that might just as soon evoke despair or ennui.

This poem doesn't just suggest a world, it suggests a universe - a universe of possibilities, all while being firmly ground in a moment.   There is mystery here, too, a mystery of evocation.  The next two also hit this chord:

My brother's birthday
places on the path the rain
can't move out of

dark clouds without warning
a piece of string not tied
to anything 

There is a psychological density to the first poem, certainly for the poet but also for the reader.  But, no, that's not quite right.   There is a myriad of possible reactions, that suggestiveness again, that makes the poem feel dense.  Does a particular reader's own relationship to a brother color that reader's reaction, is there a universal element or meaning that transcends such subjectivity?   Is the reader being nudged to connect the disparate elements in a certain way?

The Way?

The second poem feels even more complex.  As with many traditional haiku, contrasting or seemingly unrelated elements are brought together in both poems and their meeting sparks - what?  How is an unattached piece of string like sudden dark clouds?    A puddle that can't "move out" like the birthday of a brother?

slow squeak
the cage door

Here is a poem of a mere 6 words, 6 very carefully chosen and placed words.  Squeak suggests the sound of the hinge, but a pet bird or other animal, too, might squeak.  And hinges, obviously a noun, but which might also be interpreted as a verb.  Could the squeak be the dovetailing of the two sounds, the hinge and the bird?  Hinges generally squeak from lack of use.  

And birds?

plain darkness
a firefly blinks with 
the speed of light

In another approach, the contrast can be between big and small - Issa's snail climbing Mt. Fuji supplies a good example - can give us the big picture in another way, as with the light of the firefly moving at the exact same speed as that of the stars or a rocket or a laser.  Here that light is an example of a unifying element that unites all things.

by warning signs
walls left by the Roman Empire

Another big picture poem, this time the contrast being time, the paradox of the sign underscoring this great distance, yet also slyly unifying both eras.

too many stars
no one
is near

Again, a tiny 5 word poem that contains the visible galaxy.  There is a lot going on here - no one star is too near, prompts thoughts of how humans are always reaching for the stars.  There seems a frustration or a sadness here - couple this with another possible reading, that "no one" means there is no one person to share these too many stars with.

And why too many?

I could give many, many more examples of Gary's finely detailed renderings.  The collection is 132 pages, with a single poem per page, allowing the time and space for proper contemplation. There are also a number of beautiful interior paintings of leaves and birds by Susan E. Elliott, who also did the cover.  The volume sells for $15 and may be purchased at the link above or, what the heh, right here.

One final poem because who can resist a 7 word haiku that chronicles the end of the world:

last day
mountains coming to 
an end 


This week's featured poems come from Lilliput Review #149 , from February 2006, where they shared a damp, lovely page.  Enjoy.

at once
            a bird
Mark Kuniya

Rain (Van Gogh, 1889) 
   a grayness
on spring fields 
Jeanne Shannon

cool air--
the half moon moves
across a puddle

translated by David G. Lanoue


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Thursday, April 21, 2011

50 Best Blogs to Follow for National Poetry Month

This week the site Online Colleges posted their "50 Best Blogs to Follow for National Poetry Month."   They break the blogs into 4 categories: Essential Reading, News and Commentary, Poets, and Poems.  Somehow, Issa managed to sneak into the last category.  

Wanted to share this with the faithful at the blog, as notice has already gone out via Facebook and Twitter. The list is interesting overall, so I thought all you lot might get a kick checking it out.

a prize-winning chrysanthemum!
the old man

translated by David G. Lanoue


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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Wednesday Haiku, Week 13: Rita Cummings

The White Fox by Ippo, glass transparency

Wednesday Haiku, Week #13

Hearing the fox's cry
for the first time
no going back
Rita Cummings

a lucky fox
deigns to come out...
spring rain
translated by David G. Lanoue

Konkai by Yoshitoshi Taiso


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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Happy 70th, Ed Baker, from Ed Baker (& Issa)

Originally published in Sketchbook

Full Moon
Here seventy years
Big fucking deal
Ed Baker

Buddha amid birthday flowers--
even the moon
deigns to rise
translated by David G. Lanoue

Ed, happy birthday from all at the Lilliput / Issa poetry family.  Your work, in the word and on canvas, is a big-time favorite here.


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Go to the LitRock web site for a list of all 99 songs
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Sunday, April 17, 2011

You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome: Issa's Sunday Service, #99

Verlaine & Rimbaud

The count up to #100 is now just one week away and I've been thinking a bit about what that selection might be.  But, of course, as usual, I get ahead of myself.

This week's selection comes from the master, who has appeared here a time or three: Bob Dylan.  And though one might not think about this particular song when thinking litrock, you just have to love these lyrics:

Situations have ended sad
Relationships have all been bad
Mine’ve been like Verlaine’s and Rimbaud
But there’s no way I can compare
All those scenes to this affair
Yer gonna make me lonesome when you go

So the bard drags two other bards into "the scene," only to say there is no way he's going to compare their situation to his.


That may be the verse that got the song on this list, but you know you truly are in the presence of a master when the pen flashes across the page, rhyming:

I’ll look for you in old Honolulu
San Francisco, Ashtabula
Yer gonna have to leave me now, I know
But I’ll see you in the sky above
In the tall grass, in the ones I love
Yer gonna make me lonesome when you go

Honolulu and Ashtabula!  I'm sure you don't need me to tell you it doesn't get better than that in a pop song.

Taking a decidedly left turn at Ashtabula, here's Weird Al to set "the record" straight about genius or genius on genius:

Yes, it is easy, so easy to throw around the word genius, but writing a parody pop song composed of rhyming palindromes - and making it sound good - well, I'll just leave it there.

For the nostalgic, rock's first "music video":

Finally, back to my opening ruminations: who to choose for #100 on the Litrock list? Well, it took a bit of a thunk, but I've got my choice, to be revealed next week. Wonder if anyone can guess, not the song, but the particular artist/band?

For those who made it this far through another rambly post, here's a challenge: name the artist that will be featured on #100 of Issa's Sunday Service, and you get a free 15 issue subscription to Lilliput Review (or a 15 issue extension for the terminally faithful).  First one who rings in with the right name is the winner.


Today's selection from the archive is of two very different poems that somehow managed to share a page (with another poem between). The first is a John Harter poem I somehow overlooked when I previously collected some of his Lilliput work in a post.  The 2nd is a telling piece by Mark Forrester.  They come from Lilliput Review #98, July 1998.

John Harter

White Ash
What is it in the scent of wood
that reminds me of my father?
He was no handyman.
When my brother-in-law's
thick fingers ease
thin sheets of blond wood
over his table saw, the dark
supple blade sheds narrow splinters
of hard bone, pale and odorless.
Mark Forrester

a wood fire--
her shadow in the window
pulling thread
translated by David G. Lanoue


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Friday, April 15, 2011

Hyakunin Isshu: 100 Poems by 100 Poets (Unicorn Press)

The term of "print on demand" has radically changed in recent years (or should I say months) and the idea that it has revolutionized publishing has been proudly touted and summarily decried from cubicles and garrets all over the world.  Not surprisingly, what might be thought of as the original idea of print on demand has taken something of a backseat.

Looking back at that original idea might just be instructive for the future of publishing, particularly poetry publishing.

All of this is by way of an intro to a new translation of the Japanese classic waka anthology, Hyakunin Isshu: 100 Poems by 100 Poets, by Dennis Maloney and Hide Oshiro, published by Unicorn Press. In the introduction, Dennis mentions that through the years there have been a dozen or so English translations, most of them being woefully out of date.  He also notes that, along with this new translation, there are also two others of recent vintage to compare and enjoy.

The story of this truly classic anthology is well-known.  It was compiled by Fujiwara no Teika and consists of one hundred waka by one hundred different poets.  The poems are in a rough chronological order, from the 8th to the 12th century, and as such represent something of a snapshot of Japanese court poetry.  It is one of the most famous anthologies of poetry of all time and Maloney and Hideo Oshiro have brought their considerable skills to task in this slim volume.

As you may see from the illustrations above and below, each copy of this title is handmade, handmade as in the original print on demand handmade, and Dennis Maloney tells me that they are produced a few at a time and no two are exactly the same.  If you look closely at the back cover, you'll see the backing used in the "production" of this copy is the cover of an Amy's vegetarian meal.

Unicorn Press recycles.

In fact, Unicorn Press is famous in American small press history.  Longhouse  has a catalogue of many of their famed items for sale, some of them now quite pricey.  This is a catalogue of Unicorn titles through the years via a ISBN finder website.  The following is a brief interview with Alan Brilliant of Unicorn Press:

For a wonderful, in-depth interview with Brilliant, which will fill in some of the history of the small press in America, check out Farrago's Wainscot.

I have a serious bias when it comes to this book and I'll state it plainly: two of the volumes in the Modest Proposal Chapbook series are thematic selections that Dennis made from the manuscript before publishing the collection in its entirety with Unicorn: Unending Night: Japanese Love Poems & The Turning Year: Japanese Nature Poems.   

That being said, it was real pleasure to receive this wonderful little item in the mail and to sit down with all 100 poems in a new translation for the first time.  Here is a small selection of a few of my favorites .

The mountain pheasant's tail
trails long behind
- longer still
my loneliness 
in the endless night.
Kakinomoto no Hitomaro

Like the wild swirling patterns
dyed into cloth from the north, 
my love thoughts
are becoming tangled
because of you.
Kawara no Sadaijin

My heart is torn
since I've not seen you.
Like the tidemark in Osaka Bay
I measure my life
waiting to meet you again.
Prince Motoyoshi

The people of my native village
have changed after many years,
but at the gate
the fragrance
of plum blossoms remains.
Ki no Tsurayuki

My sleeves never dry,
like the rocks
beneath the sea
never seen,
even at low tide.
Lady Nijo

If you'd like to get a unique copy of your very own, here is the info you need.  The price is $12.50 (+ 2.50 shipping) to be mailed to: 

Unicorn Press, Inc.
1206 Grove Street
Greensboro, NC 27403-3410

The poetry is timeless and the craftsmanship unique.  I'm sure you'll enjoy it.


This week's selection from the archives comes from Lilliput Review, #148 and is by the very fine poet of the short form Dorothy McLaughlin, whose work has graced the pages of Lillie many times over the years.  Here is one of her little beauties:

leaving home
leaving the shadow
of home
Dorothy McLaughlin

at your house
the sparrow, too
makes a home
translated by David G. Lanoue


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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wednesday Haiku, Week 12: Vishnu P. Kapoor


Wednesday Haiku, Week #12


ginko walk-
a trill
turns each head
Vishnu P. Kapoor

For those who don't know (and I didn't), a ginko walk is a haiku walk.

is my wrinkled hand
bad for walking?
first firefly
translated by David G. Lanoue


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Go to the LitRock web site for a list of all 96 songs
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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Bug Powder Dust: Issa's Sunday Service, #98

Let's see, there are more allusions to literature, song and pop culture than is really imaginable in this one 7 minute Bomb the Bass song.  Here's a list of what I've ferreted out so far:

Bill Lee (protagonist, Naked Lunch), Beatniks, the musical Hair, Kurtz  (The Heart of Darkness), William Tell (Burroughs), Agent Cooper (Twin Peaks), Mr. Mojo Risin' (Jim Morrison of The Doors), Mugwump (creatures in NL) Exterminator (Burroughs short story collection, Cronenberg film of Naked Lunch), Interzone (early draft of NL), Annexia (place NL), Houses of the Holy and Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin), Jane (Jane Bowles),  black meat (drug in NL), Big Brother (Orwell), Ginsberg's Howl, Lulu/Top of the Pops (British pop star/TV show), Abbey Road (Beatle album, cover pic), Men at Work (Aussie pop group), "Waiting for the Sun" and "Spanish Caravan" (Doors songs), Serpent and the Rainbow (Davis book and film re: zombieism), Jeff Spicoli  (film Fast Times at Ridgemont High), The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh (film!), Great Space Coaster (children's television show), and Dr. Shrinker (from a segment on the TV show The Krofft Supershow)

I didn't include any references that duplicate previous ones.  I'm sure that I missed a whole bunch in this song, but there you go.  Pretty incredible.  Bomb the Bass is new to me - evidently the collective name for the work of musician/producer Tim Simenon.  He says the name came about this way:

Though large sections of 'Beat Dis' were lifted off other people's records, the drums and bass were written by Simenon. It's a credo to which he's remained faithful to this day: he doesn't like to adapt rhythms or bass lines from other people. Programming them himself -- or having them played by live musicians -- is a working method that's essential to him: "It's how the name Bomb The Bass came about, because the samples were either scratched in live or sampled and looped on top of the rhythm section. So the concept was one of bombing the bass line with different ideas, with a collage of sounds. Bombing was a graffiti term for writing, like people would 'bomb' trains or whatever."

Here is a very different, very fine version of the same song "Bug Dust Powder":

Fine work, indeed ...

To ratchet up the vibe a notch, here is William Burroughs spoken word collaboration with Kurt Cobain titled "The Priest They Called Him" - this one gets a bit intense, even for ol' Cowboy Bill ...

There is a recent documentary out on Burroughs, William Burroughs: A Man Within, that was just recently released on DVD.  Here is something of a trailer for the film:


This week's feature poem comes from Lilliput Review, #99 from October, 1998.   Enjoy.

recognizing the

seeing it as
Mark Terrill

the holy man leaves
them behind...
cherry blossoms
translated by David G. Lanoue


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Go to the LitRock web site for a list of all 98 songs
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Friday, April 8, 2011

R. H. Blyth on Waka and Haiku

R. H. Blyth

Waka as an Eastern poetic form has largely become synonymous with the term tanka, which was originally a 5 line poem of 31 Japanese syllables (on or mora) dealing predominately with courtly love.  In his 4 volume masterwork, entitled simply Haiku, R. H. Blyth has a section in volume 1 which deals with the complex relationship between haiku and tanka (waka).

I am going to not so deftly attempt to sidestep the complexities and cut straight to the heart of things philosophically as Blyth presents them.

So many waka have titles, but haiku have none, because their real subject is unmentionable.

I am not going to gloss the master Blyth.  I am, on occasion, going to step aside, effectively to let sink in the depth of what he has to say.   This statement is one of those times.

Unmentionable, indeed.  Blyth continues:

Haiku are self-obliterating; they are the real "Songs without words.

Again with the stepping aside thing.

Like Ulysses, let's go sentence by sentence or, better, like Finnegans Wake, word by word, syllable by syllable.  Next:

In waka there is still a kind of poetic haze between us and the thing.  The music of the words and the cadence of the lines induce in us a certain state of mind which we designate "poetic", but in haiku the melody and rhythm remove the barriers of custom and prejudice between ourselves and the object.

Hmn.  Next paragraph:

When we say "object", this does not mean that it is necessarily a material thing.

Good thing, too, because I was beginning to wander a bit there ... on to the meat of the matter:

What we gain (with waka) in lyrical sweetness and historical allusions, we lose in scope and freedom of imagination (with haiku).  (Waka) is like an illustrated novel ...

The master, Blyth, turns to another master, Bashō, to bring his point home:

Bashō wanted our daily prose turned into poetry, the realization that the commonest events and actions of life may be done significantly, (and) the deeper use of language, both written and spoken.  We live, as Lawrence said, like the illustrated covers of magazines.  Comforts is our aim, and dissatisfaction is all we achieve.  The aim of haiku is to live twenty four hours a day, that is, to put meaning into every moment, a meaning that may be intense or diffuse, but never ceases.
Haiku often turns the weak subjectivity of waka into an objectivity which is a more subtle subjectivity, or rather a regin where "subjective" and "objective" lose their meaning and validity.

"Comforts is our aim, and dissatisfaction is all we achieve."

There is a very great deal on the plate here for the beginner (i.e. me); one should proceed very slowly, there is profundity in great abundance.  I will only say that for Bashō haiku was a spiritual Way, the practice of writing it and the practice of reading it.  The Way of Haiku, like the Way of the Warrior, the Way of Tea, the Way of Flowers etc.  Blyth is leading us here but ... like haiku itself, he is showing us not telling.

And then a little bombshell:

When we try to separate waka and haiku, we come across that law mentioned before, the law that the more the mind endeavours to distinguish two things the closer they insensibly become; the more we assert their unity, the more they separate.  Both waka and haiku are the activity of the spirit of man, and we must not exaggerate the differences between them.

And you thought we weren't talking about particles and waves, modern quantum physics, which has just but recently seemingly affirmed the ancient teachings of Eastern philosophers.   Oh, no, wait, we're talking about haiku - right?  Blyth puts all his cards on the table, throwing off yet another brilliant definition of haiku in the process:

Waka began as literature, haiku as a kind of sporting with words.  Bashō made it literature, and yet something beyond and above literature, a process of discovery rather than of creation, using words as means, not ends, as a chisel that removes the rock hiding the statue beneath.

Perfect, as is a haiku by Bashō Blyth used to illustrate this section:

In the field of rape,
       With flower-viewing faces.


I ran into the following courtesy of one of my favorite blogs, Dr. Caligari's Cabinet, and it was just too, too good not to pass on.  America by Allen Ginsberg, music by Tom Waits.  Listen to it.  Listen to it again.

Listen again.

Here's what they should be teaching in the treadmills that pass for higher education in this country.  This is history.

"America, I'm putting my queer shoulder to the wheel."


This week's feature poem is "Cannibal" by Sue De Kelver from Lilliput Review, #147 (which has been featured twice before - here and here), October 2005.  I've performed it live and it gets exactly the reaction you'd expect.

   When you've rent the flesh and sinew
    from my supple skeleton and you've
   sucked the last sweet drop of marrow
   leaving lonely, brittle bones
   will you save the jagged splinters
   to adorn your chieftain chest
   or scatter them like toothpicks
   over yesterday's dung.
   Sue De Kelver

he wipes horse dung off his hand
with a chrysanthemum
translated by David G. Lanoue


Send a single haiku for the Wednesday Haiku feature.  Here's how.

Go to the LitRock web site for a list of all 97 songs
Hear 'em all at once on the the LitRock Jukebox

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Wednesday Haiku, Week 11: M. S. Rooney


Wednesday Haiku, Week #11

plush salt whorls swallow
the fine ash of his letters -
dark bowl of new moon
M. S. Rooney

Originally published in convolvulus Number 15, Winter 1996)

in the red bowl
a whorling dragon!
buckwheat noodles
translated by David G. Lanoue


Send a single haiku for the Wednesday Haiku feature.  Here's how.

Go to the LitRock web site for a list of all 96 songs
Hear 'em all at once on the the LitRock Jukebox

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Kashmir: Issa's Sunday Service, #97

As we count up to number 100, this is the second appearance of Led Zeppelin on the Sunday Service, and a fine one it is. Both Plant and Page have said this is one of their favorite songs and there are lots of reasons to believe them.

The literary reference to Shangri-La means a lot to me personally. I've written elsewhere how James Hilton's Lost Horizon (1933) was a pivotal book in my reading career and, after a beer or two, I can really go deep on how very much it meant and how it continues to resonate in my life to this day.

Anybody got a virtual beer?

The set up of the novel is in the prologue, which takes place after the events of the main story. Two gentlemen, after leaving a men's club, continue a conversation about a mutual acquaintance they had begun at the club. One tells a story of meeting him on board a ship bound from Japan. Here is the hook which snares the reader:

"A few nights after leaving Japan, Sieveking was prevailed upon to give a piano recital on board, and Conway and I went to hear him. He played well, of course, some Brahms and Scarlatti, and a lot of Chopin. Once or twice I glanced at Conway and judged that he was enjoying it all, which appeared very natural, in view of his own musical past. At the end of the program the show lengthened out into an informal series of encores which Sieveking bestowed, very amiably, I thought, upon a few enthusiasts grouped round the piano. Again he played mostly Chopin; he rather specializes in it, you know. At last he left the piano and moved towards the door, still followed by admirers, but evidently feeling that he had done enough for them. In the meantime a rather odd thing was beginning to happen. Conway had sat down at the keyboard and was playing some rapid, lively piece that I didn't recognize, but which drew Sieveking back in great excitement to ask what it was. Conway, after a long and rather strange silence, could only reply that he didn't know. Sieveking exclaimed that it was incredible, and grew more excited still. Conway then made what appeared to be a tremendous physical and mental effort to remember, and said at last that the thing was a Chopin study. I didn't think myself it could be, and I wasn't surprised when Sieveking denied it absolutely. Conway, however, grew suddenly quite indignant about the matter--which startled me, because up to then he had shown so little emotion about anything. 'My dear fellow,' Sieveking remonstrated, 'I know everything of Chopin's that exists, and I can assure you that he never wrote what you have just played. He might well have done so, because it's utterly his style, but he just didn't. I challenge you to show me the score in any of the editions.' To which Conway replied at length: 'Oh, yes, I remember now, it was never printed. I only know it myself from meeting a man who used to be one of Chopin's pupils. . . . Here's another unpublished thing I learned from him.'"

Rutherford studied me with his eyes as he went on: "I don't know if you're a musician, but even if you're not, I daresay you'll be able to imagine something of Sieveking's excitement, and mine, too, as Conway continued to play. To me, of course, it was a sudden and quite mystifying glimpse into his past, the first clew of any kind that had escaped. Sieveking was naturally engrossed in the musical problem, which was perplexing enough, as you'll realize when I remind you that Chopin died in 1849.

"The whole incident was so unfathomable, in a sense, that perhaps I should add that there were at least a dozen witnesses of it, including a California university professor of some repute. Of course, it was easy to say that Conway's explanation was chronologically impossible, or almost so; but there was still the music itself to be explained. If it wasn't what Conway said it was, then what was it? Sieveking assured me that if those two pieces were published, they would be in every virtuoso's repertoire within six months. Even if this is an exaggeration, it shows Sieveking's opinion of them. After much argument at the time, we weren't able to settle anything, for Conway stuck to his story, and as he was beginning to look fatigued, I was anxious to get him away from the crowd and off to bed. The last episode was about making some phonograph records. Sieveking said he would fix up all arrangements as soon as he reached America, and Conway gave his promise to play before the microphone. I often feel it was a great pity, from every point of view, that he wasn't able to keep his word."

That is a hook few might wriggle off; it propels you on to know the wherefores and the whys. There is a touch here of Hesse's Journey to East (1932), which improbably gets mentioned here for the second week in a row.

Who'd a thunk?

Many remember Frank Capra's wonderful film of Lost Horizon (and the disastrous musical version made in the 70s). Here is Frank Capra, on the Dick Cavett Show, with his own incredible story about throwing two reels of the film in a furnace as the final single act that created a classic film:

Oh, the plane that went down with Conway on board that precipitates the finding of Shangri-La was traveling from Baskul to Peshawar, over Kashmir.

Ah, Kashmir again.

Here's is a video of Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, with large ensemble, performing a more Eastern inflected, lovely version of "Kashmir," that still rocks mightily. The song appears on the album No Quarter, a Page Plant collaboration from 1994.


This week's featured poem comes from Lilliput Review, #101, which has been featured twice before. Here is a sad, lovely little poem by Glenn Ingersoll, that puts the period to resonance.

I look to make sure
but the telephone is not ringing

the thinking about you
is ringing
Glenn Ingersoll

this day's deepest thoughts...
translated by David G. Lanoue


Send a single haiku for the Wednesday Haiku feature. Here's how.

Go to the LitRock web site for a list of all 97 songs
Hear 'em all at once on the the LitRock Jukebox