marlene mountain
credits/jane reichhold
c 1991/92
as was/is


a great pal

Jane's a great pal. When I wanted to include some painting sketches from 1963 through 1969 in this book to help explain where I felt my haiku had come from, she said absolutely not. In secret, however, I tried to get them in any and every which way, but she was right, they just didn't work. Then she said they were visual and belong to the visual book and I said they weren't visual that they were conceptual and belong with a first book and even went so far as to relate a painting stripe to a one-line haiku. Maybe I can sneak them into the haiku love/hate relationship book.

She's also a great pal in another way. She insisted that I write about thirty pages of annotations to this book. Thirty pages!?! That's a book in itself!! But . . . instead of thirty pages, I said as one who hates to write, I'd rather include more stuff, like more 'women's haiku.' But, no, she said, those belong to the . . . I forget which because both of her other proposed titles, the sequence and renga book and the radical wom book sound like 'women's stuff' books. Still, and I said this to myself, there's plenty to go around. Thirty pages! This was deja vu, even. Some twenty-five years ago a member on my master's thesis committee insisted that I write about my paintings even though only an exhibition and an oral exam were required. He said, but I want you to explain these things.

That's how great a pal Jane is in yet another way. She wants (I think) current or new haiku writers to understand how I used to write haiku (and as far as I'm concerned why I no longer write that way--this comment is not as true as I want it to be) because all that many of them have read are these other kinds of haiku I write now. Well, that seemed to be a nice idea and in a way having just turned fifty I wanted to take a look myself. On the other hand, I don't care if a person knows how to draw trees and anatomically correct figures or knows that red and green are complementary colors to be able to paint--if you've got a pretty good or meaningful idea, have at it. You'll find a way to do it and, in fact, without a lot things to get in your way no telling what unexpected and wonderful image might come about. Likewise, I've been known to tell people who've written to me about you-know-what and about you-know-who's important books that they've read: if you have to read them, just skim them, better still, read your self, your life, your feelings, your perceptions.

I figured that just putting all the old things in a book or two (chronologically) would do it. That would be that. But, like the sketches which might not explain things--that's hard to admit, but surely they would help--maybe some of the things in this book aren't self-explaining. Well, I rationalized to Jane, the art that had made the biggest impression on me were those paintings and ideas that I first hated or thought were about the dumbest things I'd ever seen or heard. But to my discomfort, those things that I didn't understand would haunt me until I had to work it through before I could get any peace. In fact, 'that's dumb' eventually became the clue that let me know I was in for a long haul about this or that weird art. In time, it was the easier to understand art that was boring. Other things I just dropped, who needs it, who cares? Not me. So, that's what I figured the readers of this book could do.

And yet one more reason Jane is such a great pal is that she actually bribed me. She said that in these thirty pages I could say anything I wanted to say. But, that didn't help. In order for me to write any thing I have to get a big handle on it. More than writers. I not only have to get those first three or four sentences out and on paper, but I have to be able to see the big picture. Finally I saw just enough to begin, but not about haiku. With all this art (visual/conceptual) stuff from the past churning around inside and scrawled on scraps of paper that I'd lose or send to Jane to try to convince her of this 'important' information, stuff that wouldn't leave me alone or that I couldn't let go, stuff I kept wanting to get in but couldn't make it work, well, finally I wrote (whether anyone was asking me or not): 'I believe that to answer 'how did you come to haiku?' I have to go back to the late fifties and early sixties when I was interested in painting and drawing the Oklahoma land . . . ' That was even farther back than the sketches I had wanted in. Oh, well.

And, finally, the real reason Jane is such a great pal is that she just is.


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