marlene mountain
from the mountain/backward
section two

continued from ftm_backward_1

marlene mountain

from the mountain

overview     annotations


TWO: 1974 to 1978. Pages 44 to 195.

Haiku translations 2 by Hiroaki Sato

Japan Series tear outs
A couple of images from the series are not included and the original order not remembered. The majority of haiku were written in 1970, mainly in three lines. As yet I've found no information when these became one-lines or if any tear outs were created before 1974.

45 title page 46 'first dawn' 47 'over there' 48 'beginning flower' written about classes with the late Kawamoto-sensei 49 'married islands' 50 'rice planting' 51 'poet's home' about Shinsei Murakami 52 'a note' 53 'holiday fishing' 54 'sumi-e master' about Nampu Ishii 55 'okusan [wife] appears' about Kazu Murakami 56 'late evening' 57 'wind chime' 58 'typhoon' 59 'knees popped' about a visit to the Kondoh home 60 'breeze' 61 'dock floats' 62 'old wind chime.' Each written from a personal experience in Japan.

tear outs contents
63 'the river' 64 'indian spring' A 'political haiku' which sees all the seasons as 'belonging' to native people. A dadaku: 'pale face summer.' Since those earlier-mentioned conceptual haiku I have occasionally created similar repetitions with season words, the 1986 one-line, 'nuclear winter (nuclear spring nuclear summer nuclear fall)' and season-word clichés in a 'dadaku/political' four-line sequence, 'a chemical spill' preceded by spring morning; summer afternoon; autumn evening; winter night.

65 'deshit' I had assumed this tear out and others at this time were the first dadaku but I've recently found among the few haiku recorded in Japan: 'YOU LIGHT THE FIRE/I'LL SHOW YOU NOTHING--/FIRST SNOWFALL' (after Basho). Perhaps some of the earlier ink writings will turn out to be dadaku. 66 'old turtle' 67 'hiroshima' 68 'pregnant.'

pre-roof tear outs contents
69 'crow' 70 'tonight less' 71 'mountain pool' 72 'wide sky' 73 'this drop' 74 'spring evening' 75 'old woodcutter' 76 'the coldness' 77 'old man' 78 'blue to' 79 'river' 80 'bulldozer' 81 'mule shoer' 82 'evening before' 83 'tree limbs.' These tear outs are the beginnings of the old tin roof--revised from other than one line to one-line and vice versa by early 1976. They are concurrent (1974) with the Japan Series and those from pages 63 to 68.

For about ten years I'd been involved with various aspects and attitudes of haiku (e.g., empty space thinking/painting) but I hadn't considered a book of my own. In late 1975 as I was taking my good friend MaryEllen Ponsford to the airport after a visit she asked why didn't I get a book together. Looking back I make somewhat of a distinction among these tear out groups because a book could have gone in several directions. It came down to the strong feeling that this--a little house and lots of 'nature' in East Tennessee--was home, finally. The change from Georgia nature to mountain nature (often reminiscent of Japan) was quite significant.

I had written some 'people haiku' in Georgia and Japan but here the people, land and literature were quite compelling in other ways. Fascinated by the culture I tried to teach a little old-time banjo to myself and write a few songs and a short story or two. Compared to the Georgia period I don't have or haven't found as many haiku during the early 1970s. Many of those that exist (some are three-line sequences) seem rather awkward as a new relationship, a 'closerness,' to nature and people began to develop.

Even though I had quit painting in 1969 and was taking less and less photographs (as now I was rarely around the usual visual stimuli of windows, doors, patterns of all kind from alleys, dumps, etc.) I still had an active conceptual art going on inside my head. While I feel that the 1974 'at dusk hot water from the hose' and many others into the late 1970s are conceptual, in some way stemming from previous visual sensations, they appear to me more 'honest' than much of the earlier writing in Georgia.

For years I had lived/thought through a rectangular lens--with or without the camera--always framing, always looking for form, for the shadow of a bent nail on barn wood, for the slightly irregular section of a wire fence, for a flower close-up (one less than the size of a dime: a circle within a rectangle), for anything I might make or perceived two-dimensional.

Without a camera as the mental--and minimal--eye on everything I now felt more face to face with nature, with the surroundings. This perhaps allowed other kinds of content to seep into the haiku. As I was sending sheets of haiku to Roger Allard in the late 1970s there seemed to be fewer controls to plug the leak in the content dam.

And I was finally dealing with the trip to Japan and with the rules of art and life I had experienced. For several years I had not allowed the reality of the stay to interfere with my pre-trip concepts of Japanese art and culture, e.g., my out-of-the-books romanticism. Disgusted with America, with the government and its war, I had packed and stored everything in the event that we might stay in Japan.

Although I tried very hard not to be an ugly American I slowly came to the conclusion that, like it or not, I am American. I've always been obsessive about my visual ideas more or less knowing that they are coming out of who I am at the time. I had never fully appreciated, however, that I and my ideas are not representative of my country's culture or national character (as--rightly or wrongly--I perceived this to be the case in Japan) however much I may have drawn on it at any one time.

What I'm trying to say is that in spite of my great admiration for Japanese esthetics--the very exciting concepts and mannerisms which have caused many a Westerner to fall head over heals in love if not in awe--that finally I became very aware (sometimes painfully so) that this was not where I could come from. But, oh, Hagesawa Tohaku's 'Pines'--that empty space that I love! Given this lingering sentiment and even though I knew my haiku could not come from Japanese rules and attitudes it would be some time before I could actually say, 'i've freed . . . ' --but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Tennessee 1 photograph contents

Home since August 1971. The lower photographs show the conditions in which we began to live while workers rewired, added a reservoir and plumbing, a kitchen and bath, floor coverings, opened the fireplaces, opened up an a-frame space in the attic for another room, painted, sowed grass, etc., etc., etc.

the old tin roof contents
Self-published April 1976; printed in Elizabethton, Tennessee where the negatives were later destroyed. Just under 100 'haiku, senryu, dadaku.' One to a page, approximately 3 3/4 by 8 1/2 inches, right side only, comb-bound. At this time most books of haiku were grouped by season. Also most of us spoke of senryu as mainly about people and haiku as mainly about nature. There were definitions to go by but often these didn't seem to apply. There were many blurry haiku/senryu, another problematic area in the West, and often blurry discussions and arguments. So, like others I presume, I covered my backside by including the senryu label. For many years I've not believed any in the old tin roof to be such.

85 front cover, title page and back cover 86 'with rain' 'the crayfish' 'bulldozer' 87 'spring evening' 'the all day' 'spring' 88 'sun' 'spring morning' 'oak' 89 'cloud' 'gosling' 'river' 90 'rain' 'today' 'at dusk' 91 'buzzard' 'left behind' 'flies' 92 'sudden breeze' 'beneath' 'wide sky' 93 'old woodcutter' 'evening' 'cow' 94 'garlic' 'my neighbor's' 'mule' 95 'the old' 'the peanut' 'blue' 96 'mountain' 'first snow' 'brown goose' 97 'the coldness' 'tree limbs' 'old woman' 98 'five-' 'the long' 'dear zenta.' Other examples from the old tin roof appear in following letters and articles.

unaloud haiku contents
99a house spider 99b praying mantis 99c porcupine 99d toad
By the printing of the old tin roof I didn't have a term for the shaped 'violet,' 'raindrop,' 'frog,' etc. (none in this selection but in letters and articles following). I tried picture-poems (a term Amann had used for the haiku/drawings in river ) but sometime in 1977 I came up with unaloud haiku. I was to make a distinction between my unaloud and visually aloud haiku. For the most part an unaloud haiku is created out of the name of the subject, with an occasional 'o o' for eyes as in 'praying mantis' and 'house spider' or other simple marks such as in 'porcupine' (page 194). A visually aloud haiku is formed from a sentence or fragment as in 'bulldozer' and 'brown goose.'

There are both advantages and disadvantages in coining a word or phrase for certain haiku. An advantage is that this helps to call attention to a new approach or a new way of thinking about haiku. (In the early 1980s--for fun--I would occasionally say 'erotiku' for erotic haiku.) Of course a disadvantage is that a label can stick beyond its usefulness and can be used to separate an approach or a new kind of haiku from 'real haiku.' There is also a disadvantage in adopting an established word such as 'concrete' which comes with a lot of baggage. However it's probably the perverseness in me that I chose unaloud with the pun 'unallowed,' implying a bit of criticism of 'pure haiku' and its infernal no-no.

The later terms 'political haiku' and Rod Willmot's 'psychological haiku' did a lot of good for haiku. They were ways of speaking to so-called new content, feelings and attitudes which had begun creeping into pure haiku (of which there are none) and even into pure senryu. Is 'pure senryu' a new term or a dadaku? And Cor van den Heuvel's 'serious senryu.' Has he made a blurry definition blurrier or defined yet another approach to consider?

Or is a senryu an 'impure haiku'? Given discussions on the beginnings of senryu as bawdy--crude, lewd--verse by Willmot (and that R. H. Blyth 'more than any other is responsible for spreading the doctrine that haiku is about nature, senryu about human nature.' Frogpond 11:2 1988), Jane Reichhold (Haiku Canada Newsletter 6:3 1991) and in correspondence with Roger Allard that I did not quite grasp at the time (1977), it looks as if we've not been writing senryu at all but 'bogus senryu' or 'semi-senryu.' Or maybe 'peopleku'? 'Senku'? 'Sinku' is tempting but sin (as popularly known, a concept I don't accept) is derived from the Indo-European root, 'es-' meaning 'to be.' Well, 'sinku' would be phrases/poems about being human?

I question whether a handful of people in the Western sphere could or should have defined senryu, haiku, etc. so early in our development--relying so much it appears on the rambling often confusing remarks of Blyth. (Ironically, however, this is all too often how an 'art' comes about or is rebirthed.) Given the complexity of adopting even adapting any foreign art it seems that we would have been better served in haiku had final-sounding definitions come after a larger body of our work.

That we could have more fully sifted what truly related to our individual and collective temperaments from what did not relate. Yet one really cannot even count on hindsight as a way to define--to carve in stone--an organic art as there is no outcome, no end, perhaps no absolute beginning. At best we can recognize attitudes in the poems that come and go along the way, can see each poet within her or his time and in relationship to the broader picture.

While I never embraced psychological as a separate term for haiku I did embrace political for a time. I believe aspects of haiku have always been psychological as well as political--perhaps certain translations didn't suggest this or we just didn't (want to) see. Of course these terms have zillions of baggage. It's amusing that one could write a politically-correct haiku because it doesn't have so-called political content.

Political usually refers to government per se but in common usage it is not that limited, e.g., from the Women's Liberation Movement, 'the personal is the political.' More recently, however, 'the political is the personal' seems to reflect the more conservative Women's Movement. The word politics in part concerns the complex relations between people and how would that not also include 'nature'? In fact as we continue to see the devastation of nature might it not be politically correct to admit to it in our haiku?

'Protest haiku' has a great ring to it. Some specific terms are 'nature talks back' to what is happening to it ('universe love it or leave it' ) and 'people--and artists--talk back' on anything--including institutionalized and commercialized haiku and art of any kind as well as romanticized nature. Can we be activist nature haiku poets? (1992 tear outs, 'natureside or naturecide' and 'can't see the forest for the bush' with its 'update can't see the bush.')

Or do these labels spook haiku poets? How much simpler to sneak 'activist haiku' into the gen(r)e pool without any glaring qualifiers. We have no royalty to please and certainly no masters yet we seem a long way from a haiku with diverse interpretations and expressions by all of the people. In fact we are discouraged--besieged by article after article on Japanese haiku, old and old-fashion, at that.

In ONE HUNDRED FROGS: FROM RENGA TO HAIKU TO ENGLISH [Weatherhill, New York & Tokyo, 1983] Hiroaki Sato has offered quite different 'content' from much of the Western 1970s rhetoric. 'Hokku and haiku have been written to congratulate, to praise, to describe, to express gratitude, wit, cleverness, disappointment, resentment, or what have you, but rarely to convey enlightenment.' {Used by permission.}

And even though Harold G. Henderson has also written (1958, AN INTRODUCTION TO HAIKU) of the variety of emotions haiku could express, e.g., humorous, sad, satirical, many such attitudes were/are ignored, deemed unacceptable or labeled ('thank goodness for') senryu by most editors, poets, explainers. The fear as well as the reality of 'bad haiku' based on emotions seems to limit the range of content and how to say it. For the most part concrete images and multiple senses are the cries. Wit and 'feelings' are suspect. Western senryu seems to be the dumping ground for what hasn't set well as haiku. In this respect I believe the misunderstanding of senryu (therefore of haiku) to be the worst trap we've gotten ourselves into--a false duality. And with so much personal integrity invested by some definers it appears the contentious debate will be long in ending.

What is best not to forget: several hundred years have passed since the 'beginning' of haiku with its highly complex past: waka, tanka, renga, haibun (prose with haiku) and of course hokku, the starting poem of renga, linked poems. (Or is it the 'newer' renku that's comprised of linked poems--and renga of linked verse? Why not just say linked haiku or linked 'fragments' to avoid yet another battle over Japanese words? To -ga or to -ku is not the question.) Along the way terms and attitudes toward nature and art indeed have been defined, refined and changed in Japan. Shiki gave credence to the word haiku, many poets have dropped season words and/or added modern conditions as air conditioner. It appears that even where there is a distinct cultural unity such as in Japan, individual poets have redefined haiku for themselves. How else could it be?

And consider then a poetic form, that is, a poetic attitude, that is, a variety of approaches, that is, a complexity of rules transplanted into the multiple cultures and climates of North America (and elsewhere) along with biased selections by translators. Even misinterpretations or quite varied interpretations. Consider too the many haiku left out including those that are next to impossible to translate--perhaps the very ones we should know. Since most of us don't read Japanese our reliance on translations and numerous theories leaves us open to mistaking what haiku was/is.

Even if we read Japanese I believe that ultimately we must look to ourselves for our refining, redefining and 'unconfining.' (We seem to be stuck with the word haiku and the bad press it has picked up. And who are we? Hopefully we are neither haijin nor haikuists. Sometimes I say I write 'sheku' which takes even more explanation.) There have been so many problems and false starts and formidable declarations involving haiku (East and West) that my current definition of haiku is that haiku can no longer be defined.

review of 'the old tin roof' 1 contents page
a 'Red Chrysanthemums' by Cor van den Heuvel. {Used by permission.}

100b Japanese translation by Kazuo Sato (editor of The Haiku Column) appearing in Mainichi Daily News, Tokyo, February 25, 1978. {Used by permission.}

Anon Review the old tin roof
1976. {Used by permission.} See pages 85-98 and 116-118 for some of the haiku mentioned.

Review of the old tin roof. 2 by Cor van den Heuvel
Cor sent the review to me in March of 1977 saying it had been accepted by Northeast Rising Sun, however, it was never published. Regarding a line in the review, ' . . . raising their own food and making a living from the land,' I can only say, I wish. Although there have been various writings which have projected a romanticized view on this particular situation it is not a view I share.

Cor and I have had mutual interests in minimal content, nothing special, hardly anything. Minimalist that he often is, at times he gave me another way to see my own haiku as in 'at dusk' in this review. (For me it simply said what it said.) However as I moved into women's haiku (or protest or even dadaku) I believe I was a disappointment to him and to those relatively few who appreciated or accepted a minimal approach as during this time the shorter/shortest poems were far from popular.

In a later discussion of the old tin roof, van den Heuvel says: 'Here was the first haiku poet to use the one-liner extensively and with consistent success. Out of nearly 100 haiku in the book about one-fourth were one-liners, including some of the best in a book that immediately placed Marlene [Mountain] in the front rank of American haiku poets. Its combination of haiku spirit and playfulness, its startling and audacious departures from the 'traditional' three-line form--not only into one-liners but into incredible 'concrete' configurations she calls 'unaloud' haiku--the sheer inventiveness and creative genius that shines from it, all this makes it one of the landmark publications in the history of English language haiku.'

And 'Even after Marlene's book, there was no immediate change, people didn't all start writing one-liners, and hardly anyone could foresee that the one-liner would some day become a basic form in English language haiku. Short forms continued to gain in popularity, but they usually stayed in three lines. Marlene used the term ‘minimal haiku’ to describe very short haiku whether in one, two or three lines and began to influence the haiku movement through her critical writings as well as by her haiku.

'Though she published more one-liners in increasing numbers in the haiku magazines in the following years, other writers divided up between those who thought a one-liner could not be a haiku at all and those who felt their haiku might occasionally take that form but only as a special case. Marlene [Mountain] was a special case herself--she still is--so no one was going to go out and write a lot of one-liners just because she had.

'Marlene had shown it was possible, however, and her achievements with the one-liner--in tin roof and later--eventually played a major role in getting one-liners accepted as a viable form for haiku.' ('John Wills and One-Line Haiku, II: One-Liners.' Frogpond 5:1 1982.) {Used by permission.}

There would have been more one-lines in the old tin roof and even after had I not been more interested at that time in a variety of shapes, well, variety period. Often I changed one-lines from a desire to have a visual aspect or effect. I was falling, however, in love with one-line. Concrete/one-line/minimal images--they felt like sculpture that I could hold in my hands, like 2 x 4s with a few indentations. I loved 'em.

March 15 1977 handwritten letter from Cor van den Heuvel.
(a) The haiku poets sequence, 'tributes' was written on the return from the NYC Haiku Society of America meeting in April 1976. It never appeared in Haiku Magazine. (b) The tear outs are other than one-line, beginning in October 1976.

(c) I had responded to Cor's great one-word 'tundra' [first edition, THE HAIKU ANTHOLOGY, Anchor Books, Doubleday, New York, 1974] by including 'furrow' in the old tin roof. Later that year I proposed that we write a one-word renga beginning with these two words. It dragged into 1979 and we abandoned it after about ten words mainly because I wasn't good at renga 'leaping' and I didn't want to leap (uh, oh). Sometime in 1976/77 I made tear outs of several of our one-words.

(d) The 21 haiku greeting cards are John Wills' haiku and my drawings/handwriting, in the style of river. (e) The 'one-image haiku' article was published in Tweed 7:1 1978 by Jan Bostok, founding editor, Australia; reprinted by Lilli Tanzer, first editor, Frogpond 3:2 1980. [A HAIKU PATH, Haiku Society of America, 1994.]

Letter to Cor van den Heuvel, March 21 1977.
I had no idea that someday I'd want to look at any of my old letters let alone see them in print. I'd often make a copy because of my poor memory ('back from the mailbox what was it i said' ) on any kind of paper handy and it seems always with a poor carbon. I've had a tough time getting back into the old letters. At first I was interested in knowing what I'd said but now I'm rather embarrassed. They've been included to show some of my thinking at the time along with the several sections of unedited haiku as is, or, as Jane has so magnanimously put it, 'warts and all.'

a haiku tour


haiku mags


Untitled contents
'Untitled' was written in late 1976 and sent to Jan Bostok in December. I suggested to her that an article could be written to show a variety of approaches which had happened or could happen in haiku. As examples I cited haiku from the old tin roof. (See Tweed 6:1 1977 for an article by Brian Joyce.) Although I usually say North America when referring to the haiku movement, there were also magazines from England and Australia. Jan Bostok from 'down under' knew the 'rules' and could also see up and beyond conventional approaches. She was the first--as I remember--to give space to some dadaku (on a cover even). I also credit her with raising my consciousness about women writing haiku.

One-line running script
c. 1976/77 inspired by Eastern calligraphy. Basho's 'old pond a frog jumps into water sound' and my 'gosling following its neck to the bug.'

Letters & unfinished letters contents to Robert Spiess
Bob Spiess, associate editor of Modern Haiku. Unfortunately for the lively dialogue Spiess declined to have his letters included.

120a&b July 23 1976. 121a&b Undated. 122a&b August 7 1976. 123a&b September 22 1976.
124a&b&c October 19 1976. 125a&b April 4 1977. 126 July1 1986 bob to m. 127 March 3 18 1987 m to bob.
128 March 23 1987 bob to m. 129 April 7 1991 m to bob.

I'm more uncomfortable with these letters than anything else in the book. This was my first real letter-writing discussion in which I tried to get my thoughts together about haiku and things. The letters were very hard for me to write and are even harder to look at now. With much hesitation I had sent the old tin roof to Spiess (he was in that proverbial other camp). My first letter is a reply to his comments about it and Jennifer Virgil's first place haiku, 'in a dark bag/onions/sprouting' [copyright 1976 Jennifer Virgil], in the 1976 Harold G. Henderson contest judged by Virginia Brady Young. This haiku by Virgil, age 12, was perhaps a catalyst for a flurry of letters in North America.

But what had disturbed me most was Spiess' use of the term 'mini-haiku' in an article (Modern Haiku 7:4 1976). Also troubling was his inclusion of a quote by Gustave Keyser, 'brevity extremists' in another (Modern Haiku 8:1 1976). These appeared to be put-downs of one-image haiku and the writers of shorter/shortest poems. The terms were abandoned so perhaps as I groan about these letters I can feel they were of some help. Also from the (at times emotional) dialogue came 'The Plight of the Haiku Public,' 'form follows satori' and 'one-image haiku.' Both Bob and I seemed to have survived those early letters.

The Plight of the Haiku Public
The essay was written June 1977. Published in Modern Haiku 8:3 1977 by Kay Titus Mormino, founding editor.

dadaku tear out contents 1974
131a 5-7-5 131b merry old crow 132c zen ad

Tennessee 2 photograph contents
shops and forest floors

tear outs contents
Arranged seasonally (for fun). 133 'can't kid' 134 'new clock' 135 'winter evening' 136 'mountain island' 137 'spider' 138 'then mountain' 139 'mountain maple' 140 'the heat' 141 'summer' 142 'in the sun' 143 'one fly' 144 'in her' 145 'old woman's' 146 'mountain land' 147 'my hair' 148 'a hole' 149 'setting the' 150 'a good' 151 'river water' 152 'poem' 153 'turtle' 154 'of all' 155 'dawn life' 156 'alone' 157 'new haiku.'

Over the years since c. 1961 I've made non-haiku collages and photographed found collages and always felt that the somewhat arbitrary choices of words, shape, colors, textures and materials are beneficial to artists to get us out of 'regular art' ruts. These one-line horizontal and one-line vertical haiku tear outs (along with other-line and the one-word renga tear outs) were created from October 1976 into 1977 and are concurrent with the letters to van den Heuvel, Spiess and Allard. Many are from the living-on-the-couch-with-a-broken-leg period. I sent many of the 1974 tear outs (and others) to Eric Amann but he felt they wouldn't reproduce well in Cicada. So I didn't pursue it further until the mid-eighties when some appeared in Hal Roth's Wind Chimes [#14 1998 and #15 1985].

In 1975 during my first renga I proposed to partners Michael McClintock and Virginia Brady Young that we also try a visual renga. I had devised a way to do a three-person 'tear out renga' through the mail and they were interested in the idea. I sent some of the 1974 tear outs to Young (McClintock had already seen many). Both eventually declined citing something about their non-art abilities but I think we could have done it. (We abandoned our regular renga about one-third of the way.)

I mentioned 'tear out renga' to Bostok in 1977 and she was interested but for some reason we didn't get it going. (She did make some collages for an issue of Tweed.) So I was to wait about fifteen years for a renga to happen. In 1991 I sent a few tear outs to Jane Reichhold just to show her how I was feeling. She chose one, 'get,' and surprised me with a renga tear out link. At present we have a thirty-six link 'tear out renga' finished and two in progress.

In August 1977 my friend MaryEllen Ponsford returned for a visit. She not only brought herself and great conversation but also Lucy Lippard's FROM THE CENTER: FEMINIST ESSAYS ON WOMEN'S ART and the first issues each of Chrysalis, A Magazine of Woman's Culture, and Heresies, A Feminist Publication on Art and Politics. 'And the rest,' as some might say, 'is herstory.' This book (which I've not completely read) and the two magazines (which I don't have) changed my life forever.

MaryEllen and I have often talked about that experience. Many, many women have had such awakenings--with quite varying intensities and results. Although she too had been bowled over as she learned about women's art her response was not as intense as mine. She had been gaining information and knowledge in increments through art journals and through her own work.

And as I think back to Ponsford's early paintings when we met at a northern university in 1962 I find her content very 'female.' In 197l she began a highly sensual and highly symbolic series of heart/womb paintings. Neither of us at that time would have called her paintings or anything else we did women's art. Considering the prevailing attitudes toward young women artists (all women artists) the last thing we wanted was to be further stigmatized--we wanted to be taken Seriously. (The 1987 WEBSTER'S NINTH records 1970 as the first known written appearance of 'sexism.' Although an earlier date no doubt has been or will be found it was not then a common word.)

Many of my early paintings were also 'female' but as I leaned more and more toward concepts I lost or denied 'something.' While at the university (during one of my many transitional periods) I attended a talk by a well-known Bay Area painter. Afterward in conversation with him I mentioned I was thinking about going to California (to school maybe). I'll never forget his remark, 'you'd better know what you're doing or they'll cut your throat.' I didn't go.

Many a woman has had the burden of painting, writing, thinking or acting in such a way that perhaps suppresses her deeper personal creativity in an effort to avoid being called Lady Painter and worse (usually worse). In a sense women have developed two 'languages,' one that is hidden (in the proverbial drawer), highly coded in personal symbolism or lying dormant--and one that is 'professional.' The more denial I believe of our female (not feminine) sensibilities by ourselves and by others the more oppressed we can become. Often we are not even aware of the internal conflicts until our bodies tell us in very dramatic ways or, if we are aware, how to resolve the many conflicts.

Long before August 1977 the Women's Liberation Movement, Ms. Magazine and other eye-opening sources had already had a big affect on me. In 1969 I had even hired (made) a female scarecrow along with a male to tend the garden. And in 1970 while in Japan I generously told several disbelieving men that Women's Lib (groan) would be coming to Japan--quite soon. Equal rights, equal pay and so on, along with sexism (finally) as a named problem, however, were just the tip of the political, of the personal--of the understanding to come.

It was women's content--the variety, from intensely personal to universal to symbolic to painfully realistic--that moved me more than the art per se (even though I think I had to come to it all from the visual) as I had always wanted and sought out strange art to think about. I had been immersed in Male Big Art Talk (MBAT) since my late teens, as immersed as any small town kid could get. Not only was it Great Stuff to think about and sort through but I always felt that I needed to catch up. Surely everyone knew all these art ideas but me.

And then with haiku: look at all this Great Guy Stuff. Did Japanese women write haiku? I don't believe I noticed. Here I was again not only identifying with male visual art of the past and in the American big cities but with poems in Japan for the last several hundred years. Do I hear 'someone' saying that haiku is genderless? That's what I thought for eons--until I started getting 'rootical.' (See THREE.)

So I believe that what took the top of my head off in 1977 was a combination of realizing just how immersed I was in MBAT and yet almost instantly knowing that somehow I had found my 'deep home.' Not even looking: I was found. And, wow, did I ever need to catch up now! It was past my time but whenever it happens it's time. That evening I wrote the unaloud haiku 'labium' as a response. (See the P.S. page from the January 26 1978 to Elizabeth Lamb for the shape and the beginning of THREE for the visual development and further discussion.)

Letters to Roger Allard (aka R. Clarence Matsuo-Allard),
founding editor of Uguisu, Amoskeag, and publisher of several chapbooks by haiku poets. The letters A through R indicate the upcoming haiku pages that were sent with the correspondence. Unfortunately for the dialogue I was not able to locate Allard for permission to include his very interesting and stimulating letters. (See Cicada 1:4 1977, Eric Amann, editor, for Allard's article, 'Haiku: The Original One-line Poem.' The years between Eric's leaving Haiku Magazine and his return with Cicada seemed forever!)

158 October 24 1977. 159-160 November 3 1977 (haiku A to D). 161-163 November 28 1977 (haiku E to J). 164 March 10 1978 (haiku K to R). 165 April 28 1978 and May 19 1979. 166 May 19 continued (I feel these remarks about the renga--page 193--are directed primarily toward myself as I was beginning to deride my 'old' haiku. This renga seems to document the changing content--from the austere 'rusty hairpin' to the introverted 'paints herself.') and September 2 1980. The article mentioned in the November 28 letter is 'old face/mustache put on . . .' (Tweed 5:3 1977).

In THE HAIKU ANTHOLOGY [Simon & Schuster New York, 1986] editor Cor van den Heuvel writes, 'Three people were initially responsible for gaining its [one-line haiku] general acceptance: Marlene Mountain was the first to write good one-line haiku with some regularity; Hiroaki Sato translated Japanese haiku into one-liners and lent 'legitimacy' to the writing of original one-liners in English; and Matsuo Allard furthered the cause of the one-liner by writing polemical essays in its favor, editing and publishing several short-lived but important magazines devoted to it, publishing chapbooks of them, and by writing them himself.' {Used by permission.}

Allard appeared in my life at just the right time. Although I still had a rather naive wish that everyone should be able to choose a form (even a shape) to fit each satori (groan) and I would still write in other forms for a while, something about the one-line was magical. Allard's excitement fueled my excitement. And perhaps since I had lucked into haiku with no real prejudices about the look of a poem I didn't have any problems with just a line hanging out there on the page.

I prefer the term 'one-line' to 'one-liner.' I too said one-liner but it has the negative connotation of a gag or zinger. On the other hand some of my one-line haiku can be said to be zingers. Other haiku poets tried one-line and still write it but I've not heard of any who have loved it as we have. I do believe, however, that had Allard continued in haiku, writing and publishing, many other poets would have been drawn to it then and even more so today. I truly miss Roger's presence.

one-line haiku pages
sent to Allard with the preceding correspondence. The initials on the right side of each page indicate some of the friends and editors to whom I sent the haiku. Those circled usually meant acceptance in a magazine.
167 'english language' 168 A 'old towel' 169 B 'even before' 170 C 'rainy day' 171 D 'a japanese connection' 172 E 'my feet' 173 F 'mailman's' 174 G 'debt paid' 175 H '& alone' 176 I 'green greens' 177 J 'summer' 178 K 'in her' 179 L 'the long' 180 M 'daughter' 181 N 'she now' 182 O 'dog' 183 P 'first day' 184 Q 'new bridge' 185 R 'cottonmouth.' 186 S 'old lute.' The latter sheet wasn't sent to Allard but those checked were in a letter to him.

Allard asked that I send all the haiku I had written in one-line and any that I had revised as such. He was to select among these for a chapbook [new bridge as title]. I took him at his word and threw in whatever I could find including typed versions of some of the concurrent tear outs.

One-line to me has always meant horizontal and vertical--even diagonal. I asked that he be a tough editor. Perhaps not so much with one-line itself (although I was still struggling with spacing between words--I often had 3 spaces between 3-image haiku and 2 between 2 images--and with just writing it) but I think I sensed some less objective or more personal haiku--something!--creeping in since that traumatic/oh no/mystical/oh wow night in August 1977 when 'labium' was created.

There are still the conceptual images as 'one fly everywhere the heat' and 'first day of the year twelve new sheets of paper' and 'new clock tickless winter night' and 'tractor-trailer jack-knifed winter dawn' and 'old towel folding it again autumn evening' and so on. It's not that these 'detached' haiku don't suggest some personal emotions but that they just weren't on the sleeve as yet. But what is 'under blue sky blues' ? Conceptually said, yet . . . did haiku poets get the blues back then? And what the heck is 'went wild and wrote deeper inside' ? Something is churning around even if the haiku don't exactly show it.

I do get a kick out of the terribly written and obscure 'some day will show/tell blyth about woman' --I have to love it in spite everything. Visions of things to come. Another haiku, 'a woman writes a haiku summer day,' is subtle in comparison. It too was written in part about R. H. Blyth's misogynistic remarks that it 'is doubtful . . . whether women can write haiku' and 'women . . . cannot think' [A HISTORY OF HAIKU, Vol. 1, The Hokuseido Press, 1963--and recent reprint].

It's one thing to have less noble opinions or as yet to have one's consciousness raised (and continually raised) but it's quite another to have such remarks in a 'history' which everyone interested in haiku will eventually read. Had such remarks been said about Negroes (in 1963) somehow they would not be there now. Please read Women Haiku Writers, pages 207-225, and substitute a 'minority' for each time woman is written and 'white' for man--just to try it on.

Some have sloughed these remarks off as representative of 'Victorian' attitudes (in the 1960s?). I find them to be greatly harmful to my spirit as an artist and deeply hurtful to my spirit as a woman. It is just such comments that influence young women to find male role models and add to the preponderance of negative 'thinking' toward women. There are deep scars in the spirits of women brought about by the proliferation of such remarks throughout patriarchal 'culture.' Well, in the late 1970s I was finally looking to Japanese women haiku poets for a role model or a 'female haiku'--for anything--to help with my changing perceptions. And what did I find?

The latter 1977 haiku ('a woman writes . . .') became a title of an article [see THREE] written in January 1981 in which I all too politely addressed some of Blyth's comments--and tried to drag out the positive possibilities of women's haiku. (Cicada 5:2 1981.) Although Blyth is highly praised for his translations and 'insights' into Japanese culture I don’t trust him on any matter. I wonder who would trust him had he written it 'is doubtful . . . whether men can write haiku' and 'men . . . cannot think.' 'well what the heck r h blyth cannot think.' That doesn't erase the damaging and offensive philosophy but it’s fun to write--and call it a haiku

Ironically, in 'Concision, Perception, Awareness--Haiku,' an article on THE HAIKU ANTHOLOGY for 'The New York Times' Book Review (March 29 1987), Cor van den Heuvel began his discussion of several poets:

This is a haiku: pig and i spring rain

The author, Marlene Mountain, is one of the most innovative and powerful of the new haiku writers. The few syllables of this poem [written in 1977, see page 178] call into being the sense of delight one feels in the coming of spring--a delight that extends to all of nature, from blossoming flowers to the animals being freed from the rigors of winter. This includes the pig, whose happiness is in the immediate sensuousness of the warming weather, the refreshing wetness--and the resultant mud. To miss the missing mud is to miss the humor of this haiku. The woman who speaks shares the pig's sensual pleasure but feels also the pleasures of realizing her kinship with all of nature and recognizing the promise she sees in the rain. {Used by permission.}

Also in 1987, from HAIKU IN ENGLISH by Hiroaki Sato, Rod Willmot taking the image further, writes, 'I think this is my favourite haiku of all time. It expresses profound contentment with material existence. But there is more to this haiku than contentment, for thousands of haiku are about just that without having the power to draw me back to them year after year. Marlene Mountain is indisputably the earthiest haiku poet in North America, and in recent years has also become the most political. Her change of name from Wills to Mountain was an expression of her feminist identification with one of the symbols of the Goddess, the mountain. In this haiku her earthiness and political commitment are discernible as an inextricable commitment to the world she lives in.

'Just think of the difference between a man saying 'axe and I,' which carries an element of masculine bravado, and a woman saying 'pig and I.' The latter is devoid of pretense, not to mention the aesthetic self-indulgence that characterizes so many haiku east and west. Looking at it analytically, I see a depiction of harmony in a three-level universe: the lower level of animals and instinct, the middle level of humans and waking consciousness, and the upper level of the heavens. Notice that the animal world is 'elevated' through being represented by a pig, a creature known for its intelligence and sensitivity. The human world is 'lowered' by the simple fact of being with a pig. And the heavens gently descend to be a kind of solvent between them. Instead of the egocentric statement 'I am at one with the world,' this haiku says, 'we are all together.'' {Used by permission.} [mm: pig is also a Neolithic goddess/woman symbol.]

What kind of sense Allard would have made of these pages and how new bridge would have looked is certainly open. The March 19 1978 letter suggests I had some kind of book put together. I've found five pages of seasonally-arranged haiku that seem to have come from the A through S pages. The title haiku, however, and many others aren't among them. As late as in a November 16 1980 letter from Allard he is still planning to produce new bridge. Due to Allard's ill health we would lose contact and eventually with so much else going on in my life the idea of a book was dropped.

I'm glad that no book came from this period. (This was not the last time a non-book would occur.) I suspect much of it would have been the 'clean, well-lighted' poems if enough of them could have been found. Which I suspect would have encouraged more of them. If that had happened I might not have been able to jump completely over the old pond as early--really as late--as I finally did.

My first proposed title for the book was femailbox. Was I really ready for that? In a word, no. While in my personal life I was questioning everything (including haiku and not just with dadaku) this 'content' was just beginning to swirl in my head. I'd not read many women's poems then (or now) from the larger world and didn't know how women's content was received. Was it intimidating to male poets and critics and female representatives of male thought? Since I had been such a helpful agent of male art I certainly was intimidated and disturbed by this 'new information' and this huge world which seemed to have landed on top of me. Art or not!

But I wrote haiku--yikes! 'Regular' women and men poets don't have four zillion rules and attitudes attached to what they write but haiku poets it seemed were stuck somewhere between too much and not enough. And even worse, stuck with no-can-do which ironically is part of the 'charm' of haiku. I hear that 'advisor' who seems to have taken an interest in my comments, 'well, get out of haiku and write free verse, you can write anything in free verse, leave us alone so we can write haiku.'

Looking back at these pages I don't understand why I would have considered such a title. What did I see here or in other haiku that weren't one-line? Or did I just know (whether I could speak to it or not) that 'labium' was to be the most important word/shape of my entire life past, present and future? That whatever else I might write there was no going back? Given that one doesn't readily change content and style--or everything--in the same gulp there I was with 'attitude' and 'spirit' up to my eyeballs, and my innocence lost.

I had not bought art journals or books for several years but no matter how far away I was from MBAT I had still felt a part of the avant-garde art culture in which almost everything was based on another gender's concepts. One of the last things I read involved picketing a NYC gallery for more representation of women’s art.. If one’s an 'art artist' such 'political' things are of no interest, i.e., I didn't get it. So I didn't become aware that the consciousness-raising efforts of women artists were reaching right into The Art World. Even today, no doubt, that struggle to validate women's art and art by women continues. Many women, however, have long since defined their own cultures and the last place on their minds is The Art World.

It is quite an experience to relate, to want to relate, to crave to relate to a 'subculture' (female thought and art) after one has spent half a lifetime in other pursuits. As a young energetic girl I had been called a tomboy as apparently society had no other (unignorant) word. (Roy always got to do many more exciting things than Dale.) Then I became interested in male art because, with a few notable exceptions, that appeared to be what there was.

It seemed my whole life and old art had flashed before me and none of it mattered. Yet this new/beginning way of seeing was a million words and thoughts away from a book called femailbox . And I was reeling--I'm still reeling--from an awakening that as far as I'm concerned made 'moment of awareness' (or some such term in Zen) seem like kindergarten chatter. Even though I've never tried LSD I can't imagine anyone's perception to be as mind-blowing (or as some have explained, 'seeing through the shit') as what I'd experienced when reading just a few sentences and seeing a few photographs of women's art.

form follows satori
I've always been curious to know if haiku in Japan is an art as Westerners think of art. Aren't haiku, archery, tea, martial arts, ink painting and writing, flower arrangement and other such endeavors on a par with each other? More closely akin to each other than Japanese haiku is to Western haiku? The discipline within the Japanese arts is perhaps quite different from how we see haiku as poetry.

In February 1978 when 'form follows satori' was written and a great many of my haiku were one-line I was still hoping that the 'haiku wars' were over and that poets would be writing all kinds of haiku with all kinds of shapes and attitudes. There was an ad about shaving cream at that time, 'I love them both, Roberta, lather and protection.' I revised it to 'i love them both roberta long and short haiku' as a dadaku knowing full well that this was not the mood of the 'haiku community.' When I'm not being critical about the many layers of 'things' piled on top of haiku I want it all to work. However I was disillusioned then and it seems I've remained so.

One disillusionment was as co-judge (with Gary Hotham) of the 1978 Harold G. Henderson contest. Perhaps entries are better all these years later but when I hear talk of contests as a way of making money for groups--especially advertising in all kinds of magazines--I shudder. On the other hand someday they may get more than they ask for--what if there’s a real flux of new blood/interpretation into our tiny world? If a new/younger/unschooled artist can say 'Cezanne who?' then 'Basho who?' is also a good question. Aside from 'form follows satori' not written very well it was rather idealistic. I can't remember if I even sent it to a magazine.

One would think that the unique and highly intellectual philosophy--with such aspects as egolessness and selflessness--which surrounds haiku would inspire personal changes, even total transformations. But apparently 'poetic beliefs' don't necessarily extend to the poet in real life. They are for the poet's poem. Oddly enough, egolessness often means lousy haiku in an effort to keep the poet out of the poem.

A 1974 dadaku tear out is 'ing' ('ing' also appears in the old tin roof without explanation). So many haiku begin with see--ing, walk--ing, whatever--ing so that the egotistical 'I' can't get in. But is I always egotistical? Might it not be better to put that I up front in a haiku instead of sneak--ing in and to be egoless where it counts? Some might say it's the poem that counts. But why buy all these strange Eastern philosophies for just a little-bitty poem?

What is the real 'purpose' of egolessness? Not to be egotistical in a haiku (whatever that means) or not be a haiku poet who can get into some of the pettiest and silliest and angriest and even meanest of squabbles about haiku? Those 'ness' and 'lessness' words are great material for a critical article but how well do they work in real life? Another problematic area: separation of poet and poem, or the difference between.

If I can come to haiku from end pieces of stacked lumber and partly-painted stripes there must be many reasons why Westerners are attracted to haiku. Some have never believed that haiku has anything to do with Zen. Or with oneness or mindlessness or those other words. And once the 'difficult' 5-7-5 syllable count is abandoned or never taken up what in fact is the discipline of haiku?

To write a haiku in one breath's length? That doesn't seem very hard to do and it's kind of funny. Is it that Westerners have read or written a lot of similes and metaphors and rhymes which now (according to some explainers) they must ignore that makes haiku difficult or a discipline? Is there really a mystique in writing the world's shortest poem, in being concise and sparse and in getting at the essence of the matter?

Then there is the infamous 'seasonal reference' rule. (Be careful, if you don't have one you might be writing a Blyth-defined senryu instead.) I'm puzzled why including a season word (kigo) in a haiku could be very difficult. The answer of course is that not only should a premodern (a relative term) Japanese haiku and an undaunted 'things Japanese' Western haiku have kigo but they must be 'seasonally correct.' The most difficult part it would seem is to own one of the large season word index books--if one could be found and it is in English. From there on it would be like having an open-book test.

Do these books, however, take away the intuitive/nonintellectual approach? Which is the least intellectual: to memorize thousands of season words and when to use them or to look them up as needed? Many, many of my haiku have a seasonal reference but many may be seasonally incorrect--and I wouldn't even know. Or truly care--but I would like to sort this out.

It is my understanding, for example, that frost can't exist with cherry blossoms in a Japanese haiku nor can a butterfly exist outside it's specific season. Another 'charm' of haiku is this very shorthand. But to write butterfly is to write an 'intellectualization.' Yet it is just such compartmentalization--this nature only in summer and that nature only in winter, of 'things as they are' if seasonally correct--that spooks me. And even spookier that haiku of spring should only be written in spring, and so on.

Beyond that, however, the poet must be intellectual enough to write a poem which appears intuitive. By reading/studying what intuitive is and is not the poet then becomes intuitive? Or fakes it? Basically any art embodies that long struggle (mental, physical, emotional) but gives the appearance of non-struggle. What is very strange to me is that the intellectual philosophy of haiku is denied by so many of its adherents.

Is the poet or the poem supposed to be nonintellectual? Or is it the reader? The reader must be intellectual enough--up on all the code, mood, season words and up on one's snakes, trees, birds, etc.--to respond to a haiku as if she or he were intuitive. The very use of two images in a haiku--one of the most touted concepts--is an intellectualization. I haven't been able to decide whether haiku is the most intellectually intuitive shortest poem or the most intuitively intellectual shortest poem or . . . what. Another problematic area--in fact one of many examples of the difference between rhetoric and poem.

What else is discipline? The haiku spirit? Does the ode have an ode spirit, the sonnet a sonnet spirit, does free verse have a free verse spirit? Is the haiku spirit so much more complicated that the writer needs more discipline? Are 'things Japanese' more difficult than 'things Bangladesh' or 'things Italian' or 'things Egyptian'? A question which seems more serious: is the Japanese haiku spirit ongoing and no matter how many cultures, esthetics, miles and generations away it is to remain the same?

Perhaps the real discipline in haiku is guilt. But guilt can't come into play until one has read many haiku and many books on haiku, Japanese esthetics and Zen. From somewhere we have guidelines which revere white space even if it is off-white or light blue (one haiku to page), dual (duelistic?) images from one blank mind to another as well as eye, ear, nose and throat senses, but no finger-pointing. We must always be aware of the strong suggestion to say nothing special but at the same time, please, say enough that the dreaded comment 'so what?' is avoided.

I've also noticed another non-self 'rule' that it's the reader who 'finishes' the poem. If a haiku is written and there's no one else to read it does it make a sound/is it really written? (I really never expected anyone but myself to participate in the eye-painting of the earlier stripes.) We certainly have had and perhaps have written our share of 'this is haiku and this is not haiku' along with a lot of old-fashion sounding quotes.

I believe, however, the subliminal messages by the haiku cop lurking in the shadows have created much of the haiku guilt. Or perhaps we are our own cops and will go to the ends of the earth (we've already gone halfway) to find intricate rules to go by. Rules, however, are not art. (I've never met a rule that's art.) Tradition, especially, isn't. Tradition by it's very tradition is anti-art. If 'it’s been done,' if one tries to copy, can it still be art? (Well, cop or not, in my own home until only recently I've felt someone looking over my content-writing shoulder.)

Within the 'haiku community' there were and still are many disparaging remarks about other poets and their haiku. (And a few of us who make disparaging remarks about haiku itself.) I think all of us in haiku have been snickered at. (Recently a friend sent information about a poetry magazine which might have interest in my work; he said: don’t tell them it’s haiku!) This I believe because of the 'exclusive' content or, to say it another way, the 'exclusion' of content. Having nice little poems taught in grade school hasn't helped either. 'Oh, haiku, we studied that in the fourth grade, let's see, it has . . . is it seventeen syllables? We had so much fun.' A recent renga link: 'embarrassed again to admit i write haiku with no chance to explain.'

Tennessee photograph 3 contents
189a morning glory m 189b morning glory f

Letters with Elizabeth S Lamb contents

190 letter to Elizabeth January 26 1978
191 P.S. to Elizabeth.'womanself haiku'
192 2 letters from Elizabeth February 3 1978 and February 5 1978

'Old Woman's Banjo
A one-line renga with Elizabeth Searle Lamb and Bill Pauly. Written from January 26 1978 to January 11 1979 through the mail. (My first 36-link renga.) Perhaps this is the first one-line English-language renga to be published. (Cicada 2:2 1979.) And written, depending upon one's response to 'rain.'

rain,' a one-line renga with son Jason, age 10, was written (begun and finished in a few minutes) on February 10 1978. The first line and alternating links are his. 'after playing renga the boy shoots ball in the snow.'

one last time
February 1978. From 1974 to 1979 and slightly into the 1980s over one hundred unaloud haiku and some 35 visually aloud haiku were created. For the most part the content is nature or is it nature as concept? The four season words in a row with part of autumn dropping down became a 'one-line' title for a non-book of unalouds. During these years I would see a shape or something of the essence of a plant or animal while looking through a nature book or dictionary. And of course while right there in front of nature. After this period I've rarely seen words in such a manner.

I've begun to get used to an intense period in which things just jump out all the time. Then that seeing goes away. This has happened with my photographs of windows, doors, rust, shadows, red and green, funny signs (e.g., 'John Sink' and 'Herb Moss' on mailboxes; 'Barefoot Mattress Company' and 'Badcock will treat you right/free parking' painted in large letters on buildings). It's happened with the 'detached' images of the 1970s. I know I'm still surrounded by those images which once caused me to write/photograph but only occasionally do I see one. Perhaps it's because I no longer want or need to see them. That there are 'other' things to see, to feel.

When I was creating 'mad/up words' and 'wom words' beginning 1980/81 but particularly in the late 1980s I could hardly read something or hear a conversation without noticing a word which needed to be respelled. (See 'mad earths in my room' and 'bring a candle' in THREE for a few examples.) Although the 'tampering' with words (over 600) still continues and some occasionally show up in renga (as they have in these notes) the intensity has lessened. (A 1987 'shevolutionary' haibun, shetrillogy, which includes several hundred words keenly perceived, is also entangled with haiku and three painting series.) ['Kyoto Journal' #33 1997, heresy and orthodoxy issue.]

The period from August 1977 into September 1978 was the longest year of my life. New information and new ideas were bursting inside because there was no other place for them to go. Revolutionary--what I call 'spiralutionary' and 'shevolutionary'--thoughts in an old and decaying setting. (When else can such a thing happen?)

The haiku sheets to Allard, the dadaku and the many visual haiku perhaps reflect an introverted life where art was what I clung to. It might have had form or was formless. It might have been anti-art or just something conceptual going on inside my head. It might have been a garbled sense of Zen. It might have been the thought of wild haiku. Some kind of art (since my late teens) has always sustained me during painful or troubled situations.

Even in recent times when I've been ill I've painted and/or written about the experience or in spite of it. Often just the process of painting or writing would transfer some of the pain, would transform the situation. Yet for quite some time I've wondered whether art/expression with all its intensity and seriousness could be a source of pain. The unalouds, alouds and tear outs are the closest I've ever come to enjoying a process. Especially since August 1977 I've continually found myself engaging in something that was farther along than I was, in something I wasn't ready for and yet somehow there I was in the middle of it.

continued . . .

'from the mountain/backward/3'

back to 'main contents'