marlene mountain
summer 1985

review by marlene mountain

A BUNCH OF KEYS by Mutsuo Takahashi.
Translated by Hiroaki Sato. The Crossing Press, 1984.

If there are Lesbians and gays among haiku writers who publish in the magazines, we're not ever likely to know it--and that's too bad. However, since we've only begun to realize that there are heterosexuals, perhaps we shouldn't deny the possibility that down the line (in a generation or two, at the rate haiku content seems to expand or more accurately to creep), we'll see a few haiku which take for granted that the haiku moment can be found within that other scene. By then that other scene may not even be called that other scene. Also by then haiku may have sloughed off the seemingly endless die-hard misconceptions and heavy baggage (I'm tempted to say foreign words and concepts) and simply exist as nitty-gritty poems about who we are: what we see, smell, hear, touch, taste and, why not, feel and think.

In the meantime, quite unexpectantly to say the least, a bridge between the homosexual world and the haiku world has appeared. Hiroaki Sato, poet and past president of the Haiku Society of America, has translated a second book of poems by 'Japan's foremost gay poet,' Mutsuo Takahashi.

'No poet I know relishes sex as much as Takahashi,' says Robert Peters in his introduction to A BUNCH OF KEYS. What a line. Could that ever be said of a Western haiku poet? Or, as in the ad blurb, 'He is celebrated for the sensuous detail by which he depicts life...' Sometimes I fear we, in trying to set haiku apart from other forms of poetry, have neglected--even discredited--who we are as humans. We have gotten quite good at many things within haiku, but so, so much we have left unattended.

held down in my hands, you bounce         (from 'Ode')

Again, Peters, 'One wonderfully erotic moment is this, when the penisist grabs the shaft of another man.' It just might be a haiku moment. But seeking haiku or haiku-like moments in other kinds of poetry is not all that rewarding--I much more prefer life moments within haiku.

While 'straight' males continue to dominate and determine art, economics, history, science and technology, government, sports, law, business, food processing and additives, language, education, religion, birth control policies and devices, the environment, war and peace decisions, the poverty level, medicine, agriculture, ethics, holidays, foreign policy, fashion, mental health therapy, the media, space and the moon, sexual values including pornography and harassment, pollution, philosophy, crime, punishment and justice, safety in the work place, the work place itself, shelter designs, who is family and who is non-family, culture, public opinion, archeology and interpretation, legal and illegal drugs, wild life management, energy sources (care to add to the list?), movements and individuals who say boo and bosh (and stronger words and, of course, actions) have my admiration. The voices of black and other minority males, as well as gays, help us see through the incredible one-sidedness of the status quo. Still male is male--and can only see so far. It is that daring woman, quite often the political Lesbian (e.g., Mary Daly), who offers insights that'll enlighten the heck out of us.

Back to Takahashi's book. Does a review/discussion/mention of it belong in a haiku journal? Sure. (And, perhaps, we've only just begun . . .).

Oak Grove Haiku #1 September 1986 America.

reviewed without reading the book

'next writing'
back to 'essays reviews haibun self-interviews self-reviews contents'
back to 'main contents'