marlene mountain
june 1977

review by marlene mountain

PICASSO'S BUST OF SYLVETTE, Elizabeth and Bruce Lamb; Carlinghouse Printers, Topeka KA, 1977. Price 2.50, soft cover.

Before viewing the Lambs' book, we know from the cover (title and photograph) exactly what the book is about. Yet with the opening haiku, Elizabeth Lamb asks us to begin where she began:

   not knowing what--
piles of black pebbles, sand
        the scaffolding

On the next two pages, Bruce Lamb continues the intrigue with fragmentary photographs (one wishes that the paper of the book were white so that the photographs had more contrast). A few more pages and we again 'know.' Yet we are more aware because we were in on the beginning:

it takes a while
    to know her
Picasso's 'Bust of Sylvette'

Through the Lambs' book, those who have or have not seen the sculpture can find 'she has developed a personality all her own and fills her own special place'* within us. With each haiku and photograph we become better acquainted with Sylvette: streaked with rain, in shadow, in snow. On dark days, on sunny days, wherever we are, we might wonder how she looks and who is looking at her:

kneeling in grass
a young man focuses
on her face


Haiku poets are often referred to as nature lovers--appreciatively and non-appreciatively. However, there are many haiku, sometimes called city haiku, which express our natural and unnatural contact with the world of concrete and glass.

Elizabeth Lamb both broadens and narrows her readership when she includes art in haiku. A haiku purist, here and there, might claim that she is intellectual when writing about sophisticated art, as in this very perceptive one-line haiku:

shadows darkening three-sevenths of her face in sunlight

This haiku, more than any of the others in her sculpture sequence, brings us 'faces to faces' with Picasso. To understand and feel this poem we should have some knowledge of Picasso's art. This takes nothing away from the concept that haiku is immediate.For those who understand Picasso, this haiku is immediate.

It is good for the movement (if there is one anymore) to have poets who expand our vision. Artists of one medium should be aware of other media. Picasso certainly enriches the perceptions of many poets. And, in this case, Elizabeth Lamb has enriched Picasso's art.

A personal comment: I did not count the number of pages, the number of photographs, the number of haiku, nor the number of syllables. I enjoyed the book.

* From 'A Note About 'Sylvette'' at the end of the book by E.S.L.

Modern Haiku 8:3 1977


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