marlene mountain
c 1976/77



Some One Who Might Be Interested In Haiku and Cor van den Heuvel

C: (at a party) Van den Heuvel. Nice meeting you.

S: Van den Heuvel, hum. Sounds familiar. Hum.

C: Newsweek. I work at Newsweek.

S: No I read Time. Somewhere else. Hum. Oh, my daughter . . . something about a Japanese poet or something.

C: Oh, you mean The Haiku Anthology. I was the editor. 1974. Haiku is the shortest form of poetry in the world. It says something without saying. If you know what I mean.

S: Oh, yeah? Hum. That's a strange idea. I'll take a look at her book.

S: (phone call) Hey, van den Heuvel. Interesting, this haiku. Where can I see some more?

C: Er, ah, er, hum, well, er, hum, er.


Some One Who Might Be Interested In Haiku and Marlene [Mountain]

S: (at a blue grass party) Haiku. Yeah, I read some a year or so ago. Interesting. Never could get much more into it. Got Modern Haiku. Some interesting stuff. But, well, you know, I couldn't really tell. Some fellow kept talking about seventeen syllables.

M: Oh, that's one way of writing haiku, but there're many other ways.

S: Yeah. I thought I failed. Mine were mostly fourteen or so, more or less. So I kind of gave up.

M: Well, that magazine is the only one we really have in the U.S. We used to have several. Lots of interest in haiku. Lots of people writing and getting published. [Kay] Mormino, that's the editor of Modern Haiku, is the only one we can count on. Of course, that magazine isn't perfect. Lots of poor stuff gets in--but that's how she keeps anything at all. With haiku, as anything, you have to be your own judge. She gives us a chance to judge.

S: You mean, after that Anthology, there's only one magazine? I kind of thought haiku was an important thing. After all, an anthology is pretty big stuff.

M: Oh, for a while there was lots of activity. Now things are in a bad state. One state is New Jersey. There's a guy there, {Bill] Higginson, who has a magazine. But he puts it out about as often as someone over forty wants a birthday. When it comes out it's pretty good but most of us have given up on him. I mean who wants to send haiku that are not only not accepted but aren't even rejected.

S: I see what you mean. That's not good for any business, let alone art. It is an art, isn't it?

M: Well, that's one of the exciting things about haiku. What is it? And more importantly, what is it in North America? That's why we need the magazines.

S: And you only have one magazine which is regular and one spasmodic?

M: There've been others. American Haiku; it was an earlier one. Some think very important in that it started haiku off in America. But it was not very experimental. That is, haiku was tied down as soon as it was born and changes were considered subversive. And Haiku before this new editor was good. [Eric] Amann was its original editor but he pooped out, I guess.

S: It seems to me that a form which comes from another culture ought to have a chance to find itself in the new country in form and content. After all, languages are so different and it's been proven that translations are so inadequate.

M: That's what many of us found. But a lot of people were die-hards. It got pretty bad. People started hating each other.

S: That can happen. But usually that hatred equalizes out. People usually hate until they become interested in what they hate and then secretly try out what they hate--I mean, hate can lead to something.

M: You'd think so. But it didn't happen that way in this instance. People divided up, chose sides, like children do in a game. But it wasn't a game. War broke out.

S: Really? That's no good. With something as unknown as haiku, you'd think people would stick together for the very reason of its existence. I mean, from what I've felt, it's not exactly a normal Western idea. I mean, so few words.

M: Yeah, you'd think that. But something happened or didn't happen. The whole idea of haiku got lost in the battle of syllables. Can you imagine? The difference of ten to seventeen syllables made people hate each other! I mean, enemies. Some people quit writing, even.

S: You don't say. What's a few . . . is it words? You mean syllables? Hum, enemies? But what about the spirit of haiku? Didn't that mean more than how many words, that is, syllables it took to say something?

M: Apparently not. Many who really cared just quit. They'd spent all their energy in battle. You know, personally, I love to argue. Give me a subject, tell me which side and I'll take it to the nth degree. But I guess I'm human too--or maybe inhuman. I can get awfully mad if someone says, 'You're all wet,' then I guess I'll argue illogically to prove I'm not wet. Silly, isn't it?

S: Yes. Sometimes we take our beliefs much too seriously. We use conversation and the like instead of just putting out our 'art.' You know, pardon the obvious, art speaks for itself. Manifestos usually stink. One should just produce--be sincere of course, even uncertain. Manifestos usually turn out to be a historical laughing matter. The commitment, in whatever art, is where one lives. I think I'd rather have my art fail than some manifesto that I irrationally believed in for a period of time survive.

M: Well, we all thought we had a great leader in Amann. He had a good magazine going. Like Mormino and [LeRoy] Kanterman (Haiku West), he put out what he got from people--he expected us to be our own editors. There's something to say for that. Get the magazine out, let the people decide. We do that with Wordsworth, Cezanne, Brahams. Why not haiku people? An editor must judge, certainly. But not conceal people's ideas or wait for the best of the best--in other words, quit. No one writes or paints consistently.

S: Yes. An editor can do so much, that is, not print this, that and the other. But he [sic] must put out something to prove he's at least an editor. You know, I'm not at all sure I'd want to know the answers in one issue. I'd rather like to be given the chance to decide a few things over the days, months, years, myself. You know, grow.

M: Yes, we need time to experience. To feel a part of the growth. The growth, the development, the decisions. It took me a long time to understand certain paintings. That's why I value them. I got a chance to learn--I refused to be told.

S: So what happened to this Amann fellow?

M: We don't know. Higginson took over his magazine (Haiku). He's either disgusted with Higginson or himself. Either way it's sad. We need him to commit, then we can agree or disagree.

S: Was Amann good? I mean, a good editor?

M: We all--most of us--learned a lot. He was direct. I think he cared. But he seems to have set a trend. Lots of people quit--or so it seems, because he did.

S: Did his fire burn out?

M: It seems so.

S: Hum. I guess it's human to be so intense for a while. You know, like pain, you can only hurt so long and then you quit hurting. I mean you lose feeling. You are so aware of it. It consumes you. Then all of a sudden you go blank. Nothing.

M: That must be it. And somehow the struggle gets to you--and the wrong way. I mean, some people would rather die than lose their leg, when they know the leg must go. I think it was like that in haiku. People argued or wrote articles, and griped, and bitched, and hated and were enraged . . . until the fire burned out. Winning was losing and losing was winning. And that's the wrong fire, or battle.

S: Yes, as I understand it, haiku is a peaceful art. An egoless conception of life and surroundings. I guess a big battle on those grounds is rather depressing.

M: That's right. Those things which caused such petty arguments should have been settled long ago. For some reason the battles became more important than the thing itself, that is, the expression of oneness in the universe. People spent their energies on the battle of egos. Haiku became personal instead of selflessness.

S: Aren't there ANY neutral forces? Someone who wants to find a peace or someone who says shit on the whole silly argument? Or is it mainsteam?

M: I hope American haiku isn't dead, but they've got to get going. They've got to write the haiku. And lots of it. So much that they will create a need for space . . .

typed from scribbled notes--as is--march 1990

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