marlene mountain
july 1982


two femmarks, inner:review

Interviewer: I like a lot of your poems but are they haiku? Some of them are not immediate, in some cases words are unfamiliar . . .

Mountain: The haiku come from my vocabulary, from conversations and from reading. They are a direct result of my perceptions into the life of things. Perhaps there's a word here and there that one might have to look at twice. That shouldn't present a problem.

I: What I'm trying to get at is that some seem to be 'ideas,' concepts. For instance, taliswoman It's even a made up word.

M: My moment of awareness was that 'talisman' is a concept, a made-up word. Mankind is a made-up word. If you understand that 'man' is not a generic term, but a political idea (that was an overwhelming moment keenly perceived), then the feminization of a word can be a natural response. Or in my case, 'taliswoman' was a hit-on-the-head-with-a- stick. A leap. A breakthrough. Now I'm giving you the word, the leap.

I: Aren't you asking us to accept an intellectualization?

M: Not to accept is the intellectualization. In one second the word/moment
can become a part of you. Mary Daly, in her discussion of therapist, gives us
a word--hits us on the head: the/rapist.1 That's very immediate to me.

I: She doesn't call that a haiku, does she?

M: I call mine haiku.

I: And your definition of haiku?

M: How 'bout, life?

I: Is that all?

M: That's a lot.

I: I mean, what else, specifics, rules, attitude?

M: All of that evidences itself as we develop/write. Art is a slow process, understanding is a slow process. If we are lucky, though, we'll have an occasional leap. In the long run, art is an individual and internal process.

I: What would you tell a beginning haiku writer?

M: Not much. If anything I'd say watch out for rules, dogma, stereotyping. Don't write the way others write. A bunch of people writing the same way about the same things leads to ho hum. Art is restless. It's always in the process of redefining itself. Issa wrote about fleas because they were a part of his life. More importantly, it was necessary at that time that fleas be written about. That's how I view issue-oriented haiku--its time has come. It's unrealistic for haiku not to deal with our polluted environment, society's violence upon itself, denigration of women, the threat of nuclear war, and so on. If creatures from outer space were to access our culture by the content of Western haiku, they would think we lived in a utopia.

I: Most of our haiku and haiku scholarship have been about oneness.

M: True, and we couldn't make it without those times of oneness. We'd flip out. The world, however, is not oneness. We have more moments of unoneness than of oneness. I'm speaking now of the world as a whole, not of the personally satisfying niches we may have carved out for ourselves. What I'm suggesting is that haiku limits itself as a serious--if I may, humanitarian--art if it doesn't represent other aspects of life.

I: What is an example of unoneness, or whatever you call this other aspect?

clitoris of the four year old removed

M: The operations of clitoridectomy and infibulation2 are said to currently affect 30 million women in Africa. One might even be shocked to know that clitoridectomy was practiced in America only a few decades ago. Beyond, however, the actual fact presented in the haiku is the underlying world-wide opinion that a woman's body is not her own.

I: That's a lot to attach to a haiku.

M: I think haiku is up to it.

I: Let's get back to my original contention that some of the poems are not immediate; this one seems to be a good example. The poem itself and the information you've given are not matters of common knowledge and, therefore, create a gap between the reading and the perception.

M: I don't believe immediacy is the ultimate criterion. After all, the haiku which stay with us are those which go beyond their actual words and which, in effect, are bigger than themselves because of all that we add to them over a period of time. This haiku was written because I was moved and disturbed. On reflection perhaps its very reason for being is to make this information/event common knowledge. You might call it an educational haiku. As far as I know there are no rules which say we can't 'learn' from one another. Don't we after all give each other our pictures, our phrases, our ways of understanding? Isn't that what it's all about, our different kinds of haiku?

1 Mary Daly, GYN/ECOLOGY, Boston: Beacon, l979.  2 For the most part these 'operations' are performed in unsanitary conditions with such tools as kitchen knives, razor blades, pieces of glass, and fingernails. {1988 statistics: 85 million Africans--MM} [taliswoman revised to 'taliswom']

Wind Chimes #6, 1982 America; Raw Nervz Haiku 3:2 1996 Canada


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