marlene mountain
letter essay
september 1987

one-line esoterica

dear alexis 9/3/87

Golly, after such a good close phone conversation with you, I was a bit disappointed to have a lecture from you (tho a mild one).

'one-line esoterica' ?? Well over 300 years of Japanese haiku hardly implies esoterica. And some of my earliest haiku in 68/69 were one line, both vertical and horizontal. I returned to it again by at least 74, sometimes revising older haiku into one-line. And I have been involved with it almost exclusively for many many years. It's a terrific form, partly because it doesn't look like a form. Not all, but many three-line haiku are one-lines broken/shattered--and the breaks are uncomfortable/jarring and, for the most part, arbitrary. Three line came about, I feel, from translators who couldn't accept (and didn't think western readers could accept) a poem in one line.

This year is my 30th year in art. So I do have some understanding of the nature of change. In art. In oneself. I love change. That's why I'm still producing. One aspect of change is rejection. Rejection is a positive force. It cleans the mind of repetitional thinking, and all kinds of comfortable traps we so often fall into. It leaves a void. Voids are wondrous. There're beginnings.

It may appear to some that I'm now repeating myself. So far I don't think so. 'raped two hours on a pool table' and 'fearing her and all women he rapes her and all women' appear to have the same content, but have totally different approaches. I have several other 'things' I want to do in haiku, but have back-burnered them so that I can let my 'current content' come out. By experience, I think I'll know change.

I'm not trying to deny anyone my past haiku. My statement that I would like to be represented in your book by my more political haiku wasn't intended to be an ego statement, or a denial to people of my past expressions. I truly feel that haiku itself needs the political representation. After all, Japanese haiku, certainly has it. Consider many of the opening links of renga--'nice' greetings to the host, one can hardly get more political. And court poetry-- goodness. What political games they must have played.

Anger. Mine is directed: patriarchal mentality. It's destroying our earth, and denying full human rights to the majority of people in the world. Anger, I feel, is to be treasured. It's one of our most basic rights--yet one that is feared by society, and disallowed. It disrupts the flow of the patriarchal status quo. Women, especially, are made to deny their anger. Yes, there must be a good outlet for it, or we can be eaten up by it. We can also be eaten up by denying it. Many artists throughout time have made art from their anger.

You are welcome to the 'pumpkin stand' haiku (as one line), but as you can see by the context of the three sequences, it's only the opening line in a more--if you don't mind my saying--complex expression. It's the least of what I have to offer.

I hope you don't see this letter as a lecture. I'm just trying to communicate. Truly.


back to 'letter essay contents'