marlene mountain
letter essay
february 1990

fellow questioner

dear tom  2/1/90

Your wonderful letter today! Thoughts I very much needed to hear. From a
fellow questioner/struggler. (It's my assumption that there is little questioning/struggling in haiku--tho I'd love to be proven wrong.) I groan tho as I think over the last 20 years of haiku writing and agonizing (and the preceding 10 years in painting, as well as these last ten years); it's been a very stimulating as well as a very tiring/draining process. In a way I don't wish it on anyone-- just enjoy nature and write, be happy, don't worry. Then, again, I do.

A suggestion. Get a good durable notebook(s). Plan to keep it going for 10-30 years. Write all your thoughts about nature--how sweet it was/is and how it's been abused. Don't think of them as haiku or as non-haiku. Write all your other thoughts about life, not calling them anything. DATE EVERYTHING. I didn't, but for fun, you could make a note after some/all: h (haiku); n (no way it's a haiku); ? (don't know). (Send them out as you feel comfortable, like you normally do.) Leave the rest alone and every year or so go back and look at them. If your attitude has changed, make the appropriate mark and date it. And of course don't let editors' yes/no be the last word. I wouldn't be surprised that after a period of time there's a reversal on many. If you haven't already, give one line a good try. It's far from easy. (I find space and line breaks somewhat of a crutch.) Many reasons I like it best ('the joke of three lines'). One, it's hard to tell some of it from 'ordinary' writing of thoughts. Perhaps a good thing.

Among other reasons I appreciate your good letter is that I've been struggling (ho hum) with the idea of putting out a triple volume book. [You asked about other essays.] 1) a collection of essays over the years beginning with a haibun in 1970--which comes to over 60 pages, single-spaced. (With a definite change of emphasis from oneness/etc to womness/social protest/etc.) My big struggle: who really wants to wade through it all. 2) collected renga and sequences from 1969/70?, but mainly since 1978/79--over 200 pages double-spaced, tho some pages only have a few lines. Plus I've gone through my grubby notebooks beginning mid 81 and collected all the lines I've written (not used in renga, seq., etc) and called them 'found sequences' or 'gatherings.' I decided to collect them--all or nothing--before reading them. What a shock! at some--most--of what I've said/ranted about over the years buried in bad handwriting, etc. My big problem with all of these is do I really want to bare myself even more than I've already (gulp) done. Except for a few friends, it will no doubt be a hated book. 3) the picture-poems, unaloud haiku, dadaku, tear outs, and in particular the one line haiku from 69 to about 78. Plus 'minimalist' (less is more) sketches and/or paintings from 1963 prior to my involvement with haiku & zen which nonetheless relate (which I eventually discuss in my painting thesis of 65), thru 1969 when I quit painting for 10 years. Series which relate to the need (perhaps) of haiku sequences. Whew.

1 and 2 are fairly much collected. 3 not even started as I only began thinking about it 2 days ago. The main reason for it is to help place my several years battle (love/hate) with haiku in some sort of perspective. e.g., what I called a 'punk haiku' in 1984: this fucking heat sucked in twice by zen. For that to be 'appreciated' (I don't mean liked), background is needed. Right now it's too complex and difficult. It will take some doing. One day I say it ought to be done, the next day I say, no way! A recent link: all or nothing the courage it takes to face my own writing. (After struggling to love & understand my own anger, I truly don't need to have it misunderstood.)

I meant this to be a letter of appreciation to you, but somehow I got into sorting out some things. Pardon. You did read the essay--what I meant--beyond what I normally hope for. I'm most grateful.


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