marlene mountain
letter essay
january 2001



ryu  1/11/01

ryu i very much appreciate your comments. we americans [& other english-speaking people] have been self-deluded about haiku since the beginning. we have had lots of 'haiku wars' especially in the 1970s. that's normal of course. but i feel that by now there should be more tolerance in the haiku community. i have many critics who say i don't have the 'haiku spirit.' my reply is that i have my haiku spirit. part of my spirit is to spoof [satirize, make fun of] haiku. especially when people here try to be authorities on japanese or western haiku.

we cannot write japanese haiku. it is so intrinsically bound to the language and culture. the best we can do is to find our individual perceptions. in the early days of english-language haiku there were poets who relied heavily on such content as cherry blossoms and umbrellas or parasols. though we too have cherry blossoms we began to call such poems 'japanesey.' a put-down [criticism] of poets trying to imitate just the surface of japanese haiku. we don't have too many imitators of that kind anymore. but we still have many poets who insist that all poets write as close to the 'haiku spirit' as possible.

several years ago i began to call certain haiku 'japaneasy.' it's a spoof/criticism of the poets who choose particular aspects and 'rules' of japanese haiku that they like and negelect the rest. it is a pun on 'japanesey.' but mainly it's a criticism of 'easy' haiku. some poets say i don't go by any rules. i've begun to see that as a compliment. 'no-rules' seems more honest than 'some-rules.' i think art most often comes from not accepting or not giving attention to old rules.

below is a note i recently wrote to michael welch about similiar ideas. isn't it amazing how the internet has made a small world ever smaller? by that i mean closer. lovemm 1/14/01

micheal thanks for your 2 notes. small world isn't it: you, ryu, me. i'm not much for poetry. think of content as the poem. one-line as not getting in its way. i like a variety of emotions in haiku as well as none. to think and nonthink in haiku. don't see anyone but japanese writing haiku so i can only write as who i am--that kind of thing. believe we all should write from our own cultures, from ourselves, i have a different view of nature than what i perceive as the attitude underlying japanese culture/haiku and since we don't have cutting words and the like that can't apply either. lots of things just don't apply. henderson of course understood all this but it wasn't what westerns at least americans wanted to take in. so haiku development in the west has been held back by romanticized and misinterpreted notions. probably the further we get away from japanese haiku the closer we get to haiku. at any rate we're lucky to have no authorities.

the road already narrow before the one to the deep north


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