marlene mountain
letter essay
july 1991


let's gaze

dear bill 7/25/91

Thank you for sending what you could of my old letters. I'm hoping others will turn up, especially from the time in between. From one letter I see you had lost some of my submissions, c. '74/75 which included one-line and visual haiku. ('winter morning/i post some haiku/to hear from? press')

Do you remember (1976) our walking across the street in either Paterson or NYC and your saying, 'I'm god'? Bill, that didn't become you then, and hasn't since. (Given the history of male gods, however, I can't imagine anyone wanting to be one.) In a letter from Cor you wanted to publish the haiku/dadaku I wrote about several poets after returning home. A few about you, including the above and 'he said he was god/if i'd thought i'd have said/but not buddha.' (Of course, now I say 'boo(da) who') And 'it's not enough/to get it out of 5-7-5/got to get it out/of paterson'.

In asking about my old letters, I was seeking information. In your note saying you kept some and would send, you added that there was nothing particularly profound. Gee, I was merely looking for dates--and ah shucks, profound I throw away every day. I let that little comment go by then, but it's an example of how your 'I am god' fails you.

As well as when these letters recently arrived (over a year later) and you included a critique of me and my haiku, navel-contemplation and all. ('he's such a nice guy/you try to miss/when you swing') I have long long long ago gone beyond my narrow view of haiku and have tried to explain why in a variety of ways. It's always a bit disappointing/amusing when one (especially someone who has grown up in NYC) does not appear to appreciate that a very significant aspect of 'art' is change--perhaps that's even the art of art itself. Whether through evolution or revolution (in my case shevolution), artists have a habit of changing the look, even the intent, of a 'past' or ongoing art. If this does not happen, one is then more often than not a recreator. Perhaps it is in our disposition which direction is taken.

To continue in the spirit of unsolicited remarks, I'd like to say that at one time the 'group' in NYC had interesting, even significant, things to say about haiku. However, to quote an '88 or older haiku

the avant-garde becomes the old garde and guards

I can't help but wish that the title 'North America and the Democracy of Haiku' of your upcoming talk is meant to be satirical. Many 'critics' and poets seem to continue the legacy of suppression/control inherent in the Japanese haiku philosophy and its brother arts (painting, tea, flower). It's long overdue: lots of real contemplation of the haiku navel. What role did/does art play in societal oppression? How do artists and community get talked into suppressing creativity? How does adherence to the seemingly innocuous season word become a form of self-policing? Does 'self'-discipline equal 'outside' control? How is art related to the misogynistic takeover and revision of the origin of Japan and its culture? How did all this get so lost that another culture writes nature poems and calls them haiku when that's not what it's about in Japan? Let's gaze.

Well, anyway, in fun and in dialogue this letter. And in the spirit of gift-giving and 'enjoy,' here's an intimate poster for you.

from the mountain

copies to Jane, Hiro, Cor (which they can toss, or maybe join in)

poster: 'i've freed haiku from that fuckin sound of water'


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