marlene mountain
letter essay
november 1987


dear bob 11/6/87

Your 'an unspoken love' in the recent WC is very very moving to me. I get a warm sensation from it, feel a closeness (I'm assuming it's a personal statement, even if not it reflects a 'common' human emotion). I appreciate the poets who are beginning to speak quite personally in their haiku. As you know I've written both objective and subjective haiku--and feel there's a place for both--but as I grow older I'm finding the subjective more meaningful (perhaps as I get even older I'll find the more objective tone again.) Your haiku, however, has prompted me to share the enclosed personal 'haibun' with you. It's a kind of 'automatic writing' with no change other than what's noted. I'm not as yet sure I want to see it published--it was written, I suppose, from/by my subconscious to help me deal with some of what I'd just gone through. Perhaps you have some comments re its being published--publishing to me implies sharing. (I've yet to send it to either Hal or Elizabeth, as friend or editor.) It deals not only with my pains and fears, but with my attempt to begin a painting series that had been brewing inside for some time. A series addressing what is happening to 'our' one and only earth. A few people see some of what I do as negative--but in all honesty, it's my love of nature which prompts me to write about the reality that is occurring on 'our' planet. For instance, I see 'we should have stayed seaweeds' (POP&CW) as a positive statement (a 'nature-lover' haiku) about nature--not that humans aren't nature, but I see each of us helping to destroy the environment. Since men are 'in control,' I have masculinized some of these words--I call all of the words 'mad/up' (made-up mad words).

Perhaps you've heard I've had health problems (off and on) for nearly 5 years. It's something I've shared with only a few haiku people. I'm an 'MS suspect' and in general I'm OK and active--but I'm having to learn to slow down. I went through a terrible onset the first part of 83--I wrote a piece (really, journal/poem entries) during my 4-day hospital stay for tests, and about the ensuing period. Hal was going to publish it, but I backed out--not wanting to 'dump' what I was going through on others. This year has seen 2 short exacerbations, and this recent nearly 2-month one. If these situations are to become a part of my life (the odds still seem to be in my favor!), I'm going to have to decide whether to share with others publicly--given my bent toward being personal in my writing/painting. Expression through art, I've found, is very much a part of healing for me.

Here is a 2-part piece ('belly up/...' & 'out in/ah') given out at the recent HSA meeting, which I'd also like to share, with publication in MH in mind if you'd have interest. (It's to be published in a small Tokyo magazine next year, but I'd also like to risk sharing it with you and others here.) From what I've heard it was favorably taken-- tho I did get one negative letter. Some of the thoughts no doubt are very much in contrast with your beliefs, but as I muse here in relative isolation, there is much I'm questioning about many things. I feel akin to Basho in his continual quest, accepting/rejecting his and his culture's past/current philosophies about haiku--what it is/how it's expressed--and to his never being satisfied. To Issa's 'shockingly impassioned verse,' his 'fierce hatred of human evil voiced in a language of unrestrained passion' and even at times to his being 'a most conspicuous heretic to the orthodox Basho tradition' (Ueda).

And also to the 'modernization' by Shiki. Like them, my art, life, 'politics' are very bound together. Goodness! all this in response to your haiku. I want to open up to you, and hope it's seen in the good spirit of dialogue (controversy?)--I've hesitated before.

Dear Bob 11/18/87

Well, as you can see by the letter dates, I've hesitated yet again. But I've also been busy on the land, getting things somewhat ready for winter. It's been great to be 'out in nature' again. To the point that I've not even gotten back to the 'mad earth' who keeps staring blankly at me.

I've sent the womanspirit via a variety of ways to all the women. Two responses so far: ESL and LAD have said yes. Thanks for your interest.

Yes, I too see a need for some sort of 'form' in renga--and have participated in two quite different approaches, one with Hal and one with Adele.

Here're a few more pieces for consideration in MH (or for sharing). All but the Sato piece are to be in his upcoming book. He encouraged me to prepublish if I wanted to. Evanoff (in Tokyo) is also publishing most of them along with the 'belly up...' and 'out in/ah' piece. (A women's journal is also interested in the latter.) John Sheirer was to publish 'who,' haiku & nature,' 'appreciation' and 'will I ever' last year--but he seems to have gone out of business. He does not respond to my inquiries, so I consider them 'freed-up.'

No need to return any of the enclosed. Just a note will do. I do hope you'll give consideration to them (perhaps grouped in serial form, chronologically). As I mentioned, I am aware that some the ideas are at variance with yours--but I offer them to you and to the 'community' as dialogue. The main purpose of all my art--after the fact that I must do it, let it come out--is to create an atmosphere for discussion. I'm a rather shy, soft-spoken person, intimidated at times by my own art, yet compelled at least so far to share--it's a odd and sometimes difficult combination for me.

from the mountain,

in the spirit of dialogue and positive controversy

PS You once asked about my reviewing a book or two. And I declined saying something really had to grab me to do so. Here's a recent review I've sent to Elizabeth. If she doesn't accept, it's available to you. Thought I'd include with this batch anyway. You can see that at the very least I'm consistent as a budding radical ('at the root') feminist. Perhaps haiku needs at least one of us. Adele is pleased with the review, and likes the context in which her poems are placed.


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