marlene mountain
letter essay
july 1988


dear elizabeth and rod     7/12/88

Recently I sent Reichhold a page for her new magazine. It has a handwritten 'highfalutin' definition: a word or small gathering of words which attempts to express an individual's evolving consciousness of self, of others, and of the universe. It doesn't mention nature per se (earth to sky kind), syllables (sound/symbols--ho hum), or the Japanese spirit; it does mention people--without the false dichotomy of humor/depth implied by haiku/senryu (to adopt the Japanese 'compartmentality' is so unwise), and that which now that we've destroyed 'our nature' we're on our way to destroying next. But I didn't let it go at that. I included a dadaku tear out from a couple years or so back of 2 monks between temple eaves and Fuji (a JAL ad) which says 'deep 6 it we've got the haiku masses where we want em.' I guess I'm pretty naive to believe this might be truly understood by readers.

If I remember right Elizabeth once said that POP&CW lacked the haiku spirit. It's the best thing ever said about it, because over the years and especially lately, my whole being says 'save me from the haiku and/or Japanese spirit' (that's a polite version). This fall will be 20 years 'in haiku' and I've come from reverence of haiku (and things Japanese--I absolutely hate bonsai etc now) to seeing it as one of the most repressive things in my life. For me, it's a microcosm of patriarchy. I'm kidding, right? Not a bit. (Then get out, one might say--I can't until I write myself out, the irony is that with each expansion, I'm really writing myself in--I think.) With the exception of 'pissed' and 'ah' from my 'belly up' pieces, Rod's article is the best attempt I've yet seen toward liberating us from the oppression of haiku. That he's also attempting to liberate us from the now old avant guarde/guards is good/important, but for me a side issue. (It's merely cyclic--and dang if it isn't funny once one gets past the obnoxiousness--that Anita, Bill, Cor, Alan who wrested haiku from the old guarde/guards Spiess and Keyser have now 'become' them. Cackle.)

For quite some time I've had an 'article' floating around inside about this oppression which I can't yet get a handle on. (If I could ever write it, it's practically a given it won't be published.) Besides the fact that writing is extremely difficult for me is the larger understanding of how oppressed I have been (have unwittingly allowed to happen since birth), how oppressed we all are (and that no one really wants to acknowledge it--I do grant it's rather difficult/complex to see). Here I sit in Hampton with absolutely no one looking over my shoulder--except for two 'things': my being a woman in patriarchy and being in haiku. I am thoroughly disgusted with my inhibitions, am never satisfied with my leaps out of my patriarchal mind.

Isn't it odd how this 'exotic' notion of poetry/play has inspired such passions in Japan and elsewhere? (Haven't we seen how it can bring out the worst behavior in fellow poets?) I'm certainly one who has been much too serious. But I'm slowly understanding my strange Japan experience--I cannot overstress the difference in reading about and living there. We've yet to 'dig for the facts' regarding haiku--they lie in Japan's patriarchal 'creation' myth which culminates in an obsession with cleanliness = denial of real nature. How will I ever write this?! Even If We Can, Do We Truly Want To Write Haiku? Title?

Well, I was simply going to write to Rod and praise his article, and detail some of the things I love about it--but I'll just mention a few: 'prefer to be well and truly corralled,' 'the safety of the carousel,' 'inner necessity'
--wow!, and just the mention of oppression in a haiku article--double wow! And I was simply going to tell Elizabeth again how fantastic to see it in FP, and to say 'hang in--despite Anita/Alan--you've done a wonderful thing!' But as usual I go farther than some like to hear--but I trust you both with my feelings.

I'd love these ideas to be understood--even if not believed. To struggle with haiku is not unique, but I do offer . . . a perspective.


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