July 25, 2001
On some unseen planet, today had to my birthday. So many gifts arrived all together in just one day.
First there was Debi Bender’s (see her own great web pages) gift of her typesetting of the interview with Susumu for The World Haiku Review. In just a day she had performed miracles with that huge, long article. She had caught and corrected all my goofs, added all the things which needed to be there – the stuff that takes all the research and tabulating of sources. She even wrote up the bio for me – a job I hate with an unholy dislike. I know how much work it is to html. a document of that size, so I was filled with unbounded gratitude to her.
Then in my email was a message from Kuniharu Shimizu that he had illustrated, not only one of my haiku as I had hoped he would, but had also picked out another one that he liked to illustrate. As I looked at the pages of his haiga, I could hardly believe that I had written those haiku. Yet, even while looking at his pictures, I could see, so clearly in my mind, the sights that had inspired them.
on both sides of the glass case
We were in the National Museum in Tokyo on a rainy Sunday morning. At first we were almost alone among a few other early birds, but as the morning advanced, the rooms filled with people. As I was looking at a scroll depicting children’s games for the various seasons, I glanced up to see that on both sides of me, stood Japanese children who were staring reverently at the same scroll. Japan has a program of declaring certain items, and people as National Treasures. Yet, these beautiful children, without famous names, were the future treasures of the nation.
The haiku that Kuni also picked was:
saying hello to the
already my pockets are full
of sea shells
Over the years I have formed a tiny ceremony when I go on the beach. First, I take off my shoes (not only because this is truly Holy Ground, but because it feels so good to walk in the sand). Then, before I do anything else, I usually, walk to the water’s edge to greet The Grandmother with Eyebrows of Seafoam. When a wave comes in to my feet, I bend, wet my fingers, touch my forehead and crown and fling up the rest of the water into the air. And then I go for a walk along the edge. But on the day of this haiku, there were so many lovely shells on the beach that by the time I got to the edge of the surf, I had already filled my pockets. Thus, not only was my heart full of my own thanksgiving, but my pockets were full of the gifts from The Grandmother had given me, which made me even more thankful. Kuni’s idea of showing only the outstretched arms and the full pockets before the wide sea was a perfect picture of what I was feeling.
In order to work with a haiku, in order to illustrate it, Kuni’s mind had to go into an experience of a stranger to find his own reality. To think that he would take the time to bend his talents to these few of words of mine, and that he would go so deeply into my life, touched me very deeply. Also, I have great admiration for his talents for drawing and he can evidently run Adobe that still makes me feel like an idiot!
Also in the email was a letter from a Pillard Dickle about the Brautigan Virtual Library. It turns out that he, and his wife Natalie are also fans of Richard Brautigan’s work. It seems Natalie felt the world needed a t-shirt with his face on it, so she drew one and they had shirts and tank tops and coffee cups made. Then they created the Brautigan Store to sell these items and, with a search had found my Brautigan references on ahapoetry.com and made a link. So I got a new t-shirt AND found some other interesting Brautigan sites that have come up in the last few years.
While looking over their site, I found out that Pillard Dickle, is really Joe Chandler and is five time winner of Calendar Designer of the Year and draws super cartoons. These two seemed like such nice people, I was wishing I could walk out of my house to go knock on their back door to thank them personally, and sit for a cup of coffee in one of those Brautigan cups.
While I was doing the lunch dishes, I felt I was being stared at. As I looked around the corner of the window I saw a baby hummingbird perched atop one of the red-hot poker flowers. He was still fuzzy and without his iridescent feathers. His head was very large in relationship to his body and whenever Mom would buzz by he would flap his wings in supplication for lunch. She was intent on teaching him how to sip from the red straws of the pokers and he only wanted to observe that strange big form who was watching him with such delight and joy in her eyes that were bigger than his whole being. I felt I had received a gift because the mother bird had chosen our flowers for his first outside meal.
Later the bedding from Edie Bauer arrived. They were just what I ordered, looked as good as the photographs and are just in time for company arriving next week. No goof ups and at an excellent price that made them feel more like a gift than a purchase. I thought it could be bad timing to show Werner the new bedspread I had just seen in the L.L.Bean catalog, but he easily agreed that it was time for a new one for us. The tan striped one on our bed is over 30 years old; a leftover from my hippie days. A Cost Plus special from India; from a life I have lived out and time for something new.In the evening our fog got even thicker, and thicker. In its heaviness it began to rise up to fall again as the very gentlest rain. Actual drops were not falling, so the eaves of the roof dripped out the sound of rain for our sleep. As I was drifting off I got the idea of taking out a Golden Membership for Diaryland.com because I felt Andrew deserves to earn a few bucks for the great program he runs here.
July 24, 2001
"Homolateral movement" – it does not mean you will fall down and be gay. I read Behavioral Kinesiology by John Diamond today and the word comes from him. It means to move with the arm and leg on one side of the body extended for a step at the same time. It is the first way we learn to crawl and the way we walk when under stress or weak. The ‘normal’ way of walking is to extend the right hand and the left foot simultaneously. This balances the body within gravity and the spirit world.
The day before, at dinner, we watched a couple walking by the house. We recognized them by their dog, a border collie (you can keep dogs in mind, remember each one, because they don’t change clothes and colors each day). We often see these people jog here because the U-shape of our road is a perfect track, with almost no traffic and a view of the sea. But on this day, the woman was walking with a cane and had a bandage on her leg. She was able to walk, but one could see the pain in her whole body. Today she wasn’t jogging yet, but walking. But what a walk! I noticed her elbows were slightly bent, her hands were clenched into fists and her thumbs were aggressively sticking upright. She really impressed me. So when we parted the thick fog for our walk, and as I was stumbling along, I remembered her stance and adopted it. What a jolt! It was as if I had stuck my thumbs in an electrical outlet! My whole body straightened up and I felt great. I was sailing down the road like the proudest galleon on a sea.
The longest conversation that my very silent father carried on with me was his almost daily, "Straighten up, Janet!" This could either mean stand up straight, because even as a small child I was stoop-shouldered, or it could mean that I should act ‘right’ and stop whatever I was doing that displeased him. I hope that with whatever he is using for eyes now, he could see me plowing down that road as if I could part waters. Which brings me to my next delight.
"Zygomaticus major". I did not even know I had one. Many years ago when my parents were both in their final illnesses, I had gone to my doctor in panic over what was happening and more panic that I becoming addicted to Librium. He suggested I learn to smile whenever I felt I needed to take a pill. "Smile? With all the crap I am going through?" I said to him through gritted teeth. "If you can’t smile, then smirk." And my Zygomaticus major moved. It is the muscle up by your cheekbone that seems to be connected the thymus gland. When it is exercised the thymus releases more of the Vital Life Force within the body. This is also the muscle that you scratch on cats’ faces that will make them purr and fall in love with you for one moment. Some dogs can move this muscle that seems to be connected directly to their tails which moves more easily.
My Zygomaticus major got a minor work out when I heard on the weather report (I typed repoet) that it was now colder on the Northern California Coast than it was in Alaska today. Lots of people hate the summer fog, but I love it. For one thing, the wind is often absent so the air becomes soft and gentle. It hangs around long enough to get acquainted with it. When the wind blows, it like standing next to strangers all day long. I love it when the sky is white instead of the darker hue of blue. The light comes in the windows with a diffusion that speaks of quietness. The strong language of shadows turns to whispers. The moistness of the air becomes the sea above the sea; the sea in which I can live, breathe, and swim with infinite grace. The smells of the ocean put upon the land the beds of kelp that are growing into dark patches upon the water. To walk along the coast in this fog is to enter the kingdom of whales, limpets; to move with the waves of seaweed with newly formed gills. Sloshing around in my own body of water, my heart feels at home in our summer fogs.
breathing in and out
In the afternoon, at the halfway point of the walk, at the top of the hill, I can stand in the edge of sunshine to look down upon the fog in which I live.
the land of fog's
Some days I am glad to have part of my day, part of my life blotted out by the forgiveness of fog. And I don’t miss seeing the sun, as many others do. But what I do miss, is seeing the phases of the moon. I usually try to see the moon each night, to note its phase, to sing to it. In the summer fogs I lose all sense of when it rises or sets or how much of it is turned toward us. I become totally disoriented at night and am not comfortable being outside when, as Emily Dickinson said, "only the compass needle knows the north."
who is the east
perhaps I ask too large
I am struck
by a nature and god I didn’t know
the brain within its own groove
my river runs to you
the heart with many doors
to be forgotten
now when I lie down to sleep
as summer into autumn slips
July 23, 2001
‘Genital origami’ – how does that grab you? I was on the Internet trying to get some tech help with the USB SmartMedia reader that seems far too dumb for me to operate. The reason I got this new computer was because the old one was too slow in handling photographs and I was tired of crawling behind the thing on the floor to unplug and plug in a wire just to get the photos out of the camera. Nothing, concerning photographs works right with the white elephant now sitting on my desk. The old computer is still all connected in its corner. I use that to download the photos and to print them (it takes 9 minutes per full page photo). The advantage is that I can word process on the new computer (how much smart does that take?) while it slowly grinds out the photos Three-fourths of my little room is stared at by monitors or paper spitting machines. I am beginning to see this corner of the house (my feng shui gua of relationships) as a chamber of horrors.
Which brings me back to ‘genital origami’. While searching for something else I accidentally found a site that advertised itself as "the diary of a woman who makes Emily Dickinson look like a party animal". This, I thought, sounds like me! I had to meet her and she met me with the phrase ‘genital origami’ and I cannot get it out of my head. It seems like such a perfect first line for a haiku. Stay tuned.
This woman, Marm, from Canada, is another Erma Brombeck who refers to her husband’s family jewels as "wedding tackle" on her online diary, which is a gas. By the way, why is diary not spelled dieree so it stops looking like a place to milk cows?
Anyhow, her site is connected to diaryland.com that offers a way of putting up web pages without ftp (file transfer process) that seems to be absolutely genius. When I think of the games of solitaire I have played waiting on ftp to work . . . In checking out diaryland.com I see that it has been developed by a young man (who seems to be more eager to get a dog than a girlfriend – which he needs; he sleeps in his clothes) who has done a great job with his website. And he offers his programming for free. This is another example of this great sharing that goes on with the internet.
the crickets sang
it was for not death, for I stood up
as I accepted breath
further into summer than the birds
a door just opened on a street
The above has nothing to do with genital origami, a lot to do with Emily Dickinson (those are all her words) and everything to do the fact that while sitting outside on the porch last night I heard the first cricket of the season. It IS August already.
July 22, 2001
The major part of the morning went into working on interviews. It is interesting how I am trying to answer Susumu’s questions and at the same time ask questions of ai li. I have the feeling I am juggling with a lot of very, very ripe fruit.
this was a poet
the leaves like women interchange
to tell the truth but at a slant
their height in heaven comforts
it's easy to invent a
at last! to be identified with a charm
that invests a face
and with what body does it come?
size circumscribes – it has no room
I had a call from Marilyn and while we were talking I remembered an incident that had occurred last week on our walk. We were going along, facing the wind, when all of a sudden I looked up to see that we had a cloud of about 15 – 20 huge dragonflies hovering over our heads. These were the big ones with electric blue bodies and they stayed in a cloud and with us until we turned out of the wind to start up the hill. I have never seen more than two dragonflies together at once. So the number of them in this cloud, and the fact that they stayed with us for a quarter of mile seemed very special. Several times I had made mental notes to myself to record this but it kept slipping my mind when I actually set down to the computer. Then today, while walking, again a host of dragonflies came over us. This time there were only 8 – 10 and they did not stay with us as long, but I definitely felt I was being reminded of the previous day and told to make note of it.
In the evening I wanted to go visit the spirit boat but when I downloaded the new week of tides I saw that tonight is a 6.7-foot tide so decided to postpone my visit until morning. Still, I felt the boat needed special prayers for this, so sat a long time in meditation for it.
a clock stopped
and I felt a cleaving in my mind
bound with trouble
since I could not see the sun
I see you better in the dark
Afterwards I felt so drained, so tired, I tried to put my energies back together by stringing beads.
July 21, 2001
Last night I had wanted to go to the spirit ship in the evening to mark the passing of a week since our little group was there, but I was very tired. The wind was blowing so hard the house was shaking and the fog was thick and cold. The weather was more than uninviting; it was downright aggressive. It was easier to stay inside fighting with the installation of a smart-reader that I seem too dumb to get to work. As nothing functioned properly I felt more and more wrong about what I was doing.
So today, with the fog blown away, the sun shining down with its mid-day warmth down on a good morning of work it was much easier to go to the beach. Halfway there, I realized I had forgotten to put my flute back into the trunk. I decided not to ask Werner to go back home for it. As we drove into the parking lot we were surprised to find it was completely full! Not a space was open. I thought of simply going back home to come back at sunset, no matter what the weather. Just then a car began pulling out, so we were able to park. Thinking of this many people on the beach, I was glad I did not have my flute. The deeply dust-covered cars told me everyone here was local. It would have been very hard for me to stand out there, in front of all these surfers to play to the spirits of the dead.
The path was lonely, except for several new piles of dogshit dotting the path as if with brown chunky milestones. I concentrated on singing and sniffing the still-fragrant flowers and weaving between them. The thimbleberries, which were only blossoms when we brought the boat down this path, were now turning from a pale pink to a sweet red. Only the poison oak around them kept eager fingers from picking them. The cow parsley was in umbels of seeds; some had bowed their full heads to the earth as if to give the seeds instruction on where they were to go.
On the beach a group of surfer-guys sat directly by the spirit ship. My first thought was that I would simply find a still place somewhere else on the beach to talk to the spirits. But the strange shape the ship had taken would not let me do this. Ignoring the boys and their loud voices, I walked around the grounded ship. Somehow the high night tides of the week had pulled most of the rotted seaweeds off the frame. The boat had been turned so the south end was now highest on the beach, but still pointing to the south. The north end had been bent back so the boat seemed broken in the middle. The prow and stern, on a beach-sized clock would be pointing to 4:30 or maybe 10:00. The mid-ship was deeply covered with stones and sand.
a broken boat
the path to the sea
I could hear, in the pauses of the boys’ conversation when they were staring at me, but I felt safe to offer to the spirits my love without shyness or hesitation. Since it seemed there was nothing I could do that would move them from their perch on the silver driftwood log, I just ignored them. As I was standing there, rocking and singing, a dog, a real Indian dog – yellow, white and brown, thin, beaten and unloved, with very sad eyes came up to me. He put his head down at my feet and I thought at first he had found something to eat near my foot. But he stood absolutely still in this pose for a long moment. When he looked up again, he looked deeply into my eyes and I knew my prayers had been heard. He walked away and I left the beach for the picnickers and surfers.
July 20, 2001
In order to attend a big conference, Louise and I were going to camp out in a tent. I had a terrible cold and the idea of living in a tent, sleeping in a tent, sneezing in a tent, simply did not appeal to me, but I had promised to come here and felt I could not back out. Also, I had nowhere else to go. As we arrived at the conference grounds I realized that Louise, child of my girlhood, knew her way around, had been here before so I pulled back to let her make the decisions and to do the work of pitching the tent. There seemed to be a lot of confusion about where we were supposed to be. First we were sent in one direction and when we arrived there, we were sent back in another direction. The longer we ran from place to place the worse my cold symptoms felt. I began to just want to pitch the tent anywhere so I could crawl into it to sleep.
Finally we were directed inside a large building and told to put our tent in the one hall. I was very disgusted because there was no way one could fasten the tent to the earth with a wooden floor. While Louise talked with others about whether the instructions that we received should be just here were right or not, I began to look at the ceiling to see if there were any hooks or projections we could use to anchor at least the top of the tent. There was a long process of finding a high hook, having to run down a ladder, climbing up, finding the rope was too short, or too thick for the eye of the hook – always something was wrong. Because it had been my idea to tie the tent to the ceiling Louise had let me take over and I found myself working harder than I had planned to.
When we found a hook that we could use, I realized that the door of the tent was facing a ceramic tiled wall. I wanted my tent to have a great view. So I began walking through the building looking for a spot where we could look out toward the distance. I found a pavilion overlooking a river valley that I thought was simply perfect and was suddenly very excited about staying here. We had barely unrolled the tent when a bunch of men came along to tell us we could not put our tent here. I was so mad I told them they could help carry the floppy tent to the place where we should be because I was not going to the trouble to roll it back up. We ended up back in the hall, but fortunately we had a corner spot and we were in the main auditorium. Just across from us were the curtains before the center stage. At this point I just gave up. Within minutes Louise had the tent up by herself. By now I was feeling better and had forgotten my need for a nap. We took a walk around the hall. As we walked away from our tent a big machine beside it began to pop corn and spew it all around. The kernels were so huge, the size of basketballs, that in moments the area looked as if it had snowed. No one was concerned about this strange phenomenon so I just shrugged my shoulders and followed Louise, as I had not seen what was happening.
The people right next to us were inside their tent, so we poked our heads in to say hello. Inside their tent was a woodsy clearing with a small brook. Guinea pigs and woodchucks were running around, digging holes and making themselves at home. Charming but not my idea of sleeping on the ground with this circus of animals. As we walked down the row of tents Louise began to tell me of other experiences she had had at similar conferences. As she talked I rather tuned out because there was so much new to see and figure out here. She did hook my attention when she said, ". . . it was so hot there we all wore bikini bathing suits." I knew Louise had always been a devout Christian, had gone to a church collage, married a minister, had five children and weighed about 250 pounds. I realized that she too had a sex life.
Though I get no salary and spend more money than I receive for what I do, I do not go unpaid. I am rewarded with friends and their thanksgiving. And today a gift arrived in the mail that has literally carried me away. My canoe is a beautiful book with oars of words that evade the ears. A book that is so very perfect for me I am surprised that it remains square and does not mirror the curves of my own body. Maybe it is a mirror of a part of me that no one sees – the deeply hidden romantic me. Maybe it takes a part of me I have failed to recognize and manifests it to remind me of forgotten pleasures – forgotten years. Let me describe it to you.
It is hardbound; covered in two colors of brown and tan silk. To take it into one’s hands is like touching a person’s skin. The cover plate is embossed so one recognizes the folds of body never touched. First one’s eye is captured by the photograph, because the light reflections, as taken up by the camera of these early years, splays out in invitation. A woman, with her upper body bare, is seated on a draped chair. Her eyes stare at the person staring at her nakedness with warning, invitation and a bit of humor as if to say, "If you find this interesting, imagine what else I could show you!" The words on the plate, which do say something, are in a shade of mauve-pink that only a French person would have the courage or sensibility to combine with the tan fabric. Putting three skin tones together, though, is absolutely perfect for this book
The first word on the plate is "Baudelaire". Below the photograph, also in capital letters is, "INVITATION TO THE VOYAGE" with a white tail, curled in italics, that claims, "A Poem Illustrated".
A voyage, a voyage, a voyage. I repeat the words until they become a chant that carries me away to a place where I am capable of swinging open the door of this book. Inside. Inside I am surrounded with the furniture of brocades. Here one can curl up, stretch out, rest, leave the body behind in complete safety and luxury. And on the very first page one meets a man. His photograph is scarred and marred, but in the triangle of his arms, on a velvet chair, one slides up to his dreaming eyes. As I wonder who this man is, I see his signature, in his own handwriting, straight with curves, the pulse of his giving of himself, as "Charles Baudelaire". The spell now beginning with words, I also see that the title of the book is L’Invitation au Voyage – Invitation to the Voyage.
My curiosity piqued, my hunger for words so intense, I no longer linger over the creamy pages but eagerly lap up the information as if I have been on a desert my whole life. So, this is a poem taken Baudeliare’s "The Flowers of Evil". Well, that fits as one of missions this past year has been to learn how to "be bad". So far, I have not been having much luck – it is so hard to change the habits of half a century and generations of ‘good folk’. I am ready for a little evil and the idea that it is French adds to the deliciousness of it. Ignoring the other names of translators (Richard Wilber and Carol Cosman), the editors (Pamela Prince and Jane Handel), and the designer (Eric Baker) and even the publisher (Little Brown and Company) I throw myself against the book itself as if it is a person I have seen coming from afar – one I have been waiting for, expecting with a nervous excitement and joy. I turn a large square page to find. . . What is this? A three-liner? It looks like a haiku!
Mon enfant, ma soeur,
Songe á la douceur
D’aller lá-bas vivre ensemble!
My child, my sister, dream
How sweet all things would seem
Were we in that kind land to live together.
Across the page is a far photo of an island floating in sepia, nearly obscured by the clouds of the salted paper of a collodion negative. With this small handful of words as my passport and talisman I am already rushing over the water. This is not haiku territory but a strange and wonderful land that makes me feel as if I am finding at once something new and something very, very old. I plunge across the pages, transported by rapture.
As in the movies, when the scene shifts from the embracing couple to the shot of a fountain, I will show you the refrain that occurs three times in the poem.
Lá, tout n’est qu’ordre et beauté,
Luxe, calme et volupté.
There, there is nothing else but grace
Richness, quietness, and pleasure.
As if this was not enough, the book closes with a page-long prose piece that erases any doubts, all the ambiguity, all the half-formed dreams that seems too beautiful to put next to a computer. You must see this book, but I doubt that another copy exists. I feel our world is too small to contain more than one facsimile. Too much joy, too much richness, too much luxury, peace and excitement cannot be had again. Thank you, Edward.
July 19, 2001
Imagine a place where an arm of land sticks its elbow out into the sea. Imagine that sluicing down around the armpit is a cattle track. Imagine cowboys from Mexico arriving here and calling the place Point Arena. Imagine that the coast here has little sand and many rocks. Imagine that years later a donkey carrying a badly loaded burden of wood stumbles and drops the planks on a steep hill. Imagine that the owner decides to build a saloon right here where the wood has landed. Imagine twenty more saloons springing up overnight as the loggers arrive to cut down the redwoods. Fast-forward a hundred years when this Point of Sand has finally absorbed enough back-to-the-land hippies, who have aged enough to become artists and poets. See the cheap old frame house on Main Street that they have wrestled back from the termites, painted and christened CityArt Gallery.
The lights are on, the coffee is perking and the Costco package of cookies lies in a circle on a paper plate. A juried show of Beaux-Esprits 2001 hangs with its ribbons on the wall. People are standing around as if they are wrapped in cellophane. Sidling to the very back of the room I find myself standing next to a woman who is almost as tall as I am and who is dressed totally in black.
"Oh dear, I am afraid I have bad breath. Poets should not have bad breath." She worries into my ear. I wonder who she is. Who is she who needs a stiff drink before coming to a poetry reading? So I ask.
"I am Sharon Doubiago." Ah, the featured poet of the night. I would be taking my comfort in lumps of Librium if I were in her velvet thongs.
Suddenly turning to me, grinning a wide toothy grin closer to my face than I can focus on, she asks, "Do I have food on my teeth?"
"No, you are fine and you were the editor for Wood, Water, Air and Fire."
"How do you know about that?"
"I am in it."
"And your name?"
Soon we are discussing the anthology of Mendocino Coast women writers that she, Devreaux Baker and Susan Maeder had done for Pot Shard Press who is M.L. Harrison Mackie.
Unable to recall my work from all the rest she excuses her memory blank by saying, "So much of the book has been lost to me. At the time I was working on it my mother was dying. I have never gotten closure with that. Now, that was a dumb thing to say, wasn’t it."
"Yes, because there is no closure to anything."
Just then someone else walked up to speak to her and we drifted apart. I began to search for a seat on the farthest fringe where I could still see the podium. There stood a gray-haired man tapping wooden back-scratchers on what looked to be a psalter. Yet when he picked it up he held it like a zither as he plucked the strings. It was three times longer than any zither I had seen. When he plucked the strings it sounded like a tambour made of a giant cigar box. He opened the open mic session by reading his poem of his memories of the seduction of a woman while his fingers strummed this instrument. I kept feeling his poem should have been a ghazal written in couplets instead of free verse.
Next a tall, silver-haired professional actor took the stage and invited Janet DeBar to accompany him on her didgeridoo. ($129.00 in the Real Goods catalogue; I know because I wanted one.) I know Janet and I know she is missing her musical bone, though she is successful with every other thing she takes up. The instrument was gorgeous, as long as she is tall and utterly fascinating. (Truly worth the money.) However, the man recalled my attention by the title of his poem – "Chickens Dancing on My Body". The combination of an almost sexy, rhymed poem with Janet’s fart-like "music" had us laughing, snorting and giggling. Both had nothing to do with either poetry or music yet was, in this room – perfect.
One of the problems with the open mic feature is that the poems have names but the readers do not. The unknowns remain unknown as one after another as they, nervous but sincere, read their poems. As I sat there it felt as if their voices, their eagerness, their poetry had transported the room, whole and complete, to some street in San Francisco fifty years ago.
The feeling doubled itself when ruth weiss, with her crimson hair and memories of writing haiku with Jack Kerouac, got up to read her poem written in Big Sur two years earlier on this very night. Gone were the humble haiku as she free-versed her pleas to talk to her dead father.
During the break I wanted to speak to her but a very young man was very determined that she only listen to him and quickly let me know that his words were only for her. As I turned away, I bumped into the "Chickens Dancing on My Body" guy and was relieved of making social talk because one could only join in a dialogue by interrupting him which I was unable to do. His only question to me was: "What is that thing called on your forehead?"
"A bindi or kumkum" made him answer: "In Hebrew, kumkum means kettle." I failed the test. I failed to be Jewish and instantly sank lower than my usual status in this crowd of being the invisible non-poet because I admit that I write haiku. When at the lowest point of my esteem, ruth leaned against me and I gladly put my arm around her. "Do you remember me?" I asked her gently, remembering how unhappy she was with me fifteen years ago when I could not publish her book without her financial help. She took her cigarillo out of her bright red lips to whisper, "Jane." We just stood there hugging each other without words until we were called back into the room.
Ruth introduced Karla Andersdatter, a woman who was supposedly from our coast but of whom I had never heard. On the gallery counter was a long row of her books for sale and she read sections from several of them. She had some good ideas. I liked her Sacred Hole poem, but wished it had been as sexy as it could have been. People began drifting off as her rhythms and line-lengths all remained the same. Her sing-song voice had a lulling effect. I drifted off into the land of haiku.
framed in books
Why do poets, when they feel the audience falling asleep, insist on reading two more poems before they quit? I think they feel that if they were just given a little more time, two more chances, they will find the poem that will impress everybody enough to wake them up. How little they realize that all our poems are alike.
When it came time for Sharon to read people were standing up, their bodies demanding a break, while other voices were trying to introduce her. She had waited so long for her moment she seemed relieved to start talking even with half the crowd standing, getting coffee, stretching their metal-chair muscles. Pacing, waving her arms around so that her black leather jacket flapped for her bird wings, she ran her fingers through her fashionably kinked blond hair. After a few more sips from the clear spirits in her water bottle, she began to tell of her mother’s death and how she was now able to write about it. How hard she was writing now that she finally had the freedom to tell her life’s story without fear of hurting (her-ting) her parents. As almost an aside, she said that all her poetry up to this point had been "a writing around the fact that her father had sexually abused her." Then she added: "No one knows this yet, but you. But that is the story yet to come out." Then she read a long rambling poem about the last seconds with her mother before seeing her body conveyed into the crematory oven. She is completely professional in her poetry. She starts with a reality, pulls the reader into it, launches out into visions, history, associations where only she can confidently go, and then, with a bit of magic, brings the listener back to the known world. Instead of reading poem after poem, as so often is the case with others, she told us stories of her life and then used her free-verse poem as a haiku in a haibun. It worked perfectly. This structure allowed her to move through her old and new works, as in her book Body and Soul, right up into the typed up loose pages.
the shape of poems on sheets
when the light shines thru
Getting too hot under the fierce halogen gallery lights, she shrugged off her jacket. The attention of everyone in the room stood up as we saw her beautiful body, born in 1946, encased in a tight black sweater and perfectly tailored hip-hugger pants. She looked as great as a 25-year-old waitress in an expensive restaurant. My first thought was: that person has never been sexually abused as a child. I could be wrong, but if she was, she has done a mighty job of healing. She clearly understands that she has built her career on sex issues in her work and now she is launching into the latest territory to open (well since Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton were here in the 50s). The question is: can she someday manage to wear the baggy clothes, the badge of the abused, in public?
Afterwards I saw a tall young man at the table where two of her books were on sale. He was holding her blue-covered book to his lips. His head was moving back and forth in ecstasy as he moved the book over his face. Fascinated by this display of sexual devotion to her work, I moved closer to observe him. Even with me obviously watching him from his elbow he continued to put the book into his mouth and tug and pull, sucking at it as if he was in a marvelous act of cunnilingus. Unable to contain my curiosity, I accidentally said, "What. . ." At this he turned toward me enough so that I could see he was holding, not one book, but five or six that were securely bound with shrink-wrap. He was trying to tear the plastic off so he could buy a copy of her book! "No fingernails." He explained to my wide admiring eyes.
Janet DeBar had invited everyone to a party at her house and I wanted to go so I began constructing a system of rides to get me back up the coast close enough to walk home. The only car coming back to Point Arena was the one driven by the ladies from Albion, who were already unsteady on their feet, from the strain and spirits of the reading their poems, and who, I learned, were driving a car without a windshield. Still, when Sharon asked me if I was coming to the party so I was even more determined to go with the hope that we could talk a bit more. Then my body kicked me in the back and said, "time out." So I asked Fionna and Richard if they would drop me off at the highway. Richard, ever the prince consort, insisted on driving me up to the door before they, and their twenty more years, continued on to the party.
July 18, 2001
I have been getting some interesting emails recently and curiously enough they seem to center around haiga. "Haiga" is the Japanese term for a genre of artworks that are combined either with haiku or used to illustrate haiku. The ‘artwork’ can be as simple as a sketch or even a doodle or as complicated as a sculpture or a painting. Most often the artwork acts as an illustration – showing a picture of what is portrayed in the haiku. Personally, I have a bit of trouble enjoying this kind as the images I have formed in my own head are more valid to me (I made them; they are my Art). I suppose other people have more trouble with the kind of haiga Werner does, in which he matches the spirit of the drawing to the spirit of the haiku. I guess I like to have to make a mental leap to go from the printed words to the artwork, but I am not every person’s body.
I digress. I had been corresponding with Jeanne Emrich, who has probably done the most work recently in promoting haiga with her web site. On Sat, 14 Jul 2001 16:59:05 EDT she responded to my question:
JR: So you went to Boston (Haiku North America)! Any comments you wish to share with me?
I met an
interesting East Indian poet (a retired ophthalmologist!) named Angelee
JR: Ah, I 'know' her. She does interesting computer art for haiku. She did some for Rosa Clements in Brazil and used some of my verses also. I was very impressed with what she did (and grateful that my ku appealed to her enough to inspire her artwork).
JE: I also met a Croatian composer who may write and record music for Haiga On-line.
There was a considerable amount of
presentations that were meant to augment the humble little haiku. There
was a lot of haiku and music, haiku and dance, and haiku and
video/computer/slide presentation kind of things. Kathleen
Decker spent a fortune on Adobe animation and video editing software to present a kind of avant guarde video renku (I believe it was with a 100 link renku done
by Raffael de Gruttola and Carlos Colon).
JR: Thanks for telling me of this. It sounds like something for LYNX or are you putting it up on your site? If so, you can fight all that stuff up over your server and I can point to you and it! Let me know what you do?
And then today, in my first email I find:
Jane ~ Have I told you lately that I love you? What, you
might well ask, prompted this? Well, I was just reading your article on
"Metaphor in Haiku" (found in Haiku) and
much of what you say bears out what I've always felt about that
subject. In addition to which, from the first time I read Basho's "summer
grasses" poem, I thought that what he was seeing in the "summer
grasses" was blades, the blades of 1000 (more or less) soldier's swords
and spears waving back and forth as they are being psyched
up for battle by their general. Of course, the
message is the futility of war, perhaps, even, all men’s dreams of a place
in history. Anyhow, thank you for making my day,
again. I also wanted to invite you to visit my
haiku pages at: http://www.geocities.com/glorenb/poetshut.html if you
haven't been there for a while. I've made lots of changes and additions.
So in the evening I checked out Soji’s site, and all of his great haiku and there he had the work of Kuniharu Shimizu.From there I went on to Kuniharu Shimizu’s own web page at: http://www.mahoroba.ne.jp/~kuni/haiga_gallery/
Seeing the list of haiku writers whose work he has illustrated nudged me into sending to him a ku from the trip to Japan - one that touched me very deeply.
on both sides of the glass case
later in the night I wonder if this was better:
on both sides of the glass case
We will see what he has to say. His work reminds me of Miyata Masayuki’s that illustrate Love Songs from the Man’yoshu translated by Ian Hideo Levy which was very professional and impressive. Somehow they seem to remind me of Walt Disney, and have that same ability to imprint themselves on one's mind. Only a Japanese person could have created these works – they are so expressive of a culture. Again the world of computers is changing and touching everything – even the lowly, and now not-so-lowly haiga. My little old-fashioned rubber stamps and my inability to manage graphics on-line is catching up with me.
Copyright ©Jane Reichhold 2001
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