Bookstories 26: Sam Yada Cannarozzi’s “Story of a Haiku”

libraryofbabelEvery book tells its story, but what of the other story, the story behind the book? Bookstories offers an opportunity to tell that story. If you have a story about a book or poem you would like to share, contact us and we’ll help you make it happen. Thanks for letting us know the rest of the story!

 

In 1974, I immigrated to France from the United States to begin a career as an avant-garde theater actor. Eventually I became a professional storyteller, and found my true calling.

But during all my training and searching, it was always words that fascinated me—words that were said, words that were sung, words that were mimed, words that were sculpted . . . words words words!

During that first summer in Burgundy 1974, one day I was out walking in the fields with some friends and we saw some people knocking down walnuts from a tree with a long pole. My friends said that they were “gaul-ing” nuts. The French verb is “gauler” and the only way you can translate it is with a complete descriptive sentence: “to-knock-down-fruits-or-nuts-from-a-tree-with-a-long-pole,” There is no shorter way of translating it into English. And yet the French have this unique verb “gauler” that is about as concise as you can get! As concise as a haiku—

And I could probably lead you to the very spot where the verb “gauler” entered into my vocabulary . . .

That same summer I was touring western France and one day was speaking with another friend who was “ravauder-ing” a fishing net. You might translate this verb “ravauder” as simply to mend. But as it is applied here, it specifically refers to “painstakingly-reworking-each-of-the-knots-in-the-mesh-of-a-fishing-net.”

Again an extraordinary and precise image in a single word that in English requires a small paragraph of explanation.

Well that in part is how and especially why haiku appeals to me. And even though I don’t speak Japanese, “gauler” and “ravauder” can approach a bit the intricately fine references that, for example, season words from a saijiki can resonate. And I’d like to tell here the story of how I wrote one haiku with this spirit in mind. 

a country wedding
a manure cart passes by
smell of bride’s perfume

It is again a question here of a memory from from the Burgundian countryside. I was strolling down a dirt road on a sunny day when I smelled the manure from what I took to be recently fertilized fields. Nothing special about that. Then suddenly I noticed whiffs of a very sweet smelling perfume. Now that was unusual because there were really no flowers, just wheat fields and the like. 

When I turned around I saw a wedding march approaching with the bride in her flowing white gown. But there was also a simple, country cart passing by transporting manure fertilizer. The effect was immediate. And so the sprouting of this haiku.

What struck me almost immediately was—what happens actually in the “interval” between my smelling the pungent odor of the manure and my remarking the delicate scent of the perfume?  It was a interesting if not wonderful contradiction.

manure – bride – perfume

These words are the bare bones of the haiku as I see it. I then fleshed it out some for the setting and placed it in a specific geography. It was, I think, the simultaneity of it all that really impressed me: the rustic countryside with its raw smells; the sophisticated fragrance of a perfume seemingly out of context and then the vision of the young bride that brings it all into focus. An astonishing slice of life there for the taking.

(By the way I got a thumbs up on this one from James Hackett.)

—Sam Yada Cannarozzi

Survey Says . . . The Haiku Registry

Every September the Board of Directors and Associates of The Haiku Foundation are sent a survey. Their responses help to guide our growth and direction. We’d like to broaden our input, and so we’ll be asking you to respond to a series of questions, one per week, over the next half-year. Your replies will be weighed in our assessment of our performance.

Today’s question: Haiku Registry

The Haiku Registry contains nearly 500 registrants, and contains biographical data, contact information and a selection of poems from each. It is overseen by Billie Wilson. The updating of files is the bulk of our activity, but we are happy to add new poets at any time. The Haiku Registry can be found on the website.

Please assess how well The Haiku Foundation is delivering on this topic. Indicate your assessment of our performance to date by choosing one of the options:

Excellent

Good

Fair

Poor

Abandon

Please feel free to add additional comments. Thank you in advance for your consideration, and for helping us make The Haiku Foundation a better resource.

Book of the Week: Mountain Climbing

colon_mountainclimbingcoverCarlos Colón, today better known as “Haiku Elvis,” has long been one of the comedians of the haiku scene. Where he has made his real mark, however, has been in his innovative visual representations of haiku, or “eye-ku” as they are known. This early chapbook (Tragg Publications, 1993) is an excellent introduction to his free-flight imagination.

You can read the entire book in the THF Digital Library.

Do you have a chapbook published 2009 or earlier you would like featured as a Book of the Week? Contact us for details.

Haiku featured in the Book of the Week Archive are selected by Jim Kacian, following a concept first explored by Tom Clausen, and are used with permission.


B Y B U L Y B U T F L Y B U T T R F L Y B U T T E R F L Y B U T T R F L Y B U T F L Y B U L Y B Y
I C I C L E ‘ ‘ ‘
L N B A A E S I N T L T
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Bookstories 25: Ellen Peckham’s Haiga

libraryofbabelEvery book tells its story, but what of the other story, the story behind the book? Bookstories offers an opportunity to tell that story. If you have a story about a book or poem you would like to share, contact us and we’ll help you make it happen. Thanks for letting us know the rest of the story!

 

In winter of 2008 I rented a place in Montauk, the village at the tip of Long Island, so that I could concentrate on the Spanish translations of my poems I was preparing. The last thing on my mind was haiku. But, while walking the beaches, poems in verses of 3/5/3 or 5/7/5 rolled in on waves, appeared written on seaweed, were dictated by gulls. As I had a small
sketchbook with me, I recorded them.

And later, looking for background information, found that there is a form of art, haiga, specifically containing haiku. Inspired, I set up a temporary studio on an outdoor walkway and began to do ink interpretations of the poems. And all year long haiku presented themselves to me and I had so many, and so many haiga, published and exhibited, that I decided to create books. Such fragile offerings, I thought, should be supported, protected and presented together.

Wanting to give my contemporary haiga (not wash or woodcut but etchings) an aesthetic as strictly defined as the lines of the poems are, I set a discipline: each designed with a base paper, two etching plates ­an interpretative drawing and a text plate, the first cut irregularly ­and two forms in chine collé: fine papers melded with the base paper. To get many images keeping to this format has been a challenge in terms of form, color variations, placement, and, especially, the abstract visual expression of the words.

Preparing a folder to show I collaged the cover with bits of early proofs and the chine collé that came from them. And as the edition of books developed collage stayed an element, each unique and giving, in its own title, a name to the copy. The cover collages still contain state proofs and elements of the chine collé but also vintage, Asian and hand-made papers and fabrics from my collections.

The books as they are—collections of hand-pulled prints—have sold and are in a few Collections but now I am working with an art house to bring them out in facsimile even to the press marks. In a more library-friendly size they will be offered more widely.

—Ellen Peckham