Thursday, February 21, 2008

Helen Vendler, Peter Pauper, and the Meaning of Everything

Best to get the important stuff out of the way first: the Meaning of Everything. This should clear up everything nicely. If, perchance, there are any further questions, try here. Or here. Not quite: how about here? Surely here (which may be continually refreshed). How about a little old school? Perhaps a tad older? No? Yes?

Let this be
the last word on that ... And now for something completely different ...

Every once in awhile, something will just leap up from behind a rock to scare or surprise the bejezus out of us. As I may have mentioned previously, in my paying job I spend a great deal of time reading literature reviews, most of which are functional at best and run of the mill most of the time. Word limitations are the culprit in many cases, so it is sometimes a pleasure to read lengthier work when time allows. This week I stumbled across a Helen Vendler review of a new book by Charles Wright in the
New York Review of Books (March 6, 2008). Always insightful, Vendler manages to at once balance particular detail with the larger picture of Wright's career to make for pleasurable reading in and of itself. In the midst of her precise, lyrical explication the following arrested me in mid-work mode:

"Like Yeats, he (Wright) thinks that each of us, poet and non-poet, must invent the unfolding choreography of his own life. The choreography that non-poets trace is a virtual poem---the same, although silent, as the spoken poem of the writer."

And the review continues from there. It felt like one of those emergency early warning system tests one still hears occasionally on the radio (on the what?), only this one came in the middle of a book review. Followed by the new Tommy James and the Shondells song.
This has only been a test. Ms. Vendler now returns you to your regular work mode. And somehow that Tommy James song just never sounds the same.

In the midst of a rather busy week and a 12 hour work day Monday, shuffling between two jobs, I managed to pick up a little something to read in the off free moments while grabbing a bite etc. I was looking for something light (weight-wise; I had a two mile walk ahead) yet filling. And I ran across one of the old Hallmark editions of haiku on the library shelf, as pictured above, so gave it a go. It reminded me of how, for so many people, the first introduction to Asian poetry came in the form of these Hallmark/Peter Pauper editions, many of which were charmingly illustrated:

What is most impressive about this particular volume, Silent Flowers: a New Collection of Japanese Haiku Poems, is the fact that the translations are by the master haiku sensei, R. H. Blyth, whose 4 volume magnum opus on the haiku is still the standard that translation should be measured against. Here are a few examples from the patron of this site, Issa:

Just simply alive,
Both of us, I

And the poppy

A world of grief and pain:
Flowers bloom;
Even then ...

"The peony was as big as this"

Says the little girl,
Opening her arms.

in the eye of the dragon-fly
The distant hills

Spring begins again;
Upon folly,

Folly returns.

Cover by Cornpuff

This week we arrive at Lilliput #146, from October 2005. Hope something from these samples grabs you. As always, copies of this and any other back issues are available for one buck each, less than a pocketful of change.

the tall trees remind me

how much less I could say

than I do

Constance Campbell

field of sunflowers

far as the eye can see


Anne LB Davidson

Silence spreading
across the ridge

after the hawk
Carl Mayfield

To Rise

Lily buds

o wet pale loop of swan's logic.
James Owens

Autumn wind -
sidewalk leaves whirling
a perfect enso.
Greg Watson

Finally, a bit of news. The contributor copies of the new issues, #161 and #162, will begin going out in the next two weeks, with the full subscriber run hitting the mails during the month of March. FYI, it takes about a full month to send the entire run out to subscribers, what with notes to be written, apologies to be proffered, and praise to be lavishly distributed.

best till next week,



Anonymous said...

To Vendler is to love her. Merci beaucoup.


Ed Baker said...

be Utiful cover on that
Silent Flower book

and the "plum blossoms
"boss" too..

for some strange/magical/mystical reason

the first brought a tear to my eyes

and the second
broght a silence lept across the eons.

a nice insightfull little
book to add to the 'discussion'?

Yagi Kamettaro's

Haiku - Messages from Matsuyama especially the last 10 or12 pages of the book...and Yagi's daughter's membrances.

and he mentions Kikaku

.. who this?

seems like he and Basho lifted haiku out of the depths of mere comic verse..

is Kikaku Issa? it can't be Shiki acause Shiki came latter

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Yes, Ed, Master Issa, pulling haiku from the comic fire - haven't ever seen "Messages," though you've mentioned it before. Need to hunt it down. See the similarity betwix Kikaku and Issa, no doubt.


Ed Baker said...

here is a Kikaku poem:

Springtime in Edo,
Not a day passes without
A temple bell sold.

,and, he was a disciple of Basho

seems to me
then as now
same piss-ants

( I just made this one up! suddenly)

Ed Baker said...

pee est

he is the guy who immediately after Basho's death
wrote about it.

here is another on-the-spot brilliant just made up
poem by my "me"

under snow
the cemetery
people dying
to get into

Ed Baker said...

pee-pee est est

just saw that account of Basho's death bty Kikaku


I just this morning saw that they are discontinuing Simply Haiku

can you confirm this?


with so many many many on-line mags and blogs around

I guess a saturation point is fast approaching (?)

as Stubby Kay sang it:

"sit down! sit down! sit down! sit down:

sit down you're rocking the boat!"

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Thanks for all the Kikaku info ... sadly, I can confirm that "Simply Haiku" heads off into the sunset ... as you say, so many many places, it's hard to even know they exist never mind read them all -

Boggling ...

Simply Haiku was very fine, indeed -

Stubby Kaye!

Ed Baker said...

Stubby Kay!

you expected
Sterling Hayden?

Damon Runyon?

Phil Silvers?

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Jackie Vernon!

Oscar Levant!

Ernie Kovacs!

Ed Baker said...

my mother used to tell me stories about who in Yisdish theater/burlesque/broadway
used to come the The HOA in Manhattan and perform

Oscar Levant used to come and play piano and do stuff with her and the other kids... little shows tap dancing, etc

mid 20's

he was a prodigy !

one of his sayings:

"What the world needs is more geniuses with humility, there are so few of us left."

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

I remember being absolutely mesmerized by him when I was young - he was brilliant, talented, whacked ... amazing.

Ed Baker said...

I meant:
Sterling Holloway


Sterling Hayden..

I've heard os Sterling Hayden, though

sorry for the error...
will subsequently do better...

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Ah, yes, the absent-minded professor, always pushing up his glasses, appeared often on early Superman TV series ...