seekings

Perhaps the appraisal of Marlene Mountain that is most important of all comes from Haruo Shirane, author of the influential book Traces of Dreams: Landscape, Cultural Memory, and the Poetry of Bashō (Stanford University Press, 1998): in 2001, he wrote to her:

Dear Marlene,

I consider [William J.] Higginson to be a close friend and I admire his work greatly, but here I must offer a different opinion with regard to your work. Whether or not it fits some definition of haiku is of little relevance in the larger picture. The fact is that it is superior poetry, much superior to almost the entire body of what has been narrowly defined in North America as *haiku.* Bashō, like his great rival, Saikaku, felt that it was not form that counted, it was the poetry, the quality of the words, how it could move the reader. In their younger years, they broke all kinds of rules. Saikaku was criticized severely, and was told he was just *blowing dust.* But it was in the process of breaking rules that these poets often made their greatest poetic achievements. Great poets don’t stick to rules; they make their own. You belong in that company.

To put it another way, what was most important for Bashō was what was called *haikai spirit*, to be constantly seeking new horizons, new forms, new words, new emotions. In my view, you have that spirit.

Haruo Shirane (Columbia University)

 —

excerpted from Jack Galmitz’s essay “then I must go to the Mountain: (space reserved) for Marlene Mountain” (R’r 12.2), and can also be found in his collection of essays, Views (Cyberwit Press, 2012)

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