Mark Harris’s *burl*

I’ll admit that over the last decade there have not been too many haiku collections by individuals that have really excited me. A few now and then (Fay Aoyagi’s Chrysanthemum Love [Blue Willow Press, 2003], john martone’s dogwood & honeysuckle [Red Moon Press, 2004], and Philip Rowland’s together still [Hub Editions, 2004] come to mind) but not many, and not many, i mean, that have had a strong impact on me, or have sustained my interest.

Over the last couple years or so, however, there has been a nice cluster of haiku collections by individual poets that i think are outstanding (mostly at the hands of Jim Kacian’s Red Moon Press), collections i really enjoy returning to, find inspiration in, and seek out pretty regularly: Jim Kacian’s long after (Albalibri Editore, 2008), john martone’s ksana (Red Moon Press, 2009; out of print; but here’s a review), William M. Ramsey’s more wine (Red Moon Press, 2010), Fay Aoyagi’s Beyond the Reach of My Chopsticks (Blue Willow Press, 2011), and also her In Borrowed Shoes (Blue Willow Press, 2006), paul m.’s few days north days few (Red Moon Press, 2011) as well as his called home from 2006, and Peter Yovu’s Sunrise (Red Moon Press, 2010; out of print)—pretty much my favorite of these for its range of content, form, and techniques, and sucessful experimentalism (its melding of “tradition” with the “avant-garde”). The latest issues of Chris Gordon’s journal ant ant ant ant ant have been chapbooks of an individual’s work (Chris Gordon, Jack Galmitz, and Jim Westenhaver, respectively), and each has been well worth the waiting time between issues, and are nice to have close by. Two excellent, and important, retrospectives have also been published, Martin Shea’s waking on the bridge (Red Moon Press, 2008) and Robert Boldman’s everything i touch (Red Moon Press, 2011).

Mark Harris’s new collection, burl (Red Moon Press, 2012) is now among that group for me. It is outstanding in pretty much every way: the personal, oftentimes deeply intimate, emotive, and sometimes imaginative, poems; the range of poetic techniques and forms employed (the poems’ “internal energies”); the sequencing; and the excellent cover (utilizing Mark’s own artwork) which employs some of the “simplicity” haiku is supposed to be known for with a strong touch of modern complexity in execution (mirroring, in many ways, the poems within, and, i think, especially some of the content matter). Out of all the collections mentioned above, i think Mark’s work perhaps best displays the range of what is being done in English-language haiku today.

It all comes together amazingly. It’s a collection i’ve found myself going back to again over the last many months since it arrived, the poems offering new readings and new insights (and new inspiration) each time, always with something new to pick up on.

A powerful collection, and highly recommended.

8 poems from the collection:

Issue 12.3 of R’r will contain a substantial essay on Mark Harris’s burl by Jack Galmitz

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interviews by Jack Galmitz with Chris Gordon & Peter Yovu

“While I’ve been very conscious over the years of using such poetic tools as juxtaposition, indeterminacy, sampling, and randomness to create haiku, I’ve been thinking in terms of images, feelings, senses, the matter of the poem. That the difference lay in the comparison of elements, not so much in the valence of meaning or the shifting of themes or focus.

In other words, I haven’t thought of it as an overlay of two different worlds, only an overlay of experiences. The mystical world and the mundane world are the same to me. Or so I strive to make them so. Sometimes it’s easy. Sometimes it takes a great knack.”

—Chris Gordon

The Superlative Quotidian: An Interview with Chris Gordon

A Hundred Gourds 1.1 (2011)

“Yes, and though I stay away from calling myself a haiku poet, I will admit that there is something in me that is attracted to the 5/7/5 blueprint and likes to play off and with it. Maybe it’s like agreeing to have four limbs (I’m a quadropus) and not the eight of an octopus. The body has limits which the dance, for one, plays off and with. There is no exceeding (and maybe no excelling) without limits. Seeds and cells.”

—Peter Yovu

 Artisan of the Imagination: An Interview with Peter Yovu

A Hundred Gourds 1.2 (2012)

2 new books by Jack Galmitz

Contributing editor of R’r, Jack Galmitz, has two new books out: Views (Cyberwit), and The Word ‘Dog’ Does Not Bark (Lulu Press).

Beth Vieira, a former professor at the University of California at Berkeley, wrote the introduction for Views. Here’s a small excerpt to give you an idea:

“[Jack Galmitz’s] Views (. . .) shows the power of allowing perspectival seeing, the layering of views, to accumulate on a topic that might be a bit like an elephant in miniature—contemporary haiku. Like the blind men in the [famous Buddhist] parable, people cling to their own views of haiku even though they have grasped just a part. Galmitz, in tandem with fourteen poets, follows Nietzsche’s lead to allow “more affects . . . more eyes” to the matter.

Through interviews, book reviews, and critical pieces, Galmitz covers the poetry and larger concerns of a broad range of writers: paul m., Peter Yovu, Chris Gordon, john martone, Ban’ya Natsuishi, Tateo Fukutomi, Tohta Kaneko, Robert Boldman, Marlene Mountain, Grant Hackett, Richard Gilbert, Dimitar Anakiev, Mark Truscott, and Fay Aoyagi. Each writer appears in exquisite specificity, as if Galmitz can disappear into each’s shadow and yet at the same time be so active that he pulls them into the spotlight to take a fine-tuned look at the work each does.”

The Word ‘Dog’ Does Not Bark is a new collection of recent work by Jack. The poems in the collection are each given a title. Here are two examples that appeared in slightly different forms in R’r 12.1:

Ancestry

Descendant

of a star

that coexisting

Ancestry II

Impose do not

on the blank space

that pinioned the burial

HOW DO YOU LIKE THEM APPLES?

Le fils de l’homme / The Son of Man by René Magritte (1964)

tr. by Burton Watson / From the Country of Eight Islands

tr. by Burton Watson / Masaoka Shiki: Selected Poems

1960 / Haiku: This Other World (#436)

September 21 1965   # e b ’ / The Collected Poems of Larry Eigner

Poems 1966-1967 [Pages, Random House, 1969]

/ A 2nd Flake (1974)

/ Modern Haiku 6.2 (1975)

Viral 7.2  by Chris Gordon

Gendai Haiku Kyokai Sakuhin-Shû (Modern Haiku Association Anthology), 1982              tr. by Fay Aoyagi

/ Opera in the Human Body (1990) [Turquoise Milk, Red Moon Press 2011]

/ Modern Haiku 35.1 (2004)

Haiku Shiki (Haiku Four Seasons), October 2008; created from a tr. by Fay Aoyagi

/ Ginyu 42 (2009)

MASKS ONE (2009)

 / R’r 9.1 (2009)

Chris Gordon :: Jack Dander

MASKS ONE (2009)

/ Ginyu 42 (2009)

:: Jack Dander / MASKS 2 (2009)

/ Ginyu 42 (2009)

/ R’r 9.2 (2009)

/ The Heron’s Nest 12.1 (2010)

/ R’r 10.1 (2010)

/ R’r 10.3 (2010)

/ Haidan (Haiku Stage), September 2011; new arrangement using a tr. by Fay Aoyagi

/ A Hundred Gourds 1.1 (2011)

Scorpion Prize 20 / Rae Armantrout

For this post, I would like to open up Scorpion Prize 20, selected and commented on by Rae Armantrout, to readers, and which appeared in issue 10.2.

I emailed Rae Armantrout (a California native, born in 1947, a professor of writing in the literature department at the University of California at San Diego, and the author of ten books of poetry) on April 9th, 2010, asking her if she would be interested in being R’r’s judge for Scorpion Prize 20 by selecting her favorites from issue 10.1 and commenting upon them.

She selected her winner and sent her commentary on April 11th, one day before it was announced that she had won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for her poetry collection Versed (Wesleyan University Press, 2010). Towards the end of that email she wrote, “That was kind of fun.”

It was, of course, a great thrill that she accepted our invitation. And even greater to find out her collection had been honored in such a way, so close to her taking the time to read and comment on contemporary English-language haiku. And so, perhaps in some way, just before, during, and after the Pulitzer announcement, the ku in R’r were in or floating about her mind and thoughts.

Asking if she would be willing to perhaps highlight a few others and comment on them, she wrote: “My second favorite was the one liner by Chris Gordon and I also liked the one that begins “apology moon” by Cherie Hunter Day.”

Because of the Pulitzer announcement though, media interviews, teaching, and a schedule that was taking her on the road, she was not able to return to them for us, though she intitially intended to.

So: what do you make of this ku by Peter Yovu? What does it do for you? How does it work on and/or in you? Where does it take you?

Does the use of the word “you” (a topic worthy of its own post—perhaps even of a mini-anthology or extensive essay) impede, confuse, or (does it, instead) invite and/or open up possibilities for you as a reader?

Here is what Rae had to say:

What I really like about this poem is the way the various connotations of the word “shift” create an interesting instability, a shifting field of meanings. Taken as a phrase, “red shift” refers to the fact that light moves towards the red end of the spectrum when it is traveling away from the viewer. This is how astronomers concluded that the universe was expanding, the galaxies flying apart from one another. However, following the line “October,” the color red also suggests seasonal change or “shift” and falling leaves. So we are then dealing with personal, experiential time as well as astronomical time and distance. The third line adds a surprising new dimension.

Now the red shift is something “you” were buried in. It might even be a burial garment. So which of these meanings of “red shift” (if any) is to be taken literally and which metaphorically? I have my own idea of that, but why spell it out? What I appreciate is the way the possible meanings work together and enrich one another.

Rae Armantrout’s latest poetry collection is Moneyshot (Wesleyan University Press, 2011)

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