Okay, you know we can blame Basho for this book. He started it by creating a new poetry form called haibun. Hai, often translated as comic or funny, also relates to the first prefix of haiku and thus haikai – the links of a renga. Bun, is loosely translated as literature or prose. It was Basho’s idea to combine what he called haikai or hokku to prose and that is the beginning of this book.
Basho was leaning on the ancient Japanese tradition of keeping diaries or travel journals. Always before the poem added to each entry was a tanka, but since Basho did not write tanka (it is recorded he read them but was very strict in not messing around in another genre) he added the kind of poems he was writing for renga (he was a renga master and not really a haiku writer). The term “haiku” was invented two hundred years later.
Thank goodness for Basho! All we contemporary haiku writers have discovered what Basho found out in the 1600s – sometimes haiku is just not enough.
Sometimes Basho added a head note or prose piece to his hokku so it was only a small thrust of the slipper to enlarge upon this. Reading too many haiku is like eating too many chocolates, but if one can stretch the readers’ mind with some prose, the haiku tidbits are more savory.
With the addition of changes in prose writing in English in the past two hundred years, many more ways of using language are now possible. This may be why Basho has left the building.
All of the Japanese poetry forms have made drastic, spastic, caustic changes as they have evolved into English. The process is not over yet. This book is a fine example of how haiku, prose and haiga – pictures with poems – have grown up and away from the examples Basho gave us. As you read each work, you can see, and feel, how your mind is being stretched as the limitations of poem ideas are extended out even further.
For too long haibun has been too linear, too easy. Each thought in the phrase follows the next in perfect rationality. There was no room for accidents, for the mind to stray, to find glimpses of other realities. The prose parts of haibun need to have the leaps of a haiku. That is what differentiates it from ‘normal’ prose as written as literature.
We are not writing software manuals here, but art goosed by Asian poetry.
I admire Colin Stewart Jones’s work because 1. he has a quirky mind and 2. he lends it to haibun and 3. all of it influences his artwork. The man is not afraid to try something new. In doing so he exposes himself to the human he is. Haibun do that. Give a reader that many words about one’s life and suddenly there are eyes in your bathroom. So you can read these examples of symbiotic poetry as exploration of what the forms can do and be or as a spyglass into the life of a guy living in Scotland. Either way, you will be entertained and amazed.
Jane Reichhold - USA 2012
For Jane, who passed away in 2016
DANCING PARTNERSColin Stewart JonesJane Reichhold
Still waiting on the dance floor, Jane!Do I hear a waltz?Strauss. I think. Perhaps it’s not the done thing in Vienna but how about we make our own moves and see where the music leads. If the world was flat we could go to the edge and jump off. Before we leap into another reality, first dance me to the end of love. Any love is another reality, isn’t it. And yet even nothing always means something when said by a woman!
the steep hillsidewanting to give alland let go
one foot follows the other but I hear clouds beckon
I had to get out of bed early because the grass was talking to me.Return O night and let your whispers take me softly into a dream. Why do I feel you sleep with a Dylan Thomas book under your pillow? Perhaps the bottle by the bed gave me away.I’ve often wondered if alcohol makes a better writer.Though the slur is hard to translate to the page it certainly makes for more interesting reading.None intended. Now I am wondering why you see my comments as a ‘slur.’And none taken. Yet see how we stagger when we involve the drink.I often feel I would be nicer person if I occasionally loosened up.