Tuesday, March 18, 2008

insideoutside: Stanley Pelter on Haibun

interview with Jeffrey Woodward
Stanley Pelter, born in London in 1936, attended Wimbledon College of Art and, after a three year interval as a result of being a Conscientious Objector to Military Service, completed three years of post-graduate study at the Royal College of Art. A self-described “apprentice maker of haiku for 12 years and composer of haibun for five,” Pelter has served as Secretary of the British Haiku Society and has published four haiku collections. The third volume of an intended six-volume series of haibun will be released in the very near future.

JW: First, if you do not mind, might we speak a little about your background? Many of the autobiographical and anecdotal haibun in your first book, past imperfect (2004), address your poverty and Jewish roots during the London of the last World War and the post-war period of reconstruction. I take it that you are retired now, but what educational and employment background did you have when you came to maturity and how, if at all, did these later developments affect your writing?

SP: Yes, I am retired. In a different life, an examination was compulsory at 11. Wrong side of the track youngsters were not spectacularly successful. The few that were attended a Grammar School located on the right side of the track.

My choices were between English at University or Art College. Art won! After an enforced 3-year break as a Conscientious Objector, I won a post-graduate course at the Royal College of Art. Fortuitously, I was one of a small tutorial group that included David Hockney and the recently deceased, great artist, Ron Kitaj. Mortgage redeeming years were in Education, reaching the worryingly dizzy height of College Principal! Alongside writing bad poetry, I made numerous black and white scraperboard illustrations. To attract students, I also used mild humour, some of which have since emerged as haibun.

JW: Can you recall when you composed your first haibun and the circumstances of that act?

SP: First haibun? June 2003. ‘That C# Minor String Quartet’ (Volume 2 – & YNot?). For a year or two the County of Lincolnshire, in which I now live, financed a programme of ‘Music in Quiet Places’. This supported recently graduated students who formed Trios and Quartets. Venues were often village churches. From this understated starting point, stimulation was based on the device of juxtaposition that, here, was able to outstrip even its haiku effects: Beethoven’s homogeneity of form and content, supra-consciousness of a late string quartet versus one composed by a Jew who perished in Terezin, a Nazi Internment camp, christian church versus jewish atheist (oxymoron, perhaps?), the resonant acoustics of an ancient, hill-top church versus gale, emotional performance versus their banal departure, cold setting versus just another of many evening performances, the illustration that indicated unity trembling at the edges. With this complexity, how could a haibun not evolve?

JW: You frequently remark that haibun is so novel that it is premature to seek to delimit the boundaries of the genre. More specifically, in the essay “Definitions – & Y Knot?,” you argue that the chief value of a definition or catalogue of norms is to serve as “an aide memoire for those new, or at least less experienced, to an area of activity.” How accurately does that older formulation reflect your current view?

SP: Editors of Society Journals and the like live with constraints; representing their membership, publishing more, not less, which often means selecting a larger number of shorter haibun. But too many judges take the default position and lump haibun into their own recognisable position. Sometimes, there is a veneer of claiming Bashō’s crown of :

do not resemble me
never be like a musk lemon
cut in two identical halves

In practice, this is belied because, however varied may be the content or form, if the ‘appropriate’ characteristics that fix their parameters are not recognised, there is little they would consider positive to comment upon. Despite this, I still hold the view we should work to limit the damage of constraining ‘characteristics’, ‘definitions’, ‘guidelines’, but do so by working outside the box, trying to reach beyond the rapid build-up of their words and practices, which is a consensual middle ground. The problem is how to balance helping less experienced writers from sliding into that follow-my-leader syndrome while retaining constitutionally important aspects of the genre. Despite a lot of huff and puff, those cubic walls of their increasingly cemented solid house simply refuse to be blown down. An outside gale is needed.

Also of interest here are which haiku characteristics barely get a mention in the context of transference to the haibun genre. The present grouping is surprisingly selective, and far from all embracing. It is wiser, with less potential for myopia and more for perceptive innovation, to maintain the pretence of being a closet social being.

JW: In this same essay on the problem of rule and exception in genre, you write, “Usually provides a simple and simplistic yardstick by which Editors and Competition judges measure whether a piece of work ‘is or is not,’ ‘complies or does not.’ Not this side of the wall? Must be the other, usually less acceptable side. Usually slides into a ‘virtually never.’ The harder task of recognising, understanding and accepting exceptions can be avoided.” I find this quite accurate and amusing. How does this relate to Ludwig Wittgenstein’s view of definition, a view you’ve quoted favorably, as an “ornamental coping that supports nothing”?

SP: The application of a broadly interpreted definition does relate to Wittgenstein’s view, but is not so extreme as to be just ‘ornamental coping that supports nothing’. Despite my sometimes exuberant statements in relation to what, for all practical purposes, have become defined parameters, there is still a struggle to understand where present outer limits might lie, what are the far from easy language form and structural problems, in order to close in on or, with hard work, perseverance and dedication, to even move beyond them. Few work in this outreach area. There seems to be a psychological need to define that tends to inhibit and limit possibilities, but open processes imply that, at this beginning stage, less ‘rules’, not more, is a greater aid to creativity. But, faced with so many submissions and so little time, it is tempting for Editors and Award judges to use their own guideline definition as a simple weighing machine. Who can blame them? But it diminishes the genre.

A few years ago I spent 18 months persuading a couple of obdurate British Haiku Society Committee members there was at least one other way to establish a haibun award without it involving financial reward, or gold, silver, bronze gongs. It now exists, its aim educative, analytical, reflective, with an opening for two-way discussion. Selection is not just about ‘the best’ but those that generate open-ended analysis and discussion. The intention is to make haibun a more developmental process, especially at this early stage of its cycle. In 2006, 2 selectors, Ken Jones, who, was supportive, of the aim, and David Cobb, chose 14 haibun. Commentaries were limited, production poor, but it did result in anthology No 1. The second, based on submissions in 2007, saw two different selectors choose 25 haibun. These received fuller commentary and analysis, with a higher standard of production. Readers are invited to respond. Understanding, for some, still reflects a ‘winner/loser’ framework. So, Wittgenstein is apt in his observation in relation to ‘definitely supporting nothing’, but, more accurately, its supports are already, by definition, damaged.

JW: In your introduction to & Y Not? (2006), while outlining such commonly accepted norms of haibun as the expectation that it contain haiku and be in the present tense, you ask: “What can this new genre incorporate into it and call its own? After all, it is haibun, not haiku! It is more than haiku, more than a story.” Implicit in your argument, unless I misread you, is that the path of haibun may deviate widely from that of haiku, perhaps not even run a parallel course. Might you elaborate?

SP: When I read this question, despite being an atheist, the first thing that came into my mind was Calvin’s analysis of the law of Moses. ‘The law’, he says, ‘was political, and since the politics have changed, so have the rules’. Haiku is haiku. Haibun is not haiku. It is a different genre that, while retaining some of the spirit of haiku, is not haiku. Even if in danger of seeming simplistic, a new, different genre has new, different rules.

While incorporating certain characteristics that distinguish it from, say, the short story form, we are, or should be, in that exciting period when ‘the world is our oyster’, when discoveries are made, ground breaking experimental developments tried, where creative process applications defy too quickly established conventions, and the concept of haibun winners and losers is irrelevant. It should be an alchemical bubbling, like that early 20th century period in Art when this or that ‘movement’ flourished, intelligent developments like Cubism evolved from early perceptions into the then unrecognised aims and intentions of, for example, Cézanne, African and Oceanic art. The excitement is still palpable. What was considered revolutionary and outrageous by establishment standard bearers evolved into fluid movements with approaches, not only to content, but to the way creative processes are applied. For haibun makers, it is that time when non-lineal questions galore can be broached and many manner of answers attempted. Presently, too much excitement, too much navel-gazing is going on from within existing parameters. For me, the practical yardstick is that my most innovative haibun would not pass muster, not slip through the buttery mesh of existing, sometimes unconsciously applied criteria. It can be a measure of development, in much the same way Impressionism, Cézanne, Van Gogh, Picasso, Duchamp et. al. failed to fit neatly into their contemporary parameters. Haibun should have no safety net. Better to break a bone or three than never to have attempted the triple somersault.

JW: For haibun in the immediate future, then, what course?

SP: Over and above similarities, whatever haibun can incorporate into itself that distances it from haiku – far more than obvious differences such as the use of semi-colons, narrative, applying mixed times and tenses, fiction, factive fiction, simile, less subtle metaphor, and the ways syntax can extend expressive range, greater perseverance, a more forceful application of analytical and critical faculties, intensive reworking – it should also be disruptive of conventions and consensual practices. In one shape or form, few haiku are not derivative of others. The same applies to haibun; and this is not confined to content. What is not required of haibun is to become tame, civilised. It is easy to turn it into a summer garden for visitors to inspect and buy samples to take home. As 20th century Art mounted a frontal attack on accepted orders, so haibun discussions, and practical outcomes of those discussions, should, in the 21st century, be making a new order, rather than the present heavy-breathing tickling of sensibilities. What is being assembled for haibun in the way of limited devices and must-have attributes can be fragmented and ruptured into a less constrained, more open-ended framework of loose filaments that continue to reshape and reform. I suppose the question to ask is, can we see haibun being different from the way it is viewed now? I see our hold on it being, all the time, tenuous, allowing for, and accepting contradictions, being sceptical about even personal views. This is one way of refuting the concept of an eternal perspective and edifice, looking for sub-structures beyond appearances that are being carved from the haiku model. In addition to areas that seem natural to transfer from haiku to haibun, is a re-presenting of them, seeing the same characteristics both as what they are and as they can be from only a haibun perspective. For example, minimalism is a far wider concept than when lineally interpreted. An attribute of both haiku and haibun, it can be understood as being a limited number of syllables, as in haiku, or, following its pattern, short, simple language sentences inside short prose/poems. An easily assimilated relationship, but is it the-end-and-be-all of the concept? Less directly understood, it can be different from this more easily understood one. Spare, even terse, minimalism can be inside seriously complex haibun, with greater development of juxtaposed situations and other appropriate devices. It is from this more angled perception that we are likely to find the raw materials of great haibun. Unlike other fields, this one is more productive if worked in isolation and not though groups. Perhaps the reasons why should be left for another day. So, back to your question!

JW: Yes, haibun versus haiku: do you perceive their respective paths as parallel or diverging?

SP: Length, the many interrelationships of prose with a variety of haiku forms, areas of content and ensuing structures, language and devices, is sufficient to indicate differences between the two genres. I suppose I should be more specific: Perhaps even more important than minimalism is the haiku and haibun device of juxtaposition. While it can play the same or nearly the same role in both genres, it can serve different purposes, be more wide ranging, appear in haibun in ways that are different from haiku such as tripling or quadrupling images or events or moods within events. By definition of them being different genres, we do not always have to impose existing haiku format and rationales in haibun. For me, the critical factor is the story itself, and it is this that should confirm its literary nature, the shape of language, form of haiku, an alternative or equivalent. A not particularly advanced example is ‘bar-mitzvah photograph’ - Volume 1 ‘past imperfect’. It opens with a scene from the Scottish Island of Arran, remembering 19th century ‘People Clearances’. This juxtaposes with the effect of an ancient photograph of one pair of grandparents celebrating their engagement in another Country on a contemporary family celebration. Most of the attendees are descendents and, so, escapees from the holocaust. Some are survivors of the holocaust. Those, and the millions who died, were forced to wear them as badges of recognition shame and humiliation. Conversely, it became the flag of the Phoenix State of Israel soon after their own war of survival. It seems entirely appropriate to use a row of Stars of Davids and dehumanising numbers tattooed onto bodies and sewn onto concentration camp uniforms as non-verbal haiku. In context, they make at least as much sense as that assumed to be the natural haiku format. In other words, the context, content and aims of each individual haibun is the fuse, the driving force of what is appropriate, whether it works to contrast short with long sentences, is more effective with no ‘and’, no ‘the’ or both, or what linguistic changes are made necessary to achieve intentions.

JW: And what other distinctions do you observe between the two genres, haiku and haibun?

SP: Haiku gains ‘immediacy’ with the use of the present tense, while haibun can move into subtle areas of discovery of Selves by switching tenses from first to third and back again, present to past or vice versa. Haibun can grow out of a drawing or painting, either your own or by another. Haibun can introduce ‘visuals’, whether as complete units or as separate ‘one-liners’, in ways that, in haiku, are less pertinent or effective. Of course, it depends on how they are done. Often, they need to be at least slightly off-centre, sometimes bizarre, with more than a hint of surreal images and/or objects. Haibun can also more readily assimilate ‘found’ prose material, an aspect I, at some length, am incorporating into a future book. In haibun, verbal juxtaposition can be seriously and intentionally more ambiguous.

JW: In what way?

SP: Volumes 1 and 2 introduced a new presentation of haibun – impact haibun. These have proven to be ‘puxxlepuzzles’. Few have commented on them, and those that have do not find them straightforward by any existing criteria. Either they fail in what they are about or indicate that, when faced with a never-before-met-situation, logic is an automatic reflex first approach. They are always single-pagers that incorporate haiku and haiku immediacy, and which, despite a unifying rationale, helps them bypass rationality, bringing into play more sensory areas. In the Introduction to Volume 1, past imperfect, I described them as being ‘more cubic, homogeneity evolving from the total image that appears on the page. By definition, because literary effects are minimal and language patterns run counter to familiar formats, there is a greater need for open-ended reader involvement and understanding’. Yet, in spirit, they are closer to haiku than surface appearances might indicate. It has not yet happened. C’est la vie! But in a way, the presentation of an incomprehensible format is strangely exciting. Another difference between haibun and haiku is that, in haibun, there is the possibility of random pairing of images, situations, ‘ideas’. This negates predictability. Outcomes cannot be known in advance. Pairings can grow, affecting interactions. Many of my haibun are subterranean attempts to claw back dispossession, to make some sense of it by jousting with specific myths and archetypes. This is not suited to haiku. Haibun, better than haiku, can describe fears of living within illegible systems, with a desire for social networking while feeling the full force of intolerable loneliness, make sense of an apparently cohesive society, but in which there is disconnection between escapist lifestyles and, often, a feeling of puniness when confronted with seemingly fanatical beliefs that appear to support killing of ‘non-believers’, in the face of perceived power systems that feel conspiratorial, malign, unstoppable, can be more emphatic, contradictory, lyrical, dissolving, three or more toned. This, too, is less, if at all, suited to haiku. By comparison, haiku can give the appearance of a kind of spiritualised dreamland of fairytale-like innocence. There is, even now, far more to haibun than consensual nods of approval. I have to admit I am excited by involvement in these and the many other possibilities, from both within and beyond the haiku genre, that make up the panoply of creative tools available to haibun authors able to evolve appropriate forms of haiku.

JW: If you do not object, I’d like to single out one of your haibun for discussion. I realize that one haibun can in no way be representative but perhaps it will allow us to focus more directly on the practical problems posed by your writing. The work that I have in mind is “Passacaglia ~ Fêtes Galantes.” On a superficial reading, I find this work of roughly 1000 words readily accessible but if one studies it closely, complications quickly arise. You’ve informed me that this work caused you considerable difficulty. Can you describe its structure or form and explain why the execution was so problematic?

SP: This haibun was a difficult composition. There were more than twenty versions; events placed differently, paragraphs, sentences, phrases rewritten, events added or altered. Hand written, the modifications made it look like an area map suffering a breakdown! The eventual first sentence and second paragraph established the confusions created when time, space, geography spill over into beliefs. A long time was spent reducing language to that most expressive of overlapping and interweaving ‘themes’ with their juxtapositions. It tries to achieve the haiku quality of understatement in a way different from haiku inside being in contrast with ‘believers’, a dwindling church congregation, one who does not belong to ‘this butter group’, who were, together, attending a musical event of French secular music from another Age in the setting of an old English village church, the French aristocracy playing poor for a day and back to rich again, the swings in time, making literary qualities effective without being obtrusive, evolving haiku that flow into the prose, breaking the spell of a churches’ resonant acoustics and religious aura with a child’s spontaneous actions, an interval to stretch muscles, with another throw back to the past opening the door to another story within a story ending with a disappearance that leaves only a doubt about what is remembered in a distant layer of living. Complicated enough? But getting some of the phrases to pitch correctly seemed to take forever. Linking musical timbre of speech helped to unify an evening of secular music played on original instruments in a setting designed for another purpose. At this stage, questions of success and failure are inappropriate. Only what is going on, what is attempted matter.

JW: The prose element in your haibun is quite varied. Some pieces offer a narrative that is relatively traditional and naturalistic. Others offer the reader a prose style that might be termed Joycean with its fragments of literary parody, local dialect, puns and other word-play, as well as the “stream-of-consciousness” technique. Where your prose departs from naturalism, how does the altered prose style affect the quality of any haiku or other verse that is present in the same composition?

SP: Beckett, Pinter, Joyce, Celan, Rabelais, Gurdjieff are influences. They, and my own language formations, direct and sometimes become the ‘music’ of content. I repeat – individual haibun content and intentions dictate formal language, structural needs, shape of undercurrents, and determine and are determined by the devices employed. When language departs from the everyday conversational, it does so because of the haibun’s stringent requirements. It is not wayward or a display, just relevant. Not so relevant is whether they appear as ‘natural’ haiku characteristics. Style and form standardization is debilitating for haibun.

Sometimes, as in 'London slums' (Volume 1), a haiku can ‘stretch’ through the prose, like a theme in a musical score. If the haiku is at a different pitch, or purposely dissonant to the prose, then it either has to have logic integral to that prose or it fails because it jars in the wrong way. For the most part I try to move haiku in line with language formations of the prose. Homogeneity is achieved by this integration with prose patterns. Occasionally, this works in reverse. Examples include 'birth day', 'head cases', (Volume 1) 'first love at first sight –just what is going on', 'pre-postmodernist baby', 'journey into deathland', 'genocide' (where the word ‘genocide’ stretches in red across the page and is repeated three times, one underneath the other, acting as one of the haiku, putting more emphasis on its meaning by being uninterrupted by any other words or sounds) – (Volume 2), Others depend on the power of musicality of word sounds and their repetition, even when, sometimes, content is harsh, as in 'huffypuffy' (Volume 1) and 'insideoutside', 'Bialystok', 'day death in life of', 'inside somewhere outside there', 'land e scape', 'no way to stop it', 'pea-souper' and 'as' (Volume 3).

JW: Your own haibun, like the haibun of others, contain haiku within the prose more frequently than not. Your practice demonstrates an understanding then of haibun as a genre that often joins the two modes of written discourse: prose and verse. Your remarks, in the introduction to past imperfect (2004), raise the specter of the visual element or illustration employed in haibun as “a ‘haiku’ in its own right” or as a third element that joins the prose and verse. You do utilize various “visual aids” in certain of your haibun – satirical pen-and-ink sketches, photographs, cartoons complete with ‘balloon’ dialogue. How successful, in your opinion, have your experiments in this vein been and what future do you see for the adoption of such techniques by others?

SP: To date, I have employed visual elements in 3 ways: 1) as haiku, when this is the most appropriate format; 2) as illustrations that enhance prose and haiku; 3) as the prime vehicle of the story.

1 I have, above, given examples, as in 'bar mitzvah photograph' (Volume 1)

2 There is something about a visual image that not only has an independent life but also immediacy that can both clarify and enhance the prose/poem. When it works it adds a dimension not otherwise available. This has nothing to do with the Eastern image look-a-likes employed in haiga. Inevitably, they are weak versions of the Chinese and Japanese originals and have little to do with either their or our culture.

Volume 1 was a mix of the artist who designed the cover and myself. One, of mine, drawn for 'sisters', seems to integrate with and enhance the haibun by the compositional device and shapes employed. In the drawing, exaggeration and a disconnected head retell the ‘story’ in a less familiar way.

I have exploded this in Volume 3, insideoutside. I would include those illustrations for 'North Meister', the title haibun 'insideoutside', '10 days', 'storm waters', 'a fear of losing our shadow', 'sleep', 'solstices', 'hour in the life and death of', 'juxtaposition', 'nearly 100 – she wants the sea', 'paths lead to Ways', 'ceci n’est pas une haibun – 2', 'inside somewhere outside there', 'sheets of rain', 'camouflage is gd is bd', 'but there can be no guarantees', 'mountain failyer'. Usually, the more literal the less successful they are. Readers will make their own decisions on this.

3 I have, so far, produced only two; 'Family' (Volume 2, &YNot?) and 'evacuee' (Volume 3 – insideoutside), not because I do not believe they can be a different, just as successful form as mass-mode haibun, but because, done as I did, they are SO difficult and slow. They have been absorbing, revealing innovations, and a great learning experience! The family was first published as a run-of-the-mill haibun in the journal of the British Haiku Society. Later, an article on the topic of Japanese Manga and Haiku was due to appear. I was asked to create an English equivalent. In this, two major influences were Art Speigelman’s Maus, and Raymond Briggs, an older Art College contemporary who, among much else, art/wrote The Snowman. The second, 'evacuee', is a twisting, turning single image in a haibun response to a request for ‘visual haiku’. In both instances the ‘straight’ version was also published and seemed to strengthen one of my ‘fingerprint mantras’: when form and structures alter, new requirements emerge specific to those alterations. Bear with me as it goes some way to help clarify my position vis-a-vis each haibun being self-contained, making individual parameters in terms of requirements, characteristics, language and structural complexity (or not). In the Graphic format, new and different space passages occur, and a different range of shape-containing areas into which only so many words, handwritten or typefaces, can be fitted. Sometimes this is the determinant that decides more narrative or internal thoughts have to be used. Being visual also allows a different but increased exaggeration of emotional responses that would be overstatement in the prose. Lettering can change to better ‘describe’ or ‘explain’ an action or reaction. A single image can sometimes do the work more succinctly than a hundred words.

So, a hybrid based on, but different from an already hybrid form, has a shape so different it requires a different perception. It requires a different mental consciousness, in the same way as haibun in its relationship with haiku. Whether or not they make haibun or only a comic strip, I cannot judge. Perhaps, it depends on haiku/haibun processes of concision, beyond-the-literal, literary intent and suchlike.

At the time of publication of 'the family', response from readers was very favourable, probably because of the type of illustration with which they could empathise, and not because it was seen as a haibun. Most, I suspect, require a more stereotypical pattern for that to kick in! Perhaps it will take some time yet before it is recognized haibun is a far more elastic medium than as presently harvested.

JW: Your third book of haibun, insideoutside, is scheduled for release quite soon. How, if at all, does it differ from your previous collections?

SP: My third collection …. Between this and Volumes 1 and 2 the differences are the Introduction’s increased accessibility and the book’s structure. Volume 1 has content unity. Volume 2 works in that way only when broken down into sections. Volume 3 again has a broadly unifying theme – interior and exterior landscapes and Love. Physically and metaphorically, the self-contained, complex Island is Arran, off the Western mainland coast of Scotland. Love is non-sexual, as in the title haibun, or intense, obsessive, sexual, dangerous, that turns in on itself, or is not even yet externally recognised. Some of the haibun are intentionally complex. The 3 volumes retain a connection with thematic juxtaposition of the primal mythic, gently humorous situations and more dark images. Perhaps the ranges of devices to obtain specific effects and results have increased.

JW: Earlier, I quoted your statement to the effect that haibun is neither story nor haiku but something other, a distinct entity, one with important and interesting differences from story or haiku. Is this still a fair summary of your position?

SP: YES. This made me reread the Introductions to Volumes 1 and 2, which, while still a bit OTT and, in parts, difficult to grasp, I would say is, fundamentally, still my position. The Introduction to Volume 3 is more readily assimilated. It does describe the process I often apply that allows me to be in any way creative. Perhaps, separately, a verbatim selection might be of use to haibuneers ready to move on from the definition and judgement-stoked consensual middle ground.

JW: Haibun’s historical provenance is perhaps inseparable from the haikai of Basho and his school, that is, it made its social debut in the company of haiku. Haibun, however, has largely died out in Japan and its reception here in the West, while originally situated strictly within haiku circles, increasingly exhibits symptoms of independence from the strictures of haiku. Some poets practice only haiku, some only haibun. How does the haibun writer, in your view, differ from the haikuist?

SP: To the haijin’s problem of reducing so few words into maximum ‘power’ and, with haibun, the necessity of homogeneously embedding into contents’ appropriate prose (or of using haiku as a juxtaposition device), you add story concision, increased complexity of structural shape and form, and some of the major differences between the genres begin to be seen. Different skills have to be learnt, other mind fixes established. For the most part, a longer gestation period is needed, more modifications, sometimes over years between the first and published versions. (Publication is a dreadful moment! No sooner is it in print than obvious ‘tightening, preferred words, phrases and images appear and have to recognised as being in a closed circuit of one). There is less opportunity for the one-hit flash that starts and finishes in an inspired sitting. Another difference is that in haibun words can become more visual codes of communication: tungewuage, sSs-eEe-xXx, etc. Haibun can invent words to more precisely fit the context, can take a little longer, can more directly relate to music and musicality, can narrate or talk conversations that criss-cross time, this or that side of Death, this Age, this space, this dimension or that, as in 'journey into deathland'.

JW: Before venturing one final question, I want to thank you for your patience and generosity in agreeing to this interview. This last point follows logically from the distinction you have drawn between haiku and story, on the one hand, and haibun, on the other. If haiku and haibun are two distinct entities and if we already see, side-by-side, poets who specialize in haibun and not haiku, and vice versa, do you foresee an eventual “parting of the ways,” so to speak, where haibun and haiku become completely individual disciplines?

SP: Despite what I do and how I do it, and knowing there are those who now write only haibun and those who write only haiku, I do not yet foresee a complete ‘parting of the ways’. Haibun, for many, has to include haiku as beloved over the centuries. Haibun, even at the most cutting of present cutting edges, cannot yet prevent itself connecting to the nature of haiku. What else distinguishes it from the short-story form? When formats emerge that directly relate haiku to non-lineal language, structures and contents of a given haibun, I suspect, haijin would reject it out of hand, and would, by default, be separated from stand-alone haiku makers. It also depends on how rigid are haijin in maintaining the status quo for haiku. Argumentative ‘party politics’ within the world of haiku give an impression of agitation, but the reality paints a more cohesive, flat-plain image.

How I would love to write a haikuless haibun instantly recognised as a cognisable haibun and not a short story. The Philosophers Holy Grail Stone! Thank you for offering me your questions. Even as I think about them, my ‘answers’ seem thin and somewhat wayward. Again, c’est la vie!

No comments: