THE 21ST CENTURY’S FIRST ENGLISH-LANGUAGE HAIKU MASTER
By Robert D. Wilson
Professor Richard Gilbert told me in an interview for Simply Haiku’s Spring 2005 issue:
“One of the biggest differences between Japanese and Occidental haiku is that of validity. Japanese haiku is central to the identity of Japanese literature, while English haiku has not yet produced a well-known poet writing in the genre as a means of recognition; we’re still working towards that day.”
“That day” Professor Gilbert spoke about in my interview with him over a half-decade ago, has arrived.
summer dreams . . .
the night thick with
In introducing you to the 21st century’s first English-language haiku master, it is imperative to provide you with some of the poet’s background before presenting an in-depth analysis of the poet’s Japanese short form poetry, with a concentration on haiku.
Some will think Simply Haiku is brazen to make such an announcement, but where is such an announcement to come from? There is too much confusion in the so-called English-language mainstream Japanese short form poetry world to justify anything authoritative or collaborative. Suffering an identity crisis, this body of poets can’t even agree on a concise definition of haiku, and an increasing number think Japanese and English-language haiku are two different genres, which they aren’t; most ignore the traditional metric schemata indigenous to haiku (S/L/S), or use no meter at all; the majority doesn’t believe in the necessity of kigo (or understand its importance to the genre), seeing it passé, opting instead for “key words.” Most of what they believe to be haiku are object- (mono, subjective) biased, make little use of “the unsaid,” lack ma, yugen, and other aesthetic styles designed to give depth and utilize suggestion to a poetic genre confined to an economy of words; they follow the teachings of R.H. Blyth and Kenneth Yasuda, who were not experts in Japanese short form poetry (some of their more influential theories have long since been disproved by the world’s leading academic experts in the fields of translation, aesthetics, linguistics, hermeneutics, and anthropological theology.) Most modern haiku poets today in both Japan and in the Anglo-West compose avant-garde, shasei, and Imagist-like poetry they sincerely believe are haiku.
Embarrassingly, haiku is not recognized by the Anglo-Western world mainstream literary community or taken seriously by the North American school system, private and public.
The appearance of an English-language haiku master is a welcome event and may save world haiku from the extinction it’s heading toward much like what Masaoka Shiki predicted regarding the state of haikai (he’d renamed haiku) during his day.
Much of what is labeled haiku in Japan and most of the Anglo-Western and Anglo-Oceanic nations world-wide are sounding more and more alike due to the colonization of Japanese schools via their adoption, a century ago, of the German-based university system, used internationally, whose beliefs run counter to the beliefs of Japan prior to the university system’s adoption by Japan, that chose to converse and be respected on an equal level with the Anglo-West (You can read about this in detail in this issue’s feature article: Is Haiku Dying?).
I have chosen to paraphrase something the eminent Japanese poet, Kaneko Tohta, wrote about Kobayashi Issa in his book Poetic Composition on Living Things, translated and published by the Kon Nichi Translation Group in 2011, which Professor Richard Gilbert is a member of, to begin my dissertation on the introduction of the 21st century’s first English-language master haiku poet, Svetlana Marisova.
Note: A review of Tohta’s book Poetic Composition on Living Things is included in this issue of Simply Haiku.
Svetlana Marisova, who passed away this summer, possessed a rare perception of living beings. She was Roman Catholic, Daoist, Nativist, shamanic animist, feminist, and humanist, without the ism’s, who believed that human beings are an equal part of nature. Marisova’s sensitivity and understanding of nature is a rare stance in a world where human beings are bent on destroying themselves as quickly as possible, seeing themselves as the lords of this world.
This is not a memorial. Haiku Masters don’t need them. Their work lives on as a testament to their genius and the beauty of great haiku. This article introduces you to a person I feel embodies Basho’s zoka and is the best haiku poet to emerge in the 21st century, Japanese or Anglo-Western. When you read her haiku, tanka and haibun or view her haiga in this issue, you’ll never forget her, and you’ll never again say that haiku consists of two genres or sub-genres: Anglo-English language haiku and modern language Japanese haiku.
“Own only what you can always carry with you: know languages, know countries, know people. Let your memory be your travel bag.”
— Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008)
Solzhenitsyn, one of modern Russia’s greatest novelists, wrote several novels based on his own experience in Soviet prisons, including the Gulag Archipelago. He was arrested for criticizing the Soviet Union’s dictator, Joseph Stalin, in a private correspondence with a friend and sentenced to eight years in a Gulag labor camp. Solzhenitsyn’s writings made the world aware of the horrors of the Soviet labor camp system. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1970. He was forced to leave his homeland in 1973, but returned in 1994, and continued to criticize western materialism and Russian bureaucracy and secularization until his death.
This century’s first English Haiku Master, Svetlana Marisova, was born near Nizhny Novgorod (known as Gorky in the Soviet era), Russia, in 1990; the only child of Roman Catholic parents who were a part of the intelligentsia (Russian underground).
Wrote Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn:
“Do not pursue what is illusory – property and position: all that is gained at the expense of your nerves decade after decade and can be confiscated in one fell night. Live with a steady superiority over life – don’t be afraid of misfortune, and do not yearn after happiness; it is after all, all the same: the bitter doesn’t last forever, and the sweet never fills the cup to overflowing.”
why must you sprout
There are reasons why much of Marisova’s past at this point must be omitted. She grew up during a time of political tension that has yet to be fully resolved. The poet’s parents requested that I abstain from going into too much detail. What I will reveal is what Svetlana Marisova has given me permission to share, what her family’s close friend, Hansha Teki, told me after consulting with the poet’s parents, and from what has already been shared on the Internet. With this said, we will examine the life of a master haiku poet who possessed unusual wisdom and insight into life; a young woman with charisma, a photographic memory, and the ability to comfort the comfortless, the tired, and those in pain. Svetlana Marisova was egoless, living to help others, and did everything she could to avoid the limelight.
these dark ages . . .
sand waders gathering
Hansha Teki told me:
“She was a very bright and precocious child and the decision was made by her family to home school her by a tutor. The tutor took her job seriously. She challenged Svetulya. It was her tutor who recognized and nurtured her creativity.”
Before being tutored, Svetlana had learned English by the age of three.
Reading in her native language, Russian, would be an accomplishment for a 3 year old, but she read and understood English as well. Two of the hardest languages to master in the world today are Russian and English.
From an e-mail interview I conducted with Marisova last year for Simply Haiku:
“I am an only child brought up in a world of books and a fringe community of writers, painters, itinerant monks etc. (should I call them ‘the intelligentsia’?). All I knew of the world was learned there – I hardly knew any other children. We moved to New Zealand when I was 14, where I continued to be home schooled by a tutor who traveled with us.
I should add that I learned English at a very young age  and thus most of my reading has been from the great English writers. My other great passion was the Bible and the writings of the great mystics of both the East and the West.
Poustinia by Catherine de Hueck Doherty came to me as a personal revelation. My whole being resonated to what she was saying – she had the words that explained what I sensed happening in my own spirit. What is more, she spoke from the same traditions that were familiar to me. To later discover that she and I were born in the same city some 90 years apart was an added blessing.”
Says Marisova’s Facebook friend, Robert Johnston, on Facebook’s Something Is Happening Here page, on December 23, 2011:
“Once, earlier this year, we exchanged a few comments about something (other than haiku) we had in common – Taranaki, [for a time] her New Zealand home. I was born and raised in Taranaki.”
“Love is life. All, everything that I understand, I understand only because I love. Everything is, everything exists, only because I love. Everything is united by it alone. Love is God, and to die means that I, a particle of love, shall return to the general and eternal source.”
— Leo Tolstoy
Wrote Marisova to her on-line friend, Blaine Davis:
“God’s will is always revealed in the very next person we meet. I would give you a water hyacinth already trembling with spring.”
i carry your song
Marisova was a deeply spiritual person and a devout Roman Catholic.
“If there is no God, everything is permitted.”
— Fyodor Dostoevsky
“At age 17, I began the journey towards a consecrated life of contemplative prayer. My time as a novice was intended to culminate with the taking of perpetual vows after a careful discernment process. I never got to the stage of making final vows. The spirituality I followed is one of kenosis – an inward journey to the gap at the centre of the soul. The same void, which existed before creation, in which we allow ourselves to be stripped of all attachments, to become a mere creature before God and the world – a formless void over which the Holy Spirit hovers.
Господи Иисусе Христе, Сыне Божий, помилуй мя грешнаго. (Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.) Sinner in this context is more akin to creature – one who is being created.”
unfolding before my eyes
When Marisova decided to leave the family home and enter a Catholic religious house, the tutor’s services were no longer needed. She remained close to Marisova and was with her when she passed away.
Ironically, a few years later Svetlana left the novitiate, following the diagnosis of a life-threatening brain tumor, which had been causing her increasingly severe headaches.
“Svetulya really believed she was being called to bridge the space between the silence of the divine and the bustling market of the world carrying what she knew of the world into the silence of God. I do not think she ever lost that. It was the manner of its expression that changed, as you are probably aware. Perhaps writing haiku and contemplative prayer were, for her, manifestations of the same sensibility.”
“The meaning of earthly existence lies not, as we have grown used to thinking, in prospering but in the development of the soul.”
— Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, Cancer Ward
Wrote Svetlana this past May:
“In late 2009, I started experiencing very painful headaches and other symptoms that led to seeking medical treatment and an eventual diagnosis of a malignant tumor. After much agonizing I decided to leave the cloistered life and live with my parents back home as initial treatment and a regimen of pain relief began to take its toll.
In the isolation of home I discovered the Internet and, soon after, Facebook. To my comfort and delight, I began making friends who accepted me without knowing anything of my life – just my words. Somehow I fell in with people who explored the bite, the thrust and parry of sarcasm, and frequented Facebook pages dedicated to that kind of interaction. It was great therapy for me, as I came to terms with what was ahead of me, using all my past reading and learning to hone the sharpness of my wit yet also celebrate my common humanity with those whom I met in cyberspace.”
“What struck me most,” continued Marisova, “perhaps in light of the secret I bore within me, was how much people seemed to limit the potential that I could see in them. It almost became a personal crusade to use my words as a surgical instrument to separate the accretion of borrowed words and ideas my opponents seemed to carry. (Perhaps the way I handled the fear I had of submitting myself to the surgeon’s scalpel at some future date.)
It did not take long for me to develop a fearsome reputation for the sharpness of my tongue while at the same time leaving my victims not crushed but often feeling affirmed. I became loved by people, I had never met, as I loved them and to a few of these I confessed my secret.
Without going into detail, as my condition grew worse, people from all around the world prayed or wished good thoughts for me. Last year my tumor shrank and has been remained undetectable to this date.”
It wasn’t long after my interview with Marisova that the cancer returned. Once a person contracts cancer, it usually never leaves them. Fortunately for Svetlana, her cancer went into remission for a while, and she was, at least temporarily, given a new lease on life. As I look back, I think God gave Svetlana this reprieve so that she could teach others the true meaning of love and to revive haiku as a living, vibrant genre. But the reprieve was just that, a reprieve.
each day your song
An accomplished poet fluent in several genres, it was haiku she cherished the most.
“For me, spirit is the animating force in any creation – not a feeling, nothing seen, nothing heard, nothing smelt, nothing tasted, nothing touched. I think that this applies equally to haiku. A haiku embodies certain inherited Japanese aesthetic styles to catch the breath of the creator/poet. Within that, the individual haiku is limited only by the creative spirit harnessed by the writer. Anything becomes possible and we have hardly begun to realize the potential.”
“I come here to speak poetry. It will always be in the grass. It will also be necessary to bend down to hear it. It will always be too simple to be discussed in assemblies.”
— Boris Pasternak
The haiku that emoted from her heart is unlike any haiku I’ve read before. Marisova developed a distinct style and voice and was not one who followed the crowd. Wanting to further spread the beauty and depth of haiku, and aware of the influence the Internet has on this planet, she asked Teki to teach her the art of webmastering, who, according to Marisova, was a master of the art. Teki took her under his tutorship, and when she was ready, she and her soul-mate, Ted van Zutphen, started a web-mastering company called The Art of Haiku, the group that generously provided Simply Haiku with its permanent home: http://simplyhaiku.theartofhaiku.com
Almost nothing is known about Svetlana’s childhood, her hobbies, her parents; yet when she passed away, she left a mark on the English-language Japanese short form poetry world as did no other human being since the passing of Masaoka Shiki. She loved haiku and other forms of Japanese short form poetry and considered me her mentor, although I learned much from her as well.
Marisova was a person who put her heart and soul into everything she decided to do.
Her friend Ted van Zutphen is currently completing a book of their poetry that they had long planned to write. Having been asked to write the book’s introduction, I can tell you the poetry by Svetlana and Ted is second to none. This book will become the most read and influential collection of English-language Japanese short form poetry during the 21st century. The poetry by both is great and memorable. It was hard for van Zutphen to work on the book after Marisova’s passing, but for him this book was the fulfillment of a promise and an act of love. You will recognize some of Marisova’s haiku from her Facebook postings. I found some she’d written me and others. The book is not an exchange between two people. The book is a testament to Svetlana’s prowess as a poet master and the effect she had on Ted van Zutphen as a poet. I was left breathless after reading it.
Svetlana Marisova’s desire for privacy; her free spiritedness, and closeness to nature call to mind hermits/poets like Saigyo and Issa: wandering poets who were not at peace around crowds and saw solitude as their church. An avid reader with a photographic memory, Marisova fell in love with haiku, which became a great passion in life. She literally read and studied every book on haiku she could find including those that dealt with related genres.
She passed away a few months ago, at the age of 21. She is like a ghost on the Internet. Google her name and you’ll learn she loved Japanese short form poetry, and was sharp witted, belonging to the Facebook Sarcasm page; juxtaposition between opposite that continually fed her brain. That’s all. There is nothing else to be found in any search engine.
After weighing up their options for treatment Marisova and her parents opted for treatment in Saint Petersburg for the increasingly invasive brain cancer.
“I have two bits of bad news that I have to pass on.
a.). I had my check-up yesterday and a new tumor was discovered. Due to its aggressiveness I am going to have it surgically removed urgently to optimize my chances of surviving this. The wait in NZ is too long so Papa is contacting various clinics around the world to see if any can take me on short notice.”
Typical of Marisova, she was always thinking of the welfare of others. Continued Marisova:
“I am taking my time today to put my things in order including backup strategy for managing the Simply Haiku website. My papa’s best friend is a web designer and is my mentor/teacher in web design. He has agreed to act on my behalf, if need be. I have already created an administrator account for him. He likes to be called Hansha and is a very good man with strong literary connections.
b.) The 2nd is this forwarded e-mail that I woke up to this morning from Origa.”
(The rest of this section will be omitted.)
On July 21, 2011, Svetlana left New Zealand, and stopped briefly in Sydney, Australia, where she wrote Saša and myself the following e-mail:
From: Svetlana Marisova
To: Robert D. Wilson; sasa vazic
Sent: Monday, July 25, 2011 11:21 AM
Subject: Svetlana in transit
“I am in Sydney for another 2 hours after which we fly to Hong Kong with another 4 hour stopover and leave for Seoul at 9:30am Hong Kong time the next day. Should be in Seoul at 2:05pm. We are only able to stay in Korea a couple of days as my symptoms are getting a little worse so the sooner we get to the clinic the better, I think.
Dear Robert, congratulations on the safe arrival of Lanell [this author’s new baby boy]. Enjoy the time of bonding with your son.
Thank you both very much for your love and support in this current valley trip. If the vigil for me goes ahead, could we please specifically include at least two other friends on Facebook who are having a rough time with different cancers as well. Kirsten Cliff and Lisa Hills. I have permission from both of them to have their needs included.
Svetlana Marisova always thought of others, and never asked anyone for anything. She was a selfless soul who loved literature, Japanese short form poetry, and uplifting others. She never expressed pity. Even though an online prayer vigil event held on Facebook’s, Something Is Happening Here group page, to encourage and support her, it was just like the poet to ask that other people be uplifted and support others as well.
States Robert Johnston in a post on Something Is Happening Here, on December 23, 2011:
“Then I learned that she was ill. According to my understanding, she died in her homeland, Russia. I know that she passed through Seoul after she left New Zealand and that was another thing we shared – being in Korea at the same time.”
She stopped briefly to visit with family in Korea en-route to Saint Petersburg, Russia to begin treatment.
Unfortunately, in Saint Petersburg, none were found that could guarantee healing. Surgery could not be performed due to the number and rapid expansion of the tumors. Electrotherapy is now considered passé. Natural herbal remedies haven’t been successful in the treatment of invasive brain cancer. As a last result she opted for bi-weekly treatments of chemotherapy, but her cancer wasn’t localized and had already spread through the lymph nodes at a rate that could not be abetted.
“I am looking forward to reading Dr Marra’s book. I shall do what I can to email you as the days go by. We continue on to Russia in several days but the next two days is given to embracing my Korean bloodline.”
“Yes – thunderstorms and quite warm. It says 29 degrees. We are going to stay somewhere just out of . . . The flights have taken a bit of a toll on me. I was given a room and slept for 3 hours at Hong Kong airport. I am very keen to find space to write but at the moment I am centering myself in prayer. The weather is magnifique!”
While she was suffering from brain cancer, she managed to write haiku daily, even when it meant relaying them to Ted van Zutphen via the Internet aided most likely by her beloved papa or mama.
Masaoka Shiki’s greatest haiku are those he wrote when he was dying in his death bed taking several doses of opium a day like the following:
A purple so deep
it’s almost black —
“It’s odd,” wrote Marisova. “It is odd because I think that I have nothing to write but, as soon as I quiet down in solitude to reflect on the sensations of the day, the labyrinth of the past and the shrouded valleys of the future flood into the present and accrete like nacre around a grain of sand.”
Said Svetlana to me in an e-mail on August 2, 2011:
“I am feeling unshaken in my spirit even though the tumor has grown significantly over the last fortnight. I do not appear to have suffered any significant deficits apart from the worsening headaches and a little numbness. It is very difficult to write with a pen now but I can use a keyboard easily and can move about generally unaided.
My intention is to make a private retreat in a poustinia near a monastery with daily spiritual guidance while I undertake this first run of treatment. To make this retreat has been one of my dreams for several years. The purges of the last century did not completely obliterate the staretz.
I made up one piece while undergoing the tests that I just had to try and remember despite my short term memory problems. Ted helped me complete it, and I offer it to you also for work-shopping.
in the still turning world …
Peace be with each of you – I have enough peace at the moment to share with all who would receive it. Even Olga.”
Svetlana will always remain a mystery, larger than life. Out of nowhere she appeared, like a shooting star and remained with us for a short time. I’m not sure it’s important to have any knowledge of her past. She was a well-read human with a genius IQ, who entered a convent when she was 17 years old.
the flame you are …
“It is the wee small hours here – pre-dawn on Monday the 8th of August. In a little over 12 hours I am traveling to enter poustinia at one of the religious houses. This will be a very important time for me as I take the time to empty myself more fully to my creator that he may prepare me to be taken back to him or to recreate me anew as he wishes. Please pray for me that I will be attentive to the promptings of his Spirit.
All I take with me is my bible, my notebooks, my medication [Chemotherapy meds], and a little clothing.
I received an unexpected email a short while ago that I have taken as confirmation from God that he wants me to make this retreat at this time. I’ll quote the email:
‘SUBJECT: Be still…and know that I am God.
When you open your eyes,
you open your mind;
when you open your mind,
you open your heart.
you live with dignity;
when you live with dignity,
you share divine life;
when you share divine life,
you can build a community of love;
when you build a community of love,
you enter eternity;
when you enter eternity,
nothing can harm you;
when nothing can harm you,
you will live forever,
even now in this present moment.
~ Joseph Petulla from The Tao Te Ching and the Christian Way
It was from your voice that I finally heard God’s call and I will repeat what I have heard from you to all who care to listen…today and always.
“Please do not be heartbroken. If there is one thing that haiku celebrates it is the power and beauty and creativity that suffuses every moment if we are attentive to its ebb and flow.
The man who sent the email I quoted from in my previous email is living testimony to the fact that God is indeed the Lord of time and all things can be turned into blessings while we have life in us.
NOTHING is beyond the power of God’s love – NOTHING. Whatever wrongs you feel that you may have done crave his love and, if you invite him into the grief and hurt, he will surely bring good beyond your imaginings and expectations.
I am so sure of his unconditional love for all of us that I do not fear what my future may be. He gave me a year of life that I did not expect and that year has been filled with blessings beyond anything that I could have ever hoped for or anticipated. Each of you has been a very significant part of that year and none more so than Ted.
Yes, my name means light, and what good is light if it is not shed and shared?
In my poustinia I will not be praying for others before the great and beautiful silence of God – I will carry their needs with me into his silence trusting in his love – I will carry each of you with me into the silence.
in his love,
Peace be with each of you – I have enough peace at the moment to share with all who would receive it.”
Svetlana responded almost immediately before leaving for the poustinia when I inquired about her meds and suggested she meditate on two Psalms in the Bible, 23 and 139:
“Thank you, I have all the medication I need and the retreat centre is ready for me and understands my condition.
I actually made my own transliterations of psalms 23 and 139 over a year ago, and I still meditate with them – so you are well attuned to the Spirit, Robert. We are leaving in a few minutes, so please do not worry for me. This is not my translation of Psalm 23 but one I personalized a couple of days ago:
The Father of life is my shepherd, I want for nothing. In fields of green grass he lets me lie. To still waters he leads me; there he revives my soul. He guides me by paths of virtue for the sake of his name.
Though I pass through a gloomy valley, I fear no harm; beside me your rod and your staff are there, to hearten me.
You prepare a table before me under the eyes of my enemies; you anoint me with oil, my cup brims over.
Ah, how goodness and kindness pursue me, every day of my life; my home, the house of my Father, as long as I live!
I am loved and blessed.
Each of you have blessed me in ways that you cannot even begin to understand. THANK YOU.
“You are the one who taught me: ‘words are the water, and haiku is the flow.’ Why do I love writing in the haiku style? One scholar has rightly suggested that a haiku is as a ‘wordless poem.’ For me words are the water but haiku is the flow.”
Marisova sent me an e-mail during one of the times she left the poustinia:
“I am back in the secular world for one day for a medical follow-up, then I shall return, to enter the hermitage while I still feel strong enough. I continue to battle on, but I am in no doubt as to what I am up against. The love of God, especially as I receive it in your poems, pictures, words of support, truly do sustain and equip me. My whole life is clearly going to have to become one of thanksgiving.
the winter stealth
of a daddy longlegs
in my eyes …
“Ever since I was a child, I took an impish glee in putting the cat among the pigeons, and still believe that is the best way to critically evaluate our own preconceptions and test them against the greater realities we too often studiously avoid.
From my ‘cell’ in the ‘desert’ I am aware of a world in the grip of a pandemic – the virus being masculine ‘Western’ values such as: ‘what can I get out of it?’, ‘how can I fashion all that is to conform to my will?’ We have become a world where all nature is being mastered, broken open, modified and patented to be owned by self-serving plutonomies. Do not even get me started on gene patenting as typified by Myriad Genetics Inc. (www.myriad.com/), Monsanto (www.monsanto.com/Pages/default.aspx), and the University of Michigan (www.cancer.med.umich.edu/research/index.shtml).”
“It is this same ‘well-meaning’ hubris that weakens the whole approach to what tries to go by the name of haiku in this present age.
“I slept until dawn 🙂 Best sleep for several weeks and I found another few pieces to share –
valley mist …
this breath circling
fragrant rose –
for the worm too
still a rose
my lungs await
I watch the wind
smooth the sand
She responded to a tanka I sent her:
this corn stalk, in untilled
soil . . .
with clumps of cloud
. . . with a haiku:
open mouthed –
in my eyes
What a rollercoaster ride! Saša and I couldn’t stop talking, hoping, praying, crying: and not just us. Sometimes she’d write as if things were getting better. She was always concerned about the state of world haiku and how to help those, who were suffering from fatal diseases. Other times she’d mention the pain she felt, but never dwelling on it. She was not a person looking for pity.
“I have been quiet but not down. It may be just me, but some of the symptoms seem not to be getting worse, making me think that the growth of the tumor is slowing down. While headaches and giddiness persist, the numbness doesn’t seem as pronounced, although during the last 20 hours, I have had a frightfully sore neck that is almost tolerable if I don’t move my head too much. Maybe the pain in the neck is my body’s literal interpretation of ‘she who must not be named’s effect on us. 😉
A few hours ago, Colin Stewart Jones (Notes for the Gean) asked Ted for some web help so I agreed to do the little bit of editing that he required done. Call it cementing an alliance with another online journal in the ‘fair use’ dispute.
I have only managed to write down two pieces so far for what seems such a long time:
night fever –
and yet the sun
dream into me
through the night . . .
I also received an e-mail from the editor of Frogpond:
‘Dear Ms. Marisova,
We’re pleased to accept winter chill for the fall issue.
All the best,
winter chill …
the whitespace between
I will say goodbye before I leave, but I do want to say thank you to each of you for what you have each meant to me in my recent journey.”
“I see haiku,” wrote Marisova, “as an art developed over time, enabling some Japanese writers to create short form poems that get us in touch with the otherness of other created things and recognizing the breath that animates them.
All created things carry in them the seeds of their own ceasing to be. We create nothing. We analyze, manipulate, and modify what exists in spite of us, to serve our own self-interests under the guise of being well meaning. Writing a haiku enables us to enter a depth and to celebrate mysteries that we do not own or experience.
shrouded night …
I etch my will
roadside shrine …
just the flutter
what colour is
a last breath?
silent night …
the flute hiding
twilight breeze …
a dark night stirs
in the earth
dark orchard …
always they find
such peach leaves
“Robert, without your encouragement I may well have abandoned the style I had been working towards, but your guidance has been sure and true. For many of us Yeats’ The Choice, looms large:
The intellect of man is forced to choose
perfection of the life, or of the work,
And if it take the second must refuse
A heavenly mansion, raging in the dark.
When all that story’s finished, what’s the news?
In luck or out the toil has left its mark:
That old perplexity an empty purse,
Or the day’s vanity, the night’s remorse.
Haiku permits full integration of the life and the work as one slowly empties oneself of self and becomes the haiku (or vice versa).”
On September 7, 2011, Ted van Zutphen posted on various web pages and to individuals who were universally shocked, the news we’d collectively hoped we’d never hear:
“There is no easy way to say this… I just received word from Hansha that our beloved Svetulya has passed away a short time ago, shortly after 11:30pm, MSD, on September 7th, 2011. The last poem in her notebook read:
godwit’s flight …
with the sun
May you rest in peace, my soulmate ♥ :* ♥”
Hansha Teki posted on the Facebook group SOMETHING IS HAPPENING HERE, on September 8th:
“godwit’s flight …
with the sun
Continues Teki, “Svetulya will probably be horrified that I am going to open this haiku up a little so that non-New Zealand readers may glimpse some of the layers beneath her words.
In March of each year, the bar-tailed godwit (Kūaka in Maori) migrates from New Zealand to Siberia and Alaska via Korea, Japan and China, then in early September, leaves the Northern hemisphere to fly back to New Zealand.
It makes the longest known non-stop flight of any bird and also the longest journey without pausing to feed by any animal, 11,680 kilometres (7,258 mi) along a route from Alaska to New Zealand.
Although Svetulya was at the beginning of her return flight to New Zealand, when she wrote this haiku, she was clearly aware that she would not return with the godwits this time. She used to say that her secret name was Kūaka. A couple of weeks ago she said that she was feeling very homesick but that it was not clear which home it was that she was pining for. Now she is home.”
Svetlana Marisova is the first English-speaking haiku master in the 21st century who has accomplished heights in the composition of haiku few have attained in the past or now. Hers is a distinctively original poetic voice. She refused to be a mush melon and ride the haiku train. Marisova studied and wrote; wrote and studied; never seeing herself as a great haiku poet, and never gave up her Roman Catholic roots (a socially unpopular religion in a Russian Orthodox world), nor saw the need to compose haiku from a Japanese cultural perspective. She utilized Japanese aesthetics (styles as they were called by pre-Shiki Japanese) because they were well-developed tools that unearthed the unsaid, made way for ma, saw yugen as a style that hints and suggests, versus telling all – essential tool for writing a type of poetry requiring an economy of words without “telling all.”
Makoto was at the heart of everything Svetlana Marisova wrote, and she refused to enter into the English-language Japanese short form court politics developed by those who popularized the genre using the misinformation they’d learned from R.H. Blyth, Kenneth Yasuda, Gary Snyder, the Imagists, Jack Kerouac, and the Japanese Modernists who were colonized by the German-based university system.
“Art is not a handicraft, it is the transmission of feeling the artist has experienced.”
— Leo Tolstoy
twilight wind …
on my skin
Marisova told me in one of her e-mails:
“I have been told often that I am an older soul than my years so have made an attempt via my imagination to discern who I am as perceived by others. In doing this I shall share my explorations as I swim in the stream of my consciousness. In doing so I cringe at the thought of how often I will have to use the personal pronoun yet perhaps that is the best way for the ego to be swallowed up in time and space in the deeper universal mysteries being explored.
I am an ancient soul, as are we all if we but face our deepest reality nakedly. The words I use are not just my own but come out of everything that I have ever read, heard, thought, dreamed, seen, touched, tasted. Memories, dreams, reflections and the currents of the imagination rise to the surface in new ways to respond to any external of internal stimuli. I cannot, in all honesty, discern what is uniquely mine from all that has played some part in forming how my mind, spirit and will functions.
I am an ancient soul because at the very centre of my being is a void that is the very same void that is outside of all space and all time. That which is before anything was. The nothingness that is only potential, the void without possession, without awareness, without connection, boundless, uncontainable, changeless yet, paradoxically, continually bursting into existence with unrestrained creativity.
I personally name this void love as it bursts into existence with characteristics of being formed, belonging, seen, heard, smelt, touched and tasted, in relationship, defined, growing and recreating.
Being a sentient creature not only among other sentient creatures but also among all created things each being according to its nature, I find myself in an instant state of awareness that each created thing has its reality rooted in the void that pre-exists existence. The flux of creation is manifest in everything from the slow erosion of a granite rock in the wind to the forming of a first smile on a baby’s lips; from the movement from summer towards winter and within the tear of belonging shed by a human being in a moment of joy or sorrow. An ancient tree falls in the New Zealand bush and almost at once fungi start to grow and begin the breaking down of bark, wood and sap; death in life and life in death.
I do not consider myself a pantheist, animist, shamanist, totemist etc. I am a sentient creature in whom love resides, as is every other human being. I have come to see haiku as words I can knit together to give expression to the wonder and mystery that is constantly revealing itself. I think it was E.M. Forster who said somewhere ‘only connect’. So be it. Let it be done. Make it so. Amen. Yes.
I want to end this ramble with a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins:
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not wreck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.”
Listen to haiku written while Svetlana Marisova faced her death:
sleepless moon … 3 syllables (short)
dawn spills over 4 syllables (long)
the wasteland 3 syllables (short)
“sleepless moon” is not a kigo. Most of those who speak and write in the English language are not bound by Japanese saijikis, which, in the past, have been used as tools by those in power to sustain their power like what was done during the Meiji Construction Era. Some may mistakenly choose to call it a “key word.” The purpose of writing a haiku isn’t merely to identify a season. When Japanese poets composed haiku or waka hundreds of years ago, they were in awe of and aware of the changes zoka created during what some refer to as the four seasons (not all countries have four distinct seasons.).
Almost every continent experiences a variety of seasonal differences, and, thanks to GLOBAL WARMING, seasons are developing geophysical amnesia. The true purpose of haiku is to put the poet and the reader in touch with zoka, the non-static, unpredictable, creative power of nature. When we empty our minds of SELF and converse and sense zoka objectively from an activity- (koto, process) biased mindset, we begin to understand and learn from a power. We as human beings only think we are above: a sensitivity many felt before the earth’s atmosphere and tidal flow was artificially altered by greed and flawed science.
Svetlana Marisova saw herself as a part of nature. To her, haiku is a form of meditation. She clears her mind, and enters into something in nature she sees and doesn’t want to take for granted. The moon is never static. During a clear day, one can see the moon if they look carefully. I love Svetlana’s description of “dawn spills over the wasteland,” that followed her first verse, “sleepless moon.” In this haiku, Marisova made use of a Japanese aesthetic style, adapted from the Chinese aesthetic style of mystery and depth, that Imperial Court poets, Teika and his father, Shunsei, refined; and Zen Poet/Priest Shotetsu further developed, called “yugen.”
Wrote Teika in his book Superior Poems of Our Times regarding advice given to him by his father Shunzei:
“Although my father’s only instructions to me were simple words, ‘Poetry is not an art which can be learned by looking afield or hearing afar; it is something that proceeds from the heart and is understood in the self.'”
Wrote Shotetsu in his Shotetsu Monogatari (Conversations with Shotetsu):
” . . . just where the mystery is to be found depends upon the inner feelings of each individual. No doubt it is something that cannot possibly be explained in words or distinguished clearly in the mind.”
Yugen (depth and mystery) is a style (tool) used by early Japanese poets to bring the “unsaid” into a poem. The term is not easily described, especially by the German-based university system whose definition and the original non-colonized definition in Japan are worlds apart just as the mindsets Japanese Court Poet Fujiwara no Teika (1162-1241) and philosopher/poet Martin Heidegger are worlds apart.”
Yugen provides a surplus of meaning that physical “things (mono)” can’t accomplish. This can only be accomplished by, as Professor Michael F. Marra says in his book Japan’s Frames of Meaning, published shortly before his death in 2011, in paraphrasing the words of Fujita Makatsu (b. 1947):
“We hear words as sounds (mono). However, at the same time, these sounds bring about an emotional response that has nothing to do with the content of the poem. How can we explain this surplus of meaning unless we acknowledge the role played by expressive action in conveying the Being (koto) of things? In poetry, the importance of the objects (mono) described is minimal compared to the process leading to the perception of these objects and to emotional responses.
Fujita highlights the importance of particles (teniowa) connecting words and verses in classical poetry (waka and haiku), which make the task of paraphrasing a poem or giving it a completely rational explanation impossible.”
Continues Marra in his interpretation of Fujita, who declares that a passage by Nishitani Kitaro in a famous essay to explain “the inadequacy of grammar in the language of Being,” believed, “that particles in poetry point at the ‘place’ prior to the differentiation between feelings (koto) and things (mono). In other words, poetry opens up a view on the world of pure experience, while its language brings koto to light without ever exhausting it. Things are always ‘particular things’. However, for particular things to exist, they, first of all, must ‘be’ (aru mono). The fact (Sache, koto) that they are is the difference that a thing makes to human beings (mono), and this difference is voiced by the language (katoba) of poetry.”
It’s an intuitive tool that creative types sometimes incorporate into their art who’ve somehow deepened their metaphysical conceptualization (illusions) of the world via religious enlightenment, a collision with trauma; or, perhaps, via guided usage of a psychedelic drug such as LSD that was originally administered until 1967, to guide insane patients living in United States mental institutions into seeing a reality different than from the one(s) they were experiencing. Dr. Timothy Leary of Harvard University of Psychiatry led some of these treatments until he himself began using the drug. Leary’s wife told me in 1986, that her husband took laboratory grade LSD religiously every Sunday. Some animist shamans in indigenous tribes on every continent use natural plants such as mushrooms, seeds, sap, and other ingredients to enter an altered state of reality where they believe they are communicating with spirits, gods, or God.
Yugen, the style of mystery and depth, is a process in which an artist and/or writer subconsciously connects to depths and mysteries found in the genre he or she is working in, that unearth things unsaid, that when combined with the said, say more using an economy of words or brush strokes than longer pieces.
Marisova was a young woman who, like Masaoka Shiki, had a short life to live; and like Shiki, she wrote poetry facing death. Shiki developed the Shasei school of poetry influenced by the German-based university system and modern Anglo-Western literature that advocated writing simple poetic sketches about whatever one came across in life, even the mundane, and to abstain from making up experiences or drawing from memories and cultural memories; although Shiki did the opposite, confined to his bed, unable to step outside. Although he developed the use of shasei in haiku, Shiki’s style of haiku changed in many ways, forcing him to admit that he primarily advocated shasei as a tool for beginners to start their haiku walk with. Clothed in her faith in God, Svetlana refused to spend the last remnants of her life lying in a bed, high on drugs. She was active on the Internet, served as webmaster for Simply Haiku, had the poetry website The Art of Haiku with Ted van Zutphen. It’s unimaginable for most of us to ascertain the pain Marisova felt with tumors aggressively expanding in her cranial cavity, and the effects this had on her memory, imagination, faith in God, and sense of pain. This poet refused to be cut off from nature as the poetry she composed during her final days illustrates.
Marisova didn’t see a need for following the leadership of those writing modern haiku in English, Japanese, Russian, or any other languages, as she couldn’t find in modern haiku the beauty, mystery, sensitivity, lyricism, and depth indigenous to haiku written by Matsuo Basho and other masters who sculpted the haiku genre. Much of the current object- (mono, subjective) biased poems composed in this decade were to Svetlana Marisova: dull, non-memorable, lacking depth, formulaic, and had little to no understanding of nature or the aesthetic styles (tools) the Japanese use to say much with less.
pouring blood 3 syllables (short)
over the altar … 5 syllables (long)
winter lamb 3 syllables (short)
“Pouring” is a descriptive verb. “Blood” is the body’s fuel (technically, a bodily fluid, an ever-moving object that cannot be held in by a person in its entirety (7 ounces).
“Over an altar” “Over” is a descriptive adjective combined with “pouring” to illustrate impossibility, in reference to the poet’s life. Svetlana Marisova was using the first two lines combined with line two’s final word, “altar” (an object), allegorically. Marisova was the altar, giving her life back to her God as Jesus did when the time came for him to become once again a part of the Trinity. In Svetlana Marisova’s faith, Jesus had to offer himself as a blood sacrifice on a sacred altar made of stone, in order to guarantee the redemption of humankind who could never be pure enough to save itself. She felt her reprieve from death was to help give to the world a sense of real love and to spread the truth of haiku, as it was meant to be understood centuries ago. The time came for her to give back her life to God. Her job had been accomplished. Read her words to others, read this paper, the book Ted co-wrote with her, visit her blog http://theartofhaiku.com/ and the poetry laid before you.
Line three, “winter lamb”, juxtaposed with line one and two forms an opposite that, when pieced together, creates an entirely different whole. Svetlana Marisova was in many ways “a young lamb” whose “winter of life” was during North America’s summer. Winter is a season, not an object. It is the final season in a region that experiences four distinct seasons. “Winter” poetically, for many poets, symbolizes one’s final year(s) of life. Marisova’s haiku isn’t borrowing from Japan’s conceptualization of death. Though “open-minded”, her major religious beliefs are Western in origin: Roman Catholicism.
Objects (things, mono) aren’t at the core of this activity-biased haiku. The process, the becomingness of things (koto), is the gist of Marisova’s haiku. She literally told us what most would take a novel to write to express, using an economy of words (mono, objects). The poet wanted poets to see the importance of zoka (the creative becomingness of nature) in the composition of haiku; and to leave room for well-informed poets to interpret what she has written according to their own illusions and subjectivity, leaving the haiku’s meaning open-ended and never ending, like Basho’s zoka.
There isn’t a need for me to comment further on other poems written by Svetlana Marisova. Her haiku speak for themselves.
the chalice 2 syllables (s)
of submission … 4 syllables (l)
summer wine 3 syllables (s)
summer dawn … 3 syllables (s)
the ceremony 5 syllables (l)
of blood 2 syllables (s)
is this 2 syllables (s)
the final word? 4 syllables (l)
thunderstorm 3 syllables (s)
making space 3 syllables (s)
for dawn’s first light … 4 syllables ( l )
empty cup 3 syllables (s)
Saša Važić and I were blessed to have known Svetlana Marisova, first as a Facebook friend since November of last year and then when she became Simply Haiku’s webmaster in March of this year. At that time, we thought she was a good webmaster, but had no knowledge of her personality, or her ability to write haiku, let alone her gift to influence other’s perspectives in a positive way. Svetlana Marisova is not a braggart nor does she add a long string of credits behind her writings to impress people. She wrote poetry because it was in her blood to do so. She shied away from the attention she received and never liked to talk about herself. She never spoke at a conference, published a book, or wrote a paper for a publication. Her life is God, poetry, learning, and helping others. I use the verb “is” because for those of us who know her, she will always live.
the angelus bell …
Brain cancer is one of the cruelest forms of cancer on the planet. The brain is the base of one’s cerebral cortex. It is the nerve center. When there are no endorphins emitted from the pituitary gland, there is no natural pain reliever for the body. As evasive tumors expand they add pressure to the cranial cavity. One loses, at first, short term memory, then eventually all forms of memories, lapsing on and off into unconsciousness, and giddy-headedness. It robs one of his or her personality, bodily functions, the ability to speak, relieve oneself, hear, or even comprehend what is being spoken to them. At the same time, the pain is hideous. I have watched this happen to two people in my life. While you are conscious, you can experience, fear, guilt, anger, depression, or even a peace of mind and acceptance unfathomable to the human conception of experience.
“Day Two of my journey. Sorry – another night of insomnia. It shows.”
in winter’s color …
laying eggs …
dropping off the edge …
into the rose
a burrowing worm –
summer chill –
slicing a keyhole
blazing through storm clouds …
on a peach tree …
the rot begins
haiku beyond words …
“What is of greatest importance to me are the times I continue to reserve for ‘centering prayer’. My strength has always flowed from there – it is the still part of the still turning universe, the void from which all things spill over, the state of being empty even of emptiness.
Thank you so much for all your love and support. You clearly know how strong the temptation is to let go but I will only do so unless it becomes clear that is what is being asked of me.
I have received the anointing of the sick, which is basically a preparation for the journey ahead. In the prayer of anointing strength to resist despondency and despair is specifically sought, so I assure you that I have no fear of whatever lies ahead.”
again my dreams
pearl diving …
haiku and tumours
from the depths
in the wind
what might have been …
behind the eyes –
“I have many things that I still have to say and the pressure of time is removing the luxury of reticence and political correctness. The complete healing I am being offered is the complete healing of all separation that plagues our human nature like a forgotten song.
Cancer too is part of the zoka’s dynamic. The extra 18 months of life I was given I trust that I have made the most of to reveal the reality of the light that shines through us all. I am not giving up the fight – I shall continue to live as fully as long as I have life. My thoughts get more and more muddled so it takes much greater effort to frame what I want to say.”
“I posted this quote from Rimbaud on the SOMETHING IS HAPPENING HERE Facebook page earlier. I had also posted this same piece as my Facebook status exactly a year ago today:
‘When woman’s endless servitude is broken, when she lives for and through herself, when man – previously abominable – has granted her freedom, she too will be a poet! Women will discover the unknown! Will her world of ideas differ from ours? – She will discover strange things, unfathomable; repulsive, delicious: we will take them to us, we will understand them.’ – Arthur Rimbaud”
“I do not know that I have anything significant to add. I think that Rimbaud was referring, before Jung, to the anima resident in each man’s subconscious – the eternal feminine, saint and harlot, in the soul of each man. The part that is passionate, intuitive, driven by biological forces – that which partakes of the zoka.
That’s maybe nonsense, of course. The animus – my male soul is perhaps the aggressive drive to bring to the surface what the woman can dive into with relative ease. As I have said before – I am an ancient soul – the animus archetype I envision dwelling in me is the archetype of the wise old man. Perhaps Teiresas or Solomon.
By the way, The Song of Songs of Solomon is a much loved book.”
across the swamp …
a pukeko’s cry
I saw that you were signed in to chat so I could not let the moment pass without acknowledging the fact. I would like to offer whatever assistance I can to get your paper on Japanese aesthetics published.
The West appears to have infected haiku with its self-serving decadence. It is so easy to be beguiled by Haikumark sentiment and a quick shot of aha. There is a need to recognise the distinction between consumerist based haiku (read pre-processed), junku and haiku that become significant poems.”
“I am appalled by the fact that baby boomer females take issue with you on the slightest pretext and so publicly. What is their problem? It hurts me so what must it do to your self-esteem?
I decided that they react that way because you somehow disturb the way they have arranged their embroidered haiku doilies. You are a victim of the war that they perhaps supported or, just as bad, they were among those who despised and rejected the returning Vietnam vets. Somehow your voice reveals their shame to themselves.
There are many of us who have the highest respect for you. Sir, you have coped with PTSD each day for God knows how many years and they turn on you hideously as soon as their feathers get a little ruffled.
A prophet is never loved in his own country and your presence in the world of English-language haiku IS prophetic.
With love and undying support.
The following is an example of Svetlana’s Marisova’s prowess with haibun, a Japanese genre that combines prose with haiku. Again, Marisova is a traditionalist, not out to reinvent the wheel or dance the cha cha with Shiki and other modern Japanese poets influenced by the German-based university system, who’ve either jettisoned haibun altogether or composed what was is being called shaibun, consisting of a small related snippet of prose mixed with a haiku. Traditionally, the prose in a haibun and the haiku should each be able to stand alone. The snippets in shaibun could never stand alone as they say too little. A shaibun’s prose is a verbal sketch that compliments the added haiku. Comparing modern shaibun to Basho’s haibun, for example, is akin to comparing a Chinese Cherry car to a Ford Cadillac: disposable and forgettable. Marisova’s haibun are different than any haibun composed anywhere on the planet; she found a distinct voice infused with Japanese aesthetic style and form that spoke Anglo-Western thought indigenous to her multicultural memory.
The Golden Calf
At a specific moment when light has not yet formed, when birds tune up for the sun rise, between the lightning and the thunder, the questing minds of men and women, too numerous to number with any accuracy, gathered to give voice to the mysteries that haunted every waking and sleeping moment since humankind, with their backs to the darkness, began to name what they could see.
One spoke: ‘From the beginning of recorded time our kind has given words to all things that we see, hear, taste, touch and smell. We have even formed words together to describe things that we can only imagine made from what we have already named and, in time, form new things. Yet still each of us has a lonely sadness that lingers like the morning mists on a sunless day. What we have not done is to face the encircling darkness naked without recourse to what we have named. Maybe it is only that way that we can discover the contentment that eternally eludes each of us.’
Individuals from each of all the known philosophies, mythologies, religions, arts and sciences, both recorded and those long forgotten in time, spoke. Each discipline had its opportunity to present what it had to offer – among them ontologists, cosmologists, mathematicians, physicians, chemists, biologists, philosophers, Moslems, Shamans, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, animists, paleontologists, explorers, soldiers, engineers, painters, sculptors, painters, novelists and poets.
Every speaker was listened to with hushed respect as each presentation gave another surface to the jewel that was forming from the human journey.
Once all that needed to be said was said all viewed the wondrous embodiment. There was no question that the object was of the greatest beauty ever formed by humanity, forming and reforming, creating and destroying, singing and wailing, uplifting and casting down, filled with agony and ecstasy. All admired it without reserve, bursting with joy, overwhelmed that the whole universe suddenly made sense.
This moment soon passed and the ache moved once more through the assembly as slowly each participant began to leave, tossing a glance of desperate sadness at the idol they had crafted. As they left a young girl rushed with eager step offering her baby for each she met to hold for a moment.
suddenly personal …
Her haibun is additional evidence of her prowess as a Master poet. Svetlana Marisova saw haibun as a conversation, a prayer, and didn’t waste her words to describe a short, forgetful moment, which, thanks to Shiki, has become the big rage: Shaseibun: a quick literary or non-literary tidbit composed of a few sentences that say little and includes an object- (mono-subjective) biased haiku-like poem
Svetlana never minced word of empty praise. Everything she said, she meant, and most of what she did, was for others. She suffered unbelievable pain during this time, yet encouraged others, wrote haiku, tanka, haibun, and composed haiga, and never held a pity party.
fertile season …
“A haiku drifts up from the personal as a mist — one person’s life in the created universe being no more than a fading memory as time and seasons move on.
And at the heart of haiku is loneliness – not loneliness as in lonely, but in that sense of separation that lies at the centre of the psyche of everyone who has ever lived – the loneliness that sex tries to overcome – and prayer. It is that urge to complete union with a mystery within ourselves and other than ourselves.
A haiku attempts to speak the language of creation – the language of images and senses, of the created world, of things as they are, with a detached clarity of perception that can make present the mysterious and eternal reality out of which they were formed.
For me a haiku is as an ejaculated prayer of praise, expressed with great clarity and simplicity – a ‘wow’ moment, born out of my experience of creation as a created being.
Following on from this, I suggest that, with such limited space, we harness whatever techniques we can to pack the words with a depth that we can be satisfied with as if they are the only words we craft that will ever be heard or read. The haiku aesthetic sensibility developed by the Japanese master artists – kigo, kireji, wabi, sabi, ma, yugen, rhythm etc. are available to us too if we have the heart for it and they take us far. With skill we can also use more familiar techniques such as literary allusion etc. What is to be shared in the haiku you feel driven to write? How can you best express it?”
“The play’s the thing … ‘Tis better to be brief than tedious’.”
Stated Kaneko Tohta about Kobayashi Issa in his book Poetic Composition on Living Things translated and published by the Kon Nichi Translation Group in 2011 that I paraphrased in the beginning of this paper to introduce Svetlana Marisova:
“There are those who accumulate desires, who seize markets, and even wage wars — I would like to force them to read Issa’s haiku. If they could be understood, this gentleness, this world of sensitivity in which living beings fed as living beings, then perhaps their lust for power might diminish, might be made to decrease. This is my small wish.”
Greed, wealth, backbiting, the desire to gossip at the expense of others, and the need for fame is the antithesis of the haikai Issa composed. He lived a life of poverty, and saw many of his loved ones die. He couldn’t earn a living as a haikai teacher. He had a love affair with nature, even talking to creatures he saw himself as an equal too.
cankered peach leaves …
Marisova was modern-day Issa. The little notoriety she had as a poet can be found on Internet poetry sites and in a few journals and poetry magazines; but like Issa, her poetry will be remembered for eons. Can we say that about our poetry?
December 19, 2009, less than two years before her death, Svetlana Marisova wrote to Marc Fox, an early Facebook friend:
“I will retire now but this has been a most valuable evening for me. You are so right – we can do wonders here if we keep focused and not just go for the easy thrill. One should always draw on the all that has gone before using literary allusions, double entendre, abstruse quotes, and sexual provocation. A literary work running as a constant undercurrent through the strident chorus of the rabble – a Greek tragedy. The tourist repetition and obtuseness becomes interwoven into the fabric. Can we pull it off? I can – and so can you.”
Everything Svetlana Marisova wrote emoted depth and contemplation that never served as “icing on the cake” or “told all.” I’m glad Shiki and other German university system influenced authors didn’t invent the shasei-book or the shasei-movie, although I’d welcome shasei-commercials.
Remembers one of Marisova’s Facebook friends, Robert Johnston, who’d never discussed haiku with her, on December 23, 2011, in Facebook’s Something Is Happening Here page:
“Her death was sudden; the light went out quick. But, here, in this world, I watched candles being lit in her name. Yes, I watched, but I didn’t quite know why. How had she affected so many people so deeply, I wondered. Now, Stella [a woman on the Something Is Happening Here webpage], you have helped me understand. When I went to the link http://www.thehaikufoundation.org/poet-details/?IDclient=897 and read what was written there, I cried for her, for Svetlana for the first time. So young and she wrote this:”
the burden of my shadow
on a mayfly
The following haibun was composed by Svetlana Marisova for Ted van Zutphen:
Slipping away unnoticed from the billowing mists of the ever-restless throng, I enter my secret room. Breathing deeply, my lungs fill to capacity, then slowly exhale, until I can breathe out no more. Repeating this several times, sounds outside the room merge with sounds inside the room, losing distinction and meaning as I become detached even from the sound of my own breathing, and the slow steady beat of my heart.
prayer time –
a breath of wind
Radiance of morning, pukekos high-stepping through incandescent dew, blackbirds rejoicing in it while the urgency of a fantail leads me towards something sweeter than love. The sun, the warmth, the play of light bouncing off the river’s flow, off leaves of grass, and trees in countless variations of green; the sound of insects humming through tall grasses and shrubs, the song and flutter of flitting birds, the sublime vacancy of sky, paddock, bush, and my own heart.
I carry your song
Alone, I venture along through light-dappled forest tracks to God knows what revelation, reciting the litany of sacred names as I pass them – horopito, towai, kamahi, puriri, mapou, horoeka, totara, matai, miro, rimu, kahikatea, karo, tarata, tanekaha.
tree of life –
your branches summon
this fallen child;
knowing in being so known
your mystery enfolds me
P.S. I dedicate this piece to Ted.”
I’ll end this paper with a note Svetlana Marisova’s beloved papa, sent to me in an e-mail on Christmas Day:
“Our baby is the best gift of our lives and we are happy to share the gift she was to so many now and in the years to come. Not a moment passes that we do not miss her – she filled us with nothing but joy and continues to surprise us and bring us delight. Her mama says she would have made such beautiful grandchildren but accepts the poems as the children of her love. Baby girl, you will ever be the apple of our eye.”
closed daisies …
the chain a child
makes of stars
Last year Svetlana set up a blog for her writing.
In response to numerous requests, what she started
others will continue to add to from her notes.