Saturday, January 01, 2011

Hay(na)ku for Haiti

Eileen Tabios sent me a packet of little books called Hay(na)ku for Haiti. She offered them as payment for contributing to Galatea Resurrects. I already feel more than recompensed by the review copies (which you can get yourself, if you are willing to provide engagement. Check out the website.). But I’ll take them.

Hay(na)ku for Haiti is, if you bothered not to follow the wonderful link that I provided at no little effort, a charitable project: proceeds go to Haitian relief efforts. So you have that reason to pay attention. Literary interest also exists. Upon that shall I write a few words.

Sheets of pink 8x11 paper form the books (I have 16 of them). Folded, the sheet becomes a book with 6 internal pages, roughly 3 1/2x2. Book art! This is a diy project. Such are always to be supported. You can do it, too! If you have access to Microsoft Publisher, you can print a text in the appropriate format so that it all works out in nice book form. If you haven’t such access, wing it. Don’t wait for the gatekeeper’s approval.

Anyway, if you would please just follow the link above (don’t be a dick!), you will see the list of authors. Some I have met before, some are new to me. They took a challenge.

Each writer fit their effort into three constraints.

  1. The hay(na)ku format. You probably already know, but if not, this format simply consists of 3-line stanzas. First line, one word; second line, 2 words; third line, 3 words. Oh look, I used the semi colon!
  2. Page count. The first page provides a note about the project, so five pages remain for the text. Four stanzas fit a page, so 20 stanzas at most marks the limit for text.
  3. Relevance to the situation in Haiti. The project compels one to relate the work to that human crisis, because it would be tacky not to.

That last point presents the real fandango. The mastering idea, I think, consists in engaging that human situation in Haiti. Engagement is the province of poetry. Anyone and everyone understands that the destruction from the earthquake is bad, and that something must be done. We don’t need poetry to say that: we have prose in orderly logic to commit that testament. No, the poetry to be written in this earnest position is much more personal than that. It is also more far-reaching.

In these books, we have numerous approaches to the very problem, the one problem. How do we find language for the things we see, hear, feel, touch, and smell? Poets twirl around the problem continually. Just randomly picking one book: Nicole Mauro personifies the quake (Mrs Quake). Eileen finds a poetics. I will quote in full. Nota bene: Imagine one stanza per pink page. Also imagine that stupidhead Live Writer didn’t put extra space between lines.

On a Pyre: An Ars Poetica


eating my

body hotter than



for the

poetry in burning



ravage more

than a drought-stricken



revenge for

the creation of



so flimsy

against non-metaphysical needs--


I love the dash at the end, which I choose to believe nods towards my friend Emily Dickinson. Such is one approach. Tom Beckett’s pared repetition is another. And so on, the spectrum of 16 (so far) little books. Many things to think of here. You can buy the books individually, but I think you want to maintain the sense of that spectrum. Plus the tactile handful: reminds me of Grenier’s Sentences.


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