Vol. 8, No. 14, Summer 2011
Dubravko Marijanović, Croatia
Tomislav Maretić, Leptir nad pučinom (Butterfly over the Open Sea) – haiku, Hrvatsko katoličko liječničko društvo, Biblioteka signa cordis, Zagreb, 2011. Bilingual collection, softbound with flips, 15x21 cm, pp. 144. Translated into English by Margaret Casman-Vuko and Tomislav Maretić.
Haiku and footnotes as a view of everyday life
This poetry collection opens with a verse by Croatia’s most prominent poet, Tin Ujević, and ends with a simple, brief, clear, but exhaustive afterword by the most deserving promoter of Japanese culture and poetry in our regions -- Vladimir Devidé.
The collection contains 516 haiku and one nijuin, which is not a great number for around 30 years of haiku writing. It is divided into eight groups of haiku. The first four refer to seasons (spring: 129, summer: 138, autumn: 127, and winter: 79). There are 38 haiku about Christmas and New Year in the fifth group, 20 haiku about dogs in the sixth, 23 war haiku in the seventh, while the eighth is a small renga of 20 verses.
The number and variety of things and occurrences as topics or support of Maretić's haiku are unavoidable in haiku collections by Croatian authors. Using them in his haiku, Maretić shows a whole spectrum of everyday life in country, town, plain, mountain, river and sea.
Kigo, a season word, is present in the vast majority of the haiku. We find it in the names of numerous plants and animals appearing in reality during certain seasons; in the names of holidays and feasts; less frequently in direct naming of the seasons or months. We also recognize it in the words indicating the growth of plants or physical state of water.
Maretić is a musician (he plays the guitar, piano, saxophone and drums). His ear is perfectly tuned to hear much that is inaudible to others, and he transfers all that into haiku so that a reader can hear the inaudible.
hazy moon –/ a nightingale in the canyon/ competes with its echo
an island through the haze, / quivering with/ the clamour of cicadas
heavy summer dusk –/ the tree frogs’ song drowns out/ the children’s voices
thundering cascade, / if you listen carefully –/ the nightingale’s song!
the dipper/ singing in the autumn wind/ has no regrets
dry leaves –/ the sound of sleet/ when I halt
He takes us to blues halls, opera, jazz concerts, ballet, disco, football matches, amusement parks, museums, restaurants, picigin1.
The peculiarities of this collection is a number of haiku from a variety of groups dedicated to family, especially those dedicated to woman as a mother and woman as a lover.
a little masquer/ frightened by a big one –/ death consoles her
a new stage of life –/ the teenager gives his marbles/ to his little brother
frogs at twilight –/ biking with my daughter/ to hear them
Easter eggs –/ smiling children/ with colored faces
packed for the seaside –/ the little girl smuggles a doll/ behind her car seat
open windows –/ under the sheets, we listen/ to the summer rain
winter morning/ our baby tapping/ from her belly
The poet helps us to understand and experience some of the haiku with the help of a number of footnotes (22), mainly referring to botany, zoology, ornithology, entomology, astronomy. They are certainly useful and effective – but isn't it straying from reality, suchness and the present an individual haiku is bound to offer without searching for and studying explanations given in footnotes? Does Zen agree with erudition? Of course it does if we know that reason is the sixth sense, if we are patient and diligent, full of understanding and if we like to read the author’s remarks (luckily, there are no editor's and translators' remarks).
The master also broadens the dictionary of the Croatian language using pristine, little known and newly created words – which I surely salute as each of them is again or for the first time a rare crystal discovered in a hitherto inapproachable cave. These are truly gemstones or semiprecious stones which are to be collected, processed, shown, rejoiced, loved. However, the question remains: Does Zen agree with etymology? I do not know. Haiku is a flowing river with a lot of obstacles, full of rapids, but also of still water.
On the second reading of Maretic's poetry, there are no more delays, all the haiku are clear, understandable and it can be felt and recognized if a reader has the necessary experience stored in his memory.
In some other places the words from the dialect and slangs are used, as well as some foreign words that have long been ingrained in everyday speech – and all this is in the haiku spirit.
Senryu, human-biased haiku-esque three-lined poetry with humor, irony, questioning, the destruction of rules and values, ridiculing human vices and virtues – is rarely more than a joke, at least of what is known to me from our haiku poetry. Here are a few by Maretić:
company’s coming –/ should the petals be swept/ off the paths?
among the sunflowers,/ only the scarecrow doesn’t/ follow the sun
sleeping young mother –/ the infant struggles alone/ with her breast
a colorful square,/ the new lover entering/ at Number 5
candlelit dinner,/ the frog-eater belches –/ one last croak
now in French…/ the stewardess reprises/ her charming role
a seagull drops/ the hot mackerel stolen/ from our grill
Is haiku a three-line poem? Of course it is! However, it was originally written in one line, one experience, one breath – separated into three sections by cutting words in the Japanese mimetic Chinese calligraphic script. And here it is before us in three lines, usually written in the Latin alphabet, one under another (horizontally). This is also common in those parts of the world where phonetic scripts are used. And so it is with Maretić. Yet one can often find some verses separated in terms of their sense, distracted, defragmenter. I'll ask the poet for explanation (see the examples below; there are some ten of them).
kiše sunce na pruzi
Butterfly over the Open Sea, the verses do not coincide with the meaning.
(after a spring rain,
the sun following my steps
on the shining rails)
nakon proljetne kiše
sunce na pruzi
The verses coincide with the meaning, but there are 7-5-5 syllables.
(after a spring rain,
the sun on the /shining/ rails
following my steps)
sunce na pruzi
nakon proljetne kiše
The verses coincide with the meaning, and there 5-7-5 syllables.
(the sun on the /shining/ rails,
after a spring rain,
following my steps)
Is this a two-line haiku? Many have been composed this way. Some of the haiku have been written in three lines, in three verses which are not verses. Perhaps I don’t understand a caesura? Maybe the third line is missing? Here are some examples:
dok sviram bebop
na gitari... odnekud
Butterfly over the Open Sea, the verses do not coincide with the meaning, 5-7-5.
to my guitar riff)
dok sviram bebop na gitari
odnekud pjeva grmuša
Two-line poem, the verses coincide with the meaning, 9-8.
Here is another example which should have been written as a two-line poem. There are dozens examples of two-line/three line poems. I think such examples, published by an experienced author in an aged and ripe collection, indicate the complexity and requirements of the very haiku form. This haiku can be also read as a senryu. The author reveals himself as a liar – not only that he does not think about the result, he even writes about it.
igrajući s njom
minigolf, ne pomišljam na rezultat
Butterfly over the Open Sea, the verses do not coincide with the meaning, 6-7-4.
with her, I don’t think about the score)
igrajući s njom minigolf,
ne pomišljam na rezultat
A two line poem, the verses do not coincide with the meaning, 9-8.
(playing minigolf with her,
I don’t think about the score)
How to convey reality and suchness on paper and in three lines which are not verses, in 5-7-5 syllables which are not syllables? Maretić does it in a simple way. He uses his literature-based knowledge, his and other people's experiences in writing poetry and haiku poetry. He does not strive for artificial, hasty, feigned effects of any kind, but uses his rich vocabulary and displays, transfers, recreates his own direct experiences of nature, the world and life.
Nothing special is present in almost all of his haiku; yet this principle is confronted with the keen observation through our six senses – tiny, fine, imperceptible, hidden details of the world, as well as with the collecting of numerous data about nature from botanical, zoological, astronomical and other books and handbooks. Finally, the knowledge about poetry, haiku, Zen–gained through extensive reading and creating—is at times more harmful than useful. Sometimes Maretić, as the author of this collection, is a poet and a scholar. Most often he is merely a man who directly, honestly, simply and successfully shares his experiences, observations, feelings, and insights in the form of haiku.
“Maretić's three-line verses will certainly remain part of the permanent legacy of Croatian haiku and poetry in general. In addition to haiku, Maretić also writes waka and free verse“, says Vladimir Devidé at the end of his afterword. Agreeing with him, I'd like to add that with this collection Leptir nad pučinom/Butterfly over the Open Sea, which is, bear in mind, bilingual, and with his long-time presence in many international haiku journals and magazines, as well as his connections with well-known foreign authors of this form, will leave a deep trace in the world's haiku poetry.
Here are my choices (limited by the space) from this collection I recommend to all those who write or would like to write haiku: first study our national poetry, then national poetry of neighboring nations, then domestic and foreign contemporary poetry–and afterwards write ganga2, rera3 and bećarac4, as well as free verse.
a glow worm/ dropping onto the grass/ from the Milky Way
floating clouds –/ cherry blossoms flutter/ in the same direction
a plane tree –/ every leaf falling/ in its own way
cloudy sky –/ every sunflower glancing/ in another direction
the bay at night –/ sounds of dishwashing/ from a yacht
as midnight approaches,/ bells toll for some pašticada/ before Ash Wednesday
kaleidoscope:/ at the end of the tunnel, the sun/ in motley leaves
a pile of pumpkins/ in a village courtyard/ bathed in drizzle
the forgotten/ decoy-duck floating/ on a rainy lake
2 A type of singing from rural Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is characterized by a lone singer singing one line of lyrics and then others joining in for what can be best described as a wail.
4 A humorous form of folk song, originally from rural Slavonia, and eventually spreading across Croatia and into southern Hungary and Vojvodina.
Translated by Saša Važić
Proofread by Robert D. Wilson