Vol. 8, No. 15, Winter 2011
Vol. 8, No. 14, Summer 2011
Otisci snova/Imprints of Dreams, Damir Janjalija, Udruzenje gradjana Trablmejker, Belgrade, 2012, pp. 59, 19 cm, ISBN 978-86-87683-02-0, translations into English: Saša Važić, translations into Japanese: Ikuyo Yoshimura.
A few words about Damir’s "Imprints of Dreams"
Ten days ago, I received by e-mail a haiku manuscript from a Pacific ship. It’s about 24 poems, ”Imprints of Dreams”, by a sailor, poet from Kotor, Damir Damir. It’s his first haiku collection and, as far as I know, he also employs a hybrid haibun form. Obviously, prepared for a long time, the manuscript reveals a dedicated and gifted poet. Damir’s haiku are of classical form, simple but eloquent. They include a wide spectrum of topics.
I especially like the following confessional poem:
fleeing the war
through a hole in my shoe
This one is the most powerful poem of the collection because it contains a deep emotion: fear. The expression is very elegant since fear speaks up through a hole in the shoe.
Today’s haiku, both in the East and the West, very rarely contain deep emotions and are oftentimes empty and corny images. Many write without a real need to write; a great number of poets have nothing to tell. Such is not the case with Damir.
five, seven, five
I count on my fingers . . .
This autumnal poem is a small essay about art: placing the haiku form in a lonesome and melancholic atmosphere of late autumn, the poet shows us what art actually serves for, in this case, the art of haiku: to help us bear down life circumstances, not to let melancholy and loneliness control our spirit. Damir is good at that.
between mud and cloud
This poem, too, is, with its metaphoric meaning, an essay, this time about life. A reference to Basho’s poetry is noticeable as well as to a Buddhist metaphor about life – Buddhists see human life as wondering dreams. The "kigo", a word alluding to a season, "solstice", is skillfully used. The Japanese describe "kigo" as a "word as an intention". The intention of "kigo" is to outline the background of a poem (the atmosphere of a season and its emotion) and thus, from the background, be in function of its content, that is, to indirectly affect the meaning of a poem. It is believed that "kigo must be born in the heart", that is, to be a fruit of inspiration, but its usage indicates mastery of haiku composition. Surely, the author could have used some other "kigo" to depict the winter atmosphere (cold wind, winter sun, Snowman . . .). The choice (or rather, "intention") of "kigo" is in a great measure the skill of haiku composition. However, "solstice", with its suggestion of brevity, not only brought „cold winter feelings“ into the poem, but also connected it with its topic and actually "showed its true intention", which is to say: "life is short . . ." but also like a dream while it wonders between muddy reality and our wishes taken up to the clouds.
the cry of a gull
echoes through the open sea --
the last day of summer
Another skilful use of „kigo“. In this haiku, one encounters an infinite space, a metaphysic image of infinity with a cyclical time, which suggests temporality and transience. It's interesting that the cry of a gull, a vivid and transient creature, travels through infinity while time limits the image to a real present moment . . .
All the 24 haiku poems in the collection "Imprints of Dreams" express a valuable poetic experience. I’d also like to mention one of the haiku critically related to reality, because haiku is not only metaphysical poetry: with a haiku, one can indeed reach into the dialectic of everyday life:
from a row of plane trees
only the dust remains
It's obvious how much attention Damir pays to the choice of "kigo" – it is, like in Japan, an expression of mastery. In the above poem "kigo" is "Bad Wednesday" found in the folk almanac and corresponding well with the topic. This haiku speaks about the pestilence of plane trees in Belgrade’s former Boulevard of the Revolution. The cutting of trees, paving and concrete were conducted by the new democratic government in spite of the protest of many citizens of Belgrade.
Let me finish this limited review with a striking psychological image:
in a prison cell,
ten murderers, the day stillness
disturbed by a fly
The dramatic action of this image is performed by a fly, which is a summer "kigo". This is done functionally, simply and powerfully. The motion of a tiny insect in the company of dangerous guys creates a real film drama.
With his first haiku collection, Damir introduces himself as a mature and skillful poet who has much to say. Although he travels the distant seas, he begins to live as a local haiku poet. I'd like to welcome him and wish him a fruitful future work.
September 10, 2011