Alibi V.13 No.3 • Jan 15-21, 2004 

alt.press

Bear Creek Haiku

P.O. Box 3787, Boulder, CO, 80307

Transcendental bees

weave their heartstrings

through the purple country

of lilac trees.

Bear Creek illustrator and assistant editor, Laurel Starkey

canister dogma

a queer blue plume

rising from the president's voice box

—Ed Markowski

In my day, back in the 15th century, we didn't compose three puny lines of verse consisting of five, seven and five syllables, then be all happy with ourselves and call that a poem! Several of us worked cooperatively, one contributing a three-line, 17-syllable stanza, then another adding two lines of seven syllables each, 17 syllables, then 14, on and on, back and forth, until we'd come up with a hundred of the damned things! This was called a renga, and had to be presented following a strict aesthetic code.

And ... we ... liked it!

By the 16th century, we said, "Oh, no, I think sitting around composing one hundred verse poems for the past hundred years has driven us all plum crazy! What're we gonna do now?!"

Well, we did the only thing we could do, which was to make fun of the damned renga with satirical haikai-renga!

And ... we ... liked it!

The only trouble was that haikai-renga were the same thing as renga in that they were a hundred mind-numbing stanzas long! Even as a joke that was just too damned long!

So the first verse of a haikai, called a hokku, was sometimes presented as a short poem all by itself. And that's where you get off so easy with those nice little haiku today!

OK! There's no way I can do this entire review as the Grumpy Old Man from "Saturday Night Live." Sorry. I tried!

This sky-blue zine is seven inches long, just shy of three inches wide and hand-stapled. Sprinkled throughout are images created by Laurel Starkey with ink and paint brush. Like haiku, and this enigmatic zine itself, these illustrations are elegant in their simplicity. The technique is clearly similar to the art of rendering bamboo leaves in the same medium, but is used here to illustrate a smiling mouth and eyes; a rising mountainside atop which rests the silhouette of a jagged pine; a pair of soaring birds described in two squiggly lines.

Originating from Boulder, Colo., Bear Creek Haiku, put out by Ayaz Daryl Neilson, is mysterious. They have no website, and there's no price. I have been e-mailing Laurel Starkey, the assistant editor, in Michigan, and even she doesn't know for sure, but thinks it's distributed directly to the contributors. I've donated my six issues to the Indymedia library. If you'd like to read them, drop by the Peace and Justice Center on the corner of Harvard and Yale.

Chances are you'll like it!