Home 2003-2012 Summer 2012 Features A Haibun Exegesis
An exegesis of a haibun written by the late Svetlana Marisova PDF Print E-mail

by Robert D. Wilson

In the spirit of Chiyo-ni and Matsuo Bashō, Marisova journals for her readers a glimpse into her complicated mindset, one facing bodily mortality and the stained glass smile of eternity at the same moment. She is dying from cancer, her life on earth a speck of sand glistening in the cross reach of starlight and moonsong.

Albeit an unusual title for a haibun, and decidedly 21st century, Marisova's haibun is an extraneous conversation with the man she was spiritually close to before her untimely death. It's reminiscent of the style Jack Kerouac used on the road. There's no beginning and no end; her missive a pondering, an exploration of her then and now, walking between heaven and earth on a rope bridge made of reflections.

Marisova starts out asking Ted to tell readers "the deepest secret nobody knows". She reminds him that haiku to her is more than a mere verse form or avocation. It is a roadmap to her psyche. She waxes metaphysical in the tradition of Saint Augustine and Albert Camus, compartmentalizing a high and low that cannot be comprehended from just one reading. Marisova, though 21 years old at the time of her death, was a much older person mentally and spiritually. She was raised privately, home schooled in Russia and New Zealand, the child of Russian dissidents. A devout Roman Catholic who was once a novice nun, her companions growing up were her home school teacher, members of the Russian intellegentsia, and English and Russian language literature.

Svetlana Marisova sees her life as a haiku, her body it's "kigo," her breath, the poet, a spiritual concatenate in a catechism with the continuum that is zôka. She hints at, makes use of ma and yugen, exploring life in a way that brings to surface a surplus of words.Her haibun is philosophical, scatological, and deeply intimate, what she calls "the last instalment of my autobiographical haibun journey that I began a year ago." Marisova's haibun is a journal, a haiku lesson, and a love letter to the man she called her spiritual soul-mate.

There are critics who'll call her writings sentimental, even trivial, because they barely understand the metaphysics of zôka, mistake senryu for haiku, and harbor a musk-melon mindset more akin to Hallmark card versification than to the mystery and beauty emanating from activity-biased haiku.


Pillow Talk With Ted
by Svetlana Marisova

Yet tell them, my darling, the deepest secret nobody knows. Robert says that I breathe haiku but I would go further and say that haiku has something of my deepest and most secret nature. It is the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of a tree called life.

Yes e e cummings wonderfully pre-empts the words that are beating in my heart. How can I frame the words that breathe life into the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart? My question is rhetorical for my life too is fast becoming one great act of giving birth.

My body I see has become the kigo on which stage the drama unfolds. The rivulets of pain scouring my brow and the increasing transparency of my skin signal and cue the script I must breathe.

fading stars …
dawn reveals its source

The animating power of haiku becomes apparent in kire or, as I treasure it, kire-tsuzuki (cut-continuity). To be able to enter into the depths of mystery one must cut the flower, severing it from its roots and initiating its death, so that its deepest and most secret nature can be discerned. Rootless.

As I have said to you before, the heartbeat of the prayer of the heart is one's breath. Awareness grows that the pause, the gap, the cut between exhalation and inhalation has a different quality from that between inhalation and exhalation. The one exhalation that is not followed by an inhalation is the final cut or, as Marc says, end scene.

deep within
I dissolve; I dissolve
into God

This leads me to contemplate the ineffable and, as you know, this is where the notion of yūgen comes into its own. Yūgen does not lead to a world beyond this one but depths the otherness of this world by awakening the imagination to fill in what our words cannot reveal. 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. I aspire to the art of the flowering of peerless charm, surpassing words and reaching beyond any level of art that I may consciously attain.

teach me, candle,
the art of becoming -
as fire

My dear one, I intend this testament to be the last instalment of my autobiographical haibun journey that I began a year ago - a year in which you have proven to be my soul mate and in which I have been able to passionately embrace my place in this world even as I prepare to leave it. As I open my mortality to love I am becoming the love with which I am loved.

ahh rainbow!
the light passing
through me