Mark E. Brager
By Robert D. Wilson
Simply Haiku is well-known for being particular and highly selective when it comes to featuring haiku, and justifiably so. Never has the international (Japan included) world been so muddied with mediocrity then now. No one can agree on a definition. Judging by the winners of haiku competitions and haiku published in journals, blogs, e-zines, and haiku foundation and society pages, haiku has become a moniker signifying anything put into a one to four line format. There are even celebrated (sic) one-word haiku, a slap in the face to Bashō, Buson, Issa, Chiyo-ni, and Doho who sculpted hokku into a respected and recognized literary genre.
Saying this, I don't take lightly, designating a poet as Simply Haiku's FEATURED POET for a given issue. Simply Haiku isn't a literary weed-patch. We don't publish everything and anything to gain a following, refusing to do as most do, riding the fence. We see Hokku as a literary genre, aware that haiku is a Western invent. True hokku has definitive form, styles, rules, and direction. It is what Basho introduced to Imperial Japan and the world; a poetic genre far removed from what is currently heralded as haiku by an international movement lacking serious academic credence.
I introduce to you Mark E. Brager, an American who's been composing hokku, haiku, and senryu for over 20 years; a humble man who doesn't think he has arrived, doesn't hunger for political positioning, and values study, practice, and hard work.
star to star . . .
a spider unweaves
"I like the challenge and disciple writing hokku represents to me. While I love reading and writing haiku and senryu as well, reading and writing hokku takes me to a special place beyond the moment. And I think a lot of that has to do with the prescribed form, the need to allow room for ma, the subject matter, and the importance of looking beneath/around/above the immediate experience to see that connecting thread. And of course expressing it with precision and clarity. It is challenging and often frustrating but also I find very rewarding."
fallen blossoms . . .
the twilight gathering
crosses the moon . . .
Mark Brager values zôka, nature's creative spirit, which Matsuo Bashō declared as essential to the composition of hokku, an ingredient misunderstood by even the Japanese who define zôka today, due to their adoption of the German-based university system, as objects of nature (mono) versus the creative becomingness (koto) the Japanese saw as the embodiment of zôka prior to the westernization of the Japanese language during the Meiji Era.
"Zoka for me is the rare moment of clarity when we experience (or at least think we experience) the invisible thread that connects everything: matter/spirit, emotion/reason, internal/external, etc. When we can express or at least hint at zoka, I think it can take us beyond the everyday surface world most of us live in and help us remember that we are part of something bigger, something eternal and growing and ever-changing. And that's pretty damn cool!"
last leaf . . .
a deeper layer
again, the sky
turning to whispers . . .
low tide . . .
the moon's passing
etched in salt
Mark Brager's hokku speaks for itself; a voice to read, peruse, and consider.