The Book of Moments PDF Print E-mail

Knjiga trenutaka/ The Book of Moments
by Željko Funda
Tivatiskara Press, Croatia © 2012

A book review by Robert D. Wilson


The haiku penned by Željko Funda were composed in his native language, then translated into the English language. Translation is a delicate job. The translation is an interpretation of the original. The meter of the original cannot be utilized in the translation, as each language has specific sounds and syllables indigenous to the language. Funda is to be commended for his ability to translate his own haiku from his mother tongue to the English language, the two languages coming from different language groups with little similarity.

Funda's haiku seem simple at first, deceptively so; reading as shasei word sketches and "tell all" short poems. It is imperative for readers to read each poem a second or third time, without preconception or forethought, visualizing the duality he often shares between the seen and the unseen, the said and the unsaid. Funda's poetry offers proof that haiku today can be relevant without resorting to gimmicks, patterns, word paintings, unimaginative shasei sketches, and make believe surreal brush strokes bordering on madness and/or cultural caricature. The bulk of the poems included in Knjiga trenutaka / The Book of Moments are literature to be taken seriously by the mainstream literary world, something most haiku composed today fail to achieve.

A sampling:

Nothing in nature is still nor permanent. All is in an ever-moving tidal flow of change: decomposing, metamorphosing, redesigning, most of its movement unrecognizable, nor fully understood cognitively by humankind who, as evolving creatures in nature themselves, re-direct and adapt their thinking and theories as their knowledge and intellectual banks grow.

winter in March
sticking out from the snow

March is a month that's part winter and part spring: the beginning and the end, the alpha and the omega. In Funda's poem, it has snowed. He refers to this part of March as winter, yet a daffodil, the product of spring, has pushed itself up from the snowy ground, reaching for the sun (implied). Seasons know no boundaries, their coming and going not concisely predictable. Koto (becomingness) versus mono (the formed object) is the nature depicted by zoka, nature's creative force, the force Matsuo Basho said should be centric to any hokku.

in the doe skeleton
a primrose

Death and life are contrasted in this poem: a doe's skeleton and a primrose plant. The haiku's focus is not the skeleton nor the primrose but the contrast the two together form. In death, is life. Life eventually succumbs to death. What is, isn't; what isn't, is. All of nature is variable, children of chaos, what the German university-based mindset finds hard to explain, when concrete is not solid, nor patterned, when the metaphysical walks across water dressed as a shadow.

a mouse is sleeping
in the mousetrap

At dawn, the poet sees what looks like a mouse sleeping in a mousetrap. He knows, of course, that it is dead. Why does he use the definitive, IS, in this poem, before sleeping? What is death? What is sleep? Does a mouse have a soul? Is it truly dead or in a period of transition? The beauty of painting a painting with oil is that the canvas is slow to dry allowing for change, if desired. Nature's creative is continually refining, defining, adding newness, the unexpected, in a continuum of expression. Željko Funda doesn't tell all. He utilizes aesthetic styles (tools): yugen (depth and mystery), aware (pathos), and ushin (depth of feeling) to say with a few words what it takes a page or a paragraph to say, allowing readers to fulfill their roles as subjective interpreters.

Look at a few more of Funda's haiku. Read them quickly at first, then re-read them slowly, gestating, ruminating, picturing in your mind what he's saying; allowing fences of preconception to fall, sensing what's said and felt, and what isn't said and felt, the two, dancing together on a ballroom floor of implication.

a pitch dark night
from somewhere nearby
the murmur of the sea

A human being cannot see well, or very far on a pitch-dark, moonless night. A person must see with his other senses, beyond the seen into a porridge thickened with dreams, emotions (good and bad), and subconscious ifs, ands, and ors; nothing as it appears to be. The poet hears the sea nearby, though he is unsure of where, murmuring, stirring, restless, and creating. The focus of this poem is not the pitch-dark sky or a nearby sea. Its focus is the juxtaposition and what is emitted from said juxtaposition.

a sand coast
the sea is drawing and deleting
again and again

Part of zoka's handiwork, the nearby sea is not still, or lost in a non-visual morass.  It is continually creating, revising, reinventing itself, even if doing so means erasing what was to make room for what is.

a duet ---
funeral music
and a rooster

This poem, for me, calls to mind the rooster crowing thrice during the crucifixion of Jesus Christ: life and death, the two intertwined, what is and what will be, to be fathomed, sculpted, and felt.

Not every poem in Knjiga trenutaka/ The Book of Moments is a gem. No book of poetry is perfect. Funda's poetry, however, was a joy to read, a learning experience, and a widener of horizons.

a still river
from the bridge shadow
fish jumping out