26 April 2017

Book Review: Kamesan's Haiku Anthology on War

Book Review: "Kamesan's World Haiku Anthology on War, Violence and Human Rights violation" compiled by Dimitar Anakiev
haiku about war?
collected bits of shrapnel—
wish I'd thought of that
One of the reasons I like using haiku to share military perspectives and experiences is that it's such a recognizable and friendly form of communication. It's an easy recipe, for those who wish to follow it: Five syllables plus seven syllables plus another five. Put a little nature in there, a quick shift in focus or action, and stir. Season to taste.

My kids first learned to read and write haiku in second grade, which is about the same age as I did. Haiku is basic, and complex, and as addictive as eating potato chips. Even people who say they don't like poetry will stop to read a short poem, particularly if you pepper it with a little snark.

That's why many of the poems in my 2015 collection "Welcome to FOB Haiku"—indeed, as the title of the book itself suggests—are haiku.

There's little new under the poetry sun, of course, and I was hardly the first to marry modern warfare and short-format poetry. Still, imagine my delight in discovering a published collection of approximately 900 haiku poems by 435 poets collected and translated from 35 global languages, all on the subject of war.

Originally underwritten by a 2012 crowd-funding campaign, and compiled by Slovenian poet and filmmaker Dimitar Anakiev (a.k.a. "Kamesan"), the 396-page ""World Haiku Anthology on War, Violence and Human Rights violation" includes a few 15th century examples from haiku masters, as well as poems dating from World War I. Most of the poems are later 20th century and 21st century works, however, and are rooted in many different geographies of conflict and suffering, including Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan, Korea, even Columbine, Colo. These poems are shards of regret, sadness, and loss, but the overall mood seems reflective and contemplative, without being funerary.

Adding some visual wit, the book is punctuated and illuminated by occasional drawings by Kuniharu Shimizu. Shimizu also designed the book's cover.

Here's a quick sampling of some of my favorite poems in the collection. I have taken the liberty of including the place number of each, so that interested readers might locate the poems in the book itself.
After the war
a man with one leg
is he a hero?

—Karunush Kumar Agrawal, India


some new weaponry
now eco-friendly
kills with green bullets

—Winona Baker, Canada


wolf moon
another battalion
ships out

—Francine Banwarth, United States


having picnic by
the old command headquarters—
forgotten battles

—Rick Black, United States


only pale moonlight
Baghdad is powerless
on a winter night

—Anne Connolly, Ireland


war crimes
he puts a gun to his head
and kills them all

—Garry Eaton, Canada
A far more expert and informed analysis of some of the haiku in this collection can be found at Chen-ou Liu's NeverEnding Story blog here. Indeed, it is Chen-ou Liu's analysis that first called to my attention the existence of this monumental collection. This is a must-read for any haiku enthusiast or practitioner—particularly those who may have once worn a uniform.

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