Return          Red Moon Press
A speech given at the Global Haiku Festival
presented by the Haiku Society of America
at Millikan University (Decatur, Illinois),
April 15, 2000.

Concerning Balkan Haiku

Jim Kacian

    Ladies and gentlemen,
    Good afternoon.

    It's a pleasure to be here once again in the midwest, the cradle, certainly, of American haiku conferences. It is especially pleasing to be here in what is becoming the year of international haiku, at a festival organized expressly around this theme. Later this year some or all of us will also attend the World Haiku Festival 2000 in London, and then the inaugural meeting of the World Haiku Association in Tolmin, Slovenia. Never has there been such interest in haiku around the world, and not just in the writing of it, but also in seeking out others who write it in their many other cultures and languages, and sharing it, across borders which various powers which have nothing to do with poetry have, somewhat arbitrarily, placed in our way. It is impressive to me that poetry may succeed in moving past these impediments in a way that other means have failed, and I am all the more proud that haiku is showing itself to be a leader in showing this way.

    It is a wonderful plan to celebrate the haiku of the many nations and cultures which now write it by recounting their histories in the form. For most, these histories are modestly short, since haiku has come only latterly to those of us in the West. Nevertheless, telling the stories of how we have come to haiku, both individually and as cultures, is a means of honoring the form, and ourselves, too.

    I have the particular honor of recounting to you some of the history of how haiku came to the region of eastern Europe we call the Balkans, an area which is particularly active in haiku at present. The Balkans hold legitimate claim to holding the longest tradition of haiku culture outside Asia, as we shall see. But before I come to that I'd like to make some general comments about haiku, and especially about its transmission. It is a commonly held notion, and a demonstrably true one, that poetry is notoriously difficult to transmit from one culture to another. Even prose, which is designed to be informative and relatively straightforward, can be treacherous – as any of our several diplomat or translator attendees will readily attest. And the realm in which poetry lives is the space between the information which prose is able to convey; that is, it is something impalpable, something which only through associative and heightening effects can we suggest. This meaningfulness, this interstitial material, falls away from words as the mortar fell from the bricks of the tower of Babel. I'm sure you remember the story of the tower of Babel. This is a most useful parable for those of us who are interested in finding a common ground for all of us to meet and share our realities. The myth, you may recall, suggests that god punished men for their audacity in approaching heaven with a structure of their own making. Franz Kafka, in considering this myth, once wrote that if it would have been possible to have erected the tower without actually ascending it, the building would have been permitted. As a punishment for their audacity, God caused all men to speak in different tongues, so that they were not able to understand one another, and so could not complete the process of building. And so labor unions were born – but that, as they say, is another story.

    So here we are, without a tower and also without an easy means of speaking with one another. There are three schools of thought about this quandary. One school believes that everything is translatable – it is only a matter of finding the roots and words common to all. This is a belief in the power of language itself. It was James Joyce's belief when working on his final work, the uncompleted novel "Finnegan's Wake." It must be said that his real belief was not in any actual tongue, but in a sythetic language which he himself created for this work. In this syncretic fashion he hoped to unify all tongues, and all people.

    Then there are those who believe it is simply impossible. I would call this the Louis Armstrong school of translation, for it was armstrong who once said, when someone asked him to define jazz, "if I gotta tell ya, ya ain't never gonna know." Language, in this way of reckoning, is a closed book, and the only way I can tell you about my culture is through words which mean what my culture says it means. And if you don't already know that, then you are doomed forever to remain outside of it.

    And then there is the world of translation, the real world where these nice philosophical positions are great to discuss at seminars like this, but where the practical matters of agreeing to, for example, a common boundary, or rights of usage of a common water source, must be met. These are issues which raise the heat of intense interest everywhere – we can hardly agree what ought to be done with our own Colorado River, even though everyone in the discussion there is speaking English. Imagine the difficulties of trying to resolve the matter in a language where you might get the prose right, but where the sense of the words beyond their most straightforward meanings have nuances which we can only begin to guess at. This is the everyday world of diplomacy and translation, and, closer to our own concerns, international poetry.

    I have had reason to give this matter a lot of thought recently since my press has just begun a series of books given over to international haiku, called the "doZen tongues" series. Each year we have a theme – in this, our inaugural year, our theme was children in haiku around the world. After assembling a group of translators who worked in all the most commonly used languages of haiku today, and who are themselves writers of haiku, we selected poems in each of the original languages of the project: Chinese, Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Spanish and Swedish. We then had each original poem translated into every other language in the project, plus Esperanto, which we might consider the closest equivalent to what James Joyce was pointing to. The result is a book of nearly 150 poems, comprised of 13 versions of each poem. In addition, each year we will choose a charitable benefactor who will receive all profits generated by the sales of these books. This year's benefactor is Unicef. The first volume has been prepared in time for this conference, and is available at the book desk. I would like to ask, and thank you, for your support of this good cause.

    I learned a great deal in seeing this project through to the book stage. One of the best things I learned was the close rapport in which translators often work. In most instances, the translator of German, say, referred not only to the original poem, but to the many translations of it placed at his disposal. He would then make a tentative translation and offer it to the others. Over time every translation was reworked, not only because of ideas for a more felicitous phrasing or a more dramatic linebreak, but because of the wealth of ideas which became available from the work of the translators as a group. This was enormously heartening to me: I felt as though this was a truly international cooperative spirit, and through the work of many like-minded individuals, a harmony of spirit and breadth of mind came to inform the work of all. If this is possible in the realm of poetry, that most notoriously difficult of all languages to translate, then what might not be possible in the realm of simple things, like peace and brotherhood? I find in this exchange a useful model, and message, for the whole world, if it will only observe, and heed.

    The other general idea I would like to consider today, before we look at the specifics of the history of Balkan haiku, is the way in which a cultural idea may be transmitted. I believe there is a pattern which emerges whenever an idea which is the product of one culture is borrowed by another. I wish to trace this pattern, and, by referring to our own experience with it, see how this pattern is being enacted in the other cultures, including the Balkans, in which haiku has become viable. In the case of haiku, we have a rather ideal case to consider, since Japan was simply closed to western influence, and in turn held no influence over the West, until as recently as 1868.

    There must be, of course, something within the culture of the host country which is thought to be of intrinsic interest to the borrowing nation. Once the borrower has become aware that there is something of value, it still must come to terms with how that value is to be recognized, understood, and broadcast. These are sometimes conscious national decisions, but in the case of something which is culturally marginal (as haiku certainly has been all its life in the West), this most often takes place through the ministrations of some individual or group of individuals who recognizes this value, and finds the means for communicating it.

    I subscribe to the "significant individual" school: while it is certainly true that the cultural and political circumstances of any event need to be properly aligned for a sharing of culture, such an opportunity will not occur if there is not the proper recipient of the gift. Or, to paraphrase Lao-Tse: "if you build it, they will come." I suppose this is an instance where the translator used a bit of poetic license.

    Since that fateful 1853 date, East and West have regarded each other with the full array of emotions, from adulation to revulsion, and most often without any true understanding of the other. This has made both sides wary, and this wariness has only been enhanced by the vast differences in the languages and cultures of each. It comes as no surprise, then, that it took a generation before any reasonably accurate information to come out of Japan following that day when Commodore Perry sailed into Tokyo harbor.

    It was not until writers of the caliber of Lafcadio Hearn began reporting on Japan, from within its borders, that something close to accurate began to be circulated back to the West. Hearn was a pioneer, capable of not only entering a new and unknown culture, but of meeting it with understanding and resourcefulness. Hearn moved to Japan, married a Japanese woman, and lived there from 1890 until his death in 1904. He took a particular interest in the folk culture of the Japanese, and recorded the ghost stories and legends he found there, which were snapped up here as exotica. But he also commented on the noh theatre, and most importantly for our considerations, made the first serious attempt at coming to terms with haiku. Certainly the results of his work are mixed: but considering that his learning had to be gained in the most trying of conditions, and essentially alone, we must find his efforts commendable.

    It requires a pioneer figure such as Hearn to begin the process. After that, we need to have good models of the idea from the original, so that we may have a way of encountering these values and applying them to our own circumstances. In haiku, this means quality translations of the most important or representative work. Hearn's translations are serviceable, given the time: consider this one from a Nasho original:

    Oh, this firefly! – seen by daylight, the nape of its neck is red. But overall they do not release all the fragrance which the best translations of the same poems from later times manage to convey.

    So the next need is quality translation. This can operate, of course, in two directions: again using haiku as the model, a Japanese speaker from the borrowing culture may fill this need, or a Japanese who speaks the language of the borrowing culture may do so. In the case of English, both of these circumstances occurred: versions of the most famous poems were made available by several translators, the best known of which included the aforementioned Hearn, plus Basil Hall Chamberlain, Curtis Hidden Page, Clara A. Walsh, William N. Porter, W. G. Aston (it was an age of initials. . .), And S. H. Wainright, among others.

    From the Japanese side, selections were offered by Hidesaburo Saito, Minoru Toyoda, and Yone Noguchi, as well as several others. But perhaps the most important contribution was made by Asataro Miyamori, who published, in 1932, "An Anthology of Haiku Ancient and Modern". What made this volume most valuable was that it was written in good English, and made available for the first time some of the aesthetic and artistic considerations behind haiku, from the point of view of the Japanese poet, as opposed to the perspective of the visiting scholar. This is now three generations after the opening of Japan.

    There are many things about Miyamori's work which we consider out of date today: he insisted, for instance, on translating haiku into two lines. But he corrected a number of mistaken ideas previously held about haiku in English, and brought a less obvious cultural agenda to his translation than most of the others. His translation of the Basho poem:

    Alas! The firefly seen by daylight
    Is nothing but a red-necked insect.

    Which he glosses, unfortunately, with the words : "a typical example of disillusionment." Today I doubt anyone would regard this poem as having anything to do with disillusion. Do notice, however, the wonderful flavor of English which he captures in his phrase "red-necked insect."

    Once we have good models of the work available before us, we require a great interpreter, it was our great good fortune to have the irrepressible R. H. Blyth. Blyth's work has been the introduction to haiku for thousands of readers, writers and enthusiasts. His range is astounding, and it seems he has read everything, western as well as eastern. Blyth changed the dimensions of haiku for us. He made us get by heart the undercurrents of haiku which had been intuitive to the Japanese. He rendered his own commentaries, as he had desired to do, less than useless. And he did this with a wonderfully stylish elan which made his least utterance seem wonderful and deep. He was also utterfly unself-critical, which is a mixed blessing – he was wildly contradictory, but out of this freewheeling attitude came great richness and substance, which no careful and logical mind could have produced. We must take the rough with the smooth with him, and be grateful for the fact that there is so much of it.

    The danger with any great interpreter, of course, is that he will have his own particular hobbyhorse. For Blyth, this meant an insistence that haiku was to be seen as an manifestation of the spirit of Zen, as interpreted by the Japanese genius. This has cast a fifty-year tint on haiku, and while we have learned to take this with a grain of salt these days, many friendships have been lost in the past agreeing or disagreeing with Blyth's position. Nevertheless, it is difficult to imagine western haiku without him, and we are grateful that it was English that he so graced with his work.

Blyth's version of Basho:

By daylight
the firefly has
a neck of red.

To which he appends: "this is not a typical example of disillusionment." But he could not resist the delicious use of the vernacular which Miyamori has infused his version with, and so he later translates this as:

by daylight
The firefly is nothing
but a red-necked bug.

    Pioneer, translator, interpreter: we now require a teacher to assimilate and inspire.

    An argument can be made for Blyth as our teacher as well. He influenced everyone who followed, including the first original western responses to the haiku, including those of Gary Snyder and Jack Kerouac. Snyder's knowledge of haiku originated in part from Blyth and in part from familiarity with original texts, but certainly the Zen orientation was precisely what the Beats were seeking at the time, and the style of poem which these poets wrote, though filtered through their own unique styles, take for their point of departure a Zen perspective which was at the least reinforced by Blyth's commentaries.

    It is, however, another person who must be considered the primary teacher figure for English-language haiku, one whose books remain beloved today, and whose work in haiku remains bodied forth in the existence of the Haiku Society of America. I refer, of course, to prof. Harold G. Henderson of Columbia University, who co-founded, with Leroy Kanterman, the HSA in 1968. Henderson's vision was that haiku could be embraced by those of us in the West who cared about the poetic side of life, and he has been proven correct by the vitality and growth of the HSA, other haiku organizations around the country, and the world.

    To my knowledge, Henderson did not translate the firefly poem of Basho. Sorry.

    Once we have good models, a way of regarding them, and the inclination to study, it is necessary to find a place where we might encounter like-minded people, so we may share our efforts and not feel we are alone in our pursuits. The Haiku Society of America has been the most important single entity for creating community in American haiku, and continues that function. I hope that in the years ahead it will prove just as instrumental in espousing and empowering international community, so that all haiku poets everywhere will have the same opportunities to read, write and share their work with others, as we have been so fortunate to do for these past 33 years.

    Besides community, we need a laboratory where we can exhibit our experiments and where these new efforts of this community can be gathered and considered and compared. A journal, for this is the likeliest form for such a laboratory of literature to take, must be capacious enough to encourage the new while preserving the old, and so provide an overview of the entirety of what is known in the field, and at the same time recognize excellence wherever it is found. The most important journals in the English haiku community have been, and continue to be, "Modern Haiku" and "Frogpond". I would be remiss if I didn't single out Robert Spiess at the helm of the former: his long tenure has supplied a consistency and continuity to the field which have helped us all take seriously our enquiry, and ourselves in its pursuit.

    Finally, we know the transplantation of the idea is complete when we discern original and creative responses to it in the vernacular of its new home. When artists take it up, find it vital, and use it for their own means of transmission, the form has become part of the new culture.

    There are many instances now, of course, where haiku has become western in nature, but there had to be a beginning. Someone had to make haiku a western form, and so doing make it available to the rest of us. There are many to whom we could ascribe the first meaningful expression, beginning with Ezra Pound, whose "In a Station in the Metro" is often cited as the first western haiku. However, his was but a glancing contact with haiku, and not sufficient to be considered seminal.

    We must consider, too, the work of Kerouac and Snyder. Certainly theirs were original responses to a borrowed form. Also we must consider the early work of Cor van den Heuvel. His short book "sun in skull" (1961) is a clear example of haiku idiom in all its nuance, but without reference or dependency upon the Japanese original. And there were others from nearly the same time with nearly equal claims.

    The most important statement, however, that haiku had become truly americanized, was made with the publication of "The Haiku Anthology" in 1974. This was the single most important volume for those who wished to know what a haiku might become in its new homeland. But what makes is seminal is the fact that such a volume is made possible only because so many poets had come to a new sensibility about haiku. This book was a compilation of this new sensibility, a acknowledgment that the transplantation of haiku in america was successful. In a real sense, "the haiku anthology" legitimized the study and creation of haiku in english in a way that no other single book, person or event has done.

    This, then, consitutes my model, and these are the requirements: a pioneer who opens us up to the possibilities of the new subject; one or more translators who provide us with good models of why the subject is worthy of study; a great interpreter who opens wide what the subject can mean; a teacher who can help us assimilate the new material into a manageable size, and an understanding of how the subject works in its own culture; a burgeoning sense of community where we are likely to find like-minded people with whom we can discuss our understandings and gain new ones; a creative laboratory where our efforts can be placed into wider circulation for scrutiny, criticism and comparison with known models, and where excellence might be recognized; and a recognition within the culture when something of excellence has been attained. When we have all these factors present, we may feel certain that the idea has been conveyed, and found viable, in its new home.

    I would like to turn now to the specific subject of my talk by asking you a couple questions: Where you would have to look to find the first response to haiku anywhere outside of Asia, that is, by a westerner? Think on that one a while, and at the same time ponder this,

    Where would you have to go to find the largest private library of haiku books in the world?

    And again, where might you find the earliest sustained individual response to haiku outside Japan?

    The answer to these questions is not Cleveland, as I heard someone whisper over there. The answer to each is, as i'm sure you've deduced since you are all aware of the title of my talk, the Balkans. And, as i'm certain you've also figured out, i've suggested a model of cultural assimilation so that you may apply it to the Balkans, so that we may discover why the Balkans has been and continues to be a hotbed of haiku activity.

    The region we intend to indicate by the term "the Balkans" includes the countries of Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Slovenia, Turkey and Yugoslavia; to which we add Romania, which is not on the Balkan peninsula but which has partaken of Balkan history and culture throughout the last several centuries. "Balkan" is a turkish word meaning "mountain," which is an apt description of most of the peninsula in the south-east sector of Europe bounded by the Danube, Sava and Soca rivers. This region has long been known for its volatility and political instabilities. Also, the region, poised as it is between two continents and therefore a strategic and mercantile keystone, has been conquered and held in submission to various overlords for most of the past millennium. What this often obscures is the fact that this region was home to several thriving cultures; was amongst the earliest regions to escape from the so-called "dark ages" into a humanist and robust renaissance; and has one of the oldest and best preserved cultures of literature, especially poetry, anywhere in the West. To this day many of the inhabitants of the former Yugoslavia can recite hundreds or even thousands of lines of their national epic poetry, and the oral tradition from which this arose remains vigorous and proudly handed down in the family.

    Poetry comes naturally to these people, so it is not surprising that they would now embrace a poetic tradition that would enable them to stake a claim on an international stage. It is surprising, however, that that tradition would be something like haiku, which is light-years distant from their native forms, which tend to the heroic and grand. It is a legitimate question to ask, why, in this land of large things, haiku?

    The first reason, I believe, is that these are people who live with their land. They are, as a result, intensely aware of their natural environs. Not only is there a fierce pride for homeland here, but an ongoing dialogue with it in all its natural manifestations. The national poetry is full of magnificent deeds, to be sure, but it does not omit to speak of the glories of the land being protected.

    In more recent times, there is a strong pastoral tradition, which is to say, a tradition which extols the beauties of the countryside as the point of some kinds of literary endeavor.

    But what strikes me even more, in having spent some considerable time with these people in their homes and environments, is the joy many of them take in simply being in nature. That is not to say there are not cities to be found here, and they are the gray, ugly, formless sprawls that cities throughout Eastern Europe have taken. But it is not a great goal to these people to move to the city: in fact, it is seen as a move of a little desperation, an admitting that one is not able to make it on the family plot. Of course young people see cities as an escape from the family plot, as they do everywhere, so things here, too, are changing. Nevertheless, the generation which comprises the bulk of today's haiku poets feel a kinship with the landof their native places, and this recommends haiku to them as a form which honors such feelings.

    It is a point of pride, too, to be a poet in the Balkans. Here, should we admit to someone that we are a poet, that person might offer us their condolence and an assurance that wonderful things are being done with the new miracle drugs. In the Balkans, however, to say one is a poet is to assert a position of standing within the community, and it is heady stuff.

    Another characteristic of the region which is rewarded through haiku is the penchant of these people to philosophize and dispute. This may sound contradictory to what we usually consider to be the nature of haiku. But I mean philosopher in its truest and first sense: lovers of wisdom, with a willingness to split hairs to achieve this wisdom.

    I have spent hours in cafes and at dining tables in the Balkans discussing infinitely fine points with many of my friends. It is nothing to them to take half a day to fix the distinction between two words that might have only the slightest shading of difference. In this way they are great lovers of words, and of the differences which words make.

    Haiku, too, rely on a tradition of exactitude for much of their truth and power. It is not enough, usually, for the few words of haiku to be near to the meaning intended: they must impart the exactness of the moment, for without it something of importance is lost. I have found this love of exactness often embodied in the poems of these poets, and I believe it is a particular source of pride that they are able to find exact cognates within their languages for the states they are trying to impart.

    This is a challenge when translating, of course, and can make some of their poems elusive where we do not have an analogous word, phrase or sensibility in English. But when we do, there is an opportunity to know exactly what the poet means to say, and this is a wonderful thing, to communicate something across cultural borders with exactness.

    Finally, I believe there are cultural affinities between Balkan peoples and the people of Japan. Similar sensibilities and outlooks, bodied forth in public and personal matters, recommend the one to the other, and it is not surprising that a culture that might discover such a form as haiku would find a parallel in a culture which would adopt it.

    There are undoubtedly other reasons, but the point is that the Balkan region has enthusiastically embraced haiku as a favored means of expression. This region is the third greatest producer of haiku, behind Japan and the United States, and if we consider it on a per capita basis, it might well be the leader. I don't mean to commoditize poetry, but simply wish to give you an idea of how many people write haiku here.

    Let's see how you've done on my Balkan quiz now. The first question I asked you a bit earlier was, what was the first response to haiku by a westerner? Any takers? It was a book of translations, from Japanese into Romanian, by Bogdan Hasdeu, a book he published in 1878 – a mere decade after the Meiji Era began -- an amazing fact.

    I am not going to make any claims for these translations. Nor am I going to offer any to you – sorry. The book is very rare, and the only source of access I have to this material is through the editor Primoz Repar, who unfortunately is separated from his library because of the recent conflicts in his homeland. But he assures me that the translations, in his recollection, do not compare well with contemporary versions. So what is most remarkable about this book and person is the earliness of the date, nearly a quarter of a century before Hearn was supplying similar texts in translation to English-language readers in America.

    I suggest nevertheless that the pioneer figure for the Balkans was Bogdan Hasdeu: his influence, just as Hearn's, has waned with time, as we have learned more and better, but it was an earnest beginning, and it was in response to this first understanding that our subsequent improvements have been gauged.

    If we have a pioneer, then it follows we will next have translators. And we do. It took many years before translations were made into all the languages of the region, but the earliest of these was a serbian volume, produced in 1927 by Milos Crnjanski. Titled "poezija starog japana," it combined a good grasp of Japanese and its culture and idiom with a surprising native voice. Some examples:

    Puna mesecina.
    Obilazio sam ribnjak,
    Celu noc.
    The full moon.
    I walk around the pond
    All the night.

    Note that there is no attempt to match syllable counts with the Japanese originals, and that the punctuation is firmer than the kireji in the original would suggest. The effect nevertheless is close to what we have come to expect. Two very recent translations:

    Harvest moon –
    Walking around the pond
    All night long.
                      (Robert Hass)
    This bright harvest moon
    Keeps me walking all night long
    Around the pond
                      (Sam Hamill)

    On the other hand, where the poem is more difficult, or at least the original more open to the translator's interpretation, we have this:

    Na goloj grani,
    Jedna vrana.
    Kraj jeseni.
    On the bare branch,
    A crow.
    The end of autumn.

    Compare with:

    a crow
    Has settled on a bare branch –
    autumn evening.
                      (Robert Hass)
    On a bare branch,
    A solitary crow –
    Autumn evening
                      (Sam Hamill)

    Crnjanski manages to get the order of images correct, which Hass has failed to do, and has managed not to be redundant by asserting merely "a crow," as Hamill has failed to do. His sweeping, "the end of autumn" is an equally valid reading of the last line which the others have translated "autumn evening." So it would seem that the Balkans were well served by this first effort to bring haiku to them. Compare these English versions by his contemporaries:

  A crow is perched on a bare branch;
It is an autumn eve.

The end of autumn, and some rooks
Are perched upon a withered branch.

The autumn gloaming deepens into night;
Black 'gainst the slowly-fading orange light,
On withered bough a lonely crow is sitting.

On a withered branch
A crow is sitting
This autumn eve.

    Aston, the least renowned of these early translators, is easily the closest to achieving parity with the original. So, Serbian (and presumably, to some extent, Croatian) readers had at their disposal, in the 1920s, decent versions of Japanese originals to consider. It took until the 1930s for Bulgarian readers to have this opportunity, when Nikola Dzerov published his "poezia na yamato:"

    M'rtva e veykata vece.
    Ot neya garvan't graci.
    Esenna vecer!
    The branch is already dead.
    from it a crow is cawing.
    The autumn evening

    By comparison this version seems prolix and unpoetic, besides featuring a title which, needless to say, do not accompany the originals.

    An actual Croatian version did not come along until Dubravko Ivancan's "mala antologija japanskog haikua", and the Slovenian version didn't arrive until Mart Ogen's "mala antologija japonske lirike" in 1974. Pioneer; translator: we need an interpreter next. The Balkans were as blessed as we have been in this regard, and in a similar way. Vladimir Devide can justly be called the Balkan Blyth. Fluent in many languages, including Japanese (his doctorate was taken in Japan, where he was a visiting professor for many years), Devide was a devotee of haiku, and especially of the writings of Blyth. He also felt a strong kinship with Zen-is this beginning to sound familiar?-and studied the writings of Suzuki and other Zen advocates. As a student and proponent of haiku, his own translations often appeared in the midst of several others in multiple languages – he would compare the English, German, French, Russian and Serb versions with the Japanese originals, for example, and could explicate cultural differences which would require different means of phrasing from one language to another. He has written nearly 20 books and doZens of articles on haiku, and many more on other aspects of Japanese culture such as Noh theatre, Japanese art, the lives of important Zen figures, and the Japanese short story. He was a great scholar as well: it is his library, with over 12,000 books, which is the largest personal haiku library in the world, and with the contents of which he was extremely familiar. It has been his personal goal to create a great synthesis of haiku culture, across the borders of each language division, and in a very real way he has been an early advocate for the international movement in haiku.

    To give you a taste of his work, let me share with you his translation and comments on the firefly poem mentioned earlier:

    By daylight
    The firefly has
    A neck of red
literally,     (looking) by daylight
    A neck of red
    The firefly!

To which he appends: "No need to be disappointed with a thing we have seen by night when we see it again by daylight . . . This is the same question of Chuang-Tsu's story when he dreamed that became a buterfly: is he a butterfly which dreams of being human, or a human who dreams of being a butterfly? – two aspects of one thing. By night we can see the light of the firefly, by day we can see a colour of its neck-this is the real nature of fireflies–that is the point . . .We see once again miyamori's remark is taken to task . . ."

    Devide brought the art of haiku to the people of the Balkans in the same way that Blyth brought it to English-speaking people, and, in fact, brought much of Blyth to the Balkans as well. In very much the same way, Zen has come to be overvalued in the interpretation of haiku, and for much the same reason. And, in the same fashion, one of the hallmarks of moving to the modern level of understanding of haiku has to do with the creation of haiku which is not based on a Zen understanding, but on the broader understanding of haiku as poetry.

    I would argue for devide as the teacher figure in Balkan haiku, as well. He was extremely well-known, a copious writer, a tireless organizer, and spent more time helping others come to understand haiku than anyone in the region for several decades. It is reasonable to see him not only as the Blyth, but also the Henderson, of his region and era. We can see the work of other translators, explicators, and teachers as stemming directly from his influence, especially work by Razic, Antic, Vujicic, and others in the "Zen tradition" as well.

    Out of Devide's work, many haiku organizations have come into being, nearly one for each nation of the Balkans. The most prominent of these are the Croatian haiku association, which publishes "Vrabac"; the constanta poetry association, with "Albatross"; the Yugoslavian haiku association, with "Haiku". In these places and through these pages, haiku community has become a possibility and a reality. So much so that a regional association, the haiku association of south east europe, has recently begun operations with hopes of uniting the region through poetry, where other methods have proved so unfulfilling in past years.

    So we're almost there: we have had a pioneer, a couple translators, a great interpreter and teacher, the emergence of organizations and journals where community can be built and experience shared. We need only to find the expression of the form in a completely assimilated way to feel the form has been completely balkanized. And I believe that that event has just happened.

    We have the final question I asked earllier to answer: whose was the first sustained, authentic creative response within the new cultural context: that honor goes to a. T. Stamatiad of Romania, who in 1936 published a book of his own haiku entitled "peisagii sentimentale". Sorry, but I don't have a translation available from his work, but I do hope to have some available at some point, and those interested I invite to contact me.

    During the Second World War, Milos Tokin of Serbia wrote 102 haiku, which were published posthumously in 1954. They show an occasional feel for the form which was not to be found again for another two decades. A sample:

    Zreli kesten
    Padom svojim
    Pojacao je tisinu
    A ripe chestnut
    Is falling down
    The stronger silence

    Ten years after Tokin's publications, and a full 30 since Tokin wrote, the next book devoted to the form was published, Dubravko Ivancan's "Leptirova krila":

Remote village.
In the middle of the road
A motionless dog

    From that point on, many individual collections of haiku appeared in a variety of languages. For the most part, while there was some work towards an original voice, much of the work remained derivative of Japanese models and values, and as such did not constitute a truly assimilated response to the form. Similarly, the first anthologies, while important ("grana koja mase", edited by Milijan Despotovic (1991) for example, was the first actual pan-Balkan haiku anthology; and the first real european union anthology was "leptir na cajniku," edited again by Despotovic, and published in 1992 when the former yugoslavia was already in ruins), these works still exhibited traits that signified that haiku was not yet fully in Balkan hands.

    That time arrived, I believe, with the publication of the anthology "Knots" in 1999. This volume, as did van den Heuvel's "The Haiku Anthology" in America, signaled the beginning of a time when haiku from the Balkans would be valued not by its proximity to Japanese models, but by its authenticity and trueness to life, value and idiom in its newly adopted land. Within the form which has been borrowed, only those poems which could express a Balkan sensibility and importance could hope to appear in it, and as such it has become a model for the future direction of haiku for the region. It marked the coming of age of Balkan haiku, just as "the haiku anthology" marked that passage for english-language poets.

    "Knots" contains the work of 126 poets, including all of the leading poets of the Balkans today. Significantly, the volume is entirely in English, which means that much faith is placed in the ability to transport these moments out, not only of their native language but also out of their native sensibility, into a language of shared experience. This is a decision that could be made only because the form under consideration was haiku, because of the way haiku works to make its truth available beyond the borders of its words.

    With my remaining time, I would like to share a few of these poems with you.

Spring evening –
The wheel of a troop carrier
Crushes a lizard
(Dimitar Anakiev)

My best friend died –
Some tiny grains of dust
On our chessboard
(Robert Bebek)

Frosty winter –
The smooth curve
Of the axe handle
(Valentin Busioc)

Where the sky
Touches the earth
(Marijan Cekolj)

End of the party –
First dry leaves
Come into the verandah
(Ion Codrescu)

A small pool of blood –
Killed in the air-raid: a little girl
And her huge blond doll
(Vladimir Devide)

Detonations –
The x of tape on the pane
Divides the sky
(Zoran Doderovic)

House on the hill –
Out of a chimney scatters
The milky way
(Dan Doman)

Burn site –
On the spared fence
Morning glories
(Tomislav Maretic)

River divides the forest
Into two nights
(Nikola Nilic)

On the old log
A cat rubs itself lazy –
Mild spring sun
(Dragan Ristic)

    I thank you for your kind attention, and would be happy to answer any questions you might have.