by Stephen Addiss
The Haiku Society of America
1998 Merit Book Award
for Best Book of Haibun
6 x 6 inches
currently out of print
SIX DIRECTIONS of interdependence with East, South,
West, North, above and below :: all and around. Each step encounters
intricate, and myriad, homesfarm, woods, river, shore, friends
and species. Jim Kacians concise words, elemental in sparseness,
act as brief splashes toward a sense of residence. Built of phenomenon
and synapse, these indigenous haiku seem to reconfigure as saltlick
and sonar. Pleasures of such poetry remind us that our world is an old
pond where a frog leapsmolecules of water join the air soon
clouds form and begin to rain on your own home.
"This book was precipitated by two encounters: my enforced move,
in 1989, from my long-time home, Still Pond, in White Post, Virginia,
to the nearby but nonetheless strange and new Six Directions, my current
home, in Wickliffe VA; and my visit with La Alameda Press publisher
J. B. Bryan at his home in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1994. My departure
from Still Pond enjoined me to find a new sense of home after several
years within a nourishing and sympathetic environment with which I had
come to identify, down to my very name. The meeting with J. B. served
to forge a friendship and mutual appreciation based on like-minded values,
particularly in matters of poetry and ecology, and helped to reconfigure
this project to its present concerns. I have been lucky on both counts.
This book is predicated on two ideas: that through the cumulative effects
of small moments we expand our sense of the universe to its full size;
that the only way out of a circle is through its center. If we did not
believe the former, we would not believe in haiku as a way and a means.
It has been suggested that there is little to be accomplished through
such a miniaturized form; which is something like saying, imagine what
the universe might accomplish if only it would work in a larger currency
than the moment. As to the latter: a sense of home is not necessarily
conducive to growthwe see the same sights repeatedly, grow accustomed
to them, perhaps take them for granted. Follow the perimeter and we
return again and again to the same place, without growth. But pass through
the center, and subject and object, time and space, disappear, and we
move outside of the plane where we began, infinitely, eternally changed.
This book of small poems arises from a particular place over a par-ticular
time. It is not a collection of exotic moments, but rather a con-versation
with the land and its inhabitants about what it and they do every day.
Through haiku we are surprised into recognitionas if we have known
all along. But if haiku affords us moments of vision, it is not so much
that we are visionariesas that up to that moment, we have been
The cycling seasons and the very elements
themselves speak to us in these meditative haiku and haibun. Kacian
has indeed made Six Directions his home, and like Thoreau at Walden
Pond, celebrates in its rhythms those of the planet itself.
Jim Kacian is an internationally acclaimed poet,
theorist, motivator, editor and publisher. He has published 7
books, all of which have won major awards; is author of How to Haiku,
a major market primer for English- speaking poets, as well as numerous
articles on haiku form and practice; is co-founder (with Dimitar Anakiev
of Slovenia and Banya Natsuishi of
Japan) of the World Haiku Association, which endeavors to help poets
from around the world to share haiku and theory with others, as well
as a long-time board member of the Haiku Society of America; edited
South by Southeast for 3 years, and editor of Frogpond
( the international membership journal of the Haiku Society of America,
and the largest haiku magazine outside of Japan) for the past 4; and
owns and operates Red Moon Press, a prestigious publishing house
dedicated to haiku in the world.
Haiku & Field Notes
Reviewed by Elizabeth
Jim Kacian humbly defines Six Directions as haiku &
field notes. Be that as it may, most of this captivating volume
reads more like an haibun journal. Granted, some aspects are not quite
what I expect in haibun for example, each prose entry is followed
by a series of haiku. Yet each series successfully broadens and enhances.
Also different, two of the six prose entries here contain philosophical
comments that, while interesting, shift from haibun tradition. But then
Jim Kacian makes no claim that these are haibun. Nevertheless, the texture
and presentation tempt me to classify this work as haibun and related
Inspiration for this book stirred when the author moved from Still Pond,
his home of many years in White Post, Virginia, to an old quaint house
in nearby Wickliffe, which the poet came to name Six Directions.
The book focuses on a particular place over a particular time
a conversation with the land and its inhabitants about what it
and they do every day. Also, the realization that through change,
one discovers a widening of ones universe and a sudden understanding
that the only way out of a circle is through its center.
To chronicle such new-found discoveries, haibun and related haiku seem
most appropriate instruments indeed.
The circle and center to which Jim Kacian refers translate into the
re-establishment of ones roots, in finding a sense of home.
His opening entry, All Day Long the Day, describes his new
hinterland from which we get a clear sense of place and his approach
to it. For example, from his past, he has brought only a couple of boxes
because The inheritance of the past can never wholly satisfy the
needs of the present he says. Instead, he reaches out to this
new environment: listening to the wind, a barn owls cry, noting
the (seemingly) new distance of the stars, the rising moon
out of the dark
the outlines of things
the life inside
the sink drip
We accompany Jim Kacian as he prepares a garden, explores an old cemetery
in which rests the builder of Six Directions, meets a stray dog (that
promptly adopts the poet) and other fascinating creatures, slowly melds
with land, sky, river and mountain all of which make up his home.
Each step of the way is a discovery layered with wonderment, respect,
a warm sense of oneness and contentment . . .
the even writing
in my journal
smell of mint
still on the fingers
that plucked it
the order of stars
whorled up anew
a little of the sky
has fallen in
Disappointments in this collection are few indeed. In fact, classifying
these few as disappointments seems too harsh. More appropriate
would be the phrase less surprising. For example,
a door slams shut /no one around/but the south wind
and tilling the soil/grackles follow me/two rows behind
With different line arrangements and/or slight revision, these could
have enjoyed splendid aha! finales.
Overall, however, the mix of eloquent prose and haiku here are a pleasing
blend that flows like a smooth melody. Clearly expressed, rich in content
and presentation, SIX DIRECTIONS is indeed about conversing with the
land and its inhabitants. Even more, it is a celebration of communion
and the true meaning of place in ones chosen home, within the
Surely, Bashô and Thoreau join my applause to Jim Kacian for sharing
these tender experiences with us.
the way we've come