Jim Kacian

 

Illustrations
by Stephen Addiss

 

Six Directions


Haiku &
Field Notes

 

The Haiku Society of America
1998 Merit Book Award
for Best Book of Haibun



88 pages


6 x 6 inches


0-9631909-4-6


$10.00


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, homes—farm, woods, river, shore, friends and species. Jim Kacian’s 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 leaps—molecules 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 growth—we 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 recognition—as if we have known all along. But if haiku affords us moments of vision, it is not so much that we are visionaries—as that up to that moment, we have been blind."

—fr0m the author's preface

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.

—Penny Harter

 

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 Ban’ya 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.

 


SIX DIRECTIONS:
Haiku & Field Notes

Reviewed by Elizabeth St Jacques
 
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 haiku.


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 one’s 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 one’s 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 owl’s cry, noting the (seemingly) new distance of the stars, the rising moon …
 
 
out of the dark
gradually
the outlines of things
 
cocoon
the life inside
knotted
 
bitter night
the sink drip
slows


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 . . .
 
 
after plowing
the even writing
in my journal 
 
smell of mint
still on the fingers
that plucked it
 
oarstrokes –
the order of stars
whorled up anew
 
mountain tarn –
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 one’s chosen home, within the universal home.


Surely, Bashô and Thoreau join my applause to Jim Kacian for sharing these tender experiences with us.
 

morning dew –
no hiding
the way we've come

icicles –
the shape
of gravity