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Sunday, November 06, 2011

The Way a Haiku Began In a Parisian Bookstore

(click here for the Romanian version)

It all began in a small Parisian bookstore, in the Marais. An English language bookstore with some out of print titles you can probably find only there and nowhere else.

Well, maybe I'm exaggerating a little. There are a few other spots like this one, and to say here only about such places that I visited in the US, in DC, the Capitol Hill Books near the Eastern Market, and in Baltimore, the Clayton Fine Books on Charles Street, in Cambridge near Harvard Square, or in Greenwich Village some place near Houston Street. Or in Brooklyn, on Bedford Avenue. Or the Georgetown Bookshop in Bethesda, but this one is no more.

Wait a little, the bookstore in Cambridge I'm talking about had only French language books, while the Parisian one in the Marais was featuring English language novels and poems. So it goes.

The Parisian bookstore had a curious name, The Red Wheelbarrow. It was my first encounter with it, and I was shy to ask the people there about the origin.

The space was very tiny, and the shelves were jammed with books, seemingly in a total disorder. And my imagination began to play. Was this Red Wheelbarrow the title of a haiku? A tiny poem, whose apparently nonsensical string of words was wiping you like a kōan, jammed with hidden senses impossible to decipher?

That small English language bookstore in Paris was actually my first encounter with William Carlos Williams, and I realized it when, after some years, I discovered his poems and so the meaning of the Red Wheelbarrow suddenly made sense for me. Was it a haiku? I would say, yes and no, the term designates a very precise poetic form, while also allowing now and then some fuzziness.

It was due to another encounter that the association between Red Wheelbarrow and haiku started to take a concrete shape. Not in Paris this time. This chance meeting was now on British soil, in the West Midlands (on the net, actually): a collective of young filmmakers, the Black Country Cinema. One of them, an older web acquaintance, Mattie (Mathew Carter) created a haiku video: a minimalistic gem, superbly filtering his deep understanding of the art of Kiarostami.

HAIKU VIDEO - Sunday Afternoon

(video by jovossuck123)

And in a comment to this artwork, another interesting video artist (whose pen name is videogoatbird), came with the poem of William Carlos Williams! The link between the Red Wheelbarrow and haiku was now made!

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

Williams came once with an explanation: this poem sprang from affection for an old Negro named Marshall; he had been a fisherman, caught porgies off Gloucester; he used to tell how he had to work in the hold in freezing weather, standing ankle deep in cracked ice packing down the fish. Williams liked that man, and his son Milton almost as much. In his back yard there was a red wheelbarrow surrounded by the white chickens.

And the affection for the old man somehow got into the writing.

dépend tellement au moment

une brouette rouge de roue

glacé avec de l'eau pluie

près des poulets blancs

so viel hängt ab

von einer roten Schubkarre

glänzend von Regenwasser

bei den weißen Hühnern

tantas cosas
dependen de

una carretilla

lustrosa por el agua
de la lluvia

entre gallinas

Let's try in Romanian (and don't shot the pianist):

Atat de multe depind
de o roaba rosie

de apa ploii

Alaturi cativa
pui albi

(William Carlos Williams)

(Vlog of Mattie)

(Black Country Cinema)

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