Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Dark Wings of Night: Eric Amann and His Wordless Poem

The haiku is a point of intersection between man and nature... Haiku is not to be regarded primarily as a form of poetry, as is commonly assumed in the West, but as an expression of Zen in poetry, a living Way…It touches above all upon life itself.
-- Eric Amann, "The Wordless Poem: A Study of Zen in Haiku," 1969

Eric Amann, the most influential figure in the formative years of the haiku movement in Canada 1, founded the magazine Haiku in 1967 and was its editor for three years. Under his editorship Haiku immediately became one of the most important North American periodicals, publishing experimental as well as classical haiku. In 1977, he founded another new magazine Cicada, which changed and influenced the haiku world with a similar status. In the preface to the 1986 edition of The Haiku Anthology, Cor van den Heuvel wrote that “Haiku and Cicada [were] perhaps English language haiku's most influential magazines [and that they] are still unsurpassed for excellence in both content and design, though both have ceased publication.”  Throughout his career as a haiku editor and poet, Eric Amann adopted a Zen approach to reading and writing haiku, and his view of the relationship between Zen and haiku was fully articulated in his 1969 essay, "The Wordless Poem:A Study of Zen in Haiku," which outlined the role of Zen practices in haiku poetry. In this influential essay, he  emphasized that  haiku "deals entirely with the here-and-now 2, with nature, with intuition arising from immediate sense-experience, with the ordinary sights and sounds of this world....Haiku is not to be regarded primarily as a form of poetry, ... but as an expression of Zen in poetry, a living Way."

Selected Haiku

the circus tent
all folded up:
October mist

a night train passes:
pictures of the dead are trembling
on the mantelpiece

the names of the dead
sinking deeper and deeper
into red leaves

winter burial:
a stone angel points his hand
at the empty sky

snow falling
on the empty parking-lot:
Christmas Eve…

        in spring

deep inside your mouth      no more questions no more answers

deep penetration       the bedside candle quivers lightly in the moonlit room


1 The following is an announcement posted on Haiku Canada Review's homepage:

Sadly, physician and Haiku Canada co-founder, Dr. Eric Amann died on the 12th of March, 2016, after suffering a stroke. “There was no formal announcement of his death”, retired physician and early co-worker, Jacqueline Carleson, informed Haiku Canada. Carleson and Amann were in residency together at St. Paul’s Hospital, in Vancouver, in the early 80’s. On July 7th, 2016, friends gathered at Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Toronto, to honour the memory and acknowledge the accomplishments of Dr. Eric Amann. A small reception followed; his ashes were scattered in the forest designated area.

George Swede attended the Mount Pleasant gathering and will give an honourarium at the Haiku Canada weekend in Mississauga, May, 2017.

2 For a different view of haiku, see my "To the Lighthouse" post, titled Two-Axis Haiku -- See and Think beyond the "Haiku Moment.

1 comment:

  1. amazing haikus . these works will keep him alive