Thursday, April 17, 2008

caucasus carcass

caucasus carcass is one of the latest publications by Atlantean Publishing.

It is a collection of "Reissian Haiku" - so-called because it derives from the work of poet Ed Reiss and the poems are in the style of haiku. "in the style of" is a fair enough description. The main rule of the form is that only letters with no ascenders [d, f, h, l] or descenders [g, j, p, y] can be used in their composition.

This restriction actually produces some excellent poems, particularly the ones by Steve Sneyd and D J Weston who are the major contributors to this anthology.

My favourites (all by D J Weston) are
rain runs on us,
on crosses, moss, our names -
our veins are ice


war-zone mess
enemies cower in ruins
no-one wins


warm summer comes
as sun-cream oozes over me
sere verses simmer
the last, although it has eight "m"s, has only one "n". I don't think there is a single poem here that doesn't include at least one "n" and most have several.

It is certainly good value at just £1.

I have to confess to being much less happy with editor D J Tyrer's collection THE ATLANTEAN. It is called "Collected Haiku" but hardly any of these compositions are haiku by almost any stretch of the imagination. He says he
came to haiku fairly late, initially as a challenge, then for the practical reason of needing occasional filler material for his magazines
and unfortuneatly he seems to have bought into the notion that any collection of seventeen-syllables split into three lines can automatically be called a "haiku".

There are a number of good short poems, clerihews, brief jokes, proverbs here:
Ten-sixty-six: fight!
Invade blood-red foam sword slash
King dead new king now


Too much sun skin cracks
Red-raw, head hurts, lotion
Rub it in and trust


a snowfall in March
how strange! cry amnesiacs
forgetting past snows


letters of comment reply
debate if you dare
so I do dare, because I care. Tyrer is a writer who could do so much better if he didn't try to shoe-horn his verse into something it doesn't fit. Whether he would be better discovering more about haiku (which takes years rather than weeks) or better honing his skills in other directions is for the author to decide.

Atlantean also publish five magazines titles including Bard (latest issue #64) and Awen (latest issue #51)
Atlantean Publishing
38 Pierrot Steps
71 Kursaal Way
Southend on Sea

visit the website of Atlantean Publishing
Read reviews of earlier issues of Bard.
Read a review of another collection by D J Tyrer.


  1. I'd just like to point out that if the reviewer has a specific view of what DOES constitute a haiku then they really should define their point, otherwise their comments are meaningless - or are they the ancient Japanese inventor arbiting because their word is law? (If they'd just said they didn't like them I wouldn't dispute.)

  2. In some ways it is a fair point, but DOES one have to do so every time? If it were a simple matter to define what is or is not a "haiku" then perhaps so. The trouble is that you cannot adequately define haiku in a short paragraph. You cannot even do it in a short essay. Because of this very difficulty, I certainly hesistated before penning my review. It isn't just a question of personal taste or I'd have simple ignored the collection. There were a few good things in it as I highlighted.

    "are they the ancient Japanese inventor arbiting because their word is law?" - absolutely not, but it woudn't be the first time I've been accussed of taking the part of the "haiku police" as some people have expressed it.

    One place worth starting is the haiku article on Wikipedia which does not simply define haiku in terms of syllable count. It states "Haiku is a kind of Japanese poetry. It was given this name in the late 19th century by Japanese writer Masaoka Shiki from a combination of the older hokku and the haikai (or verses) in haikai no renga. Haiku, when known as hokku were the opening verses of a linked verse form, haikai no renga. In Japanese, hokku and haiku are traditionally printed in one vertical line (though in handwritten form they may be in any reasonable number of lines). In English, haiku are written in three lines to equate to the three parts of a haiku in Japanese that traditionally consist of five, seven, and then five on (the Japanese count sounds, not syllables; for example, the word "haiku" itself counts as three sounds in Japanese (ha-i-ku), but two syllables in English (hai-ku), and writing seventeen syllables in English produces a poem that is actually quite a bit longer, with more content, than a haiku in Japanese). The kireji (cutting word or pause) usually read at the end of either the first or second line. A haiku traditionally contains a kigo (season word) which symbolizes or intimates the season in which the poem is set with some reference to the natural world.

    Because Japanese nouns do not have different singular and plural forms, "haiku" is usually used as both a singular and plural noun in English as well. Practicing haiku poets and translators refer to "many haiku" rather than "haikus".

    Senryu is a similar poetry form that emphasizes irony, satire, humor, and human foibles instead of seasons, and may or may not have kigo or kireji."

    OK, maybe I should at least have referred there in my review.

    If you (or anyone else) wants to totally ignore hundreds of years of tradition and write verse that in no way can be classed as haiku, they can do so. The problem arises in that when they label their poems as "haiku" they are making a claim that their poems are part of that tradition. This is surely even more important when the writer is also an editor. It seems therefore more incumbent upon the writer claiming to write haiku to come up with reasons as to why their writing can be so labeled than it is for the critic to explain why not.

  3. Dear d j tyrer,

    What Gerald is too modest to recommend is his very own The Art of Haiku. ;-)

    I'm sure I was called 'haiku police' myself at one time or another, but when people have come to my workshops on haiku (and related forms) they are surprised how hard haiku is to write.

    They are delighted, though, in how much haiku can help their other writing.

    all my best,

    Just days away to the deadline!
    The With Words Online Haiku Competition

    Half of the profits will go to a literacy project with children in Africa (tba shortly); and the other half of the profits will go to a U.K. based literacy project.