Thursday, June 29, 2006
In its June 28 issue, The East Bay Express reviews The Haiku Apprentice: Memoirs of Writing Poetry in Japan by Abigail Friedman.
Anneli Rufus writes:
Never underestimate the potential of seventeen syllables. They zip past so fast. I can't come to the phone right now but please leave a message after the -- boom. An American diplomat in Tokyo, fluent in Japanese, Friedman was employed by the Foreign Service to keep tabs on public reactions to news from nearby North Korea. Juggling political hot potatoes along with a busy home life, mother-of-three Friedman was startled when a stranger invited her to join his haiku group: "In my mind, Japanese haiku poets were either long dead or... hidden away in the hills, practicing Zen." Attending suburban meetings, she discovered and joined -- like "Alice in Wonderland... as if I had fallen down a hole" -- a subculture pursuing an art form that celebrates solitary epiphanies in a nation notorious for groupthink. Friedman is an appealing guide through an alternate Japan where modern people make poems about teacups and temples but also about skyscrapers and kidney surgery.