Jim Kacian a virtual guest at Watersmeet

Recently I was speaking to Jim Kacian of the USA a very fine poet and publisher of Red Moon Press. We first met several years ago when he spoke at our haiku group in Hobart and we have stayed in contact over the years. Earlier this year Watersmeet moved to a new venue and I asked Jim to be our virtual guest and he obliged us with a wonderful talk and inspiring haiku….

Ron Moss

Greetings from the winter of Virginia:

Ron was kind enough to invite me to say a word or two and contribute a couple poems to celebrate the new venue of Watersmeet. Let me begin by saying yours is the most poetic name in the world of haiku–nicely chosen.

It seems like quite a long time ago that I met with the dozen or so poets in the Botanical Gardens in Hobart. The scene I met there was the same as what I encountered throughout that trip around the world–poets, some experienced, most not, who were all relatively new to haiku and were using the opportunity not only to learn more about it, but to create community through it as well. There was an eagerness to the proceedings that we were unlikely to regain again. Now, a half-dozen years along the way, perhaps we have attained something else–a maturity, and undoubtedly a good deal more knowledge of what haiku is and can be. The challenge of haiku for us remains what it always has been–one of finding a way of being with it which permits us the use of our increased knowledge without sacrificing that eagerness, that newness.

In fields which permit prodigies, the general rule of thumb is that one’s best days are over by the time you reach 30. In music, chess, theoretical physics, most sports–if you haven’t made your mark by the time you’re 25, you’re probably not going to do it. Haiku might be an exception to this–there have been haiku prodigies, though not many I am aware of outside of Japan. But more often poets have found their best, truest voices in their 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, even 8th decades. The only way this can be so is that the amassed knowledge of those years in haiku does not blunt the eagerness of expression, but is instead a conduit to it. Sometimes our knowledge can liberate us–the composer Ravel once commented that if left to himself, with the complete range of pitch and timbre at his disposal, he was paralysed. Restrict him to three notes, however, and then he could create a universe. It seems to me our haiku practice must be like this as well–if haiku Is any old thing we say it is, then we will use it as it amuses us and toss it aside after a short while. But if it is instead the discipline of our liberation, we will nourish it, and it us, and we might well be surprised of how fresh we might see things, and how much more ably we might express them, through our prolonged exposure to this form and this sensibility.

For myself, I have undergone many changes in style in my haiku, and expect I will undergo many more. Haiku is not a static thing–or, if it is, it is already dead and need not concern us any longer. No, it is living, and as a living thing it must change to go on. I speak not only of my particular style and understanding of haiku, but of haiku as a whole–it cannot remain the same thing if we expect it to continue to be sufficient to express the whole of our lives as we ourselves change. So I send my congratulations to you for your persistence as well as your eagerness, and expect that, carrying both attributes as you do, you are well suited to continue to learn and grow with haiku.

Here are a couple haiku from the last few months (forming a small chapbook entitled “dead reckoning”). Dead reckoning is the calculation of a ship’s position without astronomical observations, by means of the distances sailed on the various courses as shown by the log and compass, with corrections for currents, etc. Using this technique it is possible to reach destinations which cannot be seen from the departure point, and when there are no fixed reference points along the way.
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driftwood the slight curve of the horizon

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paddling through the gravity of another world spring tide

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bubbles up through green water the heat

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without islands in the dead center loneliness

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dead reckoning the moment the tide reverses

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a night ship adrift in any darkness

starry night some noise of the Big Bang still left

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deep in space the red shift of my mind

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long view to Sirius even the past isn’t past

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in a tent in the rain i become a climate

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whiskey i sip it till it loves me

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the wait for an owl the second time

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by candlelight a mosquito slow with blood

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skull held up to the ear the sound of the sea

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on the verge of waking my self

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Thanks again for inviting me into your midst’s, and I look forward to doing this again in person, not only for the kayaking (which Ron, knowing my weak points, extols in glowing epithets), but for the new, mature haiku which is building here. I hope to see you all again quite soon

Jim Kacian