Sunday, December 5, 2010



The Chained Hay(na)ku Project, Curated by Ivy Alvarez, John Bloomberg-Rissman, Ernesto Priego & Eileen Tabios
(Meritage Press, St. Helena & San Francisco and xPress(ed), Finland, 2010)


The Hay(na)ku Anthology, Vol. II, Edited by Jean Vengua and Mark Young
(Meritage Press, St. Helena & San Francisco and xPress(ed), Finland, 2008)

Encounters on a Kitchen Table: Miss Daisy Hawkins, an old Sinatra song and the Daisy Chain Poems

Paul McCartney “didn't really like [Miss] Daisy Hawkins”. She just didn't seem to complete the picture of someone “pick[ing] up the rice in the church where a wedding has been”. [1] She, however, was a powerful originative figure in that she “gave” McCartney the first line in what would be one of the greatest and most celebrated songs in history.

To me, the process (and genesis of Eleanor Rigby) is somewhat akin to the history of the Hay(na)ku, a 21st century poetic form invented by Eileen Tabios. Inspired by Richard Brautigan, Tabios began a “Counting Journal” which would later evolve into a poetics blog. In the blog, she writes about reading the Selected Letters of Jack Kerouac where she found references to American haiku and three-word lines. Shortly thereafter, Tabios inaugurated the “Pinoy haiku”, later renamed, HAY(NA)KU (a tercet with one-, two- and three-word lines; also, a very Filipino expression equivalent to “oh!” or “oh, well”; and most importantly, a term which resolves the prosodic and postcolonial concerns of “Pinoy haiku”, as pointed out by Vince Gotera). [2]

In August 2010, Meritage Press and xPress(ed) released The Chained Hay(na)ku Project curated by Ivy Alvarez, John Bloomberg-Rissman, Ernesto Priego and Eileen Tabios. This is the third Hay(na)ku anthology and it differs from the first two in that it is collaborative. A call was sent out in 2007 inviting poets to team up with at least two others to create “chained hay(na)ku” using either the traditional form or any of its variations. [3] The process is not unlike the renku, a modern style of Japanese collaborative poetry; and again, McCartney's Eleanor Rigby where lines and ideas had been contributed by others (such as John Lennon, Ringo Starr et al). [4]

The weightiest and most interesting part of the anthology, for me, is the section containing the “Commentaries, Open Conversations and Notes on Collaborations”. It is always startling and fortuitous to be given a glimpse into any poetic process. The conversations on “Four Skin Confessions” are thoroughly edifying, a sort of sub-rosa report on the makings of a collaborative poem as well as the workings, dynamics and quirks of the poets. The first conversation answers the question, “Is the Poem Finished?” Here, with the mood and tone at times, hilarious (see page 126, 2nd and 3rd to last paragraphs), at times, wired (page 127), the poem's co-authors (and the anthology’s curators) engage in discussion about whether to end the poem or not.
JOHN (Claremont, CA): I could be done, if everyone wants to be done, but, really, I’m not quite done.

EILEEN [St. Helena, CA]: I guess what I’m thinking is that if someone says the poem is not done based on the poem itself, that’s one thing. If it’s for the reason John raises, I’m intrigued by its implications as to collaboration and authorship. [5]

The conversations are dotted with elements needed to effectively complete any collaborative poetry project – artistry, community spirit and openness. Another important feature of linked verses, for me, is seamlessness – the easy flow of lines from one poet to another, where the reader is almost always unable to tell which is which and who is where. So I was tickled to find the “purple clue” in the email conversation:
book stays
still like clay,

the moon
pretends to marry

her name
with purple blood. [6]

See how poetry
lit me

from within, then
turned me
blind. [7]

Over 200 stanzas apart, notice how the lines of the fourth and fifth quoted stanzas complement the lines of the first three, imparting a feeling of “roundedness”.

Particularly rousing, too, is Conversation #2, which recounts how the poets arrived at such an unusual and provocatively intriguing title. The poets tinkered, disputed and finally voted off other possibilities and permutations (page 138) and came up with “Four Skin Confessions”; as to meaning, Alvarez wisely advises, “People will make their own interpretations when the time comes. We can't direct it.” [8]

The poem “Transplant” by Liz Breslin (Wanaka, New Zealand), Kunal Dutta (North London, UK) and Lucy Morris (South London, UK) epitomizes the borderless nature of hay(na)ku, as well as the fleetingness and poignancy of home:
And trains
Surgically removed me

The familiar
contours of home.

Where the
Heart bleeds on,

Another self
Translates another truth,

“lemon moon” by Mary Garsson, Adele Mendelson and Edna Cabcabin Moran is rich in imagery, and somewhat reminiscent of a sixties' subculture; the tone is haunting and eternally young:
the dunes mourn
the leaving

the waves mourn
the towering

pages stain
chained in time

in tidal
pools so shallow

where starfish swallow
a lemon
moon. [10]

“Editorial Hay(na)ku” by Jean Gier, Tom Novack, Candida Kutz, Jeff Hansman, Joselyn Ignacio, Kate Coulter, Liza Li, Mary Vezilich and Mike McGuire is pure fun:
Cap or
Not to cap… [Jean Gier]

that the
Question, you ask? [Tom Novack]

painted word
makes me sing [Joselyn Ignacio]

Does cap
Make you sing? [Kate Coulter] [11]

“Daisy Chain Poems” by Jean Vengua, Michael Fink and Margo Ponce is rhythmic, delightful, whimsical, with some parts unmistakably suggestive of folk tales:

lady floss,

shiny men spin


candy resin:

gingerbread grin. Bring


bring trouble

stir the bubbles [12]

The Hay(na)ku Anthology, Vol. II, edited by Jean Vengua and Mark Young and released in 2008, is comprised of single-author poems. It is reflective of the beauty of the hay(na)ku form – that is, pleasurable and “deceptively simple” to write as well as read. The anthology features different variations of hay(na)ku including traditional, reverse, sequence, ducktail and visual.

“A Stop & Shop in Connecticut” by Scott Keeney is amusing in its mischievousness:
O cover girl
who has

one blouse button, [13]

“Modernit√©” by Rebeka Lembo is striking in its incantatory tone and skilled use of repetition:
that knows
not of tears

that comes
out as noise

that knows
not of fears

that comes
out as voice.

Ernesto Priego, employing the ducktail and reverse hay(na)ku forms, writes one of the most evocative and melodic poems in the collection:
Before dying it
is said

brings back all
you once

I wish I
had that

memory span, to
forget you

before finally dying
and seeing

back. [15]

“Respiration” by Christopher Rieder is catchy in tone, and lovely as Sinatra’s head filled with “something [un]stupid”:
my head
with your perfume,”

paraphrase the
old Sinatra song)

out; breathe
in, breathe out.

inhale, and
catch your scent;

exhale, and
sigh your name. [16]

I confess to using the Filipino expression “hay, naku” quite frequently and with much gusto. The hay(na)ku poetic form, however, engenders, for me, everything that is good about being Pinoy – affinitive, welcoming, innovative. Interestingly, it occurred to me that the kitchen table; Miss Daisy Hawkins (or my gathered notes on her) and an old Sinatra song; and Hay(na)ku volumes II to III [17] and me, make a visual, actual tercet – which, I like to think, is hay(na)ku in motion, and indicative of the form’s (or poetry’s, in general) ubiquity. To sum it up, Priego, in The Chained Hay(na)ku Project, says it best: “I have both fallen in love with the process and the outcome. I am both in love with the idea of enjoying the process itself and also acknowledging that the poem has taken a life of its own.” [18]

[1] Gary Lehmann, “It All Came Down To a Serious Relationship With Eleanor Rigby,” Eclectica Magazine, accessed October 14, 2010,
[2] Eileen Tabios, “The History of the Hay(na)ku,” in The Hay(na)ku Anthology, Vol. II, edited by Jean Vengua and Mark Young (St. Helena & San Francisco, California: Meritage Press and Puhos, Finland: xPress(ed), 2008), 134-141.
[3] “Introduction,” The Chained Hay(na)ku Project, curated by Ivy Alvarez, John Bloomberg-Rissman, Ernesto Priego & Eileen Tabios (St. Helena & San Francisco, California: Meritage Press and Puhos, Finland: xPress(ed), 2010), 1-2.
[4] The Beatles, The Beatles Anthology (San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2000), 206.
[5] “Four Skin Confessions,” The Chained Hay(na)ku Project, pp. 115, 117.
[6] “Four Skin Confessions,” p. 7.
[7] “Four Skin Confessions,” p. 29.
[8] “Four Skin Confessions,” p. 146.
[9] “Transplant,” pp. 94-95.
[10] “lemon moon,” pp. 60-61.
[11] “Editorial Hay(na)ku,” p. 81.
[12] “Daisy Chain Poems,” p. 69.
[13] “A Stop & Shop in Connecticut,” The Hay(na)ku Anthology, Vol. II, p. 55.
[14] “Modernit√©”, p. 67.
[15] Untitled, p. 93.
[16] “Respiration,” pp. 100-101.
[17] There was a prior first volume of hay(na)ku: the now out-of-print The First Hay(na)ku Anthology co-edited by Jean Vengua and Mark Young.
[18] “Four Skin Confessions,” The Chained Hay(na)ku, p.116.


Aileen Ibardaloza is the author of TRAJE DE BODA: poems (Meritage Press, 2010) and associate editor of Our Own Voice Literary Ezine.

1 comment:

EILEEN said...

Another view is offered by Nicholas T. Spatafora in GR #16 at