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NEWEST is by Thomas H. Rohlich, Professor of Japanese Language and Literature at Smith College, and is published in Metamorphoses:  the journal of the five college faculty seminar on literary translation (Spring 2005 (Vol. 13.1)   Editor-in-Chief  Thalia Pandiri). 

I wondered, can one really devote 480 pages to haiku on sea slugs?  The answer is emphatically ‘yes.’  Although difficult to read from beginning to end, this book contains great learning and insight, and deserves a wide reading among specialists and non-specialists alike.

For many of the haiku, Gill gives multiple translations as a way of showing possible interpretations.  I know of no other book of English translations of haiku that goes to such lengths to explain translations, which in Gill’s hands are accurate, economical, and often elegant. In addition to being an accomplished translator and poet (over 100 of the poems are by the author, under the nom de plume keigu), Gill is an articulate defender of the art of translation.

Gill is also a master of the discursive footnote, and at times I found myself reading along the bottoms of the pages, jumping among footnotes, and marveling at his often amusing and always reliable views of Japanese culture, both literary and everyday. For all the eccentricities one might expect (and does find) in a book devoted entirely to Japanese haiku on the sea slug, the author is an accomplished haiku writer, a very talented and engaging critic, capable of reading with an acute understanding of culture and cultural differences. Haiku enthusiasts, scholars of Japanese literature and marine biology, and professional and amateur translators alike will certainly welcome this interesting book.


Modern Haiku*  (volume 35.1 winter-spring 2004). A Five Page Review by William J. Higginson**

Gill appeals to readers who revel in ideas and expansive footnotes. . . .
Some of the most engaging commentary on haiku
(and senryu and the occasional tanka or kyôka) ever to see print. . . .

Reading it, we see the deep affection of the Japanese for the phenomena of their own environment and culture. At the same time, we encounter one of the most original minds to take up the related subjects of haiku and cross-cultural communication. . . .

This single-topic tome may be our best English-language window yet into the labyrinth of Japanese haikai culture. If you have read Yasuda, Blyth, Henderson, Ueda, and Shirane, then read Gill. He  will expand your mind. If you have not read those guys yet, then read Gill first. He’s more fun.

Gill ably justifies his multiple-translation efforts:

Multiple translation is often the only way to translate all the faces of a poly-faceted poem in a witty, which is to say, brief manner, when trying to squeeze all the information into one poem would kill it, and not including that information—and this is, regretfully, almost standard with haiku translation today—would constitute negligence with respect to the intent of the original. (33)


*Modern Haiku is the oldest and most prestigious haiku magazine in the English language world.  It is truly international. This issue includes an essay by Thomas Hemstege, Hail, Herbs, and Turnips: Haiku and its Models in the Natural World, translated from German by David Cobb, and an article by Ikuyo Yoshimura about the Kidong Kang: The Haiku Autobiography of a Korean Japanese.  All of the 108 page magazine is first rate.  The FAQ in the General Announcements speaks well for the editor: Please be assured that submissions are never rejected because of lack of space

** William J. Higginson is recognized as the top editor/reviewer/researcher/translator/popularizer of modern haiku.  Reading his classic Haiku World: An International Poetry Almanac  (1996), I discovered, among other things, particularly good  haiku in East Europe.  If you want to understand what haiku in English is, and who is doing it before diving into the Japanese world, read Higginson first!

Lynx (February, 2004) From a review by Jane Reichhold (host of the marvelous Aha! poetry web-ring*)

“The man has a wild sense of humor and enough energy to come spurting off the pages with information, relevant and irrelevant facts and fancy. You may get whip lash from reading the text of the book and the footnotes simultaneously, but fortunately he has them on the same page so you can wander around in the book almost as if it is in hypertext. You may think you need a system of bookmarks to keep on the subject, but it is easiest to just give your mind over to Gill and follow his incredible journey on printed pages. . . .

If you ever thought haiku were not erotic, this book alone could change your mind forever. If you read it, I can guarantee you will not be the same when you finish it! . . . . Incredible work.”  

Reichhold also quoted my entire description of the book (found on the Amazon site, with strange apostrophes because of a built-in fault in my XP, which turns them into Chinese when I use plaintext.).  This shows why it is not easy to review, for the book could,  be described as over a dozen entirely different kinds of books.  Here is a link for the Rise Description, alone.

[scroll down the page, you'll find it!]

*You must visit Aha! and Lynx to appreciate what Jane Reichhold has accomplished, not just for haiku, but for poetry in the USA..


Amazon   William J. Higginson graces me with another review on Amazon, [please google it, i'll add a link next update] but Amazon’s smart computers automatically exchanged his name for his daughter in law’s name because he did it on her computer.  He and I have both tried to change things, but Amazon is just too damn automatic, so this has gone on for months!

Asahi Haikuist Network  This Jan 26, 2004 article by David McMurray is more an introduction than a review. I could not c+v from the page. If you would peek, here is the address.

Dannyreviews.com  Danny Yee's review may be the best summary yet of this difficult to grasp book. "This may seem like a bizarrely narrow scope for a book, but it makes surprising sense. A near-exhaustive collection on one subject offers a more informative view of haiku than highlight selections. // "The combination of a literal translation with multiple translations, along with discussion of the problems faced, offers fascinating insights into the difficulties of Japanese to English translation and of poetry translation more generally. Readers with some knowledge of Japanese will obviously get more out of this, but it's presented in such a way that English-only readers can follow it without being frustrated. // "And Rise, Ye Sea Slugs! offers a different perspective on Japanese culture, with insights into history, literature, mythology, food, and more. // "Gill's tone is relaxed and informal and he doesn't take himself too seriously or struggle for academic respectability, but he is still precise in his own way, and insanely erudite. // "All told, it's an original undertaking carried out with style. // "An example haiku  in the review: a few drinks / and i am a sea slug / out of water  Gijô (1741)  For the rest go to Dannyreviews, located down under (or up-over as they would put it.)

Frogpond’s winter issue has a short introductory style review by Jim Kacian.  Last time I looked I could not find the review on line, but here is a line: "An intriguing blend of science, lore, poetry and speculation which touches on countless points of knowledge, without being pedantic.

Interspecies  From a review by Jim Nollman, author of Dolphin Dreamtime, published in his fine ecological newsletter's Spring 2004 issue:  "This book gets my vote for the most original literary theme of the decade. Apparently, sea cucumbers enjoy a long history as a common topic of Japanese haiku, perhaps vaguely analogous to the place of rabbits and mice in American cartoons. This book, by an American poet who lived in Japan for years, is the first and last critical statement on this genre, in English. The exposition offers an always eccentric, often profound, and occasionally riveting glimpse into haiku which is, like so much Japanese art, both simple and complex at the same moment. //  A haiku example in the review ". . . sea slug / a far cry from / apple pie (keigu)  Here is the  address which is pdf.  (For html’ed version google to it but do not try to copy from the page for it can goof the pc up as often happens with such.)

Simplyhaiku  This is not a review, but an interview by the editor, Robert Wilson.  It has, however, so delighted a number of fine editors/authors, that I thought it worth mentioning on the review page.   Simplyhaiku  is also worth a visit in itself. It is a cornucopia of haiku, haiga and interviews.

Spanish Reviews   University of Seville doctor of philosophy Vincente Haya, author of Corazon de Haiku and recently haiku by Santoka, has posted beautiful succinct reviews of Rise at El Rincon de Haiku.   In the first review, he is in the process of “devouring the book,” finds it “a dream” and “a classic on the methodology of haiku”  and “already a classic . . . like the work of Blyth.”  In the second, he calls it “an ante y después of critical studies of haiku” (The phrase antes y despues easily translates into Japanese as kuzenzetsugo, or, emptiness/nothing-before-break/end-after.  English lacks an idiom to describe something that has no precedent and will never be matched.)  I do not want to butcher Haya’s Spanish.  If you read Spanish, please visit the Spanish Reviews page,  here.

Japanese have given me by far the most feedback, but these are mostly short off-the-cuff remarks on bulletin boards (bbs).  There are a few on Amazon Japan, too.  I do not have time to translate them, but if you read Japanese (or, if you want to translate them, be my guest!) you may read them here .    Meanwhile, many Japanese are contributing to the second edition corrections and glosses (far more than i have had time to put up on the website) more rapidly and wonderfully than I had anticipated, considering the book is written in English.  I already have some entertaining new interpretations and more than sixty new haiku, including over a dozen of the best surreal sea slug poems you can imagine, to add to the second edition (to be published, i hope, by Sept).