Thursday, March 24, 2011

Five Questions for a Rolling Art Gallery: Axle Contemporary

We've got a super secret bonus interview this month with some more folks doing a project.  They're Matthew Chase-Daniel and Jerry Wellman of Santa Fe, NM, and they are the brains behind Axle Contemporary, an art gallery on wheels.

The gallery embodies aspects of sculpture, installation, and performance art, all in the guise of a commercial art gallery.  Anyway, their Kickstarter project involves buying this old sign...

...and displaying a different haiku on each side of it every week for sixteen weeks this summer.  Basically, there are two kinds of people reading now: those who think this is the coolest thing they've ever seen, and those who are lying.  Let's see what the guys have to say... but first, help 'em out!  They've got about $1600 to go on the project in the next 37 days, and you could be the one to put them over the top.

1. How did a 1970 aluminum stepvan go from delivering Twinkies to delivering art to the people?  (As a side-question, how do the people now get their Twinkies?)

The van has been around for over 40 years, and we can't tell exactly where it has been all that time.  We do know that it was owned by a former Secret Service agent and Colorado Springs' foremost Elvis impersonator in the 1980s.  We bought it last year from a guy named Chris, a stepvan aficionado in cutoff military fatigues.   The idea of a mobile art gallery sprung out of our minds before we had a chance to censor it, a whim as much as a serious idea.  Then somehow we bought the vehicle (so big, so shiny) and built the thing.  As for where to purchase a Twinkie, well, not at Whole Foods.

2. The whole operation has a very gonzo/"Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test" feeling to it.  Any inspiration there?

The two of us grew up in different places and times that both intersected the road traveled by Furthur.  We were not directly inspired by The Merry Pranksters in this project, but did look extensively at the Hippie School Bus Conversion as a model for vehicular renovation. We also looked at Haitian Tap Taps and ornate Central American buses. There was something about the shiny minimal old/new look of the van that seemed to emit a difficult to locate timeless glow.  We haven't had anyone juggling sledgehammers in the gallery yet, but we are certainly open to the possibility.

3. So are you guys on the bus or off the bus?  (Or maybe the van, in this case.)

We are always on the bus, not on the wagon yet, and most often in the van.

4. What're you doing with the sign after the haiku exhibition is over?

In our "Kickstarter" fundraising campaign we have offered it to the first person who pledges a donation of $1,200.  (There are more affordable pledge levels there too).  Otherwise, we'll use it for a future project or just have it out in the backyard for a while to enjoy the visual feast it offers.

5. How do you feel your taking the art to the people is different than taking the people to the art, like in a traditional gallery?

With our wheels and axles we have access to a much more diverse audience.  Many people are too busy, too lazy, too intimidated, or too uninterested to breach the threshold of an art gallery or museum, or to open a book of poetry.  By bringing the arts to the street we can use our gallery as a vehicle for creative engagement in the social sphere.  We've become a driving force in the arts in Santa Fe, and seeing art in our van or poetry from your car always promises to be a moving experience.  We want to playfully break down boundaries around people and art.  The people can become inspired, engage their innate creativity, and become works of art themselves.

MATTHEW CHASE-DANIEL (né Chase) left New York City in 1970 for the Berkshire Mountains where he raised tadpoles, minnows, and a raccoon, learned to fall off a horse, and hunt morels, wild violets, and rainbow trout. In the early 1980s he made his way to the Ojai Foundation where he spent a year studying Zen and Tibetan Buddhism, Lakota Sweat Lodge ritual, and Northwest Coast carving, while growing his hair into ragged dreadlocks, eating macrobiotic food, and wearing bedsheets in the style of a South Indian ascetic monk. Later in the decade, Chase-Daniel studied at Sarah Lawrence College (B.A.) and in Paris, France, where he studied cultural anthropology, photography, and ethnographic film production (Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes & Sorbonne). Since 1989, he has lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico, renovating old houses, growing green chard, and making family and art.  His photography and sculpture have been exhibited across the U.S. and in Europe and Japan.  He has created public art projects in New Mexico, Colorado, Florida, Italy, and the Kingdom of the Netherlands.  His photography is represented by Craig Krull Gallery in Santa Monica, California.  He is the co-founder, co-owner, and co-curator of Axle Contemporary.

JERRY WELLMAN grew up near the Menominee reservation in frigid north-central Wisconsin. He left a not so promising job with a traveling carnival to go to school in California eventually graduating from CALARTS with an MFA. He works in many arts media.  His documentary film Fairy Tracks, in search of the spirit in nature, played in film festivals throughout the world.  His paintings have been seen in many museums and gallery exhibitions. He has also published several books including Shadows and What to do with a Dead Pinon.  Along the way, pursuing his life as an artist, Wellman became a firefighter in the Yukon Territory, a woodsman in Alaska,  an ordained minister, an indian trader (one who represents American Indian arts and crafts), a ceramic tile manufacturer, a teacher, a husband and father, and lately co-founder, co-owner, and co-curator of a mobile art gallery; Axle Contemporary.  For Wellman, it's all art, or else art fodder.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Five Questions for an Chairperson: Jim Kacian

Our interview this month is with Haiku Foundation Chairperson, Red Moon Press founder, and former Frogpond editor Jim Kacian.  The Foundation, by the way, will shortly be wrapping up its HaikuNow! contest.  You've got until March 31 to submit your haiku, and there's a cash prize!  Seriously.  Don't skip this.  Anyway, let's see what he has to say...

1. Okay, back in December we asked current Frogpond editor George Swede what his favorite version of Matsuo Basho's frog poem was.  As a former Frogpond editor yourself, what's yours?

As I'm sure you're aware, nearly everyone who has ever had a bit of Japanese has tried his/her hand at this poem. One of my favorite books of all time is Hiro Sato's One Hundred Frogs, which recorded most of the attempts up to the time of its publication. I'm not sure I can say definitively that I have a favorite version, but a couple versions that amuse me include Curtis Hidden Page's

A lonely pond in age-old stillness sleeps . . .
   Apart, unstirred by sound or motion . . . till
Suddenly into it a lithe frog leaps.

The audacity of such verbosity suggests a very great confidence, which, given the clarity that hindsight presents, was badly misplaced. Most of the other versions hinge on whether to "splash" or not, and I don't find myself that much in need of onomatapoeia to favor those versions. So I find it hard to better Bill Higginson's

Old pond . . .
  a frog leaps in
    water's sound.

I find this the most liquid rendering, especially how the frog's leap can be intuited to be headed into the sound as well as the water in this version.

Also fun in Sato's book are the many one-offs inspired by the hoary old classic, sonnets and short stories and what-all. And of course I had to try my own, year's ago:

old pond . . .
on it's banks, Basho—
the sound of his water

Probably we shouldn't linger on this . . .

2. How does The Haiku Foundation relate to the Haiku Society of America?  Is it like an East Coast/West Coast thang?

The Haiku Foundation has no formal relationship with the Haiku Society of America, other than wishing it well. We have completely different missions and goals and structures, and there is very little overlap in what we offer.

HSA is a membership organization primarily based around subscription to its journal, Frogpond, and is more a social organization. It's mission can be found on its website.

The mission of The Haiku Foundation is to archive the first century of achievement in English-language haiku, and to create opportunities for our second. To these ends, we are creating structures that will accomplish these goals—a hard-copy library, an online library, a bibliography—and others that will acquaint more people with the history of ELH—a timeline (in process), volumes such as Montage: The Book, and the Haiku Database (a project founded and implemented by Charles Trumbull which we hope in time to incorporate in toto on the THF website). We are a project-oriented organization, and have no membership, no dues, and no regular membership benefits per se: what we produce we make available to all, generally online. And like any nonprofit corporation, we are dependent for our funding on like-minded readers, writers and aficionados. We don't produce a journal or hold public elections.

3. The Haiku Foundation is fairly new-- what went into putting it together?

Our charter date is January 6, and we've just passed our second anniversary, but of course this is just our public face. We've been in process since 2005. The specific impetus for the creation of the Foundation was a casual comment from the Kiwi poet Ernest Berry, who wished he was able to find the winning poems from all the previous Henderson and Brady and Spiess and other contests in a single place. He thought another venture of mine, Red Moon Press, might be interested in creating a volume that collected them. That didn't seem like a feasible project for RMP to me, but it did trigger many other thoughts. Ernie will be pleased to see that we have just placed a version of his idea on the Foundation site, largely implemented by Paul Miller. This is precisely how the Foundation works: people identify projects that need doing, and the Foundation tries to help those people realize their visions.

I followed up this initial conception with conversations with many poets, to get a variety of opinions as to what might be seen to be necessary from haiku's perspective. I was not concerned so much with what best served poets, since HSA and other organizations already existed, so the goal was to serve haiku itself, expecting that poets would be served along the way. This enquiry proceeded largely as a thought experiment until Dave Russo, one of the implementers of Haiku North America in 2007, indicated his interest once that event was concluded. Dave's expertise as a web designer and implementer is seminal not only to the success of the Foundation, but to its very presence. Virtually every aspect of the Foundation that is accessible to others has Dave's fingerprints on it, and we simply couldn't have realized our goals without his involvement. Dave serves not only as the Webmaster of the Foundation but is also on the Board of Directors, as is Tom Borkowski, whose involvement was critical to our achieving nonprofit status in our first attempt, and who serves as a Board member as well as Treasurer of the organization. Billie Wilson joined us very shortly after Tom as Secretary to the Foundation, and is responsible for keeping us orderly and connected and moving in a forward direction, which she manages seemingly effortlessly. I fill the other officer position as President and also serve on the Board.

4. Total non-sequitur: your poetry has been translated into several languages.  We often talk about the difficulty translating haiku from Japanese to English; do the same risks exist when translating haiku out of English and into another language, or does the separation from "the mother tongue" make this not as big a deal?

Translation is problematic for everyone, and it is amusing and irritating to see what sort of bollocks can be made of poems no matter the direction one travels. Certainly my own poems have lost nuance (and in some cases, basic content) in their migrations to other languages and cultures. It's a perennial problem and I can't say that my own efforts have solved any of the problems all translators face.

That said, one of the most fecund sources of inspiration is what Richard Gilbert has termed "creative misinterpretation." Certainly the notion of what haiku is has been illumined by just such misinterpretation—in fact, our whole notion of what Japan was at the time haiku was coming to the West now seems quaint and patronizing, and I suspect our notion of what haiku is, seen a hundred years from now, will seem the same. But in the quest to meet other conceptions of the real and the beautiful and the poetic we are stimulated as much by what we can't contextualize as by what we can, and this expands the range of what's possible. I hope that whatever people in Bulgaria and Egypt and Taiwan are making of my poems, that they at least are finding something that nourishes their own creative spark, and that they are enlarged by the conversation.

5. Where would you like to see The Haiku Foundation in ten years?

Our focus, as a start-up organization, has been on our short term vision and goals, and to this end we have the various things you'll find on the website: forums and a blog and various content areas that are designed to invite participation. But of course this is only part of what we hope to achieve. We have specific long-term goals that we are working towards simultaneously with these more obvious ones, though the time frame may not in truth be ten years.

In keeping with our mission to archive our first century of achievement in ELH, we are working towards creating a hard-copy library of every book ever produced in the genre. This is a daunting challenge, of course, but more because of the explosion of haiku publishing that is taking place. What has been produced in the past is static, and either some volumes are available or they aren't, and we keep looking. But keeping up with current output is challenging, not only for sheer numbers but for the many unexpected places one needs to look to find all such offerings.

And of course, having assembled such a library, we would like a place to house it. We are exploring opportunities of linking with an institution that would be capable of maintaining such a library, which might be a university or artist colony or other such facility that would value our work. There is also the option of creating or purchasing our own building, which would require capital funding that we have not approached to this point. And in any of these venues we envision a Haiku Hall of Fame, where our outstanding poets might have a place where their achievements might be viewed in a sympathetic context. Likely these would all be in the same location.

Parallel to our hard-copy library is our online library, where haiku books would be made available to scholars, students, poets and interested persons without the difficulties of tracking them down, especially useful for rare or out of print books. We also look forward to a day when we host a variety of gatherings, from conferences to readings to potluck suppers where poets can gather and share their work and their lives. We would like to offer scholarships and incentives to poets as well, which might be implemented at any of these venues.

We have only begun to envision what the Foundation will have to offer in years to come. I'm sure other energies and visions will help expand this earliest imagining. However, the long-range goal of creating new opportunities that serve haiku will remain, I am certain, central to all such visions.

Thank you for your interest in the Foundation and for the opportunity to tell your readers a bit about what we're doing, and hope to do, at THF. I hope they will all feel free to explore the site and bring their energy and interest to bear on the future of haiku. As Harold Henderson wrote, "Haiku will be what poets make of it." We are happy to be doing our part to see that this rings true.

JIM KACIAN is Founder and President of The Haiku Foundation, founder of Red Moon Press (the largest press dedicated to haiku in the world—which makes it a very small enterprise), author of 15 award-winning books and thousands of haiku, some of which have been translated into more than fifty languages. You can learn more about him if you're interested by checking out his bio on Wikipedia.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Happy Purim!

A three-cornered hat:
if it had four or two, it
wouldn't be my hat.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Review: Haiku Wars

Lanoue, David.  Haiku Wars.  Winchester, VA: Red Moon, 2009.  184pp.

Let's start off with a brief summary of this haiku novel.  A bodhisattva reincarnates in the form of the telepathic pet weasel of a man identified only as Poet.  Poet is a member of the...

*snaps fingers*  Are you still following me?  I thought I saw your eyes glaze over there for a second.

I want to deal with the key problem of Haiku Wars before I get into the fact that I actually basically loved it.  See, there are the jokes that you know you can tell in any situation.  Up the risqué-factor, the offensive-factor, or the absurd-factor, and you're going to start losing some people.  But in losing some people, the ones you keep are going to love the joke all the more.  It's why we got beaten up in middle school for quoting Monty Python's Flying Circus all the time but were free to do so to our hearts' content during Chess Club.

(I hope that's a "we" thing.  I really do.)

I want to quote just a bit more than what could commonly be called "fair use" to illustrate this best.  The members of the New Orleans Haiku Club-- of which Poet is a member-- are debating the need for juxtaposition in the haiku form, which in turn descends into a discussion of whether the haiku needs to be defined at all:


"Does haiku need defining?" Sylvia's quiet voice piped in.

"Oh yes, definitely!" Poet answered, and I could tell by the increased urgency of his petting that he was winding up for a lecture.

"Without definition, the word 'haiku' ceases to hold meaning.  Or, putting it in another way, if it's not defined, then anything can be a haiku.  Why not a sonnet or a limerick?  What makes a limerick not a haiku?"

"There once was a man from Nantucket..." Van interjected.

Poet ignored this.  "If we don't have definitions in mind when we use words, we can't make sense."

"If defining's so important, why don't we just check the dictionary?" Janette suggested.

"Because" (Poet in full lecture mode now) "the dictionary only records common usage: what the majority of people speaking the language think when they use the word, 'haiku' at the time of the dictionary's publication.  But this can lag way behind what poets of haiku are saying... and discovering.  Haiku is an art, so someone's always pushing its envelope.  A great innovator, a trailblazer, might take haiku where it's never been, and then the world, and dictionaries, will follow-- but later.  There's always lag-time."

"So!" Van slapped his knee.  "You admit that haiku is evolving!"

Poet squeezed me hard, but then his fingers relaxed completely as he realized the corner into which he had painted himself.

"I rest my case," Van said.


The common reader is going to take this scene (as narrated by the telepathic weasel, mind you) to be obscurely scholastic at best.  But I can guarantee you any reader who has been in a few creative writing workshops has sat through this same debate before.  And once we get into the convention being held by the New Orleans Haiku Club, the intense rivalry between Kusuban-san and Muya-san, the missing manuscript of incredible import, and the "Head-to-Head Haiku Death Match," our audience keeps getting narrower and narrower and our narrow audience keeps laughing harder and harder.

I think a few parts of this are a little hokey, sure.  Even as the author is attempting to create a farce, I think the use of an animal narrator just becomes a little too weird to deal with, especially when Poet is trying to get suspected manuscript thieves to pet his weasel to establish a firm telepathic bond.  (In other news, "pet my weasel" is my new pickup line.)  But as much as I kept wanting to distance myself from the people in the book, I kept realizing that each laugh proved how much I was a member of that circle.  

After all, I'm writing a review of a book called Haiku Wars.  

So all in all, if you read High Coup Journal, you're probably going to like this book.  If you don't read High Coup Journal, you're never going to hear my warning about the book anyway.  I feel obliged to put both of my ratings below-- but don't fool yourself into thinking anything but the first applies to you.






Monday, March 7, 2011

Five Questions for an Editor: Taylor Lampton

Our first interview of March is with The Scarlet Sound's Taylor Lampton.  Her publication began as a New Brunswick, New Jersey, adaptation of the Santiago en Cien Palabras project and has grown into an e-journal.   Let's see what she has to say...

1. The Scarlet Sound, huh? Tell us that's closer to a "blue note" than it is "the brown note."

Well the sound in question certainly does not cause any involuntary movements other than a smile here and there. The Scarlet Sound is defined as the sum of individual heartbeats coming together as one through artistic community. Rather than a specific kind of "note" I would argue in favor of a "beautiful cacophony." Like any great symphony, this sound brings seemingly unrelated, clashing sounds and rhythms together creating one sound -- a sound of beauty. The opportunity for those sounds to combine and become a cohesive unit leads to the beauty. The Scarlet Sound is both the name of the sound we look for, the summation of those heartbeats, and it is the opportunity for those heartbeats to come together.

2. Your journal publishes poetry, short fiction, humor, film, visual art, and photography. That's quite a wide swath of art to choose from. What sort of unifying elements are you looking for?

We tend to look for pieces, no matter the genre, that expose the heart of the artist. It's not about a particular theme. It is about expression and recognition. What does that mean in terms of what you'll see on our pages? It means that you'll find the work of real people and not those people who write flowery words for the sake of self-worship or the "artistic" photographs that make no sense to someone who hasn't "gotten it" from extensive study of "the field." Our artists are recognized by showcasing their heartbeats, and we hope that our artists can then appreciate hearing from all the different kinds of artists we have in our community.

3. Could you explain a bit more about the South American movement that you mention you're trying to connect to in the publication?

Sure thing! There are a few examples, but I'll explain Santiago en Cien Palabras (Santiago in 100 Words). The goal was to have the people of Santiago, Chile write 100 words or less about the town, their thoughts, stories, whatever. These pieces were then compiled into these booklets that were free reading material for the public transportation system in the city. A person could pick one up and read it while on the metro and then drop it off at their stop or take it home for a bit. It was a hit! The experience let the people of the city provide art for other people in the city, bolstering an appreciation of the arts and providing a community identity.

The Scarlet Sound originally got its start at Rutgers University, which happens to have the largest transportation system in a University in the States. It just made sense to unite an underground artistic community with the Rutgers ideas of tolerance and recognition. We even had the bus system! Throughout time, The Scarlet Sound has taken on a new face as an entirely online arts publication and is now even open to the general public. We took the idea that art creates community, coupled that with our first home's values, and now we have the publication we have today.

4. Let's shift gears to haiku and linguistics, since we do the former and you do the latter. Why isn't syllable-counting in English the same thing as syllable-counting in Japanese?

Well without boring your readers with some intense linguistics, I can say that some languages permit some things to happen while others don't. For instance, in English we can say words that start with the sounds "st" like in "stop sign." Spanish, however, does not allow that and you'll find native Spanish speaker's accents include sayings like "estop sign" to take care of that. This same kind of rule applies to Japanese. It doesn't allow a bunch of consonants to be strung together without having vowels. The word "strength" then is totally not okay in Japanese. Japanese speakers would have to say that as "strengethah." So "strength" is one syllable in English, and at least three in Japanese. Tada! Hope that made sense.

5. You mention a belief that "art can create community." What does "community" mean in the digital age?

Something I absolutely love about the digital age is that community doesn't just mean who lives next to you. It has to do with what you do and what you love. Your community can be as small as a group of close friends and as large as the entire world! The Scarlet Sound's community of artists that have been published have come from all over the United States, which is awesome. Isn't it awesome that we get to choose our community now with how we choose to be involved with technology? I can make friends via twitter in New Zealand or publish an artist in Hong Kong. The globe is a super small place now, and that means community gets to take up more and more geographical space. In the end, I hope our community at The Scarlet Sound can network with their fellow artists and learn how their community works even when spread out all around the world.

TAYLOR LAMPTON is a student and Linguist, though many times those overlap. The Scarlet Sound embodies one of her greatest passions by utilizing creativity and the arts to foster community. Though primarily a scientist and a ridiculously involved undergraduate student, she enjoys writing, photography, and video editing. Taylor is an award-winning public speaker and speech writer and was also recently published in the High Coup Journal.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

New Word Order LAUNCH

Today High Coup Journal announces one of our most exciting projects, in collaboration with Drafty Attic Press.  (Don't make that out as being too big a thing-- they're both me, Mike Miller, the editor.)

We've decided we're tired of chapbook contests that charge entry fees, so we're launching our very own chapbook contest.  No fees, none of that "print-on-demand" baloney.  You win and we design and publish your chapbook.  Then we'll ship you 25 copies to send off to reviewers and place in your local bookstores while we provide an online bookstore through which you can sell the rest.

Now let's get one thing straight: donating doesn't have any impact on your chances of winning the contest.  No donation is necessary to participate and/or win, and sending us money doesn't raise your chances of being chosen.  We'll have an outside judge, Darla Crist, making all the decisions here. 

Let's get another thing straight: your submissions don't have to all be in haiku form.  That's fine if you want to, but we're looking for the best possible poetry, period.  We just want to publish a chapbook for an up-and-coming poet.

So how can you help us out the most, at this point?  Awareness.  Post a link to our Kickstarter page on Facebook, the shorter link on Twitter, tell your rich aunts and uncles... whatever you can do.  We want to make this effort a success, and we need your help to do it.

Teaser: New Word Order

More details coming shortly...

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

High Coup Journal - March 2011 Issue

(Photo by Ann Wright, Plymouth, IN)



Dominique Allen (Terre Haute, IN)

William Cullen (Brooklyn, NY)

Christopher Dolle (Terre Haute, IN)

Bat-Ami Gordon (Antelope Valley, CA)

Amy Harris (West Lafayette, IN)

David Hollander (Bloomington, IN)

Chris Loft (Adelaide, Australia)

Jamie Lushbaugh (Terre Haute, IN)

Darcy McMurtery (Seattle, WA)

E. Joyce Moore (Indianapolis, IN)

Aaron Owens (Terre Haute, IN)


Editor's Note:

Well folks, this issue
will be just a little weird...
please read why below:

I didn't set out to make High Coup Journal a political journal, but in the recent Twitter-storm of #libya and #egypt tags, I couldn't help but notice that some of them were in haiku form.  One might suggest that haiku isn't the most efficient way to share information about important breaking events, but one also might suggest that it is the best way to pack the most emotion into the fewest characters.  So we've tried to share some of those haiku in this issue along with preserving the merry whimsical madness we pride ourselves on here at the journal.

To those of you in North Africa: let us know if there's anything we can do to help.


William Cullen

her yellow panties
on the tequila bottle
today's mardi gras


David Hollander

let us hope for peace
as our Arab cousins pay
freedom's bloody price


Jamie Lushbaugh

I blush at his touch,
which is awkward when married.
I still feel sixteen.

Daddy ignored you?
Live up to his standards, be
An asshole magnet.


E. Joyce Moore

Dashed upon the shore of life
Riptide's waves its fate.


Darcy McMurtery

The mirror speaks truth
and I reach for my eye cream.
Outside the crow laughs.

Lady Friends

When Grandpa started
banging floozies we didn’t
know what to call them.


Amy Harris

good fences make good neighbors
on the Rio Grande

Insomnia calls
every night, 2 a. m.
when the moon is bright


Aaron Owens

Tso Very Tasty

Oh, General Tso!
Your noodles cut through my gut
Like a katana


Dominique Allen

My future is writ
Upon quick-drying cement
Where's my jack hammer?

White frozen crystals
cake my car in icy sheets
Fuck you, troposphere.


Chris Loft

Just one step away -
his supporters fade like dust -
wind blows in the sand

Rulers come and go - 
but in the markets and squares - 
people shall be free 

That man must go now - 
if he says he has no shoes - 
then he can have mine 


Bat-Ami Gordon

this revolution
inspirational model
scares authorities

contagious revolution
contaminated regime


March 2011 AWESOME SAUCE: Christopher Dolle

Snowflakes fuck and grow
Outside apartment windows,
While we lay in bed.


Lion or a lamb?
Hell if we know.  Send in your
poems regardless.

highcoupjournal {at}