sa-ico-1.gifHomesa-ico-1.gifArticles About Haiku

Haiku In Amazonas

(Reedited in 15/01/2006)

Rosa Clement

The history of haiku in Amazonas state has not been widely disseminated yet, even though local poets have practiced this form since the eighties. Luiz Bacellar (1928) is considered to be the first to practice this form in Amazonas. According to the poet Zemaria Pinto (1957), "everything started with the book The Chrysanthemum of a hundred petals, by Luiz Bacellar and Roberto Evangelista, published in 1985". In 1999, Bacellar published Satori and in 2002 he published a 2ª edition, which includes poems like:

If the obi's bow
flew to ikebana.
Blue butterfly?

Se o laço do obi
voasse ao ikebana.
Borboleta azul?

Ants at the door
carry the body
of the dead cicada.

Formigas na porta
carregam o corpo
da cigarra morta.

The sea is wild.
It hits the rocks, and furious,
sings around them.

O mar está bravo.
Bate, e enfurecido,
canta nos rochedos.

An interesting finding about haiku in Amazonas is due to the writer and history researcher Samuel Benchimol (1923-2003). In his book Ecologic Zenith and Nadir (2001), the "list of books published by the author" includes Verses from the green years (1942-1945), whose description is "Poems and haiku written in the period of 1942-1945 (unpublished)", containing 9 pages. This means that Benchimol was, in fact, the first to practice the form in Amazonas.

In 1984, a female poet from Amazonas, Mariazinha Trindade (?-?), seems to have heard about haiku when she published a poem with more than seventeen syllables entitled Hai-kai nº 3 in the Amazonian Women´s Anthology:

In this room I feel I am
like a captive bird
and long for freedom on a tree

Nesta sala me sinto
como um pássaro cativo
e anseio pela liberdade de uma árvore.

It was Bacellar, however, who encouraged other poets, such as Anibal Beça, to take an interest in haiku. The ideia then created roots, and made the haiku bloom and branch in Amazonas, catching the attention of other authors.

In his book "Filhos da Várzea" (Sons of the flood plain, 1984), Beça includes two haiku series, following the style of the Brazilian poet Guilherme de Almeida, who was an early proponent of haiku in Brazil (see Haiku in Brazil). Almeida's haiku are three line poems that rhyme the last syllables of the first and third lines, and the second and seventh syllables of the second line, and use titles and metaphors. Beça says that his haiku was "strongly influenced by two other Brazilian poets also, Millor Fernandes and Paulo Leminski." Currently, Beça develops his own style, like these still unpublished haiku:

Surrounded by green
an island in wall's vines:
a white orchid.

Cercada de verde
ilha na hera do muro:
uma orquídea branca.

Six o'clock in the afternoon:
cicadas' sounds
the temple's bells

Seis horas da tarde:
sons de cigarras
os sinos do templo

In the following years, other books were published with haiku, among them one by Simão Pessoa, "Matou Bashô e foi ao cinema" (Killed Basho and went to the movies, 1992). Pessoa followed the Guilhermino style more loosely, like this one, which rhymes only in the first and third lines, and offers humor as well:

New cinema? Great idea:
a camera in hand
and a thousand flies in the audience

Cinema novo? Grande idéia:
uma câmera na mão
e mil moscas na platéia

In portuguese, "ideia" (idea) rhymes with "platéia" (audience), which gives the haiku an effect that is not seen in the English translation.

In 1994, ZeMaria Pinto published "Corpo Enigma" (Enigmatic Body), a book that explores erotic haiku and applies to them images and metaphors:

for the legs:

morning wings
floating in diffuse light
on the wind's skin

para as pernas:

asas da manhã
flutuando à luz difusa
na pele do vento

for the breasts:

roots planted
in the vast field of the body-
cocoon of dreams

para os seios:

raízes plantadas
no vasto campo do corpo-
casulos de sonhos

ZeMaria has published haiku on the Internet also, especially in the World Anthology, at the French site http://www.atreide.net/rendezvous/bresil.htm:

news of the sun -
the morning birds
sing in the veranda

nouvelles du soleil -
les oiseaux du matin
chantent sur la véranda

notícias do sol -
os pássaros da manhã
cantam na varanda

The book The Grumpy Poet - Haiku and Sonnets, by the Amazonian poet, Oliveira Neto, published in 1996, includes poems which also vary in number of syllables. As the author says:

Five, seven, five:
that´s the way real haiku are.
I don´t play with them...

Cinco, sete, cinco:
são assim os haicais sérios.
Com estes eu não brinco...

Most of the poems in this book is written based on political or social issues and may make the reader think, such as this one:

Do you have insurance?
Then keep it
for your coffin...

Tem plano de saúde?
Pois guarde
para o ataúde...

In 1998, Jorge Tufic published "Sinos de Papel" (Paper Bells). In this book, Tufic also shows his appreciation for Guilherme de Almeida's style:

The Dolphin

Who bends to the waters
of the river has serious face
and bed of sadness.

O Boto

Quem se curva às águas
do rio, tem rosto sombrio
e leito de mágoas

In Paper Bells, Tufic presents only two haiku without rhymes or titles, but maintains the metaphors. This is one of them:

Ochre roofs
bare the weight of winds
Clay flour

Telhados ocres
ao peso das ventanias
Farinha de barro

Other poets, such as Ronaldo Bomfim and Roberto Evangelhista, were scheduled to launch haiku books in 2001 also, however, to date (January, 2005), no news have been distributed about the publication of these books. The poet Elson Farias has also tried his haiku among friends but hasn't published yet.

Since 1992 I have been an admirer of haiku. I published haiku in English in journals such as SeaOats, Lynx and Frog Pond. I also published some renga with Zane Parks, in Parnassus, and Jeanne Cassler, in Lynx. Some of my haiku are in the Internet, at The Heron Nest. I have written many haiku and here are two of them:

misty morning
heron silhouettes
enhance the bright

guitar music
along with the notes the howls
of a retriever

In 2000, the idea to create an haiku association was taking shape and finally a small group, which includes some of the above poets, launched the Sumaúma Haiku Association. Thus, on the 5th of July 2000, the poet Anibal Beça gave a talk at the monthly "Quarta Literária" (Literary Wednesday), held at Valer Bookstore. Beça presented a summary of haiku in Brazil, its definition and objectives. On the occasion, I gave a talk about women's presence in the haiku world since Basho's time. This way, we proposed and officialized the creation of the Sumaúma Haiku Association.

A couple of months later, the Sumaúma Haiku Association was formally established. For its inaugural meeting, on the 21st of October 2000, the association invited the haiku poet Edson Kenji Iura, of the Ipê Association, São Paulo, who spoke to a considerable audience about the origins of haiku in Brazil. We agreed with Iura's comment that "in the heart of Amazonia, where biodiversity is immense, how many beautiful haiku could be written!" We know and again agreed with Iura that "the Amazon has the potential to change itself into the true country of haiku". We only hope that this statement will come true some day...

Unfortunately, the meetings at the Sumauma Haiku Association has been suspended for a while. The reason is the lack of members interested in practicing a poetic form which belongs to another side of the world, and which is thought to be very mysterious and hard to write. To persuade new members to come to the meetings was quite a challenge. Our attempts have failed mainly because our experiences were not sufficient to solve difficulties in teaching haiku to an audience who had never heard of it, or which had already built their own haiku concepts. The goal of the meetings was mainly to present and analyse haiku, based on the group´s experiences. Perhaps some time soon the Amazonian haiku poets will try to resurrect the Association, this time following some kind of a more efficient program.