Te Atatu South, Auckland, New Zealand
Selected Haibuns by Andrea Cecon with illustrations by Tatiana Kosach and cover by Luciana Lunazzi. Amazon.com Kindle Edition, $0.92. (2013) 49 pp.
Selected Haibuns is illustrated with non-representational drawings by Tatiana Kosach that intersperse the haibun. Their relationship is subtle; the haibun in this collection would not be the same without them. Cover art is by Luciano Lunazzi.
In his Preface, Andrea Cecon says:
About five years ago, while I was chatting with a friend, I accidently typed “haibuns” rather than “haibun.” I know “haibuns” is not the proper plural of haibun, but it made me smile and reminded me of Kerouac’s haibun.
In his book Cecon establishes himself as a meticulous observer of people and places. The first section, From Ten Little Haibuns, contains four haibun about the poet’s experiences in Amsterdam, Prague, New Delhi and the Berlin Wall.
There is an intriguing steadiness in his observations, as if he had set himself up with a tripod and stayed there whenever something caught his attention. A typical example of this is his description of Amsterdam from his first haibun, “Amsterdam”: “Poor sex, many drugs, and some memories.” Another is the haibun, “Prague,” which gives his thoughts as he tours the “city centre alone”:
It’s a very cold October in Prague. The city is full of tourists, however, a feeling of solitude grows in me. The only thing warming my heart is the puppets: a secular tradition of this fairy country. Puppets and puppet shops everywhere.
His capacity to observe minute details reaches a teasing level in “New Delhi,” where “After twenty days of work in Little Tibet, it’s not easy to confront crowds, heavy pollution and carcasses of dead cows at the margins of the road . . .”
Confronted with promising titles we might conclude that Cecon has dared himself to extract poetry from a variety of exotic places. He has. Even the Berlin Wall yields some significance to him although he isn’t viewing it from his own experience, but from that of a friend, Roberto, who went to find his sister in Germany. The poet recalls himself at 16, “stuck in front of the TV set as all of us in Italy and in the rest of the world were.” The haibun concludes with the haiku
leaves fall in Berlin—
my friend souvenir
The next section of haibun, From Ten Little Haibuns Vol. 2 are titled Phone Call from Manchester, Tartaruga, Childhood Memories and 9/11.
In “Tartaruga” the poet returns to a first meeting in Moscow with a friend’s Russian wife:
Natalia doesn’t speak Italian nor English: only Russian . . . so we stayed there glancing at each other, without saying a word Nevertheless I am at ease even not knowing why, and I relax.
In “Childhood Memories,” Cecon says: “Lots of my childhood memories are in black and white. Most of my seventies are in black and white.” This was the time of the Cold War, when the neighbouring Yugoslavia filled the town and his childhood with soldiers.
The haibun “9/11” is not so much about that tragedy as about the poet’s own suffering. He
had broken up with my ex-girlfriend, lost my job, and just left the hospital on crutches after the terrible car accident. I felt disheartened like never before.
It’s not until he arrives at a friend’s place that someone rings to tell them about what has happened in the USA. The haibun ends with the stark, minimalist haiku
a part of my past
The haibun in “Unpublished Works” are titled Tashi, Konstanz, Breakfast in Villach and My Father in Kiev. Cecon is particularly sensitive to humanity. “Tashi” appears as a driver in Ladakh where Cecon asks: “. . . by the way, there are many soldiers here in Ladakh. How is the situation nowadays?” To which he driver replies: “the Pakistani are always in search of revenge, but there are other issues and the Chinese do not have the time to think about another war: they do business.”
The haibun “Breakfast in Villach” opens with the poet and his wife waking up in a friend’s house with nothing to eat. They call a taxi and go to Villach center where a waitress brings coffee and a slice of cake. The haibun ends with the one-line haiku
old-fashioned café framed in shop-windows the frost
The final haibun, “My Father in Kiev,” is about the first time the poet and his father had travelled abroad together to resolve a matter of inheritance. But the journey takes an unexpected twist when the father says: “Please, don’t get me wrong but your mother and I thought we would bequeath our house to your brother . . .” The father tries to restrain his emotions, but all he can say to his son is “Thanks . . .” Then out of the window, it starts to drizzle.
after the rainstorm,
the true color
of my father’s eyes
These are haibun full of vivid energy, of rapid impressions, caught moods, a sense of fleeting time. The poet writes about elements of contemporary experience which we can recognise and can feel grateful that these dramas and subtleties can be caught in vivid and lively writing. Selected Haibuns sets a good standard for other haibun poets wondering what they might write about. It makes us wonder what Cecon will write next.