In Japan, Haiku on the Rocks

24Japan4-superJumbo.jpgMatsuyama Castle, one of Japan’s 12 original castles. Credit Ko Sasaki for The New York Times

Welcome to the world of the haiku bar trail. Matsuyama, Japan, is celebrating its 19th-century haiku poet, Masaoka Shiki, who coined the term haiku, with related events.


By Adam H. Graham

On a cold and rainy night earlier this year, I found myself at Hoyaken, a matchbook-size bar in Matsuyama, a city in the southwest corner of Shikoku, the least visited of Japan’s four main islands.


In Shikoku dialect, Hoyaken means “but anyway,” and there at the bar, chopsticks rested on a perfectly still peanut shell, while sake and literary conversation flowed. The bar’s owners, husband and wife Tomoko and Satoshi Kadoya, talked to me about their favorite poets, both Japanese and American. But haiku was never far from their minds.

Hoyaken is stocked with magazines and bilingual glossaries of “kigo,” haiku words used to connote the season like cicada for summer, scarecrow for autumn and the winter-blooming camellia. It is an ideal setting to write these 17-syllable seasonal poems using the classic 5-7-5 syllable stanzas or to drop the syllable form altogether and go freestyle as most haiku enthusiasts do these days.


A haiku-inspired cocktail at Riff Bar in Matsuyama.Credit Ko Sasaki for The New York Times


Welcome to the haiku bar trail.

Matsuyama, Shikoku’s biggest and liveliest city is known for its 19th-century haiku poet, Masaoka Shiki, one of Japan’s four haiku masters. Shiki coined the term haiku.

This year, to celebrate Shiki’s 150th birthday, the city launched a program of haiku-related events, including a recent haiku photo contest, a haiku sensory trail where you can experience the hourly chimes and dancing figurines of the Botchan Karakuri wind-up clock or the scent of incense at Ishite-Ji temple, and the haiku bar trail, where you can hone your haiku techniques while nursing a boozy concoction inspired by your own verse.

The idea of the haiku bars comes from the Matsuyama resident Kim Changhee, a haiku writer, illustrator and editor of Haiku Magazine’s 100-Year Haiku Plan.

“New Orleans has its jazz bars, so Matsuyama should have haiku bars,” he said in terms as simple as a haiku itself.

Dogo Onsen, a neighborhood known for its ancient hot baths. Credit Ko Sasaki for The New York Times


Three bars have joined the haiku trail so far and a few hotels in nearby Dogo Onsen, an outlying neighborhood known for its ancient hot baths, are expected to join in 2018. At each location, visitors are expected to write their own haiku. Haiku pen names are given for free and it’s 900 Yen (about $8) to experience a haiku-inspired cocktail. I tried my hand last winter at Bar Caravan, a now-defunct bar in the city center.

Instead of a drink, the bespectacled bartender Chieko gave me a pen and paper. I wrote on it:

“1,000 cold grays

at Dogo Park, until

Kawasemi blue!”

I handed it to the bartender. She read it, looking puzzled, then exclaimed “Ah, Kawasemi!” Kawasemi is Japanese for the colorful kingfisher bird. She scurried away and returned, smiling with a martini glass filled with the unmistakable crystalline blue Curaçao liquor and vodka. By day, Chieko is a member of a jazz haiku group, but by night she pours spirits in exchange for verse. She now serves haiku cocktails at Riff Bar, a few blocks from Hoyaken.

Haiku cocktails run the gamut — some are subtle and emphasize local liqueurs made in Shikoku’s Ehime Prefecture, known for its unique varietals of citrus like iyokan, mikan and even yuzu, while others feature technicolor concoctions using Midori and Curaçao. (Unless you love those syrupy spirits, be careful which colors you wax poetic about.)

Haiku boxes are found around historic sites and parks in Matsuyama for visitors to pen their own haiku and deposit it. Credit Ko Sasaki for The New York Times

In addition to experiencing the haiku bars, I dropped by a haiku jazz bar called Monk with a group of haiku writers where we listened to the all-female Japanese jazz quintet Ladybird. I also spent a few days exploring the city’s haiku trail, stopping to write additional verse at some of the 93 haiku boxes (including 10 new ones) around the city’s historic sites and parks, like hilly Dogo Park, with its ponds, cherry trees and Shinto-shrine lined trails. It was there that I spent a gray afternoon bird-watching for Kawasemi, the common kingfisher who would later inspire my haiku.

Haiku boxes can be found at the 7th-century hilltop Hōgon-ji Temple, at an ice-cream stand on the trail along the 400-year-old stone walls outside Matsuyama Castle, one of Japan’s 12 original castles, and outside the famed Dogo Onsen, a vintage bathhouse that inspired Studio Ghibli’sanime classic Spirited Away. At each box, there’s a pen and paper for visitors to compose haiku and deposit it in a drop-box where it will later be collected.

Every two months, the best Japanese haiku are chosen and presented in the local newspaper, Ehime Shinbun. The best haiku by foreign enthusiasts like myself are only selected once a year. A man and his kingfisher can dream.


By day, Chieko is a member of a jazz haiku group, by night she pours spirits in exchange for verseCredit Ko Sasaki for The New York Times

David Lynch On ‘Room To Dream’ ~ LISTEN

NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro asks David Lynch about Room to Dream, the director’s new memoir.

~~~  LISTEN  ~~~

         ROOM TO DREAM


An unprecedented look into the personal and creative life of the visionary auteur David Lynch, through his own words and those of his closest colleagues, friends, and family

In this unique hybrid of biography and memoir, David Lynch opens up for the first time about a life lived in pursuit of his singular vision, and the many heartaches and struggles he’s faced to bring his unorthodox projects to fruition. Lynch’s lyrical, intimate, and unfiltered personal reflections riff off biographical sections written by close collaborator Kristine McKenna and based on more than one hundred new interviews with surprisingly candid ex-wives, family members, actors, agents, musicians, and colleagues in various fields who all have their own takes on what happened.

Room to Dream is a landmark book that offers a onetime all-access pass into the life and mind of one of our most enigmatic and utterly original living artists.

THE BOOK REVIEW PODCAST Michael Pollan on Drugs ~ NYT

Michael Pollan on His Acid Test



Tune in, turn on: This week on the podcast, Michael Pollan talks about his new book, “How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence.” Pollan is best known these days as a food writer, but he reminds listeners that his chief interest has always been the natural world and the ways it intersects with human culture — so psychedelics were a logical next step. “Most of the people listening to this podcast have probably used a plant to change consciousness today,” he says, “whether it was smoking a cigarette or having a coffee or eating a bite of chocolate. Or something more serious. I’ve always found that to be a very interesting and universal human desire worthy of explanation. So when I heard about this research going on using psilocybin, the chemical in magic mushrooms, to treat people and to induce so-called mystical experiences, I thought, Well it’s really time to get back and to get a harder look at that whole subject.”

Among other things, Pollan discusses the ways that psychedelics dissolve our sense of self, and the potential mental health benefits they bestow as a result. “Psilocybin gives you such a powerful psychological experience that it kind of reboots your brain, your mind,” he says. “A lot of depression is a sort of self-punishment, as even Freud understood. We get trapped in these loops of rumination that are very destructive, and the stories that we tell ourselves: you know, that we’re unworthy of love, that we can’t get through the next hour with a cigarette, whatever it is. And these deep, deep grooves of thought are very hard to get out of. They disconnect us from other people, from nature, from an earlier idea of who we are. The mystical experience, as it’s sometimes called, or the experience of the dissolution of the ego, gets us out of those grooves and gives us a break from the tyranny of the ego, which can be a very harsh ruler.”

~~~  LISTEN  ~~~

Sunday Reading: The Beat Generation


The poet Allen Ginsberg was born ninety-two years ago today, on June 3rd, 1926. To celebrate, we’re bringing you pieces about the Beat Generation and the ways it changed American culture. Subscribers can read Jane Kramer’s twopart Profile of Ginsberg, which follows him across America, from Greenwich Village to San Francisco. In “Drive, He Wrote,” Louis Menand explores the composition and legacy of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road”; in “The Outlaw,” Peter Schjeldahl chronicles the extraordinary life of William S. Burroughs, whose “Naked Lunch” “brought to social notice themes of drug use, homosexuality, hyperbolic violence, and anti-authoritarian paranoia.” Writing in 1967, Renata Adler provides an unforgettable snapshot of hippie life on the Sunset Strip, in “Fly Trans-Love Airways,” while Dana Goodyear travels to the foothills of the Sierra Nevada to meet the ecological poet Gary Snyder, in “Zen Master.” Adam Green browses the Strand bookstore with the actor Daniel Radcliffe, who plays Ginsberg in the film “Kill Your Darlings,” while Jonathan Lethem recalls his days as a Brooklyn bookstore clerk, when he encountered Herbert Huncke, a New York City character who “may or may not have been the source of the term ‘Beat,’ ” and who appeared, in fictionalized form, in “On the Road” and other books. We hope these pieces energize your reading list—or inspire your next road trip.

—David Remnick

“Drive, He Wrote”

“Books like Jack Kerouac’s ‘On the Road’ have a different kind of influence as well. They can, whether we think of them as great literature or not, get into the blood. They give content to experience.” Read more.

“The Outlaw”

“William S. Burroughs wages literary war not on perceptible real-world targets but against suggestions that anyone is responsible for anything.” Read more.

“Fly Trans-Love Airways”

“What seems to have brought the Sunset Strip to its present impasse was an economic battle with, and over, teen-agers; and what apparently drew the teen-agers to the Strip in the first place was a musical development.” Read more.

“Zen Master”

“Even Gary Snyder’s most intimate poems can have an impersonal quality: the ‘I,’ sometimes suppressed, is unobtrusive—a vehicle for exploring the world, not a world in itself.” Read more.





Tom Wolfe, ‘The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test’ Dies at 87 … NYT


By Deirdre Carmody and William Grimes


Tom Wolfe, an innovative journalist whose technicolor, wildly punctuated prose brought to life the worlds of California surfers, car customizers, astronauts and Manhattans moneyed status-seekers in works like “The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby,” “The Right Stuff” and “Bonfire of the Vanities,” died on Monday in a Manhattan hospital. He was 87.

His death was confirmed by his agent, Lynn Nesbit, who said Mr. Wolfe had been hospitalized with an infection. He had lived in New York since joining The New York Herald Tribune as a reporter in 1962.

In his use of novelistic techniques in his nonfiction, Mr. Wolfe, beginning in the 1960s, helped create the enormously influential hybrid known as the New Journalism.

But as an unabashed contrarian, he was almost as well known for his attire as his satire. He was instantly recognizable as he strolled down Madison Avenue — a tall, slender, blue-eyed, still-boyish-looking man in his spotless three-piece vanilla bespoke suit, pinstriped silk shirt with a starched white high collar, bright handkerchief peeking from his breast pocket, watch on a fob, faux spats and white shoes. Once asked to describe his get-up, Mr. Wolfe replied brightly, “Neo-pretentious.”


His talent as a writer and caricaturist was evident from the start in his verbal pyrotechnics and perfect mimicry of speech patterns, his meticulous reporting and his creative use of pop language and explosive punctuation.

“As a titlist of flamboyance he is without peer in the Western world,” Joseph Epstein wrote in the The New Republic. “His prose style is normally shotgun baroque, sometimes edging over into machine-gun rococo, as in his article on Las Vegas which begins by repeating the word ‘hernia’ fifty-seven times.”

William F. Buckley, Jr., writing in National Review, put it more simply: “He is probably the most skillful writer in America — I mean by that he can do more things with words than anyone else.”

From 1965 to 1981 Mr. Wolfe produced nine nonfiction books. “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test,” an account of his reportorial travels in California with Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters as they spread the gospel of LSD, remains a classic chronicle of the counterculture, “still the best account — fictional or non, in print or on film — of the genesis of the sixties hipster subculture,” the press critic Jack Shafer wrote in the Columbia Journalism Review on the book’s 40th anniversary.

Even more impressive, to many critics, was “The Right Stuff,” his exhaustively reported narrative about the first American astronauts and the Mercury space program. The book, adapted into a film in 1983 with Sam Shepard, Dennis Quaid and Ed Harris, made the test pilot Chuck Yeager a cultural hero and added yet another phrase to the English language.

At the same time, Mr. Wolfe continued to turn out a stream of essays and magazine pieces for New York, Harper’s and Esquire. His theory of literature, which he preached in print and in person and to anyone who would listen was that journalism and non-fiction had “wiped out the novel as American literature’s main event.”

After “The Right Stuff,” published in 1979, he confronted what he called “the question that rebuked every writer who had made a point of experimenting with nonfiction over the preceding ten or fifteen years: Are you merely ducking the big challenge — The Novel?”

The answer came with “The Bonfire of the Vanities.” The novel, which initially ran as a serial in Rolling Stone magazine and was published in book form in 1987 after extensive revisions, offered a sweeping, bitingly satirical picture of money, power, greed and vanity in New York during the shameless excesses of the 1980s.

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Tom Wolfe would have been just as brilliant without the white suit, but he would not have been nearly as interesting. His fashion harked to the past while his prose immersed us in the present. The suits alluded to civility while his books slashed away at the uncivil. In his white minimalism, he was the ultimate peacock.

Wolfe’s white suits didn’t make him look cool; they made him look odd. And what he seemed to understand was that odd was far more intriguing than cool. Odd is full of shadings and contradictions, frustrations and delights. The odd man fascinates. His personality must be unpacked; he is worth considering. But he also must be approached with caution and care. Who knows what he might do? Cool is overrated. People recognize cool when they see it, but once it’s witnessed and documented, it’s finished. To be cool is to be part of an era or a movement. But Wolfe surpassed his times. He stood apart. He was singular.

Tom Wolfe, in 2008, wearing one of his signature white suits.  (Peter Kramer/AP)

Wolfe, who died Monday at 88, wore white suits in public and in the solitary time he spent writing. The white suits were a constant visual contradiction. They made him look courtly at a time when irony and sarcasm were the rules of conversational engagement. He had the appearance of an awkward outsider as well as that of a man who was the star of his own play. The suits were beautifully tailored but desperately out of fashion. The white suit was a Southern affectation that Wolfe did not succumb to until he called New York City home. It made him the center of attention in any room even though his journalistic profession was best served by his ability to be the unnoticed observer.

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~~~  RollingStone READ  ~~~

R. Crumb’s wife, Aline Kominsky-Crumb ~ The Yoko Ono of Comics, on Her Own Terms By Gal Beckerman ~ NYT


Among the few women making underground comics in 1970s San Francisco, the feminist infighting was fierce. Aline Kominsky (who would soon take the name of her famous and infamous boyfriend, Robert Crumb) was berated for drawing strips that female cartoonists in her collective thought were too crude and confessional, not uplifting enough, wallowing in the depths of self-loathing — about being too fat, too sexually voracious, too loud, too neurotic. This was not the work of an “evolved feminist consciousness,” she was told.

When she broke off and started her own comic book, Twisted Sisters, the first issue’s cover made it clear just how little she cared about anyone’s judgment: It was a drawing of her sitting on the toilet, underwear around her ankles, wondering, “How many calories in a cheese enchilada?”

“She specialized in outgrossing anyone who was going to call her gross,” said Diane Noomin, Ms. Kominsky-Crumb’s co-conspirator in Twisted Sister.

She didn’t care — and hasn’t for a long time now. For over four decades, Ms. Kominsky-Crumb has been shining an unabashedly unflattering light on her own life. It’s the theme that runs through “Love That Bunch,” a new book gathering her solo comics from her mid-20s until these past few years, as she turns 70 this summer.

With her previous collections long out of print, this publication offers a life’s retrospective. It’s a significant moment of recognition after a career spent mostly in the shadow of her husband. Even though she has collaborated with Mr. Crumb for The New Yorker over the last two decades, the pioneering quality of Ms. Kominsky-Crumb’s own work — nakedly self-revealing and self-obsessed years ahead of the rest of the culture — has largely been overlooked.

Aline Kominsky-Crumb and R. Crumb at the 2017 opening of their exhibition in New York.Credit: Jason Schmidt, courtesy David Zwirner

The vulnerability she exposes in “Love That Bunch” — every flaw, from her nose to her hypochondria, is chewed over — is very much a precursor to today’s dominant comedic mode. Way before “Girls,” “Broad City” and “Fleabag,” Ms. Kominsky-Crumb expressed herself in a scribbly hand (she calls it “homely”) about sex and her love-hate relationship with her body, about the trauma she endured at the hands of her “monster” of a mother and her desire to find lovers who would treat her like a “bad girl.”

“She has something in common with Lena Dunham, Amy Poehler, Amy Schumer, Sarah Silverman, women who are trying to grapple with their identities in a way that is not prettified,” said Art Spiegelman, the author of “Maus.” “They are just trying to live and breathe as women with all their contradictions. And it’s a liberated and liberating way of looking at oneself.”

Credit: Alessandra Montalto/The New York Times

One of the earlier pieces in the book, “The Young Bunch, an unromantic nonadventure story,” from 1976, describes her teen years and losing her virginity (an episode that would likely be called date rape today). She puts it out there in all its graphic ugliness and violence. Her scratchy black and white lines look like German expressionist woodcuts, something from Otto Dix. It makes one want to recoil — a typical reaction to her work, by her own account — at the same time that the extreme honesty demands empathy and even pity.

“I can see the rawness of that work, how out of control I was,” Ms. Kominsky-Crumb said on a recent visit to New York. “I was doing lots of drugs and drinking and smoking and eating tons of meat, having sex. I was totally degenerate.”

In person, Ms. Kominsky-Crumb, her wavy hair a bright magenta, wearing a necklace with a pendant to ward off the evil eye, is still the vibrant, loudmouth with a Long Island accent most people first encountered in Terry Zwigoff’s 1994 documentary, “Crumb” — the warm, frenetic yin to Mr. Crumb’s reclusive, moody yang. Though she underwent treatment for colon cancer last year — she jokes that “yoga and cancer” are responsible for her now slim figure — the contented life she’s managed to find in the small medieval French village of Sauve, where she’s lived with Mr. Crumb for nearly three decades, shows. She’s no less brutal in her honesty, but she’s less likely to use the byline she adopted for one 1980 comic: “I Hate Myself Kominsky-Crumb.”

Growing up in the middle-class Jewish suburb of Long Island’s Five Towns and coming of age amid the conformity of the 1950s and early 60s, Ms. Kominsky-Crumb thought the quick and self-deprecating Jewish stand-up comedians of the era, like Alan King and Joey Bishop, had the right idea. Joan Rivers, she said, was her idol (“except she got a nose job and I was the only Jewish girl in my entire high school who didn’t”).

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Rediscovered in the alleys of Tangier, Morocco’s last link to the Beat Generation


Writer and artist Mohammed Mrabet, 83, at his home in Tangier, Morocco. (Yoriyas Yassine Alaoui for The Washington Post)

This may be the age of Facebook, Twitter and smartphones, but it soon became clear that these were going to be of little help. Mohammed Mrabet would be difficult to find.

His tracks, to be sure, were evident in this storied Mediterranean city of narrow alleyways and bustling French-style cafes.

At a museum on the Rue d’Amerique, a youthful Mrabet appears in photos and postcards featuring the late American expatriate writer Paul Bowles. At the Librarie des Colonnes bookstore, Mrabet’s fiction is displayed on shelves. At the Cafe du Paris, a waiter informs me that Mrabet had been there two weeks earlier.

But no one — not at the museum, the bookstore or the cafe — knew Mrabet’s telephone number or address. Social media handle? Forget it.

A writer and artist, Mrabet is the last living link to a bygone era when famed American literary figures, including many leading lights of the Beat Generation, visited this North African country for inspiration and relaxation, often facilitated by drugs. Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote — they all traveled here in the 1950s and 1960s.

Many came to see Bowles, the composer and author of “The Sheltering Sky,” who lived in Tangier for more than 50 years until his death in 1999. Mrabet, who worked closely with
Bowles, knew all the Beat writers who stopped over.

Mrabet, I hoped, would transport me back to that beguiling time through his memories. But first I had to find him.

Sitting in the smoke-filled Cafe du Paris, my Moroccan translator, Amira, and I phoned the bookstore again.

On the other end, an employee gave us hope. He had identified the Tangier district of Charf-Souani as the place Mrabet may have last resided.

The narrow street of Mrabet’s Tangier neighborhood is hard to find without a guide. (Yoriyas Yassine Alaoui for The Washington Post)

So we hopped into a taxi. When we arrived, we asked around. No one had even heard of Mrabet — until one man, standing in front of his doorway, offered, “He’s the friend of that American writer, Paul Bowles, no?”

“Yes,” I said excitedly. “Do you know where he lives?”

The man shrugged. “No,” he said. “But it’s somewhere here.”

As we talked, a passerby overheard our conversation and stopped.

He was middle-aged and wearing a djellaba, a long, loosefitting, traditional robe. He said he knew a man named Mrabet. “Follow me,” he said.

It was already after dark. We had been searching since morning. We had nothing to lose.

We followed the man through a small cemetery packed with gravestones of different sizes and overgrown with weeds, through the corridors of a large, dimly lit mosque, bending and curving, until we were on a dark, narrow street.

The man stopped at a nondescript three-story townhouse. This is it, he said.

We stared at the wooden front door for a few seconds. I knocked. I knocked a little harder. A head finally popped out of the second-floor window.

It was him.

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~~~   PAUL BOWLES.ORG  ~~~

Why ‘Fahrenheit 451’ Is the Book for Our Social Media Age ~ NYT


Michael Shannon (left) and Michael B. Jordan in “Fahrenheit 451.” Credit: Michael Gibson/HBO

Bradbury feared memory loss. Today we have designated Google and our social-media accounts as the guardians of our memories, emotions, dreams and facts. As tech companies consolidate power, imagine how easy it could be to rewrite Benjamin Franklin’s Wiki entry to match what the firemen in Bradbury’s novel learn about the history of the fire department: “Established, 1790, to burn English-influenced books in the Colonies. First Fireman: Benjamin Franklin.” In his way, Bradbury predicted the rise of “alternative facts” and an era of “post-truth.”

As the virtual world becomes more dominant, owning books becomes an act of rebellion. When a printed book is in your possession, no one can track, alter or hack it. The characters in my film have never seen a book. When they first encounter a library, the books are like water in a vast digital desert. Seeing, touching and smelling a book is as alien to the firemen as milking a cow by hand would be for most of us. The firemen are transfixed by the books — but they still have to burn them.

Burning books in the film posed a legal challenge. The cover art of most books is protected by copyright, and in most cases we were unable to obtain permission to display it — let alone burn it on camera. So the art directors for my film designed countless original book covers that we could burn.

The question was: Which books? There were always more I wanted to burn than we had time to film. I knew I wanted to include some of my favorites, like “Crime and Punishment,” “Song of Solomon” and the works of Franz Kafka. But we had to burn more than just fiction. Herodotus’ “Histories” — history itself — was incinerated. Pages of Emily Dickinson, Tagore and Ferdowsi’s poetry crumbled into black ash. Hegel, Plato and Grace Lee Boggs’s philosophy were set on fire. The firemen discriminate against no one: Texts in Chinese, Hindi, Persian and Spanish all burned. A Mozart score, an Edvard Munch painting, magazines, newspapers, photographs of Sitting Bull, Frederick Douglass and the 1969 moon landing went up in smoke.

~~~  READ THE ESSAY  ~~~

One Robe, One Bowl ~ Ryōkan




Late at night, listening to the winter rain,

recalling my youth–

Was it only a dream?  Was I really young once?


Another blizzard–the mountains are

covered with deep snow,

From now on, news from town must wait till spring.


Wind and snow, then snow and rain:

tonight, awakened by the cry of a wild goose

In the dark, endless winter sky.


Late at night, the snow

is piling higher and higher,

Muffling the sound of the waterfall.


In the shadow of the mountains

the firewood burns, brightening

My cold little grass hut.


Have you forgotten the way to my hut?

Every evening I wait for the sound of your footsteps,

But you do not appear.


What is the heart of this old monk like?

A gentle wind

Beneath the vast sky.


Months pass, days pile up,

like one intoxicated dream–

An old man sighs.