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Fly-ku!   reviews




Excerpts from a review by Jane Reichhold in the first 2005 issue of her online LYNX, ďa journal for linking poets.Ē    

Yes, Fly-ku contains haiku about flies. . . .

The way Gill translates is not only marvelous, it is absolutely revolutionary. Instead of giving the reader the idea that there is only one way to translate a haiku, he offers a word-for-word translation and then goes into great detail explaining the ambiguities of the Japanese language along with the secrets of Japanese behavior. His final translation is often a series of possible ways of putting the haiku into English. . . . He is even secure enough to admit when he really cannot figure out what the author was trying to say. . . .

The book is full of humor and information given in Gillís distinctive way. His mind makes huge leaps so all the information about flies or Japanese and everything else in between feels as if it has been stirred in a great cosmic blender and poured out, in a decorative manner, suggesting a teahouse snack.

The aberrations in typesetting . . . in Fly-ku!, are pure Gill and a poke in the eye of the serious voice that lives by the Chicago Book of Style.  He has his fun, but he also takes his readersí comfort in mind, . . . the notes and side bars are arranged on the same pages with an attractive border made of repeats of the Japanese kanji for, you guessed it: fly. Kudos are in order for Gillís decision to present his translations without line caps or and with only a minimum of English punctuation. Most of the haiku are centered giving the book balanced feeling. . . .

Especially if you are a dedicated student of haiku, you should have this book, and while you are ordering it, get Rise, Ye Sea Slugs, so you will have the largest collection of Japanese haiku translated into English since R.H. Blythís contribution to the field. Gill is funnier and more human than Blyth ever was. There is still so much for us to learn from the Japanese about haiku.

Author's response. I am especially grateful to Jane because her journalís poetic interests are broader than haiku.   Fly-ku! still awaits a review in a magazine with no links whatsoever to haiku, both for the content (which shows poetry  neither egoistic nor romantic) and for the novel style of presenting slightly different takes on a single subject could be adapted more broadly to modern poetry in clusters not easily reproduced in html,  but a cinch for writers and publishers today.   Please see the cluster screen-shots here!


Excerpts from a review by Jim Kacian   Frogpond   2005  (vol. XXVIII Number 1) Haiku Society of America

More obsession from editor gill, whose ruminations on holothurians (Rise, Ye Sea Slugs!) carried us far beyond our need to know but never beyond our interest or desire. . . .  Filled with the same recondite humor, incunabula and stimulus to meditation as its predecessor, this is strongly recommended for those with a bent for the arcane, entomologists, and insomniacs. Oh, and haiku lovers in general as well.

Author's response.  Delighted to find my name with no caps as requested to Jim a a year and a half ago and grateful for the overall praise.  I am afraid, however, that readers who have not read Rise may not be able to guess that what I offer is not just food for thought, but translations of far more hither-to untranslated Japanese haiku than anyone else out there.   See the Fly-ku! Description.

Damn, Microsoft!  I set the width of this table at 80% but it looks like 60%! The above table is 80%, too. The same 80%!  Frontpage is obviously full of bugs. Since I have no time to explore other programs, I put up with this nonsense. Hundreds of billions and Microsoft cannot fix simple things!  I wish I had enough money to sue them. WYSIN(not)WYG.

Excerpts from a review by Robert D. Wilson, publisher+editor of Simply Haiku  2005-summer


I have many books about haiku and haiku theory . . .  Hungry to improve my craft, I have read these books, the good, the bad, and the ugly; and yes, I am a better person for it. Nevertheless, all too few have been truly fun.

Imagine my surprise then, when I came across the writings of Robin D. Gill, an American scholar and poet who writes in an extemporaneous style akin to that of Jack Kerouac; thinks like Herman Hesse, Koyabashi Issa, and Lewis Carroll, all rolled into one; and, like the rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, lured me covertly into an adventure park of the mind, taking me through chapter after chapter in books he'd penned with strange sounding names like Rise, Ye Sea Slugs! and Fly-ku! (the book I am reviewing here). And if this seems like a strange thing to say about the author of a scholarly treatise on haiku and haiku theory, so be it. There is no one like Robin D. Gill in the international haiku community. The man can write, and reading what he writes is enjoyable, easy to understand, and addictive. Yes, addictive! I found it hard to put Fly-ku! down; a scholarly tome that doesn't read like a scholarly tome, the March Hare pulling me from chapter to chapter, talking a mile a minute, sharing with me insight on haiku and the difficulty of translating haiku, as if that was the natural thing to do when people aren't at work or school. And, like Alice, I was learning a lot, but didn't know it at first, until I woke up later in my garden, sans the rabbit, with a clearer understanding of the subject matter Robin Gill addresses in Fly-ku.

Gill examines the rudiments of what is and isn't a haiku in the book's opening pages, expounding on one point after another, with the ease of a storyteller. . . .  the preface alone is worth the price of the book. . . . I am a public school teacher and an administrator.  Robin Gill's Fly-ku! should be required reading for teachers who teach haiku in their classrooms.  As I previously stated, it is an enjoyable read.

Says Gill about Fly-ku!:

"It gives me great pleasure to demonstrate how and why poems and poets are better than they might seem: that is, to use my understanding of Japanese and knowledge of old haiku to find where something is lost in translation and my imagination to re-create it in English."

"Issaís famous fly-ku, the one about a fly that indicates it does not want to be swatted, is one of the most commonly 'translated' haiku out there, yet, I cannot read a translation without feeling sad about what is lost to the non-Japanese reader. Because the loss comes not so much from some unshared cultural background as from pure linguistic accident, that loss cannot be overcome; it can only be explained. That is very frustrating for a would-be translator but at the same time is refreshing for it shows us that the world cannot be reduced to our [individual] language[s].  It is not shrinking, but full of wonder which shall remain so long as we conserve our linguistic diversity."

Adds Gill,

 "Fly-ku's most important accomplishment is demonstrating how translation into English must either ruin poems by stripping words of their meaning or anthropomorphize them."

The complete review in English, can be found in the Summer 2005 issue of Simply Haiku, on-line. You may also find the second column by the author: "The Peon and the Peony" (in Haiku In Context)

Author's Comments: I recall Kerouac's pigeons strafing Miami Beach with fondness and that Jack Stamn, with whom I had started corresponding before his all-too-early death, called himself "a minor beat poet," and am delighted by the association.   I must confess to living more carefully than they did, but it is only because there is much in my head I wish to get out and share with others.  After a bit more is shoveled out, I, too, hope to enjoy living dangerously.   The March Hare metaphor is perfect.  I was born in the Year of the Hare and (unknown to RDW) can indeed talk a mile-a-minute, and under 4 minutes at that.  Seriously, I am delighted that my wild style has apparently rubbed off on Robert!