Rise, Ye Sea Slugs! ((0974261807 by robin d. gill: paraverse press Halloween 2003) is a book of many faces.
(1) It is a book of translated haiku and contains over 900 of these short Japanese poems in the original (smoothly inserted in the main body), with phonetic and literal renditions, as well as the author’s English translations and explanations. All but a dozen or two of the haiku are translated for the first time. There is an index of poets, poems and a bibliography.
(2) It is a book of sea slug haiku, for all of the poems are about holothurians, which scientists prefer to call “sea cucumbers.” (The word “cucumber” is long for haiku and not metaphorically suitable for many poems, so poetic license was taken.) With this book, the namako, as the sea cucumber is called in Japanese, becomes the most translated single subject in haiku, surpassing the harvest moon, the snow, the cuckoo, butterflies and even cherry blossoms.
(3) It is a book of original haiku. While the author’s original intent was to include only genuine old haiku (dating back to the 17th century), modern haiku were added and, eventually, Keigu (the author’s haiku name) composed about a hundred of his own to help fill out gaps in the metaphorical museum. For many if not most of the modern haiku taken from the web, it is also their first time in print!
(4) It is a book of metaphor. How may we arrange hundreds of poems on a single theme? Rise divides the poems into 21 main metaphors including the Cold Sea Slug, the Mystic Sea Slug, the Helpless Sea Slug, the Slippery Sea Slug, the Silent Sea Slug, and the Melancholy Sea Slug, giving each a chapter, within which the metaphors may be further subdivided, and throws in an additional hundred pages of Sundry Sea Slugs (scores of varieties including monster, spam, flying, urban myth, and exploding).
(5) It is a book on haiku. Editors usually select only the best haiku, but, Rise includes good and bad haiku by everyone from the 17th century haiku master to the anonymous haiku “rejected” in some internet contest. This is not to say all poems found were included, but that the standard was along more taxonomic or encyclopedic lines: poems that filled in a metaphorical or sub-metaphorical gap were always welcome. Also, the author tries to show there is more than one type of “good” haiku. These are new ways to approach haiku.
(6) It is a book on translation. There are approximately 2 translations per haiku, and some boast a dozen. These are arranged in mixed single, double and triple-column clusters which make each reading seem a different aspect of a singular, almost crystalline whole. The author’s aim is to demonstrate that multiple reading (such as found in Hofstadter’s Le Ton Beau de Marot) is not only a fun game but a bona fide method of translating, especially useful for translating poetry between exotic tongues.
(7) It is a book of nature writing, natural history or metaphysics (in the Emersonian sense). The author tried to compile relevant or interesting (not necessarily both) historical -- this includes the sea slug in literature, English or Japanese, and in folklore -- and scientific facts to read haiku in their light or, conversely, bring or wring out science from haiku. Unlike most nature writers, the author admits to doing no fieldwork. He sluggishly stays put and relies upon reports from more mobile souls.
(8) It is a book about food symbolism. The sea cucumber is noticed by Japanese because they eat it; the eating itself involves physical difficulties (slipperiness and hardness) and pleasures from overcoming them. It is also identified with a state of mind, where “you are what you eat” takes on psychological dimensions not found in the food literature of the West.
(9) It is a book about Japanese culture. The author does not set out to explain Japan, and the sea slug itself is silent, but the collection of poems and their explanations, which include analysis by poets who responded to the author’s questions as well as historical sources, take us all around the culture, from ancient myths to contemporary dreams.
(10) It is a book about sea cucumbers. While most species of sea cucumbers are not mentioned and the coverage of the Japanese sea cucumber is sketchy from the scientific point of view, Rise tries to introduce this animal graced to live with no brain thanks to the smart materials comprising it and blessed for sucking in dirty sediment and pooping it out clean.
(11) It is a book about ambiguity. The author admits there is much that cannot be translated, much he cannot know and much to be improved in future editions, for which purpose he advises readers to see the on-line Glosses and Errata in English and Japanese. His policy is to confide in, rather than slip by the reader unnoticed, in the manner of the invisible modern translator and allow the reader to make choices or choose to allow multiple possibilities to exist by not chosing. (12) It is the first of dozens of spin-offs from a twenty-book haiku saijiki (poetic almanac) called In Praise of Olde Haiku (IPOOH, for short) the author hopes to finish within the decade. (13) It is a novelty item. With a different (often witty) header (caption) on top of each page, copious notes that are rarely academic and often humorous, strange translation clusters, messages in Japanese and unexpected intercourse with the reader (such as an appeal to see the Errata on line and contribute to the Gloss), the book is different.
I guess I should add one more descriptive category but I am not sure how it would catalog:
It is also a literary reader (if there is such a thing) for readers who might not be familiar with works such as TRISTAM SHANDY, THE ANATOMY OF MELANCHOLY, WATER BABIES, TALE OF GENJI, THE PILLOW BOOK OF SEI SHONAGON, etc..
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