1. Isn't this a great book cover? Woolgathering is not a new Patti Smith book, and it shouldn't be mistaken for a sequel to her great Just Kids. In fact, I first bought this when it was a great little Hanuman book that looked like this:

The Hanuman book looked cool, but I think the newly republished New Directions version's cover art may be even better. Shepherd, tend thy flock.

2. Occupy St. Petersburg? Bill Ectric draws some connections between Nikolai Gogol's financial satire Dead Souls and more recent high finance scams.

3. Steve Silberman asks: What kind of Buddhist was Steve Jobs, really?


1. I've read a few good tributes to the late Beat/hippie poet Ira Cohen, a good guy I used to see around the East Village a lot. I did a poetry reading with him at the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus in 2002, but I never knew that Ira Cohen invented the 70s-era headshop art trend known as Mylar painting. (Photo of Ira Cohen from a video by Laki Vazakas).

2. You may have heard the news: e-books are hot. This time around, I'm on the bandwagon. I'll be attending the BookExpo gathering next week in New York City, and I'm sure electronic publishing will be the biggest buzz there. I'm a few days behind schedule with my new Kindle book ... the title and cover will be revealed soon. I'm very happy with the ongoing sales figures for my first Kindle book, Why Ayn Rand Is Wrong (and Why It Matters), and I'm proud that this book has remained in the top 100 Kindle bestsellers in the Politics->Ideology category for the entire month, and was #40 on the list this weekend.

Endangered Land of Haiku: Basho's Matsushima

The epicenter of the earthquake that devastated northern Japan last Friday was just off the islands of Matsushima. This coastal wonderland, dotted with jutting rocks and picteresque islands, had been the chosen home of Basho, one of the greatest Haiku poets, in the later years of his life. This article by Hari Kunzru provides some context about the region, and the influence it had on the great nature poet.

Kindle Spotting

New Books Report: November 2007

I'll be writing about some good new books I've been checking out over the next few weeks. Let's get started:

A Field Guide to the North American Family by Garth Risk Hallberg

Sakura Matsuri

Sleeping under the trees on Yoshino mountain
The spring breeze wearing Cherry blossom petals.


the Spring wind
scattering blossoms
I saw it in a dream
but when I awoke the sound
was still rustling in my breast

-- Saigyo

Paul Reps: Weightless Gifts

"I feel that I am equal to each grass blade and pebble and believe it is possible to be happy though human and grow up. Paul Reps

Paul Reps was born in Cedar City, Iowa on September 15, 1895. A man that always felt there were too many words used to describe anything he was a master of minimalist haiku, Zen Buddhism, and swift sumi-e brush painting. Reps can truly be called the father of Buddhism and haiku in America. He never was caught up in tradition, breaking all that are now considered the haiku rules and, although he respected his teachers, he forged new paths. Always, in his wide travels, Paul was accompanied by his humor, wit and independent spirit. As Paul would say, If not fun, leave undone.

Opinion: Essential Elements of Haiku

I thought this list might help others improve their craft. These are the essential elements of haiku as advocated by The Heron's Nest (from editor Ferris Gilli):
    Concrete imagery
    Conciseness (clarity, brevity)
    Effective juxtaposition
    Natural syntax
    Common language
    Balance of humanity and nature
    Sense of mood
    Sense of season; kigo
    A clear caesura between the two parts of the haiku
    (A poem that consists of only a single, complete sentence usually fails as haiku.)

On Western Haiku

Haiku. What is it about these small poems that make people all over the world want to read and write them? Nick Virgilio, one of America's first major haiku poets, once said in an interview that he wrote haiku "to get in touch with the real." And the Haiku Society of America has called haiku a "poem in which Nature is linked to human nature." We all want to know what is real and to feel at one with the natural world. Haiku helps us to experience the everyday things around us vividly and directly, so we see them as they really are, as bright and fresh as they were when we first saw them as children. Haiku is basically about living with intense awareness, having an openness to the existence around us. A kind of openness that involves seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching.

Not so long ago, in 1991, when the first Haiku North America conference was being held at Las Positas College outside of San Francisco, another major figure of American haiku, J. W. Hackett, and his wife Pat, invited four of the attending poets to their garden home on a hill in the Santa Cruz mountains. Christopher Herold, one of those poets, wrote a haiku, included in this anthology, about that experience:

returning quail
call to us from the moment
of which he speaks

The poets had all moved out to the garden, continuing their talk about nature, Zen, and haiku. Toasts were raised to Basho, Japan's most famous haiku poet, and to R. H. Blyth, his most faithful translator. Shadows were lengthening and James Hackett was trying to make clear his feelings about haiku when the birds suddenly came to his assistance. Christopher Herold's haiku captures that "moment" of the afternoon, when Hackett, and the quail, summed up everything he had been saying, eloquently and passionately, about haiku and the way of life it represents: living in the present moment now.

Basho: Lifeline

Haiku poet Basho born in Ueno, 30 miles southeast of Kyoto

Enters into the service a local feudal lord; begins composing haikai

Left the feudal family and disappeared for five years, taking on the name Sobo

His worked appeared in numerous anthologies; many believe he was in Kyoto studying poetry and Zen