2nd EUROPEAN HAIKU CONFERENCE
Vadstena (Sweden)- 8-9 June 2007
Haiku in Italy – The experience of Cascina Macondo
by Antonella Filippi, Pietro Tartamella, Annette Seimer – Italy
translated by Antonella Filippi
Until a few years ago, the experience of Haiku in Italy was confined to elitary and restricted ambits. People passionate of this kind of poetry were usually globally passionate of Japan, with a particular interest for zen philosophy, Japanese language and graphic arts.
The interest of these persons, if teachers, was sometimes transmitted to pupils, but not in a systematic way: the management of the literature syllabus always depends on the choices of the teacher.
The first national/international Haiku contest in Italy was promoted by the Associazione Nazionale Amici dell'Haiku (National Association of Haiku Friends), founded in Rome in 1987 by the Japanese ambassador in Italy Uchida Sonō and by the publishing house Empiria, with the support of the Japanese Embassy to the Italian Republic and to the Holy See and other Japanese culture institutes.
Publications about Haiku poetry were not easily available: for example, Yasude-Millipede, the publication of the National Association of Haiku Friends, edited by Nojiri Michiko and Carla Vasio, is on line; the paper Le Lumachine (the little snails) of the Amici dell’Haiku (Haiku Friends) of Imperia (Liguria), edited by Stefano d’Andrea and Paolo Sommariva, is sent only to subscribers. More often the examples of Haiku poems were inserted in books about or related to zen philosophy. There was no handbook teaching how to write Haikus, illustrating not only the rules to build the syllabic “structure” of Haiku, the prosody and the subjects, but also the shades relevant to seasons, feelings, moods, and so on.
The greater diffusion and “popularization” of Haiku poetry in Italy took place in the last 10 years.
It is in this sphere that the cultural association Cascina Macondo was founded in 1990 in Turin (“Cascina” means farmstead and “Macondo” comes from the famous novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez) by Pietro Tartamella and Anna Maria Verrastro.
Pietro Tartamella is the vice-president and artistic director of Cascina Macondo; he teaches diction, creative writing and how to read aloud; he is passionate of Haiku poetry since 1970 and promoted the International Contest of Haiku poetry in Italian; he wrote the “Manifesto of Haiku poetry in Italian” and the “Manifesto of the division into syllables of the Italian words for the composition of Haikus”; he teaches Haiku composition in schools, to children, teenagers and disabled people.
Anna Maria Verrastro is a teacher, ceramist, expert in psychology, pedagogy and psychomotricity techniques; she is the pedagogic director of the didactic courses of Cascina Macondo.
In the past they also gave birth to a monthly magazine about literature and poetry, La Tenda, and many other cultural activities in Italy.
The purpose of Cascina Macondo is to propagate and to promote learning and Haiku poetry and the reading aloud. The International Contest of Haiku poetry in Italian language, first organized in 2003, was the logical consequence of this interest. The numbers of the participation in these five years steadily increased. From this year on, there is also a section of the contest devoted to Video Haikus, the transposition in images (photographs, films, 3Ds, etc.) of 5 Haikus chosen by the editorial staff.
Some data about the International Haiku Contest
organized every year by Cascina Macondo
year participating haijins number of sent in haikus
2003 138 450
2004 300 904
2005 350 1.026
2006 500 1.500
2007 560 1.678
Cascina Macondo’s activities to promote and divulge Haiku poetry are:
· International Contest of Haiku poetry in Italian language
· International Contest of VideoHaikus
· Workshops in schools and at Cascina Macondo (5.000 children involved every year)
· Haiku Newsletter published by Fabrizio Virgili every two weeks (online)
· Publication of books (anthology of the contest and others)
· Distribution of bookmarks and flyers
· Ceramic workshop at Cascina Macondo with production of RakuHaiku bowls
· Public readings
· Website: www.cascinamacondo.com with articles and essays about Haiku poetry
· Haikus are printed on sugar packs for distribution in bars and shops or to collectors
· Haipomacò: postcards sent by Haijins to Cascina Macondo with a Haiku
Selected Haikus from the contest are published every year in an anthology, mostly in limited edition made by Cascina Macondo. In 2006 was published the anthology “Beyond Autumn” with the “Manifesto of Haiku poetry in Italian” in Italian, English and French, and the Haikus that won or were selected in the first three editions of the contest.
The interest for Haiku also led to promote its knowledge and technique in schools (children, preteens, teenagers) and in disabled people, and they all took part to the contest. The spontaneity and immediacy of children and disabled people makes these Haikus among the best of the entire contest. We feel moved when reading their Haikus. It is really difficult to choose the winners among them. In this sense, teaching to compose Haikus represents a training of self-knowledge and self-consciousness. It educates to look at the world for what it really is, to fix it in only three lines. It obliges to empty the mind, that is the fundamental condition to see things for what they simply are. Writing Haikus educates not to explain the world, not to dress it with one’s own imports.
"Don’t follow the footprints of the Ancients, but follow what they looked for”
RakuHaiku is the translation of a Haiku into a Raku ware. Raku ceramic is linked to Japan, as Haiku is: this technique, initially used to produce earthenwares for the tea ceremony, finds its roots and motivations in the Japanese culture, when it was influenced and permeated by Buddhism and zen philosophy. The RakuHaiku bowl is also the prize for the first three winners of the Haiku contest promoted by Cascina Macondo and on its back the Haiku that won is engraved.
Wasnahaijin Oicimani is a four days literary/spiritual walking journey in summer, reserved to Haiku writers. The first edition, in 2006, took place in the mountains of Piedmont with a group of 11 persons. During their slow walks they stopped to write Haikus and Haibun.
This year’s edition takes place in Tuscany from 12 to 15 of July, in a district where the Etruscans lived. Every day the group walks around places that evocate silence and contemplation, and devotes the afternoon and evening to write Haibun and to read Haibun and Haikus to the other people.
The writings produced during the journeys Wasnahaijin Oicimani, after opportune remarks and revisions by the editorial staff, will be collected and published in a book.
Shashaijin During the last years many experimentations were done, such as Shashaijin, a meeting of Haiku writers, or better, a meeting of writers of Two-Faced Haikus, also called GianuHaikus (from the two-faces god Janus), Haikus formed by a couple of Haikus. The first Haiku is called Principal. It is a classic Haiku, made by three lines of 5-7-5 syllables. The second Haiku, Called Frontal, is a Haiku formed by three lines, but the syllables can follow a different rule. The characteristic of the Frontal Haiku is to be made by the same alphabetical letters of the Principal Haiku. In substance, it is an anagram. The Frontal Haiku is linked to the Principal: it is a consequence, can extend or improve the meaning, can be a particular shade of it, can contain an upsetting, also very sharp. One is the reflection or the mirror of the other.
Just a few notes to explain the words chosen:
Since Pietro and Anna are passionate also of the history and culture of American natives, they like the “contaminations” that get over geographic boundaries and join together human beings.
So, to find words defining the new cultural activities they like to mix terms that can live together, even if they are part of such different cultures.
Wasna is a Dakota word. It means “sacred food”. It was the hunters’ food, made by cherries and dried meat. Oicimani too is a Dakota word. It means “pilgrimage”, “spiritual journey, path”.
Haijin is a Japanese word. It identifies the Haiku poems writer. So, “pilgrimage as sacred food of the Haiku poet”.
Sha is the Dakota word meaning “red”. Repeated twice it means “red red”: the Dakota tribes, to say “very nice” used to say “Sha Sha” (red red).
On the web site www.cascinamacondo.com, in the section “Haiku” it is possible to find more information on Cascina Macondo’s activities and experimentations, as well as many articles and the newsletter.