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Volume 35.3
Autumn 2004


book review

Sixteen Haiku and Other Stories, [CD] by George Seferis


Reviewed by Michael Dylan Welch

Sixteen Haiku and Other Stories, by George Seferis, performed by Sigmatropic (New York: Thirsty Ear, 2004). Compact disc, with enhanced video included for one track. Available for about $15.00 online at <http://www.thirstyear.com> and by request at music stores.

There is perhaps no greater pinnacle in literary achievement than to win the Nobel Prize. A significant number of poets who have earned this prize, including Seamus Heaney and Czeslaw Milosz, have tried their hand at writing haiku. The Greek poet George Seferis, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1963, has also written numerous haiku, and sixteen of them are featured, along with a few other short poems, in this new music CD by the Greek group Sigmatropic. Seventeen of the CD’s twenty-two brief cinematic songs feature haiku (one haiku is repeated, once in Greek, then in English; all other poems are sung only in English). The mostly electronic instrumentation is a range of world music and pop/dance styles, with occasional touches of ambient and gothic (think Dead Can Dance meets Delirium, though a notch below in catchiness and variety). An all-star cast of guest indie musicians from Stereolab, Sonic Youth, and other groups sing the haiku in layers and repetitions, making even haiku poets hard-pressed to realize that the vocals are haiku. One exception is track 13, which is the only poem spoken rather than sung. The poems are ably translated into free-form English, and the liner notes say that “Modern haiku forms … do not always strictly follow these [5–7–5] rules,” and that haiku “concentrate insight” and “often describe nature, the seasons and … occasionally include the element of surprise.” Recommended for those who are curious about the haiku if this sort of music appeals to you.” Here are two samples of Seferis’s haiku:

She rests her fingers
on the sea-blue scarf
Look, there: corals!

Naked woman
the pomegranate she threw
was full of stars.



©2004 Modern Haiku • PO Box 68 • Lincoln, IL 62656