Volume 42.2
Summer 2011


book review:

Zugvögel/Migratory birds/Oiseau migrateurs/Aves migratorias—150 Haiku
by Klaus-Dieter Wirth

Reviewed by Max Verhart

Zugvögel/Migratory birds/Oiseau migrateurs/Aves migratorias—150 Haiku, by Klaus-Dieter Wirth (Hamburg: Hamburger Haiku Verlag, 2010). 200 pages; 5 x 8. Semigloss gray and four-color card covers; perfectbound. ISBN 978-3-937257-27-3. Price: $14.90 from the publisher at <www.haiku.de>.

German Klaus-Dieter Wirth's first individual volume of haiku is edited with deutsche Gründlichkeit ("German thoroughness"). It collects the first 150 of his previously published haiku in the chronological order of publication, all in four languages (German, English, French and Spanish), complete with the dates on which the original was written or the translation was made, the addition of the letter S for poems that are senryu rather than haiku, and complete publication details for each poem. There is one poem on the page in these four languages in the given order, and for poems published in Dutch (too), that version has also been included. One version on each page is printed in italics to identify the original one — yes, the author is fluent in all these languages and able to compose haiku in any of them. Not surprising then that all translations are also by Wirth himself (though he had the English, French, and Spanish versions checked by native speakers).

All this has been accomplished in an unobtrusive manner that does not detract from the poems themselves, though it allows us to study Wirth's development as a haiku poet through the years. As he says in his introduction, he learned about haiku in 1967 and soon afterwards wrote his first effort. But only about twenty years later he found out that haiku had developed into an international genre. That discovery, he says, "released unexpected creative energy in me." As the book shows, he became quite productive after that. He also established himself as a well known member of the international haiku community, subscribing to quite a few national organizations and showing up at many international meetings.

The poems show a variety from the single-image kind that seems to dominate the haiku practice in several areas, to the more-or-less- juxtaposed-images approach. "More-or-less" because the juxtaposed images never seem to be really very different, as this one shows (German original):

Scharfer Wind aus Nord.
Eisgardinen am Felshang
völlig unbewegt.

Cutting wind from north.
Ice curtains at the rock face
completely unmoved.

Knowing that the poems are presented in the order in which they were published, one cannot help but notice that there was a period when the author was preoccupied with graveyards, for there is a whole series of those (pages 140–53), that feels like a complete section, though it is not marked as such. Even the poems that do not explicitly refer to such a location get an extra dimension from the context. For instance (French original):

La sein galbé
d'une belle qui jadis
ne fut pas de marbre.

the well-shaped bosom
of a beauty, at her time
by no means of marble

Wirth's penchant for senryu is quite evident, for the "S"-marked poems usually evoke a reader's smile (German original):

Beschwerde des Gasts
nach einer Stunde warten
auf Seine Schnecken.

Customer’s complaint
after one hour's wait
for his snails.

Wirth's book is certainly a must for anyone looking further than what's growing in one's own language garden.



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