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Haibun de la Serna

Haibun de la Serna: Haibun 99The book is now published!

I was introduced to the writing of Ramon Gomez de la Serna by Pablo Baler, a friend of José Kozer, around 2009 or so and purchased a copy of his short poems Greguerías (Aphorisms), to which Baler compared my American Sentences. Fascinated by the images, humor and imagination, I set off on a project that would incorporate my interest in the neo-barroco style of writing (new baroque) in the manner of Kozer, Jose Lezama Lima and others.

Pablo Baler wrote an amazing review of the book in Exacting Clam, getting deeper into my poetry than any other reviewer.




Amalio Madueno soon got wind of my project, felt the writing was strong and wanted to publish a chapbook of the first 15 or so of the poems written in a modern haibun form. Madueno is one of the closest readers of my work and wrote a preface to the chapbook, which I am pasting in below.

Ramon Gomez de la Serna

Ramon Gomez de la Serna

I’ll keep this page as a home page for the poems, many of which I am publishing here. I’m also including sound files through Soundcloud for many of the works. Some of these poems are also part of the Pig War & Other Songs of Cascadia project, another manuscript in process. As always, comments are welcome.

Preface: The Poem As High Energy Construct

In this innovative series of poems Paul Nelson has combined contemporary neo-barrocco poetic style inspired by José Kozer and Ramon Gomez de la Serna with a 17th century Japanese form eternalized by the poet Bashō, the most well-known early writer of the haibun tradition. Mixed with a soupçon of Ginsberg’s “American Sentences” format and a profound grounding in Olson’s Projective Verse poetics, the poems of Haibun de la Serna demonstrate an innovative combination of contemporary poetic styles and established poetic genres.

The poems, to quote the well-known Cuban poet José Kozer, “…have a density which is not excessive & . .. bring forth intelligibility; there is a sense of flow and [I feel] the hand moving on the paper, the ink flowing naturally. . . As if it all flowed easy, which I know is not so, but felt as easy, going along, just flowing. Good modernity…”

Good modernity, indeed. Nelson’s previous book of poems, A Time Before Slaughter, demonstrated this modernity in his ability to energize language in a focused look at the history and current affairs of the Puget Sound region.

Ramon G. de la Serna: Untranscendental Meditation

Nelson is inspired to this series of poems by the poems of Ramón Gómez de la Serna (1889-1963). De la Serna was known for “Greguerías” aphorisms that correspond to Ginsberg’s American Sentences and traditional one-liners of comedy. Spain’s chief exponent of avant-garde writing in the early 20th century, de la Serna established a famously influential literary tertulia at the centre of Madrid and produced some of the most original works in Spanish of the twentieth century — the existential-surrealist novel El hombre perdido [The Lost Man] (1947) and his extraordinary neo-baroque autobiography Automoribundia (Automoribund) [1948].

American Sentences

Allen Ginsberg created this form, to provide a uniquely American version of the Japanese haiku. Nelson has taken this form as a daily practice, writing one every day since January 1, 2011, and using it as a way to hone his own perception and spirituality. It is one way he’s kept a journal of events in his life and the world while he sharpens his ability to capture a “snapshot of the moment” in a concise way.

Seventeen syllable sentences owe as much to the Buddhist side of the Beat movement as well as to de la Serna’s own program. Like de la Serna, Nelson aims to divest himself of conventional consciousness so as to adopt a unique way of being in a society dominated by an industry-generated-culture. More than a rejection of that culture, it is among the first steps in “nation-building”. Creating alternatives to large, out-dated centralized bureaucratic governments intent on perpetuating war consciousness with torture, endless violent occupations and attacks on the commons. Nelson sees them as Anarcho-leftist/bioregionalist/mammal patriotism chiseled out seventeen syllables at a time.

Open Form & Organic Poetry

The poems of Haibun de la Serna are grounded in uniquely 20th century poetics with roots in the Black Mountain School, Projective Verse and whose sources include W.C. Williams, Charles Olson, Joanne Kyger, Robert Duncan, Robin Blaser, Denise Levertov, Nathaniel Mackey and Michael McClure. Nelson is a proponent of the Organic approach to poetry and Open Form poetics. In concurrence with Ezra Pound, Nelson is convinced that it is the artist’s job to be the antennae of the race in and to “prevent a culture from repeating the same dull round over again in the words of William Blake.” Nelson espouses a “whole-systems, organismic, or process view of reality which values intuition as much as rationality, and does not consider any element of a system irrelevant.”

In his 2006 essay, Crafting the Organic, Nelson discusses Canadian poetry’s influence on Open Formpoetics, and by extension, the poetry in this volume. Discussing the influence of British Columbia’s George Bowering on Open Form poetics Nelson states: “. . . poets of the Open Form tradition became known, including Charles Olson and Robert Creeley . . . [through] their focus on Beat and Black Mountain literature, helping Vancouver to become a world nexus comparable to San Francisco for this stance-toward-poem-making as evidenced by the legendary 1963 Vancouver Poetry Conference. Bowering … has demonstrated a knack for using the strategies of the Open to maintain the poem as high energy construct. . . In his book of essays on poetics. . . known as Craft Slices, Bowering states: “I do not compose poetry to show you what I have seen, but rather because I have seen. That is, this poet’s job is not to tell you what it is like, but to make a poem…So the test of a poem is not in how it adheres to your experience (though that can be a pleasure too) but in how it coheres as something made. This is not to say that you can squash together any old thing and declare yourself pleased…the point is that you are adding something to the world, something that was not there before. If you have any good feelings about the world, you will want to add something that will not diminish it in quality.” (Craft Slices 6).

In sum you will encounter in these pages something that was not there in the world before and that will add to it in quality. I am pleased Ranchos Press can present this new addition to American poetry.

Amalio Madueño, Editor
Ranchos Press

1. The Pigeon’s Key
2. Duende’s Dancestep
3. Quickening
4. Angel Hack
5. Carbonism
6. Echoes
7. Winter Solstice Lunar Eclipse
8. Ain’t No Gusano
9. Ancestor (Dream) Dirt
10. Rivers
11. Charioteering
12. Stag Party
13. Free Egypt
14. Mango Infloresence
15. Tongues & Mirrors
16. Suicide Flowers
17. Black Sounds
18. Noosphere Wormride
19. Bendigas de Bloodhawk
20. Gardenspace & Hawktime
21. Fog Drip (The Age of Veil Lifting)
22. Flag Drop
23. Seventh Breath
24. Dogwood Blossoms (Mr.Washington’s Backyard)
25. Banknotes of Skin
26. Wind in the Stetsons
27. Wind & Insects
28. The Cruel Majority
29. Into the Eight Directions (Octopus Mom)
30. The Day the Weather Decided to Die (After Haida & Robert Bringhurst)
31. Dragonfly Resurrection
32. Bear Camp Road
33. No Cigars For Potato
34. War Against Silence (For Chuckanut)
35. Qinghai Sunflowers
36. Taming Power of the Small
37. Power of the Pocket Journal
38. The Barking of the Bitches
39. The Jewel Net of Indra’s Shoe
40. Mobocracy 101
41. Othila’s New Muscle
42. Capitalismo
43. Wheel (Whorl)
44. Stellar (Ella)
45. Cat Screams
46. Wolf Ride
47. Occupy, Farewell, Spit
48. Torquemada’s Revenge
49. 49th Parallel Blues
50. Nevermind Gray Waves
51. Echo in Licton Springs
52. Daughter of One of Seven Sisters
53. Nothing Death
54. Black Dragon Year
55. Fear is Salty
56. Shooting Starward
57. Frog Song
58. Coyote Guts
59. Sisuitl (Si’sEyul)
60. Hymn to Indian Plum
61. Meat Again
62. Buddha Bodies & Fake Train Horns
63. Her Birthday, My Velocity
64. Sin Malicia
65. Dirty Raven Light Thief
66. Doors of Liberation
67. The Harmless Eccentric
68. Sowilo-Tinted Vision Field
69. Go Dolly Go! (Goodbye Lake Aldwell and Lake Mills)
70. The Return of the Elwha King
71. The Ambassador From Bakersfield
72. Moss Spruce Cedar Cathedral
73. Ode to Sun Mask
74. The Use of Wunjo
75. Translating the Digital Fire
76. Ode to Snowberry
77. Clean Shirt (It Never Entered My Mind)
78. Wren & Whale Surrender
79. Kano & the Water Snake
80. Ian Boyden’s Bear Dream Bird Dream
81. Moonbank (After Xi Chuan)
82. Automedicador (For Amalio)
83. Buddha Diet (Quotes from the Flower Ornament Scripture or Beck)
84. Hold the House Sparrow (For Maleea Acker)
85. Soul’s Same Ol’ (Over n Over)
86. Paulownia Tomentosa
87. Help from the Heavens
88. Lesser Quantico
89. Pocket Fetch
90. Slow Down Tahoe Driver (For Brian Love)
91. Berber City Poems (For El Habib Louai)
92. Galactic Circuit (For Will Alexander)
93. The Fog Wet Web
94. Dilettante Periphery
95. Sending Out Tendrils
96. The Gift
97. Clues from Hell
98. Why Redwings Sing
99. Dragon Necked HallucinationHaibun de la Serna: Haibun 99