First published in Modern Haiku 35:3, Autumn 2004.
Sigmatropic. Sixteen Haiku and Other Stories. Thirsty Ear, 2004. Compact disc. Haiku and other poetry by George Seferis. Enhanced video included for one track. Available online at www.thirstyear.com (or visit www.sigmatropic.gr) 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 have tried their hand at writing haiku, including Seamus Heaney and Czeslaw Milosz. 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 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, with occasional touches of ambient and gothic (think Dead Can Dance meets Delerium, 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 freeform 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 the haiku if this sort of music appeals to you. Here are two samples of Seferis’s haiku:
She rests her fingers Naked woman
on the sea-blue scarf the pomegranate she threw
Look, there: corals! was full of stars.