Gabriele Hartmann, bon say publisher

Serpentines – Haiku 2021

Year of publication: 2022

Ring binding, A6 landscape, colored inner cover, 216 pages, bon-say-verlag, ISBN 978-3-945890-49-3 16 €


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210 Haiku 2021 by Gabriele Hartmann


2 reviews available!

Review by Rüdiger Jung


Gabriele Hartmann, Haiku 2021, bon-say-verlag, 2022. ISBN 978-3-945890-49-3, ring binding, A6 landscape, 216 pages

Once again an extensive collection of haiku published within a calendar year (the places of publication are - as usual - listed on the last page. "Serpentines" is quantitatively and qualitatively equally rich. I will first quote a haiku that is "fabulous" in the truest sense of the word. Because the longing of "horses" is easily understandable from the human side, and "the long necks" give this longing a sensual quality:

the long necks
of the horses - beyond the fence
the grass greener (p. 119)

That certainly doesn't mean that nature in Gabriele Hartmann's haiku is always just a human projection screen. It certainly has its poetic autonomy, as in the following example:

the thin skin
of the earth (p. 79)

That has its own dynamic. At first glance, the "fresh snow" itself is "the thin skin" of the earth. At second glance, "fresh snow" sensitizes us to the fact that the "earth" on which it lies and then quickly disappears again has a "thin skin". It is therefore an extremely vulnerable surface that not only carries the fresh snow, but also us and all life.

under a blanket
we map
Treasure Island (p. 113)

This is as charming as it is dazzling. Are there two children "under the same roof" to plan ahead for the next day's treasure hunt? Or do the "treasure island" and the "map" form more of a sophisticated erotic context? However, the complicit "in cahoots" is half the battle!
The next text indicates that the two contexts are close together, that the change from a child or adolescent perspective to an adult one differs at most in nuances:

Sandpit love
we compare
our scars (p. 162)

This has the seriousness of the "scars" and yet also a spark of humor.
The ambivalence of threat and salvage, force of nature and preservation can - and be it only in the third line! – conjure up an eminently erotic context.

we find each other
in the hay (p. 101)

The author remains fresh and young in her feelings:

late homecoming
the creaking stage

And, just like Issa, she has the mindfulness for every creature, no matter how small and inconspicuous:

big housecleaning
I carry the spider
outside (p. 39)

This Franciscan empathy is more than just poetic noncommitment. It is paired with a very critical view of where Albert Schweitzer's "reverence for life" is obviously not the guiding maxim:

a tailless pig
at the ramp (p. 156)

It is this "blink" that shimmers between humans and animals that makes the observation doubly get under your skin and makes it unbearable. Wherever life is an issue, there is also death in its potential for danger, in its suddenness:

in the serpentines
a new cross (p. 35)

Classical Japanese poetry has its very own dialectic. It is precisely the impending death that makes the threatened life in its uniqueness all the more precious. In this sense, transience, finiteness, dying do not push into resignation, but into an all the more intense experience of immanence. Where death has become a reality, the perception of the preciousness of life responds in the act of thought. This does not even apply where the material possessions are disclosed:

the brooch
that she once wore
staggered (p. 53)

According to a word not infrequently prefixed to obituaries, memory is the one realm from which we cannot be expelled. Consequently, whoever lives in our memory dies when she dismisses him.

fading light
now i'm the only one
who still thinks of him (p. 129)

Ever since Jesus' personal prophecy for Peter (Mark 14:30) was fulfilled, the church rooster has had its role as a memorial and a call to repentance. For Gabriele Hartmann, he is "the first rooster" who announces a new day after Good Friday, one who brings law into being:

Good Friday
the first rooster
breaks the silence (p. 37)

Brigitte ten Brink

210 Haiku includes this plain, you might say spartan, postcard-sized haiku book. One black printed three-line each on a white page, with the page number underneath – nothing else. Pure haiku! Nothing that could distract from the written or printed word, from the content of these words, from the texts, nothing that prevents you from delving deeply into what is recorded there.

It starts with the title of this book: serpentines. If you look for the meaning and for synonyms of this term, you will find it in the dictionary of foreign words and in the dictionary of synonyms. In the dictionary of foreign words1 there is, among other things, the meaning of turn, in the dictionary of synonyms2, among other things, the alternative phrase is offered. In relation to the theory of the haiku, this means that within the maximum of three lines that the haiku comprises, there is a surprise and everything is completely different than (initially) thought.

in the serpentines
a new cross
(P. 35)

What sounds like a trip to the mountains in the first two lines of this eponymous haiku gets a bitter aftertaste in the third line as well

the brooch
that once wore
(P. 53)

However, these twists are not necessarily tragic
May sun
how the wrinkles smooth out
in beech green
(P. 41)

City walls
On the other side and beyond
the song of the blackbird
(P. 81)

always present unexpected combinations of ideas

root rhyzome
according to birth certificate:
father unknown
(P. 160)

and there is no lack of a pinch of subtlety in various language games

all1inder8er3stemichamglückzu2feln (S. 93)


nursoNEIDee (p. 177)


ich will
that everything remains
how it is
(P. 174)

So this book is full of 210 surprises. The spiral binding invites you to open it to any page and be amazed by the variety of thoughts and ideas that lead to unexpected conclusions and are always provided with memories and a wink.

under the covers
the owls from Hogwarts
and me
(P. 16)

1 Duden: The foreign dictionary. 9th updated edition. Duden Volume 5. Dudenverlag Mannheim, Leipzig, Vienna, Zurich. p. 950
Serpentine: a) wavy line; drive in serpentines; a path that climbs in serpentines on mountain slopes; b) whorl; turn; loop away
2 Duden: The dictionary of synonyms. 4th edition. Duden Volume 8. Dudenverlag Mannheim, Leipzig, Vienna, Zurich. p. 792
switchback, turn, turn, twist, turn

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