Le campane del tempio

Very kind words about my haiku and haibun collection by Italian haikuist and author, Luca Cenisi: http://www.lucacenisi.net/2018/08/17/le-campane-del-tempio/

Within without

The English translation reads as follows:

Within / without is a collection of haiku and haibun 俳 文 (“haikai writings”) by Andy McLellan, a Zen poet and novice living in Canterbury, UK. Accompanied by the fine illustrations of Cristina Omichi-Smith, it looks like a composite work, not so much from a stylistic point of view – always clean and essential – as in the contents, ranging from the pure and simple contemplation of the naturalistic data to the reproposal, according to never reductive poetic dynamics of news events, like the bombing of Damascus on April 14th:

sparrow dust bath
Damascus wakes after
a night of bombing

The reading of the aforementioned composition also refers to one of the best known haiku of Uejima Onitsura (1661-1738), although opposed to this a representative force of a clearly divergent sign:

春 の 日 や 庭 に 雀 の 砂 あ ひ て
haru no hi ya niwa ni suzume no suna abite

spring day –
in the garden the sparrow
wet sand

While in fact in this last work the sparrow (niwa 雀), dirty with sand, strengthens a seasonal feeling (kikan 季 感) irrefutably open and vital, in the writing of McLellan that same creature becomes a symbol of withdrawal and desolation, revealing a unification emotional (kokoro ni kaku 心 に か く) devoid of redemption, witnessed by the different matter that covers the feathers: no more sand (suna 砂), result of the spontaneous erosion of rocks and shells, but dust (dust), or product of the rubble .
To characterize the collection as a whole is however a general sense of subtlety (hosomi 細 身), ie the ability of the poet to plumb with surgical expertise every slightest variation of the contingencies, be they wide-ranging (as the example above) or more intimate, personal:

cathedral gate
I step into
the silence of snow

In some cases one may get the impression that the author has moved away from reality, favoring “imaginative” reconstructions (kūsō 空想) to the detriment of a faithful and veridical representation of his own life, but it would definitely fall into error; McLellan, in fact, while starting from the real context, works the latter in the light of a sensitivity never rigidly subjective, immersing himself with a sincere heart (magokoro 真心) and letting this “breathe”, expanding spontaneously within the limits that reality itself has decided to indulge itself, and in which the spectator – the haijin 俳 人 in the first place, but also (and above all) the reader – is a natural co-protagonist, together with his emotional bearing.

The result is a detachment (datsuzoku 脱俗) which is at the same time a self-affirmation of “uniqueness alien to constraints” (J. Hvass, Om Zen-æstetik, 1999) and conscious return to the world, according to a progression that does not allow exceptions:

spring breeze
the tree spirits
begin to wake

Given his training as a biologist, McLellan does not fail to present to the reader compositions focused on the vital development of every type of flower or plant; so we have a classic, familiar naturalistic coupling, which at the same time serves as a seasonal reference (kigo 季 語) and as a sounding board for a yūgen (幽 玄, the principle of “depth and mystery”) which – surprisingly, produces – surprisingly – an outcome just as close to the common feeling:

waking up
on the other side of green
spring oak

A special notation deserves the haibun, which are inserted in the global lyric context with naturalness and sense of continuity, thanks also to a sincere lexicon (makoto 誠) and immediate. The experience reported, although directly attributable to the author, has indeed the ability to become universal, reinventing emotional postulates shared by the reader, which never remains on the edge of history, but contributes, on the contrary, to its circularity:

My feet moved on the sidewalk like strangers. People suddenly become attractive, each one taken from their own business. Perhaps this is what they did every day, walking to work or having coffee with a friend. Or maybe they were like me, suddenly hurled into a new world, struggling to fight the stimuli. […]

alien skyline
I stumble back
into my pod

Therefore, within / without is a decidedly mature and coherent work, in which every single composition represents a significant step in McLellan’s experience, without however ever closing in it, indeed opening up to the most attentive spectator an unprecedented and credible horizon. ; a collection where the poetic spirit (fūkotsu 風骨) is constantly renewed, freeing the individual from the weight of his own prejudice and thus fueling a spontaneous and authentic interest in the haiku, his most faithful representation:

wild indigo
the evening sky
captures a crow”


4 thoughts on “Le campane del tempio

  1. Looks great!

    Do you have a web link to the book? I’d like to mention this on the Call of the Page twitter account.

    warmest regards,

    Alan Summers
    Call of the Page

  2. Hi Alan! It is just a self-printed booklet I made for fun but Luca saw a copy I sent to Maria Laura Valente and asked for one.

    With all good wishes

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