1) When did you start writing haiku? What led you to writing haiku? What interested about haiku to start writing in this genre?
I started to read about haiku during my studentship. I tried to write, but dropped out of it and throw up my hands. I felt like a vocalist who sings without a vocal score. I restarted to write again after twenty years, in March 1990, when the first Haiku magazine appeared, which continues to appear until now. I found in its pages a delightful key that opens a door to the secrets of Japanese poetry. I was captivated because I could write a poem which can be read in only a single human breath. Haiku has 17 syllables and the duration of breathing is about 17 seconds. Embarking on this notion, one of the innovators in publishing haiku, Nichita Stănescu, who was nominated for the Nobel Prize, wrote an essay entitled “Breathings”.
2) What are your other hobbies and interests besides haiku? Do you (or have you in the past) pursued any other arts, such as painting and photography?
Before I began to write haiku I was preoccupied with all kinds of poetry. The first poems I wrote were at about ten years, but I made my first public appearance only when I was twenty years old. I was interested in music and painting, but only as a simple consumer, not like a creator. Later, I tried to write haiku that I appended to pictures and photos by others. Japanese composer Iuji Itoh composed a melody after some of my haiku, “Seven poems”, and presented it in the concerts, in countries like
3) Which languages do you speak in your day-to-day life? Which languages are you familiar with or have written in? Which other languages generally fascinate you and why?
I wished to know all about haiku, but Romanian bibliography had only few books about it. For this reason I started to learn English by myself. I began to translate my poems and then I tried to write them directly in English. English is a fascinating language for me. It has an unequaled rich synonymy and a great plasticity. In poetry there is past, present and future. I am captivated by French and Italian for their similarity with Romanian. Moreover Italian, in which I published some haiku, for me is a language with a great musicality and has the same euphony like Japanese. For both of them, the great number of the vowels offers fluidity and harmony to the words. It is a pleasure to listen to the recitation, or even more, singing of haiku in English or Japanese language.
4) Tell us a little about your family (parents, siblings, spouse, children and others). Is there someone in your family who specially inspires you and encourages your efforts as a poet? Is there someone from your childhood who has inspired you?
My parents are simple people from the country, but they inspired me from my childhood with the love of poetry. I was ten years old when my teacher recommended subscribing to a school magazine. When I asked my father to give me money for the subscription, he didn’t give me an answer. I thought that he didn’t want to give me the money, so I retired in a corner where I wrote my first poem “The bee”. When I showed him the poem, my father was delighted with it. He became my first reader and he remains devoted till now, at ninety years old. Of course, he gave me the money for the subscription. Also, my mother wrote poems in her childhood. My wife, Emilia too wrote classical poetry in the her school years. Although she doesn’t write poetry now, she is near me in the appreciation like a poet. My daughters, Ioana Codruta and Maria Veronica, chose the occupation of their mother and they became economists. They understand and appreciate their father’s poetry. Regarding my grandson, Petre Bogdan, he is only nine years old, but he practices the Japanese martial arts. He knows a lot of Japanese words and he says them like in his own language. He chose this hobby because he relates with his grandpa who writes haiku.
5) Who would you say are the most important readers of your haiku, if any? Who do you write your haiku for, so to say?
Often I receive messages from many haiku authors. Sometimes the messages convert in other haiku or other tanka. It is like a song outdoor and its echo that can be heard from distance. Whom I write for? For those in present and for those who will come. Like a journalist I know my circle of readers. Like a poet I dream of the readers from future.
6) You have translated many of your fine haiku into English from Romanian, besides writing regularly in both English and Romanian. You have also a collection of haiku translated into Romanian. Do you enjoy the work of translation? What are the difficulties of translating between Romanian and English? What are the special things about each of these languages that you enjoy?
Synonymy is one of the problems. It is known that there does not exist a perfect synonymy. Sometimes you can make mistakes and get at absurdity or laughable meaning. In this domain helpful for me is “Good friends, false friends – dictionary”, which lists similar words in English and in French. Another difficulty is number of the syllables. Of course, there are some distinctive dictionaries; nevertheless they are in contradiction about a lot of words. I observed that in other countries where people are English speakers, they don’t strictly respect the 5–7–5 measure. Most Romanian poets of haiku respect this “golden” rule of haiku. It is a great satisfaction for a translator when a literary critic or even a simple reader can say that their rendering has the same class as the original. Say you can write a classical haiku only in 17 syllables. Sometimes it is easy but at other times it is difficult or even impossible. There are texts that can lose so much sense when you translate that you must give up. It is better to because otherwise you do an injustice to the poetry or even to the translator.
7) Please tell us a little about your other (non-haiku) poetry. When did you first write poetry? What are your earliest poems about? Where can our readers access your other poetry? Is any of it published? Is any of it translated into English or other languages?
As I said, the first poem I wrote was at ten years old and it brought me my first subscription of a school magazine. I think at 20 years old I made my first appearance in a departmental publication with a poem of three stanzas. For royalty I got a sum with which I was able to buy 20 books. Like an entire bookstand. In nowadays a poet has to give a lot of money to publish a poetry book. It seems the same situation is also in other countries. For this reason my poetry may be found in newspaper files, but not ready to bring out in a book. Most of them were published in some 30 collective anthologies. In year 2007 I hope to publish a book of love poetry, “Twin souls”.
8) Do you write in any other haiku related forms (such as renga, haibun and tanka)? You have actively written senryu as you have haiku. What do you find special about each of these genres (senryu and haiku)? Why do you enjoy each?
To write always in the same genre is wrong. Eventually we can feel the exhaustion. Man is complex. There is a Romanian expression: “one eye laughs and the other cries”. Haiku is a sober genre which includes grave aspects of life, or at least the neutral ones. But the poet as the reader feels sometimes the necessity to relax, to laugh. This is why after five working days during which I wrote only haiku, on the weekend I observe people- nature as human society- with other eyes. I feel the necessity to make a joke arranged in the pattern of 17 syllables. In this way I contrive to write senryu in the moments of inspiration. I think senryu writing is difficult. We find fewer subjects than for haiku. I have published four books of haiku and many other wait to be published. However I have not published even four senryu.
9) Do you enjoy any other genres of literature (such as prose, short stories, novels etc)? Have you written in any prose forms?
Any journalist who honours his work feels the attraction to write prose. I am not an exception. I published many stories in the press of the time, which awaits to be assembled in a book. Like my first novel. “The dethronement”, a historical novel, nonfiction, from which I published vast parts in literary press, is waiting to be published. In fact, literary style is different from journalistic style. When you write literature you have to forget you are also a journalist. An article in a newspaper lives only for a single day but the writer hopes that his novel will outlive him. For a while I stopped writing for the newspaper so I will have more time for my own literary writings. I hope the change between reporter’s microphone and writer’s quill is already done.
10) Did you enjoy poetry and other literature as a child? Which poets or writers did you enjoy reading?
A sportsman is in coaching all the time for the great competition. For a writer, the most important practice is reading. My favorite’s writers are Tolstoi and Dostoievski from Russian people, Balzac and Zola from French people, Faulkner and Hemingway from American people as well as the Romanians Liviu Rebreanu and Mihail Sadoveanu. Among dramatists I feel emotionally close to Shakespeare, O’neil, Cehov and Caragiale. All their plays are played in Romanian theatres and I watch them with much interest. Also I have watched all of Shakespeare’s creations on television, but I didn’t like it very much. Those were played in a rush. A showing of Hamlet on the Romanian stage keeps on for four and a half hours, while on the TV it is less than two hours. Among the great poets of the world I prefer the Italians Dante and Petrarca, the French Baudelaire, the German Goethe, the Spanish Lode de Vega (his poetry plays), the American Poe. Lately I began to also read English poetry. I bought a complete edition of Shakespeare’s work and every rest day I read a sonnet. Also I have in my mind to read in English Rabindranath Tagore’s poetry. In this way I began to read a poetry book “Gitanji Song Offerings”, a gift from poetess Angelee Deodhar.
11) How has your poetry changed over the years? Have you become more settled in a peculiar style, or diversified and tended to experiment?
Buffoon said that the style is in fact the man. If that is true, the style is a fate. It changes but only a little. My poems are around two, three stanzas. My style is concise and abrupt, my poetical speech has many breaks, I easily jump from one idea to another, but invisible connections are weaving between them, like roots. These qualities or maybe frailties led me gradually to haiku. The themes diversified along with my experiences.
12) Who or what events inspired you to pursue a career as a journalist? What are the preoccupations of your journalism? What motivates you to be a journalist? Has your work as a journalist helped you to see more haiku and get inspired in poetry?
I was young and I wasn’t satisfied with my realizations. I felt I can do more, but couldn't see any possibilities. One day, I read in a newspaper the announcement of a journalism contest. The winners of the contest would be helped to be admitted to a faculty of journalism, where it was difficult to be admitted. I decided to compete. At the job I couldn’t write. At home, my new born child always cried. So between my service and home I stopped alone in a retired place and I wrote my articles on my knees. I won the contest and accordingly with this fact, I got the recommendation to be admitted to the faculty of journalism. The journalist life was like a continuous struggle. I wasn’t always a winner, but I got the mentality of a fighter against any wrongs. The profession of the journalist didn’t help me directly to write haiku, but afforded me many opportunities to know poets of haiku. As a journalist I took part in the launches of some haiku books. Likewise, I can help my haiku friends by interviewing them or writing reviews about their books.
13) Have you held any other jobs earlier in your life?
None: all of them were of no consequence. I was devoted to journalism for three decades. Like a life time. Further I still publish sporadically in journalism. I am dedicated generally to fiction and especially to haiku.
14) What aspects of your childhood in
For a haiku poet, childhood is an inexhaustible source of inspiration. Some events have disappeared from reality, but they have remained in my memories from childhood and then appear in literature. I can’t forget when my father was singing during his work, and I felt as if his songs gave me wings. This made me feel like I am in heaven. In the summer in my village from Transylvanian Field people came from the mountains to reap wheat. Sometimes they were working all night under the moonlight and they were singing all the time. Before going to bed I would linger for a long time on the veranda to see them reaping under the crescent moon, in the tempo of a song unknown to me at the time. In one of my first haiku I tried to capture this memory.
under the Crescent
the song of the sickles
15) Do you have an interest in the political affairs of
Fortunately or maybe regrettably, I am not involved in politics. The partisanship with one or another party will decrease my liberty of creation. I prefer to be equidistant from the political parties, from authority and opposition. In my intercommunications with the foreign countries, as much as my possibilities allow me, like journalist, tourist or poet I seek to be aligning with the politics of my country.
16) Are there any places which you visit in solitude which especially inspire you with poetry and haiku? Please tell us a little about these places.
17) About the presence of Haiku in
Florin Vasiliu had an essential role in promotion of haiku in
18) Do you have an interest in teaching haiku to children or youngsters? If so, have you conducted any workshops or seminars locally through Haiku Society of Romania?
I haven’t any merit in this regard. But there are two Romanian poets, both of them teachers – Ion Codrescu and Ioan Gabudean – who initiated a lot of pupils in the haiku art. The first initiated over two hundred pupils and the second over one hundred. Both teachers published an anthology with the creations of their pupils, which aren’t inferior to any anthology consisting of adults
19) What is the importance of religious belief and rituals in your life? How would you describe your predominant religious beliefs? What is the influence (if any) of your religious beliefs and faith on your Haiku and writing in general?
Religious belief and rituals had a great role in my becoming, in a period when more people found relief in religion. My first book “Via dolorosa” is essentially a book of religious poems. I give it a subtitle “Christian three-liners in the haiku spirit”. In my childhood one of the icons from my parental house was “The Last Supper”. I was fascinated by its dramatic nature. Love for the people, sacrifice of oneself, the betrayal and the forgiveness - so much fierce feelings in a single painting. The poetry was written automatically. It seems somebody dictated them, and I wrote.
The Last Supper –
all around the empty table
the tongue-tied disciples…
I was baptized in the predominant religion of my country, Christian Orthodox. I agree with all kind of beliefs and I am for dialogue between beliefs. In religious poetry my model is Tagore and Kahlil Gibran. Both of them reported on God without naming Him. For this reason their religious poetry is apt to be read and understood by people with different beliefs.
20) What is the importance of music in your life? What is the influence of music (if any) on your Haiku?
Music like painting is apt to impact poetry. Often I write on a musical topic. Especially the music of silence inspires me. Most of my poems intercept auditory effects from nature perceived through music.
21) Have you collaborated with other poets (haiku or otherwise)? How important do you consider collaboration in art and poetry? Have you made any good friends through your activity in haiku and poetry? Are there anyone among them whom you would like to specially mention?
I think in haiku, more than in other kind of poetry, the communication is very important, like the air for the breath. Two years ago I participated at international festivals of haiku from
22) What are some of your plans and dreams for the future
I have in my mind to publish a volume of tanka and another of one line poems. Also I have in my mind to bring together in a single volume my books of haiku published till now. Among my projects I count translation and integral publishing poetry of Basho and also publishing a representative anthology from the poetry of Issa.
23) What is your advice to young people with an interest in writing haiku?
To read as soon as possible the poetry of Basho, Buson, Issa and Shiki, and the fourth volumes of the monumental work “Haiku” by R. Blyth.
24) Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
For the people of the ancient
Translated into English by
A brief biography [WorldHaiku.net]
Links to Vasile's haiku on the web:
Reviews of Vasile's books:
Review of "The Moon's Unseen Face" [Simply Haiku]
Review of "Ikebana" [Wonder Haiku Worlds]
Another review of "Ikebana" [Modern Haiku]