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Bookstories 19: Hans Reddingius’s The Elements

libraryofbabelEvery book tells its story, but what of the other story, the story behind the book? Bookstories offers an opportunity to tell that story. If you have a story about a book or poem you would like to share, contact us and we’ll help you make it happen. Thanks for letting us know the rest of the story!

 

Sometime during the winter of 1996/1997, the late Wim Lofvers asked me an interesting question. Wim at that time was the president of the Haiku Circle of the Netherlands. I had been a member of this association since the early eighties, had participated in one of its local haiku groups and visited general meetings. I had been trying to write haiku since I had found an anthology of Japanese haiku translated into Dutch and considered that it could be interesting to try and write this kind of small verses in my own language. When I discovered that there existed a society where one could discuss one’s work with others, I immediately became a member. Now this Haiku Circle published a quarterly magazine, called Vuursteen (Flintstone) together with the Flemish Haiku Center. What Wim Lofvers came to ask me was whether I would become the chief editor for the Netherlands of this journal. That turned out to be just the kind of job I liked to do. I had to cooperate with a board of Dutch and Flemish editors, and also was a member of the general committee of the Haiku Circle. One of my tasks, besides helping to judge material sent in, was to find interesting articles to publish. I received haiku magazines from abroad, among others Blithe Spirit and Kō Magazine in English, and I subscribed to Modern Haiku. I found a few articles which were suitable to translate into Dutch and publish them in Vuursteen. In order to do this, I had to ask the permission of the authors and the publishers, and within a rather short time I sat in a web of friends and acquaintances who sent me interesting publications. The embarrassing thing was that I write most of my haiku and tanka in Dutch. Sending my booklets to people who don’t read Dutch does not make much sense, but I would like to send some acquaintances at least something in return.

Now Wim Lofvers ran an amateur publishing house. Among other things, he published a series of chapbooks with haiku. The fun of those was that the paper inside the cover was cut up from just one sheet of A4 paper. He called them ‘radishes,’ reminiscent of Issa’s haiku about a turnip puller that shows the way with a turnip. I had a few haiku available that were of sufficient quality and translatable into English. Wim consented to publish 28 of them as radish Number 29 in a bilingual publication: Dutch and English. It was called The Elements. I have used it on several occasions as a small gift. Now it is out of print and Wim Lofvers passed away. I am still alive and enjoy having haiku friends in very different places.

tuinen vol takken
kraaien roepen naar elkaar
in de ochtendwind

gardens full of branches
crows calling at each other
in the morning wind

—Hans Reddingius

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