Mid-June 1969 - fifty years ago - half a century - l opposed serving the U.S. military in the Vietnam War. It was likely this week, possibly this very day, that I boarded a plane, an unofficial police escort tailing my parents' car on the way to the Miami airport. This morning a CBC radio piece on the music of the Woodstock Festival reminded me of this crucial date in my life. Five decades on, the decision I made this week so long ago has been a deciding and continuing factor in my life, and the fact that I've been able to live this long, and at peace with my conscience, to the ripe old age of 71 in a couple of weeks, continues to amaze me.
A little over 30 years ago I wrote my memoir of what happened in the 3 years I lived in the UK after my departure from the U.S. Tai Grove, publisher of Hidden Brook Press, reprinted a professional glossy version of my originally self-published story as Eel Pie Island Dharma in 2012. Here's the opening chapter:
PEACE : )
EEL PIE DHARMA - a memoir / haibun - © 1990 Chris Faiers
Chapter 1 - A Psychedelic BashoAt community college I began writing bad poetry around 1967. When I realized that I was not cut out to be a science student, I immersed myself in arts courses and declared myself a poet. Some poems submitted to the student magazine reminded the editor of haiku. Having never heard of haiku, I didn't know what to make of the comment, but browsing through a literary magazine I found a classified ad offering copies of Haiku magazine from a Toronto address.
Haiku duly arrived, and I fell in love with the haiku form. The similarity between haiku and the brief poems I had been attampting was obvious, and soon I was submitting haiku to the editor of Haiku, Dr Eric Amann.
After initial rejections. I was thrilled when Eric Amann accepted several haiku for his magazine. Encouraged, I began to devote myself to writing haiku. Basho, the wandering haiku poet/priest of medieval Japan, was added to my role models. The lonely life of a commuting college student in Florida presented a few of my early poems:
I'd like to publish a collection of my poems, I shyly told the balding, potbellied printer. Despite my hippie appearance, my American accent tipped him that I might have money, and he got me to show him what I wanted.
When he saw my Luxemburg poem with the swastika, he wanted to know if I was a fascist. I convinced him that I wasn't a fascist, only a poet, and he agreed to print my poetry in little booklets for £50 for 500 copies.
A week later I went back and picked up the box of my first chapbook, Cricket Formations. I lugged the booklets down the hill to the post office in the hamlet of Kew, and spent the afternoon mailing them all over the world.
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Eel Pie Dharma - contents | next chapter (2)
Eel Pie Island (words & pics) | history of haiku | Alan Watts - This Is It | draft resistance