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Paul Reps (1895-1990), a Pioneer of American Haiku

More Power To You – Poems Everyone Can Make (1939)
by Paul Reps
The first collection of English language haiku published in the United States!

22 ways to nowhere (27 haiku-like and tanka-like poems by Paul Reps, with penciled illustrations by the author, no ISBN printed in Japan)

poem before words (Paul Reps's prose account of the reception of an exhibit of his poems in Kyoto, no ISBN printed in Japan)

Big Bath: Poems (Free verse and prose poems by Paul Reps, illustrated by the author, no ISBN printed in Japan)

Gold and Fish Signatures (17 short poems, illustrated by the author, Paul Reps), Auerhahn Press, San Francisco, 1962

 

Zen Telegrams: 79 Picture Poems (PDF) (1959)
by Paul Reps
The second collection of English language haiku published in the United States!

Stop
innocently
joy ...... is

 

Pine drinking
luminous dew
as if nothing
had happened

 

potato
seeing
everywhere
below

 

and
glistening
wisps
of
straw

Living earth to comfort
Living water to heal
Living air ...... purify
radiance ...... reveal

 

washing
dancing
hurry

 

though
wide the sky
never lost
wild geese
...... ...... cry

 

sometimes
in May rain
I can hear
...... my fingernails
...... ...... growing

 

brookside
...... alive
O do not hasten
...... ...... friend
you may
...... ...... arrive

 

below

...... ever

above

 

now
now

 

cobwebs
hesitating
us

 

softtly
telling hand
to open

softly
hand
opens

 

cucumber
unaccountably
cucumbering

 

but
see me
through
your tears

 

words
...... unsaid

 

under my
...... clothes
I am naked
...... ...... too

 

please
telephone me
...... in the
...... ...... ricefield

 

who
is

 

shrieking
torn from
...... stem
the
...... flower

 

well
silently
overflowing

 

seeing the smile
...in your eyes
I have forgotten
...that people
...... ...... .. ...die

 

already
....weeds
are writing
....the scriptures

 

earthworm
writing letters
to mankind

 

world through
...... ...... my door
...... how wide
house how tiny
...... from outside

 

lose your
un-flower
mind

 

suddenly
..from tree
...peach blossom
....
how can this be

 

use ..us
the bamboo
...... whisper

 

period
comma
sunset

 

Drinking
a bowl of green tea
I stopped the war

 

sun
between
fingers

holding sun
into forehead
sages became
men of light

 

laughing
....
I
makes
a tree

 

do not
...... step
on our
...tears

 

face
in
face

black resting
white transforming

 

consciousness
delighting
as crane

 

grain of
...... sand
spins
...... round

child
too

 

turtle
...... explaining
don't act
...... but act

 

silently
the river
...... silently

 

sound of flute
has returned
to bamboo
...... forest

 

moth caressing
my cheek
may be you

 

giant redwood
inó tellingly
compressing
into a seed

 

even downtown
surrendering
my breath

 

born
yet unborningly
reeds

 

ants
how thankful
I am
with no thing
to be thankful
...... ...... for

 

forgotten
string
sings

 

upon
fallen
leaves

a

...... leaf

let...... moss ...... be ...... moss

 

5-stone
garden

drop stones
unexpectedly
from closed hand
see the garden you

 

square wheel
to go backward

 

Move
in

unheard
music

 

dust
of
dust
of
......
must

 

which
weed
am I

 

ah
farmer food
...... herbs
...... brown rice
...... greens
...... sprouts
...... a farmer
...... ...... wife

 

please be
my doll

 

my life
as path
of fish
...... until
...... you
...... cry

 

no
A

 

if of me
...... a picture
you
...... a picture
...... ...... take

 

don't worry
day
will come

 

paper flower
paper bird
paper moon

who walks
the wild earth
any more?

 

since men
...... still make war
let me lie down and sing
...... with the grasses

 

rocks
...... preaching
become some
...... silent
...... ...... sound

 

perhaps only
...... perhaps
you stand beside me
in the gentle rain

 

little bud
open this heart
with your
...... invisible hand

 

pebble
receiving
love

 

waterfall

...... no trouble
...... at
...... all

 

now that
everybody's in
...... a hurry
let's ride your
...... ...... bicycle
through the
...... ricefields

 

2nd-hand words climbing a thread

 

captured
snowflakes
suffering

 

snow

if ony
I could tell
you my name
tomorrow

 

...... Mountain
rising lines
to ...... center
...... sudden
light

 

asking
seed how open
roots how to grow:
"open" ......"grow"

 

Buddha compassion
Jesus love
and touch of hand

 

cut some humans from their stems
tie them in a bunch
pull a few out
stick them in a
...... ...... vase
look at them
throw
the
rest away

Human arrangement
...... by flowers

 

nothing...... something
something...... nothing

 

in her
...... tender
unfathomable
...... being

 

how to
be
a
samurai

 

sun fell
on me

 

who can say
I am Japanese
...... American
...... ...... African
when in the next day
he may be a butterfly

 

--------------------------------------------

Bibliography

More Power To You – Poems Everyone Can Make, Preview Publications, Montrose, California, 1939, [6] 22 pp.

Zen Telegrams: 79 Picture Poems, Tuttle Publishing, 1959, 1995

Big bath: Poems, Liu Publishers, 1960

10 ways to meditate;: No need to kill, Walker/Weatherhill [i.e.: J. Weatherhill; distributed by Walker, 1969

Gold/fish signatures: Poems, : Auerhahn Press, 1962
Gold and Fish Signatures, Tuttle Publishing,

Letters to a friend: Writings & drawings, 1939 to 1980, Stillgate Publishers, 1981

Square Sun Square Moon: A Collection of Prose Essays, Tuttle Publishing, 1967

Unwrinkling Plays, Charles E Tuttle Co, 1965

Be!: New Uses for the Human Instrument, Art Media Resources, Ltd., 1984

Sit in: What it is like, Zen Center Press, 1975

Let Good Fortune Jump on You, Good Karma Pub, 1990

Zen flesh, Zen bones: A collection of Zen & pre-Zen writings, Charles E Tuttle Co, 1965

Juicing: Words and brushwork, Anchor Books, 1978

 

--------------------------------------------

Ty Hadman
PAUL REPS
http://www.ahapoetry.com/PP1000.htm

Paul Reps is America's first haiku poet and was the first to write visual haiku and minimalist haiku which have continued to gain steadily in popularity over the years. It is a very little known fact that Paul Reps was the first American to have a collection of English language haiku published in the United States. His book of haiku, More Power To You – Poems Everyone Can Make, was published in California in 1939, 27 years before Robert Spiess' first collection of haiku, The Heron's Legs, was published and over 20 years before any of the few other very early North American haiku collections were published in the early and mid-sixties. As a matter of fact, his next collection of haiku, Zen Telegrams, published in 1959, 20 years after More Power To You, was the second collection of haiku to be published in English! No other collection of haiku was ever published during the 20 year span between Reps' first and second collection of haiku! Reps was definitely ahead of his time. Adelaide Crapsey invented an American form of haiku, a sort of haiku-tanka hybrid called the cinquain (please read Jane Reichhold's Those Women Writing Haiku Chapter Two if you haven't done so yet), thus Reps was the second to develop a unique American brand of haiku (I recommend that you also read Jane Reichhold's essay - "Some Thoughts On Re-thinking Haiku").

In the beginning, Reps gave these picture-poems away to many of his friends as "weightless gifts". About five years after he had begun developing this new personal style of haiku in 1952, Reps started doing road shows, exhibiting his pictorial haiku; starting in Kyoto, Osaka, and Tokyo from 1957-1959, then one in Texas in late 1959; New Zealand, Australia, India, Japan, and Mexico in 1960; Pomona, California, in 1961; San Francisco in 1962; Chico, California, and back again in Tokyo, Japan, in 1963; Big Sur, California in 1964, and in later years in Washington, Rome, Honolulu, and perhaps other locations as well. Unlike the first collection More Power To You, Zen Telegrams was highly successful in the market place, being reprinted 10 times in the following 12 years! Reps was wise not to use the word "haiku" to describe his poems. Since his first few road shows were mainly in Japan, he knew quite well that he would run into trouble if he tried calling his poems haiku. The Japanese would have criticized his work, and the long debate that has never been resolved even today would have started up as to what is and what isn't a haiku. He wanted to avoid all that mess, so his picture-poems offended no one in Japan and he became a popular foreign attraction. The use of bamboo, rice-paper, his sumi ink calligraphic haiga, the brevity and simplicity of his poems, and his love of Buddhism all contributed to his success that appealed to Japanese cultural, aesthetic, and religious sensitivities.

More Power To You is a slim volume containing 89 haiku, four to a page. It is a remarkable collection considering when it was written, but attracted practically no attention whatsoever. In this book, it is undoubtedly clear that these poems are original American haiku. These haiku are not the picture-poems that he has become so well-known for even though a few of them were accompanied with drawings and included in some of his picture-poem books many years later. Even if one does not consider his picture-poems to be so-called "authentic" haiku, it cannot be denied that the 89 poems contained in More Power To You are very good examples of early American haiku. Reps is one of the few people who has correctly stated, in his brief introduction, that haiku is just one of the short Japanese poetical forms that belong to a larger class of poetry that can also be found in nugget form in American Indian songs and in Persian, Hindu, Chinese, and Latin American Indian poetry. This point of view is also held by Carlos Garcia Prada, writer, critic, and a literary lecturer and researcher who was once one of the world's leading authorities on the history of haiku outside Japan. Prada points out that Indians were very keen observers and lovers of nature and suggests that it was very likely that there were some among them that captured these moments of heightened awareness and perception and expressed them in poetry or even sign language.

Reps very wisely chose not to adhere to any of the strict Japanese traditional haiku "rules" such as syllable (sound unit) count or line arrangement, nor did he feel he had to include a season word, although he often did. His haiku often expanded beyond nature to include human nature and social and political themes. He used punctuation sparingly, using mainly the dash and exclamation point. If you have not yet read Jane Reichhold's Haiku essay, "Fragment and Phrase Theory", I strongly suggest you read it (either now or later) if you write haiku and are interested in this important technical topic. Even though he divorced himself from many traditional Japanese haiku concepts and rules, he did however retain the spirit of Zen (but he rarely used the word himself) because he was a devout Buddhist and used Japanese materials and methods in composing his haiku and haiga.

I think Reps realized that he had to create his very own unique style of presentation in order to attract a wider audience, thus he chose a visual type of poetry that many people would not only read, but look at. To get people to read poetry, he cleverly attracted their attention first with his simple line drawings. His poetry addressed the reality of modern times back then and even now, that people in general do not read or listen to poetry like they once did in the past. The majority of people instead prefer using much of their leisure time to watch television and movies, attend concerts and sports events, and the numerous other modern leisure activities that consume and compete for our time and attention. His unique style of presentation enabled him to compete, putting on "poem shows" that attracted thousands of people. It should be remembered that Reps began writing and drawing visual haiku precisely at the time when television had effectively replaced radio as the number one mass medium in oral communications. I think he understood very well the rapidly increasing importance and impact of visual communications. I think he saw the trend toward compactness and speed as a result of television and new technology, thus he often called his haiku, "telegrams", urgent messages demanding immediate attention.

One of the ways that Reps marketed his picture-poems was to use some string to tie together long bamboo poles to form what he called a "child's space house". He scotch-taped the poems drawn and written on rice paper to the horizontal bamboo poles and suspended them like freshly cleaned laundry on a clothesline. He then turned on a couple of electric fans in the room to add a breezy effect. People at the show could view the poems hanging up on the line and buy any that they took a liking to. His prices varied. He used a sliding scale to charge for his poems; charging car owners the most, $3 per poem, students paid 50c, poor people were charged 25c apiece, and lovers of Buddha only 2c.

Reps had a wide range of ways of appealing to the hearts of many individuals in at least one of the many poems that he put up for display suspended from the bamboo poles and in this way he was able to make quite a few sales. He often commented that each haiku was especially meant for just one person, even though they could obviously be enjoyed and appreciated by many and were sometimes repeated and reproduced in books. His original intention however was not to reach out to a mass market, but to offer a wide variety of poems, each one appealing to a limited number of people. The marketing gurus today have finally come to realize what Reps understood long ago, the market is ONE, not millions. After each sale, Reps put up another picture poem on the line to replace the one that had just been sold. He also included sound effects in some of his shows and took customized orders for large broadsides of his picture-poems.

Reps was an early ecologist; condemning chemical dumping and water and air pollution in his picture-poem book, Fish Signatures. For this book, he borrowed live fish for a few minutes, brushed them with black sumi ink, then pressed each one against a sheet of rice paper, bathed the fish in water to rinse off the ink, and finally returned the fish to the fish tank, river, or wherever they had been taken from. Details of the fish were often recorded as to the size, weight, location, date, and weather conditions that day.

Other than these innovative approaches of presenting his haiku picture-poems, he also included them interspersed in prose, essays, and even plays (please read Jane Reichhold's Banana Skies – A Play In Ten Scenes based on Basho's haibun, Backroads To The Interior) thus expanding the concept of haibun (prose travel sketches containing haiku).

I once used one of Reps' ideas myself when I was living in Oakland in the early eighties. I wrote some minimalist haiku on colored paper cut into long triangular-shaped pennants which I glued onto long wooden dowels, six per dowel, three in one direction and three in the other. I marched slowly through the downtown streets and parks exhibiting the haiku gently flapping in the spring breeze. Since the haiku were minimalist haiku, people walking by could read one or more of them in just a glance. It must have seemed a bit strange since I was all dressed up in a suit, tie, and vest wearing my favorite Panama hat. The Oakland Art Museum found out about my activities in the streets and commissioned me to give a workshop for children on haiku (showing them how they could make these haiku pennants for themselves) at the museum on Family Day.

I used the same idea a few years later to give a haiku show for terminally ill children in a hospital auditorium in Sacramento. The children were delighted and some asked permission to have the haiku pennants put up on the hospital walls in their rooms. Each tiny poem had become like a new friend.

Reps often received comments on the interesting ink shapes and patterns, but he was more interested in how one reacted to the few words on the paper, the haiku, explaining that the purpose of the ink drawings was to give an added dimension to the words and that is exactly what distinguishes excellent haiku; they work on multiple levels or dimensions simultaneously. We cannot visualize very much using our alphabet like the Chinese and Japanese are able to do by representing words visually through ideographs. Reps made a valiant attempt in his efforts to use our alphabet to convey ancient Oriental language concepts in a modern Western sense, to remove some of the abstractness of words, moving towards the delight of a more pictorial way of reading, thinking, and understanding. Paul Reps' haiku, telegrams, picture-poems, see say poems, poems before words, weightless gifts (all these designations, except for haiku, were used by Reps when referring to his work) or whatever you choose to call them, it doesn't really matter, were discussed on television, newsreels, radio, and magazines worldwide. No haiku poet outside of Japan since Reps has received so much international attention in the media, nor been anywhere nearly as successful as he in reaching large audiences and in merchandising his tiny poems. This should give food for thought to modern haiku poets throughout the world today; perhaps Reps' work deserves to be reconsidered, even if only from a marketing standpoint. It looks as though he was on the right track.

Below are several examples of his work from the following books: More Power To You (1939), Zen Telegrams (1959), Big Bath (1960), Unwrinkling Plays (1965), Square Sun Square Moon (1967), Gold and Fish Signatures (1969), and Juicing (1978). Other books by Paul Reps which you might find interesting are: Sit In, Be: New Uses For the Human Instrument, As a Potato, Zen Flesh, Zen Bones (compiled from three smaller books first published in the 1930s by Doubleday: without date), 10 Ways to Meditate (1969, Weatherhill: 1981 - Bonus Edition with wooden cover and 1982 in paperback). I have included some of his picture-poems without the picture and of course something is lost. For those readers who would like to see Reps' drawings, I suggest that you buy one of his books in a used bookstore or over the Internet. Thousands of copies were printed and sold, so they are not too difficult to find if you live in a big city.

Standing
in cool dew
I look at the cloudless sky

* * *

How the dust flies!
Shaking my mop
into the sunset

I was glad to see that he used the words "my mop" (indicating that he was the one who was doing the housecleaning) instead of using the possessive adjective "her" as many other males might have done. A 1939 haiku. Not bad. Compare the above haiku by Reps with this 1977 Dragonfly award-winner by William Kemmett:

Out the upper window:
how bitterly the old woman
airs her dust mop

* * *

Come stand with me
under the summer shower –
healed of world-madnesses

We all need to cool off a bit from time to time in how we interact with one another as individuals, groups, and nations. A good invitation. I'll join in, what about you?

Factory whistle screeching
this thousand-eyed body
sits in the tall grass

* * *

Since men still make war
Let me lie down and sing
with the grasses

* * *

Dumbly I stand before
cattle eyes hopefully questioning
through boxcar slats

Most haiku poets will probably object to the use of the phrase "hopefully questioning" because it is a subjective interpretation of how the cattle felt, but I have spent some time hopping freight trains and I can clearly remember the times when I saw these same cattle eyes in cramped cattle cars like Reps saw, and I agree, that is what their facial expression looked like, "hopefully questioning" or if asked, I might have said "painfully wondering". Will the reader capture the haiku moment, the intense look in the eyes of those cattle without including the phrase? Maybe, but only if you have had this experience, otherwise probably not.

Blind man's tremulous fingers
listening to spring stir
in pussy willow buds

* * *

Passing in the hot street
once and forever
we – knowingly – smile

* * *

walking through the forest
I rearrange
the trees

* * *

Sand, sundown, sea
nobody's dog
watches with me

We never are really ever truly alone in this world.

Frayed rug in the dust –
ah, the floating tapestry
of last night's moon!

This reminds me of a scene from the movie "Blow Up" which was based on a short story written by the Argentine writer Julio Cortazar. Band members of the English rock group "Who" were playing violently on their instruments at a concert. The lead guitarist smashed his guitar to pieces and threw the bulk of it into the huge crowd of assembled people, landing in the hands of a photographer who was chasing after a young woman he saw in the crowd who he thought may have been involved in the murder of an older man who was her lover. The mob rushed after him to get the guitar scrap. He escaped; but so did the woman he was chasing. Then there he was on a quiet street with this strange worthless piece of junk in his hand. He didn't know what to do with the guitar scrap, so he just tossed it into the street gutter. Passers-by considered it an eyesore. The circumstances, conditions, our awareness at the moment, the inter-relationships between things; all these factors and many more influence how we see.

Ticking, ticking away
at starlight
that watch and me

* * *

Kite on a string
Airplane
Evening star

Compare the above 1939 Reps haiku with one written by L.A. Davidson in 1972:

beyond
stars beyond
star

* * *

Squabbling wrens,
isn't there enough room
in this world?

Sounds a bit like Issa's style.

snow man
snow woman
melting away in the sun

This one was written in 1939! A lot can be said about this haiku; but I think I'll allow you, the reader, make the discoveries for yourself.

cobwebs
hesitating
us

Nature does have a way of getting in our way. We're stopped in our tracks for a moment, yes, but we usually respond by destroying; tearing down cobwebs, chopping down trees, running down animals on the roadways, killing off anything and everything in our path to what end, to where? Compare Reps' haiku with the following 1988 First Place Award by Dan Burke in the Harold G. Henderson Haiku Contest sponsored by the Haiku Society of America:

a single strand
of spider silk
stops her

* * *

cucumber
unaccountably
cucumbering

This haiku reminds me of the following haiku written by W.S. Merwin:

I eat
the cucumber
my way

The cucumber has its nature, as in Reps' haiku and we have ours, as in Merwin's.

lose use
your unflower and your flower
mind mind

These two haiku appear in different books but are corollaries. Japanese haiku Master Takahama Kyoshi said that the proper haiku mentality is to praise the beauty of birds and flowers and Clark Strand comments that few people in this life encounter circumstances which allow them to realize this "flower mind" ideal.

suddenly from tree
peach blossoms
how can this be?

* * *

elegantly crane lifts
spindling, shimmering, breathtaking
foot

Compare Reps' haiku above to the Shiki Grand Prize Haiku Award given to Timothy Russell in 1999:

noon
the egret shifts from stillness
to stillness

* * *

mother
blows away
baby's hurt

It often works! Usually not so, with fathers.

!

rain

Most everyone who has followed American haiku for a long time or has read up on it, is familiar with Cor Van den Heuval's famous one-word haiku on a page, "tundra", but few realize that Reps wrote about half a dozen picture-poems, containing one word, a few more with two, and several with three or four. Reps was the first to effectively exploit the minimalist technique. Reps one, two, or three word haiku accompanied by a simple line drawing involve far more reader participation than in the "tundra" example. I like one of Reps' haiku which shows a long vertical line in the center of the page with an oblique line on the left running down the page towards the vertical line forming a wide gap at the top and a narrow one at the bottom with the word "receiving" just to the left of the oblique line on the left looking roughly like:

\|

receiving

This nicely displays a truth and also implies without actually stating its opposite, "giving". Giving stems from a narrow point that originates within ourselves and reaches out towards the widening world and becomes infinite, like sharing a poem with the world, the Creator, and the universe; and vice-versa, receiving originates at the top, outside ourselves from the wide world or the heavens, a "gift from the gods" we sometimes say. Thus the giving and receiving principle is a constant flow, operating from the same points, outward and inward. Once you receive, you have something to give, and once you give, you have more space to receive. The "tundra" haiku falls flat (excuse the pun) in comparison.

dance
stems,
dance!

* * *

the rain
oh yes
the rain

The joy of refreshing rain, nothing more, nothing less, but that's a lot, sufficient.

silently
the river
silently

* * *

fourteen yellow petals
blown
into the doorway

Compare this with Shiki's famous haiku:

cockscombs:
there must be
14 or 15

When I began writing this month's Poet Profile, I thought that Reps was a peripheral haiku poet, but now, re-reading what I have written, I see that he was a lot closer to the center than I had originally thought. Reps was America's first haiku master. I think many of his poems prove this claim.

Text Copyright © Ty Hadman 2000.
Page Copyright © AHA Books 2000.

 

------------------------------------

Paul Reps - Weightless Gifts
by
SooZen Lee
http://www.litkicks.com/BeatPages/page.jsp?what=PaulReps

“I feel that I am equal to each grass blade and pebble and believe it is possible to be happy though human and grow up.”
Paul Reps


...

Paul Reps was born in Cedar City, Iowa on September 15, 1895. A man that always felt there were too many words used to describe anything he was a master of minimalist haiku, Zen Buddhism, and swift sumi-e brush painting. Reps can truly be called the father of Buddhism and haiku in America. He never was caught up in tradition, breaking all that are now considered the haiku rules and, although he respected his teachers, he forged new paths. Always, in his wide travels, Paul was accompanied by his humor, wit and independent spirit. As Paul would say, “If not fun, leave undone.”

Way before any other western haiku poets, Paul was the harbinger of modern haiku. As a youth in the early 1900’s, Reps traveled to the orient where he studied haiku, Zen and eastern art with many teachers which made an impression on his writing and style but he adapted haiku to his own interpretation. Paul never used the syllabic constraints and rarely abided by seasonal words that were the then rules of eastern haiku. He created his own form of haiku, minimal and without punctuation except for the occasional dash or exclamation point which were frequently illustrated with his sumi-e brush painting. His first book, More Power To You – Poems That Everyone Can Make, was published in 1939. From 1957 through the sixties he put on shows wherever he roamed; India, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Australia, Mexico, USA, Greece and probably many other planetary sites.

Reps rarely settled in one place too long. A sort of haiku hobo, he wandered the world far and wide and felt and viewed the whole earth as his home. Everywhere he traveled, he made, found, or had friends who took him in and cared for him.

At one of his gallery showings, he hung his haiku, like laundry, on bamboo poles with lines strung across the room. He placed a fan where it would make the scraps of paper flutter in the breeze. He sold the haiku to the attendees; there was a sign that read, 1,000 yen to automobile owners, 500 yen to well dressed persons, 200 yen to students, 100 yen to anyone poor, 10 yen to lovers of Buddha. These “weightless gifts” as he called them were given away to his friends. His shows frequently included sound effects, and of course, his brush paintings, frequently done on the spot, to replace the haiku he sold. Because Chinese and Japanese letters are in themselves word pictures, Paul tried to bridge the gap in his haiku with his brush painting calligraphy; it is ingenious and solves the problem neatly. Paul felt that these ink patterns offered another wider dimension to the haiku it illustrated but it was the words, themselves, that he believed were the most important. Some of his haiku consist of just one, two or three words, succinct and pointed.

As an artist myself, I can relate to Paul’s attitude that each and every piece he created was for ONE individual, who would recognize it when seen. No other haiku poet received as much acclaim or media attention from the mass audience as Paul Reps. He was his own best advertisement. His popularity among readers is evidenced by the many times his books have been reprinted.

Original American haiku is what Paul is noted for but he was also an ecologist, and participated in the anti-establishment movements in the sixties as an example of peaceful singularity. His Zen attitude and introduction of Buddhism affected many of his admirers in the peace movement.

Late in his life, his appearance, as described by a friend, was one of a wise, old elf with a spark in his eye and a spring in his step. He loved to sit and tell tales of his many travels to any and all that were privileged to listen. Joel and Michelle Levey, in their book, Living in Balance, tell of the time Joel met with Paul and how he got to telling about a trip to Korea during the beginnings of the Korean Conflict:

“In the early ‘50s, Reps, who was in his forties, had traveled to Japan en route to visit a respected Zen master in Korea. He went to the passport office to apply for his visa and was politely informed that his request was denied due to the conflict that had just broken out. Reps walked away, and sat down quietly in the waiting area. He reached into his bag, pulled out his thermos and poured a cup of tea. Finishing his tea he pulled out a brush and paper upon which he wrote a picture poem. The clerk read the poem and it brought tears to his eyes. He smiled, bowed with respect, and stamped Reps’ passport for passage to Korea. Reps’ Haiku read: 'drinking a bowl of green tea I stop the war.'"

The last ten years of his life were spent in Kamuela, Hawaii, enjoying the beauty, weather, and friendships in that tropical spot on his beloved planet. Before his death, he lay unconscious for several days with his hands folded across his chest, each finger touching the opposite finger of the other hand in classic mudra. A nurse that cared for him exclaimed, "What is he doing?" Of course, this is the classic yogic posture of the oneness of the universe. It seems even in his unconsciousness, Paul was still very aware. He died on July 12, 1990 at age 94 in Los Angeles, peacefully, I am sure.

Paul used to say, “I thank you for your life” to those he came into contact with. Paul introduced me to haiku with his publications of Zen Flesh Zen Bones and Zen Telegrams, oh so many years ago, and I thank him for his life.

Paul felt that his haiku were not separate but one long poem. A few examples of Paul Reps haiku, alas sans pictures:

potato
seeing
everywhere
below

...

through the sky
never lost
wild geese cry

...

sometimes in May rain
I can hear
my fingernails growing

...

below
ever
above

...

cobwebs
hesitating
us

 

--------------------------------------------

An Excerpt from
The Fine Arts of Relaxation, Concentration, and Meditation
by Joel and Michelle Levey

http://www.spiritualityhealth.com/newsh/excerpts/bookreview/excp_5628.html


Joel and Michelle Levey convey a wide variety of helpful and healing practices for relaxation, concentration, and meditation. Here is a wonderful anecdote about how legendary Zen master Paul Reps stopped war.

"Since wars begin in the minds of men
it is in the minds of men that we have to erect the ramparts of peace."
— from the UNESCO Charter

"One day over tea, my friend and mentor the late Paul Reps, the author of Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, shared the following story of his studies in the Orient. At one point, Reps have traveled to Japan, with plans to visit a respected Zen master in Korea. He went to the passport office in Japan to apply for his visa and was politely informed that his request was denied due to the war that had just broken out in Korea. Reps sat down in the waiting area. He had come thousands of miles intending to study with this Korean master. He was frustrated and disappointed. What did he do? He practiced what he preached. Reaching into his bag, he mindfully pulled out his thermos, and poured himself a cup of tea. With a calm and focused mind, he watched the steam rising and dissolving into the air. He smelled its fragrance, experienced its tasty bitter flavor, and enjoyed its warmth and wetness. Finishing his tea, he put his cup back on his thermos, put his thermos in his bag, and pulled out a pen and paper upon which he wrote a haiku poem. Mindfully, he walked back to the clerk behind the counter, bowed, and presented him with his poem, and his passport. The clerk read it and looked up deeply into the quiet strength in Reps' eyes. Smiling, he bowed with respect, picked up Reps' visa and stamped it for passage to Korea. The haiku read:

Drinking a cup of tea,
I stop the war.

[Another version: “Drinking a bowl of tea, I stopped the war.” Or: http://www.vitalarts.net/art/greentea.htm]

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"Gold/Fish Signatures" by Paul Reps.
The Auerhahn Press: San Francisco, 1962. Printed and bound in Japan.

This unusual manuscript bespeaks the influence of ZEN within the Beat movement -- and was printed by a fish! As Reps Says in his Afterward:

"A fish can live 2 hours out of water. We can live but two minutes out of air. Directions for making the signature:

Borrow fish
Brush with sumi
Press with paper
Bathe fish
Return to water

In Kyoto I borrowed some fish from a fishmonger's tank and made a few fish signatures . . . [The fish seemed] to intuit what was going on, squirming and then resting in my hands in a kind of momentary faith, knowing he would return to water. I was shocked to feel the fish exercising a sense underneath intuition or knowing. Fish care nothing for publicity, honor or immortality on these pages."