The publication of this Acme Press chapbook establishes Elmer Fudd as a compelling practitioner of the American haiku. His most celebrated lines record a timeless moment in the forest.
Be vewwy vewwy quiet
I’m hunting wabbits
The vivid image of the buds connects us to the wide panorama of the wooded mountainside and the wonder of spring, which is melting the snow.
American poets tend to discover haiku by way of Ezra Pound and the beatniks. Since Fudd is by temperament less a scholar than an outdoorsman, his ready identification with the hunter’s perspective may suggest a debt to Gary Snyder, whom Fudd seems to follow in seeing the stalking of wildlife as a form of meditation. Like the haiku writer, the hunter must walk with his eyes open and his senses alert to the reality of the world. Yet Fudd avoids solemnity, never letting us forget that the Japanese originally considered the haiku a comic form, as in the following lines, where the hunter becomes the hunted.
Whaddya know? No more bullets
Fudd’s haiku are arranged in four sections, covering the four seasons. Some critics have complained of Fudd’s excessive focus on the hunting of rabbits, but Fudd seldom actually catches any. The emptiness of his hunting basket teaches him the value of nonattachment, helping him better to experience the gift of the present moment.
There’s something scwewy wound here
Locking and loading
Fudd has known his share of misfortunes. The first time I met him, he had recently been evicted from his home and was living in the woods. I was struck by how at home he seemed in nature, by his soft-spoken determination in the face of obstacles, by his plangent laugh, and by his casual way with high explosives.
A vegetarian who hunts only for sport, he talked rather obsessively about a “cwazy wabbit,” as if to remind me that animals have Zen nature too, although Fudd has famously denied that haiku have anything to do with Buddhism. Until I’d read his work, I was unsure whether I’d met a master or a maniac.
Fudd’s winter haiku are, for me, the most powerful of all his oeuvre. The following evocation of spiritual transcendence detonated in my mind with the force of an exploding stick of TNT.
That wabbit must have twicked me
What else can we do but laugh, when we perceive the incongruity between our theories of life and what we feel intuitively to be true on the nonverbal plane?
Things had improved for Fudd by the next time I visited him. He was living in a small cabin in New Hampshire, had stopped drinking, and had just been named Haiku Poet of the Year by the North American Haiku Association for Cartoon Characters. After we’d commented on how quickly time had gone by since our previous meeting, I asked Elmer where he got his ideas for his haiku.
“In the woods,” he said. “I go there evewy day to hunt. Whatever exists, exists in the pwesent moment.”
Not that this excuses the chapbook’s shoddy construction. The binding on my copy has already started to come loose, a problem I have noticed in the past with other Acme Press titles like “1000 Ways to Cook A Duck,” “How To Be A Hypnotist,” and “How To Photograph Wildlife.” Publishing haiku, come to think of it, is something of a new venture for Acme. I hope they follow through with it, because it’s at times like these we need writers such as Fudd, to teach us that through multiple frustrations we can find our way to a place of serenity.
Stumbling into a cold lake