R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe Co-Authors Book Of Haiku

Singer and friends spent a year penning the short, Japanese-style verse on a daily basis.

When R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe accepted an invitation to join friends in

writing one haiku a day for an entire year, he said he knew right off the

bat that he'd reap heartfelt rewards.

What he didn't know until he dived into the project was that those rewards

would come not simply from reading his friends' work, but from the way that

"the haiku year" would alter his own vision of the world.

"You force yourself to notice things, to look around, and that's a good

thing," Stipe said Wednesday. He was on the phone from the New York office of Soft

Skull Press, which will publish the book. "Haiku Year," a bound

collection of 365 of the three-lined Japanese-style poems created by Stipe

and his friends, will be available in April.

"Often we forget the beauty of parking lots," said Stipe, whose artistic

pursuits include photography and filmmaking, as well as rock 'n' roll.

"When there's an

exercise that makes you have to look at a parking lot in a different way,

you recognize that it has its own history and its own beauty."

Stipe, who was taking time to review final proofs of "Haiku Year"

before R.E.M. -- minus drummer Bill Berry, who recently quit the band --

heads into the studio to begin work on their follow-up to 1996's New

Adventures In Hi-Fi, took part in the project along with Grant Lee

Buffalo-founder Grant Lee Phillips, filmmaker Jim McKay ("Girls'

Town"), Amnesty International executive Rick Roth and director Tom

Gilroy.

Gilroy said he agreed with Stipe about the change in perspective that

"Haiku Year" fostered. "The conscious recording and composing of

[haiku] is ancillary to the act of noticing [subjects] in the first place,"

Gilroy said. "The noticing of it is the real training."

Paperback editions of "Haiku Year" are slated to hit bookstores on

April 15; a hand-bound cloth edition will also be published in a limited

run of 100 copies. [Mon., Jan. 26, 1998, 9 a.m.

PST]