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 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.