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Mad Haiku is a journalist who left the newspaper field in 2011 to conquer a new language. In our current digital era, lots of artistic expressions are losing their obviousness when speaking to people about the world because they don’t question the matter anymore. So he returns to rock-paper-scissors with frivolity and an adult understanding of the situation, maybe.

Fashion magazines are not only there to mix and establish standards of cool and beauty. In another life, they helped Mad Haiku to comment or rather to illustrate the throes and affairs of the world. Political, philosophical, clichés, senseless life or morality – his inspiration comes from nothing or, rather, from everything. Freed from any logic's subjugation, Mad Haiku’s artworks feed themselves with genuine poesy and quirky humour. His collages are so well done that it is often hard to understand what the original picture was. The same can be said of Mad Haiku himself: the guy cherishes the freedom of anonymity so much that he won't let anyone take it away: he wants to keep his work – not himself – under the spotlight. So we tried to get him talk other than through his haikus. And it worked! But only a bit…

You've been going by the name Mad Haiku for more than six years now, but there is nothing about you online. I guess you did it on purpose. But I can't stop wondering: who is behind Mad Haiku? Tell me a little about yourself.
First off, thanks for the opportunity to be in METAL Magazine. My name is R.M. Hagihara and I live in California. I’m married and have two sons. I created the website around 2000 / 2001. At the time, it was an outlet where I could say things online that I couldn’t necessarily say in real life. Later, the company I worked for required that all personal blogs had to be approved by a higher-up. Since I wanted to keep the blog but not submit it for approval, I hid behind the nom de plume Mad Haiku, which carries on to this day more or less. By the way, that website no longer exists, although I think I still own the domain name.
How would you frame the adventure Mad Haiku? You were a journalist, right? What made you stand and say: 'Now I want to make collage and haiku'?
That’s correct. I was a newspaperman for many years, but I’ve always had a deeper artistic urge. Once I realized I was never going to write the ‘Great American Novel’, I had to find another way to express myself. Haiku seemed perfect. They’re short and relatively easy to write (as opposed to, say, sonnets). And I discovered you can say a lot in just seventeen syllables. I even condensed Moby Dick into a fifteen-syllables haiku — with illustrations no less. It was great fun.
Your artworks are deeply irreverent, free as hell. I like the one that says: “I respect your right to say shit so long as you respect my right to say it's shit“. For me you're taking the audacity to express what you really think. I guess as a journalist it was not always easy. So I wanted to ask you if those quotes were born from a frustration?
Not frustration so much as a need to express a certain cussedness. It seems like there’s an enormous amount of stupidity embedded in our politics, not just in America but everywhere. I wanted to rail a little about that. On the other hand, I don’t want to be just the angry artist or the cranky collagist, so I try to find a little humour whenever and wherever I can.

Why have you chosen to combine haiku and collage, both at once?
Actually, I’ve more or less stopped writing haiku. For awhile I was fashioning them out of words I cut out of newspapers and magazines — something I called ransom-note haiku —, and then posting the results on Tumblr. But eventually I got tired of that and searched around for another creative outlet. Since I can’t draw or paint, I settled on collage. Stumbled on it, more accurately. In retrospect it was the ideal transition. I mean, I already had the scissors and the glue.
Collage and haiku are two artistic methods from another time. The digital tools could have helped you do it differently, yet you use paper, glue and scissors. How do you understand what you're doing in that sense?
I’m just old school, I guess. I find making digital collage time consuming and not gratifying. I have trouble visualizing stuff like dimension and proportion. I like to work fast, to cut out images and put them down on paper. I’m not a very patient person, so it surprises me that I can take the time to make some intricate cut-outs. They’re not always perfect, but I’ve come to embrace that handmade look.
What are the qualities, or rather the ingredients of a good 'mad haiku'?
I think humour is one element. Sometimes I try to be ironic, but that doesn’t always work. I like to combine images with words, a result of my journalism background, I suppose.

On your Tumblr, your description says: “I get drunk, I write haiku”. What do you think of the relation between alcohol and creativity or imagination, depicted as the essence of the higher man by Charles Baudelaire, for example?
Baudelaire wrote haiku too? Just kidding. Look, this whole excursion started when I bought a box of those magnetic words. After a tough day at the office, I’d come home and do shots of Jack Daniels while composing haiku on my refrigerator’s door. It was a way to blow off some steam. Later, when I started, that was one of the phrases I used as a tagline. Short and pithy. But to answer your question, I don’t think inebriation leads to a higher plane. Baudelaire must’ve been drunk when he said that.
Which artist do you most identify with?
There are a number of artists/illustrators I admire, Kathrine Streeter being at the top of the list. I also admire the work of David Plunkert, Julien Pacaud and Joseba Elorza, who does fantastic video collage under the name MiraRuido. Also Romare Bearden, Hannah Hoch, etc. The list is endless. I wouldn’t compare myself to any of them, though.
I definitely associate your work with surrealism. Surrealism is mainly based on the idea that it works creating images as soon as the contrasts are striking and allow to look at the world with a fresh eye. Do you agree with that?
Hmmm, I never thought of my work as surrealistic. I mean, I’m not dredging my subconscious to come up with images. I do admire Dadaism, but I don’t really identify with any movements. I suppose people will see what they want to see, good or bad.

Where do you pick up your inspirations from? TV? Newspapers? Everyday life?
I’m inspired by all the usual suspects — art, music, literature. I love to read, so books are an important influence. I like to listen to music while I work, so sometimes a song I’m listening to will trigger something. My taste in music is very conventional, very old-fashioned. I dig Earth Wind & Fire. It depends on my mood, but I rarely want to listen to anything heavy or introspective. My iTunes is packed with music I can clean house to. I like to listen to the upbeat while I scrub out a toilet.
It's funny how much fashion imagery is prominent in your collages. Why do you have so many fashion images?
When I started doing collage I vowed not to spend any money on art supplies. I discovered that I could get used fashion magazines at my local library, where I volunteer, very cheaply, sometimes even for free. Fashion magazines tend to use a better stock of paper. Plus I find women more visually interesting than men.
Your collages are pretty engaged – against Trump, Ted Cruz, and all kind of political stupidity. How do you understand the importance of such a commitment within an ironic and nonsensical practice?
It would be easy to feed off the fear and anger, the political irrationality that seems to be sweeping through not only the U.S. but Europe as well. But I don’t pretend to be a political satirist. If I find an interesting way to say Donald Trump sucks, I’ll try it. However, there’s a lot more to life than sucky politicians and I want to explore that.

Doria Arkoun

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