introduced by Linda Papanicolaou
Michael’s neon buddha has been widely published: Daily Haiku, Roadrunner, Three Lights and on Michael’s own web site, Graceguts. In the December 2011 Notes from the Gean (pp. 52–72) is an interview together with a portfolio of blurred light images [see neon buddha photo-haiga].
Michael has written over 2,000 neon buddha poems—to avoid identification with the Buddha he does not capitalize the name, and he doesn’t consider most of them to be haiku. They range from idiom, pun or ironic literary reference to surrealism, absurdity and sometimes what could be a whiff of cadavre exquis. He explains the series as follows:
A friend once asked me where the neon buddha came from. In reply, I almost said Toledo. More accurately, he’s an avatar—sometimes a surrogate for me and what I’ve done or would like to do, both ordinary and extraordinary, and sometimes an everyman who’s definitely not me. The neon buddha is also like the Travelocity garden gnome—a little naive or overwhelmed by the world, but always game for adventure. And perhaps he’s like R. Crumb’s Mr. Natural—an underground sage who likes to have fun and can’t resist a double meaning. I’ve written many hundreds of these haiku-like poems, which have unfolded as a surreal sort of personal mythology.
What fascinates me is the neon buddha as character: a perfect child-mind searching the urban detritus for something—enlightenment? Or maybe just a good haiku. A warm HaigaOnline welcome to the neon buddha!