Interview with Marc di Saverio

by Robert D. Wilson



“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by
             madness, starving hysterical naked,
      dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn
             looking for an angry fix,
      angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly
             connection to the starry dynamo in the machin-
             ery of night,
      who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat
             up smoking in the supernatural darkness of
             cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities
             contemplating jazz,
      who bared their brains to Heaven under the El and
             saw Mohammedan angels staggering on tene-
             ment roofs illuminated,
      who passed through universities with radiant cool eyes
             hallucinating Arkansas and Blake-light tragedy
             among the scholars of war,
      who were expelled from the academies for crazy &
             publishing obscene odes on the windows of the
      who cowered in unshaven rooms in underwear, burn-
             ing their money in wastebaskets and listening
             to the Terror through the wall . . .”

   Excerpted from Howl by Allen Ginsberg


There is a fine line between genius and madness because they share the same genes, scientists have found.

Psychologists have discovered that creative people have a gene in common which is also linked to psychosis and depression. They believe that the findings could explain why “geniuses” like Vincent van Gogh and Sylvia Plath displayed such destructive behaviour.  The gene, which is called neuregulin 1, plays a role in brain development but a variant of it is also associated with mental illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Researchers from Semmelweis University in Hungary recruited a group of volunteers who considered themselves to be very creative and accomplished. To measure creativity, the volunteers were asked to respond to a series of unusual questions. For example: “Just suppose clouds had strings attached to them which hang down to earth. What would happen?” They were scored based on the originality and flexibility of their answers. The volunteers also completed a questionnaire regarding their lifetime creative achievements before the researchers took blood samples.

The report concluded: “The results show a clear link between neuregulin 1 and creativity.

“Volunteers with the specific variant of this gene were more likely to have higher scores on the creativity assessment and also greater lifetime creative achievements than volunteers with a different form of the gene.” The head researcher Dr. Szabolcs Kéri said that this is the first study to show that a genetic variant associated with psychosis may have some beneficial functions.  He said: “Molecular factors that are loosely associated with severe mental disorders but are present in many healthy people may have an advantage enabling us to think more creatively.”

The study was published in the journal Psychological Science.

 By Richard Alleyne, Science Correspondent, The Telegraph (UK)

RDW:  Thanks for agreeing to an interview with Simply Haiku, Marc.  We at Simply Haiku are always on the lookout for talent in regards to English language Japanese short form poetry and related genres. When your work was brought to my attention, it did just that, grabbed my attention, and believe me, as a publisher, that is hard to do as one has literally seen it all, with most of that all bordering on the mundane and seen it all before. But your work stands out. Your haiga is unlike anything I’ve seen before, original, unafraid to go where others haven’t gone before, a Lapu Lapu of the mind, willing to speak in a world where originality is a mirror the insecure want you to look into and believe, to foster their need for self-importance. Who is Marc di Saverio?  


MDS:  I will divide my first answer into three parts:

1. Mortarism  is an artistic-political/psychiatric reform movement founded in 2003, in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, by myself and two other Hamilton Hospital patients. I clearly state in the beginning of the book-length manifesto, which partially appeared in Maisonneuve Magazine (Progress Issue, 2006), that the movement was founded in a psychiatric hospital, with other patients. It’s an important part of who I am.  I’m a person like everyone else, BUT because I have an affliction that’s poorly understood by many medical professionals and educators, and more often than not misunderstood by most people in general, I and others like me have been given the label Mental Patient.  This term frightens people and is cause for the ignorant and secure to think of us as inferior, operating on a half deck, and not deserving of equal rights.

On April 6th, 2006 the Mortarist Revolution was brought to public attention when I stood outside the Mills Memorial Library at McMaster University in Canada, where I loudly and energetically read  our manifesto, our declaration that we too deserve equality and will not stand to be thought of nor be treated as anything but equal. People had trouble understanding what I had to say, and because I was on a bi-polar high, speaking like Warner Brother’s Daffy Duck on steroids, university officials had me arrested by the university police for disturbing the peace. This upset some students nearby who tried to prevent my arrest, seeing my arrest as a violation of my democratic right of Free Speech, as if the officers would listen. It was a done deal, and they told me that I was being arrested under Section 17 of the Mental Health Act.  They ushered me directly to St. Joseph’s Hospital, where I was released on the same day by the Psychiatric Unit,  at 11:00 pm.  I suffer from Bipolar Disorder type 1.  In the past I’ve been hospitalized for what amounts to a seasonally-affected manic-psychosis, which, many argue, helped inspire the Manifesto of Mortarism and its public proclamation publicly.  I found this ironic, being arrested in the middle of my speech, in which I was proclaiming to the world around me that mental patients should be treated equal and be valued for what they have to offer versus what they misinterpret from the label given to us, a label that, in essence, creates a wall of apartheid between us and those around us who do not suffer from a form of mental illness.”

Interviewer’s NOTE:  Mental patients who function well in a Canadian mental institution can be released under the provisions laid out in chapter 17 of the Mental Health Act of 1983, wherein a patient’s supervision is to be monitored closely  by his or her primary medical care giver at the institution treating him.  It is a tightly monitored program that is meant to protect both patient and the general public.  If the patient does not abide by the rules, fails to take prescribed medications, doesn’t cooperate with or attend meetings with doctors, and fails to abide by the rules of the group home, he is placed in outside of hospital grounds, he can be forced to return against his or her will to the hospital that released him.  It is a law that sounds good on paper but how it is carried out and by what perimeters a patient is determined to be a threat to himself or to others, is a gray area, as it becomes a judgment call by the treating physician, who in turn has supervisors over her to listen to if she wants to keep her job and maintain a good employment record.  Psychiatry is not an exact science and can be at times a conglomerate of various theories, not all of which are fully understood, and where mental patients are treated primarily by medications that stabilize a patient but, unless the patient is properly treated via counseling, etc., healing becomes an impossibility.   

2. Dear Poets,

This is who I am: activist, philologist, inventor of objectverse, author of the Manifesto of Mortarism, leader of the FACEBOOK revolution (please see my facebook site. A cambridge professor has confirmed that my facebook site is revolutionary, and that it is historically important: “alas, you are probably bored with your own revolution.  What you have done here is masterfully taken a social network, then, antisocially, ushered in your social causes. That is astonishing, my child. In 1000 years it will be, undeniably, read!”

I am an extraordinary painter, very good musician, great singer, average dancer, serious inventor, genius, fool, Leopardian, Poundian, Rimbaudian, Keatsian, shy at times, totally authentic, linguist, communications expert and failure!

My father was born in Abruzzo. My mother was conceived in Sicily and born in Hamilton. I am 5 foot 11, and am often compared to Nelligan in appearance.


RDW:  Your haiga are unpredictable and follow no pattern I’ve seen propagated in journals on and offline, for which I’m glad. I get tired of seeing the same old same old, with minor degrees of variation, in the self-congratulatory English language (they claim to be influenced by) Japanese short verse literary community influenced to a high degree by a select who have maintained a highly visible, prominent voice in a larger than life sub-community they claim represents the voice of Western Japanese influenced short form poetry when in reality they are a small group, unheard of by the majority of North American poets, who learned to compose haiku, tanka, and related genres in the public school system of the United States and Canada, from books that teach nothing like what these self-styled luminaries advocate, and far removed from a solid understanding of Japanese poetry, the textbook’s authors, knowing little to nothing, but teaching dryly in a few paragraphs, what has been parroted before in the North American educational system for decades now: a haiku is a 3 line nature poem following a strict 5/7/5 syllable meter and tanka (if they teach it at all) is a five line poem following a strict 5/7/5/7/7/ syllable meter, from which haiku had risen from.

Take this haiga you’ve recently created:

 At first glance, it reminds me of a world, created by Tim Burton, crudely illustrated, where tiny beasties crawl in and out of the capillaries of tortured minds caricaturing themselves in Dali-esque nightmare. The crudeness of the etching is on purpose, not a lazy or undisciplined artist’s quick design, as it serves to illustrate the subject matter and emotions painted with word and design. 


I feel with eyes

closed heat from my magnetic 

memories of exes

The senryu you illustrated with your etching can stand alone on its own, as a senryu or haiku should be able to do when removed from haiga art, yet, when combined with the etching, an altogether, deeper reality emerges, symbiotically, that haunts me even now, a haiga that tugs away at my own conceptualization if your work.  What went through your mind as you made this haiga, and the direction you took to convey what you had to say?

MDS:  I completed this haiga around 2000 after having had my heart broken.  At first, the haiga only included one figure, representing myself, or perhaps someone like myself, someone whose heart had been broken. Strangely, the etching took on a life of its own! Before I knew it, it turned into an orgy of extraordinary joy and feeling.  Ultimately, I failed at conveying what I had intended to say, and oh, what an extraordinary failure!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

RDW:  Being that most of your haiga art are not subject to pattern or a specific artistic style, who has influenced you the most as an artist?

MDS: That would be a tie between Vincent van Gogh, and Jay Russell Leach, a dear friend of mine who passed away suddenly.  We met at St Joseph’s Psychiatric Hospital.  I love him dearly to this day.
If forced to choose between the two, I would choose Russell Leach.  To answer the “why”, please check out the following link!

RDW:  Why the sudden emergence in the on-line global community of English language Japanese short form poetry poets? Have you been doing this before, are you a closet poet/artist, or is this a new adventure for you, Marc; a world without walls, where you can express what words alone cannot in the longer westernized genres favored by Occidental minds?

MDS:  I think a large part of the reason why there’s so much on-line haiku is because the print haiku journals are more likely to reject poetic submissions, causing more poets to go on-line.  In my case, I’ve been fortunate enough to be accepted on- and off-line; however, yes, I agree, Robert, it’s a brave new world without walls, where iron hands and Occidental minds can no longer cage the hearts of post-modernist poets, and mortarist poets.  I love the mystery, depth, and voice that haiku represents. It breathes Zen, which some people living in the West relate to madness.  

RDW: …anger and love, to those of you who feel set apart? You live in a world of limbo, a house of cards used by magicians to impress their audiences and pull rabbits out of oversized top hats belonging to the Mad Hatter. And damn it, people too quickly judge you because of a label they know little to nothing about, not valuing the genius within you that paints the world as it really is, your mind able to sense and feel what most people cannot. Yet there are those like Saša Važić and I who recognize your genius, and value you as a friend. Is it refreshing when one understands you and recognized the are of who you are?

MDS:  I think the best way to answer this question is to refer to the letter I received from Lisa Devries on May 2010, and my response to the letter.

“Hi, Marc,

I’ve been seeing your name a lot in my F-book newsfeed, and am curious how you are doing. It appears that you have some poems coming out soon, and books too, which is fantastic.

Also, I was reminded that I wrote something more or less about you last year. I wrote it quickly and make no claims to its quality; it’s just when your name appears in the title, well, maybe it’s kind of yours too, such as it is. So here it is.

For Marc, Whom I’ve Been Thinking About Lately

Captured inside a downtown garret,
Hurling your white gown from your shoulders,
You are Pound at St. Elizabeths
Or the man who shot Rimbaud
Or some moulting dove–

Saviour poets. Saviour children.
The manic god who lived inside your ear
Convinced us of plagiarism.

That thing you wrote,
About the needle.

Writing from the brow.  City on a cliff,
City below a cliff, this industrial, smog-ass city.
I say:
Clean the windows of your little shed.
Watch for squirrels with wasted tails.  Deer.

When you were drunk, that great green bottle held aloft,
You slapped my thigh
So earnestly.

Be well, Marc.


 In all honesty, I am doing well!  I don’t know much about technology (to be honest), but I’ve found facebook to be a wonderful tool for my ideas/revolution (if you will).  Often, the complexity of my ideas is belied in apparent insanity and foolishness (though at the same time I am not denying I am insane and foolish at times!).  I guess a large part of me is trying to say: well, what is insanity, anyways? (obviously I am trying to say more than just that, but this is okay, and what is being overlooked).  Like, I’m not going to deny that I experience mania, and mixed states (depression and mania all at once, which creates an explosive fervor), but I want you to know, in all honesty, I am doing well! And I hope you are!

I confess, I am exhausted, but BELIEVE me, I am TOTALLY going to read your poem!!  I haven’t slept since yesterday – attempted to go to a friend’s birthday party (sigh; I have SO much social anxiety, so I’ve been trying more exposure therapy)…

I have been practicing a lot of Eastern stuff, like Trataka (I will tell you more about this one day; I am actually beginning to find a sort of cure for mania; I’m too tired to explain it; but I call it NIRVANIC Trance work.  I developed techniques (like hand-wringing – I actually got the idea from Street Fighter 2, from Key and Ryu! Then I went on from there and read a lot – especially the ABC of Enlightenment by OSHO, a very controversial, but helpful thinker/guru.

A large part of my facebook site is about JAY RUSSELL LEACH.  I wrote a concealed poem about him (it may be in on my site; I honestly don’t even understand facebook completely, but am learning! I am incredibly slow and incredibly fast at times (I confuse people; they think I’m a genius, but then they are like, he is using such primitive language! Can he be . . . ? Well, in all honesty, I have tested my IQ, and it varies brutally, often several tenths of a point — to do largely with concentration and ECT treatment (alas).  Also, I see a co-relation between mania, depression, and intelligence.  As in, I find, at times, when HYPOmanic, my IQ score is A LOT higher than when I am super depressed (in fact, I have no idea if I am a genius or a fool, at times, myself). It is confusing, but I am learning (and btw I incorporate lithium and other drugs into this entire mix).  Basically, I feel I have been hospitalized so many times, and seen so much torment, that I became a sort of an amateur doctor of sorts, and an activist on psychiatric wards.  I am, with the help of doctors, trying to understand mania/genius/foolishness/insanity/sanity – and, trying to understand its mystical elements, as well, which I consider possibly real.  I have never heard voices, but, I have to admit, I have met a lot of patients with Schizophrenia, and often, they make me question if there really IS a higher power etc/mystic possibilities.  I’ve been translating EMILE NELLIGAN. He is basically the greatest French Canadian poet in history, and he had Schizophrenia (it very much seems).

A lot of what I am saying, is about political correctness. Honestly, I use terms like psycho and maniac often (I try not to, but it’s so ingrained in human speech; unfortunately I say all sorts of politically incorrect stuff. I am confused about political correctness my feelings about pol-correctness are mixed.)

I am basically trying to channel my mania for the sake of Love, and reform, and artistic ideas – I find mania, to some degree, is controllable. A lot of people think I am philosophically advanced – this is where the problem lies.  Humans hate change (I know I do!), so they instinctively resist; others see something in what I am saying, and they try to embrace that something; others may act out of pity (which is beautiful, since I find pity important in this world) but I am not seeking pity.  If anything, I am simply driven by pity…. SO exhausted, and somewhat depersonalized (the Eastern stuff I practice enables this depersonalization, which can be confusing — why do I seem in a white heat one moment, then relaxed another?  How come he was psychotic at the MAC reading, but was released later that day?  In all honesty, I’m working on this mystery!  I, myself, find it confusing, but I know, verily, I am learning control.

…When I am in a more personal state, I am going to TOTALLY devour your poem!  I haven’t read it yet. (Lisa, frankly you have ALWAYS blown my mind).  I even tried to master villanelles and Sestinas, in sheer awe of you.  I will send my attempts to you when I am personalized.  Maybe you will see some quality in them!  This depersonalization makes people think: how can he be so cold/controlled one minute, insane the next?  I am confused too! All I know is that my heart’s in the right place! Even though sometimes I have to freeze my own heart (enter nirvanic trances; erase or try to erase desire/emotion/drive/ego) in order to functionally communicate.  I often “let myself go” from this state, in ORDER to be hypomanic (it is a strange balancing, juggling act), trying to stay on that high beam of the borderline of sanity/insanity. I find I have a lot in common with Robert Lowell, sans the Caligulan spirit he so tried to conceal.  This man was truly a maniac, psychotic, BIPOLAR TYPE 1 – he somehow, despite all the hospitalizations, learned to appear somewhat “normal”.

…I will write you soon (if you feel the need to share my letter, that is fine; however, if you can, I’d like to keep it between us).  I am writing thusly out of love and admiration.  Write you ASAP! JUST KNOW I AM TOTALLY SAFE!!!

My warmest wishes! 


RDW:  I’m not a shrink, but like you, I too am an artist and poet, unafraid to walk to a different drummer, to borrow a trite phrase, and see in you a spirit not unlike those who speak with a fresh, powerful voice, artistically: a sensitive individual who feeeeeels more than the average person, a human being set apart from the social mainstream by the you of who you are?  Is this so, how does your self-conceptualization and previous life experiences affect your haiga? And why do you expose the inner you, where tiny galleons explore uncharted mental tides of torment and joy; sadness and elation; anger and love, to those you feel set apart from?

 In this haiga, I am reminded of Van Gogh, with the thick brush strokes, and abstract yet clearly identifiable subject matter, like his painting below  your haiga, Van Gogh’s

Van Gogh’s: “Field With Wheat Stacks.”

As I think about it, I also see his influence in some of your haiga sketches. For example:


Are you aware of this connection between certain elements of Van Gogh’s painting styles? Do you see in him a kindred spirit? He was a brilliant artist, thought by some to be a mad man because of the uniqueness of his vision and his disconnection with the social flow of his day? Yet it’s clear to me that he was not mad, but viewed and felt life through a different lens. Who determines what is mad and what is normal in this disconnected world of isms and theoretics, anyway?

MDS:  Senryu are born from the now of a moment  that you believe “by blazing new trails toward the haijin’s ‘a-ha!’ will result in both new and more ranging epiphanies,” as well as “new and more ranging forms (of haiku), both of which may result in attracting” a wider range of readers and poets that “can be instrumental in reversing the evolutionary direction of nature-estranged, computerizing, roboticizing, fashionably passionless, kitsch-hearted, camp-hearted western humanity — this misunderstood form can hopefully succeed in charging shriveling souls with the verve and lust to not only seek out experience and understanding and union and commonalities with the natural world . . . but to also inspire a strong and sincere drive to revolt against nature’s destroyers, and to inspire revolt.”

RDW:  Looking at this sampling of your haiku, I see an affinity more akin to the Asian way of viewing life, which to some in the Occidental world, especially those fixed to a strict separatist view of theology heavily influenced by a palette of Greek, Roman, Hebrew, and Babylonian, is insane in itself . . . polar opposites. 


first rain –
all these finger-graven
flowers in the snow

(Haiku Scotland # 19, 2009)


twilight –
as I strike my match the fireflies

(Haiku Reality, 2009, third place)


Is it this influence that you assert can change our world for the good, or Japanese haiku, senryu, and haiga in particular?  Please elucidate on this, Marc.

MDS: Yes, this influence asserted can literally change the world for good, AND Japanese haiku, senryu, and haiga, in the process.  For the sake of elucidation, please read this book (I’ve provided a link). I have learned SO MUCH from this book, THE ABC OF ENLIGHTENMENT by OSHO ( http://www.amazon.com/ABC-Enlightenment-Spiritual-Dictionary-Here/dp/0007161484). THANK YOU so much for this interview.

RDW:  Thank you, Marc, for sharing with us your poetry, art, and thoughts. I look forward to seeing more of your work. Saša Važić and I deeply admire you as an artist, intellectual, a brother to Kerouac, Whitman, Pound, and Blake; the wild bad boys of the west who flew above the ashes of so so, on the wings of whisper to me another haiku . . .  joining brothers Basho, Buson, Issa, sister Chiyo-ni, on a tree limb listening to frogs in the east imitating fat politicians jumping in the water.


Marc di Saverio – Haiga