In perusing my poetry shelves to see what was what, it occurred to me that, as a semi-regular feature, I could delve into the items found there and share a thought or two. So, the first couple of shelves consists of anthologies of Eastern or Eastern influenced verse, haiku, tanka, and traditional Chinese, Japanese, and Indian verse. In addition there are some modern anthologies of English and American verse in traditional forms, which brings us to the first item on the shelf, The Acorn Book of Contemporary Haiku, edited by Lucien Stryk and Kevin Bailey.
The first thing I realized about this book is that I must have purchased it on a London trip because it is going for ridiculous sums via amazon and has evidently never been published in the States. I bought it for 4.5 pounds, probably as a remainder at the Ulysses Bookshop near the British Museum.
I'm over halfway through the volume (so it goes for perusing part of this "project") and I have to say it is as fine a collection of contemporary haiku as I've run across. The hint of regret (have to say) I believe betrays the fact that I'm recommending something that is costly and difficult to get a hold of.
The volume's selection and tone bears all the earmarks of Stryk: poems stark, precise, and imagistic in nature. Stripped to the bone, the bones boiled, and placed out on large leaves, gleaming as they dry in the sun. Imagine my surprise when I ran smack into three poems that have graced past issues of Lilliput Review. Here they are:
SpringThe earth bears
even your sadness.David Lindley
the name and numbers
worn to murmurs.William Hart
When the page was blank
no one thought, suddenly
a flower would appear.David Lindley
One of the things that surprised me a bit was the lack of acknowledgment, a pet peeve of mine. Don't get me wrong; I don't think it is something a press or poet is obligated to do, it's just a courtesy. I explain to folks that it is akin to being accepted for publication for a poet/writer. It is a great lift and, most importantly, recognition of quality in the editorial process. This is not a gripe with this particular press or either poet, just me talking out loud. In my estimation, these are great examples of the finest work in haiku form and I'm proud to have helped them see the light of day. As far as I'm concerned, it is the poet who owns the work, from inception through publication and in any further incarnations, unless they explicitly sign that right away. And they'll never do that here at Lillie.
So, no harm, no foul ... just a little boy griping.
But I digress (and feel the better for it). Here's a selection of a few items that grabbed my attention and held it.
in the corpse's
the flame of a candle
but so many varieties
of rainDavid Findley
Another robin in my mousetrap:
few of us fail to give
humanity a bad name.
The old barn
--looks more like a tree
----each year.Hannah Mitte
late afternoon sun
the shadow of the gravestone
slants towards my feet
Works GlovesOn the garden gate
left here with me --
Shape of her handsBob Arnold
The white kitten
playing and playing
with the faded cherry petal
Still in my garden
--------I bend to pluck a weed but
----------------see its smiling face.Harold Morland
In the garden of Saleh
The silence is soothed
By the whispered lisp of leaves.
the fisherman's shadow stretches
across the riverGeorge Swede
A moorhen dives
To the ends of the earth
I hear the magpies
and you you have give me
this sense of longing.Paul Finn
I was equally delighted to see a number of poets whose work has appeared in Lilliput featured in Acorn. From this selection alone are the fine poets George Swede, Vincent Tripi, and Bob Arnold. What is most amazing, really, is I've just dug through to the first layer of this exemplary volume. If I have the time and space, perhaps I'll highlight a few more poems from the 2nd half of this work sometime soon.
For an additional insightful, theoretical review (with a large selection of poems) of The Acorn Book of Contemporary Haiku, see Lynx Book Reviews (last review toward the bottom of the page - and from this review which I read after completing this post, I discovered another Lillie poem in the volume, from the 2nd half I haven't gotten to, this one by Gary Hotham).
In the Bashô Haiku Challenge update, I can say that I've narrowed down the nearly 500 haiku received to somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 to 70 poems after two complete read-throughs. Lots of decisions still to made, one big one being exactly how long will this year's chapbook be. I believe I'll let content dictate form in this instance, so living with the poems for another two weeks or so should help answer that question very well.
This week's featured issue is #152, from November 2006. Hope something grabs you here:
After BashoChrysanthemums bloom
in a gap between the silence
of the stonecutter's yard.Michael Wurster
in the park
by a falling leafPeggy Heinrich
Four ancient rocks rose from the earth:
Grief, Rope, Axe, and Sparrow
Gail Ivy Berlin
And, before I flit off, one more:
even when people come
opening its mouthIssa
translated by David G. Lanoue