Friday, November 9, 2012

What We Find by Peter Newton: Small Press Friday

Illustration by Kuniharu Shimizu

On Friday's around here in recent weeks, I've been experimenting with a short feature I think of as "Small Press Friday," a modest attempt to feature chapbooks, poets, and small presses that have come to my attention and that I'd like to call to yours.

Pictured above, lovingly presented, is the cover of What We Find, Peter Newton's fine book of modern English haiku, which is the book under consideration this week. 

This little book, published by Imaginary Press, is an edition limited to 200 copies, letterpressed and sewn. As stated in the colophon, it was printed on a Heidelberg Windmill, using Della Robbia and Italian Old Style hot metal types. The papers are Poptone, Glama, and Royal Fiber, approximately 60 pages long.

The work is grounded in the real, both literally and figuratively; it is sparse, precise, and exquisite. The highest form of compliment, from one poet to another, is a nearly inaudible I wish I wrote that, which I heard my myself mumble time and again while reading What We Find.

Lets have a taste:

spring frogs. . .
softening the sound 
of traffic

On the surface, this is a seeming paradox, but the real is so much more powerful than the sign. How lovely a thought, eh?

over my thoughts the hush of pines

A perfect little monostitch, and what makes it perfect you might ask? A poem that is both literally true and true in some other, undefined way - at least that's how I'd call it.

gravesite . . .
a spigot overflows
the watering can

I found this poem overpowering - the images, so reminiscent of cemeteries, at least in the Northeastern US.  I think of the green mineral deposits on outdoor brass spigots, drip, drip, dripping. And suddenly there is life, here in the midst of death, there is movement, and it is wondrous.

standing in the middle of now here

It simply doesn't get much better than this little monostitch - so let's call it perfect, plus one.

one leaf's
slow somersaults . . .
oh to start over

Though common enough, form-wise, in modern English haiku, this poem is a little different from the previous. Here is the traditional 2 line, 1 line (or, in some cases, 1 line, 2 line) dichotomy, creating a juxtaposition that, hopefully, creates another, 3rd thing. This is a fine autumn piece, dealing as it does with the great winding down, the little death each and every one of us is gracefully, or gracelessly, heading for.

How wonderful is this amazing life of ours, so full of pain, suffering, love and joy, that, all in all, most of us plead please, please, one more time, can I ride just one more time ...

inside the pile
the smell of leaves

Oh, my, there it goes again - my breath, flying away. There is something so basic, so elemental, no, really, so universal about this, placing us right in the middle of what we are in the middle of at all times but choose to ignore: nature.

whatever I was thinking the cardinal's red

This monostitch highlights another quality that haiku can bring to the table: this ku needs the reader to complete it. There is no one interpretation, no right POV when it comes to this poem. It could be a question, a declaratory statement (or both, or neither) - what it is is real and you must bring yourself to complete it.

aisles of valentines
everyone search
for the same thing

This one nearly melted my nuggat-filled, caramel-covered heart. The universal chord has been struck again and I don't think it would be any stretch to think that what everybody was looking for wasn't exactly where they were looking.

In addition to the wonderful set of short poems that comprise What We Find, there is touching, glorious coda, in the form of a haibun, entitled "One Thing." I won't give the game away but will simply say it was something of short story that was touching and prescient to the point of tears. 

Copies of the original letterpress run are still available from the author via Twitter/ @thepeternewton or email Peter at thepeternewton AT gmail DOT com. What We Find is $18, which includes shipping and well worth the price.

A couple of concluding items: Peter has recently taken over as the editor of tinywords, one of finer sites on the interwebs featuring the short poem in all its brief, incandescent glory.  Check it out, get on the daily mailing list, send work. You won't regret it.

Peter also mentioned that Norton will be publishing an anthology of haiku in early 2013, entitled Haiku in English: the First Hundred Years. I'm very excited about this, as he is also since he'll be having work featured therein.


my dog
turns a somersault...
field of flowers
translated by David G. Lanoue

Photo by Hamper


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Ed Baker said...

he is certain ly
in the center of
(his) just what is

as he posits:

"standing in the middle of now here"

-a solid plinth that he pushes off from


thanx from here... a new discovery for me.

Anonymous said...

Hi Don:

Thank you - a very nice post - and quite an eclectic sampling of poems from Mr. Newton - this morning they rather grabbed me somehow - I had not heard the phrase "monostich" before - quite an interesting way to present a haiku-like poem - certainly something to think about- though perhaps there is more precedent there than I am aware of.


Chen-ou Liu, 劉鎮歐 said...


I enjoyed reading your insightful comments on Peter's haiku.

Many thanks for sharing.

I particularly like the following one-line haiku:

over my thoughts the hush of pines

Peter's use of cutting is thematically and psychologically effective.

This haiku could be read as a poetic rendering of the thematic motif explored in "Poetry,Language, Thought" by Martin Heidegger.

Well done


Anonymous said...

Thanks for letting us know about this, it looks wonderful. I remember an interview with Peter on the Red Dragonfly blog last year - he not only writes beautifully, he sounds like a beautiful soul. Always liked any haiku by Peter.
Mary Ahearn

Charles Gramlich said...

Anything that softens the sound of traffic is grand in my book.

Peter Newton said...


Thanks so much for your kind words. They mean a lot coming from someone whose own work I admire.

All best,

Merrill Gonzales said...

Peter's always a fun presenter...but you have to watch him. So smooth you just might miss a thing or two.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review. I like Peter's haiku a lot. Do you remember the interview with him on the Red Dragonfly blog last year?
A good poet, a good person.
Mary Ahearn

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Ed, solid work, indeed. Glad you liked. Don

Issa's Untidy Hut said...


So glad that these got through ... Peter's work is quite amazing.


Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Chen-ou Liu:

Thanks, as always, for your perceptive comments.

You kind of stunned me with the Heidegger reference as a book group I'm a member of after having just finished volume 1 of Blyth's "Haiku" is just now reading Heidegger's "On the Way to Language."



Issa's Untidy Hut said...

There you go, Charles. I think there might be a poem inside that poem.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...


Cheers. Obviously you've touched a lot of folks here.


donnafleischer said...

The small independent press world is, as you well know, the compositor and guardian of what is being written as and how we live. So, many hanks for your small press Friday's feature, such a great idea. ~ Donna

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Thanks, Mary, for the kind words and tip about the Red Dragonfly interview with Peter.