Thursday, November 12, 2009

On The Acorn Book of Contemporary Haiku

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:

The earth bears
even your sadness.
David Lindley

ancient headstones
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
half-closed eyes
the flame of a candle

Vasile Spinei

one word
but so many varieties
of rain
David Findley

Another robin in my mousetrap:
few of us fail to give
humanity a bad name.

Anthony Weir

The old barn
--looks more like a tree
----each year.
Hannah Mitte

late afternoon sun
the shadow of the gravestone
slants towards my feet
Brian Tasker

Works Gloves
On the garden gate
left here with me --
Shape of her hands
Bob Arnold

The white kitten
playing and playing
with the faded cherry petal

Vincent Tripi

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.

David Gascoyne

the fisherman's shadow stretches
across the river
George Swede

A moorhen dives
Ripples spread
To the ends of the earth

Aasha Hanley

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 Basho
Chrysanthemums bloom
in a gap between the silence
of the stonecutter's yard.
Michael Wurster

trumpet vine
still waiting
for you

David Gross

in the park
by a falling leaf
Peggy Heinrich

Four ancient rocks rose from the earth:
Grief, Rope, Axe, and Sparrow

Gail Ivy Berlin

And, before I flit off, one more:

baby sparrow--
even when people come
opening its mouth
translated by David G. Lanoue



jay said...

don, thanks for the haiku this morning. sorry Lilly didn't get's a pet peeve of mine as well to have that happen..especially when you send the publisher a list of the places where the poems where published and they STILL don't put it in the book.

Ed Baker said...

a lot of great great Basho translators out-and-about

Stryk is one of them


how about a photo of your library/book shelves
we of who canknot keep track of
"things" can?

neat poems...

I stopped putting out those spring-loaded rat-traps
acause birds after the peanut butter too frequently got dead!

... and these were birds
(over the years)
that I had been putting out seeds for...

good thing I didn't catch my little chic-a-dees

Charles Gramlich said...

some very good ones here. I especially enjoyed the Wiliam Hart one about the names worn to murmurs.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Jay, yes, indeed, the door swings both ways and sometimes publishers don't give two craps ... glad you liked the ku ...

Hm, a photo of the bookshelves, not a bad idea, Ed - haven't gotten the digital photog thing down yet, believe it or not .. I'll see .. Stryk is a fav ...

Glad some of these grabbed you, Charles ... I'm hoping to read the 2nd half when I get some brief r & r next weekend ...

Greg said...

sounds like a good collection. (maybe when it goes down in price.)

Stryk is one of my favorite translators... reading Dumpling Field right now (thanks for the suggestion!).

I agree about acknowledging previous places of publication -- hate when I give that info to an editor and he doesn't include it.

love that Peggy Heinrich poem. i remember reading it in that issue of LR and immediately adding it to my list of favorite haiku.