Sunday, October 31, 2010

"As I Went Out One Morning" - Issa's Sunday Service, #76

Tuesday is Election Day and they'll be no comment here, except to say this week's selection for Issa's Sunday Service is "As I Went Out One Morning" by Bob Dylan.  The album from which it comes, John Wesley Harding, has been a long time favorite of mine for many reasons, not the least of which is the drumming of Kenny Buttrey.  Aside from the solo albums, it is one the most stripped down, certainly the cleanest of all productions, over the entire span of Dylan's career.  Beside Buttrey and Dylan, there was Charlie McCoy on bass and Pete Drake on pedal steel guitar.  That's it and it's truly amazing.

The lyrics are transcendent, the songs sublime.  It echoes through the years with a timelessness that not very many albums have.  If I had to compare it to anything, I'd compare it not to another album but a book.  A once-in-a-lifetime, much loved book.

I'll leave it there.

Think Tom Paine.


Here are two poems from the archive that shared the same page in an issue, #113, from way back in November 2000.

The Symbolism of Breath
turns to steam
in October
and the fog
pours thick
of your skin.
C. C. Russell

Death has
my father's eyes,
pale blue and crisp
as autumn mornings.
Albert Huffstickler

even to these old eyes--
cherry blossoms!
cherry blossoms!
translated by David G. Lanoue


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Friday, October 29, 2010

The Sound of Water: the Closing Section

This final look at Sam Hamill's volume of haiku translations, The Sound of Water, focuses on the section entitled "Other Poets," specifically meaning everyone except Bashō, Buson, and Issa, all of whom we covered in previous posts.

To learn how to die
watch cherry blossoms, observe

Simple, really, yet we need to be reminded time and time again.  It is what makes haiku a way, as in a Way, if you pay attention.

Returning from a funeral
I saw this very moon
high above the moor

There is a bait and switch, which-shell-is-the-moon-under-quality to this poem.  Which moon, did you say?

All of them, of course.

True obedience:
silently the flowers speak
to the inner ear

This poem, particularly this rendition, runs quite deep.  First, true obedience to ... what?  Hamill has captured how silence speaks rather nicely, rather slyly, really.  I've seen another version, by Blyth, I believe, that mentions "the inner ear also."  Though certainly not fair to Hamill, perhaps, like the inner ear, we should be true to the poet, Onitsura.   Perhaps the also is incorrect, but if it is, there is a contrast of two different types of obedience and two different types of hearing. 

Aside from these, there was also Moritake's famed blossom returning to the branch (butterfly!) - for an animated version of that haiku, see this previous post.  I didn't much like Hamill's translation "Those falling blossoms / all return to the branch / when I watch butterflies" and, while looking for another, I stumbled on this poem, which I believe may also be by Moritake

           their moves
learned from falling petals

I really love this poem; I'm gonna see if an old man can learn some moves from falling petals. Here is another version of Moritake's "falling blossom(s)"

A fallen blossom
come back to its branch?
No, a butterfly!

That's much better.  Perhaps, the Hamill translation is of a different poem?  No way to tell, since the original is not included.

To pick a mere 3 poems to highlight of 42 seems mighty stingy, yet there you are.  I went back and read the section a couple of times - there are some lovely images and ideas, perhaps if I was in another mood, but the section ended up being slightly disappointing.  There is another poem familiar to me - perhaps this is an appropriate way to close:

Just when the sermon
has finally dirtied my ears-
the cuckoo

That and everything else being said, though the last section is disappointing, there are so many great renditions in The Sound of Water that it is worth many more times what it's going for ($3 plus bucks) for on used book sights like abebooks.  It can be slipped in a hip or shirt pocket; Issa, Buson, Bashō, and all tend to be pretty good company in the doctor's office, or the woods, or on the bus. 


This week's featured poem comes from Lilliput Review #127, November 2002.

Morning View From A Rainy Room
there is nothing I
must do a voice
floats warmly
by fine rain
and steam and tea hot
bath I shiver
petal on the path.
Mark Jackley

going outside
plum blossoms dive in...
my lucky tea
translated by David G. Lanoue 

Google translator version: "Department included jumping out of a plum, if"


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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Ed Baker: "so many frogs"



             Ed Baker

The above poem by Ed Baker had its "e" left off the word "one" in the first batch of 2nd Annual Bashō Haiku Challenge Chapbooks that went out in the mail.  So, here it is corrected, as it should appear and it will be correct in all copies that go out from hereon.

Ed, thanks, as always, for your work certainly, but for most of all for your generosity and presence. 

foolish frog
don't talk nonsense!
evening cool
translated by David G. Lanoue 


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Monday, October 25, 2010

2nd Annual Bashō Haiku Challenge Chapbook

Now that the contributor copies are in the mail, the 2nd Annual Bashō Haiku Challenge Chapbook is ready for purchase.   54 poems by 53 poets, it is 18 pages in length and standard digest, 5.5 x 8.5", up from the previous year's mini 4.25 x 5.5." It may be purchased for $3.00 postpaid ($4.00 overseas, ditto) via PayPal on the sidebar to the right or check or money order (or carefully sequestered cash).  Payment should be made out to "Don Wentworth." Address: Lilliput Review, Don Wentworth, Editor, 282 Main Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15201.

Poets included:

William Appel, Jacek Margolak, Eduard Tara, Peter Newton, Terry Ann Carter, Dubravko Korbus, Andrea Grillo, Floyd Cheung (pg. 10), Paul Truesdell, Barbara A. Taylor, Ed Baker, Tom Drescher, Roberta Beary, Lisa Espenmiller, J. Zimmerman, Marija Pogorilic, Gary LeBel, Bart Solarczyk (2), Ann Schwader, Antonella Filippi, Bozena Zernac, Bob Carlton, William Cullen, Cherie Hunter Day, Darrell Lindsey, Deborah P. Kolodji, Ruth Holzer, D. V. Rozic, Ed Markowski, Gail Priest, Gerry Grubbs, Gary Schwartz, Gary Hotham, K. Ramesh, Karen Cesar, Keith A. Simmonds, Larry Barak, Marilyn Hazelton, Stjepan Rozic, Tanya Dikova, Thomas Martin, Tony Burfield, Victor P. Gendrano, Alan S. Bridges, Guy Simser, John Stevenson, Patrick Sweeney, Geoffrey A. Landis, John Frazier, Michael Stephenson, Scott Metz, and the Honorable Matsuo Bashō.

For a taste, the winning poem and 5 runners-up may be found here.


a farting contest
under the moonflower trellis...
cool air
translated by David G. Lanoue 


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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Hey, Jack Kerouac: Issa's Sunday Service, #75

Photo by Eliott Erwitt

October 26th is the birthday of Natalie Merchant, lead singer of 10,000 Maniacs, whose song "Hey, Jack Kerouac," is the 75th selection for Issa's Sunday Service.

75 is a lot of songs with literary connections.  I've got over 300 more in the hopper and seem to be adding more every week.

The question is: is it worth the effort?  A worthwhile enterprise?  A gleeful obsession?

Or just one person's deep bow to two cornerstones of a blessed everyday existence?



Here's another by 10,000 Maniacs, a little something for all of us, nailing the last 30 or so years very nicely, thank you very much, and introduced by an old friend.  Such a sweet, deadly delivery, all around.

Candy Everybody Wants
If lust and hate is the candy,
if blood and love tastes so sweet,
then we give 'em what they want.
Hey, hey, give 'em what they want.

So their eyes are growing hazy 'cos they wanna turn it on,
so their minds are soft and lazy.
Well, hey, give 'em what they want.

If lust and hate is the candy,
if blood and love tastes so sweet,
then we give 'em what they want.

So their eyes are growing hazy 'cos they wanna turn it on,
so their minds are soft and lazy.
Well... who do you wanna blame?

Hey, hey, give 'em what they want.

If lust and hate is the candy,
if blood and love tastes so sweet,
then we give 'em what they want.
So their eyes are growing hazy 'cos they wanna turn it on,
so their minds are soft and lazy.

Well... who do you wanna blame?


This week's feature come from Lilliput Review, #111, a triple-header of Albert Huffstickler, from July 2000.  Over a space of 10 plus years, I published so much of Huff's work I've forgotten many of the poems and when I go back he breaks my heart again.

Three by Huff
And still the light,
always the light.
Mornings are hardest,
the light so like
that other light,
that light we remember
when we don't remember
anything at all.

And still the day
And still the clouds
And still me
sitting over coffee
on this street where I live
and the cars pass
while the sky
keeps trying to rain.

The thing about
bringing Lazarus back --
did Jesus ask him?
Albert Huffstickler

night mist--
the horse remembers
the bridge's hole
translated by David G. Lanoue 


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Friday, October 22, 2010

Issa's Sam Hamill

Over the last couple of weeks, I've been looking at the small (literally: 4.25 x 5") collection of Sam Hamill's translations entitled The Sound of Water.  It literally fits in your back or shirt pocket and is chock-full of poems.  Though I didn't begin with a plan - oh, how rarely I do - I seem to have divided the contents into 4 posts for the purposes of review.  Two weeks ago, I covered Bashō, last week Buson, and this week it will be Issa.  Soon I hope to cover the final section of miscellaneous poets.

I've tried again to select poems that I feel very good in illustrating the poet's work, the philosophy of haiku, and adeptness of the translator.   In addition, I look for works that have not been featured previously, quite a feat when it comes to the work of this blog's namesake.  The commentary is minimal as Issa hardly needs an assist from an amateur admirer.

The spring begins: old
stupidities repeated,
new errs invented

With his admission of his own faults, Issa draws us into the fact that errors are the human condition, it is what we do, even as we hopefully begin another year (the 1st day of spring and New Years coinciding in historical Japan, coming as it did in the 1st weeks of February).

Brilliant moon,
is it true that you too
must pass in a hurry

Even the moon too must pass, both literally and figuratively; all life, animate and inanimate, shares the ultimate truth at the bottom of all great classical haiku.

What's the lord's vast wealth
to me, his millions and more?
Dew on trembling grass

Another way of saying the same thing, this time in human terms of the frailty of all attachment and craving. Whether you seek out the noble truth or no, it will most certainly find you.

Before this autumn wind
even the shadows of mountains
shudder and tremble

Issa beats the drum, softly and loudly, quickly and slowly; the image here is lovely, almost Buson-like, and resonates to the very center of the earth, and perhaps even the universe.

I wish she was here
to listen to my bitching
and enjoy this moon

Love and loss makes the human condition so full of joy, so full of sorrow - this memory is both at once, in the now of the moment.

A world of dew,
and within each dewdrop
a world of struggle

Like his more famous "The world of dew / is a world of dew - / and yet, and yet ...," this haiku cuts to the heart of things, in an even more fatalistic way, if possible. Not only is life as transient as a drop of dew, it is a constant struggle.

In the midst of this world
we stroll along the roof of hell
gawking at flowers

This is one of Issa's more famous pieces and, though this is a particularly wordy rendition, I like Hamill's choice of verbs in "stroll" and "gawking," conveying, I feel, the haphazardness, the randomness of existence.

A world of trials,
and if the cherry blossoms,
it simply blossoms

Philosophically, this is the other side of the leaf of the dewdrop poem above.   This is the lesson of Buddhism, the lesson of the classic haiku masters.  To put it even more succintly: "Blossom, fool!"

Just to say the word
home, that one word alone
so pleasantly cool

This last haiku is all the more poignant when we realize that Issa, an orphan, often felt the lack of what  home really is.  Through all his trials, however, he was able to enjoy the family he helped found, if for a brief time.    In English the word "home" has at its center the famed Sanskrit sound, the mantra of mantras. Is there a linguistic relationship?  I don't know.  Is there an aural or oral or vibrational one?  I'm thinking there is.

I've been wrong before.


This week's selection from the archive, a tanka by the fine poet Pamela Miller Ness, goes out to writers, especially poets, everywhere.  It originally appeared in Lilliput Review, #129.

Dancing Ganesha,
god with the elephant head,
lend me
your tusk dipped in ink, let me
write long, long as the Ganges

autumn wind--
Issa's heart and mind

translated by David G. Lanoue 


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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Don't Stand So Close to Me: Issa's Sunday Service, #74

Nabokov via

Running up as we are on Halloween, it's creep week on the Sunday ServiceThis week's selection comes from The Police, is one of the more affected tunes on the Jukebox: "Don't Stand So Close to Me." A tip of the hat to Humbert Humbert:

It's no use, he sees her
He starts to shake and cough
Just like the old man in
That book by Nabakov

Don't stand, don't stand so
Don't stand so close to me

The Nabokov reference has the right feel considering the teacher's "dilemma:" 

Temptation, frustration
So bad it makes him cry
Wet bus stop, she's waiting
His car is warm and dry

Though perhaps not as explicit as in the totally repulsive "Every Breath You Take," this song broke ground by talking about something that is in the headlines regularly.  These songs, put to catchy pop melodies, run counter expectation, to the point that some have used the stalker tune "Every Breath" for their wedding.  Mr. Sumner is perhaps to be congratulated for expanding the narrative boundaries of pop (as a former teacher, he draws from some sort of experience), yet still, to me, they have more than a bit of an exploitative feel (the accompanying background vocal to the chorus, with Sting accompanying himself, has got ambivalence all over of it).

Of course, I'm talking about rock being exploitative as if this was some sort of news. 

Well, if you're going to sing about creeps, maybe this is the way to go:


Next Tuesday, I will be talking to a group of lifelong learners about haiku.   Sketching in the background, I'll be talking a bit about Japanese history, culture and concepts, such as wabi-sabi.  Here's a great illustration of that very concept by the great upper New York state poet, W. T. Ranney, from Lilliput Review #110, April 2000:

Old men
in stiff white shirts
moving from room to room,
placing a hand
on a worn spot.

in lightning's flash
faces in a row...
old men
translated by David G. Lanoue 


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Friday, October 15, 2010

Sam Hamill's Buson

 Painting by Buson

Bashō and Issa get most of the good press, Buson's work being portrayed at times as cold and aloof.  Still, compared to Shiki, Buson is downright engaged with the rest of us lowly mortals.

Last week I took a look at Sam Hamill's renderings of Bashō in his beautiful little book, The Sound of Water: Haiku by Bashō, Buson, Issa, and Other Poets.   This time round, it's the artistic, painterly Buson.

From this small selection (47) of Buson's haiku that Sam Hamill has translated, the following 5 grabbed my attention.

Utter loneliness-
another great pleasure
in autumn twilight

Here, the mutual virtue of loneliness and a lovely autumn twilight come together in a very distinctive way, calling to mind how sadness and beauty and transience all intersect in Japanese culture in the concept of wabi-sabi.

The thwack of an axe
in the heart of a thicket-
and woodpecker's tat-tats!

The comparisons and contrasts in the two essential elements of this haiku - the woodsman and the woodpecker - are really multiple.  It is not only the actions, it is the intent.  We think more of the contrast between the woodsman and the woodpecker but what they share is of greater importance.   This haiku resonates aurally, visually, and philosophically.

This cold winter night,
that old wooden-head buddha
would make a nice fire

Worthy of Issa, Buson's sentiment is known to all in need, whether of fuel, food, or love.  So easily our beliefs are put aside for our needs and right you are, as the poet said.   First and foremost here, however, is the need to laugh long and hard at ourselves.

In seasonal rain
along a nameless river
fear too has no name

It would seem that the speaker is lost, or at least in unknown territory, since the river's name isn't known.  This feeling evokes the fear itself, which is nameless because it is undifferentiated, it is irrational fear - fear of the unknown.  Lost, in an unfamiliar land, possibly in the torrential downpour of the rainy season, instinct takes over.  A most uncharacteristic haiku from a classical master.

Pure white plum blossoms
slowly begin to turn
the color of dawn

This last one is pure Buson.  How minutely observed the scene is - is dawn all one color, is the light a real color at all, or is the color of the plum blooms simply realized in the breaking light?  It would seem this haiku was done with a paint brush and not a writer's implement.

Next week, if all goes well, I'll take a peek at Hamill's Issa.


Looking back on issue #128 of Lilliput Review, I see it contained quite a few poems about mothers and death.  There is a truism to this one, by Michael Meyerhofer, that no prose may ever explain:

Her last night, my mother walked into
   the kitchen where I was standing
      and when I looked at her

I could see

the shadow of something huge
   passing over her face—

What's wrong, I asked.
I don't know, she said, and smiled.
Michael Meyerhofer

Here are two more, by two masters of another sort, the same topic:

hearing the downside
of melodic minor
mother's voice
Sheila Murphy

my dead mother--
every time I see the ocean
every time...
translated by David G. Lanoue


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Sunday, October 10, 2010

Under the Greenwood Tree: Issa's Sunday Service, #73

This week's selection for Issa's Sunday Service has a double literary pedigree: it is a song written by William Shakespeare, from Act II, Scene V, of As You Like It and the title of a Thomas Hardy novel after the Shakespeare song. In any case, this is a fine adaptation by Donovan.

Back about two years ago, I had a little something to say about this Hardy novel while blogging at my other job.  Hardy is one of my unabashed favorites.  Shakespeare and Donovan, too, for that matter, though none seem to be in the haiku business.



Here's an amateur video of Tom Waits performing Lawerence Ferlinghetti's poem "Firemen" from Pictures of the Gone World at the recent Litquake festival in San Francisco.  This is the long version with a typically wonderful Waits intro.


Lilliput Review #109 featured a parcel of haiku and other short-short pieces.  Here's one that was a little longer, calling an old friend to mind, reminding us of the true value of much literary criticism, and all the moon's light:

Po Chui, we are told, wrote
too many poems on subjects
of no special significance.

Across eleven centuries
we can still see the poet's brush
draw the least leaf to life.

The critic's words, as our breaths
on a winter's night, are
bright in the moon's light.
Robert Chute

my lute set aside
          on the little table
lazily I meditate
          on cherishing feelings
the reason I don't bother
          to strum and pluck?
there's a breeze over the strings
          and it plays itself
Po Chu-i
translated by James M. Cryer

Children imitating cormorants
are even more wonderful
than cormorants.
translated by Robert Hass


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Friday, October 8, 2010

Sam Hamill's Bashō

This little volume, translated with an introduction by Sam Hamill as part of Shambhala's Centaur Editions, focuses on 3 of the four major haiku poets (Bashō, Buson, and Issa), along with a handful of poems by other poets.  This post takes a look at his renderings of the haiku of Bashō

With just over 70 haiku by Bashō, this is a highly selective take on the master poet.  Many of the poems are familiar; all have a slight difference from other translations I've reviewed.  The most obvious difference is that the poems are slightly longer than most contemporary versions which, though running counter to the contemporary trend towards brevity, isn't necessarily a bad thing.  The first is briefer than most of its companions, is very unfamiliar in its presentation, and is quite good, indeed:

How very noble!
One who finds no satori
in the lightning flash

This poem is at once humorous, satirical (read biting), and serious.   The poet seems to be saying no to both obvious metaphor or easy enlightenment - notice, in English, the linguistic relationship between lightning and enlightenment.  Somehow, this seems very proscriptive, rather than descriptive, for a haiku poet.

But that's probably another reason they called him master.

This first fallen snow
is barely enough to bend
the jonquil leaves

This poem is familiar and captures a perfect moment.  The jonquil leaves are new to me, but the poem still carries its weight, literally and otherwise, very nicely.

Exhausted I sought 
a country inn, but found
wisteria in bloom

Again, a familiar Bashō poem, but in this version I get a sense that the traveler is lost and, in his confusion, has stumbled on a happy accident in this cluster wisteria.  Certainly, the lack of a roof is lamentable, but the view's not bad!  Philosophically, the contrast between lost and found, highlights what is fine in life, if you wish to embrace it.

Among moon gazers
at the ancient temple grounds
not one beautiful face

I've always liked this poem though it seems to run counter with Buddhist sentiment from one point of view.  Honesty here is the thing and the question arises: if a face is not beautiful, is it ugly?

Come out to view
the truth of flowers blooming
in poverty

This certainly is something of a radical rendering of the original which, as such, I don't remember at all.  Talk about direct pointing!   The poet tells us, here it is, the truth for you to see, despite of or because of the contrasting poverty.  This feels like a lesson of a Buddhist priest.

Kannon's tiled temple
roof floats far away in clouds
of cherry blossoms

The unstated, pervasive presence here seems to be a blustery spring breeze, causing the viewer to see the temple's roof floating amongst the swaying branches, an image worthy of Buson in its painterly quality.  Hamill adds an editorial note that Kannon is a Bodhisattva of compassion.

Overall, the collection of Bashō's haiku in The Sound of Water are honestly not my favorite renderings; there are enjambed lines, unnecessary uses of the verb to be, and lines sometimes just too long, though the ones I've cited here I do like very much, in one aspect or another.  There were a number of other fine translations here also, most so close to others I've noted recently that it seemed it would be repetitive to discuss.  The translations were fine; I just could bring nothing new to them.


Fall is upon us in a big way, suddenly full fall, not the usual easing in, the customary days of deep, beautiful, almost viscous light.  There is hope for a return of some milder days before heading to the big freeze.  This week's feature poem from Lilliput Review #129, March 2003 (which was the 1st issue highlighted when this blog began nearly 4 years ago), has in mind the deeper meaning of things our minds turn to in autumn.

when the geese fly away
it is always the stragglers who call to me

year after year
through the half-empty branches

I am in love
with the struggling ones

watching them pump and move
crying how little time we have left
Maureen O'Brien

a new face
in the flock...
rice field geese
translated by David G. Lanoue 


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Sunday, October 3, 2010

Golden Hair by Syd Barrett: Issa's Sunday Service, #72

Syd Barrett, the creative force behind the first, classic iteration of Pink Floyd and whose long shadow is still cast over the band's legacy to this day, made some excellent solo recordings.  They are, well, odd, as you might expect, as Syd was on a slippery slope downwards for quite sometime.  Yet his later songs are, occasionally, brilliant, as you also might expect, and this week's selection fits the bill.  Set to the words of James Joyce's 5th poem in his collection Chamber Music, "Golden Hair" is at once totally unexpected and very welcome.

   Golden Hair - James Joyce
    Lean out of the window,
    I heard you singing
    A merry air.

    My book was closed;
    I read no more,
    Watching the fire dance
    On the floor.

    I have left my book,
    I have left my room,
    For I heard you singing
    Through the gloom.

    Singing and singing
    A merry air,
    Lean out the window,

Here's a lengthy video in 2 parts, with some remarkable early footage of Floyd in performance, plus an interstellar ride through the times as they were:

Interstellar Overdrive, Part 1

Interstellar Overdrive, Part 2


If you haven't seen the video of the entire new album Le Noise by Neil Young with Daniel Lanois producing, check it out below.  I would imagine it will only be up for so long.  If you don't have the time or inclination to watch the whole thing, at the 11:40 mark is a great acoustic song about war, titled "Love and War," that should not be missed (just discovered, though embedding is disabled, you can watch and listen to it separately on YouTube here:

Said a lot of things
That I can't take back
Don't really know if I wanna
Been songs about love
I sang songs about war
Since the backstreets of Toronto
I sang for justice
And I hit a bad chord
But I still try to sing
About love and war.


This week's feature poem comes from Lilliput Review, #107, January 2000.  Enjoy.

December Dawn
The sun comes up
reining a bleak wind.

Love is never enough.

Love is all there is.

first winter rain--
the world fills up
with haiku
translated by David G. Lanoue 


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Friday, October 1, 2010

Haiku Canada Review - February 2010

One of my favorite magazines is the Haiku Canada Review, published by Haiku Canada.  It's been awhile since I've mentioned it, so I thought I'd take a look at the latest issue that's graced my mailbox.

One of my favorite things about HCR is that it is jam packed with poems. Besides regular haiku sections, there are sections on haiku in French, haibun, essays, linked verse, reviews, and letters.  Edited by LeRoy Gorman, the work is consistently fine, running the gamut from fairly traditional to experimental.  H. F. Noyes's regular column entitled simply "Favorite Haiku" is not to be missed; he has an unfailing sense for superior work and his commentary is both insightful and spot-on.

Here are some favs from this particular issue:

His castle gone
a young boy brings
the ocean home
Barry Goodman

This poem, though seemingly sentimental on the surface (and it is), touches on the use of scale in haiku.  The castle, a miniature version of the "real life" thing, and the idea of a small boy bringing the entire ocean home, force the reader not only to deal with concepts versus reality, making us see that an idea can be as important as the thing itself.  Plus, I just kept thinking about this E. E. Cumming's poem.

we sit in silence
as my wife pees
Don Korobkin

It's so quiet I think I can almost hear ... an uncomfortable silence.

Old carthorse
long time emerging
from the covered bridge
H. F. Noyes

I'm not really sure exactly why but the rhythm of this haiku made me slow down as I read and re-read and re-read it again. It has a long measured cadence - who thought anyone might ever say that about any haiku at any time!

autumn garden
a couple turns
to face the sun
                                                    Michele Root-Bernstein

I've been reading so much classical haiku poetry this summer that I immediately thought about Bashō's poem about the hollyhocks turned toward the sun even while it's rain. It is nice to see a poem where this instinct is shared amongst other living things.

his wings
hold her light
Grant D. Savage

I'm not at all sure about anything about this poem except I like it. I suppose it all turns on the word "light," what it means in this context and the idea that one egret's wings might hold the light of another, so closely are they mingled.

Or maybe not.

From a review of Masajo Suzuki's Love Haiku comes these 4 fine poems:

spring sorrow-
I buy enough flowers
to embrace it

How much beauty does it take to convince a poet of life's ultimate sadness?

heartsick day-
nested deeply
in the rattan chair

With the two words "nested" and "rattan" we are taken back to our elemental past, a retreat to an almost pre-cognitive state of sorrow.

spring loneliness-
it falls short of the surf
this stone I toss

It's no small irony that this is the second time in two weeks I ran across this poem; the first was when it was anthologized in Haiku: the Poetry of Nature which I reviewed last week.

a moth dances into the flame...
the nape of the man's neck
draws me in

Once again pacing, as with Noyes poem above, plays an integral part in the poem. The pacing of the line draws us in, as it does its actor, into the flame.

As was mentioned above, Noyes, in the column "Favorite Haiku," does not disappoint. Here are 3 exemplary works:

a child rolls a hoop into autumn
anne mckay

Noyes esteem for this poem is large, as it should be. It doesn't get much better than this.

from leafless trees
crow follows crow
into a cold wind
Martin Lucas

He finds he remembers Bash 's "crow on a bare limb" haiku, as I did, and compares it favorable - how could I not concur.

wind change-
the tumbleweed now chases
the kitten
George Swede

Swede is one of the finest poets working today. The playfulness of this haiku disguises how it embraces bigger things in a commonplace scene. Humorous and resonant, a hard won combination on the best of days.

Finally, there is

soap bubbles burst-
the tiniest sounds
Izak Bouer

from a review of the book Go to the Pine (per Bash 's instruction, I guess). This little two-liner contains the world, the universe, in its representing.

Frequently, HCR is accompanied by mini-broadsides, called "Haiku Canada Sheets," by individual poets and this time was no exception.  The sheets are a single sheet of 8.5 x 11 paper, folded twice width-wise, and printed on both sides, leaving plenty of room for poems to breath in an economical format (one I've occasionally used for Lilliput broadsides). This time round there is an outstanding little collection of 12 haiku entitled marionette on a shelf by Angela Leuck.  It is something of a lyrical chronicle of a relationship, from first touch to final regrets.  Here are a couple of my favorites:

Marionette on a shelf-
his fingers know
how to move me

his smile-
the slow smooth bend
of the river

January midnight
letting my hair fall loose
snow tumbles from trees

colder nights-
just for longing
Angela Leuck


This week's featured poem is from Lilliput Review #131, July 2003, and if unusual in form for Lillie, is spot-on subject-wise.   Hope you like it.

On the Habit of Verse
Writing verse is like the proverb
About the drinking of wine,
Apt and perfectly true:

First you write the verse,
Then the verse writes the verse,
And finally the verse writes you.
Anthony Harrington

if only she were here
for me to nag...
Chrysanthemum Festival wine
translated by David G. Lanoue 

In an editorial note to this haiku, David says that "This haiku refers (fondly) to Issa's wife, Kiku, who died earlier that year. Kiku means "chrysanthemum" in Japanese, so the Chrysanthemum Festival naturally reminds Issa of his lost Kiku."   The sense is certainly there without the note, but the dual nature of the word Kiku in the poem is not.  This example heightens a very important aspect of haiku that is most often lost in translation: wordplay, particularly punning.


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