Saturday, April 14, 2012

Russell Libby: Each Day

It's no secret that I'm a big fan of the work of Russell Libby, so it is always interesting to get one of his chapbooks in the mail. The most recent to come my way is Each Day (and I have to confess, I've had it awhile, but that just built up the suspense) and I thought I'd share a handful of poems from the collection with you today.  Here's a little ku I just love ...

School of herring
the ripples

When your poem has six words and one of them is repeated, you are probably committing an act of bravery, foolishness, or poetical magic - it seems to me obvious which one this is.

Russell is a man of the moment and there are many fine moments in this collection.  These moments are even more poignant and precise in light of the fact that the poet has confronted serious illness and held his ground.  The next poem, which concludes the collection, touches on this:

In the Night
  Oh, that not-quite-crack
  as a rib flexes,
  and maybe breaks,
  in the night.
  Do I get another X-ray
  that tells me
  what my body
  already knows,
  or just use each breath
  as a reminder of the beauty
  of the day?

This seems something of a rhetorical question coming at the conclusion of a volume which is a string of a beautiful moments beheld and passed on but it most certainly is not.   It is the poet confronting the world, and so the question must be asked again and again, revealing a deliberate, measured approach, the only sane way to proceed in a world of doubt and wonder.

These poems are contemplative, at times so quiet as seeming to lack insistence.  This, however, is a matter of tone and not message; what seems not insistent is, in fact, persistent. Reading the collection through a second time, a whole vista which I missed initially was manifest.  Though made up of so many individual parts, the collection is held together by the poet's persona, steady, observant, and in love, really, with all that he encounters.

Although I know it isn't true, I feel as if there are birds on every page and that gives me great joy.  The feeling might best be described as if birds were flying throughout Each Day, skipping from here, alighting there, moving about as it were within the book, of their own accord, a continual presence in a singularly beautiful world (and book).

I'll finish this post with the introductory poem, which perfectly describes the little volume itself, the experience of it for the poet and, as such, for the reader, too:

Early Morning
  Sun just over trees.
  My shadow, forty-three paces long,
     precedes me down the hill.
  Plenty of space to think
     between here and there.

So, I lied; here's one more, another excellent little haiku, for a little balance to this post:

Three dragonflies
other end of hammock 

Each Day is available for $4 postpaid from: Russell Libby, Three Sisters Farm, 53 Weston Rd, Mount Vernon, ME 04352.  Treat yourself, straight from the author, the way it should be.


With a little tip of the hat in two directions, the following Issa haiku reminds me of one of my favorite poetry blogs of all, Red Dragonfly, from that blog takes its name:

have you come
to save us haiku poets?
red dragonfly
     translated by David G. Lanoue


Send a single haiku for the Wednesday Haiku feature. Here's how.

Go to the LitRock web site for a list of all 129 songs


Charles Gramlich said...

Lovely poems. So simple and yet philosophical.

Rachael Stanley said...

Thank you Don for sharing Russell's wonderful work.

'or just use each breath
as a reminder of the beauty
of the day?

What else can we do but surrender to that which is greater than us. Thank you Russell and Don.

Anonymous said...

Three dragonflies
other end of hammock

Say no more!
A new poet for me, thanks to you. Like your review, probably because I like birds too.

Terri L. French said...

You're right, Don, these are superb. So seemingly effortless. I think I must have this chapbook!

Issa's Untidy Hut said...


Yes, indeed, these are solidly grounded in the real.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...


You are very welcome.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...


There you are ... I love that little poem.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...


I'm sure you will enjoy it immensely.

Russell Libby said...

I'm so pleased that Don picked these poems to share. He does a great service with his work, and blog!

littlemancat said...

Thank you for this- this is a time when I thank the great god Internet and the wonderful people who send out these lovely things to us. I am writing down Russell's address now.
So beautiful, his poems.
Mary Ahearn

Ed Baker said...


just reading Stonehouse poems after
reading Cold Mountain poems ( Bill Portrer's re-issue)
and John M's newest

NOW you bring to me Russell Libby

all seem "of a feather"

sent him $4 wrinkled $1 bills yesterday

looking forward to getting to know his work

really is a breath of fresh air
to get beyond the academic-credentialist poets'
'blather (poems)
into the

Issa's Untidy Hut said...


Thanks again for all ... folks in comments, here and via email, were moved.


Issa's Untidy Hut said...


Loving the wrinkled bills ...very glad you liked.

Ah, the Red Pine 'Cold Mountain' is one I haven't read (just recently went back through the Watson). You are sending me off to disorganized bookshelves for a glorious hunt.


Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Mary, thanks for the kind words for Russell and his work (and the order!).


Ed Baker said...

The Collected Songs of Cold Mountain ( Han Shan) an
expanded reprint of the 1980-something edition..

Red Pine's preface AND John Blofeld's intro
"worth the price of admission"

on the heels of the above (in the early 80's Bill Porter
"inhaled" Stonehouse's "stuff"

I tell you, them


& I sense that Russell is one too...

'may cup of tea' which I am now drinking

( an email just in... now for some 'real' communication... one-to-one:

no bout a doubt it !