Friday, September 6, 2013

William Killen - Winter: Small Press Friday

William Killen is a fine, traditional haiku poet in the best sense of the phrase, whose work has been featured here previously. The small, self-produced volume at hand, Haiku VI: Winter, is a lesson in the form and the life.

The collection itself is less about the individual impact of particular poems as it is about the sum of its parts, and the sum of its parts is winter. How things sound in winter; winter, the domain of the predator; winter, a world of contemplation and seclusion. 

Just how deeply perceptive this work is I only began to realize on  second and third readings. The word evocative comes to mind, the smells, the sights, sounds (and their silences), even the land and its creatures, including ourselves.

There is a spell cast here and its name is winter. Like Killen's beautifully rendered art that grace its pages, we feel its tone and mood.

It is a book which, like a deep meditation, forces you to slow down

If I was forced to choose, I have to say that it is nigh impossible to select a few poems that might be representative of what I'm trying so feebly to capture. That being said (when has impossible truly stopped anyone who was determined to try), here are 3 poems whose virtue is that they stand out, which is probably antithetical to the very point I'm trying to make.

more winter rain
the river is filled
with haiku

This is as about close as the poet gets to inserting personality into a poem and, for me, it is a fine, if slightly post-modern, exception.

After all, exception proves the rule, right?

first light
cock crows on and on
foggy morning

This poem is more typical of the overall tone - there is a fine mixture here of three senses: sight, sound, and touch. With dawn we begin to see, yet it is foggy, and cock's muted crowing conveys with sound (and, in a very real sense, tactility) what the sun does with sight.

first raindrops
warm midnight —
dead of winter

Here is solitude, season and mood, all captured in a tone, almost flattish, that is reminiscent of classical haiku. As with previous examples, the poet's closeness to nature is paramount - inside the home or hut, the poet feels and hears a particular mid-winter mood, what in the Eastern US is sometimes categorized as the January thaw. 

It is what the poet/narrator is thinking here that concerns us. Not necessarily the specifics, but what is thought, or might have been thought, or felt, or experienced under similar circumstances, not just by the narrator but by the reader, too.

In this case, as with "first light," a feeling is perfectly captured. 

Currently, I am reading a book entitled The Poetics of Space by Gaston Blanchard and, utilizing the image of the house, it explores creativity, the imagination, and the archetypal experiences of human beings. 

Haiku, particularly of the quality and tone of such a poet as William Killen, fits perfectly within Blanchard's thesis.

A true merging of East and West.

Killen's work is available directly from him. It contains 55 haiku, 14 fine pieces of art (in a variety of mediums: acrylic on paper, acrylic on canvas, ink, pen & color pencil, traditional ink brush, felt tip & color pencil, mixed media on paper, and ink & acrylic on paper), and a phenomenological approach to existence that might prompt the most jaded modern philosopher into a sense of wonder. The book is $10, plus $2 shipping, and can be acquired directly from the poet. Email him at wdkillen AT yahoo dot com (where the spaces are removed and read @ for AT and . for dot) for details. 

Alternately he may be contacted at his art website:

or via the good ol' US Postal Service at 90 Tennessee St., Suite B, Murphy, NC  28906.

Artwork by William Killen


Night Rain at Oyama by Toyokuni II

on me, on the mountain
we take our turns...
winter rain
translated by David G. Lanoue


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Anonymous said...

yes and an huge "indeed" the BACHELARD book certainly is "on the money" re these poems in today's post
from opening of section 8 (Intimate Immensity) part IV
opens with:

" When a relaxed spirit meditates and dreams, immensity seems to expect images of immensity. The mind sees and continues to see objects, while the spirit finds the nest of immensity in an object."

Bachelard and Blanchot (The Space of Literature) seem to me "of a mind" with Killen's poems that you quote..... and your post

"house" (& residents there-in & inhabiting the areas surround ) is nexus to most of what poetry/art is and does ....

my 1997 reentry into writing (again) is an "house" book .... NEIGHBOR

kind-of interesting to have recently discovered both
the Bachelard book and the Blanchot one.

also interesting :
that now in my olde age and even via translation
and AS I AM READING their essays

I understand what they are saying.... well: 42 % of it-all .... and most of that too !



Issa's Untidy Hut said...


Thanks for the tip on the Blanchot book - I will pass it on.

The small group I'm reading it with has really had unique discussions around the book. There are a couple of philosophy 'students" (both post 70s) who guide us along but we go on flights with this book that we haven't others. We are it a chapter or two at a time each month.

Expanding out my zone of familiarity ... so far we've read Heidegger, Camus, and Blyth.


Ed Baker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ed Baker said...


it was Dr Levine (Thelma Levine) who did From Socrates to Sartre

a book and also her bps show .... on live tv I think in the 60's....

Dr Levine was also one of the editors of that first edition of The Great Books of the Western World...

Adler was the lead editor .... I had the entire set ( a friend won it for some academic prize and he gave it to me.... I sold the set for $100 and now see it is going for $1500 !

now I am wondering who this Dr. Miller is/ was ?

Ed Baker said...


Dr. Levine recently died ! in 2011....
here she is....

see if you can find the videos of her MPS tv lectures....

Ed Baker said...

me again
I couldn't find the videos of the Dr. Lavine PBS/MPS lecture series
but I did find this 1998 piece that she did:

and this Paideia Project in their Philosophy area has over 1000 papers !

and every one of them
built on a solid plinth of just
a twenty-six letter alphabet !

even for me
too much philosophy
but, I suppose, tight up y'all's alley ?

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Great Washington Post piece - loved this:

"Philosophy is comic because a lot of it is gamesmanship, and the efforts on either side of an issue are never entirely conclusive."

Not sure how watchable this is (someone filming it from TV with a hand held camera) but at least we get a glimpse of Lavine:

I'm completely unschooled when it comes to philosophy, but the book group has got it down ... so to speak.

Anonymous said...

I guess that all we-all needs to know is that all of this modern-philosophism and the various Blatherisimologies
begin with Hegel and his A = A AND A doesn't = nonA ?

everyone thinks that it was Wicktenstein who was the
early Modernist but it was Hegel
who did in Aristotle ....

now look what's become of us ? not exactly grist for the Poetry Mill, eh ?

I enjoyed reading (when I used to read to "learn") Guy Davenport ... now ? this attitude:

studying all of these books
writing all of these poems
what's the point :

I visited the old house last month
I swear I saw my mother who died 7 years ago
I'm sure that she came back to do some cleaning

almost time for you to move on to the next blog-post
and the host of meaningful comments and ' thank yous' that will follow