Friday, January 9, 2015

Braided Creek: A Conversation in Poetry

As with most things in life, anonymity might be a strength or a weakness, an act of courage or an act of cowardice.

Yet, away from the (real) world of social interaction, we are all anonymous, no? What, after all, is this grand seeking of self if not an anonymous light revealing, however briefly, if we are lucky, the all, the Oversoul.

Yes, you're right, this is a strange way to begin a meditation on a simple book of brief poems but there you are. Perhaps it will be something of a brief light itself.

Braided Creek: A Conversation in Poetry is an anonymous act of formidable courage, a shining of a dual light on one shared thing.

The book's genesis grew out of a long-time correspondence between two friends, two fellow poets. When a life event of some magnitude intruded on their lives, a spark was lit between these two friends which resulted in a lyrical exchange of brief resonant poems.

The poems in Braided Creek are printed without attribution: who wrote what is unknown.

So, friend, we might ask why should we care if the poets themselves didn't bother to sign their individual pieces?  The answer, of course, is precisely for that reason: in their anonymity we, the readers, are brought close, so very close to the source of things in the precision of the words themselves. As the poets efface ego, obliterate personality, with a wink and a nod, before us we can see the work become the Thing itself.

Turtle has just one plan
at a time, and every cell
buys into it.

No, this isn't haiku but its essence is pure, the essence of pure haiku, purer than the vast majority of what passes for that form today

Not necessarily better, but purer.

The brown stumps
of my old teeth
don't send up shoots
in spring.

Indeed, they don't, but they send up something else, do they not? Why, it takes seed right there, right there in your mind, in the very moment.

So much to live for.
Each rope rings
a different bell.

This reminds me of a lesson Joseph Campbell used to use to illustrate a fundamental concept of Buddhism and Hinduism, or the Oversoul or the Atman or whatever we are calling it this week.

In the classroom, Campbell would point to the light fixtures. We are each all as individual bulbs, our own little lights shining. And here on the wall is the switch.

And what, friend, is electricity, the energy? 

The crumpled candy wrapper
is just another flower
to the rain. 

The reader can sense how very close we are to the thing itself. Ask Cid Corman: is this is a haiku or not, if a thought like that matters at all.

I can hear him now ...

In the electric chair's harness,
one man hauls all the darkness.

I don't know what this means, per se, but I sense, I feel what it is saying, all the way to the tiny hairs on the neck of my soul.

Nothing to do.
Nowhere to go.
The moth has just drowned
in the whiskey glass.
This is heaven.

Oh, my, yes it is. Deny it at your own peril. 

I could go on and on, example after unsigned example - there are 4 poems per page in Braided Creek and there are 86 pages. These are brief, swift arrows aimed at the heart of things.

This is a perfect book to tuck in your bag, carry to the park, read at the bus stop - a bit of mobile revelation, you bring the electricity. What, you need to sit 20 minutes a day for the rest of your lives, you say, for a bit of the promised satori? Take a couple of these at the park or the bus stop, sitting in the dentist's office, or just upon rising in the morning or reclining in the evening. 

Why not? After everything, what else might you have to lose?

Today a pink rose in a vase
on the table.
Tomorrow, petals.


PS Get Braided Creek from an independent bookseller. Or a boxless mega-giant. One thing I can say - it was the best book I read in 2014 and I read a parcel of good books.

just touching
the cherry blossom petals
brings tears
                    translated by David G. Lanoue

Photo by Macao

 PPS  Click to learn how to contribute to Wednesday Haiku


Peter Newton said...

I agree whole-heartedly. And coincidentally, Braided Creek has been on my bedside table only for a few weeks. Some people say prayers before going to sleep. I read Harrison/Kooser poems. You're right. They do wonders. Together and apart.

Lynne Rees said...

I have this book too. Lovely insightful review.

Tom said...

Yes. Yes. Yes. All true. Two great poets disappearing into the thing itself. Nicely said, Don.

Andrea Grillo said...

One of my favorites - thanks for the reminder to re-explore.

Theresa Williams said...

Wonderful post, Don. I will look for this book.

Ed Baker said...

what a terrific review…. trip-through this book.
three words came into my thinking as I read:
terrific. terrific. terrific.

and then I thought about that comment on your photo yesterday
before reading this in this 6:03 a.m.

that I mentioned your image as “Don Quixote” -like and you and Sancho Panza
heading off into an adventure…. & then morning this two-poets' book you’ve “tripped” through it and now related what of it is… terrific.

Anonymous said...

Hi Don:

I admire your observations & interest in "Braided Creek" - such an unusual & interesting book - Ted Kooser and Jim Harrison would seem an odd pair at first glance- but why not - the writings are so obviously the communication of great & deep friends - as you have wonderfully depicted. The photo is marvelous - I had not seen that one before.

Some years ago I read everything I could find by Kooser - he is a wonderful poet and writer - somehow capturing the essense of the plains & the midwest in some strange & subtle way - great work.

I have a small bound notebook in which I have kept track of all the books I have read by year since 1989 - so this year is the 25th anniversary of that list - it is quite interesting to go over it now and then - I read your online list for 2014 since you had mentioned it - John Berryman? Cool!

I'm going to read "Braided Creek" again - thank you for the reminder.


Ed Baker said...

Petrarch to Shakespeare to Berryman

an Holy Trinity

what else of the form is needed

Issa's Untidy Hut said...


Thanks for the note. Coincidentally, I was reading his morning Patricia Donegan's anthology, Haiku in Mind. She quotes a Margaret Chula haiku as a prayer and, though I'm often skeptical, she was spot-on and so are you.


Issa's Untidy Hut said...


Glad you liked the review. I'd say it wrote itself except I feel, more precisely, Kooser and Harrison wrote it.


Issa's Untidy Hut said...


So glad it hit the mark.


Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Andrea and Theresa:

Thanks so much.


Issa's Untidy Hut said...


Very kind - I think perhaps I'm more the Sancho Panza type, but it is impolite to divert a compliment - and, after all, there is that beard connection.


Issa's Untidy Hut said...


The true measure is when I take a book out of the library and read it, renew it, and read it again, and then seek out a copy of my own because it will be revisited again and again.

The ultimate reveiw.


Gillena Cox said...

truly interesting review, thank you for sharing this and introducing me to this poet duo

much love...

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

You are welcome, Gillena