a zen firecracker: selected haiku, by Graham Nunn
(2003), illustrated by Rowan Donovan, with an introduction by Janice M. Bostok.
Out now through Impressed Publishing, 50 Baynes St. Highgate Hill, Brisbane,
Queensland, 4101. ISBN 0-9751618-1-4. Available from Impressed by emailing David
Weekes - or by emailing the author
AU$16.50 + AU$1.50 S&H per copy.
Early Evening Pieces by Marianne
Bluger. BuschekBooks, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada: 2004. Trade paperback, 8.5 x 5.5,
84 pages, ISBN:1-894543-14-9, $15.00. Order from The Literary Press Group of
Canada, 192 Spadina Ave., Suite 501, Toronto, ON M5T 2C2, Canada.
Phone:514.605.6931 or web site.
The Sound of One Thigh Clapping: Haiku for a Thinner You
by Meredith Clair. Workman Publishing, New York: 2004. Hardcover with glossy
dustjacket, 4 x 6 inches, 124 pages, ISBN:0-7611-3142-6, US$10.95 $15.95 in
On Cat Time by William Hart. Timberline Press: 2004.
Flat-spined, 5 x 5 inches, illustrations by Jayasri Majumdar, 32 pages,
ISBN:0-944049-31-5, $7.50 + $2.00 S&H. Order from Timberline Press, Clarence
Wolfshohl, 6281 Red Bud, Fulton, MO 65251.
Insects - Mushi and other Small Creature: Three Haiku
Sequences by June Moreau, Jane Reichhold and Giselle Maya. Koyama Press,
Saint Martin de Castillon, Provence, France:2004. Hand-tied hand-made paper
covers, 6 x 10 inches, 48 pages, illustrated by Dao Yan Hu with calligraphy by
Yasuo Mizui, $18.00. E-mail Giselle
Maya or Jane.
Sunlight Comes and Goes: haiku by Francine
Porad. Vandina Press, Bellevue Washington:2004. Saddle-stapled, 8.5 x 5.5
inches, 24 pages, color illustrations by Francine Porad, Introduction by John
Stevenson, ISBN: 1-88738-24-4, $15.00. Order from the author at 10392 NE 12th
Street, I-307, Bellevue, WA 98004.
Kokoro: Haiku and Senyru by Geert Verbeke. Empty
Sky, Kortrijk, Flanders:2004. Tradepaper back, 8.5 x 5.5 inches, 68 pages, ISBN:
90-805634-63, $25. Email Geert
Verbeke for your best method of payment.
Breasts of Snow Fumiko Nakajo: Her tanka and her life
written by Hatsue Kawamura and Jane Reichhold. The Japan Times, Tokyo,
Japan:2004. Trade paperback, 8.5 x 5.5, 152 pages, ISBN:4-7890-1161-5, $20.00,
¥2000E. In the States copies can be ordered from Jane Reichhold.
If you wish to read another review of Breasts of Snow you
can read the one published in The Japan Times written by Donald
a zen firecracker: selected haiku, by Graham Nunn (2003), illustrated by
Rowan Donovan, with an introduction by Janice M. Bostok. Out now through
Impressed Publishing, 50 Baynes St. Highgate Hill, Brisbane, Queensland, 4101.
ISBN 0-9751618-1-4. Available from Impressed by e-mailing David
Weekes - or by e-mailing the author
AU$16.50 + AU$1.50 S&H per copy.
At first I thought the oxymoron a zen firecracker an immodest title but having
read the book I believe Graham Nunn largely delivers on the expectations he set
up. Within the cracker-coloured covers of a pocket-sized (167mm x 110mm) book,
he fires off 100 haiku. While not all are rockets, I didn’t t find a single
The haiku are honoured by, and they merit, the generous white space around
them. Near-random spacing on the page, and variation of haiku line alignments,
help suppress any carry-over of mood and image between haiku there is little
need for mind-clearing breaks when reading. I found the illustrations
distracting, a missed opportunity for more white space.
How satisfying that Graham writes with an Australian voice and includes many
local subjects: flying fox, sheep, ti-tree, rosella, jacaranda, curlew, and whip
high in the canopy
of the whip bird
For a poet who lives in sub-tropical Brisbane, he is finely attuned to the
leaves all raked
hangs in the branches
A common theme is reflections, such as in this delightful prize-winning poem:
each stroke of the oar
stirs the clouds
Juxtaposed haiku elements are usually from the same sense but Graham gets
great value from mixing them:
across the picnic blanket -
Do not expect philosophy or major disjunctions in this book. Graham writes in
the mainstream of haiku in English. However, within that, he s prepared to take
risks, to skid on corners:
at the back of my throat
and one suspects he was encouraged in such adventures by writing associates
in paper wasp, the Brisbane haiku group. On the other hand, Graham is
mercifully free of any need to demonstrate his cleverness. I easily pass
over: under lemon peel moon / fish and chips / on the beach
for the pleasure of the simple:
taller than me
He has the maturity and confidence to not ask too much of his poems:
on the horizon
a line of fishing boats
In terms of craft he is somewhat on the minimalist side. He uses
punctuation sparingly. He opens many haiku with a preposition or
present participle. Such openings produce run-on haiku which do not have the
strong cut, or turn, that many readers will expect. However he still achieves
behind the stone nude
three poplar trees
A Zen Firecracker is a class production. How fortunate we are that
Graham Nunn has made his work available.
MORE BOOK REVIEWS
On this warm sunny May day, no books of tanka lie on my desk waiting to be
reviewed. Thus, I get to give my attention to the haiku books, which in other
times would only get mentions.
Early Evening Pieces by Marianne Bluger. BuschekBooks, Ottawa, Ontario,
Canada: 2004. Trade paperback, 8.5 x 5.5, 84 pages, ISBN:1-894543-14-9, $15.00.
Order from The Literary Press Group of Canada, 192 Spadina Ave., Suite 501,
Toronto, ON M5T 2C2, Canada. Phone:514.605.6931 or web
Thanks to the strong arts support of the Canada Council for the Arts and the
Ontario Arts Council, a beautiful book like this can be given to the haiku of
Marianne Bluger. And she and her work deserve such professional treatment. The
cover, with its subtle colors and picture of an excellent abstract oil painting
, "Ottawa Experimental
Farm" by Michael Adam Kim, announces that this is a book of poetry just as
good as any other in mainstream poetry. And to my mind, even better.
It is a joy to take this marvelously made book in hand and to slowly turn the
pages where the haiku flow gracefully among the generous spaces. The book is
divided into sections titled "Sweetgrass," "Flight,"
"Goldenrod and Asters," "Snowblind," "Gusts,"
"Annapolis," and "Summer Quilt for A Winter Night," and
ending with "Dunegrass." These breaks in the poems not only signal a
change in the inspiration, but move the reader into other areas of interest
creating perfect haiku sequences. To be unfair to the sequences, here are the
first and last haiku of the book.
in a pause
when the wind dies
the coo of a dove
on the beach
back to the wind — I watch it
sweep my tracks
Bluger has received several awards for her haiku and tanka both in Japan and
the United States. These include the Hoshito-Mori Prize and the Tanka
Splendor Award. Marianne Bluger lives in Ottawa, Canada, with her husband of
eleven years, Larry Neily. This is Bluger’s ninth book of poetry.
The Sound of One Thigh Clapping: Haiku for a Thinner You by Meredith
Clair. Workman Publishing, New York: 2004. Hardcover with glossy dustjacket, 4 x
6 inches, 124 pages, ISBN:0-7611-3142-6, US$10.95 $15.95 in Canada.
This is the kind of single-author book that makes haiku writers want to
turn to despair and or commit some vile violence in the world of publishing.
Finally a haiku book given first class treatment with fairly big name publisher,
hardcover and dust jacket, surely a large print run, and what do they print?
Rip-off haiku by someone who uses the form for jokes and three-liners not worthy
of even being called beginner’s haiku.
Lose inches with lard. . .!
Fight fat with peanut butter. . .!
The alarm clock sounds.
And because this book will surely sell many copies, as gifts to dieters (aren’t
we all?) the notion that this is the way to write haiku will proliferate like
other misinformation and urban legends. In the meantime, "real haiku
writers" will continue to staple and glue together by hand their beautiful
little books of "true" haiku run off on the local copy machine and
offered in small magazines. I could rail on for hours, and yet, I am a tiny bit
thankful when anyone at any level can find joy and realization and even maybe
wealth (if Workman Publishing has its way) in this tiny form that has formed
such an important part of our lives. I am recommending, not that you buy this
book, but keep it in mind as a goal for the treatment your own haiku deserve.
On Cat Time by William Hart. Timberline Press: 2004. Flat-spined, 5 x 5
inches, illustrations by Jayasri Majumdar, 32 pages, ISBN:0-944049-31-5, $7.50 +
$2.00 S&H. Order from Timberline Press, Clarence Wolfshohl, 6281 Red Bud,
Fulton, MO 65251.
What an honor to haiku, that William Hart, though known for his novels (Not
Fade Away is being used as a college text) and his scripts for the
documentary films made by his wife, Jayasri Majumdar, continues to write and
publish haiku. This is the fourth book the couple has collaborated on with
Timberline Press. William writes the haiku, this time about their adventures
with a neighbor’s cat, and Jayasri does the very catty illustrations, as lean
and significant as haiga. This is a beautifully made book that is ideal for
gift-giving to your friends who have also been adopted by a cat.
Clarence Wolfshohn, heart and soul of Timberline Press, continues to print
and make books in the "old way" – with hand-set type on a 6 x 10 C
& P Pilot Press. He then binds them by hand with flat-spines. Should you be
a person not interested in cats, haiku or art, you would still buy the book as
an excellent example of an old-time craft that is slowly fading from the scene.
Only the popularity of haiku could keep it alive, and the gentle people with
One could say that William Hart has haiku as his daily meditation practice
because his haiku are so gentle, so down-to-earth, so accepting of what is.
from a nap
into our potted fern
flops neighbor cat
Insects - Mushi and other Small Creature: Three Haiku Sequences by June
Moreau, Jane Reichhold and Giselle Maya. Koyama Press, Saint Martin de
Castillon, Provence, France:2004. Hand-tied hand-made paper covers, 6 x 10
inches, 48 pages, illustrated by Dao Yan Hu with calligraphy by Yasuo Mizui,
$18.00. E-mail Giselle Maya
In an increasingly long line of publications from Koyama Press, Giselle Maya
lavishes her loving attention to another of these over-sized books. This one,
Insects – Mushi (Japanese for insect) And Other Small Creatures, she brings
three haiku sequences she has arranged from the haiku of June Moreau, Jane
Reichhold and herself.
June Moreau, who has never had enough of her poems put into book form,
although she seems to be published everywhere in magazines far beyond the
smaller haiku scene, is certainly deserving of having a collection of her many
delightful haiku about insects available for the readers. I feel she is one of
the best haiku (and tanka) writers in English, so I can never get too many of
her works. See how good she is with:
a scribble of ants
in the stone’s shadow
turned into tiny stars —
Giselle Maya tends to write longer haiku than the other two participants in
this book which forms a nice change of pace. She, too, is an excellent writer of
haiku and tanka so it is no surprise to find among the work in her sequence:
in the center
of a splendid sunflower
a ladybug just sitting
chalice for summer rain
and orange butterflies
Well, what do you expect me to say about my own haiku? Just that I am
thankful to have been included this book with such great writers by my side.
a broken crayon
the path of a butterfly
drawn by a child
braiding in her hair
last night’s dream
a tiny moth
As always, Giselle invites wonderful artists to contribute to her books. This
time it is Dao Yan Hu, a watercolorist living in Toronto, Canada, who adds
the beautifully drawn, accurate, sumi-e ink works. The warm yellow pages in
perfectly matching hand-made paper covers gives a sense of the delight of summer
and the time of insects and other small creatures celebrated in this book.
Sunlight Comes and Goes: haiku by Francine Porad. Vandina Press,
Bellevue Washington:2004. Saddle-stapled, 8.5 x 5.5 inches, 24 pages, color
illustrations by Francine Porad, Introduction by John Stevenson, ISBN:
1-88738-24-4, $15.00. Order from the author at 10392 NE 12th Street,
I-307, Bellevue, WA 98004.
This book, Francine’s first since the death of her husband Bernard, is
dedicated to her family and friends in his memory. The title is a clue to her
acceptance and many of the poems refer to her life with him and without him.
From the sequence "Beyond Measurable Systems"
trying to get past
the trying years
to the good memories
received by the new widow:
Take care. Have fun.
not only a new year
a new life
Francine Porad, former President of the Haiku Society of America and Editor
of Brussels Sprout, continues to amaze and astound with her prolific
works in haiku, tanka and renga. This beautifully made book, the twenty-third in
her series, is probably her most poignant.
As Karma Tenzing Wangchuk writes on the back cover: "Francine Porad’s
poems are plainly autobiographical, but never self-absorbed; often melancholy
but not without a nearby touch of the poet’s more characteristic sense of
humor; darker in mood than usual for the author, but accompanied by brief, and
brilliant, breakthroughs of sky and sun, as well as appearances by the flowers
she is well known for writing about."
In the Introduction, John Stevenson, also a former President of the Haiku
Society of America, calls Francine "a generous and wise teacher, leader, and
mentor" and relates she sent him his first rejection slip that was
"frank, specific and surprisingly nurturing."
Ever faithful to her inner feelings, the abstract watercolors in this book
have, superimposed over her gay, bright colors, slashes of black that add a new
maturity to her art. You can see more on the web
or on Suhni’s Mother-Tongued.
Kokoro: Haiku and Senyru by Geert Verbeke. Empty Sky, Kortrijk,
Flanders:2004. Tradepaper back, 8.5 x 5.5 inches, 68 pages, ISBN: 90-805634-63,
$25. Email Geert Verbeke for
your best method of payment.
With the news full of examples of atrocities, corruption, and killing, one
needs, even more, to take in hand a book like Kokoro (Japanese for
"heart"), go off to a quiet place and realize that there are
good people and beautiful things on this earth if one just seeks them. Here
is Geert Verbeke, a completely gentle soul who writes volumes of haiku (in both
Dutch and English in this book), plays the Himalayan singing bowls (he has made
ten CDs of his compositions), has written four books on the bowls (one published
by Pilgrims’ Bookhouse in Nepal). Why can’t the sonorous voices of
newscaster teams discuss his work instead of yet another suicide bomber? His haiku
have all the elements the news needs.
There is sadness:
grandpa is dying
de dichte sneeuwval
the dense snowfall
bedekt zijn klompen
covers his clogs
There is sex:
opa lonkt nog
steeds grandpa still
met wellustige blikken with
oma zoent zinj foto gran kisses his photo
There is madness:
voor mijn grootvader
for my grandfather
is de maan zihn dochter the moon is his
elke boom een
each tree a son
And all of that on only one page of Kokoro. Each page has eight to eleven haiku so the reader gets a generous sampling of Verbeke’s many haiku.
Though they are not divided into sections, the flow does move gently from one
subject to another, from one experience into another – almost as one would
watch a film.
Unhindered by the current emphasis in that corner of the world (Netherlands /
Flanders) for strict 5 – 7 – 5 syllable count, Verbeke’s haiku have a
natural rhythm and flow and perhaps you can see how exactly he translates the Dutch into
English. Of all the Dutch haiku I’ve read, none sound as succinct and sweetly filled
with life as his.
As far as I know this is the first time someone has issued a book of haiku
and a matching CD. To sit and listen to the singing bowls is a great way to
read the over 500 haiku in Geert Verbeke’s book. The artwork throughout the
book is simple but very effective in black, white and red. Here is someone doing
everything to the very best of his ability to share the majesty and beauty in
his life. All you have to do is to order the book and CD and there you have it!
And I almost forgot!
Breasts of Snow Fumiko Nakajo: Her tanka and her life written by Hatsue
Kawamura and Jane Reichhold. The Japan Times, Tokyo, Japan:2004. Trade
paperback, 8.5 x 5.5, 152 pages, ISBN:4-7890-1161-5, $20.00, ¥2000E. In the
States copies can be ordered from Jane
Fumiko Nakajo is considered to be the third in the three most famous female
poets of Japan in the last century, right up there with Akiko Yosano and Machi
Tawara. Though she is almost unknown outside of Japan, (aside from the 20 tanka
translated by Makoto Ueda in his book Modern Japanese Tanka) her popularity at the
time of her death in August, 1952, was such that her one and only book of tanka
rocketed to the best-seller lists of the country and her publisher then
assembled a volume from the poems she had culled for her book and this too sold
extremely well. Of the two novels were written of her life, Chibusa Yo Eien
Nare by Akira Wakatsuki and Fuyu No Hanabi by the well-known author
Jun-ichi Watanbe, Chibusa Yo Eien Nare (Let Breasts be Eternal) was made
into a film of the same name.
Fame came to Nakajo only in the last days as she lay dying of breast cancer
in a hospital in Sapporo, on the island of Hokkaido, at the age of 32. Her last
words to her mother were, "I don’t want to die." And in so many ways
she hasn’t as her poetry lives and finds an ever wider audience of men and
woman who so greatly admire her spirit and her faith in love as expressed in her
For this book, Hatsue Kawamura and Jane Reichhold (their fourth collaboration
of translation of tanka) continued their method of presenting the tanka within a
matrix of prose as used in A String of Flowers, Untied: Love Poems from The Tale
of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu. In Breasts of Snow, the reader is shown
the events of Fumiko Nakajo’s life with the tanka inserted at the proper
chronological intervals. Along with the biographical information of this mother
of four children, are descriptions of the beautiful island of Hokkaido, customs
of the country as well as explanations of how Fumiko used tanka and its
techniques. A sample from the book with one of Nakajo’s most famous poems:
"As one year ends and the new one begins, with fireworks in the night
sky, Fumiko, in the arms of her lover, thinks of her recent operation to have a
breast removed and her joy in her coming marriage.
yosora ni hanabi
ware wa kumanaku
overhead a sound
fireworks in the night sky
shoot up and open
can be taken
The first line oto takaku, (oto - sound, and takaku –
high in the sky), has a double meaning; the sound of fireworks is very loud and
that the fireworks open high up in the sky. This poem contains the only sexual
scene in her tanka collection. The verb ubawarete – "taken"
can mean a woman's body is "taken" by a man's so that she is taken in
passion or as "possessed" as in almost crazy. In addition, the loss of
her breast means that a part of her body has been taken away from her which adds
greatly to ephemeral aspect of fireworks. The fireworks symbolize her fleeting,
transient and ephemeral happiness, since she now knows she is fated to die
The book, beautifully made by The Japan Times Book Division also
brings the kanji versions of the poems. A timeline of Nakajo’s life in the
back of the book allows a quick overview. An essay by Jane Reichhold explains
the place of Fumiko Nakajo as a poet in Japan.
If you wish to read another review of Breasts of Snow you can read the
one published in The Japan Times written by Donald