BOOK REVIEWS
Jane Reichhold

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Gripping the Perch by Geoffrey Daniel. Snapshots Press: 1999. Perfect bound, full-color cover, 6" x 4", 56 pp., ISBN: 0-9526773-1-8, $10.00 4.00. Order from the publisher Snapshot Press, POB 35, Sefton Park, Liverpool, L17 3EG, England.

Quietly and competently, John Barlow is changing the scene of small poems publishing in England. First he started Snapshots, a palm-sized glossy zine for haiku, which has now spawned a sister twin called Tangled Hair for tanka. In addition, Barlow has taken on book publication. Both books and magazines adhere to the same size, format, and extremely high quality of printing and book making. Each one is perfection in itself. They fit so well into the hand, the smooth papers turn like young girls on sateen sheets. Barlow knows his stuff, so the poems he accepts to publish are as first-rate as is his production.

Gripping the Perch by Geoffrey Daniel is the winner of the Snapshots Collection Competition of 1998 and if this is an indication of where this contest is going, we can expect only great things from it. Daniel's collection, containing mostly haiku, but also six tanka, has been intelligently organized to show the various attitudes and facets of Daniel's work while still entertaining the reading with excellent poems. The tanka from which the book title is taken aptly shows Daniel's skill in this genre:

 

uncurtained window
light of early morning in
the skin of her breasts
high in the winter beeches
crows' feet gripping the perch

While perhaps a beginner with the form, it seems Daniel is already able to swim in the whirlpools of consciousness to fish out marvelous, as well deeply disturbing, images. Here is an author to watch for in the future.

Check out John Barlow's website (www.mccoy.co.uk/snapshots) to see what else he is doing, or convince yourself to subscribe to Snapshots or Tangled Hair after you have sent off an order for Gripping the Perch by Geoffrey Daniel.

 

Opening Poems of Parting by Suezan Aikins. Prospect Press: 1999. Hand-tied flat spine, 8" wide by 5.5 " high, 50 pp., limited edition, $12.00 ppd. Order from Prospect Press, 26 Cove Road, Prospect, Nova Scotia, B3T - 2B2. Canada.

Just about the time I become totally enamored by (and a bit jealous of) books with such a slick production as Geoffrey Daniel's, along comes the exact opposite Suezan Aikins's Opening which unhinges all my desires. Suezan, being an artist, takes bookmaking to its ultimate end as a handmade product. To begin with are the white on white Japanese kinwashi and owara papers of the cover and end sheets which, while technically perhaps not handmade any more, give that feel and impression. The fine black linen thread tying the book together speaks volumes about love and precision and long winter evenings sewing snow-white paper. Aikins takes the text of her poems one more step toward the personal handmade book by writing the poems in her distinctive, very readable handwriting. One has the feeling the book has been made just for this reader.

In the case of Opening Poems of Parting, these methods all greatly increase the feeling of the personal nature of the collection. The poems are dedicated to an 'Abbot Rogers'. What the book does not tell you outright is, as Paul Harvey would say, the rest of the story.

Several years ago, the brother of Suezan's husband, Sam, was diagnosed with brain cancer. Upon realizing there was no one to care for him, Suezan and Sam laid aside their careers in art, left their home in Nova Scotia, to live with and care for the Abbot. As gyroscope for her feelings during this time, Suezan wrote haiku and tanka, as was her practice. The best of these poems she has carefully gathered together and now offers them a gift as white as grief.

Aikins, who has been writing tanka about as long as anybody in English, is then able, even in the difficulties of this sad task to always integrate feelings and the larger, continuing world of nature. Placed in the context of growing and unfolding of the natural realm, the process of a loved individual, collapsing and shrinking away into a memory is given sharp edges that hang in the mind as if one has made the journey with Aikins.

the inside
of my bottom lip
swollen
with the words
I bite back

Even Suezan's ink drawing on the cover expresses the whorled energies and feelings this book contains. Altogether, a very difficult, yet very rewarding task is given a substance which you can hold in your hands, read and absorb and be thankful for.

 

Kiseiki Raise the Century Das Jahrhundert Aufrichten by Hiromasa Hayashi. Koteki-kai: 1999. Perfect bound, 4 x 7, 138 pp., 1400. Order from Hiromasa Hayashi, Wakagi 2-11-18, Itabashi-ku, Tokyo, Japan.

Dr. Hayashi's tanka are better known to the readers of The Tanka Journal, the English publication from the Nihon Kajin Club in Tokyo. There, in nearly every issue are his tanka, written in kanji and romaji, and always translated into English, German and Russian. Exactly so is it in this, the third in a series of Hayashi's tanka dedicated to bringing about world peace through the appreciation and understanding of tanka. No one else, I know of, is doing so much to bring tanka poems to such a wide audience.

The grass-green cover with gold imprinting certainly gives the book a feeling of hope and up-lift as do the tanka poems. True, they incorporate the 'small moments' of daily living with a deep reverence for the greater patterns of our days, but where else can one put one's finger on the pulse of a culture? Dr. Hayashi, a practicing physician, takes the reader to the center of his family, showing us his wife and her duties, the about-to-be-married daughter with her preparations, the older granddaughter already exploring the outside world, the family pets and the street on which they live. All of this in four languages is quite a gift.

The gentle, simple, unadorned way Dr. Hayashi writes his poems comes across in his translations in which he makes no attempt to follow the kana-counts in Japanese. His translations are accurate (aside from a bit of trouble with foreign grammar and spelling) to the meanings of the lines and given in just the number of words the reader needs to understand the original. One does not feel that his poems are translations but are truly written in each language.

Raindancing by Edward Baranosky. EAB Publishing: 1999. Saddle-stapled, 8 x 5, 38 pp., no listed price. Order from 115 Parkside Drive, Toronto, Ont. M6R-2Y8, Canada.

Again, from Canada, another artist / poet book combination though different, still a very individual result. Baranosky's cover is full-color repro of a photograph of an orange cat before a row of sun-dancer crystals. Inside many of the pages contain the black and white ink drawings for which Baranosky is known his seascapes, rocks, birds and wind-blown trees.

There is an expression in the news media that if one holds an event which is not covered by the media the event never took place. The same can be said of poetry. If it is not put into a book, it never was written. Baranosky takes this message to heart and consciously makes books every so often in which he presents his current work. This time the book is titled Raindancing. One can see he has been writing haiku, tanka sequences and a new form called the glosa. It is from one of the glosa that the book takes its title. 

Tanka Splendor 1999. AHA Books: 1999. The winners of this year's awards judged by Tom Clausen. Saddle-stapled, 8 x 5, 44 pp., $7.00. AHA Books, pob 1250, Gualala, CA 95445.

I suppose you feel you know this booklet because, if you haven't been in it yourself, you have read other editions to figure out how to enter the contest. And again this year there is an essay by the judge, Tom Clausen. But wait, this year is different. Not only did Clausen do an outstanding job of picking winners (Suezan Aikins, Pamela A. Babusci, Mary Lou Bittle-DeLapa, Margaret Chula, Jeanne Emrich, Penelope A. Greenwell, Cindy Guentherman, Elizabeth Howard, Joyce Sandeen Johnson, Jean Jorgensen, Doris Kasson, Larry Kimmel, Mari Konno, Robert Kusch, Leatrice Lifshitz, Barbara Mackay, Thelma Mariano, June Moreau, Jean Rasey, Daniel Schwerin, Margaret Stawowy, David Steele, Carol Toogood, Linda Jeannette Ward, and Jeff Witkin ) but he brought heart and life to the job. From his essay one feels how it truly was to be on that side of a contest as a poet and human being. Judge Tom Clausen's tanka:

this being human
each new day choices,
chores and emotions
hands in the sinkwater and
the children call for more

Over the ten years of this contest one can see how the tanka genre has grown and developed in English. If you haven't gotten copies of the years still available ('92, '95, '97, '98 and '99) to follow this progression, I would encourage you to do so. This Tanka Splendor 1999 will be the last one published in paper.

Moving Stillness with haiku by David Samuel Bloch and blockprints by Julie Hagan Bloch. AHA Books: 1999. Hardcover with two-color dust jacket, 9 x 6, 192 pages, 27 original illustrations, $22.00 ppd. Order from Julie Bloch, R.D 1, Box 9A, Hurleyville, NY 12474 or AHA Books.

This is the fifth collaboration by this team with all new poems and prints. If you know their last four books, (the first one won a Haiku Society Merit Book Award), you will understand the situation when told they have combined seven of their newest books into one super-book. Moving Stillness is an apt title for David's energy-charged, heart-felt, humor-filled version of haiku. Writing in 5-7-5, but never narrowed by the form, Bloch explodes with vision and rejoicing. His poems sing with joy and small jokes. You can not help but feel better reading his haiku. The illustrations by Julie are the best she has ever done (I think). With new ideas and techniques she continues to expand and invigorate this art form.

Where sunlight sharpens
the dull edge of a dark cloud
- a silver sliver

Children of the Sparrow Haiku by Robert Gibson. Holly House Publications: 1999. Perfect bound, 8 x 5, 142 pp., Ink Brush drawings by Karen Klein, Foreword by Jane Reichhold, $15.95 ppd. Order from Robert Gibson, 929 "H" Street, Centralia, WA 98531.

Finally, after years of winning awards for his haiku in the Geppo, the journal of the Yuki Teikei Haiku Society and having so many published in Frogpond by the Haiku Society of America, the haiku of Robert Gibson have been collected into a book worthy of his work. The main body of the book arranges the poems according to seasons with haiku sequences and a short selection of tanka topping off the medley. Gibson has the ability to imbue the simplest images with the deepest meaning surely the penultimate haiku capability. The question is are you a good enough reader to follow him as he shows eternity in the most fleeting second?

winter sun
the man and his shadow
in the same coffin

A Foreign Guest by Ion Codrescu. Ex Ponto Press: 1999. Haiku, renku, rengay, and haibun in English and Romanian with 9 sumi-e illustrations by the author. Perfect bound, 8 x 5, 176 pp., ISBN: 973-938-81-8, US $14 (cash or check). Available from the author: Ion Codrescu, str Soveja, nr 25, Bl. V2, sc B, apt. 31; 8700 Constanta, Romania.

One summer Ion Codrescu made a journey from his native Romania to the United States at the invitation of poetry groups, galleries (to show his artwork), universities for lectures and friends to share poetry. A Foreign Guest is a journey between book covers of that impressive trip. Combining his talents for prose, haiku and collaborative genres, Codrescu makes each of his stops come alive with his memories or the works he did in collaboration with the roster of poets with whom he interacted.

From New York, to San Francisco, into the Pacific Northwest, down into the Southwest and back across the South by bus, Codrescu followed the homelands of Japanese-genre poets. A Foreign Guest is a journey through American haiku history with an artist / poet.

farewell party
a cloud moves
toward the others

the day i find poems from a desert hermitage by vincent tripi. Hand-tied, gate-cover, 44 pp., $12.00 ppd. Order from Vincent Tripi, 1725 Marion Avenue Apt. 12 - I, Novato, CA 94945.

As many of you know, a couple years ago, Tripi left the Bay Area for Tempe, Arizona. Well, he is back with his Desert Journal full of poems, sayings and haiku which he shares in the day i find. Like Tripi's other books, this one is letterpress perfect by Swamp Press in browns and golds with illustrations by Catherine Meyers always very special looking books. Filled with his dry-earth insights, in the day i find gives the feeling one is reading a very personal journal over Tripi's shoulder.

The Grand Canyon . . .
none are
completely parting

for Virginia P. Dickson

Tripi's books sell well and he does limited editions, so if you missed getting a previous one make sure you get your order in soon.

Pale Moonlight by Gerard John Conforti. Deep North Press: 1999. Saddle-stapled, 8 x 5, 32 pp., Foreword by Jane Reichhold, $8.00 ppd. Order from Charles Trumbull, 1102 Dempster St., Evanston, IL 60202-1211.

Lynx readers know Gerard Conforti from his tanka published here and his book of tanka, Now That the Night Ends. Like most of the writers of English tanka, Gerard first wrote haiku and continues to write and publish in this genre also. Charles Trumbull, in his first foray into publishing has chosen a selection of Conforti's haiku for Pale Moonlight. Eschewing the seasonal order for organizing the poems, they are arranged at first by places (Mount Loretto Orphanage and From the Mental Ward) and then, as with his tanka, in dedication to people who have deeply touched his life and love. Each of these sections functions as a sequence which binds the haiku into a glimpse into Conforti's often painful reality. It seems that as Conforti moves away from his time in these institutions, he is more easily able to write of those times with the clarity and detachment that haiku requires. Conforti is enough of a poet to know the difference between the two genres and to move confidently from one to another always exploiting the best of each of form.

Alone
he gathers all the stars
from the window bars

Andetsteds Original Plus by Don Ammons. Original Plus Publications: 1999. Perfect bound, 8.5 x 5, 72 pp., 6.00 ($15.00?) Contact the author at Sillestaftehaven 156, 5210 Odense, Denmark.

It's not often one receives a bilingual book in English and Danish. What a marvelous chance to feel one understands another language! With facing pages carrying the two versions, it is so tempting to imagine one can really understand both sides. Don Ammons, an American living in Denmark (in exile, as he puts it), whose sijo and sedoka poems Lynx readers already know, has put together a collection of his longer poems. From Andetsteds one understands better Ammon's poetic contribution. Though we may have admired his shorter poems, he is, with the longer works, it seems, more at home expanding on his ideas until they reach right down into the reader's heart.

Night Ferry

a lover's memory
trailing
brutal words
in phosphorous
bubbles

Pocket Poems #4 Haiku Poems. Edited by Yvonne Hardenbrook and Larry Smith. Bottom Dog Press: 1999. Saddle-stapled, 4 x 5 , 42 pp., $3.00. Order from Bottom Dog Press, c/o Firelands College, Huron, Ohio, 44839.

What is most amazing about this small anthology is the fact that each author is represented by a series of three haiku all printed on one page. I have long maintained that one cannot really know an author by a single haiku. But seeing what an author puts together and how they are combined is an excellent way of getting acquainted with style, capabilities and sensitivity. So cheers to the editors Yvonne Hardenbrook and Larry Smith for having the good idea of requesting that the submission haiku be in series of three. Three poems to a page and still plenty of white space left over for breathing.

The book begins with a jaunty introduction to haiku by Hardenbrook before bringing haiku by the 39 authors. On the inside cover is "Our Pocket Poems Series is dedicated to making poetry more truly accessible and thereby increasing our quality of literacy." Supported by the Ohio Arts Council the authors were paid as well as receiving five books each. Good to see haiku poets being paid!

Radijs by 't Hoge Woord is a new series of micro-books of haiku designed, and produced by Wim Lofvers, Rijsterdijk 25, 8574 VW Bakhuizen, The Netherlands. Fax / phone:0514 582083.

Measuring 'only' 2 x 2.75 inches, each little booklet contains 16 or even 32 pages. Hand-tied with exquisite cover papers (even one is a full-color illustration) these are perfect little haiku gifts to enclose with your letters. Some are all in English, as is Max Verhart's some breath, some have Dutch and English on facing pages and a few are all in Dutch. Some of the booklets have original pressings of stamps which Wim has carved. Complete tiny books with introductions, isbn's, dedications and colophons come in tiny brown envelopes to protect them on their way to your haiku friends. Knowing that a tiny book is surely as much work as a larger one, the reader can only be astound to know that Wim has already produced 15 of these miniature wonders. From Max Verhart's English-version tiny book the very large haiku:

no other sound
the church bell rings out
through the Milky Way

Because this is a project from the heart, these books are not defaced with prices. But do send a gift to Wim for a sample of his work. I can't tell you how delighted I was with these tiny books. Again, another artist / poet making a very special contribution to haiku.

Reviews are Copyright Jane Reichhold 2000.

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