RAISING THE BLADE

 

Collected Haiku & Tanka

1980 - 2000

 

by R. G. Rader

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ALSO BY R.G. RADER

POETRY:

Kicking the Rain (forthcoming)

Neon Shapes (1985)

S/he (1983)

 

PLAYS:

Flow

The Wind Behind Us (radio play)

Heart-Beat

Perfect Joy

The Gift of the Magi (A Stage Adaptation of OíHenryís Short Story)

Judas: A Short Meditation

 

 

Most of the hakiu & tanka in this book first appeared in the following magazines, journals, and anthologies: Brussels Sprout, Cicada (Canada), Dragonfly, The Erotic Haiku Anthology (Canada), Frogpond (Haiku Society of America), High/Coo, Inkstone (Canada), Japan Air Lines English Language Haiku Anthology, Ko (Japan), Mayfly, Modern Haiku, Wind Chimes, Zen Mountain Monastery newsletter.

 

 

For Raymond (1917-1983)

 

Sobi-shi whispers:

candle flame flickers

stays lit

 

 

For Mary-Jane & Jason - and Alex

 

 

NOTES

The haiku fly/on her breast/the summer heat was a contest winner in the Cicada Erotic Haiku contest, 1981.

S/he was first published as chapbook by High/Coo Press in 1983.

Neon Shapes was first published by Jade Mountain Press in 1985 and won a Merit Book Award from the Haiku Society of America in 1986.

The haiku fall sunset:/the faded rose tattoo/on her breast was one of two haiku awarded the Eri Nakamura Award for 1986 from the haiku journal Modern Haiku.

The two haiku bamboo cane/bending/with his limp and faint melody/of the shakuhachi/morning dew won first and second place respectively in the J.P. Humes Japanese Stroll Garden contest of the Zen Mountain Monastery in 1987.

 

 

 

Introduction

After a little more than a decade of what may appear to have been silence, R.G. Rader returns with this powerful collection, demonstrating again a mastery of the haiku genre and its related forms. He provides us with some of the poems that delighted and inspired his readers during the 1980s, and he presents a variety of new selections, which remain true to the themes and style of his earlier work.

Those of us who know Rader and respect his talent have missed him in print. This collection reminds us of the ways in which he, as poet, speaks for each of us. While the poems from Neon Shapes bring back the haunting intensity of the urban landscape, those from S/HE are enduringly intimate and suggest, through their profound sensitivity, our own special relationships. "Raising the Blade" is a recent sequence. Premiered here as the centerpiece and title work of the book, it is an evocative rendering of the psychology of suicide enhanced by meticulous attention to detail. The other poems, especially the tanka, demonstrate his versatility as well as his finely tuned perceptions of contemporary culture and the paradoxes of human experience, expressed in the mature and celebratory manner of a poet who has come to terms with life as it is.

Rader gives full weight and measure to each sparsely worded reflection, incorporating intelligence and compassion as well as verbal and metaphysical wit. His subjects deal with the spiritual and the temporal, and he achieves a musicality in his poems which is both lyrical and elegiac, communicating deeply felt and strongly assessed emotion. His poems are rich in language and sensibility and in their mindfulness of the extraordinary mystery of the ordinary.

Raderís involvement in haiku led to publication in numerous magazines and periodicals throughout the United States and abroad. He has received several awards and prizes, including a well-deserved Merit Book Award in 1985 for his collection Neon Shapes. His small press, Muse-Pie Press, established in 1980, has brought the work of many poets to the public, poets who are recipients of major book awards, fellowships in poetry, and various national and international prizes.

That Rader has been with us is best exemplified in the way he has followed his own heart and mind without the self-promotion we have come to distrust in certain writers, rather, through a long period of personal growth and spiritual development. Although his haiku have been absent from the 1990s journals, he never stopped writing them, choosing instead a process of observing, learning, and writing which did not include publication as its goal. Most importantly, he has spent the last decade teaching, acting, and writing plays to serve in other ways the value of his artistic passion. His poetry and plays reflect this time involved in other artistic endeavors. His poetry and his plays all derive from the complexity of human encounter; his is a writing in which there is no seam between the personal and the universal.

Just as Raderís longer poems and haiku are never one-dimensional, neither is the poet. He has proven time and again that his interests, achievements, commitments, and particular genius are multi-faceted. Through these characteristics, combined with an innate sincerity and generosity of spirit, he has touched the lives of many with his own. Perhaps it was an inkling of this and what was to come that attracted the attention of the eminent poet Raymond Roseliep. Correspondence between the two began early in Raderís career and resulted in the great master becoming Raderís most cherished and valued mentor, teacher, and friend; hence, the primary dedication to Sobi-Shi. Roseliepís influence, along with the influence of the wandering Japanese poet Ozaki Hosai, find form in Raderís similar but completely individual and distinctive style.

Adele Kenny
Fanwood, New Jersey
Spring 2001

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RAISING THE BLADE

BY

R.G. RADER

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NEON SHAPES

(1985)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

full

moon

in

the

bumís

glass

eye

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the bumís last few sips:

from the cathedral

a tenebrae chant

 

 

 

 

rain puddle:

the bum rinses

an apple core

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

winter wind

cigar ashes

back on the bumís coat

 

 

 

a street musician

blows taps:

the morning rush

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the muffled

church bells:

morning fog

 

 

 

 

 

 

convent garden

hands missing

from the stone virgin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

turning

to feed the starling

pigeon lady

 

 

 

 

 

 

stray dog

sniffing

the bag ladyís old shoe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

bag lady and robin

fighting over

a piece of yarn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

shop window:

she stares at herself

in a crystal vase

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

pigeon

the panhandlerís

stttttuttttter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

winter morning,

the pretzel vendor

hugs himself

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

thunder:

a newly painted

park bench

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

motorcycle

drowning out

the mockingbird

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

tapping in

the sunrise

the blindmanís cane

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

bumping

the blindman

autumn fog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

pool hall:

eight ball misses

the roach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

prostitute tapping

the car window

cold rain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

blinking

in

her

eyes

P

E
E
P

S

H
O

W

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

chalk outline

of the pimpís body:

first snowflakes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

under a full moon

the mannequinís

wink

wink

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

neon shapes

her

silhouette

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

evening snow

over the basketball court

pigeon tracks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

S/HE


(1983)

 

 

 

breaking

the sacramental loaf -

the smell of her perfume

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

fly

on her breast -

the summer heat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

hidden cave . . .

loverís hand

leads

me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

parting her

lips

to the dawn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

my tongue

exploring

the earth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

entering her

the space between

our silence

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

making love

the fly against the screen

again and again

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

at dusk

her

red lips

open

 

close

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

after

afterglow . . .

the cool breeze

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

a weed

between his teeth

their silence

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

moonlit goodbye:

neon blinks away

her shadow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

evening snow

filling her footprints

a second time

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

neon off

on

her love

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

their divorce -

we weed

the garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

hoeing her garden

the ground

around her

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

between hello

and goodbye -

her withered hands

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

lowering her coffin

the ground

full again

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RAISING THE BLADE


(a sequence)

 

 

 

 

 

her suicide threat

the silence

before thunder

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

raising the blade

to her wrist

she swats a fly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

between the pages

of her childhood scrapbook

petals of a rose

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

sleeping pills

summer morningís

mourning dove

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

in

the

shade

of

a

summer
sunset

her

shadow
disappears

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

her funeral:

faintly

the groundkeeperís lawnmower

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

after her funeral

the incessant clang

of windchimes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

a rose in bloom . . .

reflection in the eye

of the camera lens

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

JAZZ

a sequence

 

 

thunder

the

street

musicianís

 

clarinet solo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

childís fingers

chasing the k e ys

of the player piano

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

summer mist

the street musicianís

sour note

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

prostituteís shadow -

dimly blinking

the neon JESUS SAVES

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ice storm:

the male prostitute

tripping into a limousine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

pigeons mate

atop

the neon JESUS SAVES

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

evening fog -

almost missing

the neon JESUS SAVES

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

summer jazz concert:

unfolding

herfoldingfan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

street musicianís

high C

 

flutter of pigeons

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHALE

a sequence

 

 

harpoon

stretching

into the sun

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

humpback whale

bending into cloud

the red dusk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

whaleís belly

smell

of newborn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

whale ship

falling

off the horizon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

humpback

mountain

mist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

buried

in the record sleeve

humpbackís call

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

more
haiku

 

 

 

withered garden,

still within its earth

summer heat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

bamboo cane

bending

with his limp

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

faint melody

of the shakuhachi

morning dew

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

fall sunset;

the faded rose tattoo

on her breast

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

hearing

of her departure

the gullís distant cry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

archer

just missing the bullseye

summer breeze

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

no shade

but

the hawkís shadow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

after the earthquake:

on the floor of the stone church

pieces of stained glass

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

abandoned monastery:

cricket

chorus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

a bellowing laugh

tumbling

 

over

 

the

w

a
t

e

r

f

a

l

l

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

parrot

mimics

his curse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

trap . . .

again the cheese

gone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

leaving the casino -

the seagullís

cackle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

pet shop cricket:

a penny

for its silence

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

currying the horse,

flutter of a moth

under-

foot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

old farmer

snaps his suspenders . . .

fly moves an inch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

YIELD sign:

in a nearby bush

starlings mate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

pruning his rosebush -

grandfather tells us

a tall tale

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

after her garden walk

the old womanís

breathless tears

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

among the weeds

she builds a rock garden

to fill her time

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

nibbling

a tasteless berry . . .

her breasts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

cold winter night

her backward UOY EVOL I

on the steamed window

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Iím no good, she says

the house plant blossoms

in the shade

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

sunset:

morning dream

lingering

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

concrete wall . . .

my shadow

follows

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

fat woman

bends to fold her wash -

folds f

o

l

d

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TANKA

 

 

 

reading Takuboku:*

thinking

of age 15,

whistles were more

than poems then

 

 

 

 

*written on reading
Takubokuís tanka:

even whistled
in my sleep-
in fact, at 15
whistles
were my poems

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

eagle

flies from its nest

and back,

I know the going

and coming

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

entering ruins

of the farm house

a cow grazes

in the shadow

of charred rafters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

her face

a smooth white

of pearl

dulls gray

in your shadow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

never knowing

the touch

of her skin,

the misery

of this hot summer day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

hearing your voice

on the telephone

I hang up without speaking,

the insistent coo

of the mourning dove

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

after

our argument

stops,

the soothing melody

of the bluejayís cackle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

this icy night

I lie alone

in the fetal position;

the glean white

of your naked back

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the distant rhythm

of a foghorn

this summer night;

your deep-throated snore

awakens the dog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

her hair

slipping slowly

through my fingers,

without saying goodbye

this summer solstice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

back to face,

your walking away

reminds me

only

that it is autumn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


the red imprint

of her hand etched deeply

on my cheek,

a winter goodbye

worth remembering

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, so long

traveling this highway

alone---

vanishing V

of geese heading south

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

this summer night

my head

on her chest

heartbeat

slows steadily

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

chiseled

into the cedar bark

loversí initials

have leveled more trees

than most lumberjacks care to

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the mirror -

a crack running down

the middle

reflects two stares

all too familiar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

London Tanka (1996)

 

London Street preacher

in front of St. Paulís Cathedral

telling a tale of Christ ó

his eyes

seeing no one

 

 

 

 

 

 

Toy museum

a window of toy soldiers

the old man tapping

at his fond memories

of war

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Big Benís chimes

the ancient waves

of the Thames

still shudder

 

silently

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Slowly

the London canal boat

cruises ó

ripples in this city life

my own


 

 

 

 

 

 

pale light


(a tanka sequence)

 

 

sleeping

but now awake

her smile

a pale light

of the joy remaining . . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

her eyes -

mirrors of pain -

gather

into them another

dayís sunlight

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

today

her voice stilled,

half moon sitting

on her windowsill

aching

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

gone now,

her memories

planted

on my lips

will pass on

 


Book and poems Copyright © R. G. Rader 2001
You are invited to contact the author.


Published as an AHA Book Online 2001.
Read more of  AHA Books Online.

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