A Journal for Linking Poets  

Books Reviewed:

Modern English Tanka 4, Summer 2007, Volume 1 Number 4. Edited by Denis M. Garrison with Michael McClintock, Contributing Editor. Modern English Tanka Press: Baltimore, MD, 2007.  ISBN:1932-9083. Perfect bound, 6 x 9 inches, 256 pp., $12.95 US.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Woodward

small events by W.F. Owen.   Red Moon Press:  Winchester, VA,  2007.  ISBN: 978-1-893959-62-0.  Perfect Bound, 5 x 8 inches, 64 pp., $12.00 US.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Woodward

The 5th Season. Selected, translated, and essayed by Robin D. Gill. Paraverse Press: Key Biscayne, FL, 2007.  ISBN: 978-0-9742618-9-8.  Perfectbound, 7 x 9 inches, 468 pp., $28 US.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Woodward

summer drizzles:  haiku and haibun by Bruce Ross.  HMS Press, 2005. ISBN 1-55253-63-9. Perfect Bound, 6” x 9”, 84 pp.,$10.00 US in USA/Canada; $12.00 US abroad. (Available directly from the author at: Bruce Ross, PMB 127, 11 Bangor Mall Blvd., Ste. D., Bangor ME 04401.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Woodward

The Five-Hole Flute: Modern English Tanka in Sequences and Sets. Edited by Dennis M. Garrison and Michael McClintock. Modern English Tanka Press: Baltimore, MD, 2006.  ISBN:978-0-6151-3794-0.  Perfect-bound, 6 x 9 inches, 116 pp., $13.95 US.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Woodward

The Dreaming Room: Modern English Tanka in Collage and Montage Sets. Edited by Michael McClintock and Denis M. Garrison. Modern English Tanka Press:  Baltimore, MD, 2007.  ISBN: 978-0-6151-5083-3.   Perfect bound, 6 x 9 inches, 120 pp, $17.95 US.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Woodward

Ogura Hyakunin Isshu: 100 Poems by 100 Poets.  Translated by Angelee Deodhar into Hindi.  English translation of Clay McAuley from the Virginia Text Initiative. Available from Angelee Deodhar, 1224,
Sector 42-B, Chandigarh, U.T. 160 036, India. No ISBN listed. Perfect bound, 5 ½ x 8 inches, 90 pp., free upon request from the author.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Woodward

Introduction to Cyberpoetry
An online book at
Reviewed by Jeffrey Woodward

For a Sparrow, Haiku by Jack Galmitz. Illustrated by Miroslav Masin, ISBN 978-9989-928-63-5
Published by Cultural Institution Blesok.
Reviewed by Moira Richards

 Baseball Haiku: American and Japanese Haiku and Senryu on Baseball. Edited with Translations by Cor van den Heuvel & Nanae Tamura. ISBN 978-0-393-06219-9. Published by WW Norton & Company.
Reviewed by Moira Richards

Dew Pearls: 9 x 9 tanka poems by Magdalena Dale. ISBN 973-552-73. Editura Fǎt-Frumos, Bucureşti
Reviewed by Moira Richards

Simfonie în verde,Haiku by Adina Enăchescu. ISBN 978-9989-928-63-5, Published by Cultural Institution Blesok
Reviewed by Moira Richards

Blue Smoke - a two voice improvisation. By Larry Kimmel and Sheila Windsor. Illus. by Sheila Windsor and Mark Windsor. Winfred Press, 364 Wilson Hill Road, Colrain, MA 01340 USA.Purchase Blue Smoke by Sheila Windsor and Larry Kimmel. 89 pp. 46, illus. from: Winfred Press, < for $17.00 ppd. or $20.00 ppd. outside the U.S.  OR Sheila Windsor, 72 Victoria Avenue, Worcester WR5 1ED, England. (Paypal accepted) for £12 ppd.
Review by hortensia anderson

Eos, Es Ist Rot, Überholt, Mario Fitterer, Mafora Verlag, 2007. ISBN 978-3929939-06-04.
Reviewed by Werner Reichhold

Baubles, Bangles, & Beads: Threaded Tanka. Amelia Fielden, copyright 2007. Ginninderra Press
Charmwood, AUS. ISBN: 978-1-74027-409-8. Trade paperback. 96 pages, 5.5" x 8", perfect bound
Reviewed by M. Kei

The Parsley Bed: Haiku Stories by Ken Jones.  Pilgrim Press: Cwmrheidol, /Wales, 2006.  ISBN: 978-0-9539-9014-6.  Perfect bound, 5 ¼ x 7 ½ inches, 122 pp.  Send $15; US, $17 CDN, or 15 EUR in currency notes or £7.25 in a sterling cheque directly to the author: K. Jones, Troedrhiwsebon, Cwmrheidol, Aberystwyth, Wales.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Woodward

Stallion’s Crag: Haiku and Haibun by Ken Jones. Iron Press: Cullercoats, Northumberland, England, 2003. Perfect bound, 4 x 5 ½ inches, 104 pp.  Send $15 US, $17 CDN, or 15 EUR in currency notes or £7.25 in a sterling cheque directly to the author: K. Jones, Troedrhiwsebon, Cwmrheidol, Aberystwyth, Wales, SY23 3NB, UK.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Woodward

The Embrace of Planets: 111 Haiku by Ban’ya Natsuishi.  Romanian translations by Vasile Moldovan. English, French and Italian versions by various translators. Editura Fat-Frumos:Bucharest, Romania, 2006.  ISBN: 973-552-49-1.  Perfect bound, 4 x 5 ½ inches, 90 pp., no price listed.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Woodward

Border Lands by Jim Kacian.  Red Moon Press:  Winchester, VA, 2006.  ISBN: 1-893959-58-9.  Saddle stapled, softbound, 4 x 6 inches, 68 pp., $12.00 US.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Woodward

The Salesman’s Shoes by James Roderick Burns. Modern English Tanka Press: Baltimore, MD, 2007. ISBN: 978-0-6151-4396-5. Perfect bound, 6 x 9 inches, 96 pp., $13.95 US.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Woodward

Contemporary Haibun, Volume 8. Edited by Jim Kacian, Bruce Ross & Ken Jones.  Red Moon Press:  Winchester, VA, 2007. ISBN:  1-893959-61-9. Perfect bound, 5 ¼ x 8 ¼ inches, 120 pp., $16.95 US.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Woodward

shorelines: haiku, haibun, and tanka By Kirsty Karkow, Edited by Cathy Drinkwater Better, Introduction by Beverley George, Published by Black Cat Press. Soft cover, perfect bound, 132 pp, plus ends. Trim 5 in. x 6.5 in. Cover price: $15.95. ISBN 0-9766407-5-9

Reviews of former books of Werner Reichhold
by Jeffrey Woodward



Modern English Tanka 4, Summer 2007, Volume 1 Number 4. Edited by Denis M. Garrison with Michael McClintock, Contributing Editor. Modern English Tanka Press: Baltimore, MD, 2007.  ISBN:1932-9083. Perfect bound, 6 x 9 inches, 256 pp., $12.95 US.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Woodward

Denis M. Garrison, in his lead editorial “Looking Back and Moving Forward,” celebrates with this fourth issue of Modern English Tanka the completion of the quarterly’s inaugural year, noting that over 2000 poems by 100 plus poets appear in the 1000 odd pages of the first volume. Even this reviewer confesses his awe of such numbers, of the sheer labor of the editors and of the breakthroughs, such as electronic and print-on-demand technology, that has so empowered what once operated under the somewhat patronizing name of the “small press.”

Each issue to date, while devoting most of its pages to its raison d’etre (the presentation of the best tanka in English), has reserved significant space as well for a book-review section to keep its readers apprised of the most current releases on the tanka scene and for an essay section where questions of tanka theory and criticism are debated.  Essays in MET 4 include the how-to and practical (Jean LeBlanc’s “Teaching Tanka”), the speculative and cerebral (Michael McClintock’s “Tanka in Collage and Montage Sets”) and the programmatic (Carrie Ann Thunell’s “Toward an Aesthetic for English Language Tanka”).The limits of a review forbid my engagement in a thorough discussion of the expository prose merely cited here, but some brief comments on contributing editor Michael McClintock’s “Tanka in Collage and Montage Sets:  Multivalence, Duende and Beyond” may be of service in rendering to the reader who is unfamiliar with prior issues of MET  the tenor and level of the critical debate in its pages.  While the importation of the Spanish aesthetic of duende strikes me as wholly gratuitous in relation to tanka, McClintock’s effort to establish a critical vocabulary for the phenomena exhibited in tanka sets is laudable and his prose concise and clear. On one of the key concepts of the essay, for example, McClintock quotes Garrison’s definition

"… the term “multivalency” refers to “the property of words to react to one another, interact with one another, to be fungible and suggestive. A multivalent tanka is one with dreaming room.”  To this vital kernel of thought I would add this extrapolation: I think the presence … of “multivalency” is what gives a tanka the power to combine with other tanka, or with other short forms, to form larger structures …"  (p. 17)

 From this “kernel,” McClintock turns his attention to formulating definitions for what he terms tanka collage, “an assemblage of tanka with other short forms … intended as an aesthetic whole (p. 21),” and  tanka montage, being “two or more tanka composed or arranged as a set, intended as an aesthetic whole….(p. 21)”  McClintock further stresses the aesthetic autonomy of every  tanka in the set, that is, the unity of each tanka as a complete poem  when removed from the sequence. Employing analogies with other art forms -- the plastic arts (collage), in this case, and cinema (montage) -- has been a favorite diversion of poets for ages but analogies rarely afford an equation. A brief consideration of the elements of collage only will call into question the application by McClintock of the term here. Visual collage is not concerned only or even predominately with combining “forms” (the essayist refers to an “assemblage” of tanka with haiku, sijo and so on) but with often disparate materials -- wood, paper, stone, fabrics --- and with the alteration and re-contextualization of these “found items.” Granted that bald fact, McClintock’s peculiar use of the term is of dubious value, for the combination of tanka and other short verse-forms really has nothing in common with the juxtaposition of materials and textures or the shock of discovering a discarded or “found” item in an entirely alien and aesthetic context.
What of the many tanka herein? With nearly 60 poets presented in MET 4, one easily anticipates a wide variety of style and quality and one’s expectations are abundantly met. One finds tanka stripped down to the bare essentials, poems that strike closer to the sketch of haiku than to the larger canvas of traditional waka:

I plan
to meet no one
in the space

Sanford Goldstein
    (p. 73)

a foolish
lovely thing,

Gary LeBel 
                    (p. 104)

The reader will discover tanka that very craftily meet or approximate the standard 5-7-5-7-7 structure such as this graceful vignette by Patricia Prime -- very quietly balanced upon such subtle slant rhymes as “desk / sex” -- which might inspire one to complete the proto-narrative with any number of denouements.

the lamp is in place
by the notes on the desk
for a short story
that tells of forbidden love
a tale of perfect sex

Patricia Prime
           (p. 140)

The reader may discover Terra Martin -- a new voice, hitherto unheard, but one that speaks with an elegance and charm that domesticates nature in a manner not dissimilar to the writings of the women in the Kokin Shu or Shinkokin Shu:

summer slowly
opens her kimono
to reveal
the peony blossoms’
fragrant dew

Terra Martin 
             (p. 113)

Or, again, the reader may turn the page and be startled by the breathless enjambment of Annette Mineo’s tanka and share in the poet’s eagerness to reach the climax of its dramatic imagery:

how boyish
to tease the swan with
your fake gesture
of food so he rears up and
splashes his great white desire

Annette Mineo
          (p. 122)

             Modern English Tanka, under one year of guidance by Garrison and McClintock, establishes itself as the premier journal of  tanka in English. No other journal rivals either its catholicity of taste or its in-depth coverage of the contemporary tanka scene. One looks forward to its sophomore season with great delight.



small events by W.F. Owen.   Red Moon Press:  Winchester, VA,  2007.  ISBN: 978-1-893959-62-0.  Perfect Bound, 5 x 8 inches, 64 pp., $12.00 US.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Woodward

This collection of fifty haibun exhibits a predominately retrospective point-of-view and nostalgic tone while the book’s title, small events, accurately highlights W.F. Owen’s fascination with the mysteries of the quotidian.

Owen employs varied prose styles but two predominate:  first, a matter-of-fact anecdotal narrative which is relaxed and freely admits the demotic speech of a familial storyteller or neighborhood raconteur; second, an expressionistic paragraph of elevated diction and rhythm which largely eschews punctuation and heightens tension by running, breathlessly, from beginning to end. The first has deep roots in American oral folklore and literature (Anderson, Hemingway, Steinbeck and Saroyan); the second is reminiscent in places of Kerouac, in others of Faulkner. To indicate, within the limits of a review, the power of which Owen is capable in either style, let me cite one sterling example of each.  In the haibun, “dog tags” (p. 45), the casual and understated relation of an anecdote intensifies the tragic and serious subject under discussion with startling economy:

“A friend tells me that his brother’s dog tags were among hundreds found on a recent trip to Vietnam by two Florida businessmen.  His brother was listed MIA after his helicopter was shot down during the 1968 Tet Offensive. Stamped into the metal tags are his name, serial number, and blood type. The businessmen bought over 600 of the tags in the back alley shops of Ho Chi Minh City. Some cost just a few pennies.

his brother’s dog tags
found after thirty years
washing off foreign soil"

An exemplar of Owen’s expressionistic run-on style with the subtle complexities and fluid undertones of which it is capable when deftly used would be the haibun entitled “clothesline” (p. 38):

"In the backyard strung like half-cooked spaghetti between rusted poles I return semi-stiff and bleached white holding and being held the connective tissue of family and neighbors born from the despair of rolling blackouts baking in longer days casting broken shadows on a wilted lawn like Mercator lines on an antique globe artificially carving the land -- joining it -- these towels are my flags of white and stripes faded and new raised and pinned by early light to a reveille of sparrows lowered at dusk by mourning doves I am a throwback to decades before homeowner associations archaic like five-cent Coke in hourglass bottles ten cent movies with all-day suckers real buttered popcorn and giant dill pickles a time when newspapers were only black and white.

summer wind
a dragonfly grips
the clothespin

Owen here takes full advantage of his associational method, often employing a clause in his prose with the purposeful ambiguity commonly reserved for a “pivot word” in haiku. The relation of prose to haiku as well is neither too close nor too distant, adding resonance and depth to the work as a whole. Owen’s obsession with the revelatory properties of the commonplace, whether of an immediate present or distant past, betrays its limits in the exclusively autobiographical character of this volume. Even where the author apparently departs from his own life and experiences, the haibun in question, upon closer examination, can be read within the first person context.  Such is the case with what might be called two ‘found haibun’ -- entries respectively upon the death of a condor (“adult condor no. 8,” p. 32) and the unidentified body of a Native
American in a morgue (“02-827,” p.51) -- apparently based upon local news events. The flat journalistic reportage, in each case, is shadowed by an intimately personal haiku. The dead condor, for example, receives this ironic colophon:

clear skies
watching the salmon spawn
with my adopted son

Owen’s most imaginative and radical venture away from his own person does not demonstrate his talent at its best. The haibun at issue, “quake” (p. 37), finds a personified city of San Francisco addressing the reader:  “1906, I am burning.  Children running, crying, pushed together like cordwood around Lotta’s Fountain …. Stay away from my buildings!  The liquefied ground eats some, but others are shedding bricks …..”  Happily, the haiku that serves as postscript sheds this ill-conceived and verbose preface:

the picture on the wall

While the author, whether upon a determined aesthetic or personal affinity,  restricts his haibun largely to the realm of  autobiography, limits can constitute not only  weaknesses but strengths. Owen, within the narrow compass he has chosen, writes crisply and evocatively, thus instilling in his reader  his own sense of the marvelous within the everyday.

Haibun in English, even more so than haiku, renku or haiga, has few, if any, hard and fast rules. That Basho did not devote himself to haibun seriously until late in his life and never sought to formulate rules for its composition is an historical fact that may account for the questionable status of haibun in English. This same circumstance also accounts for a similar lack of strict aesthetic definition of the genre in Japanese literature.  No better proof of this might be cited than to point to the dearth of accomplished haibun practice among the immediate disciples of Basho, to say nothing of succeeding generations of Japanese haijin.

Reading Owen’s collection, one is granted a kaleidoscopic view of his childhood in Texas, his military service and stint as a scuba instructor in Hawaii, his later career as an educator in California as well as being introduced, albeit briefly, to his intimate friends and family members.  The reader, in short, leaves this book with a close acquaintance with its author.

The book is tastefully designed, like every Red Moon publication I have examined, with an attractive cover and nicely balanced typography that makes for both a legible and attractive text.  Such production values honor the good work of the author and make small events a bargain for any reader interested in the future of English-language haibun.


The 5th Season. Selected, translated, and essayed by Robin D. Gill. Paraverse Press: Key Biscayne, FL, 2007.  ISBN: 978-0-9742618-9-8.  Perfectbound, 7 x 9 inches, 468 pp., $28 US.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Woodward

Robin D. Gill, in this initial contribution to his encyclopedic In Praise of Olde Haiku (IPOOH), announces his ambitious design for a 10 volume series, with two titles devoted to each haikai season (New Year, spring, summer, autumn and winter) and twenty individual topics covered in each volume, for a total of 200 topics overall. The 468 pages of The 5th Season, therefore, represent only half of the projected material on the New Year season alone.

Gill, however, is quick to disavow any notion that he is compiling a saijiki or haiku almanac:  “IPOOH is too limited to be called a proper saijiki, because only 200 themes (40 per season) would be insufficient to fully flesh-out the year even if they were chosen for their importance, which they are not (p.19).” Gill proceeds to explain that the limitation is self-imposed and that he aimed at an in-depth survey with many haiku on a few chosen themes as against a cursory overview with few haiku on many themes. The compass of a book review will not allow a through survey or even a broad overview of Gill’s stated design for the entire project.  What can be done, however, is to comment upon one chapter -- one, that is to say, of the book’s twenty themes.  I choose, randomly, Chapter 13, “First Dream,” and will focus only on its opening illustrations and Gill’s commentary (pp. 291-298). Gill’s format mirrors that in Blyth’s Haiku: commentary as well as occasional editorializing, some translated haiku, further comments, and yet more haiku. If Gill’s general model is Blyth, Gill shares something of Blyth’s maverick style and iconoclastic manner:  his scholarship and broad reading as well as a cozy self-assuredness and quirky impatience with opinions that contradict his own.

The opening of Gill’s discussion of the “first dream” of the New Year, conventionally viewed as a foreshadowing of the year to come, begins as follows:

“The treasure ship (takarabune) was two things; first, an imaginary entity, a huge boat full of wealth and magical devices, and, second, a picture of the same sailing toward you, placed under the bed or pillow as a charm for propitious New Year’s dreams…”  (p. 291)

Following this fairly factual preface, Gill turns to the consideration of some twenty or more haiku on the motif of the treasure ship, many of the haiku being offered in multiple alternate translations. Perhaps one example of Gill’s method will suffice to convey the peculiar flavor of his style, the presentation, in this instance, of a haiku by Sh ha:

yagotonaki ippitsu kaki ya takarabune
(extraordinary/elegant one-brush [jotted]-drawn:/! treasure-ship)

Following the romaji transliteration and literal translation above, Gill offers the following versions with commentary. 

treasure ship
and the brush-stroke
has no end

how important
this drawing in one stroke
my treasure ship

one brush stroke
this is the real thing
a treasure ship

"First of all, yagotonaki (more commonly yangotonaki) means something done because it cannot be helped, so I imagined Sh ha, having forgotten to buy a charm, drawing his own:

having no choice
dashed out in a brush-stroke
my treasure-ship

ah, the elegance
of a treasure-ship drawn
with one stroke

Looking up the term, I also found connotations of extraordinary and elegant. Hence, the additional reading. But, the Chinese characters by which it is written … do evoke a drawing made without stopping to replenish the ink. I have been amazed to find Japanese calligraphy that seems to have been created by what we might call a fountain-brush.  There is magic in a brush that never leaves the paper until its work is done. (Note: I have two letters from Shirakawa Shizuka, Japan’s leading expert on Chinese characters and his ball pen (not brush!) never leaves the paper -- the complex characters resemble tornados! -- In case you wonder why I wrote him, it was to obtain his opinion about a Shi-ching poem where Waley and Pound have a woman delighted to have rolled a man in the dew, while Japanese translators have the sexes reversed.) It is a good way to draw pictures with your eyes closed. Be that as it may, there is a good chance Sh ha may be praising his friend Buson’s drawing rather than describing what he did."  (p. 293)

This excerpt, rather lengthy for the discussion of one haiku, is fairly characteristic of the author’s proceedings throughout this book.  The reader gathers immediately that Gill’s interests and studies are wide, for the introduction of a seventeen-syllable verse prompts Gill to digress upon a philological point, to shift from the factual observation of the presence of Chinese characters in the text to a further parenthesis upon Japanese calligraphy in general, to veer yet again to a personal anecdote regarding the author’s possession of the marvelous cursive of a Japanese scholar, to turn slightly farther away from the haiku yet in explaining why he first queried the scholar upon a Pound and Waley version of a Chinese text and to return, at last, to poor Sh ha only to reflect that the haijin’s intent, after all, may only have been to praise the art of his friend Buson.

             I admire the author’s display of learning but his digressive mode -- worthy of Tristram Shandy -- is neither conducive to clarity nor instructive for the general reader who, not knowing, for example, whom Buson  might be, is suddenly introduced to him  without any forewarning. Gill’s reading is expansive and impressive at times, if one can tolerate his many stylistic idiosyncrasies --- his insistent digressions, his typographical whims, his delight in and indulgence of his eccentricities. I can recommend the book to the prospective reader -- with that one proviso in mind.



summer drizzles:  haiku and haibun by Bruce Ross.  HMS Press, 2005. ISBN 1-55253-63-9. Perfect Bound, 6” x 9”, 84 pp.,$10.00 US in USA/Canada; $12.00 US abroad. (Available directly from the author at: Bruce Ross, PMB 127, 11 Bangor Mall Blvd., Ste. D., Bangor ME 04401.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Woodward

Bruce Ross, well-known author of the haiku manual How to Haiku (2002) and editor of the popular anthologies Haiku Moment (1993) and Journey to the Interior (1998), divides this latest collection of his own  writings evenly between an introductory  section of 50 haiku and a closing section of 18 haibun. “Gone in Sleep” provides a ready entry into the world of Ross’s haibun.

The prose opens briskly and objectively while adopting a tone appropriate to a tour guidebook:  “Chicago, for all its breathtaking skyscrapers and densely multi-racial population, lacks the hustle, bustle, and buzz of New York City …” This breeziness proves deceptive, however, for only two sentences later the poet introduces his true subject which is not a world-class city but something much closer at hand:

“Chicago features clean streets, with only a few of its homeless
visible. Just outside a breakfast place was one of them he looked up at me from his seated position with bright eyes and the most dazzling smile I had ever seen, as if a light had gone on in him, as if I were his best friend but I walked by and into the place, to return to the street only after breakfast.

a warm breeze
the beggar’s dazzling smile
gone in sleep”                                
(p. 77)

The chatty and easy-going prose assumes a powerfully ironic tenor in the stark contrast between a breakfast establishment and the street, a comfortable visitor from out-of-town and a homeless resident. 

Meanwhile, the earlier perception of the poet, “he looked up at me … as if I were his best friend,” can now be rejected as having no more substance than the “warm breeze” in which the “dazzling smile” of the homeless man and his illusory friendship with the poet is definitively dissolved, “gone in sleep.”

Occasionally, like most writers, Ross allows his emotive investment in a motif to override his critical judgment. “Old Stone Walls” is instructive in this regard:

“The long abandoned monastery lies in the hills of western Portugal.  We wind our way single file through the narrow, low passageways, entering the various living areas in turn, with bowed torsos. In a courtyard we are told that one of the monks’ vows was not to write or speak anything unless it was as beautiful as silence. I linger in one corridor and almost melt into the stillness.

monk’s quarters
light and shadows
on the stone walls"

This clear and precise paragraph depicts a very colorful scene, indeed, and imbues it with much atmosphere, until one, led by Ross, enters the courtyard.  There, the relation of a vow “not to write or speak anything unless it was as beautiful as silence” induces the poet to “linger in one corridor and almost melt into the stillness.” 

Objective detachment is abandoned and the sentimental phrase “almost melt” -- motivated, perhaps, by an uncritical acceptance of the conventional equation of silence equals beauty -- is allowed to damage what would otherwise be one of the collection’s finer haibun.

This criticism points less to any shortcoming in Ross as a poet than to the inherent difficulties of the haibun genre in which a single writer must master and wed two opposing modes of discourse:  prose and verse. This act is akin to that of walking on a trapeze wire where one may more readily fall than cross safely.

One final haibun, “Winter Desert,” may illustrate, by positive contrast with the above, this author’s range. Here, the reader discovers Ross on the Arizona-Mexico border in the Tohono O’odham Reservation:

“Mile after mile, the desert landscape, uniquely covered with giant cactus, saguaro, organ pipe, senita, some forty feet fall …. The fantastically shaped saguaro take on human form: two large cactus arms held up in prayer, a big, and little saguaro, parent and child, spine-to-spine, the arms of a cactus twisted in ecstatic dance. The cactus have survived to their own ends in this place and the Indians have made peace with this.

as close together
the stand of saguaro
Indian gravestones” 
                        (p. 67)

Ross’s independent haiku, while centered upon nature, often limit their ambition to objective description. Concise and exacting descriptive writing is not easy to attain by any means but were haiku criticism, like figure skating or diving, to admit the concept of “degree of difficulty” (perhaps it should!), description would be on the low end of that scale as compared to the symbolic, the metaphorical -- the haiku, in short, that conceals an entire universe beneath its simple descriptive veneer.

These haiku show how ably Ross can present his subject:

singing its heart out
to no one in particular
morning blackbird 
(p. 10)

seaside motel
the only window
filled with fog  
                                    (p. 55)

Each poem is clearly constructed and would likely prove acceptable to any haiku editor. Nor is there anything precisely to fault. Ross’s contentment with deft surface description is everywhere on display. 

The critical difference between such “free-standing haiku” and the haiku that Ross employs in his haibun, perhaps, lies in the broader context of the haibun’s prose. There, his descriptive haiku freely adopt new connotations and, reciprocally, add depth and resonance to the paragraphs in which they are embedded. Ross, on occasion, promises more

off center
the empty clay pot
beside the doorstep
                         (p. 36)

but close examination of this arresting but enigmatic artifact reveals no means to penetrate its world.  The reader is in want of the fuller context that Ross, with his excellent haibun prose, provides.

             summer drizzles is neatly, if plainly, produced with a simple black drawing on the cover and with legible type. It is an interesting read and well worth the price, especially for the student of the quiet, but growing haibun movement.



The Five-Hole Flute: Modern English Tanka in Sequences and Sets. Edited by Dennis M. Garrison and Michael McClintock. Modern English Tanka Press: Baltimore, MD, 2006.  ISBN:978-0-6151-3794-0.  Perfect-bound, 6 x 9 inches, 116 pp., $13.95 US.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Woodward

             Michael McClintock, in an “Afterword…” to The Five-Hole Flute, proposes as “the singular niche and role” of tanka in English its potential “…to introduce into English literature a kind of short poetry that fully measures up to the achievements of the more traditional, longer poetic forms. Tanka appears ready to accomplish this by, first, peeling away the extraneous, and non-essential and, secondly, unlike the haiku, with its inherent and peculiar limitations, by giving full play to the majority of devices available for poetic expression in English” (p. 100).

             The Five-Hole Flute, with 33 sequences by a baker’s dozen of contributors, fairly demonstrates McClintock’s optimism for the growth of this genre. Diversity in structure is everywhere in evidence with collaborative sequences by two and three poets, cinquain sequences, composite tanka and haiku sequences and even tanka ‘sonnets.’

             Some flavor of the stylistic variety in this anthology might be conveyed by comparing three of the volume’s most ambitious works:  Dennis M. Garrison’s “Last Run to Eden,” McClintock’s  “Peaceable Men” and Pamela Miller Ness’ “Limbs of the Gingko.”

Garrison’s sequence relives or reinvents a youthful journey by train, a wistful one at that, with intimations of the  intimacy and final absence of a lover.

 “… Each train I’m not on /  seems like / the last run to Eden,” the poet says in setting a bleak  plains scene, but then

westbound at last
all I own in a duffel bag
breathing different air
I leave far more
than Iowa behind"
                              (p. 20)

Each subsequent tanka advances the action episodically until, with the incontrovertible realization of loss, Garrison powerfully contrasts the prairie’s broad vacancy with that of the loved one’s face:

heading home
for a funeral of sorts
riding the rails
across a golden prairie
windblown and empty

night train
passing in flashes
your face
for an instant
a dark mirage
                                    (p. 22)

             “Peaceable Men” is prefaced by McClintock with a quotation from the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, “Each thing is of like form from everlasting and comes round again in its cycle” (p. 45), a conventional formulation of the ancient cyclical as versus the modern linear view of history.  The direct reference to Aurelius signals to the reader the likelihood that a meditative poem is to follow and, indeed, McClintock’s sequence of 26 tanka proceeds in exactly that fashion, marrying, in its meandering way, both the public and private aspects of a modern life. 

 “Peaceable men say / ‘war solves nothing,’” McClintock begins, and  “one wonders / whose ashes still silt / the rivers of Europe.” With  that introductory tanka, the reader is launched into the complexities  of an urbane and modern life, a life wherein the boundaries between  public and private often blur or vanish:

to remind me
of the way things really are
in this world,
by the house I keep some pots
empty, to catch the rain” 
                 (p. 45)

The poet’s cognizance of social deprivation, “of the way things really are / in this world,” suddenly gives way before unfavorable judgment of an old friend:

my poet friend
becomes a monk again,
changing his name,
moving away --
the same old shit 
                             (p. 46)

There are striking personal moments and lucid vision:

when you told me the truth
there was that part of yourself
that came with it,
that I then owned,
bright as the day
                               (p. 47)

Yet even in such intimate moments, “the way things really are” is never wholly lost and one senses that any temptation to withdraw automatically calls forth from this poet, at least, an invitation to the public world to intrude:

wanting to go
into my room
and be alone, yet
leaving the door
open a crack
                                     (p. 50)

             In “Limbs of the Gingko,” a four-part sequence of 30 tanka, Pamela Miller Ness mourns the slow descent of her father, a scholar of American Literature, into dementia, a nursing home placement, and death. The sustained elegiac note as well as the intricate architectonics lends to this work by Ness a greater degree of formality than is possessed by the confessional voice of Garrison or the meditative voice of McClintock:

We feed the ducks
you & I
the laughing little boy you
have begun to become
                   (p. 59)

That tanka invites the reader to “Part I: Alzheimer’s Waltz” and introduces, without hesitation, the theme of loss. Later, in “Part III: A Pattern of Lace,” the nursing home confinement, memory loss and death are presented episodically in two tanka with only one “background” or atmospheric poem intervening:

Late summer sun
through your window
In your empty eyes, all
the words we’ve said…
                    (p. 64)

your clothes from the Home
I uncover
my unopened envelope.
Autumn’s end. 
                                  (p. 65)

             Other excellent work graces this important anthology: Amelia Fielden’s “A Season in Ube,” Garrison’s “How Stone Is Made” and “Heaven and Earth, Horatio” or Sanford Goldstein’s “downtown: a  quarter-note string.”

Isn’t one common aspect of poetic vanity, East and West, to anticipate and to defeat the inexorable approach of physical dissolution by living and breathing eternally through one’s art? Let  the philosophical sobriety of the opening tanka of McClintock’s “Aegean,” then, serve as a colophon for this groundbreaking collection:

closing my book --
I note how the clock has moved
remorselessly away
from the time the day was whole
and I was immortal 
                          (p. 54)



The Dreaming Room: Modern English Tanka in Collage and Montage Sets. Edited by Michael McClintock and Denis M. Garrison. Modern English Tanka Press:  Baltimore, MD, 2007.  ISBN: 978-0-6151-5083-3.   Perfect bound, 6 x 9 inches, 120 pp, $17.95 US.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Woodward

Michael McClintock, in his preface, informs the reader that this anthology constitutes “a companion volume to The Five-Hole Flute.” The sub-title of this book is explained by the co-editor, McClintock, when he defines a tanka collage as “an assemblage of tanka with other short forms” and tanka montage as “two or more tanka composed or arranged as a set (p.10).” It may be most efficient to follow this editorial lead, then, and look at representative samples of “collage” and “montage” respectively.

Turning, first, to “collage” then, Margarita Engle’s “Teacup” (pp. 47-48) affords an arresting example wherein tanka and haiku alternate in a “call-and-response” structure reminiscent of tribal and folk music:

the pathway

journey’s end
the glazed clay
in my hands
remembers the heat
of a kiln

Michael McClintock’s “The Ibis” (p. 86) relies upon the understated association of various images to achieve a quiet elegiac unity:

where three drowned
the living water
sparkles in the morning

once I was young
and once at Lake Okeechobee
spring arrived
winter-thin and very late
with an ibis in the willow

a perfect bird
come to earth from soaring
the halls of air alone --
that is how I saw you,
that is how I loved you

Turning now to what McClintock defined as tanka montage, i.e., the assemblage of two or more tanka, Jeanne Emrich, in “Like a Seal Woman” (pp. 37-38), skillfully constructs an elliptical sequence by loosely adopting the Celtic legends of the Selchies, the seal people, who may change shape, shed skin and live as humans.

almost winter …
like a seal woman
I want only to slip
out of my skin and
call myself “she”

Her work acquires a visionary quality and high lyric intensity in such moving passages as

an ambulance
arrives in winter darkness --
I try to remember
what was sworn to me
by grasses, by clouds

Less tightly woven together as a unit, but similar to Emrich in its subtle nuances and fine rhythms, is Gary LeBel’s “Splendid Arrows” (pp. 77-78). From the tenderness and intimacy of

in the child’s hair
and winter woolens,
how much sweeter
could it be,
the scent of an acre?

to the cool reserve and objectivity of

like splendid arrows
aimed at earth’s center,
cormorants dive
into the thick brown slurry
of the tainted river

LeBel, within the narrow compass of five tanka, deftly shifts the character, pace and tone of his voice with the finesse of a master ventriloquist.

The compass of a review allows for only the broadest survey of an anthology and this limitation is further exacerbated by the nature of the matter here collected. Extracts from a sequence cannot do justice to the  author.  There are many other excellent titles herein by authors that tanka aficionados have come to love and respect, e.g., Sanford Goldstein, Beverly George, and Larry Kimmel. There are also a handful of sequences  by Tom Clausen, Robert Hill Long and Denis M. Garrison, in particular, that are worthy of close reading but whose length (up to 40 tanka  in the instance of Tom Clausen’s confessional “A Work of Love,” (pp. 20-29) precludes discussion here.

The Dreaming Room, with its tasteful design and even editing standards, can be highly recommended as a needed addition to the personal library of tanka writers and lovers of tanka everywhere.



Ogura Hyakunin Isshu: 100 Poems by 100 PoetsTranslated by Angelee Deodhar into Hindi.  English translation of Clay McAuley from the Virginia Text Initiative. Available from Angelee Deodhar, 1224,
Sector 42-B, Chandigarh, U.T. 160 036, India. No ISBN listed. Perfect bound, 5 ½ x 8 inches, 90 pp., free upon request from the author.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Woodward

Ogura Hyakunin Isshu100 Waka by 100 Poets compiled by Fujiwara no Teika in the 13th century, is a critical document in the history of Japanese literature. Donald Keene asserts that the small anthology “constituted the basic knowledge of Japanese poetry for most people from the early Tokugawa period until very recent times…. Teika was the arbiter of the poetic tastes of most Japanese even as late as the twentieth century.”

Angelee Deodhar, who translated Teika’s classic from the Virginia Text Initiative English version into Hindi, has undertaken the laudable task of educating readers of Hindi in Japanese literature. This single-minded and disciplined project by Dr. Deodhar now includes three volumes. Two collections of haiku -- If Someone Asks: Masaoka Shiki’s Life and Haiku, and Classic Haiku: A Master’s Selection -- preceded the current text.

I confess an ignorance of Hindi and apologize to the translator of Ogura Hyakunin Isshu for that limitation.  Since I have no competence to judge the fidelity of Dr. Deodhar’s translation to the original or the poetic craft displayed in her Hindi version, I invite the readers of Hindi to study and give me their versions of three waka.

Even for a time
Short as a piece of the reeds
In Naniwa’s marsh,
We must never meet again:
Is this what you are asking me?

-- Lady Ise (p. 7)


To the dim cottage
Overgrown with thick-leaved vines
In its loneliness
Comes the dreary autumn time:
But there no people come.


-- The Monk Egyo (p. 16)

Is it forever
That he hopes our love will last?
He did not answer.
And now my daylight thoughts
Are as tangled as my black hair.


-- Lady Horikawa (p. 27)

The book itself is attractively produced with a sturdy red-and-white perfect bound cover that reproduces a portrait of Fujiwara no Teika against a decorative floral background. The English and Hindi versions face each other, on opposite pages, with a spacious distribution of three tanka per page. All printing and shipping charges in this educational project of Angelee Deodhar’s are personally underwritten by the translator and members of her family, a testimony to the good Doctor’s love of and commitment to Japanese poetry. Copies are distributed freely. Her selfless and continuing effort is deserving of
financial support, either via a private foundation or governmental agency. Hopefully, some enlightened party, whether at home in India or abroad, will step forward to insure this translator’s ability to continue her good work.


Introduction to Cyberpoetry
An online book at
Review/Preface by Jeffrey Woodward

How rarely do we discover in one person the combined gifts of the artist and poet? The Tang landscape painter Wang Wei, the Edo literati-painter Yosa Buson, the Renaissance sculptor Michelangelo, the Romantic engraver William Blake or the Dadaist sculptor and collagist Hans Arp –  few other names come to mind. Werner Reichhold's early educational background and training in Hamburg and Berlin – in a Germany still overshadowed by the great war, foreign occupation and reconstruction – centered upon the fine arts. From 1955-1995, in group and individual exhibitions, his reputation was primarily that of a professional artist. He came to poetry gradually it seems, during a long process of maturation and in an adopted homeland – California. The rarity of such gifts might be further weighed with the knowledge that his poetry is a consequence not only of removal to an alien environment but also of immersion in a second language –English. The artist's long-time marriage to an accomplished American sculptor, ceramicist, and poet, Jane Reichhold, may have eased this transition somewhat.

The parallels between the creative life of the author of Cyberpoetry and that of his elder countryman, Hans Arp, are quite remarkable in this respect. Both men first received recognition for their sculpture, though Hans often publicly stated that he was a poet first, an artist second – a formulation, perhaps, inverted for Werner. Both men wrote poetry in their native German as well as in an adopted tongue –
French for Hans, English for Werner. Both men benefited from a long marital collaboration with another artist – Hans with Sophie Tauber, Werner with Jane. I queried the poet about these similarities and was delighted to discover that in Hamburg in 1953, as a youthful twenty-eight year-old art student, he made the acquaintance of Arp, with whom he felt a true affinity and the famous artist kindly showed a personal interest in his early drawings.

If I have dwelt at length upon the poet's fine arts' training, career, and affiliations, I have done so only to emphasize that, from the large drawings and installations to the poetic language of the printed page, there is a marked continuity in the work of this man. The line in his drawings, for example, is rapid and forever shifting, the hand and eye allowing chameleon-like transformations as well as a repeated return to certain motifs, only representational in passing, that hints at personal obsession. A close reading of his poetry demonstrates a similar nervous energy, an unwillingness to admit of any fixed referent – a contextual environment, in other words, as susceptible to immediate and constant permutation as is the artist's graphic line. Haiku and tanka are the two poetic forms most often recognizable in Werner Reichhold's work, though he is scarcely a practitioner of either form in a rigidly traditional sense. Haiku and tanka are employed, instead, along with free-verse, prose, ghazals, dialogues and even riddles, as foundational elements or building blocks of the larger compositions that he designates as inter-genre sequences (the use, in one text, of these many differing compositional structures) or symbiotic sequences (similar heterogeneous texts but framed with one or more collaborators).To state the above, however, is neither to dismiss nor excuse the poet's haiku and tanka styles. Let us look closely at two haiku for
sake of illustration:

summer is hiding
                   in a single cloud
                   her absence

  From "Unnamed Visible" (1993)

on our plate
                 a painted swan takes off
           the white of porcelain

  From "Swim of a Narrative" (2001)

The sensory perceptions are sharp and the language craftily framed. Ambiguity and paradox tempt the reader with an array of possible meanings. The haikai spirit of casual effort and playfulness dominate.  I offer these observations to dissuade representatives of haiku orthodoxy from any easy dismissal of the poet's individual style as idiosyncratic. He writes in the manner that he does, in brief, not by accident or ineptitude but by design. That he can write a perfectly sound and traditional haiku is evident from the examples above.

              The defender of a poet may easily prove to be his betrayer as well. I've cited two of Reichhold's "haiku" in isolation, having forcibly torn them from the sequences in which they appear. No representation, in fact, could be more unfair to this particular poet's stated aims. The subtitle of this book, after all, is inter-genre sequences, and not selected or collected poems.
              An excellent introduction to the poet's methods and concerns is afforded by an early symbiotic sequence written with his wife Jane, "Blackbird Shadowing the Barbaric" (1993). Here, after the Baroque manner, the sixth stanza of Wallace Stevens' celebrated poem, "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird," is appropriated and playfully glossed by Werner and Jane, the initial word of each "3 liner" being determined by a borrowing from Stevens' stanza. The work as a whole adopts the form of linked verse, with an alternation of three and two verse units, but without any concern for the requirements of moon or blossom stanzas, seasonal words or any of the other major or minor arcana of this highly regulated art. The outer form of renga is employed but emptied of its conventional contents. Hence, one would not be too far astray in describing this practice as a cannibalization of form. One sees three collaborators at work here: the passive text of Stevens, now "reconstructed" and recontextualized, with that of the voices of two living poets.
Where adherence to haiku or tanka conventions is largely illusory, where the semblance of these forms lies only in the retention of their standard lineation of three or five lines, one may perceive a logical aesthetic progression from the usurping of the outer form for new purposes, as in "Blackbird Shadowing the Barbaric," to what only a few years later, in "On Stage" (1995) and "In One Space Chill of a Split"
(1996), is transformed into a desire to animate the now vacant and static typographical form by simultaneity and a multiplication of variable readings of a text.
              How is this achieved?  In standard haiku or tanka, multiple readings (or what was classically termed "surplus meaning") result largely from an understated and fragmentary text, from ambiguity that is derived from restraint, limitation and design. The nonce form that is explored in these two titles – a form that Reichhold dubs a helix, for "the poem can be read both ways, first vertically and also horizontally" – seeks to expand contextual relations exponentially.

garden tendrils                                  characters
growing they become                       trapped
part of the house                               within their stream

snake skin bent                                 the pair
a laughter moves it                            making eggs
shedding                                          alike

Earlier this year, "Hours on My Path" continued this general line of experimentation and introduced a further degree of sophistication:

like a heron in no action       upstream dozing        the raft's man spilling
in spilling spasm
Midsummer over willows

pebbles in my sponge    like tears on an albatross    I greet the fetal shoreline
as if there will be learning
on the longitude of sailors

The careful reader will readily recognize, in the left-to-right horizontal line as well as in the top-to-bottom vertical composition of the third column, mimicry of haiku – two haiku in this instance. If the reader follows this same movement continuously, however, from left-to-right and top-to-bottom without interruption, he discovers that the five lines that constitute two haiku simultaneously equal one tanka. "Hours on My Path" moves through twelve such "stanzas" with a mercurial shifting of person, place, and thing and of their intimate complex of contextual relations. One must admire the coherence of an artistic and poetic career that spans two continents and six decades as well as the continued verve and
resolution that Werner Reichhold brings to the written word –both in his native German and in his adopted English. I have only managed to pass lightly over his artistic achievement in these prefatory notes.  I invite the reader to enter and partake of Reichhold's vision now and to allow his poetry to fulfill the promise that a commentary cannot.


For a Sparrow, Haiku by Jack Galmitz. Illustrated by Miroslav Masin, ISBN 978-9989-928-63-5
Published by Cultural Institution Blesok.
Reviewed by Moira Richards

Jack Galmitz’s latest book of haiku comprises five inter-leading sections that seem together, to hint at a spiritual journey by the narrator. The first poem in this collection reads of turbulences,

        Inside of me
Bison are stampeding
        Across caves                                                        pg 7

and yet the last poem ends the book on this note of calm optimism,

      A winter night
The shape of my heart
  Is the shape of a rose                                      pg 148

Many of the hundred-plus haiku in between those two examples witness the daily life of the narrator, but Galmitz winds a thread of introspection through them that takes the entire collection into something more than mere record. So, a poem such as this slipped in after a few scenes observed by the poet,

    The temple bell sounds ...
A parade of hell-beings march
            Out of my soul                                      pg 29


or this ambivalence within a trail of travel poems,

       A man on a bike
  Slowly peddles uphill –
A god strapped to his back                                           pg 50

and later, following a few images of autumn’s arrival,

It’s because I’m afraid
  Sweeping leaves away                                                pg 98

Miroslav Masin illustrates the book with some two dozen delightful scribbles that look nothing like a sparrow and yet capture in their few lines and dots the very essence of these small creatures. Rather like the way that the haiku in Jack Galmitz’s For a Sparrow convey intangible experience in a mere dozen or so words.


Baseball Haiku: American and Japanese Haiku and Senryu on Baseball. Edited with Translations by Cor van den Heuvel & Nanae Tamura. ISBN 978-0-393-06219-9. Published by WW Norton & Company.
Reviewed by Moira Richards

Baseball Haiku includes some two hundred haiku written about the game of baseball. The editors have gleaned the poems from the works of fifteen Japanese poets and from twice that number of northern Americans including George Swede who is introduced here as, “One of the world’s most accomplished haiku and senryu poets.“

The poems in the collection have been written over a time span of about 120 years; the most recent penned in the early twenty-first century. The earliest was written by Masaoka Shiki in the late nineteenth century –

like young cats
still ignorant of love
we play with a ball   

(pg 145)

koi shiranu     neko no furi nari      tama asobi

I don’t understand much about ball games of any sort. Perhaps my attention wanders when it should not, perhaps this is why the poems of Brenda Gannam caught my eye when first I flipped through the book ...

handsome pitcher
my eyes drift down
to the mound  

                                                                          (pg 86)

But most of the contributors have played the game of baseball and many of them effectively show through their poetry, the emotions of the sport – its disappointments and also its allure -

the boy not chosen
steps over home plate,
picks up his books  

                                                          (Edward J. Rielly pg 53)

struck out
the long walk home
in the dusk                                                                                (Michael Ketchek pg 123)                   

first warm day
fitting my fingers into the mitt
pounding the pocket                                                    

(Cor van den Heuvel pg 12)

Other poets in the anthology who have not played baseball, convey with their words the beauty and excitements the game offers to its spectators...

the night game
at the bottom of the stadium
the brightest spot on earth

naitā no      soko gekai nite      mottomo mei 

            (Yamaguchi Seishi pg 157)


the outfielder’s loneliness –
     the summer moon

gaiyashu no      kodoku ni kakari      natsu no tsuki  

(Suzuki Murio pg 169)

This book of baseball poetry is one to be enjoyed by everyone not only, although perhaps especially for, the aficionados of the sport. No. These poems lead me to suspect that baseball is something far more than mere sport.


Dew Pearls: 9 x 9 tanka poems by Magdalena Dale. ISBN 973-552-73. Editura Fǎt-Frumos, Bucureşti
Reviewed by Moira Richards

Magdalena Dale’s collection comprises nine sets of nine tanka poems written in both Rumanian and English that are, as inscribed by the poet inside the book’s cover, “a string of pearls from the nature of my country, Romania.” Four of the nine sections celebrate the four seasons and the others are themed around subjects such as the sea, the moon, and ancient time pieces.

The juxtaposition used in all of the poems in two different languages allows the reader to appreciate the interesting problems and differences that arise from translation - for example, variances in word order, and the usage of articles. It can be difficult for a poet to find the best word in their second language for a particular place in a poem and so the accompanying originals give excellent insight into the poet’s vision and also to the rhythms of the tanka as originally conceived.

Here, a couple of examples of Magdalena Dale’s work in which the English renditions are both useful as providers of clues to help readers to appreciate the poetry of another language and also effective short songs in their own right.


gânduri de noapte
se zbat neputincioase,
fluturi negri
cu aripile frânte
de vântul neprielnic

nightly thoughts
struggle helplessly,
black butterflies
with both wings broken
by the hostile wind

Tanka 9, Section II
 În Toiul Verii / Height of Summer (pg 26)


noapte de varǎ
prin fereastra deschisǎ
o adiere ...
lumina blândǎ-a lunii
din nocturna lui Chopin

summer night
through the open window
only a breeze...
the soft light of the moon
like in Chopin’s nocturne

Tanka 7, Section VII
Sonatǎ Pentru Vioarǎ şi Pian / Violin and Piano Sonata (pg 74)


Simfonie în verde,Haiku by Adina Enăchescu. ISBN 978-9989-928-63-5, Published by Cultural Institution Blesok
Reviewed by Moira Richards

The preface to Simfonie în verde  is an interesting reminder of the history of literature and the arts in Eastern European countries and of the relative isolation and repressive conditions from which the region’s poets have only emerged in the last twenty years. Adina Enăchescu is a poet celebrating these new freedoms.

She divides her book into four sections according to the seasons and presents each poem in Rumanian followed with English and French translations on the same page. Even I, who am unable to speak more than one of those languages, am able to glean some sense of what poetry can lose and also gain through the process of its translation from the richness and limitations of one language to the different limitations and richness of another. Here are three of Adina’s winter poems in which she combines observation with wry commentary...

Anul Nou –
lumini şi umbre
bogaţi şi cerşetori ...

The New Year –
lights and shadows
rich people and beggars ...

La Nouvelle Année -
des lumières et des ombres
des riches et des mendiants ...                                     (pg 91)


Ghetuţe goale
de Moş Nicolae –
poate la anul ...

Small empty boots
by Saint Nicholas –
maybe next year ...

Des petits brodequins vides
En même temps avec le Vieillard Nicolae –
L’année future peut-être ...                                                     (pg 93)


Iarnǎ veselǎ –
deşi de zăpadă
omul mi-a zâmbit ...
Joyful winter –
although he’s made of snow
the man smiled at me ...

Hiver joyeux –
quoiqu’il est de neige
l’homme a souri pour moi  

                                                     (pg 101)


Blue Smoke - a two voice improvisation. By Larry Kimmel and Sheila Windsor. Illus. by Sheila Windsor and Mark Windsor. Winfred Press, 364 Wilson Hill Road, Colrain, MA 01340 USA.Purchase Blue Smoke by Sheila Windsor and Larry Kimmel. 89 pp. 46, illus. from: Winfred Press, < for $17.00 ppd. or $20.00 ppd. outside the U.S.  OR Sheila Windsor, 72 Victoria Avenue, Worcester WR5 1ED, England. (Paypal accepted) for £12 ppd.
Review of Blue Smoke by hortensia anderson

Blue Smoke by Sheila Windsor and Larry Kimmel is a collection of 100 Cherita - a six line form created by ai li, June 1997 consisting of a 1 line stanza, a 2 line stanza and a 3 line stanza which was copied from a participation renga started in Lynx by Elizabeth St Jacque earlier. While influenced by traditional non-narrative Japanese forms such as the haiku and tanka, Cherita is a Malay word for "story."

Although the cover of the book claims the collection to be "a two voice improvisation,” I don't believe that there exists a name yet for this experimental piece. The phrase "collaborative contradictions" occurred to me as I savoured it over and over but the words "laboratory" and "contrapuntal" also came to mind.

Windsor and Kimmel are not only "well-known poets" as they admit in the preface. They are the poet-scientists, the poet-musicians, the poet-historians referencing the greats such as T.S. Eliot and Shakespeare as they skillfully go about breaking ground as wordsmiths themselves.

There are two poets in Blue Smoke. There are countless voices. And yet, it is as if the piece were penned by one author. To help you out, verses in normal type are by Kimmel, those in italics by Windsor. But,
quotes in Kimmel's verses are in italics and those in Windsor's are in normal type. And, wonderful confusion, the first word in the poem is a one word quote, in italics because it is Kimmel's verse - what better word to start such a magnificent oeuvre than:


It is followed with the two line stanza from which the title comes:

in the casino where she stood
             a twist of blue smoke

And they're off and running. (Quite literally, since they allowed
themselves a mere half an hour per verse.)

Blue Smoke is vivid and bold. The colour "red" is mentioned - a lot. "cloak of red" "red-ribboned river" "a red feather boa.” It's also printed in the last line of a Kimmel verse:


There is much humor in Blue Smoke:

an uncle

left his spleen
in San Francisco

died, ___________never knowing
                               how close he came
                               to musical fame

as well as breathtaking loveliness:

pillow book

            slips to the floor
                    a stream of dreams

                              his ink black body
                                     silken cool by moonlight
                                            in moaning rolling waves

Writers will have a blast with Blue Smoke - I thoroughly enjoyed reading only the three line stanzas as if they were one poem. Or, mixing Windsor's one and two line stanzas with Kimmel's three line stanzas. As if this weren't enough, Blue Smoke has a generous amount of artwork by Sheila Windsor and Mark Windsor which both accompanies and actually becomes part of the piece (page 58 verse). I am certain
there is much in Blue Smoke that I failed to "get.” However, those who don't understand the multitude of references, levels and perspectives, will thoroughly enjoy Blue Smoke nevertheless - for this reviewer, a mark of excellence in a skillfully executed piece.


 Eos, Es Ist Rot, Überholt, Mario Fitterer, Mafora Verlag, 2007. ISBN 978-3929939-06-04.
Reviewed by Werner Reichhold

Mario Fitterer, represented in magazines and anthologies since 1979, has seen publications of his own books since 1990. With Eos - Es Ist Rot, Überholt, Mario shows the reader a new way how to construct a whole book combining short poetry and prose. The verses – one, two, three, four and five-liner - are thematically combined into sequences alternating with one to three pages long pieces of highly poetical prose. One can state that Fitterer is a poet taking on subjects, or subject matter not seen approached in this manner before by other German writers.
For the short prose pieces it is obvious that Fitterer developed a language and style that pulls the reader deep into his mostly tragically colored experiences. The roots of this attitude toward life are anchored in European tradition. Fitterer’s work shows little traces to the oriental school approaching goals by embedding oneself into a concept of oneness.

Throughout the whole book - in prose as well as in verse - Fitterer uses letters in lower case, and herewith trying to guide the reader into carefully planed additional irritations.
This may be fun to experience for some people, for others it merely works as a disturbing factor tried out by writers in the early 1920th and then soon abandoned.

One hesitates to bring up a thing that I feel is missing, and that is that Fitterer’s book is one of those publications that deserved a preface - written by a critic who could have introduced this powerful poet to readers of main-stream poetry without mentioning the Japanese genres at all.

Baubles, Bangles, & Beads: Threaded Tanka. Amelia Fielden, copyright 2007. Ginninderra Press
Charmwood, AUS. ISBN: 978-1-74027-409-8. Trade paperback. 96 pages, 5.5" x 8", perfect bound
Reviewed by M. Kei

Given that the majority of poets writing tanka in English are novices or emerging poets rather than experts, the usual job of the book reviewer is to let the reader know whether this particular work is worth his time and money. Sometimes, though, he gets the opportunity to review Amelia Fielden, which is a very pleasant chore indeed. Baubles, Bangles, and Beads: Threaded Tanka contains over 400 tanka arranged into sequences, making it one of the biggest collections of tanka in English.

If this were an ordinary book it would suffice to quote a few verses illustrating the author's voice and range and urge the reader to rush out and buy it, but Fielden has not delivered an ordinary book. On the contrary, she has set herself (and the reader) a challenge by delivering a book composed entirely of tanka sequences: 40 of them, to be exact, containing 444 tanka. Books of sequenced tanka are rare in English and the form is still undergoing development. As a consequence, even the terms are contested, with endless inventions of new terms to describe tanka in groups.

Fielden has contributed her own term, 'threaded tanka,' which she defines as "sets, under titles which relate to their various themes", but she also goes on to refer to them as sequences, strings, clusters – and not – leaving it up to the reader to define them if desired. "I see these poems as beads threaded into different lengths by my mind and pen." Perhaps it is the critic's duty to make sense of it all, not the poet's, yet given that Fielden is one of the best translators in the field as well as an accomplished poet in her own right, the reader can't help but wish she might shed some light on a subject wherein she is well-qualified to comment.

Nonetheless, the metaphor of beads on a string is a suitable one, and is reflected in the cover design and the selection of the poems themselves. Most of the tanka are threaded like beads and only rarely does some other structure manifest itself. Sometimes this lack of structure works very well indeed, but sometimes it doesn't. It works best with the shortest threads.


across the sky
shrieking cockatoos
swoop and swivel
like cavalry maneuvers
for an old-world battlefield

blue morning
in the April park
a meeting
of nostalgic friends who
can't turn back the clock

poplar days
autumn's gold awards
for living
hopefully through all
the changing seasons

I feel the chill
in your gnarled hands
one last time
tidying our garden
before the longest sleep

In short sequences like this, it is possible to contemplate all the verses at once. The eye flits back and forth among the verses, pausing where it will to linger and absorb. There is sufficient white space so that the verses themselves do not distract the reader by crowding upon the page.

Unfortunately, in the medium and long sequences, the tanka are crammed five, six, and seven to the page in a ruthless effort to keep the cost down. While sparing the wallet is always appreciated by the buyer, it is a disservice to the poems. The font is small and all the verses are left-justified and marched down the middle of the page in a column. This means that it is difficult to contemplate each verse as an individual entity; the drive for economy has suborned autonomy and made them appear to be stanzas of a long poem. Fielden's very excellent poetry deserves to be 'framed' with white space and placed mindfully upon the 'wall' of the page as the works of art they are.

Among the long sequences, the best is “These Sliding Shadows.” Many of the tanka in this sequence are knockouts:

here she stands
in the old album
my best friend
his next wife between him
and my pregnant belly

blue orange yellow
a single trembling petal
into whisps of vapour
as he drops the match

for my birthday
he inscribed a book
'with all my love' –
what then did he give
to the girl he married?

blossoms falling
as chill breezes blow
I remember
flimsy ball-dresses and
not caring about the cold

Not all the verses in this sequence are about an intimate relationship. There are verses about a friend with cancer, the effect of age on friendship, new cars, dragonflies, and more. This and indeed almost all the sequences manifest an awareness of the creeping nearness of old age and death, with nostalgia for what has been lost, whether it be wasp waists, husbands, friends, or old sins. This is what the Japanese call aware – the awareness of the transience of everything. Fielden has given aware a distinctly Australian voice.

flaming hair
like a scarlet tulip
the classmate
whose ashes we scattered
over spring flowerbeds

in the Club
at the corner table
Jean's husband
with a photo of Jean
where she always sat

ferries glide
in and out of the quay –
forty-five years
is a flicker of light
in these sliding shadows

The threads that tie this sequence together are the strands of the author's current life, leavened with memories of the past and burdened with the foreknowledge of death. It attains structure by forming a psychological portrait of the poet. The poems need not be read in any particular order because they radiate from the poet's heart like spokes in a wheel, permitting us to wander among them at will as we get to know this person. 

In Baubles, Bangles, and Beads Fielden has raised the bar and vaulted for it, and if she fell short of all that she intended, she has still laid down a challenge that few are able or willing to even attempt. For the casual reader, Baubles provides a great deal to enjoy and admire, but for the poet, it instills the restlessness of challenge. Baubles joins other notable tanka sequences such as Goldstein's At the Hut of the Small Mind and Garrison and McClintock's The Five-Hole Flute as must-read works in the genre.


The Parsley Bed: Haiku Stories by Ken Jones.  Pilgrim Press: Cwmrheidol, /Wales, 2006.  ISBN:
978-0-9539-9014-6.  Perfect bound, 5 ¼ x 7 ½ inches, 122 pp.  Send $15; US, $17 CDN, or 15 EUR in currency notes or £7.25 in a sterling cheque directly to the author: K. Jones, Troedrhiwsebon, Cwmrheidol, Aberystwyth, Wales.
Stallion’s Crag: Haiku and Haibun by Ken Jones. Iron Press: Cullercoats, Northumberland, England, 2003. Perfect bound, 4 x 5 ½ inches, 104 pp.  Send $15 US, $17 CDN, or 15 EUR in currency notes or £7.25 in a sterling cheque directly to the author: K. Jones, Troedrhiwsebon, Cwmrheidol, Aberystwyth, Wales, SY23 3NB, UK.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Woodward

The Parsley Bed  generously collects 35 haibun and 75 haiku of the Welsh poet, Ken Jones.  Divided into five roughly equal sections (each division consisting of five to eight prose entries with a brief postscript of a dozen or more related haiku), the many haibun, by their great variety of subject matter and tone, demonstrate the impressive scope and indelible prose style of one of the foremost practitioners of this genre today.
Whether Jones assays an elegiac mode as in “Clinkers” (a memory of a distant childhood and more distant father), a wry and black vein of humor as in “End Game” (a recounting of the author’s dealings with a
cantankerous crematorium manager and his chiseling of his own gravestone), a topographical survey as in “Consuming Light” (a homage to Van Gogh upon a visit to Saint-Rémy) or a character sketch as in
“Per Ardua ad Astra” (an intimate close-up of a retired mechanical engineer named Uncle Jack), the author time and again demonstrates a mastery of conception and execution, however unpromising the material, at first sight, might appear.
Space limitations prohibit more than a cursory survey, but two haibun, in particular, may suffice to show Jones at his best. “Posts” concerns itself, Jones informs us, not with “gate-posts, boundary posts and other posts that have something obvious to do” but with their long-abandoned brethren:

Particularly in wild places they are welcome companions. Well-weathered, they have been left alone long enough to have developed a bit of character. When plodding across the moor, one can see one of
these fellows approaching from quite a distance…. It is an honour to salute such a venerable but well set-up post.

Against the sky
a slotted post
its bright blue eye

But beware of clapping one of these ancient too heartily upon the back. Many have been retired longer than their useful employment.  And they rot from the bottom upwards.                               (p. 43)

This intimacy with “Posts” continues for another hundred words or more and two further haiku, with increasing humor, as the author describes the “old salts you meet on the sea shore” and denies any
anthropomorphism in his willingness to “go out of my way to see how some lonely old post is getting on.” Whereas Jones assures his reader that “the whole point about posts is that they’re only posts,” one need not leap far to see in

Blockheaded posts
their thin shins
gnawed by the tides                        
 (p. 44)

an image or reflection of the human condition.
             The second haibun, “The Knife Grinder,” achieves near perfection in its prose rhythms and in the vision it relates. One might lay stress upon the word vision insofar as this work, while
presenting its subject in a matter-of-fact and realistic way, gradually assumes an oneiric character and remarkable grandeur in its 300 odd words:

“Down by the gate I recognize the tricycle contraption from his previous visit, some four years ago. The same old pig-tailed hippy, with his faded army surplus fatigues and shamanic accoutrements of bead and bone. Last time I’d turned him away. Who needs a knife grinder in this outback, where every man and woman has their own means of keeping their edges sharp – or dull – as needed? But this time it is different…

Hollow knock –
the rattle of wind chimes
made of bones

I sit him in the kitchen, put on the kettle, and go out to the barn to sort out my own blunt edges….

There’s something about him. I spill tea – as out of the corner of my eye I glimpse a gothic devil’s face. But then, as he pauses at the door, an archaic smile.”     (p. 83)

Then, later:

“Through the window I watch him set up the tricycle in the yard.

Peddling away
in a shower of sparks
spittle on the blade

“Lovely scythe you have,” he says.
“No I don’t.”
“Up in the rafters it was,” says he. “A keen edge to it again. In
three or four years – it all depends – I’ll be back for you, boyo.”

He turns the corner
but his evening shadow
lingers on the road                           (pp. 83-84)

         One is tempted to apply the term allegory or dream-vision here for the figure of the title recalls medieval representations of a visit by Death personified, often in the trappings of some commonplace
disguise. The “shamanic” beads and bones, the “gothic devil’s face” that is inexplicably transformed into “an archaic smile,” the “sparks” from the sharpening of the “lovely scythe” that our poet denies any knowledge of possessing, even the shadow that “lingers on the road” after the knife grinder
departs: every image is intimately connected to a vision of death’s near approach as is the antagonist’s promise, “I’ll be back for you, boyo.”

             While The Parsley Bed constitutes this Welshman’s fourth collection of haibun, Ken Jones has developed a public reputation in haiku circles, at least on this side of the Pond, as being recondite
 and obscure, cold and intellectual, austere and inaccessible. What lies behind such misapprehension is the reception – sometimes begrudging in its praise, sometimes scarcely veiled in its hostility – first accorded to the next title under discussion.
              Stallion’s Crag, published four years ago, offers a tripartite design that opens with the title work, a 6000 word haibun  that revolves around the mountain of Pumlumon (or Plynlimon) in  central Wales, moves on to a little anthology of 60 haiku, and  concludes with a selection of shorter haibun. While the individual haiku and shorter haibun have much to commend them, the discussion, due to space considerations, will be limited to the ambitious title piece, the work that led to such misunderstanding on the part of so many North American reviewers.
             Many of the complaints of obscurity and austerity originate with the specifically local subject matter of Welsh topography, folklore, and history so central to Stallion’s Crag. Jones immerses his reader with few preliminaries in the barely inhabited wilderness of Pumlumon, of the deforestation of its mountainous expanse, of its gradual depopulation through foreign (English) occupation and, of critical importance to the author, the central role of the mountain in the tragic history of the last Welsh war of  independence led by Owain Glyndwr, Prince of Wales, in the early 15th century:

“I soon dismissed this bleak, featureless wasteland when I first came here as a youth in search of excitement. Even today there is only one car park, unofficial and usually empty. Instant drama begins further north, on Cadair Idris. There, if you spend only a night on the summit you will at least awaken either mad or a poet. Pumlumon takes longer. Half a century in my case.”                                (p. 12)


“Either mad or a poet”: the two terms are inextricably connected from ancient times, from Plato’s divine frenzy – no, even further back, to the intimate tribal connection between shamans and poetry across many ancient cultures.
             Jones, however, haunts the waste of  Pumlumon as a modern-day Welshman, an avowed  Buddhist and sometime hermit, a poet, the tribe  to whom he swears fealty being one that  vanished, for all purposes, with the tragic  heroism and legendary exploits of a 15th century prince.

“Some local shepherds refer to “the Prince” as if he were still a local resident. Perhaps he is.
“Myn Duw, mi wn y daw” (“My God, I know he will come”) sings the national pop star, Dafydd
Iwan.”                                 (p. 19)

The motif of the hermit, long dear to Chinese and Japanese literature, is often evoked in these pages, often with reverence, often with a wry and self-deprecating sense of humor on the poet’s part:

“My way, however, lies west up the wild valley of the Gwerin.  Its entrance is guarded by a crag, surmounted by the only pine in a dozen miles. Dramatically bonsai’d by the westerlies, it has survived the sheep by growing out of a deep cleft …. As to that solitary pine, my hermit name is Coedn ar yr Mynydd (“Tree on the Mountainside”) --- I Ching hexagram 53. There is a wonderful word disgwylfa, for a place of watching and watchfulness …”                   (pp. 26-27)

Or, later on, in a brief scene or ironic self-portraiture:

“How interesting, but what do hermits actually do?” she asked, balancing a wine glass in one hand.
         The main concern of this one is not to be in the same place and time as the clouds of midges which share my habitat…. In fact this hermit’s job description is a blank; just bare attention, disgwylgar, to be all here and not somewhere else, and to let the mountain do the rest.”           (p. 39)

The alleged obscurity and coldness of Stallion’s Crag might be judged largely a by-product of what, for many, is an unyielding, forbidding and alien landscape, of the desolate but exotic Welsh tenor of the work overall. However, allusions that the author makes to Welsh or Zen Buddhist matters are not particularly arcane and, where one verges upon the questionable, Jones commonly provides an immediate aside to aid the uninitiated.
             The Parsley Bed and Stallion’s Crag, together, present some of the finest English-language haibun to date, work that is truly groundbreaking, and both are essential reading for the person who wants to understand what the genre is and what it might yet become. Both books are nicely produced as trade paperbacks while Stallion’s Crag, with its crinkled rice-like papers and ‘watermarked’  “solitary pine” as a background for the  tasteful typography on every page, is one of  the most aesthetically pleasing haikai books in print.


The Embrace of Planets: 111 Haiku by Ban’ya Natsuishi.  Romanian translations by Vasile Moldovan. English, French and Italian versions by various translators. Editura Fat-Frumos:Bucharest, Romania, 2006.  ISBN: 973-552-49-1.  Perfect bound, 4 x 5 ½ inches, 90 pp., no price listed.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Woodward

Great fanfare has preceded the name of Ban’ya Natsuishi, in the international haiku community, for many years now. He is an established leader of haiku circles at home in Japan and abroad, having co-founded the World Haiku Association and contributed significantly to the critical debate on “keywords” as a modern alternative to a strict compliance with the traditional seasonal requirements of haiku. The Embrace of Planets collects over one hundred haiku by the poet with accompanying translations into Romanian, English, French, and Italian by nearly a dozen translators. Presentation of a Romaji
transliteration of a Japanese original and translations into four other languages on a single page impedes, at times, a sequential reading of the text. Ban’ya Natsuishi divides his book into six sections that vary widely in length from six to 45 haiku. Unity of purpose, where it can be said to exist, is accomplished upon a simple topographical theme (“Fantastic Italy” or “Genoa: A Sword of Light”), by the repetition of a motif that establishes atmosphere (“Wellington: The Capital of Winds”), by an autobiographical proto-narrative of an eye operation (“Right Eye in Twilight”) or by the clash of contrasting religious and cultural icons in a single landscape (“Macedonian Road”). While “Wellington: The Capital of Winds,” by virtue of the dual repeated motifs of “seaweed” and “capital of winds,” more closely approximates a sequence than most of the other groupings in this volume, the shorter “Macedonian Road,” with its eight haiku, takes its place in the foreground as the one truly unified series in The Embrace of Planets.  The poet achieves this unity of purpose and perfect economy by carefully balancing, in contrast, the cultural and historical contradictions of his topos as a crossroads of Islamic and Christian influence:

On the road
leading to the mosque –
a dog sleeps soundly

The crescent moon
and the cross align together –
night in the capital                           
(p. 56)

Natsuishi, also, hints at the darker past of the region:

Into the mosaic
a swastika faded away –
wind from the lake                           
(p. 55)

While the poet wishes for peace amid the clash of cultures, a deeply felt pessimism, at the end of “Macedonian Road,” frustrates his willingness to believe in its future:

Even in the clouds
a mute and a deaf person
arguing with each other
(p. 57)

“A Future Waterfall,” with its 45 haiku, exceeds the other sections of The Embrace of Planets in ambition and perhaps in daring but, despite the poet’s admitted talents, reads very unevenly. If “A Future Waterfall” has a unitary theme or formal progression of some kind, that coherence escapes this reviewer.  This lack of a larger context explains the weakness of certain of the haiku; they do not relate to their textual neighbors and yet have insufficient value to stand alone:

On Sabbath Day
traversing the sea –
a coincidence
(p. 10)

For the irascible professor
a certificate
for crossing the Equator
(p. 23)

             Though “A Future Waterfall” may fail in terms of the grand architectonic design, individual haiku in the group clearly demonstrate the brilliance that brought Ban’ya Natsuishi fame:

Long, long ago
a fountain
at the bottom of the sea
(p. 15)

A remarkably potent and primeval vision, this, though the English translation cannot replicate the marked rhythms of Natsuishi’s original: “Kaitei no izumi no mukashi mukashi kana.”
             Individual poems of this superior quality are common enough to make The Embrace of Planets a significant collection, despite reservations about Natsuishi’s lack of ability to “plot” the larger sections. The poet, also, finds some consolation, even in the face of pessimism about the current state of affairs, in his abiding faith in the lasting grace of poetry itself:

Armed with
four thousand years the menhir
listens to birds
(p. 25)


Border Lands by Jim Kacian.  Red Moon Press:  Winchester, VA, 2006.  ISBN: 1-893959-58-9.  Saddle stapled, softbound, 4 x 6 inches, 68 pp., $12.00 US.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Woodward

This attractively produced, shirt-pocket sized volume is that relative rarity in its genre, the book-length haibun. Jim Kacian – co-founder of the World Haiku Association, former editor of Frogpond, owner of Red Moon Press – presents, in Border Lands, a modern staple of haibun literature:  the travel journal. Not content to assemble a disparate collection of individual pieces, the author demonstrates an ability too
often lacking in poetic circles of Eastern and Western persuasion – the disciplined skill necessary to construct a book. The poet is summoned to this journey to the Balkans, to Serbia, to attend the funeral of a distant friend’s father and, in fulfilling this obligation, surveys an ancient culture torn apart by ethnic and civil war. Though the rite of burying the dead is the very cause of Kacian’s pilgrimage, the funeral itself, although the pivot or centerpiece of the narration, plays a truly marginal role in Border Lands. The author, instead, is concerned with the journey proper – the going out, the coming back. He states why in his very succinct foreword to the book:

“Once in a great while we are fortunate enough to witness something of great significance outside our usual ken. The rest of life is preparation for such moments. The question is not whether or not we will be able to cross the line once we have come to it, but what we will be when the time has come and if we are able, to cross back.”

             Kacian, who carries with him not only a backpack but a justifiable anxiety about crossing a country at the brink of war, is quickly immersed in a landscape physically ravished by a history of  exploitation:

“These mountains, stripped of their hardwood forests by Venetian shipbuilders at the behest of merchants more than five centuries ago, are mere karsts now, the bones of mountains, yet they appear no less impenetrable… and depopulated by the current conflict:

“Darkness is overtaking us. We still have fifty miles to sustain before we stop. The first sickle of the waxing moon is dead ahead, and nearly nestled in its arc, the steady gleam of a planet, red, Mars….

ancient road
wearing away
my share

We have arrived in Z.’s native place. It is now a farming village, a few hundred souls, but once it was a sizeable market town. The church is dedicated to Sveti Sava, patron of travelers and poets. A small waterfall flows down the ancient steps, worn in the center by innumerable feet…

The poet follows briefly with a sketchy description of the village and preparations for the burial:

lighting a votive
for the living
with one for the dead

Then, with the simple words, “And then it is done…,” Kacian shifts boldly away from the motive that directed his narrative through the first half of Border Lands and directs the reader’s attention to what, at first, appears as nothing more than a tourist’s detour: a previously planned meeting with another friend to climb in the Alps. While the segue is abrupt and unexpected, the poet, with a steady hand, guides the reader, in this fashion, through the first steps of the journey home:

“The air is light and incredibly bracing. It smells of snow and rock, old and unsullied. We can’t breathe enough of it in, after the smoke and catarrh of the keening. We speak in great fogs which dissipate instantly… I want to carry that with me all the way down the mountain, back through the city, through the country, through the air, all the way back home.”

This trip to the Alpine summit acts, also. as a purification ritual after the preceding immersion in war, death and desolation.  Kacian is preparing himself for the “coming back”

returning home
the chessmen have maintained
my lost position

The irony of the haiku is self-evident and requires no exegesis. It foreshadows, in a quiet but moving way, the final return, as well as serving to highlight the ambivalent position of Kacian who is caught up and inexorably changed somewhere between the anxiety of a strange land and the comfort of home, between the going out and the coming back:

“The next morning we arrive at the airport in plenty of time, then sit in a smoky bar without saying much. The airport is brightly lit, generic, not any place specific but a place between places; really, no place.”

             The structure of Border Lands can be summarized quickly. The narrative proceeds episodically from one brief prose notation to the next, not one of which exceeds two pages, while these several  entries are linked together by the intermission of three to four haiku that expand upon the prose exposition.
             Border Lands challenges the reader to follow its author’s example and to question his own honored values and assumptions, to measure his private and local vision against a public and universal reality. In doing so, Kacian eloquently but modestly illustrates his personal courage and his indelible artistry.


The Salesman’s Shoes by James Roderick Burns. Modern English Tanka Press: Baltimore, MD, 2007. ISBN: 978-0-6151-4396-5. Perfect bound, 6 x 9 inches, 96 pp., $13.95 US.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Woodward

             This Edinburgh author brings to the 75 tanka of this, his first collection, a commitment to urban landscapes and motifs as well as a thoroughly schooled modernist rejection of the poetic, a determination to admit nothing that is “pretty” or graceful, nothing aesthetically pleasing. He is fixed, instead, upon the pointedly anti-poetic in diction and image.
             One notes James Roderick Burns’ bias, first, in the stress laid in his language upon the ugly, the deformed and the scatological where “a fat worker rests his gut” (p. 10), someone stares through “dirty windows” (p. 11), “a red-eyed waiter” stands near “theatre toilets” (p. 57), one views a “dusk / like spilt molasses” (p. 72) or a “shit-studded wharf” (p. 48).
The tenor of The Salesman’s Shoes as a whole is marked by the author’s resignation to a dreary, hapless and sullied urban existence, a view that places him closer to T.S. Eliot or Philip Larkin, for example, than to most tanka poets – traditional or contemporary. It may be deemed, therefore, an irony that is “keeping in character” that Burns’ tanka adopts the strictures of the 5-7-5-7-7 form and rarely varies from the syllable count. Unfortunately, the author’s tanka often read like academic mimicry. All of the trappings of the form are in place but Burns’ practice demonstrates little true understanding of his
chosen vessel’s restrictions and capabilities:

Lighting up a fag
and idly scratching his arse
in the vast scrap yard’s
wilderness of metal bones
stands unreconstructed man.
(p. 49)

The writing here is poised and balanced on the surface, despite the dated idioms of “fag” and “arse.” Yet, upon examination, the reader discovers a simple sentence of a flat journalistic quality that lacks any poetic intensity – intentionally, one suspects – and offers only the sophomoric observation of Burns’ discovery, colored by his barely veiled distaste for a common laborer, of “unreconstructed man.”
             Where the perceptions that inform  Burns’ tanka are not immersed in the soilure of  the urban landscape that the poet inhabits,  they veer off to the observation of discrete  phenomenon often without discernible meaning:

On my coffee cup
Warning – contents may be hot.
Beyond the terrace
a wren takes flight, instructions
stamped on the back of its wings.      
(p. 69)

Crazy moth barrels
round the paper shade, drops out
like a flake of soot –
I raise the window and smile
thinking of you dressed in white.      
(p. 43)

The comparison, in the first tanka, of a coffee cup’s “warning” and a wren with fanciful “instructions / stamped on the back” is trite whereas, in the second tanka above, the collation of a “crazy moth” drawn to its death by a lamp with that of a woman “dressed in white” is, at once, eccentric and absurd.  Nor can one characterize the use of the slang, “barrels / round,” as efficient or justified by the subject.
             The title poem of the collection, again, verges upon the fantastic and freakish

In the corridor
the elderly salesman’s shoes
wait despondently
like lizards on a creek bed
for some long-vanished polish.
(p. 13)

While one might admit the peculiar simile of old and unpolished shoes compared to a lizard on a dry creek bed, the anthropomorphism of the shoes waiting “despondently” verges upon the unintentionally comical.
             James Roderick Burns, one suspects, might write a clean and balanced expository  prose, for he demonstrates often in this volume  the prerequisite talent but, in the arena of  tanka, the form has mastery over Burns and not vice-versa.

Mourning characters
at the end of a novel
there is always this –
print ghosting on a blank page
and the smell of fresh coffee.
(p. 81)

The above tanka closes out The Salesman’s Shoes with some promise, at least, that this young writer, with time and experience, might someday acquire that mastery.


Contemporary Haibun, Volume 8. Edited by Jim Kacian, Bruce Ross & Ken Jones.  Red Moon Press:  Winchester, VA, 2007. ISBN:  1-893959-61-9. Perfect bound, 5 ¼ x 8 ¼ inches, 120 pp., $16.95 US.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Woodward

Eight years into Red Moon’s highly successful series of annual haibun anthologies – and with how many years of nascent haibun activity in English preceding this? – one is forced to conclude that haibun in English has few, if any, hard and fast rules. Well-intentioned journal editors who solicit or reviewers who comment upon the genre may inform the reader that haibun’s requirements include any possible combination of the following guidelines: prose plus one or more haiku; use of present tense;  use of first person; a subject chosen from one’s common everyday existence; a revelatory or “aha” moment; and on and on.
Unfortunately, the curious reader who conducts even a cursory review of the literature will soon discover that exceptions outnumber cases of conformity to every guideline cited and that, moreover, the exceptions quite often are not weaker for this lack of adherence. Practice precedes theory in poetry and so poetic success in the face of a critical failure and lack of consensus should not greatly surprise. An absence of critical and heuristic clarity is lamentable, certainly, but the failure is not wholly that of the English-language haikai community.  Basho came to prose relatively late in life and left no explicit rules of composition for the practice of a haibun genre that he invented. That his followers were unable to build upon his successes and that haibun in Japan suffered a long decline is evidence
that a proper aesthetic for haibun has yet to be elaborated in Japan as well. Granted that one is more likely to confront a unicorn than any consensus on the structure and nature of haibun, what shall we make of an anthology which collects over 60 haibun by 45 contributors? Can we delineate any tendencies? Can we collate these disparate works and categorize them based upon shared methods or manners? Three methods dominate this collection – naturalism, reverie, and expressionism –  but the demarcations between them often blur in individual works.
Most commonly in evidence in this anthology are haibun that I loosely define as naturalist in style, their chief intent being a realistic depiction of everyday persons, places, and things – present and past. The authors of such works show a fondness for the strictly domestic as in Hortensia Anderson’s “Claire” (p. 9), a scene which sympathetically portrays a learning-disabled child, or C.W. Hawes’ “In a Little While” (p. 42). a touching snapshot of a separation in progress. Because the focus in such vignettes is intimate, immediate and close-at-hand, even when, as is often the case, the present gives way to the intrusion of an overpowering recollection of the past, the diction generally leans to the prosaic and, in this relaxed state, admits slang and other idioms frequently excluded from formal written discourse. Yvonne Cabalona’s “Transition” (p.17) demonstrates the dangers of this laxness when, for example, her cat, pouncing upon leaves, “snaps, crackles, pops” (an unfortunate cliché) or when she observes the “8-to-5’ers”
returning from work. Collin Barber, similarly, succumbs to the lazy temptations of the common tongue and weakens an otherwise impressive haibun, “The Long Way Home” (p. 14), with such careless constructions as, “Though I wasn’t involved in this scene, I get the feeling that somehow I’ve done something wrong” (italics mine). Not every haibun that shows fidelity to the detailed description of the naturalist mode shares these common shortcomings, however.  Gary LeBel’s “The Frenchman’s Line” (pp. 54-57), which belongs to the naturalist tendency as well, is unique in this collection and rare for
haibun, in general, in eschewing the poet’s immediate life-experience or meditations in favor of an avowed fiction – an episodic tale, in this instance, of “an iceman’s day on a New England river.” Haibun wherein the poet is engaged in a state of reverie, dream, or trance appear less frequently than the naturalist vignette but are by no means rare.  Contemporary Haibun 8 affords some remarkably fine
examples. In Adelaide B. Shaw’s “Unfocused” (p. 89), her deceased father “moves slowly” into her dream and she accepts his presence, as if he had never died, but wonders why he has been so long absent, while noting, significantly, that his “image is unfocused and slightly faded,” that he comes in the form of “the young man of his early photos.”
Lynne Rees, in “The Next Wave,” presents a vision of death which, in contrast to the elegiac tone and slow movements of Shaw’s vignette, betrays great anxiety with an accompanying vision of destruction on a rapid and massive scale:

“I dream about my mother’s house, a rush of surf where Silver Avenue used to be, waves spilling over a neighbour’s fence, gardens drowning. I hold her away from the window to protect her, the waves tremendous now, pummeling the glass, spitting through the broken seals in the window frame. The next one will crash through. I pick my mother up, her body small and pale like a baby’s, and run to another room.

welcome hug
each time I come home
my mother is shorter”                      
(p. 86)

             One of the more captivating, albeit obscure, examples of reverie or dream occurs in author Bamboo Shoot’s “Journey” (pp. 12-13) with this arresting beginning:

“4.00 am. I woke too early, and found myself locked out of sleep. Reading, a reliable hypnotic when I was interested, now failed me when I was not... I went to the open window to watch the day begin. But the garden was still unlit… I dunked a tea-bag, returned to bed, opened my book–and re-awoke to find I'd almost missed it.”                         (p. 12)

The elevation of diction shows such fascination with language as sheer material on the poet’s part that it is reminiscent of the dramatic use of impasto, say, in the early painting of Cézanne. An example of the exaltation follows immediately in the next paragraph:

“The chorus was already packing up and drifting away to the day jobs; but there, centre-stage, halfway through his Why didn't you wake me earlier routine, was the sun: a sullen blood-dusked eye glared at me out of multicoloured sheets. Slowly, the eye became a globe of crusted gold-melt and saffron calligraphy was fired onto porcelain of the palest blue ….  

(p. 12)

If there was any doubt as to the trance-like state behind this haibun, the writer Bamboo Shoot advances from atmosphere to an explicit statement of the hallucinatory nature of the work with:

“suddenly, from a different window, I was stealing down a broad oak staircase, quietly drawing the bolts on heavy doors, and running barefoot across a graveled drive–out into the ankle-deep grass of fields…”                              (p. 12)

Throughout this haibun, Bamboo Shoot’s urge to press language to the limit results in confusion of subject and object – an ambiguity that at times is clearly the author’s purpose, while, at others, seemingly carries the poet away with the reader in a lovely but uncontrollable torrent. I’ve not read Bamboo Shoot’s work elsewhere but this writer is someone I certainly hope to read more from in the future.
             The third method, after naturalism and reverie, which is readily in evidence in this collection, is what I’ve termed, perhaps with undue liberty, expressionism. Such prose has a place midway between naturalism’s fidelity to the descriptive and commonplace and reverie’s frequent flights from the strict  definition of the everyday object. Expressionist haibun, as I employ the term here, refers to a prose that shares naturalism’s interest in anecdotal narrative, but rejects its prosaic diction for a heightened poetic diction a la reverie.
Jamie Edgecombe’s “Music of Decline” (p. 16) describes a nightclub scene as clearly as any naturalist vignette but the tone of the phrasing and the atmosphere that it creates places this haibun much closer in spirit to reverie: “Caught between the whisky mirror's logo–familiar eyes …” or “One woman brandishes a sky-blue-camisole; the other, a silk-scarf that snakes to her neck's nape…” Similarly, Gary LeBel’s “Vowel” deftly employs some very graceful turns to depict a cormorant in its natural setting:

“I had watched the bird yesterday as I do today, admiring its ancient look in silhouette, its trailing wake of a long and slender sentence without a period, and I stay until the diving accent grave of a lone, warm vowel slips quietly away into the river's ink.

trusting in tides—
in the lightless depths,
the cormorant”
(p. 54)

             “Birdlings Flats” by Jeff Harpeng probably illustrates the  expressionist method at its best.  From the opening sentence, the reader discovers himself in the presence of a poet who is master of  the rhythms of his language and of the possibilities of his material:

“A spit of greywacke, gravel, and stone ground round as river-rock, infilled with sand and further inland soil, stretches south from the underbelly of that burst volcanic boil, Banks Peninsula. This stony spit landlocks an inlet, endstops gray water: Lake Forsyth.”                                              (p. 33)

Harpeng’s frequent compounds, his densely layered images and earthy atmosphere are deeply embedded in the English language and reach as far back as to the kennings of Old English for their expressive power

“We have spent a few windswept hours on the beach, hand mining wet stone for green, for ferrous faults: fate lines. We settle for some rounded quartz, abraded cloudy by sand. I find my white stone. It fell out of the book of Revelation, the stone with my secret name underneath. Both obverse and reverse are without text.                                     (p. 34)

Or as far back as to the King James Version of the New Testament, perhaps, for the apt symbol of the “white stone” and “secret name” that is promised to the Elect. Harpeng, for reasons not made explicitly clear to his reader, participates in the apocalyptic vision without, however, being rewarded with a fulfillment of its covenant. One may record, again, as many have for the previous seven seasons, that for the reader with an interest in haibun in English, no better guide to current developments is available than Contemporary Haibun, the undisputed standard in this genre. The consistently high level of much of the writing is amply complimented by the beautiful design and modest price that one has come to expect of Red Moon Press.


shorelines: haiku, haibun, and tanka By Kirsty Karkow, Edited by Cathy Drinkwater Better, Introduction by Beverley George, Published by Black Cat Press. Soft cover, perfect bound, 132 pp, plus ends. Trim 5 in. x 6.5 in. Cover price: $15.95. ISBN 0-9766407-5-9

The second poetry collection by Kirsty Karkow-a name familiar to readers of literary journals in the U.S., abroad, and online-has just been released by Black Cat Press. shorelines: haiku, haibun, and tanka contains more than 100 individual haiku, tanka, poem-sequences, and haibun inspired by Karkow's life on the coast of Maine. The book also features a full-color cover painting and monochromatic watercolor illustrations by the poet as well as an introduction by HaikuOz: Australian Haiku Society president Beverley George.

"As in water poems, rivers, creeks, and the ocean permeate the imagery throughout much of the collection, providing a sense of connection and honest purpose," wrote George in her introduction to shorelines. "The poet is at one with her landscape and her recording of it is precise."

"Kirsty Karkow has followed up her first book, water poems, with this elegiac masterpiece," wrote poet Dave Bacharach, judge of the 2006 TSA International Tanka Contest. "Each poem is a small, self-contained gem; yet together, they coalesce into a totality of feeling-shorelines is to be read and reread."

Winfred Press editor Larry Kimmel noted, "the undertow of her inner-life that truly engages the reader. These are strong poems by a strong woman."

shorelines comes two years after Karkow's popular first collection, water poems: haiku, tanka, and sijo- now in its second printing. Renowned poet and translator Jane Hirshfield called Karkow's earlier book, “Various as dappled light, a wonderful alloy of Asian forms and contemporary speech and perception.. Moving and deft.”

shorelines: haiku, haibun, and tanka is available directly from the poet. The cover price of $15.95 includes shipping for the USA and Canada. $20. includes shipping to other countries. Send cash, check, or money order, in U.S. funds, made payable to "Kirsty Karkow," to: shorelines, c/o Kirsty Karkow, 34 Indian Point, Waldoboro, ME 04572.


Reviews of former books of Werner Reichhold
by Jeffrey Woodward

The work in the Landzeichen (1980) monograph – wherein you invent   a new Land Art through photomontage, a marriage of existing   landscapes and rusty iron sculptures, "dream landscapes of what   could be" – demonstrates clearly your recognition of the temporal   quality of art, even of the monumental and pre-historical works   "weathered away" across the globe. Why, then, not sanction a dream   or trance where natural material and human artifact are subject to   the caprice of time?  Unless I mistake the above as fundamental to your thought, Werner,   this very cognizance of mutability stands behind your determined use   of disposable materials (cheap, non-durable, plastic, cloth, wood,   found-objects and even mercantile products) from the Installation   1975-1985 catalogue forward. To extend Leonardo's prescription that   one might seek inspiration from gazing fixedly at the stains on old   walls, here the drawings – predominately studies for the   installations? –prepare an intuitive trance or dream image for   objectification. I'm struck by how often the line in the graphics   allows permutation after permutation, how "transient" your seeing   is, how obsessively it returns to allude briefly to this or that   internal organ or exterior body part as a motif.
  You will pardon me if I construe Handshake (1989), Tidal Wave (1989) and Bridge of Voices (1990) – with their mix of haiku, drawing, installation, collage, photograph and photomontage – as a triptych or trilogy; their methods are so intimately intertwined. While the ready analogies of renga linkage or material juxtaposition in collage come to mind, they are only rough analogies and do not properly describe, in my estimation, the interplay between the varied elements of these books: written word, photograph, collage, line-drawing or even the cursive of your signature. I might point out haiku that I particularly admire for their originality:

ocean in a cloud

where the normative three-line lineation thinly disguises what a   later haiku's typography renders transparent:
as far as one can swim

  i.e., the insertion of a descriptive clause between a noun (rain /   salmon) and its customary companion and modifier (falling /   king). It is a beautiful verbal construction and, far from   avant-garde, strikes the modern ear as so strikingly new precisely  because it is so ancient: Old English alliterative poetry,   classical Welsh poetry, Old Norse court-meter and the   'pillow-words' of Japanese waka, employ a similar rhetorical strategy.
  To admire one haiku or drawing or photomontage, however, in  isolation from its total plastic and verbal context, really does no   justice to your work, Werner. Such an approach is rather like the  standard monograph practice of presenting painting or architecture   for explication by showing numerous 'detail' reproductions but, in   this case, without a summary overview of the whole. Again, I offer an apology for the time-constraints that limit my   remarks upon your fine work. I wanted, however, to acknowledge your generous gift in some way and considered even a casual observation preferable to silence.


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