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The Trees Bleed Sweetness. Carol Purington. Illustrated by Walter Cudnohofsky. Winfred Press, Wilson Hill Road, Colrain, MA 01340. E-mail: winfred@crocker. com Perfect bound, 8.5" x 5.5", 60 pp., 41 tanka, 5 illustrations, $9.00 ppd.
For some of you, the title of Carol's book may seem familiar. And you are right. Two years ago Carol's tanka sequence of the same name was one of the winners in the Tanka Splendor contest judged by Larry Gross. Encouraged by this success, Carol took the original seven stanzas, held the poems lightly in her mind until the story expanded into the final 41.
She has taken a very interesting premise for the sequence. From her reading of the history of the culture along the Connecticut River Valley in pre-Columbian times, Carol has invited in an other-worldly creature. As she explains in the introduction, "The woman who speaks in these poems is a Native American whose shadow once touched the land were I live. For years I have imagined her face, her days, her words."
The book is divided into sections: The Girl Child, The Maiden, The Woman, and The Old Woman. The poems begin with a child-like fantasy that perfectly sets the reader into the frame of mind one needs to accept the voice.
North Wind scatters
ice-sharp stars across the arch of night
the Great Bear shuffling down the sky
to snatch back his warm robe
Though the heart weaves a story by following the poems, the tanka are not used in a narrative way. It is more like each tanka is a snapshot of the inner voice of the Indian woman. As the unrecorded pictures unroll against the reader's mind, one finds oneself imagining the rest of her story.
Carol has rightly chosen the title for her book from one of the best (out of the many excellent) tanka which seems to tersely sum up the folly of the human condition:
The trees bleed sweetness
in this bitterest season
The men dance themselves
to fury at an insult
My child kicks within me
As one reads the book, at first for the story, and later for the beauty of the poems, one realizes how every word has been considered, polished and revised until the tanka shine like faceted stones. Nothing interferes with the flow of the poems. At the bottom of some pages is a very discreetly printed word "endnote". In the back of the book are the explanatory notes which verify the reality and research into the background of Carol's dream woman. Somehow the combination of dreams and facts moves the reader into a space where time is stopped so one can participate in a realm that is often otherwise closed.
The illustrations are from fine paintings of trees by Walter Cudnohofsky which correspond accurately to the periods of the woman's life which serve as division pages adding a quietness where the reader can sit down and rest before making the next steps of the journey. Larry Kimmel is Winfred Press and has done a beautiful, warm and loving job presenting Carol's poems.
I know how hard Carol works on each of her poems. But as I felt the back of the book coming forward in my hands, I wanted more, more, more poems. I did not want the story to end so soon. But now, I see Carol did me a service. Where her poems stopped, my mind continued the story. And it is sweet.
SUN, MOON, MOTHER, FATHER: Tanka. Cherie Hunter Day. Saddle-stapled, 8.5" x 5.5", 20 pp., illustrated. $5.00 ppd. Order from Sundog Press, POB 91128, Portland, Oregon, 97291.
Again, we see a book that was touched by the Tanka Splendor Awards of 1995. Cherie Hunter Day's poem that was chosen that year was:
phone call home:
the voice of my dad
as he chides me
for wasting my talent
on this tanka tonight
It is as if this tone is enlarged to color all the thirteen poems of the book. There is a melancholy that clings even to the tender love tanka:
hand in hand
we dash into a birch grove
each leaf trembles
at the slightest touch
of the spring rain
Perhaps Cherie's muted tone comes from the final illness and loss of her mother. Even Cherie's awarded tanka in this year's contest was the result of her sad experiences with her mother's illness. Personally I was surprised to find only one small illustration in the book. Cherie is a fine artist she made the drawings for the covers of Tanka Splendor 1993 and 1994. I suspect that she made this book under the energy constraints of putting together Haiku North America this year in Portland (I just typed Poetland there are so many there!). Like her father, I want to chide her to collect her many excellent tanka (each one is always perfectly constructed there is much to learn from her work) and her perfect drawings for the book that truly displays her many talents.
Say Yes Quickly. Mary Bradish O'Connor. Pot Shard Press, 1997. Perfect bound full-color trade-cover, 8.5" x 5.5", 96 pp., $12.95. At your bookstore or order directly from Pot Shard Press, POB 215, Comptche, CA 95427.
Mary Bradish O'Connor was forced to look her death right in the face when she was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago. As she writes in the beginning of her story, "Cancer prompts me to create my own memory board now, as the wind is rising. Yes or no? I say yes! quickly and conjure this: amber beads on a redwood slab, impressions carved into the heartwood, a shard of memory left in the clearing for a stranger to find. Yes, I say and fling myself into the hot springs of experience and begin to write."
Most of the poems are longer, free verse with interstices of brief narrative sections to ground the reader in the reality in Mary's life and landscape which surrounds her and feeds her poetry. Sprinkled here and there are tanka, many of which you have met here in Lynx. One which has always touched me greatly:
day two after chemo
twilight cannot come soon enough
sick and tired of it
a woman with cancer waiting
for this precious day to end
I love Mary's courage in facing her life and even, perhaps, the end of her life. Her poems are filled with heart and tenderness, love of life and the desire to make each moment count. If you know someone facing cancer (and how many of us are these days) I strongly suggest you get them a copy of Say Yes Quickly. It can only give your friend and yourself the courage needed for the experience.
While looking for the information that tells the book is published by M.L. Harrison Mackie, who has done a very professional job, I find that one of Mary Bradish O'Connor's poems was an award tanka in Tanka Splendor 1996. How good to see, again, people who have let the award encourage them to continue and to publish their poems.
Tanka Splendor 1997. Judge George Swede. Series Editor Jane Reichhold. Saddle-stapled, 8.5" x 5.5", 48 pp., $7.00 ppd. Order from AHA Books, POB 1250, Gualala, CA 95445 USA.
The booklet with the results of this year's Tanka Splendor Awards have just arrived. The judge, George Swede, well-known Canadian poet and editor, has made an outstanding selection of 31 individual tanka and four tanka sequences. The book begins with an essay on tanka by Swede and one of his exemplary tanka.
The big winner, this year was Margaret Chula with five of her tanka being chosen. When I e-mailed Margaret of her win, she wrote back that she was just sitting in her studio with all her tanka spread around wondering if they were worthy of making a book out of them. George's picks certainly gave her courage to continue the project! This is not the first time that Margaret has had tanka and even multiple tanka be awarded.
George Swede knows when he likes a poet's work. Even though the entries were without names, he picked several poems from ten poets surely a record in this contest. Caroline Gourlay, of England had four tanka selected; Janice Bostok of Australia had three winners. Pamela A. Babusci, Cherie Hunter Day, Larry Kimmel, David Rice, Ruby Spriggs, Elizabeth St Jacques and Jeff Witkin: all had two winners.
Both of the linked tanka David Rice had done with Ebba Story and Gail Sher were picked. This is the first time collaborative tanka sequences were entered and Swede picked the two of them not knowing that two authors were involved in writing each poem.
Other winners were: Marianne Bluger (Canada), Ann Cooper, Jeanne Emrich, Anthony Knight (England), ai li (England), Carol Purington, John Stevenson and Tereas Volz. Congratulations to each and every winner.
Though George Swede picked a collection that expressed his views, needs, objectives and out-look, there were many poems which were also worthy and would have made the cut by someone else. Reading over all the entries, I felt there was a huge leap in the quality of tanka. So many authors now seem totally comfortable in expressing themselves within the genre and doing it well. If you didn't win this year, please do try again next year. And get a copy of Tanka Splendor 1997 to check out these winning poems.
My Shadow Doing Something. George Swede. Tiny Poems Press, Enfield, Connecticut: 1997. Saddle-stapled, 8.5" x 5.5", 24 pp. $5.00. Contact Tiny Poems Press, c/o John Sheirer, 170 Elm St., Enfield, CT 06082.
My Shadow Doing Something is a collection of haiku and tanka by the high-profile Canadian poet George Swede. As if being offered the best of all his best, the reader gets a generous serving of a mixture of genres, often with both on the same page. So much for the Japanese belief that tanka poets and haiku writers are two separate kinds of writers. Swede exemplifies the truth that in English, writers can be skilled in both styles. And he is.
And he begins to blur the line between the two. Sometimes one can only lean on the line-count to know which genre is which. Many of his haiku have gotten longer and many of his tanka have the jocular, playful "tone" of haiku.
first spring without
our golden retriever
so many shoes
with their tongues out
by the back door
two wooden shoes
The title of the book is taken from the haiku:
where the path
my shadow doing something
in the bushes
I Write Friend. Michael Ketchek. Tiny Poems Press, c/o John Sheirer, 170 Elm St., Enfield, CT 06082. Saddle-stapled, 4.25" x 3.5", 16 pp., $1.00.
Tiny Poems Press continues its amazing output with a series of tiny booklets. These are so handy to slip into a letter or to introduce a friend to tanka, and these booklets are available for such a tiny price you can afford to get several.
Michael Ketchek uses this booklet form to create a memorial for his friend who has died. The poetry is much larger than the tiny pages. From poem to poem, a picture of their relationship unfolds and draws the reader into the unexpected range of feelings the author reveals. Michael Ketchek has sculpted a beautiful memorial to a friendship with words and heart.
springtime in the park
white frisbee floating forever
in a high blue sky
you and I so young
everything still possible
signing in to visit
under the cold glare
of the psych ward nurse
under relationship to patient
I write friend
To read the rest of the story, I suggest you get this book.
Curve. John Sheirer. Tiny Poems Press, c/o John Sheirer, 170 Elm St., Enfield, CT 06082. Saddle-stapled, 4.25" x 3.5", 16 pp., $1.00.
When I think of John Sheirer, I think of my favorite tanka of his:
of the hill
I wish I had
a hand big enough
to caress it
Obviously he, too, loves this poem. He named his book from
it. In contrast to Ketchek, John Sheirer's poems are many slices from his life
held together by the genre. By them not being connected, the mind takes its time
finding each poem, each situation, before it spreads out the puddle of one's
personal memories. Therefore the pace is leisurely and rambling the kind of
book you dip into when you have a few moments. Do. You might even find:
but I know
in the fridge
there's one more slice
of three-berry pie
Ghostdancing. Edward Baranosky. Poetry, drawings and cover art by Edward Baranosky. 1997. Saddle-stapled, 8.5" x 5.5", 38 pp., no price. Write to Edward Baranosky, 115 Parkside Drive, Totonto, Ont. M6R 2Y8, Canada.
Before leaving on his most recent wanderings, Edward made a booklet of his recently published poetry from Mirrors, Poets and Painters, Lynx, Sijo West, The Authors, and Wordscape III in addition to some poems which should have been published. As always Baranosky's written works are enlivened by his excellent ink drawings. The poems are formal in a three-line plus two-line pattern or the regular tanka pattern. It is as if he has synthesized both renga and tanka within himself and then leaped forward into his own material in his own way. Here, the complete poem:
The Narrow Road
frozen in time,
the still air sings
with inner, unseen bells;
the whispering wind sleeps
waiting for a wakening crow.
the sky has held the snow,
drifting dreamless days
across long night trails
written in the memory
of secret, silent lakes
etch the horizon of paths
no burden of past,
no weight of future
Just These Few Stones. Richard Goring. The Cat's Yawn Press, 27 Park Street, Westcliff-on Sea: Essex SS0 7PA, England. Hand-tied, a fat little book of 93 haiku, 6 senryu and 16 tanka and generous commentary. £ 4.00, $7.00.
I always wanted to make a book of haiku, called A Little Fat, but could never figure out how to bind it. Here before me is Richard Goring's book with a simple and workable solution. Hmmm. I am thinking...
It is important that we support each other with our books. I know, sometimes it seems everybody is making a book, and one wonders if there are really enough good poems to fill them all. But! If you have ever done a book, you know the thrill of designing it, editing your poems, making a thousand decisions, rewriting the introduction one more time. Then there is the holy joy of holding your book in your hands and opening it for the first time. The pleasure of hearing from someone that they liked your poem "such and such".
My question for you is, how often when you read a book review about one of these small, self-published books, are you willing to enter the author's joy by ordering a book? Whether you know him/her or not. To order a book just for the idea of exchange, seeing another world, another person's perspective. Giving someone far away the thrill of 'filling a book order'.
The prose sections of Richard Goring's book not only give good concise introductions to the three genres, he shares from his life and his family. The last three poems in the book are searches for meaning in life from his daughter, Michelle Brewer, who died of cancer.
Richard Goring has experienced sadness; as in the tanka:
once more this Spring
the long journey home
through the greening fields
for the family tree
but his grief is tempered by his faith and by his poetry.
The poems are printed two to a page and the haiku are arranged according to seasons. Living on the English sea coast, Richard's haiku are filled with 'place' and each one is faultlessly written.
HANDSHAKE, by Werner Reichhold. Haiku, drawings and installations by author, AHA Books, POB 767, Gualala, CA 95445. 1989, 104 pps., $10. ppd. Winner of the Haiku Society of America's Merit Book Award 1992.
Be aware, when you take the book in hand, that here is a unified approach to interrelationships.
The title, HANDSHAKE, suggests a reaching out, touching another, positive movement; an exchange of spirits through the skin. The sub-title, Far East - Form, Far West -Thinking, alerts one that there is more here than a collection of one man's work. But what?
The silver cover becomes a mirror for the reader. Inside the first words are "Installations" and the haiku reviewer wonders if there has been a mistake. Farther on come words combining installations, drawings and haiku. Now THAT is a mixture! What do these three things have in common? Without a clue, the reader can only venture on to the first pages. On the softest gray paper are the wildest drawings. The mind searches for a comparison and comes up only with the idea that these could be energy fields around unseen objects. For a grasp on reality, the eye moves to the print reading about the drawing (that is understandable) and then again the word "installation", under which is a brief description of objects or colors or lights in a room. Above this, in darker type, is an easily recognized haiku.
Depending on the reader's orientation, most people read the book either for the haiku, which are concise, modern, viable; filled with puzzles and insights, or they leaf through from drawing to fascinating drawing. Again the drawings move between collage, photo and pencil; in all variations. Slowly, the few numbers on the drawing and those under "installations" began to agree and it flashes in the reader's mind that the drawings are floorplans for installations such as one sees in modern art museums.
Three things, three worlds, three approaches. The artist, the sculptor and the writer bring together three seemingly unrelated elements (as purely as the haiku writer does) and asks the reader to find on each page, the relationship between them (as the haiku reader has learned to do).
Now the fun begins. The haiku start drawing pictures, the drawing becomes a scene and the installation description becomes a poem. What is the reader supposed to think? Nothing. You can only let yourself go; to be carried off into time and space by wiggly black lines. Don't be afraid. You won't go anywhere you have not already been. It's like hypnosis. Nothing can be inserted that is not already there. But, one can, while swinging from image to image, pass through inner territories one seldom sees. All you've experience with pencils and their magic, all you've ever visualized from the images that you the reader form from haiku juxtapositions, comes together with all you have found in the spirit of Zen and the reality of this our Western world of art.
As Werner Reichhold has said, "The word is encircling an event with sound. The drawing is visualizing it. In the paradox you can find something. "What you find depends on what you have stored within yourself. Thus, it requires several journeys through this book to take it in and let this unusual combination of components become a trusted part of your inner landscape. When this happens, the reader can allow the haiku and drawings to grow on their own possibilities by interacting with each other when they are familiar enough to be permitted access to the reader's storehouse of images.
Now the reader finds that haiku plus text change their nature in the environment of a drawing because the elements are organized in counterpoint to each other. This is very different from the usual use of drawings to illustrate a haiku. In no way can the drawings or the imagined installations be illustrative of the haiku, yet there is an interworking between all three -- again similar to the inner relationships of lines in a haiku.
There comes a feeling that HANDSHAKE is not a collection of either drawings or plans for installations being used to enlarge or illuminate haiku. Based on Reichhold's haiku awareness and thinking, he has used the "secret" of haiku -- linking -- on which to build his whole book. With a flash one realizes! The book is the haiku.
Beneath the Stars. Ertore José Palmero. Saddle-stapled, 6.3" x 4.25, 40 pp., no price. Write to: Ertore Jose Palmero, Carlos Antonio Lopez 2450, PB Dpto. 3, 1419 Buenos Aires, Argentina.
A very personal book of haiku and tanka dedicated to the four women in Ertore's life: his mother, his sister, his wife and his daughter. Perhaps the fact that he lives in Argentina gives his poems very different rhythms and techniques. A sample:
I climb the mountain.
Like a dream,
I imagine to be perched
on a light cloud.
I especially liked the poem ending the book:
New Year holiday.
For children snow is not cold:
it is rejoicing.
THE BODYGUARD. Lewis Sanders and Carl Brennan. From Ardeal Publications, Lewis Sanders, 125 Taylor St., Jackson, TN 38301. Comb-bound, 11" x 8.5", 12 pp., lots of Tibetan line-art.
Lewis Sanders, (former editor of The Red Pagoda) and Carl Brennan, (whose poetry you have often read in Lynx) have published, in lavish book form, linked verses three lines each which they wrote based on Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo and Sanjuro. Both are accomplished gothic writers so the work is a pleasure to read as they duel with daggers and dragons. Adept at creating a fantasy world out of their own experiences, these two men have greatly widened the slice of life normally given to linked works.
The book opens with an apt quote from T.S Eliot's The Sacred Wood:
"In an artist these suggestions made by a work of art, which are purely personal, become fused with a multitude of other suggestions from multitudinous experience, and result in the production of a new object which is no longer purely personal, because it is a work of art itself."
Here is a tease from the beginning of:
under the later-moon
tossing a twig LS
Down to the bare earth . . .
from royalty's warrior
to unemployed sword CB
by the code of Bushido;
the running dog LS
The thirsty insects
hounding his head and shoulders
constant companions CB
Greedy bitch! I pay many yen
for your sake wine LS
Mind Magic: a wheelchair excursion through time and space. Lesley Einer. Saddle-stapled, 7.5" x 2.75", 16 pp., no price. Nice papers and well-designed. Order from Sage Shadow Press, 4065 East Bell Road, Phoenix, AZ 85032. Imagine yourself living in a nursing home, unable to walk but still writing and publishing your haiku. How vital it would be to share your poetry. And Lesley does it beautifully! Are you listening?
Tamarack & Clearcut. Haiku by Marianne Bluger, Photographs by Rudi Haas. Carleton University Press: 1997. ISBN: 0-88629-293-X. Perfect bound, 11" x 8.5", 96 full-color pages, $27.95. Toll-free order: 1-800-320-4606. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tamarack & Clearcut is every haiku writer's fondest dream. To have a famous photographer's full-color pictures published with generous pages of many haiku on beautiful paper in a big coffee table book by a university press. What an honor! Congratulations to Marianne Bluger for being worthy of this recognition and for her excellent haiku which enrich the images. The haiku and photos seem made for each other in the fact that both take a close and realistic look at the world around in its perfection and imperfection. Suddenly the title makes sense, doesn't it?
I liked the idea of having the haiku all together on several facing pages throughout the book instead of printing haiku and photo on the same page. This way the two methods of transmitting images do not conflict or vie for your attention. You can enjoy the photographs for what they are and the haiku are not reduced to being pseudo titles or picture captions. Good decision. Carleton University Press did an excellent job with the book. Sock 'em in the eye color on every page.
The Wafer Cage: Poems by Nasira Alma. A few copies of Nasira's last book, and her fantastic tape of her reading her poetry "Halleluia Jalapeno" are still available from Nasira's literary executor: Kim J. Kennedy, 2191 Braley Road, Coos Bay. OR 97420 for $10.00 and $12.00 each ppd. The proceeds from these sales and any donation you make will go toward the publication of Nasira's unpublished book which she left on her computer.
Bless Me, My Self
Don't worry about
Here is the act of grace:
Go to the center of
your quaking knees;
absolve your fears
Go to your groin's nadir;
forgive your lust's
ever holding back.
At your stomach pith
console your power
in its molehood
Walk your heart's perimeter;
accept its smallness. Pity
the words stuck in your throat.
Let your inner eye enjoy
the antics of mistakes. Hear your
crown crow because you're you.
When redemption's tough tickles
head to toe, you are forgiven.
Go and sin some more.
. . . and buy books!
Book Reviews Copyright © Jane Reichhold 1997.
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