Friday, August 31, 2012


It's hot in the shade
And the breeze brings no relief --
Dry grass and dust

On the sparsely travelled road
That leads to some distant hills

Where moonlight bathed cliffs,
The banks of an ancient sea,
Gaze indifferently

Past the houses by the stream
A fox tiptoes cautiously

On the wooden bridge
He pauses to consider
Just what he should say

It's not just the choice of words,
It's also the spoken tone

She is delighted
And accepts his proposal
With laughter and tears

The first cooling wind arrives
Then lightning with a downpour

Rattling the windows
In the old office building
That is now for rent

Where new stalks of grass emerge
In the empty parking lot

A coyote strolls
Looking for some bigger game,
Perhaps a rabbit

In the shadow by the tree
White against the drifted snow

The old picket fence
(Missing a few of its slats)
Needs some repainting

After cherry blossoms fall
It feels like there's plenty of time

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Tracing Back the Radiance

The sun has set --
The celibacy of love
As stars shine above

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Free Verse Mind: Part 1

Free Verse Mind: Part 1

I want to take a few posts to think about what I sometimes call ‘free verse mind’.  What I mean by ‘free verse mind’ is an inability to see the function of form.  More, I mean the inability on the part of free verse practitioners to see the beauty of form and why form has a power which transcends any particular example of that form.  At times I think of this as akin to being deaf; only in this case it is being deaf to form.

This is not universally true.  There are significant free verse poets who also compose formal verse; Dana Gioia and Edith Shiffert come to mind.  So I’m not saying that writing in free verse inevitably leads to form deafness.  But there does seem to be, at least in my observation, a connection between form deafness and writing free verse poetry.  Perhaps the relationship is something like this: if someone is form deaf and they become attracted to poetry, then such a person will write free verse.  On the other hand, someone who is not form deaf may or may not also write free verse.

Perhaps it will be clearer what form deafness means by exploring what it means to compose poetry using the parameters of a previously existing form.  I think the best example for English poetry would be the Sonnet.  To write a Sonnet in English means to enter into a conversation with the Sonnet tradition.  I mean by ‘conversation’ that a Sonnet writer will be aware of the heritage of the form; to a greater or lesser degree.  In general Sonnet writers know of famous English Sonneteers who have preceded them; such as Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Dunne, Millay, etc.  Often a contemporary Sonnet writer will have previous Sonnet writers in mind; at times they may have a particular previously composed Sonnet as an ideal.  It is my experience that sonneteers have often memorized their favorite sonnets.  When Sonnet writers get together, either in person or online, discussions of the tradition and how previous poets have constructed their Sonnets are the main topic.  There is a strong sense of being embedded in a tradition.  And there is a strong sense of being part of a living community based on that Sonnet form.

With free verse, it seems to me, the situation differs.  There is a tradition of free verse.  There are also favorite free verse poets from the past; e.g. Whitman.  But the discussion differs from the kinds of discussions that take place with formal verse, it seems to me.  Though there is a free verse tradition it is not a tradition of form.  In a sense it is a tradition of anti-form. 

The difference I am pointing to partly centers on the hope of being original.  If I am writing a Sonnet I am not primarily focused on being original with the parameters of the poem.  For example, if I use a Shakespearean rhyme scheme, that is a rhyme scheme that is given, inherited; I didn’t invent it.  Others have used it and now I am using it as well.  The rhyme scheme is not my property, achievement or something I can own, nor is it distinctive of my personal expression.  It is part of the inherited Sonnet Recipe, if you will.  In contrast, if I write a free verse poem in the style of Whitman (say by engaging in a long series of parallelisms that mimic some of Whitman’s poems), that would be seen as being derivative; it would be looked at as a flaw.  Or if I adopted some of Bukowski’s syntax, that would also be seen as derivative and unoriginal.  My point here is that by its very nature free verse poetry undermines the idea that mimicking the structures of past poets in the free verse tradition is something to aspire to.  It is, rather, something to be avoided if one wants to make a name for one’s self in the field of free verse poetry.  In contrast, with formal poetry, adopting the structural features of previous poets is part of what makes formal verse formal verse.

Part of what I think constitutes free verse mind is a certain unexamined view of the past.  It is a characteristic shared by both moderns and post-moderns that our current time and age are in some important sense different from ages past.  I refer to this view as ‘chronocentrism’; I mean by ‘chornocentrism’ an exaltation, or inflation, of the present at the expense of the past.

In contrast, traditionalists tend to look at the past as offering lessons, advice, examples both positive and negative, which one can apply to one’s own life.  Underlying this traditionalist view is that our time is not that different from times past, that people haven’t changed in any basic way.  If one has this kind of traditionalist view then those who lived in the past are part of an overriding humanity, part of a community that is inclusive of one’s self. 

Another aspect, connected to chronocentrism, of free verse mind is a kind of hyper individualism.  One can see this, at times, in Whitman and I think Whitman has set a kind of precedent for this hyper individualism.  I mean by this those long passages in some of Whitman’s poems where he goes on at length about himself in praiseworthy verses.  To be honest, at times I find it embarrassing; but I know I’m a minority here.

Working with an inherited form undermines hyper individualism.  Instead there is a tendency to see one’s own efforts, say in the Sonnet, as just one contribution among many.  There is an inherent modesty in working with an inherited form.

All of this combines, I think, to make the transcendental beauty of form something that many free verse poets simply are unable to access; the psychological barriers are too great.  If, as a poet, you think of yourself as a rugged individualist, and your goal is primarily self-expression, it isn’t too difficult to see that this would make one inclined to reject pre-existing forms because a pre-existing form limits the range of self-expression.  In addition, if one believes that one’s own time is fundamentally different from past eras, that would effectively raise a barrier to using a form from the past because the past has nothing to offer this new era in which we live.

The above analysis is not universally applicable.  It has been my observation that for many younger poets today, trained at universities and various poetry workshops, connected with the contemporary poetry ‘scene’, free verse is simply the way they do poetry.  I mean that for many younger poets there has been no opportunity to learn about formal verse and their acceptance of free verse norms is thoughtless.  I don’t mean ‘thoughtless’ in the sense of lacking in intelligence; rather I mean not really considered or weighed.   Many younger poets have never been introduced to formal verse (metrical or syllabic) and write free verse simply because that is what they have been taught.

One can, however, observe how strong the psychological barriers are to formal verse in an individual when they are shown how formal verse works.  This sometimes happens accidentally by running across some formal verse that is also contemporary, or through an auspicious friendship, or, sometimes, a teacher they respect.  If the poet responds to this kind of information with openness, then the above analysis does not apply.  If, on the other hand, they respond with sarcasm, or trumped up ideological critiques, then, I suspect, something akin to the above analysis probably applies.

Most poets I know, including myself, who compose syllabic verse in specific forms, came to formal syllabic verse from free verse.  In my own case, recognizing the potential of syllabic verse came slowly; it was a long process.  Others I know have plunged right into a syllabic approach.  So the transition is possible and, from what I have observed, rewarding.

But for the free verse poet who is trapped by their own chronocentrism, such a transition remains highly problematical.  For such a poet to compose poetry in a pre-existing form would mean, from their perspective, to be ‘going backwards’; a phrase I have heard several free verse poets use.  They mean that formal verse is in some sense backwards, of another time, or not relevant.  Because they remain trapped in their own chronocentric ideology, they literally are unable to see the beauty of form and its attractiveness.


It's already warm
Though it's still early morning
No clouds in the sky

As the August heat rises
The automatic sprinkler starts

Same time every day
He continues his studies
Of mathematics

Under the light of the moon
Minds settle, clarity dawns

They decide to part;
Even though they love each other,
It isn't enough

Workmen build the new off ramp,
Blocking the flow of traffic

Not much rain last year;
Apple trees are blooming late
And bees are hard to find

Googling an obscure ref'rence
Yields too much information

The obsessive child
Tries to count the flakes of snow
Passing his window

All the layers and sweaters
Can't stop the brutal May wind

"Ruthless honesty?
So that is what you call it,"
Anger in her walk

The hardest of granite cliffs
Will soon be reduced to dust

Monday, August 27, 2012

Haiku Commentary #2: David Hoopes

Haiku Commentary #2

David Hoopes

The first book of Haiku I read was “Alaska in Haiku” by David Hoopes and Diana Tillion, published by Tuttle in 1972.  I was going to school at that time at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.  As I recall the book was sold at the school bookstore and that is where I bought it.

I still like it.  I think it has staying power.  Here is one of the Haiku by Hoopes I keep going back to:

Night below zero,
And the long valley’s echo
The sound of the stars.

The opening line gives us the season: this is a winter Haiku.  It also gives us a sense of geography with the ‘below zero’.  ‘Below freezing’ is also winter; but ‘below zero’ is a deeper winter, the kind of winter one experiences in Alaska.  (As this is an American Haiku, I’m thinking in terms of Fahrenheit rather than Celsius; ‘0’ Degrees Fahrenheit is about ‘-18’ Degrees Celsius.)

The ‘long valley’ gives the Haiku more focus.  My feeling from reading this Haiku is that I am looking at the valley from an elevated view; perhaps not a mountain top, maybe more like a hillside.  In my mind’s eye I am looking at a frozen river valley spread out below me.  Perhaps I am wearing snowshoes, walking from my own cabin to the cabin of a friend.  I lived for two years in rural Alaska without a phone and there were no cellphones at that time, so I can see myself doing something like this. 

I pause and notice that the sound of my steps echoes in the valley.  When winter plunges to below zero snow takes on a crispness that warmer, though still below freezing, temperatures don’t impart.  There’s no feeling of slushiness; the snow is dry and brittle and can form a thick crust over the more powdery snow beneath.  In this still night the smallest sound fills the valley and bounces back.

I look up.  The night is clear; perhaps it is moonless, or maybe just the sliver of a moon.  And the sound of my footsteps and the vision of the stars seem to blend.  I am poised between earth and heaven, between the winterscape and the stars, and all of it seems to be speaking to me in the reverberant silence.


I don’t know much about David Hoopes.  I never met him when I was in Alaska.  And the only other publication besides ‘Alaska in Haiku’ that I know of with his Haiku is an early volume that Billie at the Alaska Haiku Society kindly sent to me when I requested more information.  It is called ‘Haiku Drops from the Great Dipper’ and was published  by the Poetry Society of Alaska in 1973; it is an anthology of Haiku by Alaskan poets.  That’s the year after Tuttle published ‘Alaska in Haiku’.  But the ‘Foreward’ states that ‘Drops’ was seven years in the making.  It also states that all of the submissions for ‘Drops’ were ‘judged and critiqued’ by Harold G. Henderson.  Nice connection.   Hoopes’ Haiku in ‘Drops’ have many of the same characteristics found in ‘Alaska in Haiku’.  Hoopes seems particularly fond of rhyme.  Here are two examples:

Spring winds and warm rains,
Blossoms can begin to grow –
Two new teeth also.

An unscreened window –
Humming unseen past my bed
The first mosquito!

Interestingly, at least two other poets in the collection use rhyme as well:

Bumblebees stumble
Over clusters of clover
Drunken with summer

                        Billie Perkins

Marauders of night,
Rearing and pawing you go . . .
Wild wind-horses whoa!

                        Frances Anater

As readers of this blog know, I’m a huge fan of rhyme and think of it as generally underutilized in short-form syllabic verse.  So it’s intriguing to me to find rhyme used in this early collection by a number of authors.  Hoopes is the most consistent rhymer, but clearly whatever group put this anthology together was open to rhyme in Haiku.

Returning to the ‘Night’ Haiku: the construction of this Haiku is syllabic, in classic 5-7-5.  Each line has a distinct focus; there are no run-on lines.  Line 1 gives us the weather and the season.  Line 2 gives us the setting.  Line 3 places the setting in a cosmic context.  There is a movement in the Haiku from the constricted sense of cold, to the valley scene, finally opening up to heaven above. 

Rhyme is used to define the lines: zero/echo.  And there is also internal rhyme with ‘below zero’ having a particularly euphonious effect.  The rhyme is used with ease.  There is a gracefulness about this Haiku, a lyrical quality which I particularly like.  And it is this lyrical quality which makes Hoopes’ Haiku so memorable and so enjoyable.

Sunday, August 26, 2012


In the morning
Through the windows
The sound of the roses
Delays my plans
I stretch my arms and yawn
I decide to take a day off
They don't need me at work
I absent myself from the web
(I fondly recall some friends who are dead)
And listen to the wind instead
While I fold my clean clothes and make my bed
On the branch of the oak a sparrow has landed
We speak to each other before he goes

Saturday, August 25, 2012

On the Other Side of the Mountain

Ev'rything is forgotten
History as memory
Can't hold back the tides of time
All returns to mystery

Friday, August 24, 2012


In the garden
Meander like a stream
Through a landscape
Of scenes from the future
Unlikely possibilities
That still seem attractive
Dissolved by the acid of now --

They are like corpses on a battlefield
In the heat of a cloudless sky
Upon which numberless scavengers feed,
Messengers from the demon of the wheel of time --

White petals sway under the crows black wings

Thursday, August 23, 2012


Thin mist
August morning
Walking the rural road
As I pass a neighbor's garden
Clouds part

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Waiting for Dawn

A quiet morning,
The coolness brings to an end
The weeklong heat wave

There's no dew on the brown grass
Under the cloudless sky

The neighbors gather
To see the newborn triplets
And the new parents

At the Center for the Arts
The class for knitting begins

Under the full moon
The steady September wind,
A strange melody

He hums Gregorian Chant
Though he's not aware of it

How the temperature
Has fallen rapidly,
New ice on the pond

Some litter skitters across
The empty intersection

Sunday, 3 A.M.
Yesterday has passed away
Dawn is not yet here

The tight buds on the plum tree
And late February air

Stirs, but then settles,
As if spring is reluctant
To bring its changes

Without telling anyone
She visits an empty church

Monday, August 20, 2012

How Cynicism Takes Root

Weeding the garden
I suddenly realize
Promises are easy

Sunday, August 19, 2012


We live our lives day by day
Doing the best that we can:
Meals, work, bills, a friend to see,
Then comes eternity


At the end
At the threshold
Into the unknown
Beyond dawn, beyond dusk
Beyond questions and answers
The light that began creation
The ceasing of all agitation
A song made of silence that has no end

Saturday, August 18, 2012


The sky is clear
I'm a slacker today
An on-again-off-again wind
Dusk falls

Current Events

It's a blood sport
That let's us resort
To gross propaganda
To words that hide and distort
The nature of our intentions --

Is this all there is, is this our fate?
Planting the seeds that will sprout into hate

Friday, August 17, 2012

All Good Things . . .

"Don't you even start . . ."
At the small outdoor cafe
A friendship gives way

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Cosmos Contemplation

New moon
The starscape sky
My place in the cosmos
A grain of sand by the ocean
Ebb tide


The oppressive sky --
A brittle conversation
Among brown roses

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Morning Fog Disperses

August morning fog
Disperses during breakfast;
Warm summer sunlight

A dog wanders through the yard,
I wonder where it's going

From a safe distance
A meteor silently
Crosses the earth's path

Coming out of the diner
She's startled by the full moon

A passing stranger
Sings a drunken lullaby
To a memory

All the November storefronts
Are ready for winter sales

He buys a new scarf
And a set of gold earrings
For his fiance

A list of college classes
Offered the next semester

As the leaves turn red
She celebrates her birthday
With a huge desert

Crisp against the April sky
A red-tailed hawk in slow dive

The snow has melted,
And new blades of grass emerge,
And the first campers

On the high valley meadow
A carpet of new flowers

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Quaker Meeting

First Day
Gathered Silence
An hour of shared stillness
Our hearts open to the presence
Of God

Friday, August 10, 2012

What Approaches

Flowers in a vase
My grandmother gave to me
The gathering dusk

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The 'Introduction' to 'Borrowed Water'

The ‘Introduction’ to ‘Borrowed Water’

Yesterday I posted a review of the 60’s Haiku anthology ‘Borrowed Water’.  Today I’d like to post about its ‘Introduction’.  I am posting separately on the ‘Introduction’ because I think theoretical and/or esthetic issues are separable from the poetic content.  I mean by this that the content of an anthology shouldn’t be judged by the content of the ‘Introduction’.

But I found the ‘Introduction’, written by Helen Chenoweth, illuminating on its own.  The ‘Introduction’ details the formation of the ‘Writers Roundtable of Los Altos’, beginning in 1956 under the auspices of Chenoweth.  The Roundtable evolved and in the 60’s a group within the Roundtable decided to focus specifically on Haiku.

What I find interesting about this is how the 5-7-5 structure was taken for granted by the Roundtable, as the basis and starting point for Haiku composition.  For example, Chenoweth writes, “The creating of three rhymeless lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables, a total of 17, was the first step toward writing poetry.”  That is to say the Roundtable started out writing in this Haiku form, and then went on to other forms, such as the Crapsey Cinquain.

When those involved with the Roundtable who were attracted to Haiku began their more focused explorations they contacted others involved with English language Haiku.  At that time there was a magazine called ‘American Haiku’ edited by Clement Hoyt.  Hoyt wrote to the Roundtable as follows, “There is no authority on the haiku in English unless you accept, as I do, the haiku to be a definite form (and to be followed in a like manner) as the sonnet . . . Its seventeen syllables, 5, 7, and 5 in three lines, with its restrictions on content, its seasonal implication, its dependence on ‘effect’ rather than intellectual ‘point’ is nowhere near as difficult as sonnet’s structural and internal restrictions and look how long the sonnet has been part of our literary heritage!”

The overall tone of the ‘Introduction’ is optimistic and excited about this new form (i.e. new for the English speaking world).  I was particularly struck by the analogy made to the sonnet.  It’s an analogy I often think of because the sonnet is the most successful transplant of a foreign form into English.  And it was accomplished by following, that is to say mimicking, the formal parameters of the Italian Sonnet, with some slight changes.  For this reason there is a strong sense of continuity between the Italian and English sonnet traditions.  Even among modern practitioners of the English sonnet one can see the relationship to the Italian original.

The Haiku published in ‘Borrowed Water’ have a similar connection to the Japanese tradition.  That is to say, a reader can see how English language Haiku found in the anthology mimics the original Japanese form.  And even today, those haijin who write syllabic Haiku can be seen to have a strong connection to its original.

This connection, to my mind, is severed in the free verse approach to Haiku.  When I read collections of free verse Haiku, the historical background is more likely, it seems to me, to be American free verse; more likely to be a poet like Gary Snyder or Charles Bukowski rather than Buson.  The degree to which free verse haijin have internalized standard free verse conventions is almost total: the lack of capitals, run-ons that undercut grammatical significance, a kind of staccato syntax, the deliberate eschewing of standard poetic craft effects such as rhyme, etc.  This is why I feel that free verse Haiku is more akin to free verse than it is to haiku.  Those writing in this style of free verse Haiku are very much in the mainstream of contemporary American free verse.  More accurately, free verse Haiku can be thought of as a sub-group of contemporary free verse that specializes in short lined poems.  In contrast, a lot of contemporary free verse is long-lined; think Ginsberg or Whalen.  But aside from this focus on having a short line, free verse Haiku is, to my mind, closer in style and content, in its overall ethos, to modern American free verse than it is to Japanese Haiku.  At times I it feels to me that free verse Haiku has lost all connection to the Japanese form.

In contrast, syllabic Haiku maintains a strong connection to the Japanese original simply by its commitment to having formal parameters.  Japanese poetry (Tanka, Renga, Haiku) is formal verse.  By ‘formal’ I mean ‘counted’.  That is to say the original Haiku is shaped by counting.  English Syllabic Haiku shares that characteristic, that central means of shaping, with the original.  And that is why a reader can see the connection.

This is not to say that it is wrong to compose free verse Haiku.  In the hands of a good poet it works, and I have my personal favorites writing in that style.  But it seems to me that what free verse Haiku has become is simply free verse with a tiny bit of Japanese influence.  It’s kind of like adding tamari to your hamburger as a topping or garnish.  It works, but it doesn’t make the hamburger a Japanese dish, if you see what I mean.

I think this is one of the reasons why a syllabic approach to Haiku has maintained such a strong presence.  Even knowing that official Haiku organizations argue against a syllabic approach to Haiku, this has not deterred the steady presence and continued output of syllabic Haiku.  From my perspective it appears that a clear majority of Haiku published today are written using a syllabic approach.  And, in addition, poets who have achieved success in the poetry world at large, when they turn to Haiku, write syllabic Haiku even when most of their other poetry is free verse: I am thinking here of Hayden Carruth, Mary Jo Salter, and Edith Shiffert, among others.  This indicates a shared cultural understanding that Haiku is a type of formal verse.  Where would this idea come from?  It comes from the Japanese original, which is formal verse, just as the formal nature of the sonnet comes from the Italian original.

It is this sense of a connection to a long-standing tradition which gives the syllabic haijin a sense of confidence, even when arcane and obscure arguments are offered to undermine a syllabic approach.  In a sense, syllabic haijin don’t need an organization advocating for their approach because they can simply lean on the abundance of syllabic Haiku from both Japan and in the English speaking world. 

This early anthology, ‘Borrowed Water’, is an example of early Haiku poets in America  who were, at that time, clear in their understanding of Haiku as formal verse.  To my mind this is perfectly reasonable and is as valid today as it was when ‘Borrowed Water’ was first published.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Borrowed Water: A Review

Borrowed Water
A Review

I have been discovering that there has been a lot of syllabic Haiku published in the past, but which has now faded from view.  There are a number of reasons for this.  First, poetry is a niche market which only a small number of people are interested in.  And Haiku is a niche in that niche.  The consequence of this is that poetry rarely gets reprinted and that includes reprints of Haiku.  An exception to this would be Richard Wright and his collection of Haiku which has been in continuous publication since it was first printed.  I suspect that is due primarily to his fame and reputation as an author of fiction and biographical works rather than the public  being specifically interested in Wright as a poet or as a Haiku poet.  

A second reason, I think, is that many people associated with what I refer to as Official Haiku have taken to a free verse approach and are no longer interested in those who composed Haiku using a syllabic approach.  Often a syllabic approach is configured by Official Haiku as an embarrassment from the past, something which has now been overcome.  With this kind of attitude there is little interest in past Haiku publications that used a syllabic approach.

One such book is ‘Borrowed Water: A Book of American Haiku’.  It is an anthology put together by the Los Altos Writers Roundtable.  It was published in 1966, making it one of the earliest anthologies published.  The publisher is Tuttle and as an aside, Tuttle during the 60’s and 70’s seems to have been interested in publishing English language Haiku that used a syllabic approach.  The first book of Haiku that I read was ‘Alaska in Haiku’ and it was published by Tuttle as well.

There are 13 contributors to ‘Borrowed Water’.  The Haiku are  arranged in the traditional four seasonal chapters, with one concluding chapter of ‘Miscellaneous’ Haiku.  The personalities of the 13 haijin come through as the reader gets to see how each haijin handles each seasonal theme.  Each contributor has a unique and distinctive voice.  I liked this way of putting together the anthology better than the style where each haijin has only a few Haiku, often arranged by author rather than by theme.  I enjoyed seeing how the different poets spoke.

The approach to Haiku in this anthology is consciously syllabic; this distinguishes the anthology from more recent anthologies which tend to give prominence to free verse lineation.  But there is another significant feature of this anthology: there is no minimalist impulse in evidence.  All the Haiku are written in standard English using articles, prepositions, modifiers, etc.  From my perspective this makes this anthology esthetically a cut above more recent anthologies of Haiku.  Here’s an example of what I mean:

A leaf flutters down
to the basket of shade
you planted years ago.

First, note that L2 and L3 are both six syllables.  This makes the overall count 17 (5 + 6 + 6), but with a slight change in the syllable distribution.  The group seems to have held this kind of relaxed approach to counting rather than a rigid or uncompromising approach.

Note also that this Haiku is a full sentence; again I find this approach often in the anthology.  There is no minimalist scalpel at work here.  A contemporary, minimalist, approach might rewrite this Haiku as follows:

falling leaf --
the shade you planted
years ago

Personally, I prefer the original; it is more lyrical and more conversational.  It is more considerate of the reader.  It is more English.  The minimalist version is what I refer to as ‘Haiku Hybrid English’ or HHE for short.  There is a thud-like quality to the second version.

Here’s a portrait of autumn:

The boys are in school;
fall leaves – the only swimmers
in the swimming pool.

I like the way the author breaks the second line; it works because the third line is a full prepositional phrase and has its own integrity.  I also enjoyed seeing an early example of the use of rhyme (school/pool).  Again, notice that there is no attempt at minimalism; there is a full portrait here of fall through the interweaving of the human and natural worlds.  I think this is a very skillfully done Haiku.

Not all of the Haiku in this anthology are, to my mind, successful.  I observed some Issa influenced Haiku that are somewhat cloying in their use of personification.  On the other hand, that kind of Haiku could find a good home in a collection for children, accompanied with good illustrations.

Here is a thoughtful Haiku on the classic topic of the moon:

The pond lies placid;
night unpacked its darkness there,
two moons hover here.

This is nicely mysterious and captures the eerily mirror-like quality of a placid pond.  The personification of ‘night’ works effectively, as if night were a conscious force.

And here is an example I particularly liked:

Seeing the thin elm
this dismal morning,
I think of yellow.

Notice the short count; fifteen syllables.  But it works; it doesn’t have a minimalist feel and isn’t written in HHE.  Notice the use of modifiers ('thin', 'dismal') which HHE eschews.  This is one of the most significant differences in the esthetics of a syllabic approach and the minimalist approach of HHE.  In a syllabic approach modifiers are encouraged because they are a part of normal English usage and they give the Haiku specificity.  I enjoyed the way the author shows the effect that the natural scene has on his interior mind.

There are a lot of used copies of this collection available at a reasonable price.  For those who are interested in syllabic Haiku, I think this is a collection you might want to become familiar with.  This anthology from the 60’s can be built on and learned from.  I think you will enjoy it.

A crescent moon
is bent on following the boat
around the small pond.

Sunday, August 5, 2012


Heraclitus says that everything flows,
That all things resemble a flowing stream,
Shadows  lost at night, the cry of a crow
Heard a few days ago in a brief dream.

After all's gone can anything be seen?
Is there something, anything, that remains?
At the end of our plans and all our schemes
Is there something leftover to attain?

Like a glowing rainbow after the rain,
Without name or form, hidden in the light,
There's an eternal presence free from stain
That shines within the darkest soul and deepest night.

The light of grace shines within the heart,
It is a presence from which we cannot depart.

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Virtue of Small Tasks

Clear sky
In August
Hot afternoons
Shorts and short-sleeved shirts,
Glare from windshields and chrome
Deflects the impulse to roam;
I think I'll spend the day at home
(The garden needs a spread of new loam),
Attending to my corner of the world.

Thursday, August 2, 2012


On this silent dawn
I observe August passing
Through thick summer fog

The stream flows around the bend,
The sound of a distant owl

Nature photographs
A Yosemite brochure
And vacation plans

A Sagittarius sky
The hub of the wheel of time

The full moon pauses
Hovering at the zenith
The gate to the heart

She looks in on her children
And hopes they will have sweet dreams

In the small backyard
An angel checks the garden
And offers blessings

He drops the kids off at school
Then drives quickly to the store

In the city park
Suddenly the cherry trees
Are dense with blossoms

Slowly walking hand in hand
They wonder if this is love

Towards the end of March
The smell of new blades of grass
Like sublime incense

Vespers in the quiet church
A homeless man finds some rest

In The Garden

Flowers make me think a lot
About the blossoms of time,
How even days of beauty
Will soon vanish, are not mine

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

No Exit

At the prison
For the criminally insane
They wanted to know
About karma and rebirth.
Better luck next time, I guess.