Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Carpenter's 600: A Review

I wanted to let readers know that Peter Britell has issued an expanded edition of his Haiku.  I previously reviewed the '500 Haiku of the Carpenter' (click on the 'Review' category to find it).  I like Britell's Haiku hugely.  I find his work original and engaging. 

Britell's book of Haiku started out with 'The 400 Haiku of the Carpenter', which was published in 2010.  Then this was expanded with 'The 500 Haiku of the Carpenter', published in 2011.  Now, in 2013 he has published the '600 Haiku' edition.  This is an interesting aspect of print-on-demand technologies that I am seeing more and more.  With print-on-demand it is much easier than when using a traditional publisher to re-edit one's work.  In Britell's case, he has used print-on-demand services to regularly expand his collection of Haiku.  My sense is that Britell composes Haiku throughout the year and then winnows what he has written; and those that he thinks are worthy are added into his collection for a new edition.

I have done the same already with one of my own collections; revising 'Safe Harbor' after its initial issue because I found one of the poems didn't really fit in.  It was a simple matter to change it because I was using print-on-demand technology.  In my own mind I suspect that in a year or two I will probably add poems to 'Safe Harbor' and to 'Lanterne Light' in the same way that Britell has added to his collection of Haiku.  In the standard world of book publishing this relationship to one's work would not have been possible because the publisher and editors would have resisted this kind of revision. 

There is, however, precedent for this kind of revision.  I'm thinking specifically of Walt Whitman's 'Leaves of Grass'.  Depending on how you define an 'edition', Whitman issued six to nine editions of 'Leaves of Grass' over his lifetime.  If I recall correctly, the first edition was self-published.  This first edition was a slim volume; about 100 pages.  The last edition, the 'deathbed edition', is over 400 pages. 

I have enjoyed watching Britell's collection expand.  He is a fine Haijin.  I have not made a systematic comparison between the editions, so I don't know which 100 Haiku have been added to this latest release.  I only know that I enjoy his approach to Haiku.  I find it articulate, with a sureness of image.  In terms of the craft of Haiku, the lineation is secure and the seasonal approach predominates. 

Britell uses an approach that retains the three-line structure but he indents the second line and divides it into two parts.  Here is an example:

Clear winter silence;
          sliver crescent moon
between tree branches.

This way of constructing the second line allows Britell to communicate a subtle caesura to the reader while at the same time preserving the 5-7-5 overall structure.  I find this an efficacious approach and in the hands of this particular author it works very well.  I believe that this approach to composing syllabic Haiku goes back to Peter Beilenson's translations of Haiku that appeared in the late 50's and early 60's.  But Britell's approach is singularly effective.  Britell continues to demonstrate just how effective this approach is.

Another aspect of Britell which I appreciate is that he is open to using the full range of poetic tools; that is to say he is not averse to using techniques like metaphor, personification, rhythm, etc.  Here is an example:

Spring, which was so near,
          is far off now,
          like a girl
waving from a train.

This is a really well-crafted, and effective, usage of metaphor.

Britell's Haiku are often nature-centered, sometimes human-centered, often serious, sometimes humorous, and at times he mingles these realms in a single Haiku.  For example:

In the night reaches
          wild winds chase
          the cold rain --
a glass of old wine

Britell's Haiku are a great pleasure to read.  They are finely crafted and resonate in the mind and heart.  I am happy to see that his collection of Haiku is continuing to grow and hope for more in the future.

The sea this morning,
          quiet as a
          baby's dream --
but tomorrow comes.


The 600 Haiku of the Carpenter
ISBN: 9781483959719
Available from Amazon
Distributed by Ingram, so your local bookstore should be able to order it.


Lisa Bleheen said...

This review sold me on the book, thanks! I just ordered it through Amazon. I was skeptical of this poet's preference for 5-7-5, but he handles it so well that the syllable count is transparent, even better than J.W. Hackett's. I like the break of "line 2" into two parts. It is very creative and makes for a convincing pause.

Jim714 said...

I'm happy to read that my review was helpful. 'Better than Hackett' is praise indeed. Enjoy the read.