Frogpond 33.2 • 2010

Museum of Haiku
Literature Award

Haiku & Senryu

Revelations Unedited

Essay 1 - Hackett, part 2

Essay 2 - Miller




Book Review

From the Editors




reviewed by Nick Avis, Newfoundland & Labrador

Rosenow, C. Pacific. Hillsboro, OR: Mountain Gate Press, 2105 N.W. Glencoe Road, 97124-2040, 2009, 57 pp., perfect softbound, 5.5 x 7. ISBN 978-0-9643357-2-1, 14 USD.

Ce Rosenow is a poet, editor, critic, publisher and translator. She writes reviews, articles and essays, and her work has appeared in journals across the US and abroad. She has authored several books and chapbooks, and she is currently President of the Haiku Society of America.

This is a very well-produced book and maintains the high standard of quality set by haiku presses today. The cover notes by Leonard D. Moore and the introduction by Michael Dylan Welch are fair, balanced, descriptive and insightful.

Rosenow is very good at her craft: her poems are lyrical; she varies line length, rhythm and cadence; she is very good with sound; and the poems read well together. Her style, form and content range from traditional to modern and contemporary. She takes risks and succeeds most of the time.

The work is divided into our four seasons and the poems and the stories they tell are generally enhanced by this relationship. There is an attempt to have the poems within each season flow diurnally which is very difficult to do with this many poems. Throughout the sequence there are narratives and recurring themes woven together. All of these qualities combined make this a book of poetry in western poetic culture rather than a mere collection of poems.

Most of the poems are one to a page, centered and one-third of the way down. Visually this works very well with poems written on the ocean's edge, often when on a beach looking at the sea or the sky; and the pace of reading them is like the timeless steady motion of waves. If this presentation had been maintained throughout, it would have unified the work and solved other problems. For example, the eagle haiku (be- low) appears at the bottom of a page with another haiku above it! All that needed to be done was to remove eight poems or increase the number of pages by four; and since there are a number of weak poems and a few that do not work well in the sequence, removing poems would have been the best solution.

The unsuccessful poems are those that are merely descriptive, do not include enough detail, are too obvious or just do not fit: hungry too/black bear and cub/so close to town; fish camp— / on the wooden table / worn initials.

Rosenow writes some fine traditional haiku like this outstanding one which is one of her few experiments with form. What makes it a spring poem is the nature of the wind as seen in the eagle’s flight and the gnarled trees:

          cliff-top krummholtz
                       an eagle glides
                           with the same wind

As a result of the (re)arrangement of the lines you can see the eagle gliding on the page and the line arrangement accurately reflects the way the poem is read. Krummholtz are those elfin evergreens at or near the edge of a cliff that have been stunted, twisted and distorted by the wind, like natural bonsai. And yet “with the same wind” an eagle, a powerful, sacred bird and symbol, and a spirit messenger soars majestically to any height it wishes, hovers, twists, turns and glides to wherever it wants to go. This is an extraordinary heaven and earth haiku with deep metaphorical, philosophical, and metaphysical implications.

Rosenow is, with few exceptions, good to very good at sequencing:

spring break . . .
the beach covered
with ♥s (6)

                                      so young . . .
                                      lovers add a shell
                                      to their pail (6)

we return
they return
gray whales at Depoe bay (7)

                                      a year older
                                      I brace myself
                                      against the undertow’s pull (8)

The first poem (love) is dangerously close to being trite and is quite weak; the second (love), more like a senryu, is touching, so very human and considerably stronger; but it is their juxtaposition with the first-rate haiku on page 7 (memory) that gives them both an added depth they otherwise lack. We are also presented with three stages of life in the same moment on the beach and over time as the poet looks back and reflects on her life (memory and ageing). Then, when we turn to page 8, another dimension is added to the theme of ageing and the life cycle found in these four poems.

There is throughout this sequence from time to time a deep sense of unfulfilled longing, something most would naturally feel when next to the ocean. This haiku by Rosenow on the left reminds me of a favorite of mine by Tomizawa Kakio (1902-1962) in which there is also an allusion to Icarus: [1]

longing for something—
an unknown seabird
soars out of sight

                                      A wandering horse
                                      turning into a longing
                                      for home, vanishes

We see here Kakio’s more radical modern style in which the human element is dominant, with thoughts and feelings directly expressed; the season is less relevant, if at all, and the natural world only a reflection of the poet’s inner state rather than something with its own independent existence that may also reflect the poet’s inner state. Around a third of Rosenow’s poems are written with elements of this style though not quite as radical, except perhaps for this haiku which comes very close.

In addition to capturing and revealing moments from nature, the principal theme of this book is the human journey with its recurring themes (like waves) of love, loss, longing, loneliness, separation, memory and ageing, and all the emotions as- sociated with them. Yet, as Michael Dylan Welch accurately points out in his introduction, notwithstanding the apparent darker side of this work, “Acceptance, ultimately, is a central stance of this book, welcoming what is received, to the point of celebration.” Something that is evident in the first and last haiku of this book:

a bit of sea foam
in my open hands

                                      so many stars
                                      so much I don’t know—
                                      winter night


Works Cited

1. In Ueda, M. (ed./trans.), Modern Japanese Haiku. University of To- ronto Press, 1976, p. 243.

Nick Avis has been publishing haiku and related poetry internationally for over three decades. He was president of Haiku Canada for six years and has written reviews for Modern Haiku, Frogpond, Inkstone and the Newfoundland Quarterly. He has also published a number of papers on haiku and is currently writing a series of articles entitled “fluences” for the Haiku Foundation.