Books read: haiku, poetry and a novel

83. A Cartography of Home by Hayden Saunier (Terrapin Books, 2021) is a relatable American collection and Saunier’s fifth. I was granted a review copy from the press. Saunier is an actor and organizer of a poetry and improv group. Her poems remind me closest of Catherine Graham’s storytelling poems. The collection propelled me to write a few poems, always a good sign. It gave an aha or chuckle or pause every few pages. They are alert poems and animate, not rutting a rut of sad, which is refreshing.

It’s hard to pick something representative. Object Lessons in Over-Attachment to Outcomes is a dog poem that warms my heart cockles. My Other Lives consider the Past is a fresh vantage point and creative. Evening View with Turkey Vulture is not a poem I feel I’ve read before, speculating on the life of, and sympathetic to, a turkey vulture. Gathering Black Locust Blooms unfolded in gorgeousness — it starts, “the edible blossoms/strip so easily/from soft clusters/at your touch/you’d think falling/into your cupped hands/had always been their plan”. but Advice Column: House Centipedes is my peek-choice. Everyone has a species cut-off point for the house, maybe goats, maybe pigs, maybe dogs, maybe ants, maybe ticks.

84. Blue Boy by Rakesh Satyal (Kensington Books, 2009) is a novel I’ve has since 2019. It took me a while to start but once we did we read it all aloud in a few days. It is cuttingly funny of types of people and behaviour. The 12-year-old is precocious but emotionally sheltered. If skipping over the refrain against fat people, and calloused to his constant scanning for loose females, the book moved along in a touching way. Coming of age when no one you know uses the word queer and working it out as you go.

85. The Eternity of Waves by Susan Constable (Snapshot Press, 2017) is by a lady I’ve been reading poems of for pushing twenty years. This chapbook is a free download from her press. This one is about mourning the loss of a son. She beat me to the punch with her tanka that is something I’ve been rolling around in unpublished poems for 5 years. orphan/widow/widower/why not/a word for those/who lose a child

I have been trying to express this for years.

2012, in deadend book manuscript: widow, widower./ English should have a word /for the parent who has lost a child.
2013, in deadend chapbook: Widowee? Could that be the English / for the parent who has lost a child?
2018, in a bounced chapbook: Should English not have a word for the parent who has lost a child? / Does widow, does widower have room for one more in the conjugation?

Constable did it more succinctly, the most impact in fewest words. In another tanka
unpacking boxes/stored for a dozen years/I discover/everything of value/deep within my heart

Isn’t that perfectly true. She held off and held off on the reveal and twisted. She could have said none of it matters or holds the significance it did, but it is more powerful to have the juxtaposition with the value of internalized memories and let the reader leap the gap.

86. The Tang of Nasturtiums by Carole MacRury (Snapshot Press, 2012). I swear I am not intentionally poem-stalking MacRury. Among downloaded chapbooks from some time ago, I found this one unread. This tanka of hers could have been about my mother. Such an insightful aha, like a click of maybe this is a way to understand. in this her box/of unmatched buttons/one baby tooth—/her lifelong attachments/for things detached

87. Stirring Ashes by alan s. bridges (Turtle Light Press, 2020). You can’t go wrong with chapbooks and books from Turtle Light Press. Rick Black eyes are discerning of refined writing. Exemplifying the understated power of minimalism is this haiku. bouldered rapids/between shoulder blades/her t-shirt darkens. Such a symmetry of observed form of shoulder blades back and water running between rounded rocks, a thumbnail sketch of plot of two people portaging and working hard.

88. Stone Circles by Cynthia Rowe (Snapshot Press, 2017) is a haibun chapbook. The stories don’t cohere tightly into an overall arc or mood like some haibun collections. Each are short, a short paragraph or two, often about teaching or pollution. The prose parts seem more truncated than they could be, or maybe show efficient restraint. I’m not sure I always get the significance but that may be a matter of wavelength.

89. Changing Demographics by Philomene Kocher and Marco Fraticelli (Catkin Press, 2021) was a lovely surprise in the mail from among two of my favourite people. I’m glad Catkin is still going. We need haiku presses in Canada.

The form of this collaborative exchange is Septenga, created by Alexis K. Rotella in 1997. One person does 3 lines, the other 2 lines and there are 7 units each exchange. One part of an exchange is under the title “Remaining”

what’s left
of the crabapple tree
in blossom

Philomene Kocher

old people walking
old dogs

Marco Fraticelli

It’s a delightful chapbook that I’ve already reread twice and expect to again.