You Can’t Be Serious

First published (first paragraph only) in the “Briefly Reviewed” section of Frogpond 39:3, Autumn 2016, page 122.

You Can’t Be Serious by Ronald Wallace (2015, Parallel Press, Madison, Wisconsin). 48 pages, 6×9˝, saddle-stapled. ISBN 978-1-934795-73-6. $10.00 from Parallel Press.

This is a book of sonnets, not haiku, but what may well interest haiku poets is the fact that the last word of each line is quoted from translations of famous Japanese haiku. So if you read the last words of each poem’s fourteen lines in order, vertically, you discover haiku such as this one by Issa: “don’t sing, you rowdy insects / the world will get better / in its own time.” The translations look to be by Sam Hamill, Robert Hass, and Jane Reichhold. Quoted poets (Bashō, Buson, and Issa, plus two by Sogi) are indicated after the title of each of this book’s 36 finely crafted modern (and unrhyming) sonnets.

Two example poems are “Bellweather” and “Song of Myself.” I have also learned that the poems in this book are examples of a specific form of poetry created in 2010 by Terrance Hayes, called “golden shovel” poems. See “The Golden Shovel,” the Hayes poem that started this form, and Don Share’s “Introduction: The Golden Shovel,” from Poetry magazine in 2017. See also Robert Lee Brewer’s 2014 overview, “Golden Shovel: Poetic Form.”