My Neighbor

Paul Miller, editor. San Francisco: Two Autumns Press, 2010, 32 pages, with poems by Garry Gay, David Grayson, Carolyn Hall, and Michael Dylan Welch.

This book was the twentieth in the annual Two Autumns reading series sponsored by the Haiku Poets of Northern California. Each year, four readers are selected for a featured reading, usually in San Francisco, and the reading is commemorated by the publication of a chapbook with twelve haiku and senryu by each of the selected poets. This reading took place at Fort Mason in San Francisco on 13 September 2009, and you can see photos of my trip online. It was my privilege to participate in the very first reading, in 1990, and to be asked to read again twenty years later.

An excerpt from the book’s introduction, by Paul Miller:

Michael Dylan Welch has been writing haiku for many years, and his skill at relating an emotional scene is easily evident. In the following poem the future ups and downs of a relationship are tempered by an optimistic seasonal marker:

spring sun—

at the top of the roller coaster

she says yes

Lately, Welch has been experimenting with what he calls “created mythologies,” sets of poems similar to Ban’ya Natsuishi’s Flying Pope series in which the poems’ consistent subject is used in avant garde and surreal ways to question viewpoints, and even traditions. Such experiments help keep the genre fresh. A few are included in this volume from Welch’s Neon Buddha series. In particular, I enjoyed:

the dentist’s chair

could hold a hundred

neon buddhas

This is an interesting poem to parse: from the anxiety of a dentist’s chair in the first line, to an implied genocide in the second, to a third line that has the power to possibly vanquish both. It is a poem that keeps the reader on their toes, shifting perspective and understanding.

A selection of poems from the book (or see all poems):

crackling beach fire—

we hum in place of words

we can’t recall

cold rain—

the inning ends

with nobody on

drapes drawn—

just the edges done

on the daffodil puzzle

accumulating snow—

oven mitts

praying on the counter

scent of wisteria—

she finishes translating

the birth certificate

garbage strike

the neon buddha

eats the rainbow

rapture

the neon buddha

has nothing to declare


The 2009 Two Autumns book, titled My Neighbor, with cover art by Naia. Linda Papanicolaou did the layout and production. Paul Miller served as editor.

Six of my poems in My Neighbor.