An engaging collection of 71 Midwest haiku by Lee Gurga, introduced by Jerry Kilbride.
the baby finds its shadow
on the kitchen wall
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1991, perfectbound, 88 pages, 8½ x 5¼ inches, ISBN 978-1-878798-04-9
measure the emptiness—
“Continuing our journey we crossed the bridge at Clinton into Whiteside County, Illinois. It was here my childhood summers were spent. I know the endless spread of green corn under a blistering sun and the sound of a million locusts searing the full moon, triggered suddenly by who-knows-what. I know the sulky races at the county fair, what it is to shuck corn, how meringue sticks to your nose and face during a pie-eating contest. The Measure of Emptiness, written with a keen eye, keen insights, is like crossing the bridge at Clinton into this world. I have the pleasure of inviting you to come along with Lee into a place that Jack Kerouac called sweet green Illinois.” —from the introduction by Jerry Kilbride
“I bought The Measure of Emptiness by Lee Gurga in 1995. His haiku [above] expresses the stark beauty of the winter I also know in Wisconsin. There is an emotional quality to his poem that spoke to me at the time, and continues to this day. That was a year of great personal challenge, and the combination of ‘emptiness’ and beauty is one I well remember. Good to reread today. With gratitude.” —Ellen Grace Olinger, in Favorite Haiku
wedged in an upper fork—
“The circle of life is readily apparent in this haiku [above] without being too obtrusive. An opossum either died and decomposed or was eaten and excreted by a snake or other predator and its bones were caught in the pocket formed by forking tree branches. The dead opossum has provided nutrients to the plant for it to grow. The poet skillfully leaves out the words ‘branches’ and ‘tree’ because their choice of the seasonal phrase (kigo) ‘budding leaves’ makes them redundant to our understanding of the poem. The leaf buds place the scene in early spring and there is good resonance with the cold bones of the opossum and the leafless limbs of the tree. Rather than using the noun form ‘leaf buds,’ the use of a verb gives us the sense of action still happening and life going on.” —Dhugal Lindsay, in Mainichi Haiku Classic: March 4, 2018
See the review by Ebba Story from Woodnotes #13, Summer 1992, in which she says that the book “is largely a careful selection of ‘haiku places,’” and adds that “The Measure of Emptiness is a delightful journey into the haiku world of Lee Gurga. And I, with Jerry Kilbride, invite you ‘to come along with Lee into a place that Jack Kerouac called sweet green Illinois.’”