A Dash Through Leaves

First published in Woodnotes #30, Autumn 1996, pages 47–48.

A Dash Through Leaves by Penny Griffin. Illustrated by Mona Wu. Persephone Press, 1995, 90 pages, 5½ by 8½ inches. $20.00 paperback or $32.00 limited-edition hardback from the author at 726 Greenhill Road, Mount Airy, North Carolina 27030 [address no longer correct]. This is a sumptuous letterpress edition typeset by hand, including artwork printed with hand-mixed ink from halftone engravings onto thick paper stock, plus section dividers of translucent rice paper. North Carolina Haiku Society founder Rebecca Rust provides a succinct “Forward” (I suspect “Foreword” was meant). In addition, the author writes her own preface in which she states the book’s intent to explore the Oriental tradition of “uniting poetry, painting and calligraphy,” which it does with consummate grace and beauty, replete with 14 illustrations. The poems appear at one, two, or three per page in pleasing arrangements, with poems parted into the five traditional, Japonesque seasons (including “New Year”). This is the author’s first haiku book, and one that will be hard for her to top, for both its deluxe production values and for the quality of the poems. These haiku are elegant and conservative, but never slaves to external form, and consistently a pleasure to experience. Highly recommended. Two nearly random selections:

Empty vase

pale pink petals scattered

on the compost heap

First snowflakes melt

against the window pane

tea water boils