Awareness Beyond Mind

First published in Woodnotes #29, Summer 1996, pages 54–55.

Awareness Beyond Mind by Kenneth Verity. Element Books, 1996, 146 pages, hardback, 4¾ by 7 inches. $12.95 in bookstores. I wouldn’t wish to doubt this author’s sincerity, nor the spiritual benefits haiku has afforded him, but this book makes me shudder for haiku’s sake—especially when it is available as a hardback book in many bookstores, and thus perceivable as authoritative. Page after page of this book’s poems (as in the author’s equally distressing Breathing With the Mind from the same publisher in 1993) parade by only occasionally exhibiting objective imagism, juxtaposition, a sense of the haiku moment, or other central tenets of good haiku. Verity is knowledgeable about Eastern religion, which he discusses extensively in his introduction (you may find this interesting as a summary of haiku’s spiritual background). But the poems are another matter—the intellect still barges in. If the author wishes to play the game of awareness beyond mind, he fails. The cover’s caveat is that these are “verses in haiku and senryu style,” but why excuse them? In contrast, the author does label these poems as “haiku and senryu” in his introduction. So what does the author really intend? I am told he is charming and sincere in person, but the upshot is that you are best off avoiding this book if you seek quality haiku or senryu. If you need more convincing, know that this book is burdened by commentary about some of its poems, and tarnished by the superficial use of the 5-7-5 form and its attendant awkward line breaks. The following is but one mind-intruded example; can the author not see the irony of thinking this is a haiku?

You have a ghostly

Lodger lurking in your mind—

It is the ego.