Black Swan/White Crow

First published in Woodnotes #29, Summer 1996, page 50.

Black Swan/White Crow by J. Patrick Lewis. Woodcut illustrations by Chris Manson. Atheneum, 1995, 32 pages, hardback, 914 by 914 inches. $15.00 in bookstores. It is a pleasure to see a major New York publisher publish a haiku book, like this delightful collection for children, with the explanation that “seventeen syllables in Japanese is roughly equal to twelve—some say nine—syllables in English.” Accordingly, the poems in Black Swan/White Crow follow their own organic form, each one paired with a simple yet striking woodcut illustration. The book contains just 13 poems, and some have weaknesses, but the journey through them is worth your while. Here are the opening and closing haiku:

The meadow reddens—

my old black lab fills

the sky with quail

Out of the morning mist

a black swan sailing—

no longer alone.