Buzz by David Jacobs, Red Moon Press, 2018, 72 pages, 4.25 x 6.5 inches, ISBN 78-1-947271-25-8, perfectbound, $20 from the publisher.
David Jacobs has previously published a book of humour (cat jokes), four books of longer poetry (the earliest in 1981), and two haiku books (Just Before Bed in 2012 and Grandma’s Chip Bowl in 2015). He’s been at poetry and other writing for a long time but turned to haiku only in 2010, placing in the British Haiku Awards as early as 2011. He begins his new book with the following poem, immediately launching readers into the tension of medical issues:
the welcome talk
We might expect this narrative to continue, but it doesn’t—perhaps to our relief. Instead, the book offers a range of topics, emotions, and tones, including humour:
65th Christmas first warm day
I excuse myself the barista just as nice
from charades to the next guy
These self-effacing poems reveal the poet getting older, and not being quite as special as the barista makes him feel. And yet the author is not afraid of the sad or ominous:
at the therapist’s freezing moor
a left-behind crows spread out
identity badge across the search area
That identity badge is not just a piece of paper and plastic, but somehow a person’s actual identity. The poet must wonder what will happen to his own identity, his own self-image, because of visiting his therapist. And in the second poem we don’t know what is being searched for, but surely a lost person, perhaps even a child. The crows, too, are searching, but for a very different purpose.
Jacobs also strikes notes in between extremes of lightness and darkness, as with the following poems (I would have presented “shortcut” as one word and changed “childrens’” to “children’s”):
spring morning a short cut
what is the beggar through the childrens’ graves
reading the morning sun
It is difficult to write freshly about beggars or homeless people, especially without sanctimoniousness. And whether the beggar’s reading material is a topic of substance or not does not matter, because the real point is the commonality shared by the poet and beggar to read for enjoyment or information—we are more alike than we might realize.
The first of the following two poems alludes to Issa’s famous radish haiku. The second may be too personal for everyone to understand (even if we know what stilton is), yet the mystery of how the son is airborne and what that has to do with eating cheese may engage us in ways that other poems don’t:
Italiano airborne son
I point the way I finish off
with a cappuccino the stilton
The book offers a striking cover image of a pipe organ wasp nest, and includes sixty poems, one per page in alternating positions, plus a short haibun at the end. Some haiku collections offer poems with a narrative progression or with a theme of some kind, and often these are lauded. Yet there’s something to be said for collections that don’t feel pressure to do that, books of haiku that taste all of life, as this one does. Topics such as therapy and aging come up more than once, but not in ways that dominate thematically. Books like Buzz report the author’s best poems since a previous book, an unfolding of the poet’s work in the genre, and we are fortunate to witness this unfolding. A pleasing read, and a well-rounded record of the author’s recent haiku and senryu.
therapist’s door the last one
I need to work to leave the bus
on my buzz winter sunset