Grinding My Ink

First published in Woodnotes #23, Winter 1994, pages 49–50.

Grinding My Ink by Margaret Chula. Katsura Press, 1993, 100 pages, paperback, 5½ by 8½ inches. $14.95 plus $2.00 postage from Katsura Press, P.O. Box 275, Lake Oswego, Oregon 97034 [address no longer correct]. The publication of Maggie Chula’s first book of haiku is a significant occasion. Indeed, Grinding My Ink excels on many levels. In the choice of many fine poems, the spare arrangement of just one or two verses per page (except for sequences), fine paper and printing, and the lovely inclusion of fold-out sumi-e paintings by Rhony Alhalel, this book is a haiku treat. It begins daringly with “grinding my ink-/ a black cat / howls in childbirth,” and goes on to explore nuances of life and death, love and beauty in four seasonal sections labeled “Flower,” “Fire,” “Moon,” and “Snow.” Having lived in Japan for twelve years, Maggie’s poems are understandably suffused with Japanese culture despite being written in English, yet they are often in tune with the styles of American haiku. No book is perfect, yet Grinding My Ink is recommended for the transporting journey its poems provide, and for the excellent standard it sets for others attempt- ing to self-publish their haiku books. Two choice selections:

sound of a moth

trapped in a paper lantern

summer rain

into the coffin

I place the white chrysanthemum

over her slashed wrist

A cassette recording of Grinding My Ink is also available from Maggie Chula (address above) for $9.95 plus $2.00 postage. The cassette includes the book’s poems, read by Maggie, interspersed with woodwinds and percussion by Ken Ulansey and Elliot Diamond. This tape is highly recommended for its gentle and relaxing mood. The book and tape can be ordered together for $22.95 plus $2.00 postage. Do treat yourself to this duo!