First published in Woodnotes #26, Autumn 1995, pages 47–48. +

Haiku by Bill Albert. Grilled Cheese Publishing, 1991, 184 pages, paperback, 5½ by 8½ inches. $8.50 postpaid from Ken DelPonte, 1506 Tenth Avenue, San Francisco, California 94122. Behind this posthumous collection of a few hundred haiku by Connecticut poet Bill Albert lies an immediately compelling story. For most of his life before an early death at age 37, Bill Albert wrote haiku passionately, and without thought of publication. It was this form, according to the publisher’s note, “in which he had found his clearest voice.” And indeed, there are many fine haiku here, many fresh images—all arising, it would seem, without any knowledge of published English-language haiku in the last 20 years. Thus there is an exoticism to these poems, or at least the lure of the suppressed ego, like finding an Emily Dickinson and elevating her poetry because the poet chose not to do it herself. As enticing as this situation is, the poems should still be enjoyed and judged on their own merits, and occasionally there are some weak poems. But only occasionally. The sustained achievement of these poems is certainly one to emulate. As the publisher’s note concludes, “This book is neither tribute, nor memorial, nor portrait, but the presentation of the best completed work of an American poet.” Indeed. Two selfless samples of this memorable book:

Indian summer:

masks askew, chocolate

fingers ring the bell.

Butterfly alights

on an old willow—

lightning-split trunk.