Haiku, Green Tea & Sushi by Ernest J. Berry (2016, Prisma Print, Blenheim, New Zealand). 194 pages, 6¼×6¼ inches, perfectbound. ISBN 978-0-9941401-5-9. $30.00 NZD from Prisma Print.
This lavishly designed book is a pleasure to peruse, with fine moments scattered through its many pages. We should all be so fortunate to write haiku like most of these. According to a brief author’s note, all of the poems in this book (like its predecessor, Getting On) have “won or been placed in some international competition.” As with the previous book, no credit is given to any of the contests in which these poems placed, but such an extensive list would undoubtedly overburden the book. When we see that the book contains 277 poems, arranged at one or two per page in fifteen themed sections, placing so many poems in contests is a truly remarkable accomplishment. Surely no one submits to more contests than Ernie. As Nola Borrell wrote in her longer poem, “Classic Haiku: A New Zealand Perspective,” “As for go to the pine, / look at Ernie who can write / forty haiku without leaving his desk / and wins all the competitions.” And presumably these poems are just from 2006 to 2016, since the previous book covered 1995 to 2005—although at least some of the earlier poems reappear in this book. A couple of poems are omitted here where I understand that the prizes were rescinded for apparent plagiarism, and two poems included here now have notes appended to them, such as ““with a nod 2 basho” and “a nod to Allan Burns” (neither poem was intended as an allusion when it originally placed in a contest). The book also includes this poem, “autumn leaves / the names of the dead /sink deeper,” which for my tastes is overly similar to Eric Amann’s classic and widely published prize-winning haiku from 1978, “The names of the dead / sinking deeper and deeper / into the red leaves.” Yet this poem does not include “a nod to Eric Amann,” nor does it pass as allusion. It’s a shame that such a marvelous collection would be compromised in this way, but there’s still much to enjoy here.