First published in Woodnotes #26, Autumn 1995, page 51.
Into the Wind edited by Ebba Story. Yuki Teikei Haiku Society, 1995, 36 pages, paperback, 5½ by 8½ inches. $5.00 postpaid from Yuki Teikei Haiku Society, P.O. Box 90456, San Jose, California 95109-3456 [address no longer correct]. Thirty-two poets contribute 41 haiku to this 1994 members’ anthology by the Yuki Teikei Haiku Society. The book may mark a return to fundamentals by this group. In the past few years, about 70 to 80 percent of the poems published in Geppo have not been 5-7-5, even though the society’s purpose is to preserve and promote just such “traditional” haiku. The group is not strict about the syllabic requirement (wisely, I think), yet this collection shows a concerted attempt to return to the 17-syllable form. But more important is the book’s focus on season words (kigo), the other essential ingredient of “traditional” haiku. Accordingly, the poems are arranged by season (each introduced with a lovely illustration by Alice Benedict). Editor Ebba Story assiduously avoided choosing poems with conflicting and multiple season words. Rounding out the collection is an afterword about season words and a brief localized (American) listing of season words arranged by traditional categories. As Ebba advises, “One carefully chosen kigo roots the haiku in the specific season and leaves the rest of the poem open to express the details, the contrasts, the textures, and the depths of experience.” Yet she also notes that “Some traditional Japanese kigo may not resonate with contemporary poets.” So, regarding American season words, we are left with the necessity of continuing exploration, perhaps caught in the balance between old traditions and current relevance. This book shows much discipline, and includes many fine haiku for those who wish to pursue the art of haiku along more traditional lines. A poem by Marianne Monaco:
front porch moon viewing—
gleams of TV antennas
up and down the block