Sunlight Through Rain:
A Northwest Haiku Year

First published in Woodnotes #31, Autumn 1997, pages 50–51.

Sunlight Through Rain: A Northwest Haiku Year, edited by Robert Major and Francine Porad. Vandina Press, 1996, 58 pages, paperback, 5¼ by 8½ inches. $9.25 postpaid from Francine Porad at 6944 SE 33rd, Mercer Island, Washington 98040-3324 [address no longer correct]. My first impressions of this book are two-fold. First, that it has lovely production values (perfect-bound, with turquoise end papers matching the cover ink colour). Second, that perhaps the book has too many poems. On counting, I find that it offers 270 haiku and senryu by 43 poets in Oregon and Washington. The editors have taken on a daunting challenge in assembling these poems across a full year’s seasons. But perhaps the selection might have benefited by more rigorous editing. For example, 11 pages separate William Scott Galasso’s “Geese before me, / cars behind me / all honking” and Lillian Giskin’s “cars wait in right lane / cars are honking in left lane / geese in passing lane.” (The book lacks an index and page numbers, by the way.) But numerous gems shine in this collection, like sunbreaks splitting the persistent Northwest rainclouds. Also of value is the fine introduction by the editors—which I daren’t quote from lest I spoil it. At any rate, a book such as this begs the question of seasonality in haiku. For example, I am puzzled why Mary Fran Meer’s “white against white / the crocus breaks through / the winter crust” appears in the Winter section, when, to my mind, the crocus indicates the spring season in North America, regardless of what calendar date it was written on or written about. Also, I’m a little jarred by the jump from the New Year section that starts the book to the Spring section—for surely we in North America wouldn’t ordinarily leap over a significant portion of winter in experiencing the cycle of the seasons [this arrangement presumably follows the traditional Japanese arrangement from before Japan adopted the Gregorian calendar, but it seems illogical to use this arrangement when it runs contrary to our contemporary placement of the seasons, an ordering that is hardly “Northwestern” as the book’s subtitle asserts]. I do not mean these comments about seasons in haiku as a criticism of the book; rather, the problems illustrate the difficulty of the task—compounded if one wishes to promote the Japonesque season of the “New Year.” This is, nevertheless, a pleasing volume, but it seems the location of the poets more than the subjects of their poems go into making this book a “Northwest” haiku year, for many of the poems could readily take place anywhere. A few, however, seem distinctly Northwestern (such as Mary Fran Meer’s “Pacific coast storm / a beachcomber’s bucket fills / with tumbled agates”). More important, I would suggest, is the assertion that these are poets of a distinct and proud region sharing some of their seasonal poems from a single year. Quite likely the selection process chose to represent every participant rather than just the finest poems. Thus this anthology is best read as the product of a specific—and vibrant—haiku community. In closing, four favorites by Connie Hutchison, Cherie Hunter Day, Nasira Alma, and Robert Jenkins:

pool of leaves

the shape of the tree

first snowflakes:

the barberry thorns


walking home

through the surprise snow

arm in arm

old letters put away

the light through snow

on the skylight