The Slant of Winter Light

First published in Woodnotes #20, Spring 1994, pages 36–37. + +

The Slant of Winter Light by Randal Johnson. Gorham Printing, 1993, 74 pages, paperback, 4¾ by 6½ inches. $8.50 postpaid from the author at 2325 Schirm Loop Road NW, Olympia, Washington, 98502. Every once in a while a new haiku book comes along and surprises you. This is such a book, a pleasant reminder of how many strong haiku Randal Johnson has written over the years (1984 through 1993). With 164 haiku and three tanka arranged by seasons, The Slant of Winter Light is a sensitive and rewarding life-collection. With each season the author also comments on the art of writing haiku. Here’s one observation, from spring: “Part of the challenge of writing haiku is trying to break through the traditional form to say something that isn’t trite or inane or merely commonplace. Though the subject matter is often commonplace, the haiku succeeds if a new insight or image, an unusual expression elevates it. An irony in this pleases me.” This book is nicely paced, compiled with taste and restraint, professionally printed, and a pleasure to saunter through. Two favourites from this recommended book:

cows on a hill top

under their bellies

summer sky

drifting clouds

their shadows bending

on the hills