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World Haiku Review

There’s a new issue of World Haiku Review. Now online is the January 2011 issue. Among other things in the issue (reviews of anthologies and haibun) are new haiku in 3 categories: neo-classical (using kigo) and vanguard (including non-traditional subjects, moods) and shintai (new style which may bridge or be a hybrid of the other two). The range is narrow, all 3 lines. No experimental, no one lines, but a wide assortment of voices.

It’s unclear who write the opening editorial but there’s merit to the idea: “There are now so many different varieties of haiku that defining haiku seems to me to be almost like fighting a losing and pointless battle. [..the…] real and essential question: Is it then a good poem?”

The haiku are listed by first thru third place, honorable mentions and then more. The further down the page I went, the better I liked them. I was surprised that I enjoyed Neo Classical section the most. When writing such, the kigo can seem like a throwaway formality, a context line for form rather than being essentially dovetailed in and pushing the content’s momentum. The inclusion of season indicator in these were not a symbolic nod so much as necessary in many of these examples.

Here are 3 of my favorites from the issue:

stepping out
of a snowdrift
minus one shoe

Hans Jongman

I like the sounds that tie it together, and the pauses. The opening line goes to empty air. Where are we going? Ah, a literal stepping out of something. And we are in the body of the experience with the twist of the last line of the shoe being stuck. The surprise of that happening we get to feel firsthand in a way. There’s a gentle humour and I didn’t see it coming. Appropriate for the subject for that pivot to be done there and in that way.

Would it be a slight poem if there was less technical skill in expression? If there were less care for word choice and order of revelation? Snowbank would have a heavy sound, a clunk to it. If it were more prosaic as simply announcing context by “winter day” or “snowy day” and then saying “yanking a foot from the bank”, it would have the same idea conveyed but the way it was said would be a different tone than s, t, s, t.

He could have said, “less one shoe” except that wouldn’t have been as clear in the suction power of packy deep snow and the choice of “minus” gives it a sort of distance of a tiny bit of intellectual distance that conveys there is an awareness of the comic math of life. There isn’t a cursing the snowbank. There’s a gap there that has room for good humour.

In a tea room
overlooking a winter lake
69 tomorrow

Marie Shimane

Marie’s poem selects particular glimpses thru the keyhole. With tea room we have some sense of leisure time, wealth, tone range of moods. We expand from the table, silverware and silver hair to notice a scene outside the window. That frame expands the viewer’s point of view as if present. Then the whole poem deepens and widens suddenly with the appearance of the last line, a cusp of marking stone, mingled feelings, time passage. The poem becomes much more complex by adding 2 words and yet doesn’t feel tacked on or easily come by. It has a ring of lived truth to it.

a candy wrapper
joins the leaf pile
autumn dusk

John Stevenson

This haiku strikes me because it also expands as it unfolds. It does that zoom sensation. A candy wrapper is very concrete with a small set of sounds and associations. The narrator pans back and shows the leaf pile. The two objects relate in being similar in size, shape, sounds. We now have a season and temperature fed into the poem naturally without calling attention to themselves as hey, look here, I’m a kigo! And then the image fades to black. Whatever we feel about littering or the leaves and time’s passage and labour finished, all becomes hidden as dusk rushes in. Simple words, simple scene and yet it carries something more than the sum of its parts and does so with an elegance. He can bring a profound aesthetic, or rather an aesthetic that has the weight to it. Another haiku of his under the shintai section:

amateur night
a candle melting into
candle remains

John Stevenson

Sweet. Minimal. It could be unpacked a couple ways without a stretch. Scathing, snarky, bored, crabby while opening hands to the timeless in universe and letting it go. Contemporary grounded in particulars and looking at what lasts and doesn’t. Compact, rich, interesting poem to turn this way and that.

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