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Volume 43.1
Winter Spring 2012

 

book review:

Beyond My View
by Joyce Clement

Reviewed by Allan Burns

Beyond My View, by Joyce Clement. Edited by vincent tripi (Bristol, Conn.: Endionpress, 2011). 40 pages; 5 x 7. Matte brown pat- terned card covers; translucent section dividers; hand sewn. ISBN 978-0-98-9835008-0-3. Price: $20.00 from the author at 168 Old Turnpike Rd, Bristol CT 06010.

Translucency: "to shine through," light filtered, yet still making images apparent. In a metaphorical sense, it's the way images appear in haiku—apparent yet filtered through a few choice words that inevitably convey also the coloring and focus of the poet's mind. Such words serve as a frosted window into the poet's world, and in that pane we may also glimpse our own reflections—although one hopes more as well. So, it's apposite to find translucency informing the design aesthetic of Joyce Clement's first haiku collection, Beyond My View. Translucent pages, featuring visual art supplied by the author, section the collection attractively, allowing readers a glimpse of haiku on the pages following (you can read them if you press the pages together) and inviting us, perhaps, to reflect on the translucent nature of words themselves and the ways a poet's experience shines through them.

The collection's editor, vincent tripi, one of our stronger poets in English-language haiku, loves crafting beautiful books, works of art in themselves, and has done so admirably here. The bronze bark-patterned cover with its boardwalk image invites us on this collection's journey, commencing with the editor's prose-poem introduction: "Earth-Sun-rain-wind- seed-crickets-into-song! Born to listen. Born to praise. But born to listen." Preeminently our poet of haiku as wisdom and wildness, tripi welcomes us to "The very place where we return to push our green blades into path."

The path of Beyond My View leads us through the rhythm of the seasons from spring to winter, creating a satisfying traditional sequence that also conveys the scent of a life. One finds in Clement's work, not surprisingly, certain continuities with Tripi's own vision of haiku. These haiku are oriented toward the natural world yet at times overtly subjective, philosophical, idiosyncratic in the best sense. Recently featured in A New Resonance 7: Emerging Voices in English-Language Haiku (Red Moon Press, 2011), Clement's haiku often reflect the lonely back- ground evoked in her biographical blurb, with such phrases as "alone too long," "by myself," and even "milkless breasts," often juxtaposed with an emblematic image drawn from nature or, somewhat more rarely, a built environment:

20 years single
the garage door opens
and turns on the light

We thus enter a somewhat melancholy-seeming version of Thoreau's solitude-as-transcendence tradition, its background, as Jim Kacian aptly notes in his blurb on Clement from A New Resonance, "an elusive and perhaps ever-receding Walden of the mind."

before
and after
the tractor’s green

This intriguing haiku illustrates Kacian’s meaning: A "process" rather than a "moment" poem, it engages what "green" comes to mean in a world of tractors. It also exhibits Clement's often atypical yet felicitous handling of haiku form, as do these examples:

the
pine
grove
when
i
exhale

first thought
lost-found
firefly

Verticality chimes with pines and rising breath; a pivot measures the stream of consciousness against flickering fireflies. By such means common haiku subjects find new lifeblood and urgency. Both also intimate, more subtly, the solitude explicitly asserted elsewhere.

As with any collection, the level of quality varies; Clement is less successful in a "catalog"-style sketch such as "boathouse / floodlight / bullfrog," which seems like the unrefined notes out of which a more effective poem might have been crafted. Most of the thirty-two haiku here, though, are quite well selected and worth revisiting.

The book inserts itself into a crowded field, the paradox being that although the haiku aesthetic is less equals more, we are drowning in haiku. Nonetheless, there's always room to welcome, with appreciation, a book so beautifully crafted as this one and a voice as thoughtful—as aware of its filtering translucency—and as in tune with the world's gifts and transience as Clement's is:

used to think
I'd want a gravestone
falling leaves

 

 

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