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Volume 35.2
Summer 2004

 

book review:

Birdsong More and More
by L.A. Davidson

 

reviewed by Pamela Miller Ness

Birdsong More and More, by L.A. Davidson, edited by Vince Tripi, engraving by A.C. Kulik (Northfield, Mass.: Swamp Press, 2003). 20 pages, 7 x 5, letterpress printed, hand-bound and sewn. ISBN 0-934714-31-2. Edition limited to 350 copies. $6.00 plus $2.00 postage from Swamp Press, 15 Warwick Road, Northfield, MA 01360.

 


Birdsong More and More is another handsomely-crafted limited edition volume published by Swamp Press, the first in a Haiku Masters Mini Series produced in collaboration with editor Vince Tripi. Most haiku poets are familiar with L.A. Davidson as a charter member and staunch supporter of the Haiku Society of America and the creator of the frequently-anthologized haiku “beyond/stars beyond/star.” To those of us privileged to know L.A. in person, she’s the quiet voice of reason, care, and grace at Northeast-Metro Regional meetings and a delightful correspondent who sends newsy notes and poems from her frequent journeys to California and Jamaica. Tripi, however, sees her in yet another light, as he writes in his author note: “L.A. Davidson, in Buddhist terminology, would be described as ‘Bodhichitta’ … a noble or awakened heart.” The book’s design can be seen as a metaphor for the reader’s journey into the world of Davidson’s haiku: a series of square windows opening onto Kulik’s black-and-white engraving. There is a spare and slightly ominous quality to the print: the large tree that dominates the left foreground is bare, possibly dead or dying, with just a few leaves on a lower limb; the mountains are empty; and storm clouds fill the sky. Yet rays of sun radiate from under the clouds and illuminate a river running between the mountains and distant hills. Together the twelve haiku, spaciously printed one to a page, take us on a carefully-crafted journey, beginning with a moonflower that opens at night:

the moonflower
even as it trembles
no longer a bud

We might see the moonflower as an implied metaphor for the poet at the apex of experience and of the life journey, delighting in all the senses:

walking past,
after the fragrance
the linden tree

storing in memory the imagery of each moment:

I would engrave
this bare mountain on my mind
and take it home

The poet has carefully chosen the conditional (“would engrave”) because she wisely knows and accepts that she cannot keep the mountain’s image. Additionally, she has arrived at the quintessential acceptance, forcefully punctuated by two periods, that moments in nature are just that:

above the harbor
an autumn moon tonight.
just that.

Just as the rays of sunshine emerge from the storm clouds in Kulik’s engraving, so too Davidson’s final haiku promises something beyond aloneness and acceptance:

sitting quietly
in a mountain clearing
bird song more and more

Through twelve haiku, we have shared a journey into the universal with a wise and gracious master of haiku.

 

 

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