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Volume 39.2
Summer 2008

book review:

Shaped Water: A Haiku Year
by Madeleine Findlay

Reviewed by Ed Zuk

Shaped Water: A Haiku Year, by Madeleine Findlay (Portsmouth, N.H.: Single Island Press, 2007). 64 pages; 4 x 5; sewn-bound. ISBN 978-1-4243-3366-0. $17.45 (14.95 + $2.50 shipping and handling) from Single Island Press, 379 State St, Portsmouth, NH 03801.

Shaped Water begins with a quotation from Chiyo-ni: “Appreciate each moment; that’s all there really is. Be simple.” The haiku from this collection illustrate this idea by capturing moments that, like the shape of water, we often take for granted, both in nature and in the human world.

water
all around a mayfly
ascending

color film
is black and white—
winter

I found some of these poems to be abrupt, a quality brought on by the sharp line breaks and dropping of articles. The images, however, were interesting enough for me to enjoy nearly all of these fifty-four haiku.

Appreciating the simple is, of course, the idea that radiates from most of the haiku that appear in our journals. If any one theme typifies Western haiku today, it is “appreciate each moment . . . be simple.” At times I become dissatisfied with this ideal although there is much to recommend it. If volumes like Shaped Water do not rise to the greatest heights, they do present their viewpoint with sensitivity. The haiku here help to form a body of work that is sincere, safe, observant, and, at times, genuinely enlightening.

The volume is attractively printed by Single Island Press, which is operated by the author. No doubt it will be the first of many worthwhile collections.

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