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Volume 38.3
Summer 2007

book review:

Za vrabec / For a Sparrow: Haiku
by Jack Galmitz

Reviewed by Paul Miller

Za vrabec / For a Sparrow: Haiku, by Jack Galmitz. Translations into Macedonian by Igor Isakovski (Skopje, Macedonia: Blesok, 2007). 158 pages, 10cm x 15cm, card covers, perfectbound. In Macedonian and English. ISBN 978-9989-928-63-0. $10.00; order from <http://www.blesok.com.mk>

The arrival of Jack Galmitz's book upon my desk was timely, since some people in the haiku community are decrying the overuse of certain forms and approaches to haiku. From this perspective, Galmitz is a breath of fresh air. That he has been writing these kinds of poems for a while is equally refreshing. The first in his new collection is wonderful:

Inside of me
Bison are stampeding
Across caves

It is a poem that takes an experienced reader from the literal to the abstract and back again, with an accompanying interior/exterior motion. Two other equally interesting poems:

Finding a fault
In the universe . . .
A rabbit’s heart

The winter sky
Sporting massive clouds
Spouted by sea lions

These are poems that make the reader do more than simply witness the words on the page (which in a haiku is often enough work). These are poems that shake the reader out of their own mind and re-examine what they know. Occasionally, this distance felt too great, but the greatest danger to any collection is creating what Michael Welch calls "haiku ennui," which can happen when it contains too many similarly styled poems. Galmitz is wise enough to mix into the collection haiku that are more grounded in reality, or to put it another way, verses more similar to what readers of current haiku journals are used to seeing:

Confidently,
Driving a nail into wood . . .
Spring begins

November rain . . .
The colorful garden elf
Never complains

It is this wide range of styles, and the skill set to pull them all off, that makes this collection succeed. Galmitz is always more than a simple observer; he engages his reality and forces the reader to do as well. His poems often raise questions. For a Sparrow is a deeply satisfying read.

 

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