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Volume 36.3
Autumn 2005

book review

Under the Edge of the Horizon
by Graham High

reviewed by David Grayson

Under the Edge of the Horizon, by Graham High (London, England: Ram Publications, 2004). 39 pages, 4 x 7, perfectbound. ISBN 0-9545630-5-0. $7.00 postpaid from the author, 12 Eliot Vale, Blackheath, London SE3 0UW, England.

Under the Edge of the Horizon is Graham High’s fifth book of haiku. It is the third haiku collection he has published in the past two years. High has also published four books of mainstream poetry. Writing in different poetic traditions and publishing a large volume of poetry in a short period can both be challenging, as is evident in Under the Edge of the Horizon.

The collection does offer numerous engaging poems. For example, High has written a number of senryu that offer sharp emotional insights without being overbearing:

child’s protective moat
slowly erodes
the sand castle

High also offers interesting poems that are not quite haiku:

two turtle eggs
as identical in size
as the sun and moon

endless wave action
over sand—my mind getting
smaller and smaller

Although I enjoyed both, these are really conceptual poems that communicate abstract ideas.

Unfortunately, however, there are many poems in Under the Edge of the Horizon that do not succeed. Some of these are based upon an interesting kernel of an idea, but are not executed well.

autumnal canal—
bare trees, seen through their own leaves
in still reflection

This haiku is based on an interesting observation, but High does not bring it to fruition. The phrasing and rhythm are stilted. The first word “autumnal” is a mouthful, and the comma in the second line forces an undue hesitation. This poor construction causes the last line to lose impact. Overall, the haiku is difficult to read and doesn’t make the impact that it could.

Besides poems that do not fulfill their potential, there are other poems that are based on truisms and offer nothing new to the reader.

my single pebble
skimming over waves that tumble
a million pebbles

into the vast nave
of Westminster Cathedral
a domestic moth

These poems are predictable. Indeed, I suspect that if readers were provided the first two lines of each, many would have been able to predict a last line similar to the actual one. Originality is a challenge in haiku (as elsewhere), but haiku poets need to be up to the task. High (and haiku poets in general) should ask: does the haiku really bring something new to the reader, or is it repeating wisdom dispensed before?

While there are certainly fine poems scattered throughout the book, the collection overall is inconsistent. High could remedy this by tightening the language and refining flow and rhythm; adhering more closely to haiku practice; and finally, pruning the number of poems to include those that really provide value to the reader.

 

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