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Volume 36.3
Autumn 2005

book review

Water Poems: Haiku, Tanka, and Sijo
by Kirsty Karkow

reviewed by Pamela Miller Ness

Water Poems: Haiku, Tanka, and Sijo, by Kirsty Karkow (Eldersburg, Md.: Black Cat Press, 2005). 130 pages, 6 x 5, perfectbound. ISBN 0-9766407-0-8. $15.95 postpaid from the author, 34 Indian Point, Waldoboro, ME 04572.

Water Poems, a first collection by award-winning poet Kirsty Karkow, is an attractive volume of forty haiku, forty-two tanka, and ten sijo, all related to the theme of water. Edited by Cathy Drinkwater Better, introduced by Michael McClintock, and illustrated with four watercolors by the author, the three forms are intermixed and spaciously laid out one to a page. Due to the focus of this journal, the present review will concentrate on the haiku only.

Through the imagery and carefully-crafted language of her haiku, Karkow guides the reader on a journey along the coast of Maine, where she lives, and onto the waterways of that state and the Canadian Maritimes, where she spends summers sailing and kayaking. We accompany her to the shore at sunrise:

solstice dawn
a flotilla of sea ducks
turns eastward

experience the vagaries of coastal weather:

the feeling in the air

and share moments of tiny epiphany:

winter stars
a wild goose tucks its head
under a wing

Sometimes the sea provides a juxtaposition with human experience:

we wade into the current
of a great river

or the weather serves as a subtle objective correlative for emotion:

gale force wind—
the shrieks of gulls
flying in place

Karkow is a poet in complete control of her craft, skillfully using the tools of prosody, such as rhyme, repetition, alliteration, and assonance in little gems like:

wild pond
step by step a turtle
meets the heat

Just as “the cry of a seagull/calls [the poet] back” out of reverie, the insight, craft, and joy of Karkow’s haiku transport her readers to the waterways of Maine and then call them back again for a lingering view.


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