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Volume 36.1
Spring 2005

book review:

Piano Practice
by Tom Painting

 

reviewed by Billie Wilson

Piano Practice, by Tom Painting (Wethersfield, Conn.: Bottle Rockets Press, 2004). 39 pages; 4 x 5.75 ; paperback, saddle-stapled; $6.00 postpaid (USA) from the publisher at PO Box 290691, Wethersfield, CT 06129-0691.

Even if Tom Painting’s name did not regularly appear in our most popular haiku journals, most of us feel we know him because of his years of service to the haiku community, particularly through the Haiku Society of America. I feel I know him better because of this new collection. He writes the sort of haiku and senryu that immediately resonate on so many levels with so many readers.

From the moment I opened this little chapbook, it took on a life of its own. On the inside cover, a hymnal version of “Ode to Joy” fairly insists on being propped on the piano and played as a sort of audio fanfare for the enjoyable contents to come. The 35 poems that follow, one per page, are pure Painting. It was a pleasure to encounter many favorites, particularly those gathered in several editions of the Red Moon Anthology and in a New Resonance 2: Emerging Voices in English-Language Haiku.

There were only a few selections I thought were a bit weak, lacking the strong juxtaposition found in most of Painting’s work. For example:

my toddler
helps pack her travel bag—
co-custody

Overall, though, this is a solid collection. There is poignancy, wonder, sad-ness, moving glimpses into a fellow poet’s life journey, and so much more.

There are wonderful plays on meaning that lend several interpretations:

spring breakup
my missing button
in her sewing box

There are splendid Zen moments that encourage the reader to pause awhile to enjoy the ambiance and contemplate meaning in the reader’s own life:

beach walk
the stick I tossed
yesterday

There are beautiful images illustrating that haiku at its best is true poetry that can hold its own in comparison with any genre:

dawn
the oysterman
rakes in the fog

And liberally sprinkled throughout, there are abundant opportunities to smile— in appreciation, and with shared amusement.


 

 

 

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