When an on-line journal recently decided to offer a tribute to Francine Porad, nearly all the contributors mentioned, in one form or another, the poet’s graciousness: her generosity as a former editor of Brussels Sprout, her kindness in mentoring younger poets, her talent for forming friendships within the haiku community. This slim edition of six haiku sequences, her twenty-second collection in the past eighteen years, highlights the grace of her poetic vision. At its heart is “beyond measurable systems,” a lament for her late husband, which manages to be moving without becoming sentimental:
a friend’s hand enfolds mine
my heart warms
not only a new year
a new life
As a work of art, however, I found the book to be unsatisfactory, in part because it reveals no clear vision of what a haiku sequence can or should be. The haiku sequence raises a number of unsolved problems for its poets. Should there be a narrative line or common imagery? How consistent should the tone be? What symbols or images can deepen the theme or unify the poem? How does one build a flow between the separate haiku, and how much variety in imagery and tone will a reader be willing to accept? Sunlight Comes and Goes does not solve any of these conundrums. After several readings, I could not find any connection among several of the haiku in each sequence. As well, two or three haiku would suggest a narrative line which would dissipate in the next verse, and none of the sequences left me with a feeling of delight or completeness. Instead, each piece drifted off into a titled anthology of poems, some more pleasing than others.
many friends will want to add Sunlight Comes and Goes to their collections, while other readers may want to read “beyond measurable systems” and to test their own ideas about the haiku sequence against those found in this book.