homeeditorsreviewsessaysmhbooks issues


Volume 34.1
Spring 2003

book review

Still Singing
Anderson, Miller, Johnson, McClintock


reviewed by Dee Evetts

Still Singing by Kay Anderson, paul m., Earl Johnson, and Michael McClintock. Edited by Rich Krivcher; artwork by Claudia Chapline. San Francisco, Calif.: Two Autumns Press, 2002. 30 pages, 5.5" x 8.5", paper, saddle-stapled. $8.00 from Two Autumns Press, 478 Guerrero Street, San Francisco, CA 94110.

This pleasingly designed chapbook was produced in conjunction with the thirteenth annual Two Autumns reading, the latest in a series sponsored by Haiku Poets of Northern California. The book includes twelve poems each by four poets. If we can assume that these poems were among those presented at the reading, then the audience was indeed offered an interestingly diverse program.

There is a considerable stretch, for example, from the often spiritually inclined searchings of Kay Anderson:

pine-needled path
slowly I step
out of my mind

to the tersely visceral early work of Michael McClintock:

inside … until
her teeth shine

While reflecting on this diversity, it struck me how from one point of view these two poets have something fundamental in common (and shared with many others). This could be described as a tendency towards self-consciousness, if that term were not too sweeping and too vague.

More precisely, what I experience as a reader is this: the poet shows me something while at the same time pointing over my shoulder as if to make quite sure that I have seen it. Whereas I am hungry for poems that are personal, certainly, but in a way that manages to transcend the individual experience, thereby becoming universal. (The poet is still present, but not in my line of sight, so to speak.)

To illustrate how this might apply not only when the poet writes in the first person, here are two more poems by Anderson and McClintock, in that order:

deep silence
the orphaned nestlings
this third morning

dead cat . . .
to the pouring rain

It may be helpful to recall D.T. Suzuki’s observation (which I must paraphrase, having been unable to locate the original source) that “haiku do not express ideas, but put forward images reflecting intuitions.”

Earl Johnson measures up well in this regard, particularly with the following poems:

my son’s fort
for so many years

reading The Tempest
on a freighter's deck—
the wind turns to Act V

Both of these exhibit a quiet intimacy that is very effective.
Now let us contrast the work quoted so far with three poems by paul m.

opening the sliding door
in her red pajamas

autumn heat twilight
the heavy click the cattle dog’s bad eye
of a turnstile looking up

We see here an admirable self-effacingness, that serves to deepen the feeling in each case. And makes this, for my money, the most satisfying work in a very worthwhile collection.




©2002 Modern Haiku • PO Box 68 • Lincoln, IL 62656