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Volume 34.1
Spring 2003

book review

finding the way: haiku and field notes
by paul m.


reviewed by Tom Clausen

finding the way: haiku and field notes by paul m. (Foster City, Calif.: Press Here, 2002). 56 poems, 4 field notes. Introduction by the author. 4" x 5.5", saddle-stitched, with a heavy illustrated wrapper. ISBN 1-878798-25-1. $6.00 postpaid in the United States, or $7.00 elsewhere, from Press Here, P.O. Box 3339, Redmond, WA 98073-3339 (please make checks or international money orders payable to “Michael D. Welch”).

“Finding the way” is a wonderfully apt title for a collection of haiku, and in this collection, paul m.’s first, you will find the pleasure and serendipity of a well-chosen path. The author has been writing since 1988, with many of his haiku winning awards and recognition for their clarity and gentle reach. Press Here publisher Michael D. Welch states about this collection “A serenity of quiet confidence marks these poems, a serenity of having found the haiku way.” In an insightful introduction paul notes that haiku “of all poetry seems to most closely examine the light that connects us with the seemingly disparate, the intimate details of our lives and surroundings, the echo of one thing upon another.”

Although finding the way is replete with haiku values and aesthetics, I feel that what gives this collection a distinguished signature is its use of this “echo.” Throughout this beautifully produced book are haiku that demonstrate how a reverberation between two images with one working against (or with) another enhances both. For example

falling leaves
the rusty wheelbarrow
heavy with stones

that chipmunk again
river sunlight skipping
leaf to leaf

There is much to delight in this collection as you discover how finely and carefully paul presents the “coming to”—a clear intuition of what it is that speaks to us in a haiku way. There is a strength to the evenness and consistency in the tone of these haiku. There are keen perceptions and thoughtful relationships that unfold slowly in the consciousness at just the right speed. Many of the haiku appear to be from hikes on trails and what was found off or beyond these trails.

unpacking the map—
a mountain spring
crosses the trail

cold wind
on the granite slope
marmot scat

One feature in finding the way that seemed slightly disconnected from the strength of the body of haiku contained are the four field notes which are distributed throughout the collection. These are brief prose passages detailing paul’s mindset on the trail about the trail. Although the field notes certainly do not detract from the superb quality of this collection, I personally did not feel that they added significantly to what is conveyed marvelously by the haiku themselves.

With extraordinary quality to the paper, design, and presentation, this collection of haiku invites repeat visits for solace and inspiration. At $5.00 this is an exceptional book of haiku to add to your haiku library or give as a special gift. Relatively small in size, finding the way is a book you can easily carry along to a favorite reflective place to savor the way these haiku will find you, finding the way.

A personal favorite in closing

uphill trail
the scarred trunk
of a giant sequoia




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