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Volume 33.2
Summer 2002

book review

Winter Touch: Haiku
by John Ower


reviewed by Robert Spiess

Winter Touch: Haiku, by John Ower. (Spalding, Eng.: Hub Editions, 2001). 52 pages, paper. $6.50 ppd. from the author at 142 Stafford Drive, Athens, GA 30 , 605-3718, or £-4.50 ppd. from the publisher at Longholm, East Bank, Wingland, Sutton Bridge, Spalding, Lincs, PE12 9YS, UK.


This booklet of usually three haiku or senryu on a page is another of the very well manufactured editions in the Hub Haiku Series. The first-publication credits include 40 periodicals. Among the poems that especially attracted my attention were:

moonlit night—
from miles away
howling in the zoo


cooing while its feet
around the kilovolts
are curled

Many-too many-haiku have been written about birds perched on, usually, telephone wires, but Ower acutely perceives a different aspect of this phenomenon. And he adroitly refrains from inserting "wire" or "line," leaving it to us to complete the sketch.
Bashô wrote about a firefly's neck in daytime being red. Ower has:

with summer morning
a firefly's wings

The "luminous" as the second line acts zeugmatically: it refers to both morning and the firefly's wings, thus closely linking the haiku's disparate entities, while simultaneously each element retains its own nature (remaining morning with all of morning's characteristics in the first instance, and wings with their own unique features in the other). One aspect, though, that I personally prefer to be absent in haiku is two words that indicate or state the same season. Firefly is a season word for summer, therefore the "summer" in the first line is redundant.

We know that a tsunami (a so-called "tidal wave") can pile up to a devastating scores of feet as it reaches shallow coastal waters, while at sea only a modest swell occurs, even though the tsunami is traveling at tremendous speed, even attaining that of the top speed of a commercial airliner.


Prospective readers of this book may wish to know that in a letter to me, Ower mentions that this book is his "swan song" as a poet.




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