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Volume 34.2
Summer 2003

book review

A Breath of Haiku
by Helen J. Sherry


Reviewed by Peggy Willis Lyles

A Breath of Haiku, by Helen J. Sherry (San Diego, Calif.: Chôchô Books, 2003). 98 pages, 5.25" x 8.25", acid-free papers, perfectbound. ISBN 0-922273-05-07. $12.00 postpaid in the U.S. and Canada; elsewhere $14.00. Available from Chôchô Books, 11929 Caminto Corriente, San Diego, CA 92128.

Helen J. Sherry’s new collection glows with gentle grace, charm, and humor. I found it a pleasure from start to finish. In addition to 100 haiku and senryu, A Breath of Haiku includes a rengay written with H.F. Noyes, two kasen renku with Edward J. Sherry, two haiku sequences, a handful of tanka, and a few visual surprises. Helen has an artist’s eye. I imagine it twinkling as she experiences and composes her signature haiku, many of which freshen the familiar with delightful turns of language.

the snail uses
its full stretch

empty house
a dove call settles
in the chimney

a crow flies its call
deep into the forest

fog lifting
lights slowly fit
into houses

She catches human beings with deft strokes, too.

river bend
a boy fills his breath
with whistle

anxious child
her hand strokes the air
above the pony

warm breeze
he yawns through
the local paper

old pier
her lotioned hands
hold the bait

At the end, beneath a lovely photograph of the poet with one of her paintings, the book features this quotation from Henri Matisse: “I have always tried to hide my own efforts and wish my work to have the lightness and joyousness of springtime which never lets anyone suspect the labors it has cost.” In haiku, senryu, tanka, and linked verse, Helen J. Sherry has successfully adopted the French painter’s manifesto to perfect a consistently recognizable and uniquely welcome haikai voice.



©2003 Modern Haiku • PO Box 68 • Lincoln, IL 62656