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Volume 33.1
Winter Spring

book review

What’s Not There: Selected Haiku of Jeffrey Winke
by Jeffrey Winke


reviewed by Michael McClintock

What’s Not There: Selected Haiku of Jeffrey Winke; Deep North Press, 2610 Central Park Ave., Evanston, IL 60201; 2001, 88 pp., paper, $12.

The 124 poems in this collection have been culled from several hundred of Winke’s haiku written over the past quarter-century in a selection process that involved the poet and Deep North Press editor, Charles Trumbull. Their efforts appear to have been painstaking and the results are good. These are not Japanese haiku clothed in costume English but American haiku written in the American idiom.

Reading through these poems is not unlike walking through a gallery of paintings by Edward Hopper (1882-1967) and others of the Ashcan school; I think particularly of Hopper’s “Nighthawks”, “House by the Railroad”, “Model Reading”, and “Room in Brooklyn” when I encounter these visions of inescapable loneliness of persons and things within the American environment:

louvered light . . .
a lone office worker
sips the last coffee


March evening walk
house after house
the cold blue flicker

winter night—
the white frost glow
of a near-empty bus


jutted chin
the sax-man
bites a long wail

Poems such as these—and this collection is full of them—reflect and are part of that body of American haiku that is liberated not only from inappropriate Japanese constraints of form and language, but also subject and imagery. It is not a severance from that tradition but a fresh, clear flowing river moving outward from it and cutting its own channel, gliding along its own bed. The connection to the Japanese predecessor is most evident in Winke’s poems of natural imagery, such as these two:

another moth
at the screen


casting shadows
where the sun cannot light
row of pines

Fine poems, universal, and belonging to no cultural identity. But Winke’s real accomplishment is in poems like these —

in cold shadows
behind the station
leaves circling


from his heavy glove
winter café

This is a midwestern-US fall, not one in Kyoto. This is an American café, along the highway or in any town or city, not a noodle shop in a rural village of Shinano, or by the shores of Lake Biwa.

The overarching strength of this collection is in its authentic, memorable rendering of the American scene in a form that appears so fragile yet so resilient, attentive, nuanced, and far-ranging.

An important subset of poems running throughout the collection are those about women, numbering over 30 — and clearly the primary subject to which Winke returns, again and again, in his own role as husband, lover, dreamer, admirer, fascinated observer, father, sympathetic human being:

week by week
her face morphing—
my adolescent girl


it slithers up
her inner thigh—
snake tattoo


furious sax solo—
an old lady
does the “nasty rooster’

In his introduction, editor Charles Trumbell says that this is “the first ‘selected haiku’ volume for Deep North Press—a type of book that I hope will become our specialty . . .” I sincerely hope that proves true.




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