Friday, March 28, 2008

A Poet Among Us

Carolyn Hall is a gifted haiku poet in our midst, publishing and winning awards in haiku poetry competitions since she began writing in 1999. Although she has been writing and contributing to haiku publications for some time, Water Lines,  published in Great Britain by Snapshot Press in 2006, is her first individual collection.  It can be ordered online at  Haiku is known to a few of us as a  brief poem containing nature imagery. Beyond that, the poems often reference a season and contain little or no mention of people.  Some of us may even recall that it is a short, economical form, containing no more than 17 syllables. Powerful  accessible imagery is a significant component,  giving the reader the opportunity to "fill in" and imagine unstated information. Within the world of serious haiku followers, an additional related poetic form, focusing more on human emotions, such as humor or irony is know as senryu. This defining information was provided by Keith Heiberg, who strongly praised her work in The Harvard Book Review, Volume IX, Number 2, Winter 2007. Peggy Willis Lyles, in the book's forward,  praised her "spare, accessible, insistently clear  and scrupulously honest" work.  Both Heiberg and Lyles  point out how vivid her images are, often approached from a somewhat unconventional point of view, even in the instance of everyday, seemingly small events. I cannot begin to comment from any insider's trained perspective. However,  as a reader, I find myself taken by the fresh sensory images they contain, smell as well as visual, tactile and auditory images.  They seem like small "gems" or "nuggets" that crystalize a perception, a truth, while representing a small quiet moment.  They call forth feelings of recognition, a sense that "I've been there" too. And the range of topics is impressive, from the more likely images of leaves, streams, birds, moon, to a slave cemetery, or a produce stand. As a birder who is fond of autumn, I immediately "saw" and "felt" the motion in the following:

indian summer
the intersecting circles
of hawks

Smell is such a powerful sensory "link" to memories for me. How many of you can recall this sensory moment?

a waft of cedar
from my sweater
winter rain

I noticed how these images evoked  feelings of sadness and futility in me when linking the prospect or reality of destruction in small and very large events:

war news
the underbelly of a moth
pressed to my window

How does she move us from a visual movment to the "space" of time? 

crochet hook
pulling the yarn through
deep November

The humor of this experience must be close to universal in our culture:

the um in her voice
before offering me
the senior discount

This lovely thoughtful collection warrants a place on your bookshelf or bedside table and a space in the quiet moments you set aside for reflection.

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