Simply Haiku: A Quarterly Journal of Japanese Short Form Poetry
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Summer 2005, vol 3 no 2


Review ~ Towards a New Light ~
NOON, journal of the short poem

Reviewed by Richard Gilbert

Noon:
As my mind opens to the flow of different voices within, the nature of the powerful contemporary short poem is revealed. While there are nuances or contrasts between adjoining authors, crossing points are subtle; each author maintains an autonomous voice, yet reading through, the sense of a new genre arises—a category of poetry yet unnamed. Concision, directness of speech, crisp and powerful images, humour, wordplay, are elements; yet these can be found elsewhere: there is something more. What is most noticeable? First, that many poems hint at metaphysical or philosophical dimensions—there are succinct relationships offered between humankind and nature. A sense of depth may be invoked, for example, simply due to the irruptive contact between a few adjoining lines, creating a strongly imagistic landscape—followed immediately by a poetically abstract statement. Or the reverse, as in this excerpt from Morris Cox,

simple / not deep /   / shadow on shallow water.

Here, the wordplay of simple-shadow-shallow puns upon the sense of literal realism typically given with each word; the pun serves to activate a metaphysical sense of the image, recalling Zen paradox. This sense is postmodern, in that “language” as sign comes to the fore, but with a return to Earth, to nature and essential meaning, to things in themselves. The reader is not left "decentered" in a word of ever-mutating signifiers — in fact, there seems to be a point to Noon: the overwhelming sense that there is something to be cared for; worth caring for. In Japan, the word might be "kokoro," translated into English as heart, it can also mean “mind.”

Observing the sense of contiguity among the journal's poems, this review cannot fully cover the sense of uniqueness found within. In fact, regarding the point made above, many contemporary poems elsewhere contain metaphysical and philosophical elements, though these may appear trite—this is not the case here. In the Cox excerpt above (as well as other poems within), one recalls the playful paradoxes of Wallace Stevens in "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird"; outcries of poetic life given in the form of unresolvable ‘logical’ expressions: a compelling semantics opening the brief line into unrolling fields of exploration. There is an additional point of commonality with "Thirteen Ways" (itself a fairly unique poem in modern western poetry): a lack of discursiveness. It is not that the poems within Noon are merely spare, or that in general the poetic lines are short; overall, the single word or brief poetic phrase is the foreground subject, while the author becomes a nearly anonymous self-presence. It's like being in a lucid dream, someone's talking to you and their body dissolves; yet image and voice remain, taking on further immanence by contrast. It is an unusual and refreshing experience, not least because as in dreams, there exists a naïve naturalness as opposed to categorical confrontation. To put it another way, the confrontations of reality posed seem organic and natural—worth pondering and easy to enter; to the extent that halfway through the journal, Chris Gordon's,

all the ceiling fans moving at different speeds

seems to speak beyond the literal image to an intertextual space: the poem also comments on its brethren as well as the given image; thus, on minds minding reality. Language is renewed, but more importantly, new possibilities of literary art are presented. In this sense, Noon is innovative in the best sense.

Noon, taken as a whole is impressive; the journal really does flow from poem to poem; it can be further noted that the disappearance of discursiveness and “author” is neither absolute nor affected, as in some English haiku; rather there is an evident quiet, spacious dialogues with the reader, questioning and penetrating notions of form:

at fertilization
dazzled
by an elephant's yawn

revealing the modern-haiku genius of Sayumi Kamakura, and nearby,

trembling of the leaves
trembling of the water
trembling of the light
thrown back by water

by Thomas A. Clark. Clark's list poem, set alone on the page (as is each poem), would perhaps be no more than a diversion if caught say in the middle of the New Yorker. In Noon however, the foregrounding flow of elemental image, and particularly the manner in which the editor has separated poems from authors’ names (at the back), allows the reader to experience a unique poetic journey. The founding editor Philip Rowland has, through example and design, presented a new idea and intention for modern poetry. As the book is beautifully and painstakingly hand-bound in limited edition, it’s wise to order in the near term. This first issue of Noon is an exquisite work that will not disappoint.


Richard Gilbert, Ph.D., Faculty of Letters
Kumamoto University, Kumamoto, Japan
December 21, 2004

NOON
Issue One, December 2004
Philip Rowland, Ed., Pub.
Noon Press (Tokyo, Japan)

68 pages, Japanese stab-bound;
ISSN 1349-6972
Email: noon(at)jj.e-mansion(dot)com

 


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