It is not easy to write
a book of oriental short form poetry based on a single theme. The poet
runs the risk of being trite, wearing a subject into the
ground, or in this case, watering the subject matter down until it becomes
a weak tea. Suffice it to say, I perused Kirsty Karkow's book Water Poems
with baited breath, expecting a Hallmark card collection of cutesy poetry
using flowery words to say what has already been said before, and better
So much for prejudgement.
On page 9, there is a forward by Michael McClintock. That got me interested.
McClintock is no lightweight.
He is respected world-wide
for his knowledge and expertise as a poet, teacher, and editor of Japanese
short form poetry. Score one for the forward. Edited by Cathy Drinkwater
Better? Okay, another kudo. Cathy is also a respected poet and
editor. These two people
wouldn't lend their names to a book that is fluff. Score two for Ms. Karkow.
Now for the meat and potatoes: the poetry.
a flotilla of sea ducks
Fresh imagery. Excellent
metre. Hmmmm, this is a good haiku. Okay. Looking good so far. Let's turn
the page and see another:
we wade into the current
of a great river
Another good haiku.
She's consistent. Again, fresh imagery. And with more than one layer
of meaning. Suddenly I am wanting to read more, to wade with Karkow "into
the current" of what she calls "a
cast up by the sea
fragments of a wooden boat
on the white-sand beach
tides reverse like steady breaths
uncovering bits of dreams
This woman writes beautiful
poetry. Both tanka and haiku. I can't comment regarding her sijo, as I
know nothing about Korean short
form poetry. Suffice it to say,
they were beautiful as well. Most poets specialize in one genre. To specialize
in three separate though related genres, that is commendable. And to write
them well, that is more than commendable. Karkow is that rare kind of poet
whose poetry will be remembered long after it has been read.
the circle of calm
after a seal dives
a net of sunlight
in the shallows
beside the lake
I wait for your answer
back and forth
the pink feet of a gull
treading glassy water
People new to the writing
of haiku and tanka would do well to read Kirsty Karkow's poetry;
to study her form,
the way she expresses
herself with words, the tightness of her metre, and the layers of
meaning she puts into her verse. Japanese short form poetry calls for
and keen observation...To amend a quote from the late classical guitarist
Andre Seqovia, "It is the easiest poetry to write and the hardest
to write well."