Simply Haiku: A Quarterly Journal of Japanese Short Form Poetry
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Summer 2006, vol 4 no 2

Shadows Bloom: Scathanna Faoi Bhlath
By John Sexton
A Review by Robert D. Wilson

 

Anyone can write a haiku and anyone can compile a book of haiku, or something similar to haiku. But good haiku and a good book of haiku are rare jewels. And becoming more so. As Managing Editor of Simply Haiku, I continually receive review copies of books in the mail and, to be honest with you, the majority aren't worth the time taken to read them.

John Sexton is an accomplished poet and writer who has written haiku for years and is the author of a series of books based on a popular children's radio show, The Ivory Tower, that ran for 103 episodes. A good writer isn't born. Being a good writer is the result of hard work, practice, study, and more hard work. Sexton's success is based on a solid work ethic and his ability to creatively translate and see life.

In John Sexton's poetry I see a deep respect for the Japanese haiku masters who gave us the genre and for the genre itself. I also see an original, fresh voice steeped in the social and geographical contexts experienced in the British Isles.

Take for instance this haiku:

a good game
but shadows of crows
are too fast to catch

This haiku has something to say but doesn't "tell all." It paints a picture with words that are memorable, with intricate textures and tones. The "shadows of crows," translated into something someone, perhaps a child, might be tempted to catch and the realization that they "are too fast to catch," is a wonderful image.

Sexton's poetry is, for the most part, consistent, and sometimes brilliant.

first light
the river sheds a skin
of fog

thieving magpie
last slice of light
on the lawn

mysteries
I examine the drawings
on a moth's wings

Like many writing Japanese short form poetry outside of Japan, Sexton mistakenly labels both senryu and haiku under the haiku heading when, in reality, they are two separate, albeit closely related genres.

Senryu:

the teaspoon shows me
with furtive inspection
my true, foolish face

Haiku:

sunlit street
a jackdaw shadow
passes through me

Although at times mislabeled, Sexton's poetry is a joy to read:

busy in the garden of my fingertip the ant

some spider willed me
this necklace
of dust

Says Caroline Gourlay about Sexton's poetry:

"He has a keen eye and the imagination and skill to communicate his observations in unexpected, fresh images, which he juxtaposes without recourse to labored symbolism and/or metaphor . . . a pitfall that few haiku poets manage consistently to avoid."

And Emiko Miyashita:

"From the soil of Ireland where poetry is deeply rooted, a new bud of fresh green haiku."

walking through the brambles
without scratches . . .
my shadow


Shadows Bloom: Scathanna Faoi Bhlath
Haiku by John Sexton
Irish Translation by Gabriel Rosenstock
Doghouse
ISBN 0-95-46487-4-9