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Summer 2007, vol 5 no 2

Big Sky: The Red Moon Anthology of English Language Haiku
edited by Jim Kacian & The Red Moon Editorial Staff
A Review by Robert D. Wilson

 

Each year, Jim Kacian's Red Moon Press publishes an anthology featuring what it heralds to be the crème de la crème of English language haiku for the past year. In the book's Foreword, Kacian posits, "... the Red Moon Anthology begins its second decade of offering the best haiku published in English from around the world."

Reading these words, I dove in, led to expect a treat. But this is some of what is offered:


autumn morning
we buy the last one
we'll need

Marilyn Appl Walker


boys in the park win the war in Iraq

R.P. Carter


Christmas party
an old friend empties
my wine glass

Yu Chang


no ketchup ---
I wish things had gone
the other way

Peggy Willis Lyles



the war
on the tv
in the background

PMF Johnson


tv pledge drive
a man with perfect teeth
says it's up to me

Laura Orabone


night on the town ---
how beautiful the girl
my wife finds fault with

Lee Gurga


his hand
on my thigh ---
I miss the next joke

Sari Grandstaff


This is the crème de la crème of English haiku? What floated across my mind while reading this sampling was: Am I missing something here? Are these supposed to be haiku? I go back to the beginning again and there it is: what amounts to a tiny disclaimer that says before the poetry begins " haiku/senryu."

Since the entire editorial board did not see fit to identify which poems are which for those buying an anthology purporting to be "the best haiku, " the reader can easily be confounded when senryu are tossed in as part of the mix!

Obviously, the last three are excellent senryu. And only that gratuitous disclaimer stating there are senryu included has to suffice for the readers, many of whom still are confused about the difference between the two genres. That does a grave disservice to newcomers seeking to read topnotch haiku when that is what the book's title claims they have bought.

There are some brilliant English language poets, but many are missing from Big Sky in favor of some of the above inclusions. Perhaps the anthology's editors didn't look hard enough. I hope they dig deeper for next year's anthology. And will be more up front next time and identify any senryu as such.

Yes, there are some haiku in Big Sky that deserve a wider audience and are indeed wonderful and refreshing:


warmth
of the ejected video
winter solitude

Burnell Lippy


winter rose ---
I am tired of reading
between the lines

Fay Aoyagi


long day
the dog's chain wrapped
around the tree

Earl Keener


summer heat
the bricklayer whispers
an expletive

Carolyn Thomas


the thaw sets in
a dog chews on
the snowman's nose

David Rollins


The anthology concludes with a series of essays, one of which, Cheryl Crowley's "Depopularizing the Popular," is a standout and recommended reading. Crowley examines in her treatise "the emergence of the Basho revival movement in the middle of the 18th century; exploring the ways that the Revival poets, who were commoners and low-ranking samurai, tried to reshape haikai into an equal to that of the elite forms waka and renga, and in doing so to raise their own status in an era that otherwise offered little social mobility." If only all of the essays in Big Sky matched the depth and quality of Crowley's.

The best of the best? Hardly, but Big Sky is a visually attractive package containing some enjoyable work once you figure out what you have bought into.


Big Sky: The Red Moon Anthology of English Language Haiku
Edited by Jim Kacian & The Red Moon Editorial Staff
Red Moon Press
ISBN 1-893959--60-0
$16.95
©2007