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Spring 2009, vol 7 no 1

Seeing It Now: Tanka and Haiku
by Marjorie Buettner
A Review by Robert D. Wilson


morning fog
the sound the river makes
when I close my eyes

Marjorie Buettner's new book, Seeing It Now, contains some of the finest English language haiku written today in a way that honors the genre's Japanese heritage. Her poetry is proof that an occidental can write haiku in the spirit and style it was meant to be written in.

Writes H.F. Noyle in the Introduction:

Her haiku are consistently a reflection of her inner nature's response to outer nature. And her tanka are either love poems (as ardent as those of Lady Murasaki) or deeply reflective.

Take this tanka, for example:

afraid once again
of wanting too much from you
I shed the morning light
walking near the lake
that sings to us in dreams

Buettner's sense of harmonic meter coupled with yugen (depth and mystery), kikoro (emotion), and makoto (beauty) reminds me of Shotetsu's poetic style.

As my heart ascends
     the clear,
                     I gaze upon
the clearing
                     moon within
                     the other moon
midway through
                               an autumn night

Shotetsu (1381-1459)
Translated by Steven D. Carter
Unforgotten Dreams

Buettner's poem centers on love and the poet's worry that she may be too needy for the man she adores. It takes a walk around the lake the couple cherishes for her heart to shake off the external and find answers and peace in the internal. Buettner's last three lines are beautiful and provide the perfect contrast to the first two lines, in an almost magical way, leaving room for readers to interpret the tanka from their own mindsets and cultural memories.

The haiku in Buettner's book are equally beautiful, making use of the unsaid, ma (dreaming room), and again allowing her readers to finish them with their interpretations:

deep shade
the secrecy of leaves
before rain

winter dusk
watching my daughters
with future eyes

Marjorie Buettner's collection of haiku and tanka are poems I can read and reread again, each time finding something new:

my heart is empty
of all poetry tonight
so why do words come
the solitary echo
of a widowed bird in flight


Seeing It Now: Tanka and Haiku
by Marjorie Buettner
Red Dragonfly Press
2008 $15
ISBN 978-1-890193-85-0