Simply Haiku: A Quarterly Journal of Japanese Short Form Poetry
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Spring 2009, vol 7 no 1

A Seal Snorts Out The Moon
by Colin Stewart Jones
A Review by Robert D. Wilson


where is heaven?
the child in me
pops seaweed

One day, seemingly, Colin Stewart Jones popped out of nowhere like a jack in the box from a surreal somewhere, writing haiku that stretches minds and challenges the norm, whatever normal is in this world of cognitive motion; his poetry a concatenation of truth, pain, and imagination.

Jones has an original voice, his haiku sustains good meter, and his choice of subject matter is reminiscent of a cross between Charles Bukowski and Jack Kerouac. Not just anyone would name a book of poetry A Seal Snorts Out The Moon.

Jones' book is one of the few English language short form poetry books I've read clear through in one sitting and later returned for more. He took me through a surrealistic forest in his native Scotland, conjuring up laughter, introspection, a dream within a dream; extemporaneous and, at times, borrowing the title of a book of poetry by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, a Coney Island of the mind.

quayside . . .
fog clinging
to the smell of fish

A man-made embankment used for loading and unloading ships (a quay) is blanketed by a heavy fog, a sight not unusual on Scottish shorelines. The smell of fish is heavy on the quay where fishing trawlers are unloading their catches.

Jones imagines the fog clinging to the strong scent of fish. His use of minimalization and imagery projects a variety of images, making room for interpretation and thought. The inclusion of an ellipsis at the end of line 1 provides a long enough pause (ma) to weave line one into the final two lines, making a poem ripe for creative visualization. This three line poem gives equal importance to the said and the unsaid.

spring morning
sunlight passing
through my urine

Poems like this may appear crude to some but writing poems about such subject matter wasn't taboo to Matsuo Bashō:

flees, lice,
a horse peeing
by my pillow

Translated by David Barnhill

Bush warbler
shits on the rice cakes
on the porch rail.

Translated by Robert Hass

Jones' haiku is not crude at all, and his portrayal of the subject matter is tasteful and beautifully written, utilizing what may seem to be opposites, the juxtaposition of line one with lines two and three to deconstruct one view to form a temporal view without the need for petty judgment.

harbour lights
crossing the bridge
into film noir

The above poem paints a surreal picture with an innovative mixture of imagination, allusion, and association using juxtaposition to combine the real with surreal association and imagination, which are opposites, to concatenate the opposites into a temporal conceptualization that encourages thought, introspection, and creative visualization, bringing Jones' readers to point B using points A and C.

is he
on a ginko too?
sidling crow

Using a completely different form of aesthetics that combine western and eastern thought, Jones asks a question that can, via interpretation, be metaphorical, allegorical, animistic, curiosity, or simply a question, depending on the poet's headspace and preference for drawing readers into the covert. Jones uses questions in some of his haiku, talking to life creatures such as:

evening lark— which pine island's good for sleeping?

Translated by David Lanoue

A few more samples to peruse:

this balmy night
is the snail thinking
of leaving home?

early winter
the dog
releasing steam

march night
the wet dog
smells my crotch


A Seal Snorts Out The Moon
by Colin Stewart Jones
The Lightening Source
ISBN 978-0-9554-9646-2