One thing that I find difficult in exploring Haiku as both a reader and a poet is being able to easily find and obtain collected works by contemporary poets( contemporary being the last five years). Surfing the internet, once you have found those treasure troves of Haiku content, will reward you with quality Haiku, but rarely do you get a chance to participate in a concentrated reading of one poet’s work.
So I was excited when a review at A Hundred Gourds pointed me toward Cynthia Rowe’s Floating Nest. I was excited for the reasons stated above i.e. substantial body of work, contemporary but also the fact the Rowe is Australian and has represented quite well in International Haiku circles.
A lot of what I have read until know (aside from Ashley Capes’ work) has either been historic Japanese poets or American poets from the last 20 years. I wanted to see what an experienced poet writing Haiku had to say about Australia.
A not insignificant number of the poems had been published and so I did recognise a few. On the whole though it was a fresh reading experience. The mark of a good poet writing in any form/genre is the ability to make a perceptions and connections anew. In Haiku I think this is doubly important. English language Haiku is freed somewhat from the stricture of season words, but also divorced somewhat from the allusions and culture that inform Japanese poems.
What I was/am looking for is a poet that can write great Haiku from an Australian cultural perspective and I think Rowe demonstrates that in this work. So it’s not just mention of eucalypts or magpie geese but attitudes inherent in certain common experiences;
tourist group -
the eucalypt leans away
from the path.
that make these poems stand out. As with any poetry I also look for someone who can imbue the everyday with meaning or perhaps trigger our own memories and emotions. Take this poem as an example:
my sister’s first essay
I also like a poet who doesn’t always take things or themselves too seriously and Senryu can be a perfect vehicle for dry wit or understated comment:
the tribal musician plays
The reader is treated to a couple of sequences, a sumi-e Haiga collaboration with Ron Moss and a Haibun in addition to nearly 100 Haiku/Senryu. Of these I thought Rainforest Wet showed what a linked extended Haiku set could achieve. At $6.40 including postage and packaging I feel I may have robbed the poet. If you are interested in the form and a good contemporary exponent I can highly recommend it.
This review is part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2015. Please check out this page for more great writing from Australian women.