Review of “Haiku Bindii: Willow Light”

The following review has been written by Patricia Prime (NZ), editor of “Kokako”:

“Haiku Bindii: Willow Light. Journal of Bindii Japanese Genre Poetry Group 2015: Volume 2” has been edited by Lee Bentley, with layout and design by Lynette Arden.

Payment can be made via Paypal to 1. $10AUD; 2. $15AUD; 3 $24 AUD; 4. $30 AUD. 5 or more copies, please contact Lee for details.

“Haiku Bindii: Willow Light” is the Bindii Japanese Genre Poetry Group’s second collection from Australian poets. Haiga inside front and back covers and throughout the book are by Belinda Broughton. The collection is composed of haiku, tanka, tanka prose and haibun.

In this second marvellous collection, the poems are concerned, above all, with love, and graceful moments. The work in “Willow Light” is moving, meditative and assured. The poems defy expectation with their subtle grace, and their adroit stance. They remind you, as good poetry does, that everything around us can be part of the poetry we write: silver in the hair, bric-a-brac, spring cleaning, plum blossoms and so much more. The great thing in these poems is their unsentimentally, their truth and the assertion that warmth and love can be present in everyday things and occurrences.

One of the things I love about Japanese poetry is its responsiveness to nature – and so it is heartening to read Judith Ahmed’s tanka about the first day of spring:

today I’ll enjoy the warmth
and fragrance of this first spring day
wishing myself
in another time or place

Ahmed’s fine haibun “Trash or Treasure” takes us to a household auction, where she and Mohamed purchase dining chairs, crockery and smaller items. The haibun ends with the haiku:

and furniture
the stuff of lives

Karin Anderson’s haiku engages with birds, household chores, a gardener and a dinner party. Her haiku:

dinner party chill
a snap pea
cuts the silence

comically exposes the silence that sometimes spoils a party. In her tanka prose “A Needle In A Haystack,” I note that she had a tailor father, as I did. I can thus empathise with this poem. Her father has a nervous breakdown and the following tanka encapsulates the trauma:

in the tailor’s shop
cracked mirrors
with no faces
black suits on dummies
scarred with white chalk

Bett Angel-Stawarz writes in her haibun “Last Visit” of a visit to her mentor, where a visitor arrives and “There is much laughter as stories of old are regaled.” Her haiku are simple and recall a grandson, her mother and this one about a letter from the lawyer:

chill wind
the lawyer’s letter lies

Maeve Archibald presents haiku, tanka and a haibun “Winter Wardrobe.” Her tanka is a fine example of her writing:

in the car park
a flurry of cold petals
sets hard my heart
builds a wall
I cannot climb

“Winter Wardrobe”: It is winter and there are “dreary days of rain” which sets the tone for the poet’s “mind wardrobe.” The piece ends:

There on the darkening hillside an ostentatious display of sartorial splendour, pink flounces, delicate lace edging, flimsy drapes of gauze. I think that I caught just the mere whiff of her message –

new wardrobe
a flurry of petals
dance of joy

I’ve been shopping! My mind wardrobe now walks the talk in the latest trends.

Lynette Arden’s selection includes haiku, tanka and two haibun: “Prowl” and “Spectacles,” both blending the witty, colloquial, contemporary style with excellent haiku. Under Arden’s deft touch, her poetic voice is variously passionate, tender and sharp, as in this tanka:

she wanted
a simple funeral
at the graveside
we played on the radio
Mahler’s Song of the Earth

The following haiku was displayed by the Basho Museum in Tokyo, as one of the best three English language haiku deposited in 2012. It is illustrated with an elegant photograph:

near Basho’s statue
a hundred tadpoles striving to become frogs

Alexander Ask’s haibun “Machinations of a Summer Night” takes us through a night of stifling heat. The prose begins: “10 pm: Even the air-conditioning can’t deal with the heat as it strains to the point of breakdown.” And ends with the words: “The Heat of the day turns a romantic evening into odd machinations . . .” In this striking tanka, he reveals the beauty and simplicity of leaves:

electric pink
of cordyline leaves
so slender
the gap between godliness
and mediocrity

Lee Bentley’s selection consists of haiku, one tanka and a short haibun “Sleep”, in which he is “Drugged with sleep” and ends: “I long to hibernate through the rest of my days. I am alive. What more can I hope for?” His haiku includes these unusual subjects:

a clutch of wild rice
he loosens
the groom’s tie

converted church –
scanning the menu
for inspiration

Dawn Colsey’s haiku and tanka are original and engaging, a sample being this haiku: “my camera forgotten / I take pictures / with eyes and words.” And the tanka:

a duck keeps half an eye
on the poet
in case she changes
for bread crusts

Margaret Fensom’s haibun “Ninety Nine Years” displays ingenuity and charm: it is a story about a mother and daughter, which ends: “So now I continue my journey without you, but remembering the times when our paths touched.” Her haiku: “water falls / into darkness and lilies – / the fish’s mouth” is deliciously funny.

Jill Gower’s haibun “Storm,” which is wonderfully illustrated by a picture of storm clouds, focuses on a dog that wanders out in front of the car and is injured. The poem concludes with a happy ending: “We turn into a driveway through more pencil pines, the farm house set back off the road. The dog, sensing it is home, wags its tail.” Her haiku include the minimalist: “Vatican cafeteria / food for the masses.”

The serious topic of the failure of words to express what one feels is found in the following haiku by Simon Hanson: “no words / come close / . . .” His simple haiku:
“fireworks on the harbour the silence of light” has a nice precision of language and is illustrated with a photograph.

Marilyn Linn’s “an easy catch / ahead of a bushfire / kestrels circle” epitomises the ever-present danger of bush fires. While Julia Wakefield’s delightful haibun “First Word” celebrates the triumph of a toddler’s first word. Her haiku: “hot summer morning / the striking beauty / of dead things” points out how even something that is dead can also be beautiful.

Athena Zaknic’s haibun, “My Morning,” is personal, with its enduring image of the narrator wondering how to spend the hour before daylight saving comes in. The image in the following tanka is a remarkable achievement, summing up, as it does, the futility of war:

my grandfather
how handsome he looks
in his soldier’s uniform
we choose not to recall
what really happened

What is so impressive in this poetic quest, and the monumental task of selecting the poems, is that it appears effortless. The depth of vision and the use of language are impressive.

Patricia Prime

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