Review of ‘A New Resonance 8’

by Marie Marshall


A New Resonance 8
Jim Kacian & Dee Evetts (editors)
2013, Winchester VA, Red Moon Press, pp.175
ISBN 978-1-946848 -22-5

Reviewed by Marie Marshall *

It’s a personal prejudice of mine that as little should be written as possible about haiku, and the same goes for writing about people who write it. You’ll forgive me, therefore, if I deal with the presentation of this anthology before I touch on the contents.

This latest in the New Resonance series is actually beautiful to look at, its covers using the reds and purples of an Emil Nolde painting, setting off yellow lettering – ‘Resonance’ being prominent. In place of a rear-cover blurb are the words

Seventeen poets
whose names you will hear often
in the coming years

and it doesn’t take a genius to spot the arrangement of syllables. Inside, the distraction starts. The business of a book – the title page and publication details – can’t be avoided. The busy-ness of a blank flyleaf, a foreword, a further title page, a list of contributors, an editorial review of the first haijin, and the publication details of her haiku – all before the first poem – arguably can. For the ninth in the series, I would like to see the editor consider what may or may not be superfluous. The first poem is ‘about’ beginning; ironically it’s on page 9. It’s a simple, enigmatic monostich

spring rain backwards until the beginning

and it is the intriguing (proper) start of the book. The nature referent is almost intrusive, interrupting an apparent grammatical flow, making the initial word ‘spring’ wonderfully ambiguous. ‘Time is not to be relied on’ runs the editorial commentary, and the poem ‘invite[s] us to read [it] over and over’. Does it? Should it? Would the shade of Basho gnash his teeth at the thought of our oohs and ahs as we fixate on the eternal plop of a frog into an eternal pool? Whatever – Melissa Allen’s one-liner is a great way to open the show. The rest of her selections are full of strength, surprising, compulsive stuff; the book leads with an ace.

Then comes another moment of superfluity. The next poet – each poet – is introduced not only by an editorial comment and publication details, but by a repeated list of all the poets, with the featured poet’s name in bold. Arguably it’s like two bars’ rest in music with the conductor still waving his baton, but please expect that at least fifty-one of your one hundred and seventy-five pages will not contain haiku. You’re looking at a stack of sandwiches, so expect a lot of bread.

But the filling!

The featured poets include many I know, such as Johannes S H Bjerg, Aubrie Cox, and Christina Nguyen, and many I don’t know. Again I’m uncomfortable writing too much about their creations. I can say that much of the poetry in A New Resonance 8 shows that there’s a happy coincidence in the Japanese words mono no aware and the English word ‘aware’. I’m going to extract a couple that stand out for me, and leave the rest for you to come across when you read the book for yourself. First Lucas Strensland’s

sleepless night
where else does she have
owl tattoos

and secondly John Hawk’s monostich

how should I put this broken window

yet another lovely monkeying-around with grammar and ambiguity. Perhaps the weakest poem is David Caruso’s

holy war
by ancient literature

– I feel like saying yes, you’ve made your point, but should you be even making a ‘point’ with haiku? Let me say anyhow that if that’s the weakest poem in the book – and it’s not that bad! – that says a lot for the quality of the book as a whole. After a while I even got used to the intrusive ‘bread’ pages. It’s a book to approach in may ways. I like to pick it up, flip open a random page (flip over a couple more if I land on the bread!) and read what I find there. If I occasionally land on the same poem, then that’s a serendipitous plop in the pool. This book is full of high quality modern haiku, stuff of a much higher standard than you’d even find in most specialist magazines.

Rated ★★★★☆


* I’m grateful to Johannes S H Bjerg for the review copy. I would have done a shorter review for the zen space, but for the fact that the next issue is in the hands of a guest editor.