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Hokku and Haiku by Robert D. Wilson


A Book Review by Don Baird

Did you let this gem slip by you when it was released? Did you not hear of it before today? These questions may be answered yes by many readers and scholars alike—they indeed missed it!

Robert Wilson, often under the radar these days is one of the foremost English language haiku poets. He was also the Editor in Chief (owner with Sasa Vasic) of Simply Haiku an eminent haiku journal. His efforts regarding the Simply Haiku Journal are unparelleled—featuring collections from the finest haiku minds of modern times—through poetry, interviews and essays.

Robert is passionate about writing. There isn't a day that passes that doesn't include him augmenting his prolific haiku/hokku repertoire. A Soldier's Bones is an example of his efforts. It is a book of fine haiku that clearly demonstrates his ability to employ Japanese poetics in English language haiku. Such aesthetics as ma, kokoro, yugen, wabi-sabi, kireji are delicately entwined within his psyche of which are readily unearthed through his engaging poetry.

He addresses the seemingly impossible,

full moon . . .
an egret kneading
darkness


starsong . . .
the wind inside
my dreams

while at the same time, lures the reader into yugen—the mystery that dwells deep within nature and human psyche, combined. He touches on darkness, austerity, and lamenting that lies not only within nature herself,

eternity . . .
the distance between
two mirrors

morning mist . . .
a rice field's quiet
bridges

but within human natures and their unique abilities to wonder about themselves—to ponder their extant relationship with the universe.

Basho gravitated toward change. It is not ambiguous that he was a ponderer—and more than willing to embrace aesthetics he hadn't previously pursued. Karumi, a sort of lightness in the choice of words—using words that were readily understood became, arguably, his final poetic. It seems he didn't want his haiku to be heavy in language or mood of which the following haiku in English demonstrates well:

try another
song, cicada,
punk rock's out!

As do fine haiku/hokku poet's of ancient times, Robert has a keen sense of observation. He is aware of micro and macro; he is aware of sounds and silence; he is aware of change; he is aware of koto (comings and goings of all things—process); he is tuned into zoka (Chi/qi of existence); and he is aware of himself—his strengths, his shortcomings, his tears, his laughter—and he diligently embraces it all through his poetry.

even the
parrot holds its tongue . . .
humid day


thick fog . . .
a coyote stretching
quiet

Robert Wilson is senstive and rediscovers himself over and over through the goings on of nature—

moonless night . . .
all that remains of a
cicada's song

relating himself to the profound conditions of life itself—relating himself to a wolf's beckon, a sound of wind, a feel of mist, a dark night of
. . . where's the moon?

He sticks to his style; he stands by Japanese haiku/hokku traditions while writing in a foreign language separated from the bounds of hokku culture in Japan. But amidst profound cultural disjunction, he discovered his voice—a way—a style of English language haiku/hokku—and passionately retains key poetics of the mother culture—Japan— the spawning grounds from which his mind creates.

your flight, owl . . .
painting me into
a dream


. . . unveils how he perceives himself. It is a poem that, upon close reading, is quite revealing as to who Robert is . . . and how he dreams with nature.

This is a "must-have;" and it is one not to be missed by any reader or scholar. It can now be found in our Library, on the shelves of the Living Haiku Anthology.

February 24th, 2016

Don Baird