Under the BashōEssays

Yanty’s Butterfly Haiku Nook: An Anthology”, 2016

Edited by: Jacob Salzer and the Nook Editorial Staff

Book review by Iliyana Stoyanova

When I was asked to write a book review on “Yanty's Butterfly” I started thinking about the best way to approach it, how to do justice to a book which was obviously far more than just a simple collection of poems. And then I decided to jump in with both feet and started to read. The more I read, the more I realized, sensed and felt what this book was all about – a colourful and very powerful celebration of life.

Yanty Tjiam (1981-2015) was a valued member of a small haiku community on Google+, the Haiku Nook, where poets from all around the world shared their work and helped each other on their fascinating journey into haiku. As the group developed their poetry became stronger and stronger but then suddenly Yanty, an integral part of the group, died. Having to cope with the sad loss of a loved one brought the group even closer and the idea of creating a fit tribute to Yanty was born. 21 poets from Canada, Germany, Persia, the Philippines, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Ukraine, the U.K. , and the U.S. came together to create “Yanty's Butterfly” - an international anthology of over 600 poems, spanning the variety of haiku forms: three-line haiku, two-line haiku, one-line haiku, four-line haiku, traditional haiku (5-7-5), concrete haiku, tanka, and haibun. There is a dedicated section for Yanty’s own haiku and finally we go “haiku travelling the single line” with Alan Summers who takes us on a journey with the Haiku Nook members’ monoku with his enthusiastically written article.

In the preface Willie R. Bongcaron writes: “Our anthology carries the power of compassion, born from the nurturing attitudes of people who supported each other on their haiku journey. It is about the selfless and untiring dedication of people who wanted to make a difference, however small it may be, in a world that is increasingly becoming callous, and indifferent.” In the editor's note, Jacob Salzer points out that the anthology is “also a celebration of our work in this genre and the power of haiku to connect people, across countries, across boundaries…” And indeed, as if Yanty's spirit is guiding the authors throughout the book and when reading the poems we could vividly sense her presence. Sometimes she could rise with the birds (James Ciriaco), fly like a butterfly caught in the wind (Momolu Freeman), or even become the wind itself (Willie Bongcaron); she could even sing like the winter stars (Eva Limbach) or elegantly float like a lily pad (Michelle Hyatt). Yanty’s presence is also felt in the summer haze (Lovette Carter) as well as in the autumn dawn (Momolu Freeman), or as Yanty’s brother Fei Zhan writes – in each dew drop:

after rain
different worlds
through dew

Of course the haiku dialogue with the reader means that each and every one of us would explore the various parts of the anthology in our own unique way. The book offers a great choice of styles and forms and invites the readers to discover their own favourites. After reading the anthology several times, these are the highlights I would like to share with you.

Three-line haiku: Yuting Lin, Malintha Perera, and Nakta Roodgari – for their gentle images and the lightness of their poetic brushes; two-line haiku: Dana Grover, Nicholas Klacsanzky, and Jacob Salzer – for the brevity and elegance of their word choice; one-line haiku: Fei Zhan, Francis Franklin, James Ciriaco, Eva Limbach, and Michelle Hyatt – all showing excellent examples of multi-layered monoku; four-line haiku: Willie Bongcaron, Momolu Freeman, Malintha Perera, and Jacob Salzer – for presenting a variety of images and techniques that all work best as four-line poems; I also have to mention Steve Woodall’s two ‘pluto’ haiku – as a 3-line and here as a 4-line where by only changing the fragment and keeping the same humorous phrase we could see two very different poetic pictures. Also worth mentioning are Gabri Rigotti’s brilliant sense of humour which shines through almost all of his work; Alan Summers’ mastery in using the abstract in his haiku but especially vivid in his haibun; and finally the strong presence of several authors who feature in every section of the anthology – like Eva Limbach, Malintha Perera, Momolu Freeman, etc. As for the concrete haiku section, I have to admit that the quality and the imagination behind each and every poem was outstanding. And it makes “Yanty's Butterfly” a welcome addition to the modern haiku literature of the 21st century.

The other sections in the anthology – 5-7-5, tanka, and haibun are so carefully selected by the editing team that I found it particularly difficult to pick out any favourite ones. In fact the whole book shows great professionalism, attention to detail and more importantly – it demonstrates the unity of the Haiku Nook member’s, their mutual understanding, their love of haiku and the huge respect for their lost member Yanty. The small selection of her poems at the end displays Yanty’s great potential as a haijin, her spirit and kindness, and is highlighted even more by her brother’s participation in this project with his own poems and artwork.

An anthology which is indeed a product of Love! Read on, enjoy and you’ll experience the true power of love!

careful, butterfly!
the breath of your wings is felt
all over the world

--- Francis Franklin


Iliyana Stoyanova is the Living Legacies Editor at "The Living Haiku Anthology"; member of the British Haiku Society (Communications Officer and BHS Awards Administrator), United Haiku and Tanka Society (UHTS), Shoshin Haiku Circle and Haiku Club - Plovdiv; Doctor of Theology.