A superb haiku collection for readers who thought they didn’t like poetry, richly expressive and very accessible.

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The winsome Japanese verse form can restore a sense of delight and creative adventure to jaded hearts, according to this poetry primer and anthology.

Mason, a poet and editor of the online journal The Heron’s Nest, offers haiku as a cure for “the subtle ways in which our culture and times estrange us from wonder.” It’s a popular form because of its friendliness to poets and readers alike: three brief lines (or occasionally two or even one), with no confining rhyme schemes or meters. (The iconic 5, 7, 5 syllable pattern can be broken at will.) The resulting bite-size poems go down easily, but, the author argues, they pack great power within their diminutive expanse. He discusses haiku in the framework of Zen aesthetics, illustrating with poems gleaned from The Heron's Nest. Haiku portrays the Buddhist principles of focusing on the ordinary and small-scale (“last night’s rain / cupped in a banana leaf / a small green frog” by Ferris Gilli) and finding a world in a grain of sand (“city sidewalk / colors swirl in a bubble / of spit” by Brenda J. Gannam). They capture life through rapt sense impressions (“autumn evening / the clink of carnival rings / on empty bottles” by Chad Lee Robinson). Evanescent and usually in present tense, they abide in the moment and evoke large meanings from concentrated images (“in the rest home lounge / the silent piano / its line of cracked keys” by John Hawkhead). And they traffic in everyday mysteries (“soap bubbles / how softly mother / bursts into laughter” by Kala Ramesh). Mason situates haiku in opposition to a Western mindset that perceives objects as discrete and atomized. Haiku, by contrast, flows from a holistic Eastern worldview that sees everything as connected, in which “our perception of boundaries…starts to give way.” Debut editor Mason includes nearly 500 poems in this sparkling anthology, showcasing the extraordinary versatility of moods and subject matter haiku can address and the vividness of its stripped-down but potent imagery. There are many landscapes and nature scenes (“winter hills / with each boot crunch / the scent of sage” by Jo Balistreri) as well as lyrically grungy urban tableaux (“dumpster / the iridescence / of starlings” by Bill Kenney) and suburban nightmares (“suburban darkness / only the rumble / of garbage can wheels” by Robert Forsythe). There is sensual intimacy (“click-clack / of the bead curtain— / the sway of her hips” by Sandra Simpson) and social satire (“singing gondolier / the passengers’ / fixed smiles” by Kay Grimnes). There is birth (“circle of lamplight— / I complete the baby quilt / begun for me” by Carolyn Hall), aging (“sudden winter / the press of cold metal / against the paper gown” by Beverly Acuff Momoi), unbearable sorrow (“hot afternoon / the squeak of my hands / on my daughter’s coffin” by Lenard D. Moore), remembrance (“her last words / snow falling / on beech leaves” by Jeff Hoagland), and enigmatic hope (“she said she’d return / as a seagull / which one” by Mason).

A superb haiku collection for readers who thought they didn’t like poetry, richly expressive and very accessible.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-0-692-93035-9

Page Count: 371

Publisher: Girasole Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 8, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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A volume of poetry and prose that offers heroic visions of urban African Americans.


A debut multigenre collection of short pieces presents vignettes focusing on the lives of African Americans from a variety of perspectives, both real and fanciful.

This eclectic anthology begins with an autobiographical sketch, “P Is for Pride and Perseverance,” in which King traces his early years from his 1979 birth to a 16-year-old mother to his incarceration for attempted robbery and his subsequent determination to do something positive with his life. “Baby Girl” reprises the story of King’s birth from his mother’s point of view, a girl whose teen pregnancy seems predestined by both her grandmother’s clairvoyant dreams and her own limited expectations. Other narratives are linked by shared characters, such as “Posse Up, Ladies First!” and “Thug Angel,” which provide somewhat idealized portraits of street gangs as building blocks of the black community. “Battle Kats” is an SF work about a group of humanoid felines from another planet who work undercover to defend Earth and its alien allies. The central section of the book is occupied by a collection of 21 poems. Some, like “Hold on to Love” and “Away From Home,” focus on romance while others, such as “The Rent Is Too Damn High!” and “Blockstars,” illuminate the experiences of working-class African Americans in inner-city neighborhoods. “Remember Me?” calls up the spirit of LaTasha Harlins, a young black woman shot by a Los Angeles shop owner in the early ’90s, speculating “I wonder what you could have been LaTasha?” King’s efforts to describe his personal struggles and the vibrant characters who populate impoverished black communities are ambitious and dynamic. His prose narratives are too short to feel really complete, but they deliver glimpses into a world mainly familiar to the urban poor, where drug dealing is one of the few available career choices, incarceration is a rite of passage, and street gangs view themselves as community leaders. While the author does have a tendency to romanticize life on the street, as in “Posse Up,” in which a girl gang maintains a strict “code of principles,” his writing presents a vision of what could happen if people worked to “play a part in the improvement of the community.”

A volume of poetry and prose that offers heroic visions of urban African Americans.

Pub Date: March 10, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4568-8093-4

Page Count: 124

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: Jan. 6, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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A nihilistic poetic remembrance that will appeal most to older teens and 20-somethings.


Davis recounts the confounding pressures of his 1990s childhood in this debut memoir-in-verse.

When telling the story of your life, one might as well start at the very beginning. That’s exactly what the author does in this memoir, which he describes as “a thing like a very long lie to yourself.” Specifically, he tells of how “The White-Gloved Sheriff / kicked in the door / and / Pulled me” from his mother (whom he calls his “Supervisor”; he later calls her “the Computer Science Major,” “the Waitress,” and other occupational names). Unusually, he had horns and a lot of hair at birth, he says. He was immediately at odds with the people and other living things around him—his parents, his brothers, his family dog. As a toddler, he created an imaginary world for himself known as “FU,” which was “Filled with things that looked like me / And where things made sense / I was King.” His earliest years were characterized by horrible discoveries (school work, isolation, crushes, problems in his parents’ marriage), but his teen years proved to be an even greater series of highs and lows, involving confusion over geopolitical events, friends, computers, pornography, and marijuana. Like a novice who can’t quite figure out the rules of a game, Davis bumbles forward—all horns and fur and misunderstanding—inadvertently angering authority figures as he seeks an adequate method of self-expression. The poem is composed in short, direct lines, enjambed to emphasize particular words or phrases rather than establish a consistent overall rhythm. Davis’ idiolect is inventive in its names for things (siblings are “life partners,” pets are “prisoners,” teachers are “Part-Time Supervisors,” and so on), and his outsider’s observations of society are shrewd and often funny. However, the combination of snark and self-seriousness causes some poems to come off as petulant and cloying; as a result, it’s difficult to imagine anyone over the age of 22 finding the work emotionally affecting. Even so, the tone and style, coupled with debut artist Klimov’s truly engaging black-and-white illustrations should captivate readers of a certain anarchic mindset.

A nihilistic poetic remembrance that will appeal most to older teens and 20-somethings.

Pub Date: May 25, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-71806-449-2

Page Count: 143

Publisher: Nada Blank Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2018

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