HCSHR 4:19 —A Sonic Boom of Stars: 2020


HCSHR 4:19A Sonic Boom of Stars: 2020 Southern California Haiku Study Group Anthology, Beki Reese & Susan Rogers, editors. Pasadena, CA: Southern California Haiku Study Group, 2020. 978-0-578-64794-4. xi + 120 pages. Information: Deborah P Kolodji, dkolodji@aol.com

Review by Pearl Pirie

A Sonic Boom of Stars is not Scifiku as you might guess. The title is borrowed from a haiku by Kimberly Esser. The anthology is structured into a few chapters, beginning with members Haiku and Senryu (alphabetically).

a white butterfly
sweeps over blades of grass—
I caress her funeral card

by Vibiana Aparicio-Chamberlin is striking in its choice of image and symbol, with the clear connection between a card and a cabbage moth perhaps. Ephemerality of the caterpillar versus human kind are juxtaposed against another, as over the grass contrasted with under the grass. There is an economy of image while the quick sweep once is in contrast to the slow regular movements of rubbing a card.

By chance of alphabet the next poets poem remarks on death as well. Don Baird’s brief poem builds in a great deal of the context in few words. A military death in autumn and line 3 pivots as might a falling leaf away from an expected trajectory, nimbly enacting the feeling of being without direction or purpose.

draped flag
a drifting leaf describes
my loss

A haiku by Jerry Ball grabs up the sense of purpose and decides on self-realization as a theme.

in the slanting sun
the grapes under the arbor
finding their own light

We have autumn cast in a new light of how we with the grapes look after our own needs. There’s a quiet acceptance of sufficiency.

stripping the bed
the shape of his body
in memory foam

At line two, it seems after sex, cleaning the sheets, still in a honey-stupor remembering how he looked. By the end there’s the impression suggested of a death mask which may be what leads me to feel this is not only observing a daily pang of missing someone but a final stripping of a bed. Or perhaps poet Marcyn Del Clements is living in the sense of how transitory any life is, there is an attachment to what stays. In any case it is paying attention to things others may not notice or give significance to and causing a pause.

Another poem by the title poet, Kimberly Esser, has that double reading possibility: of being pulled into death by drowning or of being pulled away from the frenetic urban life into the tranquility of quiet calm.

world weary
letting the koi
pull me deeper

There are many strong poems in the collection that make it worthwhile to peruse and ponder.

the mountain and I
just a second ago

The set up of the mountain poem by Olga Gutiérrez-García twists at the end. We expect permanence and impermanence in contrast from the subject but the ending gives that sense of exhilaration and joy that bumps up the energy level of the poem to a new level.  It gives room for more than the individual parts. At the same time it is by line two recognizing by the time of writing the moment is already passed to a degree, enacting the very fleeting moment in real time for the reader.

vanity mirror
his interpretation
of my poem

by Yvette Nicole Kolodji is a good chuckle. To publish is to allow all and sundry to enter the poem, or try. The two parts have perhaps never been tied together in a haiku before, yet work. Who doesnt put themselves in a poem if it good? It is a projection into the other, but sometimes the projection displaces what there is of the original poem observed. A second reading allows for her to be in the car, looking at herself through new eyes, based on what he saw that she didnt see there, and gauging the weight of that possibility as she watches her own face.

The second section has the curiously American title of Foreign Language Haiku, which includes member poems written in the most popular second language in the state, Spanish. There are also poems in Georgian, French and Japanese with translations to English.

Haiku Windows is a prompt exercise response to the theme of windows. In 2018 it was a column at the Haiku Foundation website moderated by kjmunro. Every week the theme was a different kind of window. It was a particular hit with this haiku group so there is a section in the anthology for their contributions.

empty tea bowl
she stares
out the kitchen window

kjmuno’s poem is more of a mood lighting piece, a setting of contemplation. The self emptied out just as the tea is emptied. It is a between things moment with nothing Superfluous.

Susan Rogers has made a poignant scene in her haiku. The twist is gentle and evokes that the prognosis is particularly scary.

lipstick tic tac toe
on the hospital window
I let her win

Kath Abela Wilson has taken her window toward comic self-depreciation

bonsai window box
my limitations

in clear view

Then finally, haibun. There are several outstanding poets but the 17 haibun outshone the haiku in appeal for me on average because of the strength of storytelling. Not that it does any good to compare apples and oranges. They allow more depth and meat in the length permitted by the form.

Genie Nakanos haibun is tight, poem form paired with haiku as a kicker pack a punch of missing someone who is no good for you. Just because you love someone, doesnt mean it is a good idea to be together.

Ill include Peter Jastermsky’s “Nightfall” in its sufficiency of economy.

If bees offer you honey, dont accept it. Its part of a sting operation.

split melon
the lure of flesh
at nightfall

The reminiscence of grandmothers place in Lois P. Jones’s “Sabbath” evokes some memories with the concrete references of singing “A Long Way to Tipperary” and that ubiquitous bowl of the age, white peppermints. Sharing makes the world comfortingly smaller. Susan Rogers brings us along for the ride in some wild cabs.

For more information about this and future editions of the Southern California Haiku Study Group Anthology please contact Deborah P Kolodji

Pearl Pirie
July, 2021


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