Good reads

I’ve been enjoying a couple of good books so thought I would share …

The Deep End of the Sky is Chad Lee Robinson’s award-winning collection from Turtlelight Press (click on the link for ordering details if you’re in North America, otherwise find out about ordering through The Book Depository which includes free shipping). Chad runs a chatty blog with the same name as his book.

The haiku are about the American prairies – Chad is a native of South Dakota – and capture the spaces and silences of the landscapes and lives there.

roadside stand
cornhuskers talk
with their hands

– Chad Lee Robinson

 

The wraparound cover image is perfect and the typeface, paper and internal images give the book something of a vintage feel. The haiku aren’t old-fashioned in the sense that they use well-worn images or the language of past decades. No, they’re old-fashioned in the best sense of having integrity, honesty, character and wisdom.

my body thinner these days I hear more of the wind

– Chad Lee Robinson

I have a soft spot for haiku that express the truths of working on the land so, as you might imagine, I have been thoroughly enjoying this slim volume.

watermelons
the weight of our grunts
breaks an axle

– Chad Lee Robinson

Hard to believe that this is Chad’s first book – I have been admiring his haiku for years. He is a very assured writer.

Roberta Beary, meanwhile, is one of the bravest poets I know. If she sees something she doesn’t like she speaks up but she also doesn’t shy away from examining her own life and writing about what she finds there, or from using traumatic events to create poems – read an interview with Roberta about some of that process in creating Deflection.

Deflection is a new collection of poems, some of which are haiku but all of which are inflected with a haiku sensibility – close observation and pared-back language (see here for purchase details).

with knife in hand
my son’s lover dissects
the last white peach

– Roberta Beary

The collection also includes some haibun (prose + haiku) and these add another layer of perception to a collection about the process of grief and grieving – Roberta lost her mother and nephew in quick succession, and had cared for her mother for 5 years as she had been steadily lost to dementia.

autumn coolness enters a hand long held in mine

– Roberta Beary, from the haibun Nighthawks

Deflection begins with a poem, 57 Varieties, that features a woman for whom “the switch is off”, and ends with What Remains, a haibun that contains this final paragraph:

You leave us with one last story. It is 4 o’clock in the morning. A police car sets its revolving light on a mother’s house. The shadow of two men appear. The front door opens. One man is a policeman. This is where the story ends. The other man is a priest. This is where the story begins.

To which, I can only inadequately say, wow! The choppy sentences perfectly convey what happens when dread and shock knock on the door, how ‘unreal’ reality becomes in a heartbeat, how all the mess and clutter and busy-ness of our daily lives become dust in our mouths and we are left with only elemental pain and grief.

Deflection is full of powerful writing by a poet at the height of her powers, do check it out.

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