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Book of the Week: The Duck’s Wake


Jeff Witkin’s first volume, self-published in 1996 and beautifully produced by Swamp Press, evinces a plangent and keening voice that no other haiku poet has quite matched in English.

You can read the entire book in the THF Digital Library.

Do you have a chapbook published 2009 or earlier you would like featured as a Book of the Week? Contact us for details.

Haiku featured in the Book of the Week Archive are selected by Jim Kacian, following a concept first explored by Tom Clausen, and are used with permission.

waving me from the formal garden that one wild aster
a hawk’s glide . . . on and on the clear mountain stream
another dream beside me in your own
ignored completely— during the dinner party a moose on the wall
daydreaming... you pass through the scent of peaches
learning  nothing at the Zendo

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. To Jeff Witkin:

    If you haven’t seen Georgia O’Keeffe’s watercolor, “Train Coming in Canyon, Texas,” 1918, you should, because your haiku fits it wonderfully:

    mist for miles
    through it runs the light
    of a night train

    (The Haiku Anthology, 306)

  2. Hello Dear Friends and Colleagues –

    Thank you for your comments and for having a look at this first book. Although i discussed publication with Swamp Press, being influenced by the beauty of the books of Vincent tripi, i eventually did this one by hand. My aunt did the cover painting based upon the physical setting that insired the ‘duck’s wake’ tanka. Haiku and tanka, as you are aware, are so poignent that, like Proust, you can read your work eons later in time and reproduce heart and mind and physical setting. And too, as Anita Virgil has said before, often discover what is really there. For the tanka Roberta refers to, i was alone, away from my ex-wife and young children for a moment, while we were visiting her sister’s family at the beach. For several years the weight of a marraige that did not give either us the partner we really desired and needed along with aging made me feel wholly un-empowered and lost; for that one moment, i knew again that this was an illussion and it stired in me once more the search for who i truely was and the partner i knew was there for me. Roberta and Jim Kacian have seen my happy face in the transformation that started once again in that one moment.

    if i were to stand
    with roots in the ground
    like a flower
    would my life bloom out
    in the color i was born with?
    ~ Konoko Okamoto

  3. The poem by Jeff Witkin that Roberta Beary quoted in her comment for this post caught my attention too as I read his book this week.

    In Jim Kacian’s post here, I especially like

    waving me
    from the formal garden
    that one wild aster

    by Jeff Witkin

    I have a few books from Swamp Press and they are indeed beautifully produced.

    As I read more and back in time here, I also can see the influences of some older poets on the next generations. Nothing specific, simply a sense of the wonder of reading, encouragement, honoring our teachers, etc. Perhaps how a form grows and changes.

  4. A lovely yet deeply moving collection by a wonderful poet. There are many fine poems in The Duck’s Wake. “for a moment with arms crossed / the power of my youth” are two lines that have been with me for almost 20 years. Keep writing, Jeff!

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