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Book of the Week: Border Lands


Jim Kacian travels to the old country for the funeral of a friend’s father and discovers what of himself still belongs to the old ways in this 2006 Red Moon Press offering of haibun and haiku.

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

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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.

passing the jug the warmth of many hands
the steep path— a babe on the back of her mother
night wind one dog starts them all
ancient road wearing away my share
departing bus— a child I don't know waves to me
goodbye hugs all the places where we touch

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. To my own mind, border crossings whether literal or metaphorical are something most of us experience. Travelling through at least five European countries in a week certainly made me think on my feet, and sleep with one eye open.

    I wholeheartedly agree with this statement because I’ve been there:

    “Once in a great while we are fortunate enough to witness something of great significance outside our usual ken. The rest of life is prepa- ration for such moments. The question is not whether or not we will be able to cross the line once we have come to it, but what we will be when the time has come, and if we are able, to cross back.”

    Just a tiny selection of haiku that include mood and movement:

    passing cars —
    the moon slips
    along their curves

    barrel fire —
    shadows of men disappear
    into the woods

    The latter reminds me of my first time at Glastonbury Festival, when Van Morrison was playing as I arrived, and it wasn’t crowded. We drank good cider, not too strong, and cheap, and the woods were where you went for a tinkle, and I don’t think they had portaloos back then either. 🙂

    This one reminds me of my time outside Katmandu, Nepal, and regular trips to India:

    autumn evening —
    the last peal of the bell slips
    into the light fog

    And who hasn’t experienced this, whether in your home town, or as a new stranger:

    departing bus —
    a child I don’t know
    waves to me

    My love of mountains, which I have not climbed, though my wife has, in many places:

    to the mountain pass

    I was once an avid chess player:

    returning home
    the chessmen have maintained
    my lost position

    Even finding myself, by mistake, in the middle of the Heroic Defence, where you have lost almost all of your pieces yet you should win. I was there, nearly won, nearly lost, battled to a draw although vastly outnumbered. Ah, journeys too. 🙂

    Interestingly enough, when I travelled almost non-stop for five years across Europe, USA, India etc… I felt homesick for the new place I just left, never my ‘residential’ home:

    the morning star
    over the mountain —
    longing for home

    I highly recommend this book for many reasons, most of them obvious, some of them possibly not.

    Alan, With Words

  2. I enjoyed this extended haibun, the prose as much as the haiku. They fit well. Nothing over-laboured, nothing that isn’t essential. I felt I was there.

    ancient road
    wearing away
    my share

    vaulted bridge
    a stranger stops to light
    my cigarette

    (& especially in context, this last is so right)

    And great to discover the context of this one, which has been a favourite for a long time:

    passing the jug
    the warmth
    of many hands

    – Lorin

  3. Good to reread Jim Kacian’s book this morning. Some of the haiku I’ve seen in other places and are well-known, yet also good to revisit within the context of the haibun.

    I often reread poetry – and see new things. Am sure this is a common experience.

    Some haiku in Jim’s book are new again. In a notebook, I noted “ancient road” which I see is also reprinted in this post.

    May I add:

    morning rain
    the gray of the churchstone
    the same as the graves

    after the wake
    a shawl on the chair
    unknits itself

    by Jim Kacian

    * * *

    I went to Poland with my father in 1978. He was a retired history teacher and this was a tour with UW-Milwaukee. I was 24 years old, and we felt he should not travel without family. This was for a month, between teaching years for me, and I remember making new friends and a new routine for a time. My father’s passing would be five years later, in 1983. I don’t have a moving record as Jim does here. His book brings back memories though.

    * * *
    Thank you, Ellen

  4. This is an evocative collection that navigates both the foreign landscape combined with the writers emotions.
    My favourite haiku from in this book are
    “old map”, “departing bus” and “passing freight train”
    I enjoyed the journey very much.
    Thanks for making this collection and others available.

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