Book of the Week: Taste of Summer
Charles B. Dickson’s work dropped out of view for a time, and perhaps exhibiting his work here will help people reacquaint themselves with his consistent quality. This attractive chapbook was published by Skyefield Press in 1988.
You can read the entire book in the THF Digital Library.
All haiku in the Book of the Week Archive are selected by Tom Clausen, and are used with permission.
wind-rippled clover the taste of summer ripens in the figsmorning mist evening primrose petals close around dewdropsdarkening pool... purple damselflies merge with duskmartin gourds- twilight glide of steel-blue wingsmoonlit thicket a flock of white-throated sparrows bends a pawpaw boughsucking the sweetness from wild muscadines... the taste of childhoodlingering sunset white shimmer of September on the cotton fieldnursing-home window: birdwatcher in a wheelchair with binocularsreed-fringed shore an otter glistens into its burrowsandstone outcrop a yellow butterfly clings to the fossil fernweedy pasture-- udder-deep in goldenrod, rambling cowsmarsh dawn a rainbow snake's crimson stripes weave into the reedshigh tide at dusk a tattered shrimp net flaps on the gnarled sand-cedara flint arrowhead on the brook's white sand bottom; darting minnowsrainstorm on the pond; beaver pushing a poplar limb to plug the damturbulent as the white gorge, wind in the gorge
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When I was 19-years-old, I sat with Charlie in a New Orleans apartment. As dusk filled the room, we listened to Dylan Thomas reading his poetry – on a hi-fi record. I was almost illiterate and the experience is one that has stayed with me, shaping parts of my life. He told me that no question I asked was “stupid.” I married Charles’ son and later visited his rural family home in Georgia. It was a wonderful place to observe the natural world with piney woods, a pecan orchard, and a cypress swamp. It was there that I learned about mayhaws and may haw jelly. I was moved and amazed when I first encountered Charlie’s haiku and impressed at his sister, Marthalyn’s, lovely chapbook. Charlie, in my experience, was a man of few spoken words. Ahh, but the writing, what a legacy. Thank you for sharing his work.
Lovely work indeed! Many thanks for this.
” a flint arrowhead” is probably my favorite of Clausen’s selections.
Wonderful! Thank you for presenting Dickson’s work here as well as offering to read the entire book on the THF Digital Library! It’s a treasure not to be missed.
So many good programs and features, new and old. Thank you.
This post inspired me to find my copy of A Moon In Each Eye, by Charles B. Dickson. I see the Copyright is 1993, by his Estate. Illustrations by Sheila L. Whitfield. AHA Books (Gualala, CA).
The family of Charles B. Dickson dedicated the book to vincent tripi, who selected and edited the poems.
I remember your special feature, Billie. Good to see again.
Thanks to everyone, Ellen
It’s invaluable to show that there are extant and worthy haiku of our past available to be read alongside current practices.
I will always be thankful that I insisted on reading, reading, reading for my first five years, in great detail – in the early 1990s – all the haiku I could find, which amounted to over 200,000 good, bad, and indifferent.
Charles B. Dickson was someone I read avidly and recognised as an authentic haiku poet in the haikai literature sense, and I’m sure that subconsciously absorbed his work alongside many others of his quality.
This haiku of his may well have inspired me to write mine as such, an experiential haiku while on a trek on horseback through a part of Queensland woods.
I kneel by the mountain spring
For a drink of stars.
Charles B. Dickson (1915–1991)
(Haiku: The Poetry of Zen, Hyperion, 1996; Woodnotes 31, 1997)
flickering in the silence
Modern Haiku vol. xxvi no. 3 (1995); Moonlighting (British Haiku Society Intimations Pamphlet Series, 1996); sundog haiku journal: an australian year (sunfast press 1997 reprinted 1998): California State Library – Main Catalog Call Number : HAIKU S852su 1997; First Australian Haiku online Anthology (1999); First Australian Anthology (Paper Wasp 2000); haiku dreaming australia the best haiku & senryu relevant in and to australia (Australia 2006); The Crow Walk haibun (HAIKU HIKE, World Walks, Crossover UK ‘Renewability’ project 2006)); Stepping Stones: a way into haiku (British Haiku Society 2007); Mann Library, Cornell University Daily Haiku (March 2013).
The internet and digital books may have their faults but they also have their silver linings in rain clouds when we can still access works from haiku pioneers of the quality of Charles B. Dickson wherever we are on this spinning blue planet.
I, too, was led to Dickson’s haiku through Peggy Lyles. I so treasured that discovery, that I kept the note she wrote to me about him, and thought this would be an appropriate place to share it. (By the way, his wife Virginia gave me permission to feature his work on the Alaska Haiku Society webpage – you might enjoy that too: http://home.gci.net/~alaskahaiku/guestpoet.html
Peggy Lyles wrote in 2000: “Charles Dickson, sadly deceased for some time now, came to haiku late in his life, after a career in newspaper writing and many years of what he referred to as ‘tinkering with words.’ He was immediately taken by the possibilities of the form and began immersing himself in what was being done in English, collecting an extensive haiku library, reading broadly and deeply, looking at the world close at hand and within while he rapidly proceeded to become one of the best and most honored haiku poets around. Within a few years he had won practically every award in the haiku field and judged several major contests. Not only that but he considered his haiku to most important of his lifetime writings. (He was active in several poetry societies for many years and won stacks of awards from them.)”
I love this new feature and am grateful to Tom Clausen for bringing it to us.
Dickson wasn’t too shabby “indoors” either — this gem won HSA’s Henderson contest twenty-three years ago:
dimming with dusk
Thank you Jim and Tom for “re-introducing” Dickson to new haiku poets. Dickson was a master of language and was a keen observer, a true naturalist. Greg Schwartz is right, he is a little longer than some poets today. Yet, a majority of his work in this volume is shorter than counted syllables of times past (17). If his description was not of such quality, I would notice the length.
Paul Miller is right, so eloquently written of his place. The poet is ever so present as he observes and is affected by the world around him.
Further, I wish I saw more naturalists of quality in the “new” haiku.
Through the grace of the late Master, Peggy Willis Lyles, I was able to get a copy of this book and several other Dickson’s through his widow. Peggy thought Dickson would “speak to me” — he did and does. Since only 200 copies exist, it is really great to have this one widely promulgated!
Never heard of this one before, thanks to bringing it to light. Dickson seems to use more words than many haiku poets, but he uses them well — good word choice and placement.
An excellent choice! Dickson’s use of language is wonderful, and he writes very much of his place. It was a pity he passed away after writing haiku for only a few short years.
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