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Montage #37


Montage #37,
presented by Allan Burns,
is now up
on The Haiku Foundation website.

Montage #37 (“THF”) features haiku by three volunteers for The Haiku Foundation: webmaster Dave Russo, secretary Billie Wilson, and blog editor Scott Metz.

watching the flowers
   come and go
     headstone angel
— Dave Russo

                                                                                from a beach near Savoonga—
                                                                                winter rain
                                                                                — Bille Wilson

a child's drawing—
the ladder to the sun
only three steps
— Scott Metz

This Post Has 12 Comments

  1. Thank you Allan, for your kind mention of ‘Into the Sun.’ I would like to take this opportunity to express my appreciation to Cathy Drinkwater Better, who not only was my publisher (Black Cat Press) but also illustrated many of the poems.

  2. Speaking of book collections (as Edith and Billie were)–I thought I’d mention that Edith Bartholomeusz herself has a new collection of haiku and tanka, titled Into the Sun, published this year by Black Cat Press, which has also done fine books for poets such as Kirsty Karkow and Carole MacRury. Three representative haiku:

    an armful of lilies
    in the fullness of summer
    an urn full of ash

    twice swept out
    twice blown back
    a dove’s feather

    three-armed saguaro
    at trail’s end–
    even here, starlings

    Edith’s work was featured in Montage #25 (“The Adobe Wall”). Recommended.

  3. Many, many thanks to all of you who commented on my haiku. Allan’s gift for gathering and arranging his Montage selections is impressive, and I am honored to have my work included.

    Your comments are all deeply appreciated. (And, Edith, if I ever do have enough material for a book, you’ll be one of the very first I send one too – wow! – you’ve made my year!)


  4. I am absolutely enchanted by the lyricism and sensitivity to touch and sound in the haiku of Billie Wilson. I can almost tangibly relate to the lines “a wind with storm in it comes through the wheat.” These lines take me back to my years in Zambia, where the wind didn’t come through the wheat but through the cornfields and the fields of tall grass – and didn’t it have storm in it! If Billie gathers her lovely poems in a book, I would love to know about it and obtain a copy.

  5. The haiku in the current Montage display a range from traditional haiku with their kigo– summer dusk,frogs,bees, violet, snow,– to all season haiku with their reference to nature without a specific season–wind, river, prairie– to gendai haiku with no kigo or reference to nature. They show the divergent approaches haijin take today; some write only one way, others experiment. Each has a legitimate place

    Three I especially like:


    summer dusk
    guinea hens chase the sun
    down a street

    The chickens make me think of children running away from their parents so as to not go to bed. It has gentle humor and karumi . On a serious note, I think of people aging and still chasing after something. Fall is the usual metaphor for advancing years, but why not summer dusk?


    prairie dusk–
    the rustle of field mice
    wintering in

    I can relate to having field mice seek warmth and comfort as it gets cold. They scamper in my attic. This too has a kigo and karumi. I also see a contrast in the smallness of the mice against the vast prairie.


    a child’s drawing–
    the ladder to the sun
    only three steps.

    No kigo here, nor reference to real nature, only as depicted in a child’s drawing, yet the reality of the sun is strong. It’s there, out of our reach, but the child, in his innocence, sees it as only three ladder steps away. He thinks he can reach the sun, the moon and the stars, too, can have all his dreams, be an astronaut, a fireman, a singer or a movie star. We know we can strive and hope and maybe, maybe, get close.

    A wonderful selection.

    Adelaide B. Shaw

  6. Peter – that would be excellent. I look forward to the discussion whenever it does come up.

    Bill – I particularly valued your statement:

    “I’m grateful to Dave Russo to making his poem accessible to folks primarily educated in the traditions of western literature and not necessarily acquainted with eastern poetry”

    Nice job of highlighting an important matter.

    Tom – fantastic discussion, I thoroughly enjoyed reading that.

  7. These three haiku, for all their differences in style and attitude, exemplify what is for me perhaps the essence of haiku: an eruption of a defamiliarizing spirit from within the given narratives of our common life. This is of course in some sense the point of all art, but haiku is so far from being recognized as an art in our local discourses that the point is worth discussing.
    In Russo’s poem: watching the flowers
    come and go
    headstone angel
    the graveyard scene, which is a standard topos in Western poetry, is “disturbed” by the animation of the stone angel. The image of carved angels is disrupted in its value as a given/cliche by the symbolism: this is exactly what angelic forms do with respect to the “world” of contingency: they are other to all that contingency. So the haiku has the sine qua non ludic spirit and here that spirit is what brings the scene alive.

    The whalebone in Billie Wilson’s poem —

    from a beach near Savoonga—
    winter rain

    has been removed from its destined resting place and so become a symbol of another life, a life of immediacy which the rain only nods toward. And of course the whalebone is not ultimately from “a beach near Savoonga” (the specificity being a kind of hint of misplaced certainty, no consolation at all as things go), but from a real live whale. As in many American haiku, there’s a kind of loose transcendentalism about this poem that may have more to do with our habits of reading imagery than with the intention of the poet. Hard to tell, but the poem, once pondered, takes on some of one’s own spiritual gravity or helps sound it.

    Finally, Scott Metz’s “child’s drawing” in

    a child’s drawing—
    the ladder to the sun
    only three steps

    is both blandly there as a “found poem” AND as host to a perplexing excess of X — is it “childishness” or “childlikeness” or “innocence” or . . . The certainty of the “child” that the ladder to heaven has (only) THREE rings — “only three rings” suggests that for the adult it may have a thousand? how many? Infinite number? — raises questions that the single line “answers” but not as a key opens a lock. Not that way, but the way of haiku, the way of disproportion, of a-symmetry, of dissonances becoming harmonies at some unnamable depth or height.
    These haiku take risks, not the least of which is being, well, LOOKING LIKE, just haiku. For which, thanks.

  8. I like the allusion (whether intended or not) to Eliot’s “Prufrock” in Dave Russo’s poem. Our entering into the nature of the symbolic relationship between the relatively permanent angel and the short lived flowers can be enriched through the ‘echoes’ of our western tradition (“…the women come and go/Talking of Michelangelo”). I personally indentified the tombstone angel as Michael the Archangel. How a reader/hearer ultimately experiences the haiku through the lens of the allusion (should they do so at all) I leave to that person, but I’m grateful to Dave Russo to making his poem accessible to folks primarily educated in the traditions of western literature and not necessarily acquainted with eastern poetry. And he does it by using one of the principal formal techniques in the haikai tradition itself: literary allusion. The irony is particularly gratifying.

  9. Thank you Christopher. I’d imagined that at some point a question directed at examining work such as Scott’s– one could say work inspired by gendai or modern Japanese haiku– would be presented under
    *Sails*. Maybe sooner rather than later.

  10. Hi Peter,

    I wasn’t really sure where to post this but I just read your review of Scott’s “A sealed jar of mustard seeds” and was really impressed at the job you did of conveying his unique, and multi-layered, writing as well as the complex avenues you provide for readers to tackle Scott’s work.

    A really great review, and one which certainly has the power to persuade those uncertain that “a sealed jar of mustard seeds” is worth reading.

    It does throw up some very interesting questions though. Particularly regarding what exactly makes haiku haiku. I don’t want to travel too far down that path here; I’ve already raised this elsewhere on here recently, but what I will say is that it made me wonder the extent to which what qualifies as a haiku may have come full-circle.

    A question I have is whether people feel that Scott’s ku contain the standard Japanese aesthetic values or not. I ask this not in order to lay judgement on Scott’s work – quite the opposite in fact: I’m interested in seeing what Scott’s work has to say about haiku.

    If anyone wants to share thoughts on this I’d like to hear them.

    Sorry I took space in the montage thread to say all this, but as Scott’s work is featured in this issue (and I didn’t know where else I could write this) I decided to put it here.

    Regarding the current montage: great idea Allan. It’s nice to read the work of some key figures on here.

  11. Scott, Please forgive the typos on your haiku…as I said, I’m not functioning on all fours>

    green noise that hole she left in me

  12. I’m thankful for this group. Wasn’t sure I could come to haiku in my state at this time, but I just had to see what Dave had written as I’ve listened to him many times on Tobbaco Road.
    When I came to “sawdust and piss” I was transported to where?
    Suddenly I’m at the zoo with my child and I’m laughing at the child staring at the tiger and the tiger staring at the child. The puzzlement between the two – I feel the same puzzlement coming to haiku of another. And then to come to “whalebone” by Billie, to be transported to that place so foreign to my own life, to be able to expierence, even for a moment, an extraordinary event only to realize it’s an ordinary event puts my own life in a certain perspective when faced with the other.
    And the next place I’m transported to is “first violet -” for you Scott it’s your grandmother, for me it’s my mother… I find the other in myself somehow. All of these seem as “painting haiku” a place – a scene. Yet how effective they are! But then I notice another avenue haiku can take…”watching the flowers”
    by Dave and “green noice that hold she left in me” something deeper is revealed to me. The cry of the human heart but more close to home…the heart of the poet himself is revealed.
    Moving from the world around us to the inner world of the psyche. To me both are valuable. Both necessary to give voice to our very being.

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