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Volume 35.3
Autumn 2004


book review

Haiku for a Moonless Night, Volume I, by An’ya.

Haiku Wine, by Ernest J Berry and An’ya.


Reviewed by Charles Trumbull

Haiku for a Moonless Night, Volume I, by An’ya. Haiga by Kuniharu Shimizu; calligraphy by Eri Takase. 6.5 x 8.5, paperback stringbound, 138 pages, without folios. ISBN 0-9727130-0-X.

Haiku Wine, by Ernest J Berry and An’ya. ISBN 0-9727130-1-8. 6.5 x 8.5, paperback, stringbound, 142 pages, without folios. Both ©2003, and available for $18.95 each postpaid (or $33.95 for the two) from the publisher, the Natal-Light Press, PO Box 1168, Crooked River Ranch, OR 97760.

These two volumes are the first books to appear from the Natal-Light Press, a publishing house set up by An’ya to publish her own work. Her irrepressible enthusiasm for haiku is abundant throughout: at the risk of being a grump, I’d say “overabundant,” for these are an unusual phenomenon, overproduced haiku books. One example of how the publisher’s exuberance outpaces the author’s craft is found in a passage from a page of promotional copy detailing the handmade character of Natal-Press books, which, we’re told, unlike other publishers avoid “dye-cut pages and machine-sown bindings.” These overwide books are printed in multicolored inks on heavy stock and bound Japanese-style with coated twine. Even more, however, the binding holes are reinforced with brass grommets, and the excess binding twine is plaited and finished with what looks like a handmade ceramic bead to make a page marker. Clear plastic sheets overlay the covers and are inserted as flyleaves. The huge body type in Haiku Wine is explained in a dedication: “This large print book is for all our honoured senior citizens in New Zealand and the USA,” but one has to wonder how arthritic hands might cope with the very stiff pages, unforgiving bindings, and need to rotate the book back and forth from portrait- to landscape-style pages to read the haiku—not to mention that damned bead that just gets in the way of everything.

OK, all crotchetiness aside, what about the haiku? In general, the contents of Moonless Light, An’ya’s collection, is of high quality, and it is nice to have a collection of her work, much of which has shown well in international haiku contests. An’ya’s verse is distinguished by her use of fresh images, many derived from her interesting life (she is, for example, a falconer) and rural Oregon residence. In a blurb on the back cover, Michael McClintock likens An’ya to Christina Rossetti in terms of “artistic philosophy, passion, energy, and joyful image-making.” These two haiku seem representative of the collection (the second won first place in the 2000 Hackett Contest):

blood moon
cuckoo’s voice in the back
of his throat

after its first flight
the young gerfalcon’s talons
tighter on my glove

The idea of a book compiled jointly by two geographically distant, internationally known, prize-winning poets such as Ernest J. Berry and An’ya is very fetching, but this volume, Haiku Wine, doesn’t quite achieve what it might have. The main problem is that Berry’s verse (in baby-blue ink) is always presented first, followed on the facing page, in pink ink, by An’ya’s, such that it looks like (it may not actually have happened this way, of course) Ernie always had the first word and An’ya was always in the position of having to think up a worthy response. This approach also emphasizes the difference in quality between the two poets’ haiku. Two pairs, with Berry on the left, may illustrate the problem:

night fishing
in the pleiades

in a private pond
white lilies

cold snap
the panhandler closes
his hand

cold snap
the dandelion leaves
flatten out

In No Other Business Here, their 1999 book that features a similar poetical conversation, John Brandi and Steve Sanfield do not indicate who wrote which poem, which helps level and unify the whole collection. Nonetheless, there is much poetry of interest in both Haiku Wine and Moonless Night. They’re worth a look.



©2004 Modern Haiku • PO Box 68 • Lincoln, IL 62656