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Volume 35.2
Summer 2004


book review:

Early Evening Pieces
by Marianne Bluger


reviewed by Cherie Hunter Day

Early Evening Pieces, by Marianne Bluger (Ottawa, Ont.: BuschekBooks, 2003). 84 pages; 13.8 cm x 21.5 cm; perfectbound; full-color cover. ISBN: 1-894543-14-9. Can$15.00/US$10.00 postpaid from BuschekBooks, PO Box 74053, 5 Beechwood Avenue, Ottawa, ON K1M 2H9, Canada.


Early Evening Pieces is the eighth book by Canadian poet Marianne Bluger in a writing career that spans over two decades. She is known also as an award-winning tanka poet and imagist lyric poet, and her new title features a selection of 211 of her new and previously published haiku.

This is a lovely book to look at with its glossy full-color cover, the reserved and elegant typefaces and creamy paper in the book’s interior. The haiku are divided into nine sections with section headings such as “Snowblind” and “Sweetgrass.” At four haiku per page there is generous white space for each haiku to breathe. High production values set the stage.
The title Early Evening Pieces reflects Bluger’s sensitivity to the measure of light and darkness at the close of day, for example:

the last ember dies
a chill takes the house
by moonlight

through the pines
soft breezes shifting
the stars

singing somewhere
in this unraveling mist
a thrush

wind in the trees
tonight by one bare bulb
I pack the shadows

These qualify as haiku, written with a deft and delicate hand, and they reinforce the titled reference to early evening. There are other examples that detract from the mood, however, such as: on black ice/the ridiculous dance/before my ass lands or the remains/under roadside pines/of someone’s Mclunch. Subtle humor certainly has its place in haiku, but arguably these are senryu.

Likewise there could be some debate with regards to the inclusion of the following mini-narratives and declarative sentences that are written haiku-like in three lines:

in the field
where I found that rare moth
they are moving the earth

vine-choked ruins
beside the black waters
where dragonflies hover

Revising poems is part and parcel of being a poet. The following poems appeared in The Heron’s Nest in 2001, but weaker versions made their way into Early Evening Pieces (2003).

warm blueberries
along a sand path winding
into sunset

Early Evening Pieces (16)

warm blueberries
a sand path winding
into sunset

The Heron’s Nest 3:4

a leaf floats—
into the gorge where a boxcar rusts
mountain silence

Early Evening Pieces (34)

mountain silence
a leaf floats in the gorge
where a boxcar rusts

The Heron’s Nest 3:5

Naturalists will delight in Bluger’s specificity. A veteran birder, she depends on her readers’ familiarity with eiders, gannets, bitterns, and kingfishers to elicit a knowing response. This is evidence of a mature trust the poet has in her audience. This trust extends to other subject matter as well. Consider the following haiku.

Ash Wednesday
as I dust the piano
faint notes

Marianne Bluger’s confidence and connection to her surroundings make reading Early Evening Pieces a rewarding journey.



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