Saturday, May 12, 2012

William Killen: Haiku 1, Second Version

A few weeks back, I received the unique item pictured above from the poet William Killen.  I've published his work previously, and so was intrigued by the little volume he sent.

And I was not disappointed.

First of all, there was the uniqueness of the little chapbook itself - as William let me know, each copy of the book is unique.  Each is hand painted and, as such, different from all the rest; the only thing the same from copy to copy is the 24 haiku.   Below, you can see two pages at the books center, which happen to contain two poems I like very much.  Click on the image and you can see the design close up, as well as the poems.

Click on image to enlarge

Each run of the book is limited to 2 dozen, 24 books in all, and if and when they run out, he does another run of 24, again completely unique.

Though I very much enjoy craft, I must confess it is content that I focus on.  What I find in Killen's work is a quietness, a sense of image and observation, that is very reminiscent, for me, of the spirit of original haiku, the spirit of hokku.  There are poems that remind me of the masters, particularly Bashō and Buson in their more contemplative modes.

I love the poem pictured on the left hand side of the above page:

fog at first light
a distant dog barks

Sound, sight, and touch all converge here: first light brings the condensation that forms the fog which, in its density, softens the dogs bark.

Dare I say a perfect moment?

A number of poems here unite the human and natural worlds and the one pictured above right is a good example:

in gray light
he sips tea
watches horses graze

The horses grazing and the human sipping, all enveloped in the gray light, are exactly captured, equal in what they do: here all things are one.  Again, in the following, the interaction of human and animal world underscores oneness:

gray winter evening
crone collects herbs
crows scatter

On one level, there is the wise old woman and the crows sharing a space; it is possible to read the 2nd and 3rd lines as enjambed and a different take may be perceived. At another border of human and natural, we see the overlapping of sentience:

bowl still empty
she furrows her brow
flops down

I'll quote one more as I don't want to give away the show, just a taste:

dogs bark
at the car coming
pansies flutter

Once again, there is an interaction, a fusing of worlds.  This poem might be seen as an unconscious updating of a Buson classic:

     the heavy wagon
rumbles by:
     the peony quivers
                   tr. R. H. Blyth

The more modern poem adds, appropriately, an extra dimension: there is the human (car), animal (dogs), and natural/plant (peonies), all affecting, one and the other.

Ah, what a world, and what fine, perceptive poet's vision we get to see it through.

If you'd like read more and hold this beautiful little volume in your hands, contact the poet directly: Bill Killen, 33 Valley River Drive, Murphy, NC  28906.  The chapbooks are $10 apiece, plus $1.10 shipping.   


pounding the seven herbs
doesn't drown him out...
translated by David G. Lanoue

Crow and Heron by Suzuki Harunobu


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Theresa Williams said...

These are very fine indeed. I may have to own a copy.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Yes, Theresa, a fine steady voice - not run of the mill.


Congratulations to William Killen.