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Monday, June 15, 2015

Haiku Collection - John Stevenson: Live Again - A book review by Alan Summers

John Stevenson: Live Again
isbn: 978-1-893959-83-5  $12.00

A book review by Alan Summers

John Stevenson’s haiku “the reversible jacket” prompts me to feel there is, in many of us, only one side of that jacket we show to the world for work and play as we go out in a costume, even when there is no fancy dress party. 

reversible jacket
the side 
I always show

Often we only show the other side of that jacket to a chosen few. This author takes us on a multi-faceted trip round that side yet avoids the pitfalls of over earnest outpourings, of burying us in an avalanche of self-confessions that would require a mountain rescue dog to save us.

seated between us
the imaginary
middle passenger

If this wasn’t enough, we  can learn we are the core of our own material: those intimate themes within the circumference of our body space that provide resources to write for ourselves: the author writes “so much/of what I do/involves my body.”

Some of those resources from this will be poignant, painful, awkward. 

checkout line
my dad
could talk to anyone

midnight sun
I know for a fact
the bottle’s half empty

Of course there are weaknesses in the collection, although intriguingly I’ve come back to them, and found I’m reducing them one by one.  There is a cohesion to this collection, and possibly outside that structure one or two haiku aren’t strong enough to stand on their own two feet.  At  92 haiku and senryu; fifteen tanka; one renku; and two haibun I defy anyone to keep such a low count.

This book is divided into two parts: Live; Again.  I’ll be going back to this book again and again: sometimes to dip into, sometimes to read cover to cover. It won’t always be easy…

I put myself
in the shoes
of a dying friend.
He’d moved on by then
in his bare feet…

But sometimes…

A child’s
wide eyes
stares at me.
If I could
I’d have a look too.

John, I think you allow us to do just that from time to time:

we’re here
we might as well build 
a sandcastle

An earlier version of this review was previously published in Blithe Spirit, Journal of the British Haiku Society; and haijinx IV:1 (March 2011)

Live Again is John Stevenson's third full-length book of haiku and related forms. The author has served the Haiku Society of America as President; Treasurer; and Editor of Frogpond, its international membership journal. He is currently managing editor of The Heron's Nest.

John Stevenson’s latest book is called d(ark):

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