Haiku at its best is an art in which the poet takes a natural, most ordinary event, and without fuss, ornament or inflated words makes of it a rare moment—sparely rendered, crystallized into a microcosm which reveals transcendent unity. Small wonder haiku has a growing audience throughout the world.
Lucien Stryk has been a presence in American letters for almost fifty years. Those who know his poetry well will find this collection particularly gratifying. Like journeying again to places visited long ago, Stryk’s writing is both familiar and wonderfully fresh. For those just becoming acquainted with Stryk’s work, Zen, Poetry, the Art of Lucien Stryk makes an excellent introduction.
Yves Bonnefoy is probably the most prominent figure in the generation of French poets who came into public view following World War II. Dedicated to poetry more as a means of spiritual illumination than as a technique for creating artistic monuments, he uses what he conceives to be the brokenness and poverty of language to enable us to glimpse a wholeness lacking in our contemporary world.
Koyashi Issa (1763-1827), long considered amoung Japan’s four greatest haiku poets (along with Basho, Buson, and Shiki) is probably the best loved. This collection of more than 360 haiku, arranged seasonally and many rendered into English for the first time, attempts to reveal the full range of the poet’s extraordinary life as if it were concentrated within a year.
A Gathering of Ways is John Matthias’ first collection of poems since the publication of his warmly received Northern Summer collection in 1985.
Does the artist have a responsibility to mirror the conflicts and problems of society in his or her work? Perhaps more than most, the Irish poet, Seamus Heaney, has been faced with this question. Living in Belfast since 1957, Heaney decided to leave Northern Ireland altogether in 1972, his residency there spanning fifteen years of social upheaval and violence.
Although Alan Swallow's work on behalf of other poets has tended to overshadow his work as a poet, the reputation of his poems has been upon the ascendancy. This volume, a “selected” one, runs the gamut of Swallow's themes. John Holmes reviewed in The New York Times, speaking of “love and compassion warming the face of the carving.” The volume was published in a beautiful limited edition by Carroll Coleman's The Prairie Press.
The first of this new collection’s three parts ranges very widely, from poems of childhood-his own, his children’s, and his grandchild’s-to poems of keen social and political awareness, and on to pieces about his neighbors, about growing more firmly and deeply into a personal place.
Ordinary, everday, homely. These are words that come to mind to describe the dimension Hollis Summers’ poems live in. But they are inadequate words, and his are deceptively simple poems. They speak little, and quietly, but they record, in the silences they create, a desperate, melancholy magic about the surfaces and trivial events of our days. So we are led to discover, and assent, to all these tonal perceptions as the true domestic furniture of our inner lives.
Although some critics have identified two phases in the poetry of James Wright and have isolated particulars of his movement from traditional to more experimental forms, few have noted also the elements of constancy in the evolution of his poetry.
This second volume of James Schevill's collected poems is a companion to his remarkable ongoing sequence of poems, The American Fantasies, published by Swallow in 1983. This collection extends the scope of the poet's concern with American power and influences to Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. In these poems, Schevill reveals again the range of his lyrical and dramatic powers. As M.I.
Anna Akhmatova (1889–1966) was part of that magnificent and in many ways tragic generation of Russian artists which came to first maturity before 1917, and which then had to come to terms with official discouragement and often persecution. As D.M. Thomas points out in his introduction, practically none of her poetry was published between 1923 and 1940. Her poetic range was wide, from the transparent anonymity of “Requiem” to the symphonic complexity of “Poem without a Hero.”
Lucien Stryk’s poetry is made of simple things—frost on a windowpane at morning, ducks moving across a pond, a neighbor’s fuss over his lawn—set into language that is at once direct and powerful. Years of translating Zen poems and religious texts have helped give Stryk a special sense of the particular, a feel for those details which, because they are so much a part of our lives, seem to define us.
Northern Summer is a representative selection from John Matthias’s previous books, together with a group of poems written since 1980. Robert Duncan wrote of his first book, Bucyrus, that in part “Matthias is a Goliard – one of those wandering souls out of a dark age in our own time.”