Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Ruth Holzer: Bitche

The citadel dominates the town, now as in years past, giving the appearance of protection, if not the reality. The town’s a stony place, catering to soldiers. I came to know several families there. During the war they had fled to Provence, where the Italian occupation forces helped them hide and survive. When they returned, they had to go from house to house to retrieve their furniture from the neighbors.

ghosts in the hills—
swift night descends again
upon Lorraine

by Ruth Holzer
Herndon, Virginia

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Garry Eaton: Roach


Occasionally, one will launch across an open space, and bury itself in a crack or crevice. Quicker than the eye can see. Almost. But I sense them there, all around me, in their ugly millions.


infiltrated and resigned

in the great cities

the porous suburbs


Though getting rid of them is hopeless, once in awhile I make a sweep of the neighborhoods, taking down numbers. In a dishwasher's apron that once was white, I get to my knees on the duckboard, and peer under the food prep tables, under the grill, the fridges, the salad bar, and beyond, into the hellish, inaccessible spaces where greasy splatters and half-cooked bits of meat tend to fall when things get hot and heavy in the kitchen. And yes, I can see them there, another population explosion, breeding like cockroaches! However, I am in control here. This extermination will proceed my way, safely and efficiently.


I cover all the food trays, dishes, steel tables, grills and sinks. I close the cupboards, clear the runways, turn on the fans, break out the spray bombs, and don the death mask. Hardened by experience, I get down quickly to this necessary and inevitable destruction, and before you can say 'Hank Greenburg,' I have overwhelmed the favorite haunts, dare I say the ghettos, of my enemies with a devastating blitz.


the fog of war

no telltale press, no monuments

to the battle


At first, they are slow to respond. The weaponized mist spreads unnoticed, while I wait. Some of the largest and apparently strongest are the first to suffer—survivors of past holocausts, I theorize, and weakened, or with an acquired sensitivity. First, they quiver all over, and go rigid for a moment. As the lethal rain continues, nervous systems begin to relay strange messages. Then a shivering chaos vibrates up through ganglia to the insect brain and hence to the extremities. It's like watching plague and hunger strike a beseiged city. One after another, the inmates commence their dance, flipping themselves over and over, wildly out of control and running amok. The little ones stop, seeming to watch in amazement, as the fanatical possession spreads to them as well. Soon it shakes everyone, inducing waves of fear and a simultaneous scramble for the exits, lest their wills, too, fail and are paralyzed by this weakness, this whirling obsession. Panicked, and breathing deeply, they suck in their proper bane, as I move in for the kill.


Jewish Avenger

Spider Man of the garbage can—

his deadly dew


Most of them escape, but the kill rate is satisfactory. I know, because I've done this before, and every time my impact improves. I ease the pressure slowly to short, reinforcing squirts. I don't need to watch until every wriggle has ceased, either. I can imagine it. Beyond reach, cockroach corpses clog cockroach streets, cockroach subways and apartments. They crowd cockroach windows and doors, lying where they died in a final bid for cockroach freedom. But dried and blackened, in a few days they all will fall to dust, and disappear. Whither, I do not know.


I open the doors to the restaurant to air the place out, and in an hour, I remove the CLOSED sign from the window, and again invite in the world. Our little corner is safe once more.


today's special

chicken soup with lox

and a bagel


by Garry Eaton

Port Moody, British Columbia

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Jeffrey Winke: Keeps Hammering the Dull

He tries to kill the flies before most customers arrive. You can hear the thwack, thwack, thwack as he chases a slow-moving fat one that’s on a late autumn suicide mission. The stupid thing keeps hammering the dull, grimy windowpane hell-bent on achieving a deadly concussion before a thwack will splat the life out of it. The bartender clearly isn’t a Buddhist. The broken window pane will never get fixed, because it’s way too big a deal to dismantle the window frame in order to get a clear shot at the pane. The bartender chuckles at his cleverness when he thinks: What a pain this pane would be to fix.

good-ol’-boy bar—
I mess with them,
order a chardonnay
by Jeffrey Winke
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Bob Lucky: Bake Sale

The campus is thick with mothers and nannies laden with cupcakes, chocolate chip cookies and cinnamon rolls. Across the quad a woman sees me sitting on a bench, with my hands beneath my legs to keep them warm. She slows her pace, stops, then turns and heads towards me. We make eye contact when she is about thirty feet away. I watch the look of recognition dissolve as she gets closer.

“Oh, it’s not you.”

“But it is,” I reply.

an awkward silence
leaves change color
and blow away

by Bob Lucky
Hangzhou, China

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Announcement: Publication of Modern Haibun & Tanka Prose 1—Summer 2009


MET Press is pleased to announce the publication of a new journal. The premiere issue of the biannual journal, Modern Haibun & Tanka Prose, edited by Jeffrey Woodward, has been published in print, in PDF ebook, and in an online digital edition. This Summer 2009 issue is 184 pages in a trade paperback. ISSN 1947-606X.


Modern Haibun & Tanka Prose, with this inaugural issue, establishes itself as the first and only periodical devoted exclusively to these two mixed prose-and-verse genres. Haibun and tanka prose belong to the ancient and venerable tradition of Japanese poetry and belles-lettres. Their practice has waned in modern Japan but, with the continuing popularity of their respective parent-forms, haiku and tanka, in the West, haibun and tanka prose are experiencing unprecedented growth and diverse experimentation from New York to London, from Berlin to Brisbane, and in small towns and open countryside around the globe. Haibun and tanka prose are busily revising the general literary map and, in doing so, quietly reforming haiku and tanka also. Modern Haibun & Tanka Prose, a biannual journal, faithfully represents the full range of styles and themes adopted by contemporary practitioners and intends to play a vanguard role in charting the rapid evolution of these genres.


Check out Modern Haibun & Tanka Prose at http://www.themetpress.com/modernhaibunandtankaprose/masthead.html


For more information, contact the editor, Jeffrey Woodward, at MHTP.EDITOR@GMAIL.COM


Monday, June 15, 2009

Review of Ken Jones' STONE LEEKS

Stone Leeks: More Haiku Stories by Ken Jones. (Pilgrim Press, Troedrhiwsebon, Cwmrheidol, Aberystwyth, SY23 3 NB, Wales. 2009). 96 pp. ISBN 978-0-9539901-6-0. Price: 6 pounds 50
Reviewed by Patricia Prime
Stone Leeks is typical Ken Jones. All these haibun follow the same path which his writing has followed in a long and distinguished career. Often reading these haibun I paused to reflect on the way these poems seem older, richer, more resigned versions of the same sort of haibun all the way from those of Pilgrim Foxes (2001, a volume shared with Jim Norton and Sean O’Conner), Arrow of Stones (2002), Stallion’s Crag (2003) and The Parsley Bed (2006).

There may be a little disappointment that there is no late flight of greatness in his writing, as he is perhaps one of the best practioners of haibun, if elegance and observation are criteria enough. We aren’t confronted with anything of strangeness or genius, but with a wry and beautiful understanding of the British countryside, and indeed, of human life.

This is not to say there is no development, or improvement. The collection contains five sections of 28 haibun on the themes of nature, absurdities, war, love and the inevitable winding down of life. Each section of haibun is interspersed with 59 free standing haiku.

The first haibun “Goodman’s Wood” is a fine story about an older, wiser narrator looking back on the woods where once lead mining took place:

Two hundred years ago there was some lead mining here—a truly hellish, poisoning occupation.

Spoil heap stained red
split needles
of the crooked pine
Now the writer is in the area felling old trees. Here Jones unselfconsciously lets his talent for description render the scene. Like his other penchant, that of sage commentary, this seems slightly incongruous, but it is so much part of his style that we come to accept it.

“Let Me Be” is a slice-of-life story where, upon entering primeval woodland, Jones encounters a woman:

And then, I see here. She is climbing the crag ahead up a steep deer track, agile and sure-footed. Fawn shirt and matching slacks, brown shoulder length hair, and—decidedly odd—not even a day sac. To catch her up I climb the bare rock over to the left—a granite boiler plate, sticking to my boots, clinging to my fingers.

The concluding paragraph gives a sympathetic description of the woman’s disfigured face as she lopes away across a field.

In the second section, “Theatre of the Absurd,” I enjoyed “Seat 16,” where the subject is given a brief, transformative insight that transcends the world of travel:

Nonchalantly I explore my own coach and the adjacent ones. Mine alone has four more seat numbers than any other, yet carries the same number of seats. Ah, the ticket collector! He just shrugs: L’actualite, monsieur, souvent c’est bizarre. At this, Le Monde Diplomatique is lowered just enough to reveal a goatee beard and an ironic gaze: Soyez stoique, mon brave! He grins.

It is not so much the substance of the story that matters as the way Jones tells it with humour, his occasional use of French words and phrases and the surprising denouement.

In the third section, “War,” Jones’ details are perfect and delicious. Jones writes often of his wartime experiences and in “’We Shall Never Surrender!’” he writes about the local war effort:

All the usual divisions in our local war effort are forgotten. For a start, there’s the Red Dragon which flies in front of the Prince of Wales (again is it Owain Glyndwr or “Mr Windsor”?) and the Union Glad which Parson King flies from his church tower. But not today.
Peaceful morning
both flags so limp
you can’t tell which
Mind you, Caradoc ap Rhys, landlord of the Prince of Wales pub, has won one concession. All orders shall be shouted in Welsh, in order to confuse the Germans (and probably half the village).

His use of ordinary people and the vernacular is admirable. With perceptiveness and wisdom, he neatly captures a bygone era.

In “La Liberation,” he and a friend trudge the “ancient pilgrim route from Winchester cathedral to Mont Saint-Michel.” This story is maybe a response to those who see Jones as a “provincial”: someone who only describes or appreciates his own country of Wales:

Baguettes and camembert in the shade of tombstones. Angoville-au-Plein changed hands three times in three days. Inside its eleventh century church, bloodstained pews and bullet marks. Here Kenneth Moore and Robert Wright, US army medics, tended eighty American and German soldiers—and one French child.
Army Surplus—
“Shell Wound Dressing”
5 euros
All Jones’ characters are practically interchangeable: their lives are different but they have a wry, elegiac tone. They remark and draw out rather than criticize. The effect requires a suspension of disbelief but, in the end, you come to accept it as unchangeable, and look for nuances elsewhere.

For example, consider the final sentences of “Belle Époque,” “Untidy Loves” and “Song of the Saws” respectively (from the fourth section, “Love”):


And now all over Europe the lights are going out. As a foreign national I depart on the last train.
August 1914
the porcelain shepherdess
her smile


“Oh God, why is life so harsh for some?” I ask. “It’s to teach us to grind our teeth down to the stumps, that’s what it is, laddie”. Barefoot stubs out his Woodbine—hard.
Old book cases
bowed shelves. A tumble
of reeling spines


What remains is a mound of sawdust swept in summer sunshine. She has wheeled the last load of firewood into the stable, to be stacked neatly in the stalls of farm horses.
A long, ripe marriage
drumming logs into the barrow
our fire dance
We cannot complain about writing this good. Jones wraps up his haibun with an authoritative voice, with a beautiful and complete sentence, followed by a haiku.

The final section, “The Stone Leeks,” is comprised of 10 haibun. One of my favourites is “All’s Right on the Night” about “the strange daytime of theatre,” with its evocations of props, costumes, scenery and the backstage labyrinth of stairs and passageways. A couple of haibun in this section bring the reader up-to-date with Jones’ reminiscences of surgery and the seaside town of Llandudno where the sick and elderly go to take the air and recuperate, as in this excerpt from “Costa Geriatrica”:
Sun and sky
a bright and breezy
way to go

Here in the sixth century Saint Tudno built his rough stone oratory for ascetic prayer, and gave his name to Llandudno. It is now a genteel resort, where the Grand, the Imperial, the Hydro, the King George and many more stand carefully preserved in pastel stucco.
bell pushes
which no longer work

However, the grim trio of sickness, old age and death are still muffled by deep pile carpets and the relentless keeping-up-of appearances
Expensive and well-cut
how they hang
on these poor wasted clothes horses

The final haibun in this wonderful collection is “The Project”—the author, preparing for his own wake, reminisces about projects he worked on throughout his life and comes to the conclusion—

I laugh at my own funeral oration, so solemnly intoned and recorded when a precocious forty year old. Poking charred diaries. A lifetime of stories told to myself, one as good as another. Knock, knock. Is there anyone there?
. Old Old summer house
settling out of true
to how it needs to be

Finally, the sending out of invitations to the Graceful Exit Party. From that celebratory wake I alone shall depart sober. And, on the back door, hammer the bottom line of a closed book:
Winter twilight
cutting timber by the Rheidol
all there is to know
This is a cunningly contrived, beautifully written and wonderfully readable collection. Not only does it say much about the poet and his roots, but page after page has the type of prose that can only be written by somebody who knows exactly what effects he means to create and exactly how to create them. A writer at the top of his form, in other words.
by Patricia Prime
Auckland, New Zealand

Friday, June 12, 2009

Jeffrey Woodward: NEBRASKA

a bare tree
and then, again,
the Great Plains

opening before you as if set into place checked and double-checked with a master carpenter’s level so nearly exact as to render literal that old saw about mountain and molehill frost over first light unwinding a never-ending scroll of sky a wind to whittle cloud after cloud away if not the stench of pig trough pig pen another village interrupting the prickly monotony of corn stubble another village with a water tower’s polished introduction and then again corn stubble a patchwork of brown of gray

its roots in the sky—
a bare tree
by Jeffrey Woodward
Detroit, Michigan
first published in Frogpond 31:2, Spring/Summer 2008

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Bob Lucky: SHIRAZ

I haven’t had a drink in five years, well, not more than a glass here and there, not since my brother died of a cocaine overdose, but I have to say, to say that this bottle, this Shiraz, this is no doubt, doubtlessly the best bottle of wine or whatever I’ve had in a long time.
two weeks of rain
the faces in the mold
on the café wall

by Bob Lucky
Hangzhou, China

Saturday, June 6, 2009


I didn’t know anything; I thought if I cooked a hot meal every night, kept our two-room apartment clean and enlivened it with decorative touches—Japanese prints, Indian throw pillows here and there—that he would care for me as in the early days, or at least stay a little bit longer.
wisps of fog—
breaking up
the joint account

by Ruth Holzer
Herndon, Virginia

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


From two fiddles and an accordian, the strains of Mallow Fling as the first thistle seeds drift out towards the folly on the hill. In search of butterflies, we follow the leader along the path where flowers of the wild carrot foam shoulder high as if the sea has parted.

a Comma sighted—
the line of walkers

He mentions different stategies for survival as experts dart from bushes on one side to grasses on the other. Look here. Look there! Common Browns and Marbled Whites and Silver Washed Fritillaries. With tiny cameras, one crouched above a leaf, one halfway up a slope. 'Enough. No More.' We head back down towards the garden party past Rosebay Willow Herb and Mallow flowers.

dash of citrus—
the longevity
of brimstones
by Diana Webb
London, England