Egret

This 1989 book began its life with the title Heron, and I made a few initial copies and then changed the title to Egret, mostly because the illustration I used on the front cover was actually an egret rather than a heron. So a few rare early copies of this collection have the title of Heron, but most copies are titled Egret—and on nicer paper with two extra pages and a slight rearrangement of a few of the poems. I forget how many copies I made of Heron, but fewer than fifty. The book has 84 pages in a size of 8½ inches square, and consists of the following eight sections with a total of 116 haiku and senryu and ten longer poems: 

  • “Wind” (twelve poems)
  • “Changes” (consisting of four seasonal subsections with three spring poems, seventeen summer poems, eight autumn poems, fifteen winter poems, a four-poem sequence titled “Twilight,” and a concluding all-year poem)
  • “Freeway” (ten poems)
  • “Sunlight” (twenty-two poems)
  • “Rhythm” (twelve poems)
  • “Portals” (eleven poems)
  • “Vision” (ten “stick poems”—not haiku or senryu)
  • “The Cat’s Bell” (a haibun containing seven poems, one of which is by Lee Gurga)
  • plus one parting haiku

“The Cat’s Bell” was probably the first haibun I ever wrote. I published the book with my press, Press Here, in Foster City, California. As a time-capsule of the haiku I wrote then, this book shows me how much I had yet to learn about haiku, even though I’m still pleased with a few of them. In fact, one poem from this book later appeared in A Travel-Worn Satchel, the Haiku Society of America annual members’ anthology for 2009, at least twenty years after I first wrote it:

 

sharp Winnipeg winds . . .

      walking backwards

      to the bus

 

The HSA anthology for 2009 sought poems of place, and this one happened to come to mind as one to submit. This poem isn’t among my best haiku, but at least it had a second lease on life. The following are selected poems from Egret, with an occasional comment.
 

 

no one to hear—

a redwood falls

      and falls

 

 

chinook wind

the smell of

melting snow

 

 

october wind

gravedigger rests

his shovel

 

 

   walking

among sequoias

         on tiptoe

 

 

summer afternoon

blade of grass swaying

with the weight of a ladybird

 

 

empty field—

a hay rack

collecting tumbleweeds

 

The preceding poem was one of my first to win recognition in a contest—an honourable mention in a contest sponsored Haiku Quarterly, edited by Linda Valentine, in 1989.

 

 

winter stillness

   bare twigs

zigzag through the air

 

 

big sur coast—

waves pounding

future sand

 

 

dreaming of spring

I shake the snow

from this pine

 

 

    pouring a mug of tea

seeing her reflection

        in the kettle

 

 

driving north

pressing my finger

to the glass

 

 

clinging to the cat

at the roadside

morning frost

 

 

when they pulled the body from the wreck his limp hand fell from hers

 

 

my window opens

      a hundred frogs

            sing to the moon

 

The preceding poem was my first haiku ever published in a literary haiku journal (that is, not counting school literary journals). Robert Spiess accepted it from my first-ever submission, and it appeared in Modern Haiku 19:3, Autumn 1988. It was partially inspired by the title of Hiroaki Sato’s book One Hundred Frogs. Spiess proposed that I change my original middle line from “one hundred frogs” (he doubted that I had counted them!) to “a hundred frogs.” This poem remains a favourite of mine, and takes me back to my graduate school dorm room in Southern California, outside of which flowed a small irrigation canal that came alive every evening with the din of frogs.

 

 

at a

station

near

the metro

petals

on a

brittle

dry bough

looking

for the

blossoms

of a

cherry

finding

pits

 

The preceding poem is one of the books ten “stick poems.” Heres one more poem from the book.