Haibun Today

A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Editor
Volume 4, Number 4, December 2010

Bruce Ross
Bangor, Maine, USA

Treading Toward Light: Reconciling the Death of the Beloved

Recycling Starlight, Poems by Penny Harter. Eugene, Oregon: Mountains and Rivers Press, 2010. 8 ¾” X 5 ¾,” stitch-bound, 28pp. $15. ISBN 978-0-9793204-5-3.  Available for $15 USD from http://mountains and rivers press.org

This moving collection of 17 poems (free form with 1 sonnet), 3 haibun, 3 haiku, and 1 haiku sequence, records the reconciliation of Harter to the death of her husband Bill Higginson.

She does this through engaging basic elemental connections of the embodied psyche through the imagery of light, childhood, sea, dream, and transpersonal states in an idiom that nods to Emily Dickinson and metaphysical poetry.

The dedication page haiku:

evening rain—
I braid my hair
into the dark

and the concluding haiku:

migrating geese
calls pierce the dusk—
my hands fall open

enclose the collection with a connection of the embodied psyche to nature and a prayer of acceptance to the natural order of things.

There are memorable lines in the poems: “Every day I translate your last breath” (4); “a bowl that lets the growing light / pass through its thickened glass” (13).

The poems are deeply moving in their overlay of grief, love, memory, wonder, and reconciliation mediated by an encounter with basic metaphysical issues. Particularly moving are “November” where grief is read into the O’Keeffe painting A Black Bird with Snow Covered Red Hills (6), “The Blue Bowl” where loss is found in a simple once-shared object (13), and “Forgetting Rain” where a reconciliation provoked by dream and nature is offered (25).

The haibun “Moon-Seeking Soup” (8) is touching with its deep-seated drive to connect sensibility and basic human grounding in moon viewing and preparing soup: “. . . I searched the sky, wanting to raise my face into white light.”  The concluding haiku offers a deftly simple reconciliation in a perfect linking, the seeking is found in one’s very self:

moon-seeking soup—
my own face reflected
in the broth

The haiku sequence “Riding the Atlantic City Express Train to Manhattan” (16) embodies also the adjustment of the psyche and love in and after grief:

train whistle—
I remember the warmth
of your hand

spring equinox—
the train rocks side-to-side
on polished rails

Recycling Starlight is a moving poetic account of love, memory, and transformation.


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