A HARVEST OF BOOKS POEMS AND PHOTOS
n time for the fall harvest—a crop of great poems and three book reviews. [...] The three book reviews present Distance by Deborah P Kolodji and Mariko Kitakubo (reviewed by William Scott Galasso), Shimmer: An Ekphrastic Poetry Collection by Paulette Demers Turco, reviewed by Michael Escoubas, who also reviewed Gathering Sunlight by Silvia Scheibli & Patty Dickson Pieczka. Our illustrators are photographers Beverly M. Collins (whom we know as a poet often published in the California Quarterly and elsewhere), and Iga Supernak, both based in the Los Angeles area.
Maja Trochimczyk, CSPS President
WILLIAM SCOTT GALASSO REVIEWS DISTANCE by MARIKO KITAKUBO & DEBORAH P KOLODJI
Distance. Tan-ku Sequences and Sets by Mariko Kitakubo and Deborah P. Kolodji, Shabda Press, Duarte, CA www.shabdapress.com. 2023, 93 pp.$18.00 U.S (softcover), print 2023932505, ISBN:978-1-7377113-6-0
Deborah P. Kolodji is the longtime Moderator of the Southern California Haiku Study Group, a member of the board of directors for Haiku North America, and the inaugural recipient of The Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association’s Presidents’ Lifetime Service Award. In addition, her highway of sleeping towns haiku poetry collection was awarded a Touchstone Distinguished Book Award from The Haiku Foundation. Mariko Kitakubo of Tokyo, is renowned for seven tanka collections, three of which are bilingual Cicada Forest, On This Same Star, and 2016’s Indigo. Needless to say, given their combined literary pedigree, their collaborative work Distance sets a high bar concerning one’s expectations.
Fortunately, Distance, subtitled Tan-Ku Sequences and Sets (for tanka and haiku), not only meets but exceeds these lofty expectations. These longtime friends, one might suggest (twin daughters of different mothers) have esteemed one another’s work for years. Each sharing their work and experiencing travels back and forth from the U.S and Japan between 2007-2019.
Then the pandemic struck and most conversation frequently expressed in verse (haiku by Deborah and tanka by Mariko), became their modus operandi. The first of seven sections, we hold virtual hands illustrates how these gifted poets formulated their dialogue. One would text, the other would respond and bridging the time and distance between them literally and figuratively. They did more than cope with different time zones, they excelled in creating unexpected connections.
The still waters of their call and response formula regardless of the specific subject matter inform each other and grow with each reading. Each of the seven sections is distinct in focus, yet they achieve synchronicity when considered as a whole. Here are some samples of their sets and sequences. I’ve chosen shorter pieces (primarily the sets) as examples due to limitations of space. However, the reward of reading the sequences contained this work is equal in terms of consistent quality.
This piece is from the initial section, we hold virtual hands:
an invisible thread
the pearl oyster
closing my eyes
I see your face
And this from the second section the eternal wind focused on Deborah’s battling illness:
wind will bring
the summer storm
bordered by living
growing out of control
And section three presents us with a classical Japanese reference:
I slow down to breathe
the pine scent
at the edge of
my straw hat
a butterfly’s siesta
in emerald breeze
Each section gives us a deep sense nature’s healing power and inherent beauty, a part of Gaia’s treasured gift to us, her children. Hence, reminding us of our own responsibility as stewards of the earth. Here are two more samples that conjure two very different strands of the emotional spectrum the first derives from traces of us, the second from the section entitled my words drift.
End of the Tunnel
no one knows…
I escaped from
no more scarves
to hide the bruises
New Year’s resolution
In contrast with the celebratory…
the crack of his bat
hits a foul ball
stops and restarts
we catch our breath
The final line means “coming from behind,” a “goodbye,” a homer with the bases loaded that give a team the lead.
Finally, I would be remiss not to include a sequence, from as the road bends:
pale cloud face
the slow rise
of the sun
what do you
smiles for the sky
your face peeking out
from its folds
This collection Distance is full of quiet beauty and a wide range of subject matter comes Highly Recommended.
~ Book review by William Scott Galasso,
author of Saffron Skies
Shimmering Plum Island DawnSunrays shimmer in the air,Time melts as foam-topped waves crash downon sparkling sand as on a dare.Sunrays shimmer in the air.At high tide, castles disappear.My child’s towel becomes a gown.Sunrays shimmer in the air.Time melts as foam-topped waves crash down.
February LiliesLilies in a vase,lit with morning lightthrough a mullioned window,beside drawing paperwith pen and ink suppliesto try—one stroke, then more,strong and gentle, curved.Accentuations, shadowsextend across a sheetof thick white Bristol paper.After a quiet hour,lines transform to stems,leaves, alabasterblossoms, vase, translucence—fragrant scent of spring.
Orange Sky on CharlevoixShe never could imagine this Great Lake,illuminated by the setting sun,bright as a centenarian’s birthday cake—candles all aflame. This day’s not done.This lighthouse, water surface, cloud-filled sky,capture this slant of light for moments here—before the lighthouse beam will blink its eye,as if afloat, for mariners to veertheir ships around threats hidden by the night.For now, the miracle of waves of lightmeanders through the surfaces she’ll viewwithout him—pleased to be among the fewto capture this collage of orange red.It will not last, nor change what lies ahead.
The term “Ekphrastic” derives its meaning from a Greek root meaning “Description.” However, there is more to it than mere description. At her best, the ekphrastic poet pours her heart into description. After the Lightning Storm speaks volumes:
After the Lightning StormThunder shakes the air, the ground, the oaks,as bulging, smoke-gray clouds spew giant glopsthat soak the withered garden-yellow sundrops,while jagged light from cloud to cloud now stokesfear among some families. We help coaxsome to shelter with their beach bags. Shops,though closed, are havens till the lightning stops,the gusting northeast wind abates. Like strokesof brush, the late day rays are swept through mist,lightning clouds that fill a brightened skywith purples, pinks, and apricot, and gold,while tall oaks appear as silhouettesin filigree—surreal to the eye—a bold celestial canvas to behold.I close my review, as the author does, with her acrylicon canvas creation: Dusk in Marblehead Harbor.The curtain falls ever-so-gently with this excerptfrom Turco’s sonnet, “On the Edge of Light,”:The harbor surface holds the rim of day,Reflected in each ripple, every rayRemaining in an iridescent sky,Dimming as a gull or term coasts by.
Chakira, tell me once againOh, tell me how the moonopened your eyes and showed youa change in consciousnessHow you wished that every coyoteshould have a black-tipped tailHow the oriole’s hoodwas dark until you changed itto reflect indigo sunlightNothing appears natural now—Now you dream the raven in silver.How do you dream only in silver, Chakira?
My friend, Chakira, gave me her chisme“Listen,” she said.Pelicans glide on wingsas straight as paddle-boards.Aero-dynamic frigates ascendimmense, azure skies.Supplicant, boat-tailed gracklesseek verdant, queen palms.Caffeinated kiskadeesexclaim an immanent sunrise.You need to visit Nayarit—opaline goblet of barefaced dreams—more often.
Geese & dozens of jungle chickensscratch endlessly on hillsidesof banana trees.Escaped sugar cane & emerald mistengulf abandoned houses.Bromeliads perch on telephone wireslike mourning doves.With partially opened wingsblack vultures cast a shadowover yellow hibiscus.Delicate roof fernsvolcanic rock & golden bamboofade into midnightwith our cafécon alma socialista.
Drifting on an ocean’ssilk and shells, sea-foamlacing pearls along the shore,I follow a dream backto its home in the dark,unlace the nightto find forgotten things:half-vanished thoughts, timecurled within my roots,words melted by a long-ago sun.I drift to the ceilingto watch you sleep.Your dream breaksover shoal-bound rocks,shaking loose a schoolof silver fearsand familiar strangerswho sail angel-winged ships,read the 16 pointsof a wind rose to navigatethrough the moon’s veiland ghosts of fogto the farthest edgeof the subconscious.
Pieczka’s final poem, “At Horseshoe Lake,” shows both the mind and heart of a poet at the height of her craft:I pull sunlight from your hairto make our shadows pourinto the cypress swamp,where rivulets spill backto the time we met.Tupelo leaves brush the colorsleft by secrets barely whispered—words beyond flightand dream, strung toneither root nor bone,words tumbling in shapesnever recognized before.We unbutton the hoursuntil day and nightmeet briefly at the horizon;they kiss, still makingeach other blushafter so many years.