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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & General Editor
Volume 8, Number 2, June 2014

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Patricia Prime
Te Atatu South, Auckland, New Zealand


Seasons: A Chapbook of Haiku, Senryu and Haibun by Frank Carey (2013) 27 pp. Amazon.com Kindle Edition. $3.58.

Frank Carey has self-published his e-book Seasons: A Chapbook of Haiku, Senryu and Haibun on Amazon.com. He also maintains a blog of haiku and a blog about his experience with self-publishing on Amazon.com.

In his Preface, Carey writes: “Sometime during the September-October 2012 timeframe, I started to write haiku—lots of it.” He took as his mentors Kerouac, Wright, Blyth, Trumbull, Reichhold, Gurga and Virgillo.

This may seem a rather simple and unassuming collection of haiku, senryu and haibun, containing as it does four sections of haiku or senryu on particular seasons, followed by a haibun concerning the same season. The haiku and haibun have been grouped in such a way as to strengthen each other and have something of a cumulative effect. This is a book that takes us through the seasons, both literally and psychologically.

From somewhere behind the events and particular recollections that make up the subject matter of Frank Carey’s Seasons, his psyche speaks to us. He writes in his own distinctive way, sometimes with amusement, sometimes wistfully, always perceptively, and occasionally with the kind of touch that attunes to our own experiences.

If I had not known from the title of his collection that these would be haibun by a writer with a close kinship to the natural world, I knew it after reading the first section of haiku and haibun in the book, one which serves as a reminder that this is a collection about the seasons.

The first of four sections, Spring, opens up with 20 haiku, of which the last is

spring sunlight
refracted by the window—
multicolored wall

The poet then reflects on his adventure on a bush trail in the haibun “Spring Haibun”:

The trail is in bad shape from the floods. Gravel is piled-up in strange places and there is a lot of debris stuck to the bushes that line the trail. A large cable is draped over the tops of the bushes on the north side of the trail and not a pole in sight. The trail itself is strewn with rubble so walking must be done with care.

The season of “Summer” begins with the haiku:

monsoon rain
washes dust from the sparrow
scent of creosote

One example from 19 haiku. “Summer Haibun” sees the poet and his companion settling down to record the starry night sky with his camera:

As the camera’s shutter opened and closed we settled down to watching the stars and drinking hot cocoa while listening to coyotes howl in the distance. We relaxed as the camera did all of the work.

Milky Way
follows the setting sun—
hint of honeysuckle

“Autumn” contains 15 haiku, of which one of my favourites is

bright afternoon
walking at White Sands—
blue-tailed lizard

In the haibun that follows, “Autumn Haibun,” it’s a November day, but the temperature outside the car is not cool. The poet’s urge to shiver is due to “the visual cures from the white expanse in front of me.” Here he sees “families are riding snow saucers down the sides of white dunes while wearing shorts and t-shirts.”

The haibun ends:

It may require the use of a pair of vise grips to wrap my mind around all of this.

Autumn afternoon—
setting sun casts shadows
across white sand

The “Winter” section contains 26 haiku: this one reminds me of similar days at sporting venues with my sons:

Super Bowl Sunday
pre-game grocery shopping—
wings fly out the door

In “Winter Haibun” the poet writes about the White Sands National Monument on New Mexico Highway.

At the end of the road that passes through the monument is a 4.5 mile long loop trail that takes hikers through the dunes to the edge of the monument and back. Hikers on the trail see a lot of strange sights including pedestals.

Carey’s description of the dunes, the dry lake, shifting sands and plants capturing sand in their roots and forming pedestals, is illustrative of that part of the world.

These haibun are, for the most part, quiet and reflective, but they are infused with sparks of language and surprises. Everywhere in the collection, Carey’s acute sense of the natural environment is striking. Haibun and haiku are touched by the mystery of the natural world, even as they describe and celebrate aspects of it. And yet, underlying these meditations is a sense of anxiety at change, an environmental awareness that is never dogmatic or strident, but is nevertheless insistent. This comes to a head in the final haibun, “Winter Haibun.” There is a pleasing sense here of nature coming full circle, from the floods of the opening haibun to the plants adjusting to the changing environment in the last haibun, where the poet says, “Nature adapts.”

Nevertheless, despite the anxieties darkening the edge of the poems, Carey’s is ultimately a celebrant’s case, since moments of affirmation of nature’s ability to persevere, make Carey a witness to the changing face of nature throughout the seasons eminently believable.

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