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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & Owner
Ray Rasmussen, General Editor

Volume 12, Number 1, March 2018

Patricia Prime
Auckland, New Zealand

Review of All the Windows Lit by Rich Youmans

Rich Youmans, All the Windows Lit, Snapshot Press, 2017, 21pp, a free eBook.

The haibun in Youmans’ book are simple, elegant poems. They are mostly one paragraph of prose per page followed by a single haiku. The haibun are quietly contemplative. The tone of the collection is set by the opening poem, “On Finding a Photo of My Mother and Father’s First Date," which ends:

No, their eyes hold only joy. They are waiting for the click,
the blinding flash. Later they will see a movie, take a walk,
count the stars: the night is fabulous with possibilities. My
father leans in close, my mother does not move away. (5)

There’s a gentle spirit within this poetry that does not mean it’s lacking in bite. Youmans’ poetry embraces, often simultaneously, the beauty and the ugliness of the world, as in “Swish," which takes place in a “Projects playground:"

Evening shadows steal across the low concrete buildings,
the cracked-slab courtyards, over fast-food wrappers and
bottle shards. He feels the air on his face, moist and cool,
as he looks at the day’s last colors. (9)

There’s a reverence for the natural world and the place that our, often bewildering, lives have in them that runs throughout this thoughtful collection, for example as we see here in “For My Wife on Our First Anniversary:"

Early spring. I wake to pale light, to the dogwood outside
our bedroom window, a few cruciform petals barely visible.
My wife lies beside me under a flowered sheet: one thigh
touching mine, her brown hair fountaining against the
pillow. (12)

The parallelism between the natural world and the love of husband and wife is neatly brought together in this acutely observed poem.

The acute sensibility shown in the haibun “Midnight Reaction," where a husband administers to his wife who is seriously ill, is fraught with love, care and the humanity required when caring for a loved one. The environment of the bedroom is vividly foregrounded in the poem, which ends:

He closed his eyes, put his cheek against her
forehead, smelled the damp of her hair: soap and apricots
and the coming summer. He stared at the stars. And he held
her. He held her.

oranges in morning sun      behind the rind the light (17)

Anyone who has spent time visiting a loved one in a hospice will instantly recognise the pinpoint accuracy of “Hospice." Here, the poet goes to visit, presumably, his elderly father in the hospice:

The space between each breath lengthens. Apnea, the nurse
called it – one of the last signs. So fast . . . Three days ago he
could speak, sip a cup of tea, walk the few steps from bed to
toilet. Now he sleeps, steeped in morphine, as the cancer
spreads: liver, colon, prostate, marrow. (19)

This is a collection to cherish and return to for its intense observation and contemplation, as we see, for instance, in the final verse from “Hospice:"

bird shadows across
the drawn shade
the pulse in his neck

Rich Youmans’ haiku, haibun and related essays have appeared internationally in various journals and anthologies. His collection of linked haibun with Maggie Chula, Shadow Lines, won a Merit Book Award from the Haiku Society of America and All the Windows Lit was a winner in the 2015 eChapbook Award competition sponsored by Snapshot Press in Great Britain.



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