Friday, July 11, 2014

Falling Ash - Haibun, Haiku, Senryu & Other Poems - James Fowler (Hobblebush Books)

Today's book of poetry:
Falling Ashes - Haibun, Haiku, Senryu & Other Poems.  James Fowler.  The Hobblebush Granite State Poetry Series, Volume VII.  Hobblebush Books.  Brookline, New Hampshire.  2013

Those who read this blog with any regularity will know that in general I am not a big fan of any sort of formalism — but good poetry is always good poetry.  Joseph Bathanti showed us something entirely new with the sonnet in Sonnets of the Cross and here, James Fowler utterly astounds with haibun, haiku, senryu and other poems.

A Sailor On Weekend Pass

I met my blind date Friday afternoon on an underground street in
Chicago where she talked the bouncer into letting me into the bar.
Over PBRs she asked if I'd read Ginsberg or Snyder. I said I read
Asimov and Heinlein. After shots of tequila, she told me of her nights
in jail for protesting the war. I told her I was afraid she'd make me
lose my clearance. She walked me back to the train station where the
setting sun cast our silhouette on the wall as I kissed her, once. Two
months later I was in Nam.—I'm still fond of the scent of limes.—I'd
like to tell her that I've read Ginsberg and can recite Snyder's
Turtle Island.—Maybe she remembers when the sun went down.

                                     car lights
                                     flash through the bar windows

By writing poems of such perfect and precise balance Fowler is clearly demonstrating the place and the beauty for formal poems of this fashion.  Not one word should, or could, be altered without blemishing a facet.

A Poem Made in the Shape of a Burning Buddhist Monk

          in memory of Thich Quang Duc

This poem is made to be read aloud
on a crowded street and dropped,
with a match, into a beggar's bowl.

This poem will lift up in a cloud
of flames. High above, the fire
will burst and feather down upon
the shoulders of those pushing by.

There will be many poems read
in the memory of burning monks.
Tears will streak the sooty faces
of the ghosts. Ash will fill their cups.


Fowler's Falling Ashes really is a beautiful book to read, his poetry as surprising in content as in form.

There are edgy, highly political and decisively polarizing poems in this sterling collection along with all the beauty.  Each and every one as perfect and precious as a snowflake.


                                   after the rain
                                   a thousand moons
                                   on the street


Reading books like James Fowler's Falling Ashes is as refreshing as it is liberating.  James Fowler has given us something of beauty that is rewarding to read.

James Fowler retired from the US Navy after 25 years as a Senior Chief and used his GI Bill to get a master's degree in Environmental Science, majoring in Nature Writing, from Antioch University in New England in Keene, New Hampshire. He has been privately teaching poetry for ten years and edited Heartbeat of New England: An Anthology of Nature Poems (Tiger Moon Publications, 2000). He has been a judge for Poetry Out Loud.
Over two hundred and fifty of James Fowler's poems in various forms have been published in such journals as Bitter Oleander, Sentence, Connecticut Review, Worcester Review and others.

"A sculptor lives with a piece of wood and studies its color, imperfections and grain in order to bring forth the beauty of its final form.  Fowler's haiku and haibun remind one of tiny pieces of modern sculpture devoid of everything except what is necessary to reveal both life's imperfections and grain. This he does with skill and artistry.  A book you will want to read and reread."
     —Wanda D. Cook.

"Jim Fowler's fine collection of haiku, haibun and a few poems is dominated by a stark sense engendered by experience in war, work abroad, his wife, and nature.  One cannot but be moved by his evocation of war and love and the rest."
     —Bruce Ross



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