Simply Haiku: An E-Journal of Haiku and Related Forms
November-December 2004, Volume 2, Number 6

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BOOK REVIEW: Fay Aoyagi, Chrysanthemum Love
Reviewed by Robert D. Wilson

The Japanese character for "Fay" means to fly and Fay Aoyagi's haiku do just that . . . fly! I'd read works she'd co-translated and edited but until now, hadn't read her haiku. My loss and now my gain. Hers is a fresh voice. Basho, Issa, Buson, Shiki, Chiyo-ni and other old haiku masters early on pointed their disciples down the haiku path. True artists, they were not satisfied with the status quo or with emulating the styles of those who'd walked down the path before them. They were innovators, willing to take risks, even if it meant ostracism, their eyes focused on bettering their art.

Fay Aoyagi is an original voice, unwilling to play "Follow the Leader." She listens to her muse attentively, "flying" into uncharted territory.

Aoyagi says in the preface, "If you believe haiku must be about nature, you may be disappointed in my work. There is a lot of 'me' in my haiku. I write very subjectively. I am not interested in Zen and the oriental flavors to which some Western haiku, tanka poets are attracted. I love the shortness and evocativeness of haiku. I don't write haiku to report the weather. I write to tell my stories."

Aoyagi, a Japanese American, has studied and continues to study the works of old and modern masters. But she insists on being her own person, expressing in her haiku, her "take" on life. Have a glimpse:

hydrangea rain---
a letter from the land
of soy sauce

of the deep sea fish
misty stars

Aoyagi's haiku is oftentimes personal and intimate, like a flower, unveiling petals that hint of more. Take these, for instance:

New Year's Eve bath---
I fail to become
a swan

a winter butterfly---
my first marriage
in the jewelry box

a white handkerchief
and my ancestral guilt

I recommend Fay Aoyagi's book of haiku, Chrysanthemum Love. It is top drawer haiku. Her poetry is ethereal, the kind of verse that refuses to go in one ear and out the other. Deep and multi-tiered, her voice lingers, her words sipping tea long after the curtain has been drawn. Some books of poetry are just that, books of poetry. Others are rare gems. Aoyagi's book is such a gem.

a cousin's suicide---
the gold fish hides
under a miniature castle

Chrysanthemum Love
Blue Willow Press
930 Pine Street., #105
San Francisco, California 94108
ISBN 0-9745547-0