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Spring 2005, vol 3 no 1

Book Review ~ The Full Canoe, by Rosa Clement
Reviewed by Robert Wilson

The Amazon River region in South America is a tropical rain forest famous for exotic animals, piranhas, primitive tribes, and lush greenery. The area produces much of the Earth's oxygen. Many of the world's medicines are derived from the region's flora. If I added haiku to the list, you'd say, "huh?" Welcome to the haiku poetry of Rosa Clement..

Rosa Clement was born in Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil. The Amazon River region is her home. It is an integral part of who she is. In her chapbook, The Full Canoe, Clement takes us for a walk into her world. We see it through her eyes. A region far removed from what most of us have experienced. Reading Clement's haiku, I am reminded of Matsuo Basho. Not that her haiku emulates Basho, but because Basho too took readers for a walk into a world shaped by nature.

Take, for instance,

leafless trees
parakeets scatter
on the branches

Most of us think of parakeets as cute avian pets living in bird cages. In Clement's world, parakeets and other exotic birds live in the wild, far from pet stores and bird cages. They are abundant. She brings home the point in her juxtaposition between leafless trees and the scattering of parakeets from the branches.

Her world is a world populated by feral animals, a zoo without cages.

between fright
and the dog's barks
the full moon

Nightfall in the jungle is not something to take for granted. Unblemished by urban lights, it is a dark place, lit up only by the moon and the stars. Wild animals roam the jungle, including jaguars, boa constrictors, monkeys, caiman, and poisonous frogs. When a person's dog barks, most likely it is barking at an intruder. Knowing an intruder is nearby, coupled with the stark darkness of the jungle, is reason enough for fear. The jungle is not a place to take solo walks at night..

The Amazon River region Clement writes about is populated by indigenous tribes and modern man. Hundreds of years ago, the Portuguese visited the area, bringing with them Catholicism and other things synonymous with Europe. Today, the influence of the Portuguese is evident.

afternoon prayers
sunflowers by the church
bend their heads

The Amazon rainforest is in danger of extinction. Trees are being cut down at an alarming rate. Animals are being captured by collectors and sold for profit. The air quality is gradually diminishing. The divider between modern man and the rainforest becomes thinner by the day.

the little monkey
chooses banana cake

Reading Rosa Clement's chapbook reminds me of the beauty and majesty of her part of the world. I see and experience it through her eyes. And I want that world to be there for my children and their children as well.

sun on the back
of the pink dolphin
Black River lightens

The Full Canoe
by Rosa Clement
Helionaut Press
ISBN 0-9711373-3-1

Rosa Clement learned to know Amazonia as she grew up in Manaus, a city at the juncture of the two major tributaries of the great Amazon River. Some of her vacations were spent at her mother's home in the interior, and it was there that she got acquainted with the river and the forest.

Clement has practiced the form since 1992 and now is a member of the Grêmio Sumaúma de Haicai, established in Manaus, AM.

She published Canoa Cheia (Full Canoe) in 2002, but as she becomes more involved with haiku she hopes to publish a second haiku book.

She has published renga with Zane Parks in the Parnassus Magazine and with Jeanne Cassler in Lynx, and haiku in the International Edition of Frogpond, May/2001, and in The Heron's Nest.

An interview and some of her previously published haiku can be found in Simply Haiku, vol. 2 no. 5.

Copyright 2005: Simply Haiku