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Autumn 2005, vol 3 no 3


Butterfly on the Shoulder by Alenka Zorman
A Review by Robert D. Wilson

I agree with Edin Saracevic in his forward to Alenka Zorman's book, Butterfly on the Shoulder, that Zorman is a prolific poet who has contributed much to the Slovenian Haiku movement. But I disagree with his assertion that "life is the lonely, everyday subject matter upon which haiku creators draw." This is a reflection of his own inner workings, perhaps, but not indicative of haiku and the breath it draws upon. Haiku is vital, a communication with nature, spirit, and the ambiguities that interweave the two. Haiku is a walk, a way of viewing life...a life that is "lonely" and "everyday" only if we choose for it to be. Saracevic talks about Zorman and expounds his own views on haiku for 19 pages, making this one of the longest Forwards I have ever read.

Zorman needs little introduction. She is well known in the world haiku community and respected for her unique signature style. The Forward detracts from the poet and her poetry. Saracevic sometimes makes statements in his forward that on the surface sound fine, but are incorrect when examined as a whole. Take for instance, "...unforced jesting which is at the core of life itself, and hence is also the essence of haiku." After this statement, he cites as examples the following senryu penned by Zorman:

my husband away
I arrange our slippers
more carefully

job interview
candidate's hands
as if in prayer

Haiku and senryu are two different, albeit closely related entities. Calling one the other does not help the credibility of Zorman. And it adds confusion to an already befuddled poetic community grappling with what a senryu is and isn't, thanks in part to statement's like Saracevic's and other pseudo academics, who have not studied the genre and appear to be speaking from the hip versus expounding beliefs based on sound academic scholarship.

Save for the forward, Zorman's book of haiku and senryu is a delight to read. The poet is a complex, sensitive human who gives us a glimpse into a world not ordinarily associated with haiku, although that is changing.

When at last Zorman's poetry is shared on page 20, her artistry becomes apparent.

early morning
bedroom window still open
to the full moon

The poet has a love affair with the moon and apparently spent several hours gazing at it. When she wakes up before sunrise, the window to nature and her longing is open, the moon still if she hadn't left it. The haiku reminds me of Shiki during his final days, when he was confined to bed and had only his yard to look at, and wrote:

I'm sure there are at least
Fourteen or fifteen stalks.
                            —Masaoka Shiki
                                (Translation by Donald Keene)

bright morning
a spider weaves his web
in front of the mirror

Zorman sees beauty in things that many people would take for granted or not notice. Perhaps it is the inner child in her. And like a child, she is fascinated by a spider's web and the interplay of light and shadow painted by this marriage of mirror and sky, which in itself, can be seen as a metaphor dealing with what is real and what is perceived to be real.

autumn forest
step by step
whisper by whisper

Zorman listens ardently to nature, even when it whispers, taking nothing for granted. Suddenly the reader is there with her, as excited as she is, listening, watching, and sensing. Zorman has that rare ability as a poet to draw readers into her poetry, to bring them into the experiential.

New Year's Day
a boy sees the dawn
in Braille

In this haiku, Zorman introduces readers to nature as perceived by a blind child. She reminds us that blind people do see in a way removed from our own realm of experience. Using "Braille" to get her point across, she reminds us that unsighted people use a variety of senses to experience and visualize the world around them; that they too can experience nature and enjoy possibly an even deeper relationship that those who are sighted.

on both sides
of the neighbor's fence
the year ends

Zorman's poetry is deeply textured and layered. There is room for multiple interpretations and interplay of thought. She infuses in her observations a magic necessitating the need to ruminate and ponder; poetry that that refuses to go away, lingering like the scent of a fragrant flower.

Alenka Zorman's book of poetry is one many readers will find themselves reading again and again. Unlike the "in one ear out the other" haiku and senryu appearing in a lot of today's journals and e-zines, hers is indelible, fresh, and vital. Skip the Forward and dive in.

Butterfly on the Shoulder
by Alenka Zorman
Drustvo Apokalipsa 2004
ISBN 961-6314-56-4

Copyright 2005: Simply Haiku