Simply Haiku: A Quarterly Journal of Japanese Short Form Poetry
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Spring 2007, vol 5 no 1

Hidden River
By Denis M. Garrison
A Review by Johnye Strickland


This is a book of haiku by Denis M. Garrison, the former Haiku Editor at Simply Haiku. It is organized according to the Four Seasons known in the Western world, beginning with Spring. In the Foreword, Robert D. Wilson says: "With a fresh voice, Garrison writes poetry that resonates, doesn't 'tell all,' and lingers in the mind after being read."

With that promise of what is to come, the reader will find this a good book to browse while relaxing by the fire in winter, or on a porch swing in summer.

The title comes from the Spring section, with a clear image, and a slight hint of mystery (p. 36):

hidden river
the willows cannot help
but tell

There are of course poems about life and death:

on a cemetery bench . . .
an old man gets to know
the neighborhood (p. 119)

meadow in bloom
the tallest wildflowers
surround a carcass (p. 86)

Impermanence and loss:

something there
crossing the road
heat shimmer (p. 78)

a swift crossed the sky
that moment
she was gone (p. 14)

dead cacti slumped
in a moldy clay pot—
rusty garden tools

And there are poems with striking images (e.g., auditory, tactile, and visual), and notable sounds, such as the repeated "l's", "f's", and "g's", in this one:

velvet black night
pulsing with frog song
and fireflies (p. 58)

But the overall charm of the book is found, at least by this reader, in the quiet recognition of the ordinary, the real things we encounter in our everyday lives, bespeaking the presence of a poet with respect for the silences as well as for the "cacophony of spring" and the cries of peahens.

This is another attractive volume produced by Modern English Tanka Press, presenting each poem on its own page, with original drawings by Aurora Antonovic of Ontario, Canada. It is the kind of book I would give to my grandchildren (closet poets, ages 17-27), or to a friend. And it is one I will go back to often to enjoy, one haiku at a time, hoping to stir a pleasant memory, or perhaps a haiku.

Hidden River
By Denis M. Garrison
Modern English Tanka Press (2006)
Baltimore, Maryland USA
Paperbound, with perfect binding.
Cover photograph from USFWS archives.
ISBN 978-0-6151-3825-1