Simply Haiku: A Quarterly Journal of Japanese Short Form Poetry
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Winter 2007, vol 5 no 4

Growing Late
by Tom Clausen
A Review by Johnye Strickland


A native New Yorker, Tom Clausen is a member of the Route 9 Haiku Group, which meets monthly for workshops and publishes Upstate Dim Sum biannually.

Growing Late is a collection of 71 tanka, published in a soft cover, perfect bound, 5"x7 " format by Snapshot Press and edited by John Barlow. Each poem appears on a separate page, encouraging the reader to progress slowly through this attractive volume, taking time to reminisce, to think about the scenario, or the philosophical musing of the poet.

The author begins with what appears to be a narrative sequence about a troubled relationship, on the verge of change as autumn leaves fall:

before heading out
to work
she says we need to talk—
          in silence I work
          imagining what it is this time (p. 10)

wondering if this
is what my parents felt
in their own time
seeing a better past
slip ever farther behind (p. 20)

autumn chill
as I go out
to get the paper—
it occurs to me
I should just keep going (p. 27)

Other than the implied narrative provided largely by the arrangement of the poems, the most notable feature of this collection is the author's penchant for philosophical musing. Sometimes looking at the past:

as useless
as this hard rain
on frozen ground—
these memories of all the people
I once was (p. 31)

Sometimes speculating about the very nature of life in the abstract:

this unholy thought
that the young couple
with their lovely baby
are mere organisms
being used by life itself (p. 39)

And often looking into the interior of his own being:

how many people
can you connect to
and lose in a life
without feeling
quite lost (p. 49)

But just as he engages the empathy of the reader for his sense of sadness and loss, the author's appreciation of nature intervenes to restore hope and meaning:

the daddy-longlegs
walking across a bed of moss
a sign of purpose and perfection
right when my thoughts
had hit a low (p. 50)

This book is the right size to fit into a purse or briefcase, to return to during a lunch break or cross country flight. I found it not only pleasant to read, but also the kind of book to spend some quality time with. Each tanka is a mini-drama which brought with it memories of scenes I have witnessed, or people I have known and lost, accompanied by warm feelings of connectedness.

It is a book I can recommend without reservation.


Growing Late
Tanka by Tom Clausen
Edited by John Barlow
Snapshot Press (2006)
90 pages; 71 poems
Soft cover; Perfect bound.
Cover design by Molomo.
Cover Photograph: Lisa Odess
ISBN-10: 1-903543-13-4
ISBN-13: 978-1-903543-13-9
UK 7.99
US $14.00
Canada: $17.00
Snapshot Press
PO Box 132
Waterloo, Liverpool L22 8WZ
Great Britain