Anatoly Kudryavitsky is one hell of a haiku poet. His book, Morning at Mount Ring, stands far above most of the haiku books I have read in the past several years.
Kudryavitsky has a genuine respect for the genre and the culture that gave it to the world, and doesn't see a need like some English-language poets to redesign the genre to mirror and elevate his ego. He writes poetry he obviously lives, painting truth with light, shadow, and varied shades of ah. Take for instance, the book's first haiku:
to the echo of wind chimes,
ten thousand birds and I
At dawn, the poet wakes up to the song of wind chimes. Not just him but a thousand birds as well. "Ten thousand" is a term borrowed from Chinese Tang Dynasty poets, signifying eternity. The poet feels at one with his surroundings in nature and symbiotically joins nature as a whole in celebrating the morning. Even for someone unfamiliar with Chinese poetry and its influence on Japanese poetry, this haiku invites interpretation indigenous to the reader's own cultural memory and social context.
Kudryavitsky is equally adept writing senryu:
a map of Africa
Many African nations are caught up in a web of transitional chaos, their futures up in the air, their geography, hotbeds of corruption, demogogy, despotism, instability, and violence. This particular senryu calls to mind Desmond Tutu's imprisonment in the Republic of South Africa when it was under apartheid rule.
One's familiarity or lack of familiarity, however, regarding African politics, determines how this poem is interpreted. This senryu has universal appeal because of its ability to connect with multiple mindsets.
I've heard it said many times that it's hard to say something in a haiku that hasn't already been said. Kudryavitsky writes with an original voice, drawing from the world he experiences. Take for instance:
climbing cloud peaks
for the first time ---
New Year's moon
This haiku invokes multiple images: A peak, clothed in a cloud cloak, is climbing on New Years Day; the poet himself is climbing up and down more than one cloud covered peak from morning until after the sun sets. On the last mountain top he climbs, Kudryavitsky is greeted by the bright New Year's moon. The interpretation of this haiku may differ from the poet's intent, but invokes memories, feelings, and mental pictures, nevertheless, influenced by experience and perception indigenous to the reader's cognitive world. More than a postcard moment, the words, eleven in total, say much.
the moon through
cherry blossom petals
Anatoly Kudryavitsky paints with nuances, using words to craft a delicate, symbiotic balance between nature and cognitive perception. He paints a picture that is more than picture, breathing into his canvas what words in the West often fail to say.
The poet is experiencing a cold winter. There has been lots of snow, even as the season nears its end. Cherry blossoms are blooming, bringing a new kind of whiteness to the countryside. The poet looks up at the moon through the blossom laden treetops. White blossoms, white snow, and the white moon; the white representing purity, newness, and clarity.
The poems in this book are not uneven. Almost every one of them is a gem. I recommend this book without any reservation. It is more than just a pleasant read; it is an exemplary example of modern day haiku.