Simply Haiku: A Quarterly Journal of Japanese Short Form Poetry
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Autumn 2006, vol 4 no 3

Slow Spring Water
by Melissa Dixon
A Review by Kirsty Karkow


This is Melissa Dixon's first book, containing forty-six tanka: (twenty-three singles plus twenty-three within four sequences), eleven haiku and two haibun.

In the foreword, Michael McClintock writes: "Think of poetry as an ever-changing weather front moving over a wide, variegated landscape, and you will be ready to enjoy fully this first collection of Melissa Dixon's tanka, haiku and haibun."

Melissa Dixon's book of poetry is worthwhile. I sat down immediately when my copy arrived and read it through…then read it through again…and again. Familiarity with many of the poems only added to the pleasure.

Back when I first became interested in haiku and tanka forms and read greedily, it was often Dixon's poems that stood out from the crowd. I recall noting the name, underlining it, and studying every new collection and journal to see if her poetry was included. There is a magical and spiritual touch to her work that touches deep archetypal chords. It is never ponderous. In fact, she has the lightest of touches.

But, moving on…

The subtitle is The Life poetry of Melissa Dixon. Indeed these poems cover many of her life experiences. This tanka speaks volumes about her beginnings on the Canadian prairies:

keening Manitoba winds,
snow piling towards the roof--
my English mother
sets the table

In the title sequence Dixon shows the reader a childhood haven and wonders at the wisdom of reminiscence. The first poem is:

can I find it again
the small forest swamp,
my childhood haven--
is it wise to search?
old paths are thick with brambles

The layers and unsaid implications draw the curious reader to explore these depths, to read the poem aloud and savor the sound.

She leaves home.

young moon
curving toward the shore
the boat's white wake

She falls in love.

once only
my heart whispered
this is love…
the astonishing simplicity
in just being together

She seeks silence.

silent dawn
arc upon arc, swallows
sweep through the mist

And is grateful.

a bird
floating backwards
on the air. . .
sometimes I marvel
at how life has lifted me

And the haibun! Well, you will just have to get the book and indulge yourself!

However, this reviewer does have a small complaint about the presentation of the poems, to do with the printing--not the arrangement, which is excellent. The headings and titles are in a sketchy florid font that distracts, even detracts, the eye from the poetry. But this is minor.

Slow Spring Water
by Melissa Dixon
Sixty-two pages; $10 US, $12 Can., postpaid.
Check or money order to: Melissa Dixon,
213-2075 Milton St.,
Victoria, BC, V8R 1N8.