In his house at R'lyeh, dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.

Posts tagged “haiku

Review: In the Dark, Soft Earth by Frank Watson

Frank Watson’s collection In the Dark, Soft Earth is filled with haiku-like moments, distillations of nature into short, punchy poems. In the zeitgeist there tends to be a lot of hand-wringing over concepts like nostalgia, as though looking at things through the haze of past experiences is the wrong way to go about life, but I don’t share the zeitgeist’s distaste for it[1]. And it seems that neither does Watson.

There’s a seemingly gossamer-hazed shimmer between narrator and the scenes being described that I quite like. The poems are direct and not lost in the poetic-for-poetic sense of language, but the emotional distance is both far away and close to home, much like the haiku I hold in highest esteem. Disconnected but utterly present. That’s what I mean when I say “gossamer-hazed shimmer.” It is at once touchable and also just outside of reach, the word on the tip of your tongue that you had available to you just before you actually needed it. You know it’s there, that if you could roll back just a second or two into the past you could get it, but physics does not allow for such time travel above the quantum state, so you sit in a pool of cognitive dissonance. This is the haiku moment for me, and this is the area where most of Watson’s poems take me. It’s why I have zero reservations recommending you buy this when it releases in July.

My favorite lines and stanzas in the collection come earliest on (perhaps because what I describe in the next paragraph shades my overall enjoyment just a touch), as in the poem “entangled,” “those eyes that flicker / like sunlit grass between / the fallen leaves.” I love this stanza because I could have written it, but somehow never put that connection together. In fact, I think that’s what I most admire about the collection as a whole. It’s real language and relatable, and just at the point where a poet reads it and thinks, “Dammit, I wish I’d written that.”

There are a few times when some of that personal connection breaks for me, but that says more about my distaste for rhyme in poetry than it does about the craft of the poem or poet. It’s definitely a personal taste problem, but just like some people dislike bitterness in coffee or beer, I find that rhyming is cloyingly saccharine to my ear. Again, this is not Watson’s problem as his poems are well-written and still have that haiku-like sense of timeless immediacy[2]. It’s entirely about me.

Later on, in the fourth section of the book called “Percussion Mind,” there is a perfect haiku slap-dab in the middle of the poem “rhythms.”

in the dark
rhythms of the night
a cricket’s cry

In the Dark, Soft Earth by Frank Watson, pg. 57

This is without question my favorite moment in the entire collection. I would change not a single word in this haiku, and if it had stood on its own in any issue of Frogpond or Modern Haiku or Red Moon Press I’d have bookmarked it for future reference. I believe I will even pull it in as an example the next time I teach my creative writing course. That line break from “dark” to “rhythms” just floors me.

This is a collection well worth a spot on your nightstand. Even more than that, it’s a collection well worth a spot in your brain. The book is available to pre-order at Amazon right now –

[1] Indeed, I named my latest collection Nostalgia and Ruin.

[2] Yes, oxymoronic in phrasing, but I don’t really know how to express it better than that two-word phrase. The best haiku are both immediate moments personal to the poet and immutable truths universal to all readers.

(I was provided an e-ARC to review, but I will buy it when it releases just to show my support.)

NaHaiWriMo Days 11-14

February 14 – pulling taffy

boardwalk nights
saltwater taffy
and skeeball


February 13 – the little store on the corner

summer break
pork roll, egg, and cheese
and malted milkshakes


February 12 – the button at the top of a baseball cap

swatting greenheads — ouch! baseball cap leaves a welt


February 11 – Pilsner glasses

empty Pilsner glass–clouds all day

NaHaiWriMo Day 10

February 10 – Indian cotton shirts

winter storm
my cat nestled deep
in cotton t-shirts

NaHaiWriMo Day 9

February 9 – beating the heat

winter wind
the poet longs for sand
and sweet tea

NaHaiWriMo Day 8

February 8 – paintbox

phthalo blue–her eyes and the midnight ocean

NaHaiWriMo Day 7

February 7 – wrapped in a quilt, watching a meteor shower
freezing rain
headlights can be meteors
if you squint

NaHaiWriMo Day 6

February 6 – cutting the lawn

summer’s end
the hum of yellowjackets
lost to the lawnmower roar

NaHaiWriMo Day 5

February 5 – listening to the radio

Garden State Parkway–
and middle fingers

NaHaiWriMo Facebook Page


National Haiku Writing Month (NaHaiWriMo) is going on right now. Short poems for a short month. Check out the NaHaiWriMo Facebook page for more information. I’ll be posting my haiku here as well as on Facebook. Here’s a catch up for the first 4 days.

February 1 – biting into a taco

bhut jolokia
my words still burn
on my tongue

February 2 – railroad ties

northeast corridor
stapled together
by creosote and iron

February 3 – Greek coffee

black and bitter
coffee grounds settle for hours
winter night

February 4 – cream cheese with chives

my bagel lands
cream cheese side down —
six more weeks of winter