Chen-ou Liu's Translation Project: First English-Chinese Haiku and Tanka Blog

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Book Review of Jack Galmitz's yards & lots

 Below is the opening paragraphs of  my review essay:

In this beautifully produced little book whose cover is designed by Chris Gordon, Jack Galmitz, award-winning poet and contributing editor at Roadrunner, demonstrates divergent yet engaging writing styles in 56 haiku. These gemlike poems are grouped into six sections, titled "memorial stones," "marginalia," "lots," "outside the lines," "yards," "she," and "minimus" respectively, and they are written in the form of a one-liner, two-liner, or three-liner. Each poem is placed horizontally or vertically on one page. It functions like a pebble being thrown by the author into the still pond of the reader's mind, and the ripples reflect the reader's understanding of haiku aesthetics and his/her encounters with and receptivity to Galmitz's poetic expressions.

Of the six sections of haiku, I like the opening section, titled "memorial stones," the most in terms of formal, stylistic, and thematic elements. It starts with the following heartfelt haiku beautifully crafted in the traditional style – three lines, 5-7-5 syllables, with a caesura/cutting after the second line emphasized by a dash.

two light beams shining
where there were once twin towers –
my son, my daughter

The first two lines delineate the most significant memoryscape in the first decade of the 21st century, where the present encounters the past and both reflect upon each other. In L3, the thematic focus is shifted from the socio-cultural/public to the personal-relational/private. It indicates that redeeming hope of the future begins with the generational basis of remembrance of things past. And the psycho-sociopolitical significance of number two stirs the reader to further ponder past trauma, present reflection, and future hope.

To continue exploring the theme of remembering, the second poem, written in the contemporary style with syllabic asymmetry, begins by evoking the horrific image of United Airlines Flight 93 crashing in an open field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania ("in a field somewhere/a plane went down"), and it concludes with a heartfelt plea – "remember us" – from the deceased passengers who fought fearlessly to take back their plane in an effort to stop a 9-11 terrorist attack. Out of the four hijacked planes, Flight 93 was the only one not to reach its target.

Turning to the third haiku, I am surprised to find that there is no human figure or voice, and that there are two blank lines used to separate the two parts of the poem.

in Bryant Park
2,753 empty chairs

not a breath of air

The first two lines refer to a sea of empty seats, 2,753 in all, flooding the lawn of Bryant Park in surging waves of loss and grief on Friday, September 9, 2011, two days before the 10th Anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks. This unforgettably poignant exhibition used one empty chair to represent one 9/11 victim at the World Trade Center, and 35 rows of empty chairs completely covering the lawn faced south towards the fallen Twin Towers. The third line in the poem painfully evokes a persistent absence, indicating that this haunting exhibit was a visual reminder of the loss. Galmitz's thematically effective use of blank space adds emotional weight and psychological depth to the poem.

Read the full text here

Published in A Hundred Gourds, 1:4,2012