FROGMENTS FROM THE FRAG POOL: HAIKU AFTER BASHO
The Mercury Press, 112 pp.
It took me a long time to review this wonderfully green little book. There is no real excuse for this procrastination its there, on my white desk, its square green cover staring at me in silence. I cant say I am necessarily intimidated by this creature its pages are filled with wonderful noises, poems, and illustrations (i.e. "plop"). And Im not afraid of getting warts from it either; its fresh pulp printed pages still smell new from The Mercury Press. So, as the poems of frogments of the frag pool: haiku after basho might suggest, or perhaps Matsuo Bashos frog itself, let me jump right in (pun intended).
frogments of the frag pool is simply, perhaps profoundly, a delightful book of poetry.
Gary Barwin and derek beaulieu's poetic collaboration takes Bashos famous haiku (or, more accurately, hokku): "The old pond;/A frog jumps in / The sound of water" and makes beautiful additions to Bashos focus on nature, and the place of humans in nature. Through technological reference in poems such as "email to basho" and "microsoft word thesaurus reads basho", to mathematical equations (such as "zen basho" and "somes"); through humour (poems as numerous as tadpoles including "corrupted haiku", "bashos place in the catholic church", and "bashos bonanza: a love poem for lorne green"
not to mention "the pond will not be televised"), to quirky illustrations, frogments of the frag pool brings Bashos amphibian to a contemporary light in Canadian poetry.
Barwin and beaulieu are a natural pair to work collaboratively together. frogments is an intense play on language, word, sign and meaning. In short, this is the work of two poets profoundly in love with their language, and the meanings inherent in that language. Because they allow themselves to have fun with their work, so do we this book is filled with textual poems, visual poems, frogknowledgements, and even a warning: "This water-sound is intended for the haiku-master or entity to which it is addressed
" It makes nods to Bashos poem, as well as the work of Dom Sylvester Houédard, Steve McCaffery, jwcurry, and perhaps most obviously, bpNichol. Yet, frogments still retains the zen-like contemplation inherent in haiku (or more specifically hokku), while adding a dose of Canadian experimentation to it.
The result is a mixture of frog, pond, and pun with wit, quirkiness and a prescribed recommended dose of the absurd. But, most importantly, frogments marks an achievement that many poetry collections fall short of it is a remarkably accessible book. I cant imagine a reader who wouldnt delight in this word play: prepare to be amused by its drawings, words of wisdom, non-wisdom and wit. Whether or not you have read haiku or any poetry since that mandatory lesson in high school this is a book I believe you will enjoy.
(Note: Hokku is a poetic form in the context of Japans haikai no renga in the 19th Century, well after Bashos death in 1694, it was revised to be known as haiku. Many use the term haiku, rather than hokku, because of its familiarity with Western audiences, although arguably frogments is a work in English that pushes poetic boundaries into yet new forms. "Hopku" anyone?)