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Ten Years Haikujane
by Jane Reichhold
ISBN: 0-944676-45-6

Review by: Moira Richards


Ceramicist and poet Jane Reichhold, has worked with haiku and other Japanese poetry forms for more than thirty years and the length and breadth of her writing, teaching, publishing and translation of haiku, tanka and renga is far too extensive for me to cover here. Suffice to mention one highlight, Jane's attendance by invitation from the Emperor and Empress of Japan, to attend the Imperial New Year's Poetry Party as a guest at the Palace in Tokyo in 1998. And to refer you to her very comprehensive website, http://www.ahapoetry.com which also includes a bibliography of the thirty-something books Reichhold has authored.

The introduction to 10 years Haikujane details the circumstances of Reichhold's relocation from Germany to a rural part of Mendocino County, California during the 1980s. Jane soon became an active participant in the artistic life of Gualala town and published her haiku in the local newspaper on a regular basis. The more than 500 small, three-line poems in this book have been selected from those published over a period of ten years in that newspaper. Each poem stands on its own as record of a moment in the life of the poet and together, they create the portrait of a woman alive to the minutiae of her surroundings.

Reading the sections of this book, from 1999 through 2008, I notice so many small events in my life that have until now, gone unnoticed. Events such as these which are now gifted to me by the words of the poet,

each day
the calla lily (1) 
  a butterfly pauses
we gaze at each other's
mystery (77) 
    laying down a path
for the moon to follow
the garden snail (4) 

Jane Reichhold does not only look at her world with an aware artist's eye, she listens to it too. And she also hears and writes the sounds which I have heard but not taken the time to notice. She writes taken-for-granted sounds such as those of,

dawn birds
a flotsam of flutes
tangle colors (58)
  rolling rrrrs
the voice of the sea
on a rocky beach (10) 
    night reduced
to a rush of rain
a purring cat (34) 

Most of the haiku in Haikujane share the poet's experiences of the world around her and of which she is so obviously appreciative, yet some are also tiny capturings of emotions and written with all the power of carefully worded understatement:

crossing the bridge
all my anger
on the other side (68) 
  a meeting
on the ancient path
her pregnancy (43) 
birth of a girl
the sea is ruffled
with small waves (17)
  stretching out
over a summer field
my love for you (22)

2008 saw not only Jane Reichhold's 10 years Haikujane but also the publication of Basho: The Complete Haiku (Kodansha International), her translation into English from the Japanese of all Matsuo Basho's more than 1,000 haiku with accompanying annotations and explanations. This was the work of many years and one marvels that Reichhold managed nevertheless, to carve out moments like these of stillness and regeneration for herself.

the awning barely flaps
in the boredom (7)
  Sunday church
on the sunny porch
me and a sparrow (44) 
    a quiet sea
as if made for the moon
to find itself (15) 

The reading of my copy of 10 years Haikujane was a lesson to me to slow down and to take the time to smell the roses in my garden. It was a lesson to me that it is possible for one to slow enough to appreciate the life one is living and to yet still get a lot of work done. Perhaps it is just this sort of timing-out that energises and enables Jane Reichhold to achieve the extraordinary levels of work of which she has proved herself to be capable.

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