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MU Haiku Anthology Book Reviews

Presence • May 2009

Review by Martin Lucas, Editor

Millikin University Haiku Anthology, edited by Randy Brooks et al. 192 pp., ISBN 978-0-978744-16-8, $25.00 + $2.50 p&P (within USA) overseas enquiries: rbrooks@millikin.edu. from: Bronze Man Books, 1184 Main St., Decatur, IL 62522, USA

A full-scale anthology of 264 haiku from students of the Milikin University (Illinois) haiku courses run by Randy Brooks. It's as strong as any anthology that features more established poets, with a certain freedom that comes, perhaps, from authentic motivations—not writing from preconceived ideas of editorial acceptability.

Much of the subject matter is personal, emotional and/or sensual, and many of these poems are well done:

you trace the line
of my spine . . .
honeysuckle

     (Jennifer Greibel)

turquoise beads
against her breasts
she leans across the bar

     (Stefanie Lovelass)

Vivid, yes, but conventional enough in the expression. But others in the same vein offer, additionally, original thought and more testing of boundaries:

pi x radius squared—
the are inside
a wedding band

     (Amy van Rheeden)

after school
kissing the girl
I used to kind of sort of like a little bit

     (Brian Rhode)

Unsurprisingly, the landscape is predominantly urban, but rural images also feature here and there, and there are good examples across the spectrum:

just as the lightning
reveals too much
sirens

     (Allison Lingren)

frost on the pumpkin
the horse's breath
fogs the air

     (John E. Byler)

In short, there's ample evidence that at least somewhere in the English-speaking world's education system haiku is being taught as what it is and should be—not just a by-product of teaching syllables.

I can only find one tiny criticism: in the preface, "Fresh Haiku by Young Voices", by co-editor Emily Evans, a haiku by Beth Stiner is singled out for praise:

     computer crashes / again . . . / spring rain

This doesn't seem so original to me—the juxtaposition of modern technology and time-honoured kigo is rather predictable, and the poem as a whole is too attenuated to serve as a good example (though it's certainly worth its place in the anthology). But this kind of over-perfection is not typical of the anthology's contents, which are generally less polished and, as we have seen, genuinely fresh and worth engaging with.

Citation

Book Review by Martin Lucas. Millikin University Haiku Anthology, published by Bronze Man Books, Presence, 40, (Preston, England) May, 2009.

Modern Haiku • Summer 2009

Review by Charles Trumbull, Editor

Millikin University Haiku Anthology, edited by Randy M. Brooks, Emily Evans, Rick Bearce, and Melanie McLay (Decatur, Ill.: Bronze Man Books, 2008). 1st edition. 192 pages; 5.5 x 8.5. Glossy white card covers; perfectbound. ISBN 978-0-978744-16-8. Price: $25.00.

This is a remarkable collection of 264 haiku written by Randy Brooks’s haiku students at Millikin University over the past decade in a book nicely designed and packaged by students. The reasons why Brooks’s classes are considered the preeminent college-level venue for the teaching of haiku are apparent on every page. These kids have come a very long way since their introduction to haiku, as coeditor Emily Evans writes in her preface, “in the fourth grade as a dreadful, boring 17-syllable poem.”

Citation

Book Review by Charles Trumbull, Modern Haiku, 40.2, (Evanston, IL) Summer, 2009.

Moonset Literary Newspaper - Spring/Summer 2009

Book blurb by Dave Bacharach

Millikin University Haiku Anthology, edited by Dr. Randy Brooks, Emily Evans, Rick Bearce, Melanie McLay. Bronze Man Books, 2008, 5.5 x 8.5, perfect softbound, 192 pages; $25.

This anthology grew out of a series of haiku courses that were developed and offered at Millikin University by Dr. Randy Brooks. As the result of these courses, as well as a global haiku festival hosted by the university in 2000, Millikin has become an important center for haiku study, practice, and publication. The anthology containts just under 300 haiku that were carefully sifted by the four editors who, starting with the entire student haiku database, made a first cut of 1,088 selections. The resulting book therefore represents less than 30% of the initial selection pool, and the quality level of the included haiku reflects such a rigorous editing practice. The poems are arranged in strict alphabetical order by author by first line; some authors have multiple haiku included, some have only one. Many of the poems had been previously published in well known haiku venues before the anthology was compiled. The editors chose to subsume within the anthology what many readers would consider senryu, and there is a generous helping of poems purely about human nature. Because of its high standards, this anthology is a joy to read, with many fresh, startling haiku that stay with the reader long after they’re first encountered, such as:

just as the lightning
reveals too much
sirens

     Allison Lingren, USA

foggy morning
the open prairie
closes in

     Brock Peoples, USA

watching my neighbor
feed triplets breakfast—
more worms

     Beth Stiner, USA

Citation

Book review. Millikin University Haiku Anthology, by Dave Baharach, Moonset Literary Newspaper, (La pine, Oregon), Spring-Summer, 2009.

Frogpond - Haiku Society of America • Spring 2009

Review by George Swede (Ontario)

Brooks, R., Evans, E., Bearce, R., & McLay, M. (eds.). Millikin University Haiku Anthology. Decatur, IL: Bronze Man Books, 2008, 192 pp., perfect softbound, 5.5 x 8.5. ISBN 978-0-9787441-6-8, 27.50 USD postpaid <www.bronzemanbooks.com>.

This student anthology is the best I’ve ever read and testimony to the program of haiku studies that Randy Brooks has run at Millikin University in Illinois since 1999.

It also shows his egalitarian outlook insofar as the co-editors are his former students: Emily Evans and Rick Bearce graduated in 2005 and 2008 and Melanie McLay plans to graudate this spring. The selection process was rigorous with the editors reading all the haiku ever written by Millikin students and nominating 1,800 for possible inclusion. Then these haiku were rendered anonymous and the editors gave themselves one year to reach unanimous agreement about each of the included 260 or so haiku, including three by Brooks. Here are examples from the three student editors:

pulling stamens
off the Easter lilies
we don’t talk anymore

(Evans)

sunlit windowsill
light spreading
through the bottles

(Bearce)

peeking through
tiny holes—
first confession

(McLay)

This anthology should be in the library of every university creative writing program.

Citation

Book Review by George Swede, Frogpond, 32.1, Haiku Society of America, (Toronto, Ontario) Spring, 2009.

Kokako - Auckland, New Zealand • April 2009

Review by Patricia Prime

Millikin University Haiku Anthology., Edited by Dr. Randy Brooks, Emily Evans, Rick Bearce and Melanie McLay. 2008. 192 pp. ISBN 978-0-9787441-6-8. US$25.00, plus US$2.50 postage.

The Millikin University Haiku Anthology is the celebration of reading and writing haiku at Millikin University over the last ten years. The anthology was edited by a panel of writers and includes 300 haiku culled from 1,800 haiku on Dr. Brooks' online student haiku database. The goal in putting together this collection was not to present a comprehensive view of American student haiku—that would be impossible. The editors have been generous and open to several students who have submitted and received acceptance of their haiku in magazines and poetry anthologies. Two of these are Amanda Young's "blue dragonfly / just skimming / surface of the moon" (Collage, Spring 2002) and Matt Lee's "lonely / ripple/ from my lure" (Raw Nervz, 2006).

There are from one to ten haiku per poet with the author's name in large letters running upwards at the edge of the page. A readable font and print size makes each haiku a delight to read. The haiku are generally descriptive, observational, with one or two in traditional 5-7-5 form as in Kirsten Robinson's "sharing the last slice / after everyone else is gone / one more dirty fork" but most often are written in contemporary form as we see in the following examples from Jamie Eveland's "strapless red dress / she hides / her wrinkled hands" and Missy Brassie's "a crowd of people / surges on / a penny!"

Several haiku reflect the poets' "real" life moments, while others are nature-based as the following two haiku illustrate: "Easter morning / the lily / already dying" by Karrie (Hardwick) Cook and Natalie Perfetti's "October moon / the swell of a pumpkin / cool and firm".

The voices in this anthology serve to remind us that the art of haiku is alive and growing among young people.

Citation

Book review of Millikin University Haiku Anthology by Patricia Prime, Kokako 10, (Auckland, Australia), April, 2009.

The Midwest Book Review • February, 2009

The February 2009 issue of the library newsletter "Library Bookwatch" features the Millikin University Haiku Anthology. This review alwo appears in the February 2009 issue of the online book review magazine "Internet Bookwatch" and has been posted with the Cengage Learning, Gale interactive CD-ROM "Book Review Index" and the LexisNexis and Goliath database systems.

The simple 5-7-5 format of the haiku have made the Japanese oriented form of poetry gain world wide fame. The Millikin University Haiku Anthology is a collection of hundreds of haiku from the fine people at Millikin University. A wide variety of people lead to a wide variety of poetry, and the Millikin University Haiku Anthology is a solid recommendation due to that.

A sample from Kristen Robinson:

sharing the last slice
after everyone is gone
one more dirty fork

Citation

Book Review. "The Poetry Shelf: Millikin University Haiku Anthology" reviewed by James A. Cox, The Midwest Book Review, (Oregon, WI) February 11, 2009.

Riverbed Haiku • Winter 2008

Millikin University Haiku Anthology, edited by Randy Brooks, Emily Evans, Rick Bearce, and Melanie McLay
Reviewed by Aubrie Cox

Recently published through Millikin’s student-run publishing company Bronze Man Books, the Millikin University Haiku Anthology is a collection of 264 haiku and senryu by Millikin University students, alumni, and faculty.

Cor van den Heuvel, editor of The Haiku Anthology, wrote that: “[Randy Brooks] also oversees what is undoubtedly the best English-language haiku program of any school in the country.” Millikin University is well-known in the English-speaking haiku community for its courses and involvement in the haiku tradition. Many of the haiku in the anthology are listed in the back of the book as previously published in various haiku magazines and journals. I myself have taken several of Brooks’ haiku courses. And yet, I was admittedly surprised by the quality of the book during my first read-through. I was impressed with the variety of language, subject matter, and people included in the anthology—majors in music, theatre, writing, physics, political science, nursing, and more. The variety of voices is certainly influenced, but certainly not limited, by their disciplines. It is true that throughout the anthology there are several reoccurring themes (like college life), but overall each author brings his or her own experience and their perceptions of nature to the collection. Here is possibly one of my favorite haiku from the book:

the scent of lilacs
carried by the wind—
tornado sirens

Chad N. Mitchell

As a Midwesterner, the two images in this haiku are rather familiar to me. I have several lilac bushes outside my home and we hear the tornado sirens aside from testing at least twice in the summer. The haiku has strong sensory-triggers--the lilac scent mingling with the smell of the oncoming storm, the rustling of the leaves amongst the wailing of the siren. It effectively captures the moment while both subtly and blatantly giving a sense of foreboding; it operates on several levels. Here is another haiku, this time by Allison Lingren, that has a similar feel, but the details are more vague:

just as lightning
reveals too much
sirens

With each read, this haiku still grips me. It has been carefully crafted to show the reader just enough for him or her to realize that there is something being left untold. It is extremely visual while showing the reader absolutely nothing. We are not sure whether the lightning is the cause and the sirens are the effect, or if the lightning revealed something it should not have and the sirens are the effect of the effect, creating a constant conjunction. Regardless what has happened, we know something has occurred and the haiku has a vast amount of openness allows the reader to explore whatever route of explanation he or she may choose, yet enough content is given to catch attention.

One of the reoccurring themes I noticed throughout is the relationship with grandparents, particularly in one’s youth, which in general is the exploration of childhood memories:

hot summer afternoon
a sip of grandpa’s water
vodka

Jana Spoleti

This is perhaps a camping or fishing trip, probably one that happened annually/regularly, and the poet was used to watching her grandfather drink from a flask or bottle. Being as hot as it was, and with everyone else drinking water, one assume that her grandfather was doing the same. Then at some point, when her bottle was empty or missing, she took the closest too her—her grandfather’s. The summer heat and the unexpected cool, yet burning sensation of the alcohol play off one another.

rain puddles
the children
jump higher

Melissa Hayes

Playful, nostalgic, heartwarming. I picture the street I grew up on, half-flooded as it typically did (and still does) with heavy rainfall. The children are bounding down the street, probably on their way home from school and instead of stepping over the usual cracks and dips in the sidewalk or leaping over the ditches, they are plunging both feet forward with all the intention in the world of splashing in those mud puddles.

The design of the book itself is targeted towards a selective audience--the authors and friends/classmates of the authors, but it does not detract from the unacquainted reader’s experience. The gift and intention of the actual content is directed toward everyone. The college flavor will be appealing to a younger audience, possibly one that is not, or is just beginning to be acquainted with haiku. But it could also be nostalgic for anyone who went to college and has memories such as this haiku by April (Romberger) Brislen:

late summer rain
the wolf-howls
of frat boys in the mud

Even though I have never lived on campus, nor have intentions of joining a fraternity or sorority, I can find amusement and warm familiarity in this haiku as a college student.

Randy Brooks says in his introduction that this book “is the natural consequence of an ongoing celebration of the art of reading and writing haiku at Millikin University over the last 10 years.” It is a positive consequence, and one to be shared. The hefty collection with its array of voices gives itself to multiple readings and is a feat to be noted for such a small school. To me, the Millikin University Haiku Anthology is not only the celebration of the art of haiku, but also insight into what is important in current college students lives—church, family, relationships, school, not going to school, future children—and possibly insight as to the personality of the upcoming generation of haiku poets.

Citation

Book Review. "Millikin University Haiku Anthology" reviewed by Aubrie Cox, Riverbed Haiku, (Champaign, IL) Winter, 2008.


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