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Review: another country: haiku poetry from Wales – Anthology

I love a good anthology. Or any anthology for that matter. My first exposure to most styles of writing is through anthologies, to get a taste for the way one theme can be interpreted by different writers, it’s a beautiful thing. This accumulation of writers is no different. another country brings together haiku’s from all around Wales, some Welsh by birth, others choosing to settle in Wales, some influenced by Welsh culture that seeps through their writing.We learn a lot about the haiku from both experts and new comers in this collection. I was pleasantly surprised to find many examples of the haibun in this collection which pads it out even more. i particularly enjoyed In the Air by Lynne Rees (who’s work shines brilliantly throughout the collection) which uses the haiku as flashbacks or snapshots within the prose, accentuating the character development; I also enjoyed Pilgramage to Pennant Melangell by Noragh Jones which again is a superb haibun, incorporating the welsh into the haiku passages which adds to the overall feeling of place, and is an interesting comparison for the haiku in both languages.

  The anthology is split into chapters, whereas this seems on the surface unnecessary thinking about it further the chapter names add to the traditional concept and conception of the haiku rather than as writing prompts; appealing to the ancestral nature of the traditional poetic forms. Chapters include Age and Youth, Culture and Society, Memory and Imagination and Nature Observed amongst others. The poetry itself seems to flow out of these lines and merges into a collaborative effect at the strength of the haiku and traditional forms to fully realise modern life. some of  my favourite’s from the collection are those in both Welsh and English, the contrast and comparisons between the forms aesthetic nature and lyricism is quite telling of the Welsh poetic tradition, such as Arwyn Evans offering :

cysgodion dail yn disgyn         Leaf shadows fall i’r pwll disglair                         into the glistening pond … gwrandawaf                          … I listen

or some that play on common Welsh images, like Pamela Brown’s

bright sunlight through birch leaves – fingers ripple the harp

or others that are, if anything, bereft of place, but rely heavily on sound,

frosty bark    as I squint the Pleiades of fox, cadno, fox, fox                                 *cadno = fox Nigel Jenkins

Originally I wouldn’t have thought much about the haiku in Wales but the gem of this anthology are the essays. They contextualize the works perfectly. The haiku actually seems like the most obvious choice for the Welsh writer, appealing to the obsession with language and lyrical addiction that is present in most Welsh writers, in the tradition of the Englyn, the prevailing tradition of the cynhanedd and the practice of dyfahu, the haiku is a fabulous form to bridge the gap often perceived in English language Welsh writing and Welsh writing as a whole.  The collection has spurred my interest into the history of Welsh poetry even more, so some of that will be showing through my work as the research continues

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