Book of the Week: a translucent moon

brady_atranslucentmooncoverBrett Brady has been musician, poet, director and author in his varied career. His haiku is probably best described as sono-mama, “things just as they are,” but his take on the “isness” is much informed by his cheeky sense of humor, and a gentle way with things and people, much in evidence in his latest volume (Finishing Line Press, 2013).

You can read the entire book in the THF Digital Library.

Do you have a chapbook published 2009 or earlier you would like featured as a Book of the Week? Contact us for details.

Haiku featured in the Book of the Week Archive are selected by Jim Kacian, following a concept first explored by Tom Clausen, and are used with permission.

in the clouds the crown of a giant redwood

nude beach . . . everyone’s got something to hide

ex-monk raking gently over the sandtrap

she scoops up the moon —cupped in a waterlily— just to pour it out

an orchid more beautiful in her palm

gray beach . . . a stray dog responds to the wrong name

Bookstories 22: Peter Butler’s “A Piece of Shrapnel”

libraryofbabelEvery book tells its story, but what of the other story, the story behind the book? Bookstories offers an opportunity to tell that story. If you have a story about a book or poem you would like to share, contact us and we’ll help you make it happen. Thanks for letting us know the rest of the story!


Not a lot happened in our suburban street in Kent, about 8 miles east of London, in the early days of World War II. We kids played as usual. The street was clear as the few domestic cars were garaged for the duration. The bomb put an end to what was dubbed ‘The Phoney War’. It landed in the autumn of 1940 at the end of our garden. The blast went in the opposite direction, destroying three houses, killing three residents. My brother and I were sheltered below-stairs. My mother was in another room when the blast blew in windows, curtains, one door. That was the extent of our direct damage.

I recall wandering out to the garden, the shell of the house opposite, spotted a piece of shiny metal the size of a dime. Shrapnel. My mother ordered me not too touch it. It was dangerous. I chose to ignore her, put it in my pocket. I decided it was a lucky omen, had kept us alive. My father, 20 miles away, was a balloon operator at Biggin Hill aerodrome, at the heart of the Battle of Britain. He was given emergency leave, to arrange such repairs to the house as were possible.

A few months on we evacuated for the rest of the war to a small Surrey village. The war seemed far away, as was my father who had joined the Burma campaign. It was where, just before D-Day, I encountered my first Americans, who introduced my to chewing gum.There were bonfires in the village square both after the landings and on Victory in Europe Day, by which time my father had been invalided back to the UK. Each of these three incidents inspired ultimately a separate haibun (included in the ‘A Piece of Shrapnel’ collection).

When we went back to our original home, much activity was centered around the local Church, which had escaped the bombing. We choirboys were regimented by Miss O’Cleary, a no-nonsense lady with a metal frame on one leg. Alan was a paraplegic with a constant smile. I learned from my father that the man from his regiment who lost an arm had died. The one who kept swallowing his teeth was jailed. The pitch where we played soccer is a housing estate. 

That piece of shrapnel? I hid it for years, much of the time in an old sock. One day, when I had reached junior school, my mother took my school jacket to the dry cleaners. I never saw the shrapnel again. But I still think about it.

A Piece of Shrapnel                                  

This is the blind bend where our goalie nearly got run over during kick-about. A rare car those days. And the house opposite where a dog got killed. The bomb aimer missed the chimney, left the rubble sloping like a broken coat hanger. We hopscotched in brick dust. I pocketed a forbidden piece of shrapnel.

a strange quietness
the ambulance            
parked in the street

It‘s where a man came back from Dunkirk without his writing arm, another swallowed his teeth to dodge call-up, Alan the Cripple gave everyone a lop-sided grin and his mother never looked anyone in the eye. It‘s where we listened for Miss O’Cleary, with her Bible and tin leg, clattering the corner to straighten our surplices.

This morning, I pause at the lights, cross to our old home with its peeling frames and fussy borders, avoid three idling by an empty car, hand some change to a man with a tie, skirt the corner past a take-away to the pitch where our goalie lost his touch due to hard drink and weak ventricles, still fingering the piece of shrapnel, grown smooth and friendlier through the years.

at the war memorial
freshly sprayed   
jude x ron


—Peter Butler

The Renku Sessions: Junicho verse #12


I’m Sandra Simpson, and I have served as your guide through the composition of this 12-verse junicho.

Let me begin by saying how proud I am of all the submitting poets. You did a great job with moon verse candidates – in fact, there were so many good ones I won’t pick any out for special mention (bar one, see below). Please, each of you, give yourself a pat on the back. You let your hair down, got limbered up and the result was a sack full of verses that could have been used. You made my job difficult, which, believe it or not, is a plus!

However, as with most things in life, there can be only one winner …

halfway across the world
a skein of clouds halfway
across the moon

– Michael Henry Lee

What an elegant and beautiful verse this is, perfect for its position. The rhythm, reinforced by the repeating “halfway across”, is beguiling and the whole image has the right amount of painterly dreaminess. Michael has also cleverly used two orbs in his verse – Earth and the moon – without stating that the moon is full. That’s left for the reader to figure out, or not. Echo, upon echo.

For me, the link to the previous verse is one of “spirit” (if you’ll pardon the pun). The people clinking their single malts (which may or may not be the colour of the moon) could be parting or have just arrived from different parts of the planet – travellers anyway, just like the clouds and the moon. And after a dram or two on that darkening balcony, I daresay the talk slows and their minds begin to drift (gathering woolly clouds). The story is yours to discover and fill out, which is just how it should be.

Michael’s original verse was even more beautiful but with “ducks” in the hokku we couldn’t have “geese”. So, Michael, with your permission … (if you’d rather not have the edit, I will choose another verse). I think “skein” works nicely with the idea of clouds.

The following verse was put out of contention by using a freshwater image (our hokku has “river”) and couldn’t be edited without destroying its genius – it moves us through space and time, and with a significant nod to the master who has gone before and lit the way.

jumps on the surface
of an old pond

– Gabriel Sawicki

I have been pondering the question raised about the “clinking single malts” verse. Is the overall poem affected enough to warrant altering the verse? Would it weaken the verse to alter it? Does the overall poem benefit by an alteration? And so on. Prevarication has been my middle name. John Carley was my mentor in renku, writing and being a sabaki, so it was time to call him in, in spirit anyway (John died on the very last day of 2013). “Relax,” was his first piece of advice, while his second was “you’re writing a poem, not carrying out a forensic examination”. Sensible.

Having read and re-read the sequence many times this week, I like the link between the nuns and whisky – and I like the flow of the verses.

When we have placed our final verse, the tradition is for everyone to read the completed junicho (which we’ll name) and comment on the verses. Changes may or may not be made then.

But for now let us attend to the important ageku (closing verse), just as important in a renku as the hokku. Remember, that we are in our quieter kyu phase.

Here are some words from John Carley that may be helpful:

The final verse of a renku sequence is the ageku, a name which implies not just an ending but also the fulfilment of anticipation: ‘at last’. Whatever the seasonal aspect the ageku has a function mirroring that of the hokku – this time combining elements of summary, salutation and augury.

In order to have the freedom to meet these demands the ageku may be largely exempted from the more rigorous demands of link, shift and variety.

What comes next – verse #12 is:

  • A 2-line verse that is not cut.
  • An autumn verse that also serves as a “summing up” of sorts. If you want to you may in some way refer/nod to the hokku. But this is entirely optional.
  • This verse is in the quieter kyu phase.
  • Link, shift and variety can be ignored, or not!

How we play:

Please enter your candidate verses in the Comments section below. All verse positions in this junicho will be degachi, that is competitive, and the final poem will comprise stanzas written by 12 different poets.

Please submit only 3 candidate verses for each position. I will allow a week between each verse selection so you have plenty of time to consider your submissions before making them.

For information about junicho and renku, please refer to the Introduction post. And, remember, have fun with your writing.

Inspiring quote:

Most vital to renga that one verse not be followed by a verse with repeated or associated links. A link with “snow” should not have “icehouse” in the following one. It is in the leaps between the verses that lies the beauty of the renga. The link must be close enough for the reader to follow but far away enough to avoid a repeat – Jane Reichhold

Our poem so far:

cooling off –
our feet in the river
with the ducks

– Lorin Ford

the distant melody
of an ice-cream truck

– Maria Tomczak

paper planes
by the window
ready for his bag

– Sanjuktaa Asopa

welcome to Gaza
from Banksy and friends

– Betty Shropshire

somewhere a missing key
among sprouts
of green grass

– Maureen Virchau

and a pot of daffodils
at the end of the rainbow

– Marion Clarke

on re-entry
the cosmonaut inhales
the scent of her body

– Patrick Sweeney

his pride tied to the bedpost
with her thermal undies

– Karen Cesar

I hear the nuns
roaring over Seinfeld’s
show about nothing

– Marilyn Potter

clinking single malts
on the balcony

– Paul MacNeil

halfway across the world
a skein of clouds halfway
across the moon

– Michael Henry Lee