Monday, August 13, 2012


After a long journey of 2,000 miles, round trip, we returned to the quietness of The Mountain at Sewanee yesterday. The trip incited feelings I already possessed when I left on the trip – that there’s too much noise in the world – and traveling to several tourist spots in Virginia helped to deepen those feelings. When I left The Mountain, situations I had observed and read about caused me to consider how much noisy divisiveness and polarity is rife in the world today – from querulous family clans to warring factions of religious and political groups. As my old friend, Rumi the poet ,wrote: “Silence is an ocean./Speech is a river./When the ocean is searching for you,/Do not walk into the language-river./Instead, listen to the ocean/and bring your talky business to an end…”
So when I picked up my mail and found one of Pinyon Publishing’s award-winning books of poetry in my mailbox, an hour later, I was deeply immersed in this book of well-crafted poems entitled Spilled Milk: Haiku Destinies,” written by Gary Hotham, a book that emphasizes the brevity of language in haiku. As I read the pithy, quiet lines, a bit more peace entered my world, and I finished the book in one sitting.
Haiku poetry is a contradiction – the 5-7-5 syllable count, or other less strict but brief, lines are minimal but they require time and deep consciousness to absorb the meaning of what one critic calls the “haiku moment of awakening.” Implicit in the book’s message is that Gary Hotham was absorbed in deeply-conscious “noticing” to see the small moments in his everyday world that resulted in the lovely revelations he records in Spilled Milk: Haiku Destinies. The revelations contain universal messages and emphasize the gratifications we can experience by observing small occurrences in our daily lives – if we look and listen carefully, rather than engage in “talky business.”
As I’ve just returned from a time when I looked out of hotel windows every morning, I was drawn to  the succinct lines: “enough sunrise—/a small window/in an old hotel.” The poem encapsulates the first moments of pulling back the curtains to peer at a sunny day from the vantage point of a venerable motel room where a person may not wish to be, but the sun and promise of a new experience makes the hotel room seem bearable.
I love the clear allusion to what we would call a “bad day” or reference to a time when we feel burdens are heavy on our shoulders in Hotham’s poem: “worn out day/rocks the river left on top/of each other.” And think of the implications of an unbridled energy, the promise of a peak moment down the road that lies in the haiku: “morning walk—/nothing for the stone fence/to stop.”
Spilled Milk: Haiku Destinies contains over 100 of these metaphysical gems, and is interspersed with section pages of Susan Elliott’s lovely black and white paintings of birds and plants rendered in simple brush strokes, Oriental style. The two spare renderings of poetry and art complement each other in a volume that will give readers moments of peace and insight.
The introduction and essay at the end of the book provide entry into the realm of haiku and the art of creating short words in short poems. The entire book is a commentary on the art of being quietly alive and stands in antithesis to the experience I mentioned above concerning the world’s noisiness.
Gary Hotham was recently awarded an Honorable Mention in the Summer 2012 Mildred Kanterman Memorial Merit 2011 Book Award competition sponsored by the Haiku Society of America, which honors excellence in published haiku, translation, and criticism.
Spilled Milk: Haiku Destinies rates another cudo for Gary Entsminger, Pinyon publisher, and award-winning poet Gary Hotham – and brava, Susan Elliott, for capturing the haiku moment with your deft brush!
Order from Pinyon-Publishing, 23847 V 66 Trail, Montrose, CO 81403.

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