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f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

November 21, 2007

Stumbles in Clover by Matt Morden: more is more

Filed under: Book Reviews,haijin-haikai news,Haiku or Senryu — David Giacalone @ 2:38 pm

Stumbles in Clover by Matt Morden (Snapshot Press 2007)

a bumblebee
stumbles in clover

If you’re one of the many, mildly-manic fans of Matt Morden’s haiku and senryu, you surely have been wondering just when we’ll have a full volume of his one-breath poems to munch, mull over, or otherwise savor. Seeing Matt’s work in an occasional journal, or even at his personal weblog Morden Haiku, seems far too much like a tease, an appetizer setting the taste buds for the filling, main course stew.

If so, Stumbles in Clover (2007; order form), from UK haiku publisher Snapshot Press, is not merely a most-satisfying meal — it is a haiku lover’s Holiday Feast, combining an abundance of tastes and textures, traditional and modern, to please a multi-generational family of both fussy and hearty eaters. Moreover, unlike the proverbial cake, you can have it, and eat, and have it again.

washing away
the thunderstorm

autumn rain
the ice cream van chimes
out of tune

shortest day
all of the yellow
beaten out of eggs

I’m still not used to reviewing haiku books, and am as reluctant as ever to try to summarize or encapsulate any book with a string of literary, artsy-sounding adjectives and motifs. So, I’m going to let Matt’s poems and a few of his friends do the talking, except for this simple summation:

By bringing 72 of his poems together as Exhibit One, Stumbles in Clover provides more than ample evidence that Matt Morden is one of the finest haiku and senryu poets writing today — that he brings depth and staying-power to his art. Matt writes the kind of poems I wish would come readily and often off the tips of my own tongue and fingers. I don’t need an Exhibit Two to rule on this matter, but I’d love to pore over the evidence at length, as soon as his next collection is submitted for our consideration.

end of the holiday
a square of pale grass
beneath the tent

Those who hang around the Comment section of the group weblog MagnaPoets Japanese Form, know how much I hate to agree in public with the MagnaPoets proprietrix, my friend poet-artist Aurora Antonovic, who is also the haiga editor of the Simply Haiku Journal. Nonetheless, I must admit, the quote you will find by “Agitaora” on the back cover of Stumbles in Clover is spot on:

“The resonant haiku in Stumbles in Clover bear the hallmark of a honed writer. Precise, keen, and image- and nature-rich, these multilayered poems explore ordinary occurrences in an unordinary way. Classic topics such as life, death, relationships, and change are treated with Morden’s fresh touch, ensuring each poem is relevant, open-ended, and highly authenic.”
……………………………………………. Aurora Antonovic

snowed in
ice takes
the shape of wire

Matt’s fellow Welshman, poet and journalist Nigel Jenkins, also adds his praise for Stumbles in Clover, with which I concur:

“These seventy-two haiku — with not a makeweight among them — are instinct with the ‘loneliness, tenderness and slenderness’ that Tony Conran has characterised as the essence of haiku. They are as spare and translucent as it’s possible to be, yet they are deeply affecting (especially the family-based poems) and, particularly when in senryu mode, wryly humourous.”
……………………………….. Nigel Jenkins

march wind
mother and baby
share a shawl

first day of term
her new school uniform
bright in the mist

summer’s end
my children try to teach me
how to smile

Likewise, poet-editor Ferris Gilli captures the spirit of this volume with a handful of words: “Matt Morden infuses his beautifully concise poems with appealing light, color, sound and texture, vividly presenting everyday events so that readers can discover unexpected drama in the substrata. Stumbles in Clover will keep fans coming back for more.”

higher and higher
on the trampoline
spring rain

I’ve got packing to do, before I head home for Thanksgiving. So, I’m going to end this little review of Stumbles in Clover. I hope someone treats you to a copy of Matt’s first collection during this holiday season (order; a steal at $14 American, so pamper yourself). Until you have one of your own, you’ll find many samples of his work by clicking the links on Matt’s f/k/a archive page and by heading over to Morden Haiku. No more stumble puns or clover cliches. Get this book, if you love really good haiku, and be thankful for more Morden haiku.

p.s. Thank you, Matt Morden, for this fine collection, and for leaving out the psyku and similar “tell-ems” that have been plaguing so many haiku publications in recent years.

Below the fold, you’ll find credits for the original publishers of the above poems.

Credits: All poems from Stumbles in Clover, originally published:
“mid-argument” – The Heron’s Nest (Oct. 2001)
“shortest day” – The Heron’s Nest (March 2003)
“end of the holiday” – Acorn 3; A New Resonance 2 (Red Moon Press, 2001)
“first day of term” – A New Resonance 2
“summer’s end” – A New Resonance 2
“higher and higher” – tug of the current: Red Moon Anthology 2004; Haiku Canada Newsletter XVII: 1


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