New Book Release: Heart Breaths: Book of Contemporary Haiku

Haiku remind us of the significance of every moment. More than an anthology of poetry, Heart Breaths is an anthology of possibilities.
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NEWTON, N.J. - March 27, 2016 - PRLog -- Edited by Jean LeBlanc Binding: Paperback

ISBN: 9789385945038 Publisher: Cyberwit.Net Pub. Date: 2016

A luminous beginning: "between church bells, / the gentle ringing / of rain" writes Adele Kenny, causing us to catch our breath with the very first haiku in these pages. It's that little "breath catch" that inspires those of us who practice the art of writing haiku. We hope that our words on the page can recreate that moment in which the world around us was condensed into one enthralling image.

         Or two-two enthralling images, which is a more true description of what can be found in the best haiku. Staying with Adele Kenny's "between church bells," we realize that she is describing both sound and silence: the "betweeness" of the peals, when suddenly one's ears are full of that other beauty, the peace of the natural world. A sound so nearly soundless, one needs to hold one's breath to hear. The effect of the just-rung bells is to make the moment a memory the instant it happens. On the page, we cannot look away, we cannot unhear.

         And from there, a multitude of images. A further element of haiku (as with all poetry) is that the poet invites the reader to complete the poem with his or her experience. Is "between church bells" set on an ordinary Sunday, or perhaps Easter Sunday; do the bells signify a wedding, or perhaps a funeral; is one's presence in the poem that of a participant in the drama, or an on-looker; is one close to the source of the bells, or across town, or across the valley...? The "gentle [...] rain" evokes Spring; as a reader, do you imagine the gray pavement reflecting a world just beginning to know color after a long winter; does the rain reflect new life, or loss, or both? Where does the poem end and you begin? Does the poem end?

         That quality of suspended time, of present-tenseness  deepened by the presence of memory, is to me the most powerful aspect of haiku. This quality explains what it is that compels a reader to return again and again to a poem consisting of only a handful of words. And with each reading, the response of the reader is some form of recognition. "Leonardo mixing paint / the eye / before the smile," writes Robert Witmer, and we respond, "Ah, yes!" We smile. It is as if we suddenly remember having seen the artist in his studio, the act of creation, the finished painting. The synecdoche of "eye" and "smile" references painter, model, painting, poet, poem, reader. A haiku presents this multi-faceted truth.

         Adele Kenny's "between church bells" and Robert Witmer's "Leonardo mixing paint" both happen to consist of eight words; one is eleven syllables and the other thirteen syllables. A handful of words, and yet each poem feels like a biography. Even as it leaves so much unsaid, even as it offers a glimpse into a fleeting moment, a haiku reveals a life.

         When reading a new collection of haiku, I often find a poet who opens my mind to something completely new. In this collection, that poet is John McDonald. I know how often I struggle (and fail) to find the perfect word when writing in one language; John McDonald is a natural in two languages, offering a lesson in alliteration and connotation and what American poet Robert Frost called "the sound of sense." Lines such as "an wammles in'r sloum" and "whaur the wattergaw / skifft the burn" (I'll let you discover the meanings of these gems) are a revelation.

         To live and breathe haiku is to be open to the possibilities. With each poem in this collection-and with each reading of each poem in this collection-we learn something new about seeing, hearing, being.

Heart Breaths: Book of Contemporary Haiku (Paperback) published by is available worldwide via Amazon USA, India, Flipkart and through publisher's site.

About Editor: Jean LeBlanc is a teacher and writer living in New Jersey, U.S.A. Her poetry has appeared in numerous journals. She does editorial work for the Paulinskill Poetry Project of Andover, New Jersey, as well as for

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