Monday, April 9, 2012

A whistling old man

Something I discovered while looking at the poetry shelves at the bookstore where I work: Richard Wright, the famed author of Native Son, turned to haiku during the last 18 months of his life, and wrote over 4,000 of them. In the introduction to Haiku: The Last Poems of an American Icon, his daughter recalls, "I remember how he would hang pages and pages of them up, as if to dry, on long metal rods strung across the narrow office area of his tiny sunless studio in Paris, like the abstract still-life photographs he used to compose and develop himself at the beginning of his Paris exile."

Here are three of the 817 haiku in the current collection:

     A long winter rain:
A whistling old man whittles
     A dream on a stick.

      In the summer lake,
The moon gives a long shiver,
    Then swells round again.

     A spring sky so clear
That you feel you are seeing
     Into tomorrow.

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