A Hundred Gourds 2:1 December 2012
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breakfast with epiphanies by Owen Bullock

reviewed by John McManus

breakfast with epiphanies
by Owen Bullock
Oceanbooks, Mount Maunganui. 2012
RRP: NZ$19.95
ISBN (paperback) 978-1-927199-96-1
(ePub) 978-1-927199-97-8
(Mobi) 978-1-927199-98-5

Owen Bullock is one of New Zealand’s most published and celebrated haiku poets. As well as haiku he is a skilled writer of tanka, renga, longer poetry and fiction. He has been the editor of Kokako, Bravado, Spin and Poetry NZ. Breakfast with epiphanies is his second collection of haiku.

What struck me first about Owen’s haiku is that when he delivers a minimal verse he doesn’t sacrifice the musical aspect of haiku composition, as other poets might.

life alone
the ladle

Look at all those l’s! It is a delight to read such a well constructed poem that lingers long in the memory for its quirkiness and lyricism alone.

river’s stillness
by oars

Here again the style is undeniably minimal, but with concision and skill Owen creates a whole world for the reader to explore and a poem that rolls off the tongue.

Some of Owen’s minimal haiku don’t employ a cut, an area where haiku derive a lot of their power. I am sure that the inclusion of such verses was intentional and they do serve to show there is more than one way to compose an effective haiku. I am however worried that such verses may not be appreciated by all who read them.

drift into

me & the kid
we’re Arsenal

Owen’s poems cover a vast range of emotion and imagery. At times he offers us a morose moment.

didn’t know there was
still so much grief . . .
drizzle on bare skin

The juxtaposition of the rain hitting bare skin and the grief still felt for a loved one is highly evocative and appealing to the senses. It really makes you feel what the poet was feeling.

even now I decide
not to cross out
mother’s number

Here is another example of a poem without a cut, but whoever fails to be moved by such a verse needs their head examined. We all keep things which are of no use anymore and this poem certainly reminds me of that fact.

Other moments are brimming with humour and life and are a testament to the poet‘s sense of humour and observation.

a butterfly
bangs into my head —
summer’s end

I have read numerous haiku which have used ‘summer’s end’ as a fragment and probably even more haiku which have a butterfly in them, but I have not seen many that have been as memorable and as humorous as this.

meditation —
the dent in the monk’s

Again I have read many haiku which mention meditation and as many again that feature a monk, but Owen uses both and still gives us a fresh and wonderfully amusing moment.

The collection overall is a solid representation of a talented poet who has spent years learning and practising the art of haiku. I tip my hat to Owen and hope to see more of his work getting the recognition and exposure it deserves.


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