30 May 2016

fun stuff I may or may not get to: June 2016

Theatrical
Cutting Ball Theater presents August Strindberg's A Dreamplay in a new translation by Paul Walsh, directed by Rob Melrose; the show runs 20 May to 19 June. On 6 June the theater's Hidden Classics reading series presents a sneak preview of next season: a reading of Hedda Gabler, in a new translation by Paul Walsh.

The Village Bike by Penelope Skinner, directed by Patrick Dooley, opens at Shotgun Players and runs 25 May to 26 June and then in repertory, joining their adventurous Hamlet. They also present a reading of Clare Lizzimore's Animal, directed by Katja Rivera, on 27 and 28 June.

Custom Made Theater presents John Guare's modern classic Six Degrees of Separation, directed by Stuart Bousel, from 19 May to 18 June.

Aurora Theater closes its season with Athol Fugard's intense apartheid drama "Master Harold" . . . and the boys; it runs from 17 June to 17 July.

Operatic
At the San Francisco Opera, Carmen continues, as Carmen does, with performances of the Bieito production on 1, 17, 23, 26 (matinee), and 30 June and 2 and 3 July. The famed femme fatale shares the stage with Verdi's Don Carlo and Janáček's Jenůfa – the titles alone are a recommendation, but the opera has really come through on the casting, with Michael Fabiano, Ana María Martínez, Nadia Krasteva, Mariusz Kwiecien, René Pape, and Ferruccio Furlanetto in the Verdi and Karita Mattila and William Burden (among others) in the Janáček. Don Carlo plays on 12 (matinee), 15, 18, 21, 24, and 29 June and Jenůfa on 14, 19 (matinee), 22, 25, and 28 June and 1 July. The Opera is also presenting a special gala concert in honor of retiring General Director David Gockley on 16 June, with quite a starry line-up.

Choral
The International Orange Chorale of San Francisco presents In a Distant Sky: Choral Music from the Chinese Diaspora, featuring the world premiere of In a Distant Sky by Huang Ruo along with pieces by Zhou Long, Leong Yoon Pin, Xixian Qu, Toh Ban Sheng, Shui Jiang Tian, Chen Yi, and IOCSF's Composer-in-Residence Nicholas Weininger. There are two performances, one in Berkeley on 4 June (7:30) at All Souls Episcopal Parish and a second in San Francisco on 11 June (7:30) at St Mark's Lutheran.

Modern / Contemporary Music
Cal Performances / Ojai at Berkeley presents a chamber version of the oratorio La Passion de Simone (as in Simone Weil) with music by Kaija Saariaho and text by Amin Maalouf. Peter Sellars directs and Joana Carneiro conducts, with soprano Julia Bullock, ICE (the International Contemporary Ensemble), and choral group Roomful of Teeth. That's 16 June (Bloomsday!) at Zellerbach Playhouse on the Berkeley campus.

Early / Baroque Music
The biennial Berkeley Festival & Exhibition takes place from 5 to 12 June; as usual the schedule is packed with concerts of interest but there are also plenty more to choose from in the Fringe Festival.

In conjunction with the Berkeley Festival & Exhibition, the Pacific Film Archive at the Berkeley Art Museum is presenting an Early Music Film Festival, featuring documentaries, filmed performances, and dramas – check out the whole schedule here; the series runs from 29 May to 15 June.

Vocalists
Cal Performances / Ojai at Berkeley presents soprano Julia Bullock in Josephine Baker: A Portrait; she will be accompanied by percussionist Tyshawn Sorey, who also did the composing and arranging for the show. That's 18 June at Zellerbach Playhouse.

Orchestral
The San Francisco Symphony ends its season with Vladimir Ashkenazy conducting the Tchaikovsky 4 and the Shostakovich cello concerto (with soloist Alexey Stadler) on 2 - 4 June; James Conlon conducting the Britten Sinfonia da Requiem, the Dvořák 8, and Mozart's Piano Concerto 22 (with soloist Jan Lisiecki) on 9 - 12 June; and Michael Tilson Thomas conducting a Stravinsky / John Adams program, featuring The Wound Dresser (with soloist Thomas Hampson) on 16 - 19 June; the Brahms 1, a C P E Bach symphony, and the American premiere of Jörg Widmann's Trauermarsch for Piano and Orchestra (with soloist Yefim Bronfman) on 23 - 24 June; and the Mahler 2, the Resurrection (with soloists Karina Gauvin and Kelley O'Connor) on 29 - 30 June and 1 - 2 July.

Cinematic
The San Francisco Silent Film Festival takes over the Castro Theater from 2 June to 5 June; as usual they have a great line-up, ranging from beloved classics to newly restored discoveries, all (or mostly all) accompanied by live music. For me the prize in last year's festival was a Swedish film I had never heard of, Norrtullsligan, which turned out to be a gently comic, warm but clear-eyed look at the lives of young working women. I bought the ticket in a "sure, I'm already there" spirit, and a year later I'm still thinking of this lovely film. (Please someone, release it on DVD!) Check out this year's schedule and find your own treasures.

Poem of the Week 2016/22

Civil War Hits Home

Alarum. Enter a Son that hath killed his Father, at one door; and [later] a Father that hath killed his Son at another door.

SON:
Ill blows the wind that profits nobody.
This man, whom hand to hand I slew in fight,
May be possessèd with some store of crowns;
And I, that haply take them from him now,
May yet, ere night, yield both my life and them
To some man else, as this dead man doth me.
Who's this? O God! it is my father's face,
Whom in this conflict I, unwares, have killed.
O heavy times, begetting such events!
From London by the King was I pressed forth;
My father, being the Earl of Warwick's man,
Came on the part of York, pressed by his master;
And I, who at his hands received my life,
Have by my hands of life bereavèd him.
Pardon me, God! I knew not what I did.
And pardon, father, for I knew not thee!
My tears shall wipe away these bloody marks;
And no more words till they have flowed their fill.

KING HENRY:
O piteous spectacle! O bloody times!
Whiles lions war and battle for their dens,
Poor harmless lambs abide their enmity.
Weep, wretched man! I'll aid thee tear for tear;
And let our hearts and eyes, like civil war,
Be blind with tears, and break o'ercharged with grief.

Enter Father, bearing of his Son.

FATHER:
Thou that so stoutly hath resisted me,
Give me thy gold, if thou hast any gold;
For I have bought it with an hundred blows.
But let me see: is this our foeman's face?
Ah, no, no, no! It is mine only son!
Ah, boy, if any life be left in thee,
Throw up thine eye! See, see what show'rs arise,
Blown with the windy tempest of my heart
Upon thy wounds, that kills mine eye and heart!
O, pity, God, this miserable age!
What stratagems, how fell, how butcherly,
Erroneous, mutinous and unnatural,
This deadly quarrel daily doth beget!
O boy, thy father gave thee life too soon,
And hath bereft thee of thy life too late!

William Shakespeare, King Henry VI, Part 3, Act 2, scene 5, ll 55 - 93

No doubt everyone who spends a lot of time wandering through Shakespeare ends up with some perverse personal preferences, and one of mine is that among the history plays at some strange level I prefer the earlier tetralogy (Henry VI Parts 1 - 3 and Richard III) to the later (Richard II, Henry IV parts 1 - 2, and Henry V). I call them "earlier" in that they are earlier in Shakespeare's career; in actual history Henry VI obviously comes after Henry V. But my concern here is with Shakespeare's writing, not English history. I do recognize that the later tetralogy is superior artistically, theatrically, psychologically . . . but if it weren't, my preference wouldn't qualify as perverse. I do love the extravaganzas of Richard II. My response to Henry IV is handicapped a bit because I am not really a tavern person, though intellectually I can see the brilliance of Falstaff – but intellectually may not be the best way to appreciate Falstaff, despite his cleverness and the many levels on which his language operates. I dislike Prince Hal and dislike him even more as that hollow man Henry V, whose play is frequently described as "a patriotic pageant" and I wish I saw it that way because that would explain why I find it tedious. (I think the play is much more subversive than that frequent reading would suggest; maybe I'll get around to posting about that.)  After the newly ascended king's calculated rejection of Falstaff – one of the cruelest moments in Shakespeare – who wants to admire him while he invades France? I much prefer, for my viewing or (more likely, as these plays are rarely staged) reading pleasure, the gradually increasing social breakdown and savagery of the Henry VI plays, capped off by the anarchic comedy of the tragic Richard III – so irresistible compared to the dull and dutiful Henry V.

Like Hamlet, Henry VI is a man born into a role for which his personality is not suited. Far from being strong and ruthless, or subtle and shrewd, he is saintly and even a bit simple, better suited (as he tells us) to a life as a humble shepherd than as a king, particularly one presiding over a dissolving kingdom. There's a touch of (perhaps justified) self-pity in him as well; he frequently mentions the early age at which he was left both an orphan and a child king. By this point in the drama, he is merely a pawn in the struggle between his ferocious wife and son and their allies and the aspiring Duke of York and his allies. He is wandering the latest battlefield, ordered by his wife to get out of the way (To whom God will, there be the victory! / For Margaret my queen, and Clifford too, / Have chid me from the battle, swearing both / They prosper best of all when I am thence. / Would I were dead, if God's good will were so! . . . Act 2, scene 5, ll 15 - 19.) Over the course of three plays, we have watched as jealousy, intrigues, and rivalry, with the occasional dip into witchcraft, have split Henry's court and then his kingdom, now poised to fall to whoever is both more ruthless and luckier.

In the midst of this total breakdown of the social order, we have this moving battlefield scene. The focus throughout the Henry VI plays is mostly on the powerful aristocrats – there is Jack Cade's rebellion in Part 2, but it is made clear that he is a stalking-horse for the Duke of York's claims to the throne. In this scene, we have ordinary soldiers, each of whom makes a terrible discovery about the man he has just killed. The scene is balanced, almost ritualistic, with the mirror-image killings – by the son of his father, and the father his son – lamented by the two men and the King, each separated from the others. Only Henry is positioned to see the full extent of the damage his reign has brought upon his kingdom. There are repeated references to eyes and hearts, and tears, which overwhelm the soldiers. The two men are nameless, standing in for many others pulled into horrific personal crimes by the battles of King and Duke. The matching images of filicide and parricide are an image of civil war destroying the kingdom.

Both soldiers begin their speeches by preparing to loot the bodies of the men they have just slain. This would explain why they are withdrawn from the on-going fighting; it also gives some insight into how the soldiers are provided for, and of the sometimes hidden costs of war. The crowns referred to in the third line of the excerpt are a type of coin, worth about five shillings – not a huge amount of money; you wouldn't expect a man to go into battle carrying lots of money, but even a little bit is some gain to these men, and the soldier philosophically reflects that some other man might be rifling his corpse for coin before the night falls. (There's also no doubt a pun on the royal crown which has been passed back and forth between the contending houses of Lancaster and York.) Both turn from thoughts of gain to grief and despair once they remove their opponents' helmets; both lift their speeches from the earthly realm by calingl on God – not for revenge, or justice, but for pity and forgiveness, which they feel, stricken to their hearts, that they can never receive in this lower world. Both (in the part of this scene that continues beyond the brief excerpt I've given) think of the women at home: it does not occur to either of these basically honest soldiers to hide what he has done. The son wonders how he will tell his mother the sad story of his father's death, and the father knows his wife will never stop grieving for their dead son. They slip away from their armies, to lead sorrowful, grief- and guilt-haunted lives, hidden from our view. And the scene ends as the King is hurried away by Queen Margaret and his son, with their allies – the royal family is still together, at least outwardly, though not for much longer.

This is from the Signet Classic edition of King Henry VI, Part 3, edited by Milton Crane.

23 May 2016

Poem of the Week 2016/21

Dido & Aeneas meet again

Along with these, still nursing her raw wound,
Dido of Carthage strayed in the great forest.
As soon as the Trojan came close and made out
Her dimly wavering form among the shadows,
He was like one who sees or imagines he has seen
A new moon rising up among the clouds
On the first day of the month; there and then
He wept and spoke these loving, tender words:
"Unhappy Dido! So the news I got was true,
That you had left the world, had taken a sword
And bade your last farewell. Was I, O was I to blame
For your death? I swear by the stars, by the powers
Above and by any truth there may be under earth,
I embarked from your shore, my queen, unwillingly.
Orders from the gods, which compel me now
To travel among shades in this mouldering world,
This bottomless pit of night, dictated
Obedience then as well. How could I believe
My going would devastate you with such grief?
Stay a moment, don't slip out of our sight.
Is there someone you are trying to avoid?
These words I'm saying to you are the last
Fate will permit me, ever."
                                             Pleading like this,
Tears welling up inside him, Aeneas tried
To placate her fiery spirit and soften
Her fierce gaze; but she, averting her face,
Her eyes fixed steadily on the ground, turned
And showed no sign of having heard, no more
Than if her features had been carved in flint
Or Parian marble. At length she swept away
And fled, implacable, into the dappling shadows
Of the grove, where Sychaeus, her husband
In another earlier time, feels for her pain
And reciprocates the love she bears him still;
While Aeneas, no less stricken by the injustice
Of her fate, gazes into the distance after her,
Gazes through tears, and pities her as she goes.

Then he braces himself for the journey still to come
And soon they arrive in the farthest outlying fields, . . .

Virgil, Aeneid, Book VI, ll 604 - 643, translated by Seamus Heaney

This is from the newly published translation of Book VI of Virgil's Aeneid by the late Seamus Heaney. Book VI describes the visit of the wandering Aeneas (the Trojan in the third line of this excerpt) to the Underworld. There, among others of the dead, he encounters Dido, whom he loved and (at the command of the gods, who wanted Rome to be founded) left. She killed herself as his ships sailed off.

This dignified translation can be read as an addendum to Poem of the Week 2015/23, which gives the Latin for this passage as well as several other English versions (H R Fairclough for Loeb, Google Translate, Sarah Ruden, Robert Fagles, Robert Fitzgerald, C Day Lewis, and Dryden).

20 May 2016

Friday photo 2016/21


an orange peel shaped like a flower and tossed right by a garbage can at the Castro Valley BART station, 14 May 2016

16 May 2016

Poem of the Week 2016/20

Some Woman to Some Man

We might have loved each other after all,
Have lived and learned together! Yet I doubt it;
You asked, I think, too great a sacrifice,
Or else, perhaps, I rate myself too dear.
Whichever way the difference lies between us,
Would common cares have helped to lessen it,
A common interest, and a common lot?
Who knows indeed? We choose our path, and then
Stand looking back and sighing at our choice,
And say: "Perhaps the other road had lead
To fruitful valleys dozing in the sun."
Perhaps – perhaps – but all things are perhaps,
And either way there lies a doubt, you know.
We've but one life to live, and fifty ways
To live it in, and little time to choose
The one in fifty that will suit us best,
And so the end is, that we part, and say:
"We might have loved each other after all!"

Edith Wharton

Here's another poem by a writer not usually thought of as a poet, though in this monologue Edith Wharton displays a number of characteristics – psychological exploration, dramatic tension, an interest in prevailing social currents – that stood her in good stead in her novels.

Although this poem isn't particularly comic, I'll say that the title made me chuckle – there's something so offhand about it, casual to the point of being dismissive ("Who was that?" "Oh, I dunno – some woman / some guy"). The title positions us between an archetypal and universal The Woman to The Man (or Woman to Man) and the sharper singularity of A Woman to A Man; some indicates a certain anonymity, a certain variance from mainstream society (this is not someone socially notable enough to be defined by name or position), a certain generic quality, though not one widespread enough to be considered universal. But though it is not universal, it is common enough, as some also indicates, to apply to a group, a social subset – this 1878 poem perhaps gives voice to the "New Woman" of the time.

In the late nineteenth century, the "New Woman" label was applied to women who valued education, self-determination, independence, and social and professional ties and contributions that went beyond the domestic. (Of course there had always been such women, but they were now given a sociological label and therefore some cultural presence as a group, rather than as individuals.) These were mostly fairly well-off middle-class women: the very wealthy already had some independence, and the poor had too little. Such a status would fit the speaker of Wharton's poem: not a grand aristocrat, but not quite financially desperate, either: she can reject what is presumably an offer of marriage without panicking about what this means for her economically. Her struggles are emotional rather than financial. She clearly likes this man, but perhaps not quite enough to give up her independence and settle into the expectations of domesticity. She is a thinking as well as feeling person, old enough to put love and life in some perspective.

There is affection and intimacy here – you know at the end of line 13 masterfully makes us see these lines as part of a conversation, not a one-sided speech, and suggests that the man shares some of her views, though maybe not enough, and that they have discussed these philosophical matters before. There is lightness here, but also rue, and potential regret, and some humor; some pride (You asked, I think, too great a sacrifice) and some uncertainty (Or else, perhaps, I rate myself too dear) – but these emotions are intermingled and fleeting; I think in the line about his asking too much indicates not so much uncertainty as an appealing modesty and circumspection in the speaker's judgments, but also a sense that she rightly values her own opinion and will stick by it – perhaps it is only her opinion that he asks too much, but that is enough for her to proceed, for as she tells us, all things are perhaps. A sense of contingency underlies her remarks, and the emotions (and potential emotions, the possible future regrets) are always ambivalently present. It would be fascinating to give these lines to four or five actresses, send them off separately, and see how they interpret the tone(s) of these lines.

This is from Edith Wharton: Selected Poems, edited by Louis Auchincloss for the American Poets Project in the Library of America. (I think that in line 10 that should be "had led" rather than "had lead".)

13 May 2016

Friday photo 2016/20


Diego, Frieda, & Co

From the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, May 2013, right before it closed for a three-year expansion. It re-opens officially tomorrow, 14 May 2016.

09 May 2016

Poem of the Week 2016/19

In a London Drawingroom

The sky is cloudy, yellowed by the smoke.
For view there are the houses opposite
Cutting the sky with one long line of wall
Like solid fog: far as the eye can stretch
Monotony of surface and of form
Without a break to hang a guess upon.
No bird can make a shadow as it flies,
For all is shadow, as in ways o'erhung
By thickest canvass, where the golden rays
Are clothed in hemp. No figure lingering
Pauses to feed the hunger of the eye
Or rest a little on the lap of life.
All hurry on and look upon the ground,
Or glance unmarking at the passers by.
The wheels are hurrying too, cabs, carriages
All closed, in multiplied identity.
The world seems one huge prison-house and court
Where men are punished at the slightest cost,
With lowest rate of colour, warmth, and joy.

(December 1865)

George Eliot

After last week's haiku by Richard Wright, I thought it might be interesting to look at some poems by writers not usually associated with poetry: so here is an urban evocation by George Eliot.

As readers of her novels know, Eliot has a deep feeling for the English countryside and its small towns. There is deep feeling here, too, but of a grimmer sort. The city as the locus for alienation, anonymity, and meaningless monotonous repetition is a familiar trope in modern literature, but Eliot's poem seems to spring from a personal despair rather than an attempt to write into a tradition. The sense of being trapped starts with the title: although the poem itself is a description of a London street, the title tells us that we are not actually out on the street – instead we are in the drawing room, and a drawing room is a formal room for receiving guests, like a front parlor, so the name brings with it an overlying sense of social obligations of dubious sincerity and pleasure. Presumably the speaker is looking out the window during some visit, presumably due to ennui or restlessness or general unhappy curiosity.

The poem constantly makes us aware that we are not in the country; it describes the cityscape in terms that might be used of the countryside: we are told of the sky, the view, birds, the sun, but in each case in a way that makes us aware of what is missing in the urban version. The sky is cloudy and yellow with pollution; the view is of a monotonous row of buildings like a dull scar (they cut the sky), or rather like the grey fog made solid; the birds cast no shadows as they fly, for nothing casts a shadow when everything is in shadow; the sun is covered with smoke and fog like a lamp covered with canvas (clothed in hemp is another reminder of the countryside, hemp being associated with the cheap cloth worn by country folk, as in the hempen homespuns – Bottom, Snout, Tinker, and the rest of the would-be players – that Puck sneers at in A Midsummer Night's Dream).

The street view is presented as a smooth impermeable wall of sameness: without a break to hang a guess upon; you can imagine the frustration a novelist would feel at such sealed-off resistance to human inquiry. There is a sense of hunger perpetually unfed (no figure lingering / Pauses to feed the hunger of the eye, for there is nothing the eye can grab on to) and rest perpetually thwarted (the figures also do not pause to rest a little on the lap of life – the lap, as with a comforting mother and a child). There is a lack of distinction in the inhabitants, too, and they are presented as not quite human:  they are referred to not as people or citizens or any term that might suggest an individuality or a community, however latent; instead they are figures who do not linger, they are passers by who are unmarked even when glanced at (though mostly they are ignored by those so like them, also rushing on). They are no more individual than the sealed-off cabs and carriages, which are also hurrying on, also smoothly deflecting in their sameness any personal inquiry or wonder. The monotony of the surroundings is contrasted with the hurry of the inhabitants; there is nothing in between, and in fact one seems to result in the other, both states unnatural and debilitating. Without any sense of the inhabitants as individuals, their hurry seems pointless as well as frantic. There is little difference between them and the carriages.

The wheeled conveyances and the hurrying passers-by are both machine-like, multiplied identities: not individuals but persons or things (or thing-like persons) reproduced over and over. The machine-like endless reproduction found in this urban life may be meant as a contrast to the artisanal craft and individual labor of the pre-Industrial countryside. The poem ends with a terrifying (and to us inevitably Kafkaesque) sense of this world as a closed judgmental system, a huge and inexplicably governed court and prison that punishes the inhabitants for unnamed crimes with a perpetually inadequate ration of color, warmth, and joy: a little burst of longing, an efflorescence of what has been missing, at the end of the poem. The idea of punishing men at the slightest cost and lowest rates may bring to mind and imply a critique of the grim Utilitarian school of capitalism so prevalent at this period (see, for example, Charles Dickens's novel Hard Times – For These Times, published roughly a decade before Eliot wrote this poem).

This is from The Collected Poems of George Eliot, edited by Lucien Jenkins, published by Skoob Books Publishing (and I just realized Skoob is Books backwards).

06 May 2016

Friday photo 2016/19


In honor of its re-opening on 14 May, here's a shot from 2012 of the (former) lobby of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

02 May 2016

Poem of the Week 2016/18

Five Haiku

       Just enough of rain
To set black ants a-swimming
       Over yellow sand.

       Quickly vanishing,
The first drops of summer rain
       On an old wood door.

       On the pond's bottom
The faint shadow of a fish
       Flitting on white sand.

       Just enough of rain
To bring the smell of silk
       From umbrellas.

       Trembling on the wall,
A yellow water shadow
       From the lake outside.

Richard Wright, Haiku 100 - 104

About a year and a half before his death in Paris in late 1960, Richard Wright, the great American novelist best known for his examinations of the African-American experience, discovered the haiku form (not as well-known then as it is today). He became obsessed with writing them. He ended up creating thousands of them, and shortly before his death, he chose 817, which were finally published in 1998. His daughter Julia Wright has shared her memory of him in his final days, carrying his haiku binder everywhere, counting syllables, writing pages of them and hanging them up "as if to dry". She connects the brevity of the form, and its syllable-by-syllable counting, with the shortness of his breath in his last months.

It may seem odd that a novelist who could be called an American Zola both for his realist manner and for his passionate engagement with social justice through the radical politics of his time should end his career writing such verses, brief yet strictly controlled in form, each a little flash of observation, but in fact there are many connections, aesthetically and even politically, between Wright's artistry in his novels and in his final poems. Though haiku seem very stylized as a result of the brevity and control of the form, they generally describe things that are readily observable and often everyday, even commonplace; in other words, they are coming from as much of a realist tradition as a lengthy novel about poor blacks in a Chicago slum. A "haiku in prose" could easily form part of the stage-setting for a novel, or provide the sort of point-of-view realization that lends verisimilitude as well as psychological depth to fiction. Wright was drawn to philosophy, particularly the postwar existentialists; the haiku is a philosophical form, embodying the fleeting quality of time and the importance of noticing; it's the noticing that turns the insignificant significant, that makes life memorable and might perhaps give it whatever meaning it has. And noticing is also where haiku connects with the political world: accurate and close observation, unguided and unhindered by theories, agendas, or interests, is still one of the most radical political acts possible.

The sequence I've put here is sort of randomly chosen by me. They do share several elements, such as a sense of fleeting, barely noticeable things – just enough of rain, a phrase which occurs twice; quickly vanishing, first drops, the faint shadow of a fish flitting on a pond bottom, a water-shadow (refracted light) trembling on the wall. The only human presence is an implied one, in the old wooden door, in the umbrellas lightly struck by rain, in the wall reflecting the light off the lake outside; the natural world is very close to and encroaches on these man-made things, the door, the umbrella, the wall. There is close, even minute, observation – the drops of rain hitting the wood of the old door, the ants set a-swimming by the rain (Wright may have chosen a-swimming rather than swimming for the sake of the syllable count, but I love its folksy sound, which gives a rural feel to the poem.) There are a few strong, simple colors – black ants, yellow sand, white sand, yellow water-shadow. As is traditional in haiku, each contains a suggestion of what the season is – in one it's explicit that it's a summer rain, but in the others you can guess that it's definitely not winter, or even fall; with the light rain, the active ants and fish, the not-frozen lake, it's most likely late spring or summer. And above all, these poems share a sense of evanescent, barely noticed beauty being drawn to our attention before it too passes away.

These are from Haiku: This Other World by Richard Wright, edited and with notes and afterword by Yoshinobu Hakutani and Robert L. Tener, with an introduction by Julia Wright. It looks as if the paperback edition has a different subtitle, either The Last Poems of an American Icon or The Last Poetry of Richard Wright, depending on whether you go by the Amazon entry or the picture of the cover in that same entry. I assume the contents are the same as the first edition, and I prefer the original subtitle.