Apr 1, 2018

Posthumous Poetry: H Is For Haiku

Ready for a tongue-twister loaded with truth?

A tiny, purpose-powered little publisher has packed a lot of punch 

since it was launched by a pair of poets in 2015. 

Any idea who that might be? 

It's PENNY CANDY BOOKS, founded by Alexis Orgera and Chad Reynolds. Their stated mission is "to publish children's literature that reflects the diverse realities of the world we live in, both at home and abroad. This means seeking out books by and about people and subjects that speak to a broad range of human experience." 

The most recent release in their blooming catalogue is H IS FOR HAIKU, by Sydell Rosenberg and illustrated by Sawsan Chalabi. Rosenberg, a charter member of the Haiku Society of America in 1968, spent her professional life as a classroom teacher in New York City, frequently writing for and with her students. She was prolific and wrote in many forms, but her poetic form-of-choice was HAIKU.
The comments above are written in past tense because Syd, as the author was known to friends and family alike, died in 1996 nearing the age of sixty-seven. By that time she had written and published countless poems, many in haiku form. She had also written about the nature of haiku, sharing her passion and talent while inspiring others (young and old) to write their own small moments as haiku. 

Publication of this collection was championed by her daughter, Amy Losak, whose note precedes the collection  with a "Dear Reader" address. In it she highlights the observant and intuitive nature required to recognize potential poems in everyday objects and events. The next page presents thoughts about Haiku from Syd's own writings, including this:

"Haiku is that fledgling moment, when the wingstrokes become sure-- 
when the bird has staying power in the air."

These individual poems were selected and lightly edited by Losak from among her mother's lifetime of creativity. Rosenberg always dreamed of producing an alphabet-themed collection of haiku for young readers and Losak strove to make that vision a reality. The premise of arranging the poems by the alphabetical order of the first words provides a structure. On that scaffold, though, multiple patterns and relationships provide additional  conversations between and among the poems. There is an urban sensibility to some of them, as in these examples:

"Queuing for ice cream-
sweat-sprinkled office workers
on Queens Boulevard"


"Room of first-graders

practicing the recorder

through a thunderstorm"  

Several others reflect the author's intense and somewhat wry observations of nature's creatures and the amazing planet we share with them, often oblivious to their beauty and grace.  This pair share a double-page spread:

"Neon wings of moth
exploding into headlights
on a country road"


"On a ruby sun
two white swans cross their black beaks
as they meet, gliding"

Losak reveals even more of the back story about the book and about her mother, Syd, in a recent guest post on the POETRY FOR CHILDREN blog, HERE. 

Illustrator Sawsan Chalabi enhances the carefully curated poems and their engaging interactions by incorporating mutliple strategies to magnify meaning and to encourage reflection. The haiku FIRST LIBRARY CARD is posted on the spines of books. Each word of a poem about rain splatters the page inside a raindrop. 

Harking back to the premise on which I launched this blog many years ago, I believe picture books have important things to offer readers of any age. This format of books is ideal for learners at any stage because they are COMPACT, COMPLETE, and COMPELLING. This picture book exemplifies those qualities. Among the many forms of poetry, for any age, HAIKU can be said to offer readers the same benefits as picture books. Syd Rosenberg, somewhere in time and space, must be very proud of her daughter, of this book, and of the ways it will carry on her advocacy for reading and for writing HAIKU. 

April is National Poetry MonthH IS FOR HAIKU releases on April tenth but is available for pre-order at the publisher, PENNY CANDY BOOKS, HERE. That means you could receive your copy in time to share and enjoy it on INTERNATIONAL HAIKU POETRY DAY, April 17. 
Stay tuned for more April poetry posts here, including some on haiku collections and picture book stories told in haiku forms. Here's a prior post with other titles to keep you reading until your copy of H IS FOR HAIKU arrives.

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