marlene mountain
self-review [first {& only} draft]
c 1976/77

anon review: the old tin roof

This book by Marlene Wills [Mountain], the old tin roof, comes to us as a surprise. We had previously enjoyed a few of her earlier haiku and drawings but realized that basically she was the wife of the nature poet J. W. Having gotten used to her that way we assumed that . .

First of all what we noticed was that the book would make a great memo pad. It is constructed so as to open rather nicely and can be held horizontally or vertically. There is space for yearly calendar appointments. You will notice that the book is organized to fit this need. Much space is available for notes, dates, as she has poems that might be called short or even minimal. So minimal that one is inclined to complete them if he/she was so inclined. Or even rewrite them on the blank back pages which also add to the . . .

As one studies the book one gets a feeling of poverty inherent throughout. The very title lets one know that the writer is poor, not being able to afford either a new roof or at least a good painting so the tin doesn't show through. More of this will be mentioned later.

[ . . . ]
Personally we had trouble deciding which was page one. We considered the one containing three dots, ellipsis it's professionally called. But decided against it as that mark is used to show a break in the action or something which is left out. Since nothing was said to leave out, we dismissed it and looked at the next page.

Haiku is supposed to be three lines. This one does have three lines, but it's only one word or really two meaning one, and since the two seem incompleted, and we don't know how to count the syllables we passed on.

[this drop of rain before this rain]
Unfortunately the next page was incomprehensible to us. Looked like a lot of droplets or something.

[with rain i hear the old tin roof]
The next page mentions the poor condition of her roof and I know every time she hears rain on it she's very much aware of it. We expected a mention of it leaking but there was none.

[around the stone to earth/hepatica roots]
The next poem is the first to deal with nature. We did think it a little odd that roots were noted rather than the beautiful spring flower itself in its beautiful setting

[the crayfish gathers her young beneath her]
We found the crayfish a little hard to believe. Crayfish don't appear to be domesticated enough or caring enough to care for their young.

[bulldozer/uncovers the beginnings of spring]
The bulldozer when we finally were able to read it is quite odd. Aside from being hard to read it has nine lines in it--if one counts slightly diagonal. It's also difficult to comprehend the image of a bulldozer and nature-- contrast. We don't see how it can recognize spring, let alone its beginnings as all it's good for is scraping up the earth.

Something dreadful must have happened in the printing procedure as we see on the next page that the word crow is partly out and partly in the marked-off picture area.

[bull tongue plow . . ./edge of its blade/in the morning dew]
Finally we come to a fairly nice image. It isn't what we would call a traditional 5-7-5 haiku, but it's in three lines, three-space indention, asymmetrical: the first line separated from the other two by punctuation marks. However we would have written it: In the morning dew,/the cold sharp glistening blade/of the bull tongue plow.

Here we come to a one-word written on one line. It hardly appears worth mentioning. It's so bare (one wonders why the writer didn't have something to say about the image). It's certainly worth saying something about. It has a lot of potential if one thinks about it. We found ourselves having several meaningful feelings when we thought about it.

[newly plowed field/newly plowed field/newly plowed field]
Unfortunately the next poem was also messed up by the printing process. The first line--supposedly, one doesn't really know--was repeated twice---oddly enough three-space indented. This brings to mind the problem of small press publications--limited budget, no proofreaders to catch such flaws.

[spring evening he calls louder for the milk cow]
Though several poems have been on one line in this book we didn't mention it as they were short enough to fit fairly well on the page of a haiku magazine. However this one, though it would fit (it's almost fifty letters, a magazine can take { } letters), we wonder why, since there are three distinct images. The way she has it written makes 'spring evening' equivalent to both images. Another flaw is the grammar. 'loudly' is the correct word. But we suppose country people don't speak the King's English.

We have nothing to say about this one other than to point out the misspelling: v i o l t e.

[the all day all night/wet/spring]
The next one unfortunately has a problem of mixing day and night with a whole spring. One is glad not to live where it rains all spring.

[spring/the salt lick/taking root]
This one is so erroneous. It's impossible for a salt lick to root because of the salt. However one never knows with all that rain they get there. Ha ha.

[sun a moment before the rain stops]
We guess it's possible for the sun to come out just before the rain stops though we've never noticed it.

[the sun/and the mountain/do this:]
Another unfortunate small press process. The rest of the third line was not printed. One wonders what the writer had in mind. We would guess shadows, or color, or well, many many things. Whatever happened to be happening when one saw it. A shame it wasn't stated.

[spring morning looking everywhere for the scarecrow]
We have no idea why the writer couldn't find the scarecrow. It must have been hidden in the sun or something. Perhaps it just took off on a pretty day. Ha ha.

[oak acorn]
This one we're told is called concrete. It's prosaic as possible . . .

[cloud stretches its length to the mountain]
This one definitely wouldn't fit on a magazine page. One doesn't even need to count the spaces.

[coal stove/moved to the shed--/quilts on the line]
This one would have been more effective if it were written: spring is really here/the coal stove moved to the shed/--quilts on the line.

[yelling/from the pick up bed/kids with blowing hair]
And another which leaves out the first line where the kigo word should be stated:------/yelling from the pick up bed/kids with blowing hair. (We've noticed that the kigo word/line is often left out. One wonders why, since so many are obviously spring or summer.)

[the old cabin rented again:/a new screen door]
'The sad old cabin/it has been rented again/see its new screen door.' We don't need to rewrite others. We hope you have understood that you the reader must also be a writer to fill in the usual season or other words.

[creek/any/even/creek nonapplicable]
We don't understand this page at all. Usually creeks are clearly marked, mapped and within a zip.

[river moving dawn with it]
We liked the image but the spacing makes it happen rather slowly.

[rain dipping leaves in the river]
This one at least can be read quickly. The writer failed to give us much to go on, however. There are some very poetic-sounding river names (and trees) which could have been used.

[behind/the vacant cabin,/the deserted barn,/an old groundhog den]
This was so lonely sounding we went on. We began feeling that behind the groundhog den something else was empty.

[drone of my dulcimer/down the road/a revival]
We don't know what a dulcimer is--perhaps a type of bee. Know that revivals are usually loud and use pianos. We understand bees get upset by loud noises.

Hey, figure it out if you can. We found one word: 'by.' 'ul' was difficult, 'tf' could have been 'tuft,' we suppose. Another example of small press production.

[today this gourd has grown an inch: the heat]
We were surprised at words written down. We all know left to right is proper and best. She must have tried to make it look like movie frames showing time release.

[at dusk hot water from the hose]
'after a hot day/when I turn on the spigot/hot water comes first.'

We couldn't read the next. Must be a foreign word. Perhaps it has a larger meaning in its language. We decided we didn't need to hear it.

[days after the vines are cut/odor of honeysuckle]
This one has two seven-syllable lines though they are so different in length. Rather messed up (more on sight, syllable length).

[buzzard nowhere into nowhere]
Hard to believe. If you see one, you see one; if you don't, you don't.

[dead cat pointing/to each car that passes]
This is another diagonal one at first--only it goes backwards diagonally. Then on the last word the press skips spaces.

[the rattler/killed and skinned/throbs in the heat]
So ugly.

[left behind a dog in heat: the heat]
Another ugly one. Makes one shudder.

[scarecrow/ankle deep in mud . . ./the gnats]
Hate to be around there. Would leave quickly.

[ . . . flies up and down the light chain]
Try our best we couldn't figure out what the missing letters are.

[last piece/of birthday cake--/thrown out]
We were struck by this one.

[sudden/breeze/my/neighbor's/hog pen]
Glad we live in the city.

[beneath/leaf mold/stone/cool/stone]
We wondered if leaf mold was anything like compost. Are stones good for it? We thought stones would be hot.

[autumn afternoon/where the epileptic fell/a fresh groundhog den]
Who could think of dens at a time like this.

[autumn/cornbread onions/soup beans/run over 'possum/dinner]
Another reference to her poverty.

[old man mends the fence his father strung]
This must be one of the 'dadaku.' A poem about her dad.

[the peanut digger spits out his chaw]
Must be a new kind of fertilizer for peanuts. But we think it must be a slow process.

[black to white to blue buzzard]
Must be an awfully cold day.

[old woman changes the banjo head silently]
Must be a 'mamaku.'

Type-face--with all the wonderful print styles around we wonder why she didn't choose a more interesting style.
This type--what there is of it--is so simple and we almost feel it's hardly there. We noticed one thing. By the time we think we understand the 'format' we turn the next page and we have to start all over again. By the time we get used to one page we turn to the next and it's so different. Some go across, some up and down, some scattered around. Each one is different, we wondered if there was a reason.

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