Recommended Reading: Jennifer Stewart Miller’s A Fox Appears

A Fox Appears

My friend Emily sent me  A Fox Appears by Jennifer Stewart Miller, and I’m so grateful she did (thanks, Emily!). This is a small gem of a book, “a biography of a boy in haiku,” as the subtitle has it.

In six sections, the poet gives us glimpses of her son’s early life through haiku. Maybe you, like me, spent a fifth-grade unit on haiku, struggling to conjure up nature imagery and conform to the 5/7/5-syllable format (those pesky articles and conjunctions, am I right?). As it turns out, rules are meant to be broken; the charming folks at the Academy of American Poets tell us that in modern haiku-writing, while some formal elements may lapse, “the philosophy of haiku has been preserved: the focus on a brief moment in time; a use of provocative, colorful images; an ability to be read in one breath; and a sense of sudden enlightenment and illumination.”

IMG_6829That is exactly what I found in A Fox Appears. As Ms. Miller shows, the haiku is an ideal form (perhaps the ideal form) for evoking a parent’s perspective of the fleeting phases of early childhood. These poems are perfectly, unexpectedly descriptive; their simplicity enhances their perceptiveness.

Here are a few of my favorites (with apologies since the line indents won’t come through):

I stroke the sole
of your foot — small toes
flick open like a fan.

Tiny hands —
fiddlehead ferns
waiting to unfurl.

Patient as stone
you drop stones
in the sea.

The washing machine
empties your pockets —
acorns acorns.

Across a green field
a bluebird flew —
you were at school.

Lovely, aren’t they?

Cats, the moon, stones, and feathers appear throughout this slim volume, tying together the observations and giving us a sense of the passing of seasons and years. And I should note too that Franklin Einspruch’s beautiful black and white gouache artwork complements the poems very well. A Fox Appears is a beautiful volume, and recommended. Thank you Emily!

Have you ever written haiku? Do you have a favorite?