Book review: “Not Exactly Haiku” by Leena Prasad

[Reviewed by Laura O’Brien]

Leena Prasad’s poetry collection, Not Exactly Haiku, is comprised of 51 haiku-like poems, each with its own drawing. The poems are similar to haikus in their sparse language and three-line structure, but they do not have the syllable count (5-7-5) that is usually used in traditional haikus. Traditional haikus are also typically ambiguous and inconclusive, and deliberately leave the reader to create their own understanding. However, these poems are written in contemporary language that is more grammatically accessible, making the poetry and imagery much more tangible. Thus, each poem feels complete because its message is immediately understood. It is then up to the reader to decide how this message applies to him/her.

Each poem is accompanied by a small drawing made by the author, and the drawings can both limit and enhance the poems. Sometimes the drawings are images from the poem, such as a beehive for the poem honeycomb. The drawing reinforces the imagery, but limits the poem to that specific scenario. However, a silhouette of a pregnant woman and child accompanies the poem clouds, which describes the sky before a storm. This juxtaposition adds a surprising layer to a very straightforward poem, and enhances the poem in a way that language could not.

The poems explore a variety of topics, which makes the collection great reading material for any mood. It feels more intimate with its direct, honest descriptions. Rather than distancing in its complexity, it welcomes the reader with personal art from someone else’s life. It’s a short, sweet, and positive read.

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You can contact the reviewer, Laura O’Brien, at lauraellaroberts@gmail.com.

Leena Prasad recently wrote an iPhone app which was inspired by Not Exactly Haiku. The app is currently available for 99 cents at http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/not-exactly-haiku/id495835142?mt=8

 

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