The Wonder Code, edited by Scott Mason, is a not-to-be-missed anthology of contemporary haiku. Capacious, diverse and inspiring, it skillfully illustrates the poignancy and joy a mere handful of carefully chosen words can hold.
Mason begins with an introduction addressing the question, “[C]an non-Eastern readers hope to even ‘get’ haiku?” While he explains that “haiku poetry is the unmistakable product of Eastern culture” with roots in Zen Buddhism and Shintoism, he also suggests that “direct personal responses to everyday moments […] have proven well within the grasp of original thinkers in the West.”
The haiku included, by writers around the world, are arranged thematically in five chapters: “Think Small,” “Come to Your Senses,” “Feel the Moment,” “Prepare for Surprise,” and “Only Connect.” Mason writes a conversational introduction to each section, followed by poems he selected from The Heron’s Nest, a national journal dedicated to haiku. The anthology also delivers a “Solo Exhibition” of Mason’s memorable original haiku, including: “spring/ an airborne squirrel/ open-pawed” and “Amalfi sunrise/ a cluster of lemons free/ of the bird netting.”
A “Further Reading” section offers a generous and exciting list of journals, books, and anthologies readers might wish to consult next.
Mason deftly arranges the offerings. For example, a haiku incorporating inorganic elements of the natural world—“first warm day/ the hum/ of Harleys” —appears on the same page as one steeped entirely in the organic world: “mid July/ two-part harmony/ in the lavender.” At another point, the commercial (“store window/ nude mannequins/ herald spring”) shares space with the natural (“nude beach/ a man and a woman/ collecting feathers”). The haiku patterns vary throughout. “There is simply no hard and fast syllabic rule for an English-language haiku today. (Sorry!),” Mason explains, noting that the number of lines is also flexible.
All told, this is a thoroughly entertaining and thought-provoking collection, sure to please haiku fans and novices alike. It would also be an excellent addition to introductory high school and college-level poetry courses.