Chester Creek Ravine: A Collection of Haikus by Barton Sutter

Daniel Kilkelly, Editor-in-Chief

Many students learn Haikus as a fun little exercise in grade school.  It seems like a kid’s poem to some because they are short, easy to write, and silly.

However, the Haiku has a rich history as a poetry form, and can be just as authentic as any other.  Bart Sutter, winner of Minnesota Book awards in poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction, recently released a collection of Haikus entitled “Chester Creek Ravine.”

Like traditional Japanese Haikus, Sutter’s poems each reflect one of the seasons.  The book is divided this way, starting with spring and ending with winter.  Here, we are exposed to poignant snapshots of some of the most relatable feelings of each season.  For example:
“Spring at last? It has to be:
A pair of woolen mittens
Stuck in a leafless tree.”

Although traditional Haikus followed the 5-7-5 syllable count, modern Haikus consider that more of a guideline (although the three-line form is maintained).  Sutter constructs his poems without the numbers binding him, letting each line say what it needs to say without restriction.

There is plenty of humor as well.  In some poems Sutter pokes fun at himself:
“Oh, a raindrop!
Reminding me I’m fifty-nine,
With a bald spot.”

One thing that Sutter does in this collection that’s not typical of Haikus is to have the first and third lines rhyme, or at least nearly rhyme.  This is an interesting interpretation of the Haiku, abandoning the 5-7-5 mechanic and including rhyming lines.  However, it works seamlessly in his poems, and rarely seems forced:
“Four big birches grown
Out of the same stump.  Siblings
Who stayed close to home.”

Another aspect of the Haiku beyond what some learned in grade school is a turning point or juxtaposition in the poem.  Even in such short form, most Haikus have that turning point that flips your expectations on their head:
“College girls in shorts
Jog past. Pretty, tan, and tough,
They gasp for breath and snort.”

This poem starts us out with young, attractive, fit women, and then paints the lovely picture of them wheezing for breath.

This collection is a good read.  The poems flow well, and have a nice mix of funny and serious.  The cover art of this compact little book, a creek drawn in a Japanese painting style, fits it perfectly.  Limited copies are available on Amazon for $16.00.  Enjoy the well-crafted work of Bart Sutter.