Tarun Reddy, Brew-ku: Where Coffee Intersects with Life (dMon Publishing, 2012)
Full disclosure: I have known Tarun for, at this point, more years than either of us would care to admit. I’ll put it this way: we were co-writing bad hair metal sings before you ever heard of Toni Basil.
I normally take great pleasure in dinging authors for not knowing the difference between haiku, a strict poetic form that adheres to a number of rules, and senryu, the much looser form. Not when I happen to know the author well, but there you go. (For the record, haiku—a three-line poem that, in Japanese, has five syllables in the first and third line and seven syllables in the second—always includes a seasonal reference, two distinct images, and a “cutting” word, or phrase, that usually comes between the two images, while senryu only adheres to the 5-7-5 rule—and to make things worse, 5-7-5 is not a strict rule in English; per both Higginson [The Haiku Handbook] and Henderson [Haiku in English], 5-7-5 is an upper limit, or a guideline, in English-language haiku and senryu; many authors of haiku in English aim for poems that can be recited in a single breath.) Brew-ku consists of two hundred senryu, each of which has been translated (using an online service) into Japanese as well, and each accompanied by a random coffee-related fact.
Taken as senryu rather than haiku, if you care about such things, Brew-ku contains a number of pieces that show a keen eye for detail and, occasionally, good insight into human nature through the observation of body language and the like. I like what we got…but what we got is somewhat less than two hundred senryu thanks to some problems either with the editorial process or the printing process. (Note that I’m not coming down on Reddy here, but his publisher.) A number of pieces are repeated with only slight changes on different pages; for example,
Limping and waiting
Runner with broken ankle
Caffeine eases pain
…on page 150. On page 160, the only difference is that the word “swollen” takes the place of the word “broken”. On pages 148 and 158, verbatim:
Eighty five degrees
Yet the hot cups of lava flow
Weather, no effect
Likable indeed the first time round. A bit confusing the second. It’s enough for me to give the book a pretty severe smack on the wrist, but again, this isn’t a problem with the author, it’s a problem with the press. A new edition that corrects the book’s problems would be welcome indeed. ** ½