When I first mentioned lawyer Roberta Beary at f/k/a, in August 2004, I confessed that her haiku made me “feel like a poseur” for using the pseudonym haikuEsq. Since that time, I’ve grown more and more certain that only Roberta Beary deserves the sobriquet “haikuEsq” — not only because of the quality and quantity of her haiku and senryu, and all the recognition heaped upon her by the haijin community [see our post “yes, her again“], but because she continues (unlike myself and f/k/a Honored Guest Barry George, J.D.) to actively practice law, as a member of the Washington, D.C. Bar.
seeing his arms cross
i uncross mine
inside her backpack
“custody hearing” – The Unworn Necklace; & pocket change
“custody weekend” – Simply Haiku (Summer 2007, vol 5 no 2)
Of course, most lovers of fine haiku don’t know or care that Roberta has a law degree and is a real estate finance attorney. For them, she’s not “the best lawyer haiku poet,” she’s quite simply one of the best damn haiku poets alive — and she has proven it in haiku journals, contests and anthologies, year in and year out, for over a decade. However, to the chagrin of Roberta Beary fans worldwide, there has never been an entire volume of her haiku in existence, to grace our lives and book shelves.
the empty place
. . . wild lupine
— not until now, that is. For throngs of haiku/senryu aficionados, therefore, the publication by Great Britain’s Snapshot Press, in August 2007, of The Unworn Necklace, by Roberta Beary, is a long-awaited, much-anticipated haikai milestone.
In case you can’t tell, TUN‘s arrival in late September on this side of the Atlantic, so that I could actually hold it in my warm little hands, was a special treat for me. And, although I . . .:
- am well known for holding my friends to especially high standards and doling out praise to them in a miserly fashion
- have never, to put it mildly, been a lawyer-phile who feels a bond with others simply because they are lawyers
- rarely feel any ancestral tug toward Italy and Sicily (not even around Columbus Day)
- never feel the need to write book reviews, especially ones that wax poetic about volumes of poetry; and
- do not at all understand why people are “proud” of achievements by other individuals in which they have played no part (e.g., local sports teams, fellow countrymen, relatives)
. . . . . . I, nonetheless, feel an enormous need to say how thrilled I am that Roberta Beary — friend, and fellow-lawyer, Baby Boomer, Bethesdan, born skeptic, and 50-percent decendent of Sicilians — has finally given us the 69-poem volume entitled The Unworn Necklace. Those who know me well, know that I do not consider myself a poetry lover. Indeed, my attraction to haiku — and especially the haiku of Roberta Beary — is the very fact that it is the most “unpoetic” of poetic genre, without frills or fancy verbiage, finery or hyper-prosody.
I especially like the focus of haiku and senryu on the concrete, the small things that are part of everyday life. Roberta excels at that focus, while courageously revealing moments (as well as cycles and seasons) of pain, and understanding that darkness and hurt are not only natural parts of life, but can be as life-affirming as the joys and beauty she also finds and shares.
So, I know Roberta will excuse me for not “waxing poetic,” with flowery words or theoretical flourishes, about the book as a collection of poems. I shall let more scholarly experts do that — to wit, from the Back Cover of The Unworn Necklace:
‘Moving full circle from the opening to closing poems,
this substantial collection of Roberta Beary’s haiku
offers a feast for the inner eye and heart.
Beary’s haiku record life passages—love and loss,
anger and forgiveness, family and solitude—linking
human nature and the natural world with exquisite
sensitivity and striking clarity. A stunning collection!’
……………………… Penny Harter
‘Remarkably depicted and balanced, The Unworn
Necklace unravels and extends like a poignant novel.
A prescription for healing, its poems seem as if they
were chiseled, exhibiting just the right words. Many
of these haiku will become classics, yet this is the book
to tell others about right now.’
If you are a frequent visitor to this weblog, you may have in fact [talk about added value] already seen most of the poems that are presented in The Unworn Necklace. (Click on the posts listed on f/k/a‘s Roberta Beary Archives Page to find scores of her poems.) Indeed, the first poem we posted the first time we specifically featured Roberta was this one, from A New Resonance 2 (Red Moon Press 2001):
all day long
I feel its weight
the unworn necklace
Last January, when her manuscript won the Snapshot Press grand prize and was therefore slated for publication later this year, we posted five poems from Roberta’s upcoming book. One favorite was this one, originally published in Frogpond, which won 1st Place in the Haiku Society of America’s 2006 Gerald Brady Senryu Contest:
the little pile
Since receiving a copy of the actual book two weeks ago, I’ve shared a pair of poems from TUN, here, and another there. To be honest, there are so many great poems — which Lenard correctly says “will become classics” — that I cannot readily (especially under the influence today of a flu virus that is spreading across Upstate New York) choose representative examples from TUN. Instead, I shall literally open the book, at random, to three even-numbered pages, and type each of the poems right here for you, the f/k/a reader.
he left behind
a nurse unties
early spring walk
in my pocket
If the above doesn’t make you want to click the link to the Snapshot Press Order Form, or to the page that just went up today at Amazon.com, I guess you must be suffering from flu-brain-fog, too. All there remains for me to say, in closing, is: Thank you, Roberta, for creating this collection. Please don’t wait so long to give us a second volume. And, please don’t feel that you have to “suffer for your art” this next decade. Don’t visit the Dark Side just for your fans’ sake. But, do take us wherever life brings you.
update: See our posting “PSA honors haiku — Roberta Beary’s The Unworn Necklace” (April 22, 2008)