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Winter Hearts Book Reviews


Book Review - (more forthcoming)

Introduction by Joseph Bein

Jackson Lewis and I were introduced to tanka at the same time. Since that one-credit writing round table, I have had the joy of collaborating with Jackson on numerous occasions and watching him flourish as a tanka poet. The publication of Winter Hearts marks a milestone for Jackson, but it is a milestone that doesn't come as a surprise to me--or, I imagine, to anyone else who knows his work and the dedication he has to the tanka form.

When I first read this collection, I found myself thinking of Yosano Tekkan. When tanka, a five-line lyric derived from the Japanese waka tradition, made its resurgence into the popular poetic landscape, Tekkan was one of its staunchest advocates. His poetry sought ways to voice masculine identity in compact, powerful verse. In Winter Hearts, Jackson participates in the same tradition. His beautifully crafted tanka explore themes of sexuality, suppressed emotion, isolation and memory, all in a clear masculine voice that is acutely aware of its cultural context. The Tekkan tradition is present, but so is Jackson's personal stamp of artistry.

The poems in this collection demonstrate his efficient use of word and image, carefully crafted to define the world of the single moment that is captured perfectly within five short lines. Throughout, there is a consistent awareness of the tension between public self and private self, as the voice of the poet brings these two spheres into sharp contrast. The collection is rich, contemplative, full of powerful imagery and haunting, unspoken questions. It is an exciting reminder of the ways in which a tradition hailing from Japan's earliest poetic roots can live on through the pens and lives of some of today's most skillful writers.


Introduction to Winter Hearts.

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