Student Reader Responses

School's Out by Randy Brooks
Responses to Favorite Haiku

Global Haiku Tradition
Millikin University, Spring 2001

School's Out by Randy Brooks
Favorite Haiku Selected by Students

Kara Bohannan's Favorites

I really enjoyed your haiku in School's Out (Foster City, CA: Press Here, 2000)! What a treat at the end of the semester. I would like to take this opportunity to briefly elaborate on why I have chosen the five favorites that I have, starting with "she couldn’t forgive" (73).

she couldn’t forgive
what she couldn’t forgive—
grave sunkin in

This haiku was especially powerful to me, and is one which I found myself thinking about long after I first read it. That to me, is the sign of a great poem, one that touches the reader. Initially, I wondered if the person passed away because they couldn’t forgive herself of something that had happened, and she killed herself. Next, I began thinking about it from the aspect that this was a person who cared for the person that died, and now it was too late for her to tell the person how she felt, and the things that filled her with regret. Now she was left with that. I do believe that we are harder on ourselves than anyone else, and it is sometimes harder to forgive ourselves than to forgive another. Here, she will never know.

the bride’s mouth
stuffed with cake . . . the groom
answers for her

I loved the wedding haiku on page 39 because, number one, I am the romantic who adores weddings, but I also just really enjoyed the moment here. You have a beautiful bride. You know that she is beautiful, because all brides are beautiful, and then her groom stuffs her mouth with cake.

It’s just a fun moment. And I also loved that the groom spoke for her. Obviously, if her mouth is filled with cake, but also have you noticed that when two people are in love with each other and are really close that they tend to finish each other’s sentences…

show me yous.
you first.
barn roof creaks

Next we have "show me yours" on page 23. This was adorable because it is just typical of childhood innocence. That lingering curiosity filled with timid apprehension. The haiku painted the picture just as it would be if you were watching from a crack in the barn.

rain at the window
the newborn’s fingers
catch on my beard

Following this, is "rain at the window" on page 44 . This haiku is a dream of mine. I can’t wait until the day when I have my own family and I can peek into a room and see the man I love with our child. So small in his large hands. But the room is filled with silence and contentment and peace. Reading this haiku, I could hear the rain spattering against the window. And I could see this babies tiny hand reaching with curiosity to touch your face. It was a beautiful moment for the reader, as I am certain it was for you.

new grave . . .
a graduation tassel
hangs from the stone

Lastly, we have "new grave" on page 77. This one is particularly special to me, in a sad way. Unfortunately in the last four years, I have had eight friends pass away, one’s who have been very special parts of my life. And though I am certain that they have gone on to dance in heaven, it is still a painful reminder to go to their graves. When I read this haiku, I immediately thought back to my Joe, who died before our high school graduation. He was too young, and that haiku is just a reminder of that. The fact is that life ends for too many, too short.

I have truly enjoyed your haiku. And it has been a pleasure to be a part of your course! Thank you.

—Kara Bohannan

April Romberger

old calico
comes in from the garage—
cobweb whiskers

I love this one because it is such a vivid, whimsical image. I grew up with cats, and know well how funny they look when they have things stuck in their whiskers. Also, it is a concrete symbol of the cat’s carefree curiousity as it was poking about in the dust and cobwebs of the garage a few moments before. The image is endearing and well-presented in my opinion. It brings up many fond memories for me of my cats, and also of times I too played in the dust as a child, just like the cat in the haiku.

high as my arms
can lift him . . .
the moon still out of reach

This haiku makes me just want to coo, "awww." The image of the father lifting his child to help him/her reach the moon is so tender and intimate. It may also been seen as more deeply metaphoric. In this case, it is just as, or even more beautiful. While it is unusual to use metaphore in haiku, I feel it works well here. The child’s connection to nature in the form orf his/her reaching for the moon is also apparent and worthy of contemplation.

first kiss
deep in the woods. . .
sunbeams filter down

I find this image simply enchanting! The innocence, purity and excitement of a first kiss set against the backdrop of the serene woodland shade is a wonderful fit. Having grown up as a city girl, I never would have thought to place this action in such a setting, but am delighted to discover it so, and how well it seem to fit. The filtered sunbeams seem representative of peeking emotions beginningto stir with that act, or some such wonderful idea. The utter peacefulness and beauty of the language suit the piece well.

—April Romberger

Kyle Curry

Best of Brooks:

he opens his cupped palm . . .
a small tadpole with
a little wiggle left

(School's Out, 21)

This haiku very perfectly reflects the innocence, joy, curiosity and playfulness of youth. A small tadpole isn’t the easiest thing to catch, it probably took the boy a little while to do. Then, the image of the tadpole only having a little wiggle left makes me think that the boy was going around showing it to a lot of people or maybe carried it a long way to show it to someone. He was probably proud of catching the tadpole, and thought that it was amazing. He wanted to share the experience with others, most likely unaware that the tadpole needed water to survive.

two lines in the water:
not a word between
father and son

(School's Out, 26)

This haiku, along with “dirt farmer's wife,” show Brooks’ proficiency with using silence in his haiku. This haiku is a very quiet poem, but also very intimate. It brings to mind a very vivid picture, one I have experienced myself. And while nothing is being said, there is an impression that a far deeper conversation and expression is taking place than can be conveyed in words.

more summer rain . . .
an origami stork appears
on her fingertips

(School's Out, 40)

This is a haiku about something that most of us can relate to: summer rain. The second image is very well expressed. Someone is making origami to pass the time inside. She is so good at it, and the origami work is so intricate that it is almost as if the stork has been formed by some magic.

—Kyle Curry

aspen leaves
shimmer over the riverbank—
hummingbird hovers

I like this haiku because it is so peaceful. The image reminds me of being on vacation in Colorado. This haiku represents being able to relax and enjoy the beautiful surroundings that are either unfamiliar, or just being able to take time to notice and appreciate the things we miss when life is so busy. I can picture the aspen leaves, with their silvery undersides, fluttering in the wind. The word shimmer works very well in the poem and adds to the visual element of the haiku. I picture the hummingbird over the river, near the aspen trees, itís wings mirroring the flapping of the leaves. The clear river below is moving fast, but the hummingbird, because of its quick wings, is paradoxically suspended in the air.

—Amanda Young



©2001 Randy Brooks, Millikin University, Decatur, Illinois || all rights reserved for original authors