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Homework by Tom Clausen. Saddle-stitched, full color cover, 4″ x 6″, 36 pages. $10., ppd. ISBN: 1-903543-00-2. Order from Snapshots Press, 132 Crosby, Liverpool, L23 8XS, England.

To quote the jacket notes: “Focusing squarely on domestic life, this collection of haiku, senryu, and tanka is often funny, often sad and always paradoxically both familiar and eye-opening.” It cannot be said better nor more succinctly what this newest book by Tom Clausen contains. I can only add my continuing praise for Tom’s work. It is always a revelation and delight how he seizes on the tiniest experience, and through his examination of it and the cool observation his own feelings, carries it over into a major event. This leaves the reader wondering, “Now, why did I not notice that?” and “Why did I not think of that as material for a poem?”. It seems that tanka is especially designed for the methods of Tom Clausen. Even when aware of the smallest thing, he is also aware of how that thing or event is affecting him. This occurs even in his haiku.

While some purists might fault his haiku for not being closely enough aligned with the nature-nature viewpoint, his sensibilities are absolutely accurate for tanka. This collection gains, I think, by the inclusion of his haiku (which often portray the lighter moments of family living). They seem to play off and actually highlight the attributes of his tanka. Altogether, the editing and arrangement of the poems seems especially fine and relevant. For anyone who has grown up in a family or is living in a family now, this book will take away those terrible moments of aloneness when one felt that no one else in the world ever had such moments of doubt, despair and pure undiluted joy. Tom has been there, and he has the courage to face them directly and honestly, and to continue to hang with the feelings until he has created pure poetry out of them.

no longer me
it proves a mystery who it is
I’ve become
walking around this house
with my family there inside

I sort of knew
my coffee cup
was empty –
so much I look in it
just to see

The sensitivity of the editor, John Barlow, is shown in the choice of a drawing done by Tom’s young daughter, Emma Clausen, as cover along with the insider joke of the title of the book – Homework. Delight piles on delight with this one. Review written by Jane Reichhold