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Book Review: 'Spare Room: Haibun Variations,' by Jim Natal
Reading, discussion Saturday, April 27

Former Yavapai College professor Jim Natal’s latest book of poetry, "Spare Room: Haibun Variations," is wholly a delight to read. Lest you get hung up on the idea of Haibun (Huh??) being a form created by the Japanese Haiku master, Basho, around 1644 and are tempted to dismiss it as irrelevant today, hold on a minute. Natal’s use of the form, his “variations,” is more appropriate to today’s world than many other contemporary forms.

“Am I the only person on the planet who hasn’t yet given a TED Talk?” Natal asks in the prose poem part of a Haibun, then goes on to lament the fact that websites and Facebook and email are not enough to have an identity anymore, saying that in the future, “everyone will have a 'reel.'"

Instead of saying “Here’s my card” it’ll be “Watch my biopic.” The sharp-edged, dark humor of the tone is followed up at the end by “Twenty-year-old stars/Write autobiographies/Mayflies live one day,” in the haiku portion of the haibun.

“Home appliances have gotten too smart for their own good. No, make that for our own good,” Natal writes in another prose poem, “Pretty soon we’ll need a user ID and a password just to dry our hair,” and goes on from there, ending with “A flat of mushrooms/ Propagating in the dark/Too many buttons.” Or how about “Everything’s a “brand.”.... “people are brands, your likeness/body/mind,” the prose poem ending with: “Quit bitching about income equality. It’s brand eat brand out there,” followed by “Chum draws circling sharks/Scavengers swallow what’s left/Big fish, bigger fish.”

But I’m leaving out far too much by skipping, line-picking through the bodies of prose poems, which you’ll need the whole of to truly experience the full "aware" of each haibun. You can just pick up a copy of "Spare Room," or better yet, come listen to Jim Natal read from and discuss these poems at 2 p.m. Saturday, April 27, at the Peregrine Book Company.

The Peregrine Book Company is at 219 N. Cortez St., in downtown Prescott.

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