Saturday, March 15, 2008

Alan Bern

Alan Bern is a librarian at Berkeley Public Library. He’s also been coming to my house for the past year to participate in a poetry group. I have both his books of poetry, No no the saddest and Waterwalking in Berkeley (waterwalking is a form of swimming pool aerobics).

I’m finally reading Waterwalking in Berkeley. Like it.

Perhaps because haiku is so very short Alan collects sets of them under a single title. “First Steps”, a batch of ten haiku, concludes with this one:

only the sound
of creekwater


When I said to Kent I thought it a good Northern California drought poem, Kent wrinkled up his brow. A lot to read into six words? And so little context! If I didn’t know Alan lived in NorCal? I don’t know, but it’s a reading that feels right to me. Every winter we wonder, will the rains come? If they don’t the creeks dwindle away and many disappear altogether. Thus the creek visitor hears the creek and, fully aware that there have been no recent rains, peers into the creekbed yet is still disappointed to see the winter creek not rising. Before getting a good look he hears the creek and imagines it more vigorous than it turns out to be. It is only the sound that rises, the water level fading, silence, perhaps, not weeks away.

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