Vol. 11, No. 18, Spring 2014

robert d. wilson, A Soldier's Bones: Boris Nazansky

Damir Janjalija, Sloboda u izmaglici / Freedom in the Mist: Dimitar Anakiev

Language and Silence, Selected Poems of Svetlana Marisova: Don Baird


Vol. 10, No. 17, Summer 2013

Issa's Best: A Translator's Selection of Master Haiku by Issa Kobayashi; English translation by David G. Lanoue

Vesna Oborina, Proljeće u srcu / Spring in the Heart: Zoran Raonić, Milenko D. Ćirović Ljutički


Vol. 9, No. 16, Summer 2013


Damir Janalija, Otisci snova/Imprints of Dreams: Dimitar Anakiev

David G. Lanoue, Frog Poet, Red Moon Press: Curtis Dunlap, Michael McClintock, Marjorie Buettner


Vol. 8, No. 15, Winter 2011

George Swede, Joy in Me Still: Haiku: Michael Dylan Welch

Helen Buckingham, Armadillo Basket: Liam Wilkinson

Ljubomir Dragović, Uska staza/ A Narrow Road: Robert D. Wilson

Tomislav Maretić, Leptir nad pučinom (Butterfly over the Open Sea): Dubravko Marijanović


Vol. 8, No. 14, Summer 2011

Helen Buckingham, Christmas City: A Haiku Sequence: Anatoly Kudryavitsky

Zlata Bogović, Pjesma slavuja / Nightingale's Song: Vladimir Devidé, Vasile Moldovan, Đurđa Vukelić-Rožić, Zvonko Petrović

Petar Tchouhov, Safety Pins: Morelle Smith

Slavko J. Sedlar, Таквост 3 (Suchness 3): Mileta AĆIMOVIĆ IVKOV, Nadja Brankov, Zoran Raonić

Ljubomir Dragović, Uska staza/A Narrow Road: Vladimir Devidé, Mileta Aćimović Ivkov, Dragan Jovanović Danilov, Dimitar Anakiev



Charles Trumbull. A Five-Balloon Morning. Santa Fe, New Mexico: Red Mountain Press, 2013, unpag., 5.5 x 5.5˝, perfect softbound. ISBN 978-0-9855031-3-0. US$16.95 + tax and shipping from the publisher at www.redmountainpress.us.










Marian Olson, Santa Fe, New Mexico


Haiku poets around the world know Charles Trumbull’s work mostly through his editorship of Modern Haiku, arguably the premier journal in the West. For the last seven years (2006–2013), he has served as its consummate editor, leaving behind a wealth of contemporary haiku poetry and provocative scholarly essays. Indefatigable in his service to the haiku community, he has selflessly served and promoted the best of modern haiku. Now that he has stepped down, he has had the time to devote to his own poetry and with it has written A Five-Balloon Morning.

Through the years a smattering of Trumbull’s poetry has appeared in journals worldwide. But this is the first time poems about his native New Mexico are gathered in one rich volume. Throughout they paint the southwestern state with nuance and variety that natives will readily recognize and strangers will remark, “So this is what New Mexico is like.” The haiku flow from the innocent awe of a child to the irony and appreciation of a mature adult. Because of this uniqueness in content and cultural color, A Five-Balloon Morning is destined to become a haiku classic in the state of New Mexico, for there is no other book like it.

Trumbull grew up in Las Vegas, a small historic town in northern New Mexico, near the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad, the Old Santa Fe Trail, and Fort Union, built to protect interests on the Santa Fe Trail. His youthful imagination was etched by vast desert landscape, immense sky, working folks, and yes, cowboys and Indians. In the introduction, Trumbull tells the reader that A Five-Balloon Morning “collects bits and pieces: my impressions from a small-town New Mexico childhood, my many visits home while I was living in the East and overseas, the joys and vicissitudes of living in New Mexico, an interlude about the momentous events of 1945, and a sentimental tour to various points around the state.” He then asks the reader to join him “in a kaleidoscopic look through the lens of haiku, at the land of enchantment.”

The volume is organized into five parts: “Leaves from the Tree” (22 poems), “Leaving New Mexico & Coming Back Home” (20 poems), “A Coyote Circling” (30 poems), “Trinity” (20 poems), and concludes with “Turtle Dance” (32 poems), the longest and most sweeping section of the book. The titles are highly illustrative with echoes of history, place, and cognitive musings.

“Leaves from the Tree” opens with haiku fueled by memories from the poet’s childhood. He begins this saga of his life with “raking into piles / leaves from the tree / I climbed as a boy,” a poignant haiku about his symbolic tree of life.

whiff of creosote—
childhood summers
walking railroad ties

two boys
flip the stinkbug on its back
dog days of summer

line drive to center
all faces turn toward
the alfalfa field

heading and heeling . . .
a cowboy loses his hat
in the summer rain

The section concludes with two haiku about the deaths of his parents. The underlying emotion runs deep and reflects the end of those formative years.

my parents’ ashes strewn
on Johnson Mesa
wind stirs the aspens

first Christmas
without my mother
without my childhood

“Leaving New Mexico & Coming Back Home” continues the odyssey of Trumbull’s connection with the Southwest. After leaving New Mexico he traveled the world and lived in great cities until the pull of his native state brought him back to his heartland. In this section the man has matured and so have the images he writes about with humor and wit.

sunflower field
all the windmills
face the same way

small-town café
a special tip for the waitress
named Destiny

Colfax County
the oncoming driver
tips his hat

rural speed limit sign the necessary bullet hole

“A Coyote Circling” is marked by the connotative haiku of a mature observer who shows the beauty, wildness, and pathos of this high desert country.

yucca in full bloom
a sky full
of cumulus clouds

cold rain on snow
a coyote
circles the garden

along the roadside
obscured by tumbleweeds
cluster of white crosses

Also in this section, the poet submits to subjective material, giving the reader a glimpse into the private interior of the man.

the cry of the elk
is me

taut strands
of barbed wire
so much left unsaid

“Trinity” haiku take the reader to Trinity Site, the infamous testing ground for the first atomic bomb in a remote stretch of desert east of Socorro, New Mexico. Trumbull’s prologue to the haiku about that fateful summer day in 1945 that blasted the pristine desert of native plants and animals reminds us how that detonation “instantaneously shifted the political, economic, military, and especially moral landscape of the modern world.” What sends shivers down the back is the apparent calm innocence of the haiku in this section when we know full well the dragon-monster living inside each one.

October dawn
a fireball rises
over the mountain

Trinity Site
in the guard’s vehicle
fuzzy dice

Trinity’s garden:
snakeweed, Russian thistle,
yucca, sagebrush

“Turtle Dance” concludes the volume with a melding of the ancient worlds of Native Americans, 400 years of Spanish/Hispanic traditions, and the modern world of McDonald’s. Unlike most other states in our union, Native Americans and government own forty-two percent of the land. The uniqueness of the culture doesn’t escape Trumbull. The haiku in this section include images from Carlsbad in the southern part of the state to Taos in the north.

ancient lava flow
a small descanso nestles
among the rocks

rhythms of the Turtle Dance
beneath Taos Mountain
first dawn

conjunto music
blaring from dusty low-riders
Española summer

small-town directions
all start at

over the Sandias—
a five-balloon morning!

Oh, those five-balloon mornings. In the fall when balloonists from all over the world converge in the Duke City of Albuquerque, the chilly blue air tingles with vitality. Residents and visitors alike can feel it as the colorful balloons with fires hissing beneath their giant canopies glow in the pre-dawn, and then on cue, begin to rise, filling the sky with myriad shapes and colors, as varied as Trumbull’s poems. While crowds cheer, automobiles hunker at the sides of the highways with their occupants mesmerized by the joyous spectacle. The title of this volume mirrors the tone and mood of the book. Coming full circle with “Turtle Dance,” Trumbull’s poetry encapsulates the essence of New Mexico while sharing with the reader the soul of a poet whose heart and mind were hewn from a land with an uncompromising and rugged energy, an energy that inevitably summoned him home once again.



Republished from Frogpond 36:3 (autumn 2013) by the author's permission.