Book Review: Kakos 401 Haiku Poems by Kakos Kakos
Haiku can be a difficult form to wrench meaning out of. When it is infused with right feeling though, it can hold all the beauty the human soul might desire. It is a way of speaking, the brief three line segments, that can grip the heart with clarity and wonder. Reading Chris George Demopoulos’, who writes under the pen name, Kakos Kakos, “401 Haiku Poems,” I found myself thinking often of the great T’ang Dynasty poet, Li Po. Po was not often, if ever, a practicing Haiku poet, but the flavor of his brilliant works resonate with that forms power. Kakos Kakos’ work does as well. Truth is spoken in these 401 poems. Subtleties abound but more importantly, those subtleties hold wonders. The last lines of so many of the poems here in this collection waft over the reader with the scent of prayer, the life blood of living.
Throughout the collection you are given wisdom, lessons on ways to be freer, and, I do believe, happier. Kakos Kakos is wise in the things he chooses to impart here. I do not think it would be a mistake to place this book by your bedside and read several of the poems each morning before starting your day. It might be a settling thing to do, imbuing a calming effect that would, hopefully, last until evening.
The book begins with a small musing entitled, A few words about Kakos Kakos. I found this informative and, surprisingly, it added to the work by giving an understanding of the origins of the word and why Mr. Demopoulos chose it as a pseudonym. Wonderful black and white photographs appear here and there, accompanying the poetry. Various photographers contributed but still there seems a synergy to them that work well with the collection as a whole. Each has an ancient feel and brought a Chinese flavor to things, depicting pagodas and flower gardens and koi ponds and the like. Often photographs can take away from works of literature but here I believe they only add to what is given.
Many different feelings live within Kakos Kakos’ “401 Haiku Poems.” He is getting at a great deal and much of it is infused with a secular kind of spirituality that brings one closer to the world we live in. I was glad for the opportunity to read this book. Best of all, it is a thing you can return to again and again, a place where you can replenish what was first given, while also gaining new insights and tenderness. That is a rare gift to receive. Let it wash over you, over and over and over.
Kakos 401 Haiku Poems
Outskirts Press (2013)
Reviewed by F.T. Donereau for Rebecca’s Reads (2/14)
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