Mark Miller: Light and Counterlight

Mark Miller, who lives on the south coast of New South Wales, has produced three previous volumes of poetry. His new collection, Light and Counterlight, is published by Ginninderra Press.

Over the past ten years, Mark’s short-form poems have won awards and appeared widely in journals and anthologies. Light and Counterlight, which features a watercolour by Ron C. Moss on the cover, is Mark’s first book of haiku.

Light and Counterlight is truly a book of Australian haiku. These poems capture Australian images stretching from the sea to the farm, to the forest, to the mountains:

sunlit snow
the radiant throat
of a honeyeater

cave walls
the lost tongues
of ochre figures

night currents
moving beneath the surface
jellyfish moon

deep summer
the crack of walnuts
on the outhouse roof

The poems are presented two or three to a page and grouped into 15 short, themed sections. This arrangement achieves a congruence within each section while allowing the reader’s mind to rest briefly as it moves between sections.

Mark has a haiku poet’s eye for a strong image which he combines with close attention to the sound and rhythm of each poem. Many of the haiku are presented in three lines with a caesura after the first line. Interspersed throughout these three-line poems are a substantial number of very effective ‘one-liners’. I present a selection of these here to emphasise Mark’s skill with this form:

neap tide flipping onto its back a caught fish

inside the ocean the names of all the rivers

parting grass a snake slips out of the silence

on the face of it moon in the rain bucket

fog settling on the town hall steps a homeless man

While focusing primarily on poems about the natural world, the collection includes a number of poems that reflect on the human situation within a built environment. Examples include the final one-liner shown above and the following haiku:

power outage
the distant sound
of a saxophone

You will find this collection of Australian haiku very much repays a second and third reading. Light and Counterlight by Mark Miller is available from Ginninderra Press.