Saturday, November 27, 2010

Rich Follett -- haiku & harmonics

Rich Follett is a super-nice guy. Okay, that's enough of the personal stuff. If you want to know more about what a fine fellow he is, send him a friend request. I'm sure he'll be delighted to receive and accept it.

I want to dig into his poetry. Lately, he has been creating unusual haiku. Complemented with uncanny images.

When I read one of Rich's haiku, I encounter the magic of words. When things get compressed, each word must do special duty. I said “magic”. Well, what else is it when only certain powerful words are selected from infinity? Words that could be no other, yet words that would occur only to a wizard.

These poems follow the traditional 5-7-5 pattern. But regular haiku is more about the effect of lines than the vortex of particular words. At least that seems right to me. With Rich, those selected words oscillate within themselves and then cast a centrifugal pressure onto other words. One word might even color another two lines away. Or cause it to hum with sympathetic vibrations.

As an example of traditional or regular haiku, I select this one by Matsuo Bashô:

above the moor
not attached to anything
a skylark singing

Here, the lines are more important than the words comprising them. Other words could be used for the same effect. Here also, the pulse of intent is to convey a spiritual "sermon." Other haiku are content to present, via line momentum, a pure moment of nature. Others still, move toward a final line-image of irony or simple epiphany.

In a Follett haiku, each word is a tone, chiming chromatically and contributing to a field of overtones. The whole poem shimmers in this matrix of overtone. These harmonics emerge from depths of connotation, perhaps even subconscious zones. From where language blurs into Jungian-like myth and inchoate significances. The words are colored and textured in these intensities. And by setting one indispensable word next to anther, a mosaic of immediacy is woven.

So...what is the intent of a Follett haiku? I think it has to do with urging us into the phenomenological mystery of time and toward those spirits inhabiting the inorganic and the organic. The world of form and substance "sounds" through the atomic resonance of discrete words.

There is another kind of sympathetic vibration in the Follett haiku. Some people (myself included) will occasionally add a picture to augment a poem. This can be as fun -- and ambiguous -- as finding a title for the poem. With Rich, the image is the inspiration, and he is brave enough to place it naked before us. There is an audacity here. By giving us the actual image, ambiguity is no longer a veil for poetic diffuseness. Before us is what is being written about. This photograph equals this poem. The poet is starkly revealed as either master or pretender. If not handled in a subtle and masterly manner, the result could be a cloying tonality or a hurtful dissonance. Fortunately, we are dealing with a unique master. Harmonics of word-to-image are "sounded" into, become mingled in the exquisite aesthetic air.

Check these two out:

haiku/photo combination # 5

primeval portal
sacred raven waits within
answers span æons

haiku/photo combination # 6

silken blue milk pool –
lapis lazuli ripples
cloaking azure frogs

Ezra Pound said "make it new." Rich Follett has found a unique way to vivify an ancient form.

Rich has co-written a book of poetry with Constance Stadler, called Responsorials. It's available at NeoPoiesis Press --

These photo/haiku copyright 2010 – Rich Follett


  1. Well said.

  2. As a devoted fan of Rich Follett's haikus, I thought this was a brilliant review, Tim. Indeed, Rich doesn't write haiku as much as, as you say, transform the art form. I am eager to see Rich's work complied in book form. Indeed, he is truly the modern successor to the greats.

  3. Thank you, Connie. Yes, Rich has a distinctive flair.

  4. Indeed, Rich is a nice guy, Tim. His poetry, particularly his haiku is of the brilliant realm, and demonstrates his uncommon gift of verbal music--the aspectual relations between image/poetry is spiritual in the rendition of providing elation.

  5. When I attempted to contrast that old haiku with Rich's haiku, I meant that Rich opens up the wonder of phenomena to our senses, to the pulse of the numinous flowing into phenomena. Rather than zen-sermonizing about transcendence ("not attached to anything").

    Of course, that's just my take on it. I would call Rich's aesthetic a different form of spirituality than one infused with or pointing toward detachment.

  6. Wonderful review of Rich's deeply beautiful words!

  7. love Rich's work and I am also his avid fan along with Tim's writing;) its a win win for me with enrichment by Rich's thoughts and word magic:)

  8. Actually I looked under Wikipedia for the definition of "Nice Guy" and lo and behold it listed Rich … seriously, Rich's haikus are some of the finest examples adhering to the purest tradition in this wonderful Japanese art form. But Rich has a unique ability to raise the bar on creativity without degrading that honored tradition. Rich's incredible grasp of the English language and use thereof packs entire novels into the brief traditional haiku pattern. The old adage used so often about peeling back the layers of an onion aptly apply here. The man is a nice guy… but he is a very deep man as well!

    1. I love poems in which every word counts imagistically, psychologically, musically - the thing about Rich's haikus has to do with a resonance that occurs in such a way in the reader that what the latter brings of meaning can be fused with what the poet has given, word & image both - that takes a gift, takes a flight of carving fancy to achieve - love Rich's work, the beauty, intesity, & sonics of it - thanks muchly Tim!

      Lisa Gordon

  9. Thank you all for the wonderful and insightful comments!

  10. I am a devoted fan of Rich Follet. His work is exceptional. I would love to see Rich's haikus in a published book

  11. Due to having to focus on other matters in my life I've grown a bit out of touch --OK, quite a bit more than "a bit" truth be known-- with my eclectic and uber-talented community of writers and poets whom I've met, and befriended, on the interwebz first via MySpace then, later, facebook. I haven't been able to devote the time to reading and commenting on all of their literary postings nor have I been able to update my own. Among my many on-line writer/poet friends, Rich Follet is one of my favorites -- in terms of his caliber as a writer/poet generally-speaking, he is high in the 90th percentile at the least; but, as a crafter of haiku, --which is another literary creature unto itself in my opinion and lumping it in with "poetry" according to the collective western mind's conceptualization doesn't do it credit-- he is, also, a master of the form. Most people who attempt to "write" haiku are not students of haiku for they err in thinking you simply compile enough words to meet the requesite syllabic total of seventeen in three-line stanzas following the standard five-seven-five syllable-count for each line of the "hokku" -- true to the "letter" but not the "spirit" of the form. Follet does not fall prey to this tendency -- demonstrates that he has studied the classical masters of the form (i.e./e.g.: Basho; Issa; Buson; et al) who dedicated themselves to eliminating extraneous and superflous imagery that only serve to muddy the "spirit" of a given haiku. "Less-is-more" is the zen-paradox intended for the form of which Follet adheres ardently. Additionally, he presents his haiku with a photographic image of a scene in which the haiku expounds upon -- so-deftly, he qualifies as a master of the haiku discipline known as haiga. If you, anonymous reader --to borrow a device of Stephen King's--, are a lover of superior poetry AND superior haiku by one who knows what they are doing with the form, Rich Follet is YOUR man for the job; so, whaddaya waitin' fuh?!...

    [Nels Saugstad]

  12. I would echo what Nels said above. Rich and I have been in the wordsmithing business for some time now and not only is he the kind of guy you'd expect to be a priest in his non-writing hours, he is one hell of a poet. He has slowly as is evident even from this page alone become a master of the haiku as well as the poem. Some of his images remind me a great deal of Robert Desnos (if you haven't read him definitely check him out) and his autobiographical poem/book "Silence, Inhabited" is fantastic. I wrote a review of it which you can find on and I have always expected to see more attention come to his work as he is both accessible and extremely sophisticated. Check out his music as well! :)

    John Thomas Allen

  13. What a beautiful review! Rich is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful people I have known. Rich inspires you with his work, he inspires you by just being Rich! I have learned a lot from him and his work... His haikus are magical :) Would love to see them published as a book....

  14. I am most grateful for all of these carefully considered and affirming responses to Tim's review and to my work. It is a rare privilege for a poet to experience such positive peer commentary. I feel inspired to continue my photo/haiku odyssey!

  15. Rich, your photo/haiku odyssey is an enriching experience for us who follow you on the voyage.

  16. Came back for a second read, Tim. I am grateful and humbled now as I was then ...