Choice Poet of the Year
Lenard D. Moore
Voting in last year’s Valentine’s Awards, scores of excruciating decisions left me the
most difficult one of all: which of two poems was my favorite? One was
the trumpet glinting
from its case
Lenard D. Moore
I was compelled by the keenness of anticipation, appreciation of melodies
yet unheard, kinship of star and trumpet—the twinkling night sky
and brassy arpeggios suggested by the crisp syllables sprinkled
through the last two lines.
This year, an invitation to join The Heron’s Nest let me trade such annual agony and joy for
the every-three-months model, and affords me the privilege of honoring a poet whose haiku I have admired
since I discovered English language haiku a decade ago. Whether his early work or his latest contribution
to the Nest, Lenard D. Moore’s poems are consistently among my very favorite.
They are to be read aloud, enjoying their musicality, and savored by all the senses. Not one who reads
out loud well, I imagine a voice like that of James Earl Jones intoning each syllable.
Indian summer —
we ride around town
just to be riding
Here, a leisurely cruise is captured in the rich, slow vowels and internal rhyme at the end of line two.
The “r”s growl like dual exhaust pipes. The passengers’ exhilaration is evident in the long, ascending
“i”s in “ride” and its repetition at the end of the poem. Another example:
a purple haze
across the hairgrass —
scent of her perfume
Its delicate, almost hypnotic assonance and sibilance evoke the subtle beauty of the scene. The rest at
the end of line two allows the reader, having slowly exhaled the first two lines, to breathe in with the
Moore’s diction is honed, but never contracted into awkwardness. Adverbs are non-existent, verbs often
absent, and adjectives inextricable from their nouns. Each word reads true. Images are unembellished.
Brevity and suggestion welcome the reader to discover complementary experiences and layers of significance.
a magnolia leaf
falls between us
A leaf, not a petal or a blossom, falls, and we experience the tree’s cool shade, or the fragrance of its
moonlike flowers sharing the warm night air with the strains of the jazz reed that choreographs the leaf’s
Like a blues artist, Moore works in a structurally simple form with great potential for improvisation and
emotional expression. His sense of sound and rhythm is as good as any poet’s or musician’s, as in the poem
I finally selected as last year’s favorite:
snap of the shoeshiner’s rag
against the toe
Or one from this year:
cold evening —
the smell of chili beans
Switch the order to “cornbread / and chili beans” and you still have good eats but the poem falls flat.
Moore’s unobtrusive craft, economy, and restraint reflect more than stylyistic choice; they come from
the humility and empathy which allow him to consecrate things as they are:
Daylight Savings —
the glimmer of a penny
in the sand
the sheen of fish scales
on the pier
His sense of humor is light and honest, as in the following poem:
the bumpy ride
The alluring first line is followed by jolting “b” and “p” sounds and hard consonants in the second and
third lines. The ascending “bum-py-ride” and the descending “back-home” trace the rise and fall of the
car’s suspension, and the family’s spirits.
Moore’s harmonious juxtaposing of natural imagery and resonant kigo illustrates the alchemy by which
haiku achieves much of its power and depth. Family is inseparable from season. The connection may
be light-hearted, as in
of my grandmother’s voice
or heartbreaking, as in the two poems that shared the Editors’ Choice Award for October. Both are triumphs
of the poetic spirit. Both depict summer. One, merciless heat:
the squeak of my hands
on my daughter’s coffin
The other, a soothing breeze:
while listening to her poem
the summer wind
When I first read “hot afternoon,” I was certain no other poem in Volume VI would approach its startling
fusion of dissonance and beauty, frailty and strength, emotion and poetic sublimation. It is elegy in a
league with John Coltrane’s poignant, “Alabama,” also an artistic response to a tragic loss of innocent,
young life. But now I feel that “eyes closed” is every bit as good. Its first line invites us into
silence, sharpens our senses, and links poet and listener. The longest word in the poem, “listening,” is
given special emphasis. Its syllables tinkle like wind bells, like the words of Maiisha Moore’s poem,
as behind closed lids the first crystals of a new poem coalesce in Lenard Moore’s mind.
Poet and listener form a creative union that bridges the void. Poetry is a death-defying act.