Red Letter Poem #34

Steven Ratiner, Arlington’s Poet Laureate, is today’s guest blogger.

Let’s take a moment, shall we?  And perhaps another moment?

A deceptively simple suggestion, but not all that far from the impetus behind the Japanese haiku.  From the time of Basho onward – and fortified by the Buddhist emphasis on being present within even the simplest of experiences – the haiku became both a method of fully engaging with one’s surroundings and a way of reflecting such moments within a succinct but imaginatively-charged poem.   Rather than explaining the mind’s journey, the three-line poem arranges the sense-impressions to propel a reader along a similar path, allowing the power of implication, juxtaposition, surprise to strike the deepest possible chord.  So right now: after one of the most contentious elections in American history; while the Covid pandemic rages anew and economic uncertainty makes our future feel more than a little tenuous; and even our prospects for a safe Thanksgiving dinner are fraught with genuine concern – Brad Bennett’s fine poems offer the reminder of what is actually ours: this moment.  And then, if we’re fortunate, the one after that.  Not too small a reason for gratitude.

Beside the fact that Brad has made haiku writing a central feature in his life, it pleases me tremendously to know that he’s taught the practice as a regular feature in his third-grade classrooms. I can only imagine the balm it provides to a young mind – not to mention the ability it develops to better participate in one’s own unfolding life. Brad’s poems have appeared in dozens of the important haiku publications including Chrysanthemum, New England Letters, and Gratitude in the Time of COVID-19: The Haiku Hecameron (edited by Scott Mason) where some of these poems first appeared. His two collections are: a drop of pond (which won a 2016 Touchstone Distinguished Book Award from The Haiku Foundation); and a turn in the river – both published by Red Moon Press.

Red Letter Poem #34: 

Red Letter #34

The Red Letter Poems Project was created in grateful partnership with many of our town’s cultural resources: the Arlington Commission for Arts and Culture, the Arlington Center for the Arts, the Robbins Library, the Arlington International Film Festival, and Arlington Community Education. We’ll send out a poem from a new poet every week. If you enjoy them, we encourage you to forward them to friends –  in Arlington and beyond –  or to post them on your social media platforms with the hashtags: #RedLetterPoems, #ArlingtonPoetLaureate. If you want to make sure you receive these poems directly – or to receive notices about future poetry events – send an e-mail to: with the subject line ‘mailing list’.

In ancient Rome, feast days were indicated on the calendar by red letters.  To my mind, all poetry and art – and, in truth, even the COVID-19 crisis itself – serves as a reminder that every day we wake together beneath the sun is a red-letter day.

– Steven Ratiner

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