Deep Shade Flickering Sunlight
Selected Haiku of O Mabson Southard

edited by Barbara Southard
and Randy Brooks

Brock Peoples, student editor


O. Mabson Southard
Deep Shade Flickering Sunlight
Selected Haiku of O Mabson Southard

ISBN 1-929820-05-4 • perfectbound • March 2004 • 128 pages (5.5" X 8.5") • $16.00 US

Brooks Books is pleased to offer another Goodrich Haiku Masters edition featuring outstanding English-language haiku poets with the publication of Deep Shade Flickering Sunlight: Selected Haiku of O Mabson Southard.

This collection includes the very best work by one of the leading pioneers exploring the art of haiku in English in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Southard spent a significant portion of his life’s literary work developing his approach to the genre. It is our hope that readers will enjoy these top-quality haiku and develop an appreciation for Southard’s significant contributions to the art of haiku in English. O Mabson Southard has continued to receive critical acclaim and the recognition he deserves in anthologies of haiku, but most of his work is out of print or in magazines which are difficult to find. With this collection, his work can now be more fully considered by haiku scholars and enjoyed by contemporary haiku readers.

—Randy Brooks, Editor & Publisher
Brooks Books

ISBN: 1-929820-05-4
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Under the live oak:
    deep shade, flickering sunlight—
        and a wild turkey

On the top fence rail
     he lights, knocking off some snow—
          a common sparrow

The old rooster crows . . .
     Out of the mist come the rocks
          and the twisted pine

A trim, quiet girl
     comes tripping along the path—
          and I ask the way

About the Author:

The poet was a man known by many names. He was born Ordway Southard, but during his stay in the Hawaiian Islands in the sixties, he and his wife, Mary, adopted Hawaiian names, O for Ordway and Malia for Mary. Somewhat later, under the influence of feminist thought, O Southard became disenchanted with the use of the patronymic, Southard. He then became Mabelsson Norway (Mabel was his mother’s name and Norway was her pet name for him in childhood). His last published works appeared under the name O Mabson Southard.

Ordway was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts on November 29, 1911. He came from an old New England family that traced their ancestry on both sides back to English migrants of the early seventeenth century. His mother’s father, Horace Austin, was governor of Minnesota in the late nineteenth century, and Mabel Austin was educated at Oberlin and later took her M.D. at Johns Hopkins at a time when there were few women doctors. She married Elmer Ernest Southard, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard, and the couple had two boys and a girl.

Southard strongly believed that haiku should be based on concrete experience, and his keen observation of nature was cultivated in the course of frequent wanderings in the wilderness. He rejected literary criticism that emphasized the symbolic in his poetry. Whatever symbolism might be construed by others, the poet avowed that the verses he wrote flowed from concrete moments of enhanced sensibility. Southard was convinced that the capacity of our senses to perceive the natural world must be cultivated by living simply. The individual caught in the pursuit of ambition and material possessions has neither the time nor the inclination to do so. According to the poet, it is independence of mind and heart that allows feelings to flow deep and true.

—Barbara Southard

Comments from previous reviews and editors:

“The sharp clarity and depth of his images—the rocks and tree coming out of the mist in his well-known “old rooster” haiku, the loon's cry crossing the still lake, the sparrow knocking snow from a fence-rail, the dogwood petal carrying its moonlight into the darkness—these and many more will ensure that his name (or names) will endure as long as there are readers of haiku.”

The Haiku Anthology—Cor van den Heuvel, Editor—Cor van den Heuvel, Editor
O Southard was extremely active during the sixties and early seventies. His work was influential on many poets during the early years of haiku in America. Southard expresses a disdain for symbolic readings. …In a letter to Helen Chenoweth published in Haiku West in July 1971 he says, “The words of poetry mean things. But for me poetic symbols are merely verbal; the things meant do not mean other things. In the glare of academic symbolism, the subtle inner light that a verse may throw is surely lost…” In this statement we can detect Southard’s immanentist poetics. Like Thoreau’s speculation in A Week that “Nature, rightly read, [is] that of which she is commonly taken to be the symbol merely,” Southard implies that nature, both in its own domain as well as in his haiku, is the source of its own significance.

—Tom Lynch, from his dissertation,
An Original Relation to the Universe:
A Study of North American Haiku