In a world of Twitter and short attention spans, how can a poet convey the deep reflections, insights and aesthetic sensibilities that are the essence of his art form? For Sander Zulauf, poet and professor at County College of Morris (CCM), the answer was to follow in the footsteps of Matsuo Bashō, a 17th century Japanese master of haiku, and write a book of haiku while residing on an island.
The resulting book, Bashō in America
(iUniverse), was written by Zulauf during a stay at a cabin on a Lake George island. The book, which envisions Bashō leaving his Lake Biwa “abode of illusion” in Japan to visit an “abode of illusion” on Lake George, weaves Zulauf’s haikus around the prose of Bashō and quotations by translator and poet Sam Hamill.
Zulauf, of Byram Township, will be giving a reading from his book and autographing copies at a reception in the CCM Campus Store on Thursday, November 13, at 4:30 p.m., at 214 Center Grove Road, Randolph.
Included among his poems are: autumn morning sun / breaks through rain clouds / gold beads on pine boughs
, and blessings flow from black / mountain down on these islands / to the ready soul
“This book was a fantasy come true,” he says. “The synchronicity of Bashō and me and this little adventure was amazing. He speaks of pine islands, black mountains and clear waters. That is what I found at Lake George. It just felt like it was meant to be.”
The book, available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, has met with shining reviews.
“In this stunning collection Sander Zulauf makes a convincing bid to become our American Bashō. Poem after brief poem struck me right between the eyes, with shocks of recognized truth,” wrote X.J. Kennedy, poet and translator.
The publisher also awarded the book its Rising Star designation, which is rare for a book of poetry to receive such recognition.
This is Zulauf’s fourth book of poetry. His third book, Where Time Goes, is now in its second edition. His other books are Succasunna New Jersey and Living Waters.
Asked what he seeks to convey in his poetry, Zulauf replies, “I’ve always been fascinated by the abundance of creation and nature’s beauty. Poetry allows me to convey some of that wonder. It’s a kind of communion with the world and my soul.”
At CCM, he teaches a number of courses, including English composition, poetry and creative writing. At the top of each class syllabus, he includes a quote to guide his students. It reads, “The point of higher education is to think logically, live creatively and act ethically.”
Teaching at a community college, he says, also has its unique rewards. “I’ve seen so many lives turned around here.”
Zulauf earned his bachelor’s degree from Gettysburg College and his master’s degree from Indiana University. He has been a poet with the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation since 1987 and was named the first Poet Laureate of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark in 1999.