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WONDER ~ Reflection on Scott Mason’s 'The Wonder Code'


‘What’s the word for the sky in your house?’ my granddaughter asked as I was putting her to bed. 

‘The sky in my house?’ And I looked up towards the ceiling, imagined the open space above it, between floor joists and the roof’s wooden rafters, and I saw what she was seeing, saw it confined there as if it had forgotten to move before we’d converted the derelict barn to a home. ‘Ah, the attic,’ I said. 

Fifteen years later I live in a house with no attic and sometimes I stare at the sky and wonder about all that time it was living with me and I hadn’t known.  

In his Afterword to The Wonder Code Scott Mason asks, ‘… where does wonder begin?’  And answers, ‘I believe it begins with a sense of discovery.’ 

discover (v.)  from the Old French descovrir, which meant, satisfyingly in the above context, to unroof, and also to unveil, to reveal.  

We discover things when we lift the veils of self-importance, fear, indifference, cynicism, intolerance, impatience. We discover things when we do not assume we already know everything. 

swallowtail
maybe I’ll
say yes i 

The Wonder Code is many things: a guide to writing haiku, a meditation on haiku practice, an anthology and a philosophical manifesto. It is also a tribute to the 285 poets whose work appears here, collated from the pages of the American haiku journal, The Heron’s Nest. The haiku, presented in five separate ‘Galleries’, with a sixth gallery showcasing Mason’s own work, are introduced to us through a series of reflective essays. 

We are shown small things (‘Think Small’):

afternoon tea
each ant takes away
a granule of light ii 

The sensory (‘Come to Your Senses’): 

firelight
the hiss and crackle
of an old LP  iii

The seasonal (‘Feel the Moment’): 

summer stars
my children ask me
to name a favourite iv

Surprising things (‘Prepare for Surprise’):

winter funeral
we face our mortality
in high heels on ice v

And the satisfying (‘Only Connect’): 

setting sun
my mother picks
the last tomato vi

The Wonder Code is a compact but enjoyably heavy book that opens comfortably in one hand. Its satin boards and yellow endpapers are as charming and cheerful as smiles. The font and text-size are easy on the eyes. And Mason is a writer with his readers’ interests at heart. He is serious without ever being solemn; he is informative and celebratory. And his own haiku illustrate an absolute engagement with the deceptive simplicity of haiku writing: the challenge of creating two parts that ‘ignite’ and produce the startling heat of veracity.

      slave burial ground
a mourning dove
      we can only hear vii

My granddaughter was a city kid, more at ease with London’s squalling traffic and hurly burly streets than the unfamiliar quietness of woodland tracks, the distant horizons of open fields.  Each visit to our house in the countryside led to discoveries: the sound of woodpeckers, a camp made with fallen branches, the persistent tingle and itch of nettles, and once, on a trip to a local farm, the petting of a lamb.
  
‘It feels like porridge,’ she exclaimed as she ran her palm across its tight woolly coat. 

‘Life awaits … may its wonder be with you.’ viii 

The Wonder Code, Scott Mason

[i] Francine Banwarth, pp.202
[ii] Lorin Ford, pp.23
[iii] Ashley Rodman, pp.64
[iv] Tom Painting, pp.159
[v] kate s. godsey, pp.187
[vi] Elizabeth Moura, pp.269
[vii] Mason, pp.301
[viii] Mason, pp.278

First published by Wales Haiku Journal, July 2018

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