By E. Martin Pederson
Review by LB Sedlacek
“Smart Pills” is a new collection of haiku poetry. Each haiku is contained on its own individually, but easily fits along with the others. There are three haiku per page. If you enjoy this shorter traditional form of poetry, you will find much to like about Pederson’s poems.
From page 9: “television is on us / as smallpox blankets / to native tribes.” He uses no capitalization and sparsely uses other punctuation throughout the poems.
The cover photo of a seaside at sunset incorporates the author’s photo as if he’s floating in the surrounding clouds. It’s quite a striking effect drawing the reader to it.
In the opening to his book, Pederson declares that you the reader need to take a smart pill every day to become smart unless of course you don’t believe in them. It gives quite the introduction into the thought producing poems on the page.
From page 10: “artists intrigue / by hiding the I am / under layers of color.” He skillfully presses you into thinking more, producing that a-ha moment when a line really gets to you.
Pederson is originally from San Francisco, but he has lived in Sicily for the past several years. He teaches English there at the University.
With these haiku he delves into the pitfalls of money, drugs, deadlines and marriage, puppies, ointments and more. His poems stay to two to three lines, each line containing minimum syllables. Many of the poems could be quoted on those ever popular Quotes sites online or on social media. Several of them sound like good solid advice someone might give you, perhaps even a professional. Pederson is definitely trying to up your intelligence with these poems.
Here’s one about a vegetable you may or may not eat, from page 18: “artichokes – two hours to prepare / ten minutes to eat.” Of course the poem is talking about cooking and eating an artichoke, but such as this layered plant looks is their more beneath the surface?
Haiku can be unique with its ability to articulate simple things or moments. These types of poems can bring quick pointed enlightenment with only a few words, syllables and lines. In this book, Pederson’s haikus become experiences that cause us to ponder, to pause, or maybe to become passionate about all at the same time. He may speak of the everyday, but he does it in such a way that it uncovers what lies beneath.
Pederson presents 66 haiku in this collection. With them he shows creativity and perception while exploring the world all around us. It is a tapestry of flowing thoughts and words punctuated by the enlightenment they bring. Simply put, this is a harmonious group of poems and yes you will feel a little bit smarter after reading them!
Pederson is quite a noted author. He also has another poetry collection available entitled “Bitter Pills.”