a goldfinch instant

Book cover for "a goldfinch instant"Paul William Friedrich’s a goldfinch instant is in the spirit of Basho – but it breathes with Henry David Thoreau as well. Haikus “from Concord to India” are embedded in a prose poem that will be of particular interest to readers familiar with Friedrich’s poetry as well as his work in anthropology and linguistics – and that will be a delight for readers who encounter Friedrich here for the first time. It begins when “a goldfinch instant / on the top of a young fir / hit by first sunlight” triggers a memory of an afternoon with fourteen year old Nicky, one of Friedrich’s children to whom the collection is dedicated. From “the North Carolina of Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain to Han Shan in distant China” to the New England of Friedrich’s childhood, to Mexico, to India, to “the outskirts of Chicago” with a nephew and “his bird expert father… totally serious about red-tailed hawks and owls in the snowy fields with the cold March wind blowing… totally focused because it’s fun to be out there with moles and voles under the dead marsh grass and harriers cooperating with Athena’s birds coursing through the twilight… and because yet farther than those frozen wastes are other skies and other hawks like the three Thoreau describes on one page that come to us not as Hemingway’s ‘moments of truth’ …but as transitory experiences you cling to with bare hands over the abyss when the insects and then the plastics take over and miracles like Nicky will have seen the dawn of their death.” “Totally serious, totally focused, because it’s fun to be out there” beautifully describes the spirit of Friedrich’s work. (Publisher’s description)

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Sample Poems

the little cobra
sips milk from a votive bowl
set there by children

veins spread through a leaf
like first ice crystallizing
love begins – or hate

one snowy egret
can light up the pink radiance
over blue waters

as a parched tongue tastes
spring waters, so my crooked arms
received her – new-born

through a wild snowstorm
the Russian poet found us
drawn by my icon

cathedrals of France
how your polychrome windows
have stained my mind’s eye!

song sparrow music
home at last and spring is here
but her love has flown

high up there two hawks
circle, widening circles
our last dance


“It’s all so intensely and wonderfully personal, revealing… a person who has lived so vitally in so many parts of the world, and who has read poets so sympathetically and written in their company.”

– David Bevington, Professor of English, author of The Complete Works of Shakespeare

“A student of lyric epiphany in Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, Paul William Friedrich shares over 170 of his own lyric epiphanies. His haiku, as truthful to the original Japanese form as the English language allows, causes simultaneously disquiet and delight. Not a single humanly important theme is left untouched in a goldfinch instant.”

– Katia Mitova, poet and editor

“Vigorous and nuanced: shrewd, unabashed, and often revelatory, Paul William Friedrich’s new haiku cycles provide us with incisively observed snapshots of eternity, tenderly gripping handholds on his, and our, mind and heart.”

– Glenn W. Most, Professor of Classics and Comparative Literature, author of Doubting Thomas

“Paul William Friedrich’s poems set the tone for a magic, yet Cartesian journey from Early Life to the “pink radiance” of the Finale, which could also be a new start, the moment when love, colors and “words come back” and the “mind’s eye” is stained by “polychrome windows.” There is in this collection an amazing sense of unity in expressing the beauty of our world, a sense of togetherness.”

– Stella Vinitchi Radulescu, poet, author of Insomnia in Flowers 

“Friedrich spans continents, cultures and generations, closing the chasm between humans and nature – and the even greater gulf between human and human. Each haiku is a gem. Read them – and read them again.”

– Deborah Tannen, Professor of Sociolinguistics, author of You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation

“Paul William Friedrich has achieved… a most subtle fusion of the classical Japanese form with his own personal experiences. It’s a masterwork, a delicate fabric where tradition has been given a new energy by an ardent practitioner of poetry and life.”

– Adam Zagajewski, poet, essayist and author of Without End: New and Selected Poems