joyride: haibun of Jennifer Hambrick
“Joyride is a joy to read. The concept of the book, announced in its title, remains tight throughout, lending energy to the whole. Expect cars, road trips, journeys of discovery, and an appealing amount of humor.”
— Michele Root-Bernstein, Modern Haiku
“These small tales capture the heart of experiences and the experiences of heart. Jennifer Hambrick’s Joyride: more than the pleasure of the road, the pleasure of the reading.”
— Maxianne Berger, Haiku Canada Review
Shortlisted by The Haiku Foundation for a 2021 Touchstone Distinguished Books Award!
This collection of haibun is indeed a travelogue. Jennifer Hambrick’s award-winning haibun take us from one place to another, but these tales also traverse the delicate, awkward, and hilarious territory between the seasons of life. joyride is reminiscent of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, in search of the inherent goodness in people, despite their circumstances and quirks. Hambrick reiterates that joy is not only a contagious outlook but a reliable tonic-something that our souls need.
Right Out So I’m seven years old, and a bunch of my relatives take me to the family cemetery. “I’m gonna be put right here,” my great aunt says, standing on my grandfather’s grave, and pointing to the next plot over. Freaked me right out. I mean, no way am I ever stepping on dead people. family reunion the colors of sunset on a fresh peach
Size: 4.25″ x 6.5″
Binding: perfect softbound
Year Published: 2021
Winner of the 2022 Marianne Bluger Book Award (Haiku Canada)!
Joyride is a joy to read. The concept of the book, announced in its title, remains tight throughout, lending energy to the whole. Expect cars, road trips, journeys of discovery, and an appealing amount of humor. Hambrick organizes thirty-nine haibun—each piece revolving around a mode of transportation, whether literal or metaphorical—into three sections. The first takes us from the present into the past of childhood, adolescence, summer travel, summer food, summer love: walking around / in a new place / first kiss. The second, a linked series of fourteen rip-snorting haibun, explores a threesome of car, woman, and man and the beach trip that brings the relationships to climax: thunderhead / the gas tank / more than full. The third section, a more sober, yet still optimistic affair, touches on the middle chapter of life, with its intimations of sorrow, illness, and the road ahead. westbound situation / all the time in the world / to
watch the sunset. Recommended.
Michele Root-Bernstein, Modern Haiku
As I write about Joyride by Jennifer Hambrick, it has been shortlisted by The Haiku Foundation for the 2021 Touchstone Book Award, and has, not surprisingly, received much praise elsewhere. In back-cover blurbs, Stella Pierides calls it a “beautifully written book,” and John Stevenson, “a triumph!” For Cherie Hunter Day it is “something that our souls need.”
The thirty-nine haibun are gathered into three sections, and the publisher has given these brief vignettes space: only one of the haibun actually crosses over to a second page, so nearly all of them face a blank page. All this white space helps aerate prose that already has its own airiness written into it, such is Hambrick’s skill with words.
The prose of “Together” (p. 81) is an excellent example of the poet’s powers of description. In the first paragraph, the I-persona visits family graves. After, in the second paragraph, she leaves for downtown
where a magnificent salt water aquarium in the lobby of an office building catches my eye. Amid swirls of ghostlike jellyfish, two seahorses bob in the undulating current, tails intertwined.
The prose is also quite playful at times. How can a reader not love the joy in “That Summer” (p. 25): “everything was wheelie-o, bling-bloop, water in the frying pan, skittereedoo. everything purple and pink, crackly-crunch, salty-sweet, lemon-lime.” It continues in this vein for the next several lines, and it’s not any wonder when the haiku caps it off.
in a new place
Not all haibun pair the haiku with prose. “Mammogram” (p. 83) follows the haiku with a ghazal. I share here the third and the sixth of the seven couplets:
a riddle unspooling in velvet night air,
the hum of darkness fills my breast
like a tree without shade, the breath
of an unfaithful lover lies in my breast
Many of the tales feature a car named Mary Ellen. This behaviour, described in “Jerk” (p. 51), seems typical:
she lurched forward like she was trying to buck me through the windshield but we jerked along to the Shop-N-Sav and I parked her in the shade of a tree and when I came back a few minutes later she had a flat tire and that’s when I knew who I was dealing with.
You can feel the breathlessness in the prose, and I haven’t even quoted the entire unpunctuated, one-sentence paragraph!
Of course, haibun include haiku. The one in “Inside” (p. 73) is quite apt as it interrupts the I-persona’s inner-monologue while she is driving through rush hour:
the alpha goose honks
at the one out of line
The penultimate haibun, “Dropped” (p. 91) features a rush of feelings, memories and observations as friends move away. Then
as the wind dies down, they get into their car and drive into the distance.
the road stretches
These small tales capture the heart of experiences and the experiences of heart. Jennifer Hambrick’s Joyride: more than the pleasure of the road, the pleasure of the reading.
Maxianne Berger, Haiku Canada ShoHyōRan
And see Mike Rehling’s review!