James Brett

Michael Dylan Welch
and Lee Gurga

Global Haiku Tradition
Millikin University, Spring 2001

James Brett

James' Essay on
Michael Dylan Welch

A Comparison: Michael Dylan Welch and Lee Gurga

Lee Gurga and Michael Dylan Welch are similar haiku poets but both have subtle differences. Both poets have strong nature connection in all of their poetry. Gurga has a stronger, more specific image. While Welch offers a broader, interpretational image, closer to that of a photograph without a caption. You assume the givens yourself and base what you feel the story is on that. While Gurga has a prominent voice of direction. He often lays out a specific interpretational path for you to take. Each author occasionally pursues the same subject for their haiku and both are successful in their own manner of writing.

Meteor shower
A gentle wave
Wets our sandals

Michael Dylan Welch

"There’s the comet…"
the little boy watches
his father’s breath

Lee Gurga

I appreciate the image of Welch’s haiku more than Gurga’s in this comparison. Both are star gazing night scenes. Welch’s in the summer, Gurga’s in the spring or fall. Welch’s haiku is more complete to me only because the location and season are defined clearer than Gurga’s. I prefer the silence and and quiet lapping of the water in Welch’s to the voice of the father in Gurga’s. Both are special moments, and I enjoy each of them.

Clicking off the late movie . . .
The couch cushion

Michael Dylan Welch

Television light
Flickers on my children’s faces—
Autumn sunset

Lee Gurga

Of these two TV haiku between Welch and Gurga, I prefer Gurga’s haiku. I see the rich red sun setting on the horizon out the window behind his children. Meanwhile his children are hypnotized by the television, not concerned with the beautiful vista outside- pure nature and beauty vs. electric buzz and flickering materialized images. Welch’s is more observational to me. And it is missing the connection to nature that is vital to the contrast of Gurga’s. There is little emotional effect for me from Welch’s.

spring breeze through the window…
stains on an apron
left at the counter

Michael Dylan Welch

summer afternoon
a pair of glasses
resting on an open book

Lee Gurga

Michael Welch’s haiku seems more powerful to me of the two. They are both along the same theme. Both appear that the human subjects have abandoned indoor activities to go outside and enjoy the beautiful spring/summer days. But Welch’s image seems stronger to me because it is a picture of a woman/wife/mother/all of the above who has given up her duties temporarily to go outside and take advantage of the beautiful weather. Whereas Gurga’s seems as though it is someone who is not abandoning any duties per say, (perhaps homework of a student if it said "textbook") but abandoning a less appealing pastime compared to all of the possible outdoor pastimes to be had.

landing swallow
the ship's chain
dips slightly

Michael Dylan Welch

afternoon sun—
squirrel on a slab of snow
sliding down the roof

Lee Gurga

Gurga’s "Afternoon sun" is more appealing to me comparatively. Both haiku are images of small animals trying to live in our built up industrialized/constructed world. They illustrate the animal’s effect on this world. However, Gurga’s is a frantic comical image of a little squirrel sledding down a rooftop. The squirrel has either upset the avalanche or the sun has been melting the snow and it is just shifting as the squirrel is on it. Welch’s haiku is a calmer, simpler image. A weather reference is missing from this haiku, though I imagine an overcast still day- it is not suggested. Welch’s haiku doesn’t really have an emotional effect on me like Gurga’s funny little squirrel does.

Gurga often uses humor more frequently than Welch does in his haiku. There are few of Welch’s haiku that are obviously humorous. Unlike Gurga in these couple examples;

Class reunion
With my old girlfriend
Her girlfriend

Lee Gurga

Christmas pageant—
The one who had to get married
Plays Mary

Lee Gurga

Both of these haiku, though they can be serious subjects, are dealt with in a quiet tongue-and-cheek manner. Observant opposed to intrusive, but still maintaining the lighter side, Gurga uses humor in some of his work.

Lee Gurga and Michael Dylan Welch have similar writing styles. Their differences are subtle, but there. I personally enjoy both styles equally. I feel that at times, one should be able to enjoy a somewhat neutral illustrative image that invokes a vast array of emotion, like Welch’s, or one should be able to enjoy a more specified response, maybe with humor, or irony, like Gurga. Both Gurga and Welch are highly valued poets in the contemporary haiku community.

—James Brett


©2001 Randy Brooks, Millikin University, Decatur, Illinois || all rights reserved for original authors