If you adore a good story-one that's well written and well told, one that entertains and inspires, the kind that dazzles and makes you weep and laugh out loud at the same time-then you're in for a treat with New Shoes. This wondrous collection by poet and master story-teller Dan Gilmore offers 53 noteworthy stories to savor: specifically, haibun stories, a hybrid form of flash writing which blends prose poems with haiku or senryu.
"Like a Zen slap on the reader's back," Gilmore says, the haiku "enriches, deepens, and expands" the prose.
The emotionally resonant narratives in this book may be tiny (with the shortest running 68 words and the longest, 439), but they address large and universal themes-life and death, love and loss-with penetrating wisdom and insight. Their subject matter and tone range from dead serious, to nostalgic and mournful, to whimsical and absurd, to downright hilarious.
New Shoes is Gilmore's fifth collection of poems and stories. He's also author of a novel, and, not surprisingly, nearly 80 years on the planet have blessed him with an abundance of rich material to draw from. Beyond a myriad of roles as son, brother, spouse, life partner, friend, father, and grandfather, his life experiences also include blue-, white-, and gold-collar jobs from (among others) fry cook to college dean to psychologist-plus, ongoing work as a no-collar jazz musician and creative writer. He calls writing "the hardest and most enjoyable thing I have ever done."
As a fellow seeker (i.e., one who never stops wondering), I enjoy Gilmore's gently irreverent way of looking at life. I also relish the undercurrent of quirkiness and the interplay of comedy and tragedy in his work, his haibun especially, many of which are fables and allegories. They explore the human struggle to make sense of things that often seem incomprehensible, in particular existential and spiritual matters.
In a few, Gilmore plays it serious and somber, while in others, he plays with the absurd, experimenting both with "the garnish of excess" in the telling of the story and with the haibun form itself. In "The Hyperbolist," for example, he incorporates not only senryu but also free verse and tanka-a fine illustration of his premise:
"...I throw off the reins of propriety. I dance the dance of embellishment. I am addicted to blatant ornamentation and corpulent elaboration. For it's the garnish of excess that tastes so much sweeter...."
At KYSO Flash, we're keen on publishing boundary-stretching hybrids like these. Innovative haibun may contain imagined realities, narrative threads, or other elements of fiction such as characterization and dialogue to tell their truths, which is why we prefer the term "haibun stories" for such works. In addition to multiple haiku or senryu of various line lengths (one to four), they may also include tanka. Once in a blue moon, we may even see that rarest of hybrids: prose + haiku + tanka. "Raymond's Epiphany" (page 66) is an example of this rarity, and a remarkable story in more ways than one.
The majority of works here in New Shoes can be called innovative, stretching as they do the boundaries of traditional English-language haibun, a form which continues to evolve more than 50 years after Beat Poets such as Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and Gary Snyder began writing haiku.
While Gilmore has been writing poetry and fiction for 20 years now, his first experiments with haibun began a year ago. In February 2015, he enthusiastically accepted the KYSO Flash challenge for writers of prose poems and micro-fictions to try their hand at haibun stories. One thing quickly led to another, and we were delighted to release his first collection of narrative haibun barely three months later, in May. The 23 works from his chapbook Just Before Sleep were then featured in Issue 3 (Spring 2015) of KYSO Flash online....
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About the Author
"Happiest Black White Man Alive," one of Gilmore's flash fictions, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and was chosen by Pulitzer-Prize-winning novelist Robert Olen Butler as one of the top 55 stories for The Best Small Fictions 2015.
In his time, Gilmore has been:
a fry cook,
a jazz musician,
a draft dodger,
a minister in a Reno wedding chapel,
a single parent of two children,
a college professor,
a dean, and a consultant to business.
Gilmore lives in Tucson, Arizona and divides his time between playing jazz, writing, and loving his children and grandchildren, his life partner JoAn, and his cat.
For additional biographical notes, photographs of the author, and information about his books, please visit his website: