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Sexy Hieroglyphics: 3,375 Do-It-Yourself Haiku, Laurie Fox, Chronicle Books.

Laurie Fox has not so much written a book of haiku as created a means by which her readers can fashion over 3,000 of their own haiku from the phrases she provides them. It works like this: Each page of Sexy Hieroglyphics is split into three horizontal strips; each strip contains a line of poetry. As the reader flips through the pages, a continuously changing 3-lined haiku is created. Examples: "Married to moisture / (I am yours often enough) / Or flesh is like rain" and "Snow on volcanoes / The poem left in her hand / Temporary heat."

The "sexy" part of the book's title derives from the often romantic language. More precisely, thirst, heat, lips and moisture are recurring subjects, interacting to form "sexy" allusions. None of these are offensive or crude. In fact, most of them are rather sophisticated, like "Swallowing the need / Turning into wet music / A hot history" or "Cheeks burning like ice / A leotard in pieces / Exhilaration."

How much of this is really haiku? Allowing for a certain updating of the form into a late 20th century urban setting, these poems only occasionally reflect the haiku spirit, that spark of conflicting images haiku specializes in. Still, the best poems in Sexy Hieroglyphics capture a particular moment in an entertaining manner, although there are, in the over 3,000 possibilities, a fair share of clunkers here too.

What this book will probably succeed in doing is inspire readers to create their own haiku. Fox makes it seem so deceptively simple.

--Thomas Wiloch