SKY=EMPTY, by Judy Halebsky. New Issues Poetry & Prose, 2010, 83 pp., $15 (paper)

Ernest Fenollosa started it, then passed it on to Ezra Pound, who influenced Kenneth Rexroth, Allen Ginsberg, Philip Whalen, Robert Creeley, Gary Snyder, Jack Spicer, Cid Corman and Jackson Mac Low. Quite a list: encompassing Imagist, Beat, San Francisco Renaissance and the poetry of L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E, all influenced by different forms of Japanese poetry.

From Basho's haikus to the bogus avant-garde works of Araki Yasusada — a postmodern Japanese poet hoax who had many a renowned poet praising his work — Japanese verse has fascinated Western poets. One can add to this eminent group the new work of American poet Judy Halebsky, whose collection "Sky=Empty" celebrates the influence of Japan while creating new perspectives in American poetry.

The collection, which won the 2009 New Issues Poetry Prize, concerns itself with language, how we use it to perceive and then describe the world, the problems this causes and the difficulties inherent in such an undertaking. Halebsky explores the materialism of words, their heft and look, their sliding signifiers and, in kanji, their nonfixed signifieds. Words observed as objects, some transient and elusive, others solid and resonating.