“On a branch | floating downriver | a cricket, singing.” ~ Kobayashi Issa (Trans. Jane Hirshfield)

Cover of A Haiku Garden: The Four Seasons in Poems and Prints

Today’s Two for Tuesday features poems from the book A Haiku Garden: The Four Seasons In Poems And Prints, by Stephen Addiss with Fumiko and Akira Yamamoto (a PDF of which can be found here). I’ve been intent on the coming of autumn, but I decided yesterday that I need to appreciate the last days of summer, regardless of the flies.  I find that whenever am keenly focused on nature and in search of poems, I turn to Haiku, and admittedly, I am very fond of the frequent appearance of dragonflies in this type of verse.

Haiku is a traditional 13th century form of Japanese verse that depicts a moment in time, or as Cor van den Heuvel wrote in 1987, Haiku is the concise “essence of a moment keenly perceived in which Nature is linked to human nature.” When translated to English, the formal Haiku is supposed to be composed of three lines of verse, usually unrhymed, with five, seven and five syllables. These 17 syllables are akin to the original form of 17 mora, which is a unit of Japanese syllable weight; however, it has been pointed out that roughly 12, not 17 syllables in English are equivalent to the 17 On (phonetic units) of the Japanese Haiku, which only goes to show that strict adherence to form does not necessarily a Haiku make.

Mori Shunkei,” Red dragonfly and caterpillar on plant” (1820, wood block print)

Over time, poets have moved away from the strict 17 syllable and line count while focusing more on the economy of form. Importantly, to understand Haiku it should be viewed as more than a short poem, more than a pithy description. For a poem to be Haiku, it must encompass a sense of awareness, an eloquence of brevity. One other aspect of Haiku that should be noted is the use of kigo, which are words or phrases traditionally associated with seasons. I actually found a world database on kigo which contains fairly comprehensive discussions of the Japanese term and its use in Haiku.

The Poetry Foundation has a good description of Haiku that can be found here. A more detailed history of the form can be found on the site With Words, and the British Haiku Society site offers a breakdown of the western views and approaches to the form. Historically, there were four Japanese poets considered masters of the form, sometimes referred to as the Great Four: Matsuo Bashō (1644-1694), Yosa Buson (1716-1784), Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828), and Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902). Seventeenth-century Samurai poet Bashō is often classified as the greatest writer of  Haiku; to read more about him you can go here or here for a collection of his verse.

Because of the compact nature of Haiku, I am breaking my self-imposed Tuesday rule and featuring more than two; most of these come from the “Summer” section of the book, and I am including the page numbers on which each can be found. Enjoy.

More later. Peace.


After the thunderstorm
one tree catches the setting sun—
cicada voices

~ Shiki (p48)

Seen in the daylight
it has a red neck—
the firefly

~ Bashō (p48)

The warbler
amid the bamboo shoots
sings of old age

~ Bashō (p51)

The garden darkening
the night quieting—
peonies

~ Shirao (p52)

The coming of autumn
determined
by a red dragonfly

~ Shirao (p60)

The dragonfly
has died his body
autumn

~ Bakusui (p63)

The puppy
completely unaware that
autumn has come

~ Issa (p63)


Music by Rodrigo Rodriguez, “Hitomi (Eyes), composed by Horii Kojiro

“The day exhausts me, irritates me. It is brutal, noisy. I struggle to get out of bed, I dress wearily and, against my inclination, I go out. I find each step, each movement, each gesture, each word, each thought as tiring as if I were lifting a crushing weight.” ~ Guy de Maupassant, from “Nightmare”

Emil Nolde Reading 1908 watercolor in black, washed india ink on fine laid paper
“Reading” (1908, watercolor in black, washed india ink on fine laid paper)
by Emil Nolde

“But there’s a litany of dreams that happens
somewhere in the middle. Moonlight spilling
on the bathroom floor. A page of the book where we
transcend the story of our lives, past the taco stands
and record stores” ~ Richard Siken, from “Snow and Dirty Rain”

Wednesday evening. Rainy and cold, 46 degrees.

In this dream, I am back at the department store, but by accident. I began on some kind of motorized scooter, and I was traveling through town, but turned down a road that I knew might be dangerous. At the end of the road, I saw four figures who looked very menacing, so I turned around, but the scooter sputtered and died. I rolled it to the bar where my father worked, only it wasn’t my father, it was someone else, but he was my father, and I told him that I really needed this scooter to be fixed so that I could get to where I needed to be, which was another town, apparently. I could hear music from the band playing on the upper floor, and my father said that he would fix the scooter.

Fred Williams untitled c1958 gouache on paper on board
Untitled (c1958, gouache on paper on board)
by Fred Williams

While I was waiting, I wandered through an underground mall, only to realize that if I went all the way through the mall, I would end up where I needed to be, which was across town at the store. I got to the store, but I was still dressed casually, and there was a store inspection, and I couldn’t be seen by the general manager until I changed clothes. I ducked into a bathroom, that was more like a spa, and I asked one of the other manager to grab me some clothes and shoes to put on, and I said that I would pay for them later. I just couldn’t be caught dressed as I was. There was a hound dog asleep in the stall next to me, and the general manager came in to inspect the spa, and I pretended to be taking a shower. He wanted to know who the dog belonged to, but we all pretended that we didn’t know, even though we knew it belonged to one of the other managers.

As I was rushing to get dressed, and I grabbed some make up samples that were on a counter in the spa. I began to put on foundation, but it went on much thicker than I expected, and I had way too much on my face, and I couldn’t get it off even though I kept wiping and trying to blend. My father came in and said that the scooter had been fixed, but he wanted to know why I looked so funny. I told him about the makeup, and a lawyer who was with him suggested that I try to blend it better. I gave her the dirtiest look I could imagine even though I thought that I probably looked like a clown, and then I went to find my students because suddenly it was a teaching dream.

It turns out I hadn’t been assigned a classroom, so I was trying to teach the small writing class in front of the elevators in the store. I hadn’t graded their papers, and one of the students insisted that he had turned in the paper to the office, but I couldn’t find the office. I looked down, and I was wearing a cocktail dress with blue tights and silver pumps. I knew that none of it matched. I suddenly realized that I didn’t have a copy of the schedule, so I didn’t know when I was supposed to work next. Dan (a real person from my past), gave me a hard time for never getting anything right.

blowing from the east
west south north . . .
autumn gale ~ Issa

I think part of the dream may have arisen from reading Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children yesterday. Great book, full of mystical creatures and fantastical people. I need to order the sequel.

Anyway, last night was hellacious outside and inside. The winds were so fierce that the wind chimes in the front yard sounded like someone was beating them, and this morning, the floor of the garage near the back door had standing water from the wind and rain. Inside, I was unable to get to sleep after I finished reading until sometime around 3:30 or 4, partly because of the  trigger point injections I got yesterday from my head to my buttocks and every point in between, and I was completely unable to get out of bed until well into the afternoon because I slept so poorly.

Victor Hugo Torquemada ink wash on paper
“Torquemada” (nd, ink wash on paper)
by Victor Hugo

Part of the problem today stemmed from being sore, and just thinking about  trying to get all of the preparations done for tomorrow kind of left me overwhelmed and unable to get much of anything done. The house still needs to be vacuumed, and the dining room table is covered with all sorts of domestic detritus, the kind that accumulates whenever Corey is home because the table is a convenient place on which to lay anything and everything.

Put all of this together, and you have one pitiful soul, completely unprepared for tomorrow’s festivities, as it were. At least the menu has taken shape: the two turkeys a la Mike and Corey; oyster stuffing, compliments of Eamonn; deviled eggs and cake, compliments of Lex and Mike; sweet potato casserole and banana cream pie, compliments of Brett and Em; and sausage stuffing, greens with smoked pork, whipped potatoes with heavy cream, kale crisps with sea salt, steamed green beans (maybe), yeast rolls (not homemade), and gravy, compliments of me. Oh, and we picked up a sample box of cheesecake squares to go with the other desserts.

So there you have it. Too much food, more than enough for the eight of us, and that we can do such a thing after years of want does not go unnoticed by any of us.

I hope your plans for Thanksgiving offer you some measure of peace and plenty.

More later. Peace.

Music by Jamestown Revival, “Heavy Heart”

                   

November Rain

How separate we are
under our black umbrellas—dark
planets in our own small orbits,

hiding from this wet assault
of weather as if water
would violate the skin,

as if these raised silk canopies
could protect us
from whatever is coming next—

December with its white
enamel surfaces; the numbing
silences of winter.

From above we must look
like a family of bats—
ribbed wings spread

against the rain,
swooping towards any
makeshift shelter.

~ Linda Pastan