“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

FYI: Poetry Month is Coming

 

I’m sharing this e-mail I received from Knopf reminding me of Poetry Month in April. If any of you are lucky enough to be near the NYC reading, it’s a great lineup.

Join us again this April for our poem-a-day celebration! As a subscriber on this list, you’ll be receiving a poem from Knopf in your inbox each day.

Now is a great time to share the poem-a-day experience with friends! To do so, pass along this link >>

Also, come out for a Knopf Poetry Reading in NYC next week, featuring Edward Hirsch, Sharon Olds, and Patrick Phillips, 6:30 pm on Tuesday the 17th. Details here.

For our friends in San Francisco, attend the Mechanics’ Institute Library Poetry Month kick-off event on April 1, where Knopf poet Jane Hirshfield will read from her work. Details here.

And to whet your appetite for Poem-a-Day, a poem by Jane Hirshfield, from The Beauty, published this month by Knopf:

Quartz ClockThe ideas of a physicist
can be turned into useful objects:
a rocket, a quartz clock,
a microwave oven for cooking.
The ideas of poems turn into only themselves,
as the hands of the clock do,
or the face of a person.
It changes, but only more into the person.


“And never have I felt so deeply at one and, at the same time, so detached from myself, and so present in the world.” ~ Albert Camus

Norman Smith, Landscape II, pastel on paper
“Landscape II” (nd, pastel on paper)
by Norman Smith

                   

“She was desperate and she was choosey at the same time and, in a way, beautiful, but she didn’t have quite enough going for her to become what she imagined herself to be.” ~ Charles Bukowski, from Factotum

Sunday afternoon. Cloudy and 68 degrees.

Norman Smith, Venice Impression pastel on paper
“Venice Impression” (nd, pastel on paper)
by Norman Smith

I still don’t feel that I can string together sentences in any meaningful way, especially since I am struggling for each and every word. I find myself staring at the screen until my eyes completely lose focus, and then I don’t remember where I was going with a train of thought. These phases are nothing new and I know that my inability to find the right words will be a reality that I will have to face again and again without every knowing why.

So, with that in mind, I think that I will just do a random thoughts post, well, because it seems to make the most sense right now . . .

  • I dreamed last night that the feral cats that live in the park bushes all came out at the same time and sat in a group in the entrance drive to the park. They were all black.
  • Brett finally got the radical hair cut he’s been pining for: shaved on the sides and longer on top. Now he’s going to bleach the tips and color them pink. It should be pretty wild once he’s finished.  I can’t wait to hear what my mother has to say about it.
  • Actually, I can wait.
  • The spring pollen is wicked at the moment. Everything has a nasty yellow sheen.
  • So far, I am disappointed in this new season of “Dr. Who.” Just saying . . .

“How fragile we are, between the few good moments.” ~ Jane Hirshfield, from “Vinegar and Oil”

  • A few days ago, I experienced something that I haven’t experienced in a very, very long time: I felt pretty. Not vapid pretty, not glossy print pretty, but pretty all over, inside and out.

    Norman Smith, Last Reflected Light, pastel
    “Last Reflected Light” (nd, pastel on paper)
    by Norman Smith
  • It must have been obvious because my PCP with whom I had my six-month check-up said to me a couple of time that I looked good, really good, better than she had seen me in a while.
  • Does that mean I look horrible the rest of the time?
  • What causes days like that? Is it an alignment of the stars?
  • The “I Feel Pretty” song from West Side Story kept running through my head, particularly the line “It’s a pity not every girl can feel this way.”
  • To be honest, I can’t recall a time in recent memory that I had this feeling, and that’s sad because it was a wonderful feeling.

“We are what suns and winds and waters make us.” ~ Walter Savage Lindor, from “An Invocation”

  • I finally went to a dermatologist to have the mole on my face looked at. It’s completely benign, on the surface of the skin. The doctor was pretty funny, using euphemisms for age and old, i.e. “wisdom,” “knowledge.” He said that it was what used to be called a beauty mark and that it brought out my eyes. What a character.
  • I like doctors who don’t take themselves so seriously. That whole god-complex attitude really breeds antipathy rather quickly.

    Norman Smith, Norfolk Marsh, pastel on paper
    “Norfolk Marsh” (nd, pastel on paper)
    by Norman Smith
  • My mother’s doctor said that the shadow that was on her kidneys has almost disappeared; apparently, the heavy-duty antibiotic they prescribed for the diverticulitis has taken care of everything, which makes me wonder why she was told that there was a “mass” on her kidneys.
  • So why am I so consumed lately with an intense yearning to have my flabby arms fixed? she asked, apropos of nothing.
  • The dermatologist remarked that I didn’t have crow’s feet, and I thought to myself that you have to smile and laugh a lot to get crow’s feet.
  • I go back in two weeks to get the bump on the sole of my left foot removed. It’s been there for years and years, and it, too, is benign, but I’m really tired of it.

“One got the impression that she was following phantoms; she was consumed by shivering sensations of eternally pursuing something unattainable. Something about her was tear-streaming; she existed in the midst of unconsciousness. And she could only be seen not by those who ceased looking but rather by those who absolutely exhausted it.” ~ Katherine Mansfield, The Collected Stories Of Katherine Mansfield

  • I finally got the paperwork back from the living will registry, and guess what? They misspelled my last name. People always put a y where the g goes, which makes no sense to me.
  • If my name is misspelled on my living will, does that mean that it is applicable to someone other than me?
  • If your name is misspelled on your birth certificate, does that mean that you don’t exist?

    Norman Smith, Marsh Sunrise, Pastel on Paper
    “Marsh Sunrise” (nd, pastel on paper)
    by Norman Smith
  • I had students in my 6th grade class who couldn’t spell their names. What does that tell you?
  • My last name has the same number of letters as Smith or Jones, so how do people manage to screw it up so badly?
  • “Lo-lee-ta: the tip of my tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.” Man, Nabokov made even the pronunciation of my first name sound sexual.
  • Have I ever mentioned how much I hate that my first name is associated with young girls, with jailbait, with dirty old men? It is a short poem, but society has turned it into a blasphemy.

“She walked roads no one else could see, and it made her music wild and strange and free.” ~ Patrick Rothfuss, from The Wise Man’s Fear

  • I am so glad that Brett’s spring semester is almost over because I’m exhausted.
  • I really am, exhausted, that is. Bone-weary. I don’t know if the lack of energy is allergy-related, tied in with my fibromyalgia, a reflection of my dour mood, or a combination. I just know that I’m damned tired.

    Norman Smith, One Tuscan Evening
    “One Tuscan Evening” (nd, pastel on paper)
    by Norman Smith
  • A couple of days ago I pulled all of my purses out of my closet—not intentionally, but I couldn’t find the one that I wanted to use. Then my bedroom flood was covered with purses, and I was too tired to put them away, so I stepped over them for two days. Pathetic.
  • When I finish this sham of a post, I have two baskets of clothes to put away. I may read instead.
  • I love having Olivia over here, but I’m so tired when she goes home, especially if she spends the night.
  • Corey is supposed to be home around May 10, just in time for our anniversary. He’s probably getting off the ship at that time because they are going deep-sea for 45 days after that, and he doesn’t want to do that. I’m glad, but of course, I’m worried.
  • The dermatologist said that I have worry lines. I refrained from retorting, “No. Really?”

More later. Peace.

All images are by British artist Norman Smith.

Music by Adaline, “Keep Me High”

                   

Today

Today I’m flying low and I’m
not saying a word
I’m letting all the voodoos of ambition sleep.

The world goes on as it must,
the bees in the garden rumbling a little,
the fish leaping, the gnats getting eaten.
And so forth.

But I’m taking the day off.
Quiet as a feather.
I hardly move though really I’m traveling
a terrific distance.

Stillness. One of the doors
into the temple.

~ Mary Oliver