May Day: One Year

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May Day
every nest
has a voice

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anniversary new cells in my writing hand

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Beltane
in the rear-view mirror
a faraway fire

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A year ago today I started this blog. I’d written a few haiku over the previous few days — something I’d practically never done before — and for some reason felt that they needed to be inflicted on the world. And that I needed to write more — every day, in fact — and inflict all those on the world as well.

I’m not sure what I was thinking. Maybe it was something to do with it being May Day, which has always seemed like one of the year’s pivotal days to me. Well, it is, of course. In the Japanese conception of the seasons, this is approximately the day that summer begins. (It ends, of course, in early August, when you first begin to sense that melancholy in the air. You know that melancholy? The Japanese love that. They call it autumn and get all weepy and happy. Me too.)

This was also true of European cultures until fairly recent times, which is why we call the summer solstice midsummer. The first of May went by a variety of names for the pre-modern Europeans: Beltane, Walpurgisnacht. It was about purification, fertility, all that useful stuff. There were bonfires to symbolically cleanse things, and dancing to get sexy. The harvest was going in, the thaw was finally complete, the layers of clothes were coming off…time for a party.

Here in southern Wisconsin, and also in southern New England, where I was raised, May is the month when you finally feel like you can breathe easy, because now there’s practically no chance that there will be any more significant snowfall or lengthy cold spells until November. (Practically no chance, I said. This year, I wouldn’t put it past May to dump a blizzard on us or something.)

So for those of us around here who spend most of the winter weeping quietly in a corner, the beginning of May is the time when we creep out of our corners and put away the boxes of Kleenex and admit that, just possibly, life might be worth living. New projects start to seem as enticing as new clothes.

Hence, I suspect, my more or less insane undertaking of last May 1. I remember feeling a sense of great satisfaction at seeing my first post go up, with that big “1 May” on it. It made the whole thing seem much more real than all the previous times I’d started blogs, on whatever forgettable days I started them on. And right from the beginning, this blog felt different than all those other blogs, which lasted only until I figured out that I didn’t actually have anything to say, typically after three or four days.

Writing haiku, I found, especially once I started to figure out what haiku actually were, made me feel like I did in fact have something to say, that there was actually an infinite universe of things to say, because, of course, there is an infinite universe — and if you keep your eyes open you will always be able to observe something worth observing, and worth telling someone else about.

I still feel like that. I sometimes go crazy, in fact, from the number of things there are to say about the world in haiku. Not that I have really figured out how to say them well most of the time, but that challenge is always there. Those possibilities delight me. The whole world, passing by in a predictable but novel-seeming cycle year after year, trip after trip around the sun — how could that ever not be enough for anyone to write about?

Haiku can be thought of as time-tellers or time-markers — a large part of their original function was to announce the season that a particular string of linked verse was beginning in — and now that I have spent an entire year with haiku, have written all the obligatory leaf-falling and snow-falling and blossom-falling verses, have marked all the changes of the moon, and come back around to the beginning, that aspect of their nature is beginning to intrigue me more than ever.

The year is a cycle; it’s good to know when you are in it. It’s also good to know when you are in your life. When was before this? When’s after it? Most importantly — when is now? Writing haiku — I won’t say always, because I never say always, and I reserve the right to change my mind about everything — is a way of saying: I was here, then. That was now. And since time keeps flowing, there is always another now to write about. I feel very lucky about that.

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Thanks for hanging around with me this past year and listening politely while I wandered around babbling incoherently. I appreciate it immensely. I mean, no matter how great I thought haiku were, I doubt I would have kept writing a blog that no one ever read or commented on. Or one of those blogs where people are always arguing and yelling at each other.

Fortunately, instead of one of those sad, dysfunctional-family kinds of blogs, I have the kind of happy-family blog that is constantly filled with the pleasant voices of many kind visitors. It never feels like work to hang out here. Practically everything else feels like work, but not this. (She says, staring gloomily at the pile of end-of-term projects that she’s way, way behind on.)

I have some vague thoughts for fun things we can do together this summer. But right now, I’m a little too busy and sleep-deprived to form these thoughts into coherent ideas, let alone coherent words. Give me a couple of weeks, okay?

Happy May Day. Go build a fire. And do a little dance. Come on, you know you want to.

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28 thoughts on “May Day: One Year

  1. CONGRATULATIONS, Melissa!!! Only one year!!! This blog seems much wiser than that. But noticing its curiosity it seems refreshingly young. Glad u mentioned Walpurgis – or Valborg, as it’s called in Denmark. Alas, it’s a festive occasion now lost but large taken over by Workers International Day (or what it’s called in English). The Swedish & Finnish people still celebrate it, though. Before the Church took over I think it was a big thing here.

    Once again: congratulations!!!

  2. Thanks, Johannes. I have to say, I usually alternate between feeling old and decrepit and young and stupid — doesn’t seem to be much “mature and wise” going around.

    I really need to do more research into the pagan festivals. I like how they are explicitly about the changes of seasons and the phenomena of the natural world. It’s so interesting the way Christianity co-opted most of those celebrations and slapped a layer of Christian mythology on top to whitewash them. I’m not really New-Age-y…but maybe more old-age-y…

  3. It’s been a true delight reading the things you gather here and the poems you have “discovered” in the world. Congrats on a great year, and here’s to what is to come now.

    Cheers.
    Don

  4. Annie Juhl says:

    Congratulations on your 1 year birthday Melissa 😉 And thanks a million for creating this place.

    Annie

  5. whoa. one year. and i missed it. now you’ll just have to blog on for another year and see if i get here in time for the party on that one. i mean. two. way cool Melissa. marker of time. hmmmm…

    the wind chime
    spins without sound
    a silent breeze

    bwahahahahaaha. i know this moment. it’s right now.

    cool celebration on today.

    and fun on your in-a-couple-of-weeks.
    and – speedy good end-of-terming on you.

    and – aloha too

  6. Thank you, Melissa, for being here! You have no idea how much your presence has helped guide me along as I’ve tried blindly to follow the path of your steps in creating my own blog. I haven’t hit the year marker, yet, but, because of you, and others, I know it’s possible . . . and important . . . and life-affirming. Many, many happy returns!

    her name carved on a rock signpost

    • Thanks, Margaret! It’s a pleasure and a privilege to have you as a reader, and I get so much out of your own blog. I’d also like to say that I think your haiku (which was always good) has been improving by leaps and bounds the last few months and is now very impressive indeed…keep up the good work!

      • Thanks, Melissa! And congratulations on your more recent honor (the R. Spiess competition). It’s been very inspiring for me to see your voice develop and come into its own over the past few months. And I am starting to see my own voice taking shape as well. This haiku thing–I read testimonials from people saying how it has saved their life, which sounds like hyperbole, but I know for myself how true that is. It is life-changing on so many levels . . . not the least of which is finding a friend or two along the way who shares the passion. I’m so very thankful . . . and proud . . . to be able to call you friend.

        Best, Margaret

        • Thanks, Margaret. I know, I feel all hyperbolic too sometimes when I talk about how haiku saved me, but this last year has changed so many things for me and I am so incredibly grateful, not just or even primarily to the art but to the community that has welcomed me so warmly and been so supportive in so many ways. There are so many people I’ve never met now who I think of as close friends. We must meet sometime! The Ozarks aren’t that far away…

          p.s. thanks for the kind words about the Spiess, that was definitely a big thrill for me…

  7. Sully says:

    You fill us with haiku and interest and wonder. You have a good touch with your blog. Congratulations and I look forward to another year.

    May fire dancing in the barbecue
    a druids dream of healing

    Sully

  8. ” The whole world, passing by in a predictable but novel-seeming cycle year after year, trip after trip around the sun — how could that ever not be enough for anyone to write about?” – M.A.

    glad you noticed . . .

    a perfect reflection in the computer screen of the rooftop outside my window . . . there’s a sparrow sitting on your shoulder

  9. Marcin says:

    Hello there! Allow me to join the congratulations. First year for a blog is the hardest because that’s when you learn how to do it. I started blogging in English, which is not my primary language so you can imagine the stress I’m going through, just a few days ago. And surprisingly, your blog was the first I ran onto in the English WordPress after clicking “Poetry” tag. Maybe that’s a good sign 🙂

  10. Wonderful post! Love this blog! 🙂
    I’ve tried writing haiku, and also even thought about writing one a day, but mine all end up unbelievably corny or pointless. It’s so hard to cram an entire meaningful idea into such a tiny perfect structure!

    • Thanks, Jordan. Glad to have you aboard!

      Yes, haiku is way more difficult than you think it’s going to be when you start. I would recommend reading as much good haiku as you can before and while you’re writing. I mean really good haiku (not mine 🙂 ) — look up the classical Japanese poets at your library (Basho/Buson/Issa et al.), R.H. Blyth and Robert Hass are good translators to start with. For contemporary stuff, The Heron’s Nest and haijinx are good online journals, and I would also recommend going to The Haiku Foundation’s Digital Library (http://www.thehaikufoundation.org/resources/digital_library/) and downloading some PDFs of books of haiku like any of the Red Moon Anthologies or “Favorite Haiku” by H.F. Noyes. I think not reading enough good haiku is one of the basic mistakes that poets make when they’re starting out and is also one of the things that can keep you from developing as a poet as you go along. Read as many different kinds of haiku and other poetry as you can so you get a strong sense of what can be, has been, and is being done with the English language and the form.

      … Sorry, was that way more information than you wanted? 🙂 Sometimes I’m hard to shut up once I get started…

      • Nope, that was great! I’m always interested in reading and trying new forms of poetry – I love writing free verse, but know I need to expand and try more traditional structures, if only just for the experiance. And maybe because I’ll soon be starting my Creative Writing major degree classes, and then I’ll absolutely have to…..

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