icicle. new moon. cradle.

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icicle —
one clear word
out of all the murmuring

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new moon . . .
the map folded
with home at the center

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“icicle,” Modern Haiku 43.2; “new moon,” Frogpond 35.2

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Yes, well, as I was saying, I, along with all right-thinking people, spent last weekend in Mineral Point, Wisconsin, at the Cradle of American Haiku Festival, being entertained and delighted by my haiku compatriots. Or co-conspirators, or whatever they are. Among them Charles Trumbull and Francine Banwarth, who edit the two journals referenced above and were kind enough, in their most recent issues, to print these works of mine, which seem to have some bearing on our weekend activities. Clarity: I think we’re all seeking that, as we muddle around with this unwieldy language, trying out various combinations of words, trying to find those that will surprise and enlighten us. And home: when we’re not running away from it, we’re traveling towards it, and I think most of us who were in Mineral Point last weekend, even if we had left home to get there, felt that in another sense we had returned home. No one understands poets quite like other poets, and there’s nothing like being understood to make you feel at home.

Other reflections/observations/fond memories from this weekend:

  • Charlie Trumbull gave us a thought-provoking paper on black haiku poets, many of whom were influenced in their work by the rhythms of jazz and blues. Which made me think again that we need to spend more time thinking about the musicality of our work, or at least the lyricism. It’s easy to forget, I think, that words are units of sound as well as meaning.
  • It’s still amazing to think about how relatively young the English-language haiku movement is–our host for the weekend at Foundry Books, as always, was the inimitable Gayle Bull, whose late husband Jim, along with fellow professor Don Eulert, started the first English-language haiku journal, American Haiku, in 1963. That’s less than fifty years ago, for those who are counting. Don was at the conference this weekend too, visiting from California, where he uses haiku in his work training clinical psychologists. It helps teach them about objectivity, he says, which I found fascinating, since I’m crummy at being objective. Maybe I’m better at it than I used to be, though, I don’t know. I’m not objective enough to tell.
  • If I studied sumi-e for the next four hundred years or so I might have a hope of being able to wield an ink brush with a tenth the skill of Lidia Rozmus, who set us up with the beautiful traditional tools of the Japanese ink painter and attempted to show us how to use them. She makes it look so easy, and I think she was sadly baffled by my complete lack of ability to paint something that did not look like a blob of ink. But since she is one of the world’s kindest people, she didn’t say so, just took my hand and tried to make it do something intelligent. I think it may be a lost cause, though–I have yet to discover any evidence that my hands are actually linked to my brain.
  • Overheard at the wine bar where we were giving a reading on Saturday night, during a moment of almost complete silence when we were listening respectfully to the work of a fellow poet: “These haiku people are getting out of hand.”
  • We had a rowdy session on gendai haiku on Sunday morning. It’s always fun to get people riled up about poetry before lunch on a weekend. If anyone wants a copy of my handout from the session, shoot me an email (reddragonflyhaiku AT gmail DOT com). Rest assured, I didn’t write any of it, it’s all quotes from other people, plus a selection of Japanese and English poetry that may or may not be gendai depending on who’s reading it and whether they’re squinting that day. You can let me know what you think. Hecklers, as always, welcome.

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5 thoughts on “icicle. new moon. cradle.

  1. snowbirdpress says:

    Melissa! I could hug you! What a great way to make it possible for me to get a glimpse of this gathering! I can’t tell you how much it means to me… expect an e-mail as soon as I get off this site.

    I am always amazed at where Charlie will take you in haiku. If there’s something lacking, he’ll be there supplying all the details… What a treasure he is.

    And Lidia…now you know why I had to stop sumi-e … There’s a certain tactile pleasure in doing sumi-e properly where the whole expression of your body comes out in the engery of the stroke. When I could no longer accomplish it… I reluctantly turned to pen and ink. I carry some of the things I learned over in my strokes, but now when I try to just do a practice sumi-e I know I’ll never do it with the energy of youth. Of course, sumi-e isn’t supposed to be a reflection of youth… it’s supposed to be a reflection of the state you are in now… but I felt few would be able to grasp that fact when the sumi-e was so far influenced by my physical condition. Best to know when to stop… Best to know when to move on to what works for following the muse.

  2. snowbirdpress says:

    Melissa, I just sent the e-mail as directed and got an e-mail back from Bernice Sim that this is not your e-mail address. It’s the e-mail I’ve had for you and it’s the e-mail you have given here… what’s up?

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