Category: poems

five books

I’ve always acquired books at an alarming rate, but in the past I also read books at an alarming rate, so my life was kept in a pleasing state of equilibrium. Now that the internets have turned me into a distracted, flighty creature with the attention span of a dragonfly, books pile up in untidy drifts around my house, often unread or even unopened, no matter how eager I was to read them when I acquired them. 

When I do manage to finish reading a book, it’s usually because it was so good I couldn’t help myself, and then, perversely, instead of moving efficiently along and reading some new book, I go back and read it again. I’m a voracious re-reader. I probably spend at least half of my reading time re-reading things, through most of the process asking myself in alternate anguish and admiration, “How did they do it?” Usually I don’t figure it out but it’s worth it, to be so amazed and delighted so much of the time.

In case some of you could use some amazement and delight, here’s a rundown of what I’ve been re-reading lately.

Welcome to the Joy Ride: Haibun, by Peter Newton

This book contains many wonderful things, among them my new favorite sentence: “A fine mist wets the garden and by garden I mean produce section.” This is the first sentence in the haibun “Daydreaming at Night,” which you have to read. (I keep wondering whether Peter had one of my favorite non-haiku poems, Allen Ginsberg’s “A Supermarket in California,” in mind when he wrote it — what peaches and what penumbras!) You also have to read the haibun “Welcome to the Joy Ride,” “Prayer for a Stranger,” “The Deli Clerk,” “Home Remedy,” “Unspeakable,” “Pinwheels,” “The SX-70,” “Borderline, “My America,” and okay fine, you have to read the whole thing. Peter’s style is light and deft and funny, insightful and enlightening without being heavy-handed — basically perfect for haibun, which should take itself neither too seriously nor too flippantly. Just read it, ok? and tell me if you figure out how he did it. 

Haiku 2015, ed. Lee Gurga and Scott Metz

This series is only two books old but it’s already established itself as the best way to save time if you’d like to quickly find fifty or sixty or a hundred new haiku that you really, really love. Like these:

the beach road the beach house the beach painting the rain

–Adan Breare

one dark bird in snow rummaging the invisible

–Susan Diridoni

snow through        teeth in
…….the window        a glass

–Eve Luckring

cosmos as cranium as cavern as temple as map as board game

–Michael Nickels-Wisdom

the pill I’m told to swallow
has a name
like a remote moon

–Chad Lee Robinson

This edition honors the late Martin Lucas and the principles in his classic essay “Haiku as Poetic Spell,” something else you should just go read immediately if you’ve somehow managed to miss it.

see haiku here, by Kuniharu Shimizu

When this book arrived at my house all the way from Japan, there was much rejoicing. For years I’ve been in awe of Kuni-san and his spare, beautifully designed haiga, and I got, um, slightly excited when he illustrated some of my haiku a few years ago. There are actually two volumes in this series; one contains haiga with haiku by Basho and the other are Kuni-san’s own haiku, which quite frankly stand up very well against Basho. Sometimes when I look through this book I think we probably should just hire Kuni-san full-time to illustrate All the Haiku because, you know, they look better that way. Also, they kind of force you to spend the proper amount of time that should be spent reading haiku, instead of whipping through them like a maniac the way I sometimes have a sad tendency to do. Here’s one of my favorites of Kuni-san’s own:

IMG_6781

Out of Translation, by Aubrie Cox

It’s true that I have a personal attachment to this chapbook because Aubrie selected and sequenced the haiku in it by lining up little slips of paper on my living room floor one day last winter. (This is the kind of thing that happens to you when half your friends are haiku poets.) However, the rest of my attachment comes from my amazement at how effectively Aubrie’s haiku transport me to and through the childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood of a girl in the countryside of central Illinois, where I have never been and, if I am being perfectly honest, never have any desire to go, except sometimes when I’m reading Aubrie’s poetry. She writes with utter simplicity and clarity and the kind of emotional honesty that can be a little heartbreaking sometimes.

rainy Monday
another crumpled
paper crane

country church
forget-me-nots
between the floorboards

spring rain
a joker taped
to the spokes

toys
my father couldn’t fix…
spring rain

opening the shed–
cigarette smoke
from last fall

Into the Light, by Harriot West

I wrote a review of this book of haibun and it appeared in Frogpond 38.2so reading that is probably the best way to find out what I think about the book (spoiler alert: I like it a lot). I think I read Into the Light at least three times before I wrote the review and I’ve probably read it another three times since, so that’s like six times in less than a year which, you do the math. I need Harriot to write some more haibun so I have something else to re-read.

 

path

On my way out to Haiku North America I made a slight detour in Ohio to find some poetry that was rumored to be in the woods. 

2015-10-08 19.06.452015-10-09 08.12.532015-10-09 08.14.132015-10-09 08.20.192015-10-09 08.29.132015-10-09 08.31.082015-10-09 08.47.48

 

It was dark when I got there so I had to find the poetry almost by feel. Then I went to bed and I got up in the morning and the poetry was still there, but brighter this time. I spent an hour walking in the woods and bumping into poetry. It frequently bumped back.

Great thanks to the Inn at Honey Run and especially to Julie Warther without whose substantial mental and physical labor none of these amazing rocks would stand where they are standing and bear the inscriptions that they do.

(There are a lot more rocks than this, by the way. You should have hired a better photographer.)

Oh, hi…

…it’s been a while. But i haven’t just been lounging around eating bonbons. Well, okay, yes I have. I have a thing for bonbons. But I’ve also been busy, first working like crazy (for money for my employer, sadly, not for free for you), then traveling. Out East. To visit my family and the trees and the hills and the ocean and, um, Haiku North America.

Where you see all the people you’ve been missing and all the people you’ve always wanted to meet.

Aubrie Cox, Donna Beaver

 

 

 

Beverly Acuff Momoi, Michelle Tennison, Penny Harter

 

 

 

Kala Ramesh

 

 

 

 

Where you get to talk about poetry all day long so you finally remember, “Oh, yeah, I kind of like poetry, maybe I should write some again.”

Haibun workshop

 

Randy Brooks gives the opening speech.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where it’s really kind of ridiculously beautiful.

Old Chapel

Nott Memorial

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_6589

 

 

 

 

 

I could go on (and on) but the whole thing was tiring, if exhilarating, and now I’m back home and I have to work for money again. But! I do have a prequel (and maybe even a sequel!) to this whole adventure. Coming soon to a blog near you.

 

 

 

bus. stop.

Mostly I don’t enter poetry contests because I think that contests encourage you to waste your creative energy thinking about what judges might want to read instead of what you actually want and need to write [she said in a lofty, insufferable tone]. Or maybe it’s just me they encourage to do that and everyone else is way too well-balanced and sensible to be influenced by the opinions of imaginary judges that way. Anyway. I do make exceptions for contests that have exceptionally cool prizes. And by “exceptionally cool prizes” I don’t mean “a pile of cash” or “a trip to Hawaii” or “a new convertible” though there aren’t any haiku contests that have prizes like that anyway. I mean prizes like getting your haiku plastered on the back of a bus in your home town.

bus stop / I sync my iPod / to the rain

And then having your son find himself one afternoon riding his bike behind the bus down the main drag of your home town, and having him quickly haul out his phone so he can take a picture of it for you. (I’m pretty sure that’s his photo-taking shadow in the bottom left corner.)

That’s what I mean by a good prize.

A lot of people on Facebook (thanks, Facebook people!) pointed out that the other things that are written on the bus can be read as links from my poem, or the next verses in a sequence after mine. Also, there are many other graphic features in this photo that are fascinating to me, especially the many circles, from the ones in the awesome graphic design that students at a local college created to go with the poem, to the brake lights on the bus, to the roundish patches of late-afternoon light that’s probably sifting through the branches of trees planted along the street. The whole thing is amazingly organic. As poems and life should be.


P.S.: This poem, in a slightly different form, originally sprang from an extremely organic lengthy email conversation between me, Aubrie Cox, and Lucas Stensland that took place back in 2012. The condensed version of the conversation that’s linked above is fun to read, but not as much fun as it was to write.


P.P.S. I have another cool contest prize to tell you about but I think I’ll wait until I have pictures of it to show you, which will be another few weeks.

Divided

A nice lady from the U.S. military phones my son and asks him if he’d like a whole lot of money to help pay for his college education. He inquires about the result when the sum she offers is divided by the number of people one could be expected, on average, to kill during one’s tenure with the organization she represents. It’s a philosophical question, he explains to her. How much is a human life worth? Of course, he’s already answered this question to his own satisfaction, and of course, she never will.

placenta delivered
I burn the draft card
I never had

half-life

Things do sometimes last; look at the half-life of uranium. There’s a cave somewhere in Utah where they’ve decided they’re not going to put radioactive waste, although they were thinking about it for a while because it’s such a stable place and so far away from everywhere else. If I decide to go, do you want to come?

nuclear rain
our scarification ritual
conducted by robots

(he himself)

sea bottom

 

sea bottom
he himself
the monster

Haigaonline 16.1


The current issue of Haigaonline has a theme of found haiku and contains all sorts of interesting and innovative work. I’m a featured artist, with a series drawn from Orwell’s 1984 (there are four pieces besides the one above). This was one of the more interesting projects I worked on at the end of last year. Must remember to do more haiga. Sigh. So much poetry to write, so little time.

 

 

 

 

m’aidez

I started this blog five years ago today. For those of you who don’t know, I actually started the blog at the same moment that I began to learn to write haiku, and both endeavors had the same cause: I needed to write regularly, and I needed to find something to write, and somewhere to write it.

These were things I’d been trying to figure out literally my entire life (okay, maybe literally my entire life minus about the first four years), and within about two weeks of starting this blog I knew I’d finally got it. It wasn’t just haiku the literary genre that made me feel at home, it was haiku the literary community. Instant friends! Constant support! Artistic fulfillment! No wonder I’ve stuck this out about ten times longer than I’ve stuck out any other writing project of my life. 

This is also actually my one thousandth blog post (and please don’t ask me anything about the complicated calculations that went into making sure the two events would coincide because I’m already embarrassed enough about my OCD). Over the course of a thousand posts the blog has evolved a lot–I’ve discovered not just haiku but haibun, haiga, and tanka, and experimented with a lot of random weird stuff that might not have made sense to anyone but me but made me happy at the time.

Through it all, to my amazement, you people have kept coming back and saying nice things. I would just like to state here for the record that I have NEVER received a mean comment on this blog, which considering that we’re talking about the Internet is probably worthy of a mention in a history book somewhere. Basically, you’re all saints and I’m incredibly lucky, and I would like to thank you one thousand times for the welcome you’ve given me and the sense of purpose and excitement about art and existence you’ve all helped inject into my life, by being out there, by reading, by responding, by reaching out.

I’d like to get more eloquent and profound than this, but I find myself kind of mute with gratitude and awe and also I don’t think it would be fair to reward you for your faithful support by boring you to death. Happy May Day, is about all I have left to say at this point. Happy

everything
I forgot to say
in one flower

finger spelling

The guest of honor is a famous writer. Wherever she goes words trail behind, whether dropped carelessly or deliberately discarded no one knows. This reminds me of a story. I begin to tell it but someone stops me, intimating that someone else would be offended. Smoke signals. Finger spelling. I close my mouth and climb under the table, where I count legs and try to make them come out even but it never works so I conclude that someone has only one leg. Having conducted a further examination I conclude that the one-legged person is the famous writer. I guess I never noticed she had only one leg because of the words, so many words, camouflage for every disability, balm for every wound.

the last word in the book bittersweet

as the dark

Yesterday—this is the kind of day it was;
this is the kind of season it was—
I was Persephone,
and I ate whatever seeds they gave me,
despite whatever warnings I had heard,
despite being disappointed, in the dark,
by the scent of the pomegranate.

No one can keep track for long
of what they’re not supposed to eat.
No one can imagine what small acts of will
will follow them from one season to the next.
Nothing, in the dark,
tastes as real as the dark itself.

leaf
fall
i
keep
saying
no


Free verse: here, now
Haiku: Modern Haiku 42.3

back to the root

6111227634_53b661f526_b copyWhen I was three my grandmother gave me a fancy baby doll with a wooden chest full of lovely clothes. It had staring, startled, cold eyes and arms and legs permanently thrown out as if to stop itself from falling. I cut its hair back to the root, colored in its face with crayons, and hanged it by the neck from the stair railing with a spare piece of string that I can only assume I was saving for just such an occasion. Eventually I hauled the thing up and let it live, but I don’t think I went so far as to name it or give it any motherly care, such as wrapping it in a blanket, carrying it around tenderly, or conscientiously taking it for a walk in a baby carriage. No one bothered giving me any more dolls for the remainder of my childhood, which was fine with me because I had a lot of reading to do.

a clutch of duck eggs
the corner of the backyard
where we bury things

Pregnant with my flesh-and-blood child a couple of decades later, I explained to my husband, repeatedly, in increasingly panicked tones, that I had absolutely no idea how to care for an infant and was terrified by the very idea. I asked him if we could go to the kind of parenting class where they give you a fake baby—okay, a doll—to practice carrying around and burping and diapering and so on. He told me I didn’t need a class, it was easy and I would get the hang of it in no time, and this turned out to be true. Which was a relief, because even the word “doll” still gives me the creeps.

spring snow
the chill of
ultrasound jelly


prose: here, now
“a clutch”: A Hundred Gourds 1.1
“spring snow”: Modern Haiku 42.2

smoke

In high school you smoked a total of about half a pack of cigarettes over the course of a year or so. The point of smoking, every time, was to feel terrible, or, at least, terrible in a different way from the way you already felt. The smoke, which was literally impossible to inhale because for God’s sake, you can’t breathe fire, tasted irresistibly of death.

dusk the temptation of zero as a denominator

It isn’t true that young people don’t understand or believe that they’re going to die. They take stupid risks and experiment with dangerous habits because life doesn’t seem to them particularly precious. They haven’t had it long enough to prize it and besides, for adolescents, life often seems so complicated and difficult that the thought of lying peacefully in the ground with no one bothering them for an indefinite period is an attractive option. Cigarettes give the requisite feeling of unavoidable mortality, the promise that you won’t have to put up with this bullshit indefinitely.

deep autumn
the arsenic
at the apple’s core

Some kids cut themselves to feel the same way but you couldn’t stand the sight of blood. Some kids drink or take drugs but you didn’t want to alter the way your brain worked, you wanted to alter the way everyone else’s brain worked. Some kids take up a regular smoking habit but for you, getting used to it was not the point. The point was to have something that felt especially bad precisely because you were not used to it. The point was to choke and gasp and feel your throat sear and tears come to your eyes and know, for those five minutes, exactly why it was that life felt so unpleasant. The point was not to die, exactly, but to be reassured that dying was possible.

thunderclap
most of me emerges
from a cloud


Prose: here, now
“dusk”: Modern Haiku 43.2
“deep autumn”: A Hundred Gourds 1.1
“thunderclap”: Presence 45

odds

daffodil patch / the odds against / our existence

 


 

I have a habit of planning out in my head the perfect version of everything — books, men, houses, planets. In the alternate reality where these Platonic ideals exist, writing poetry is nearly effortless, and all poems are songs.

daffodil patch
the odds against
our existence

(not quite)

In bed with me: five pillows, six books, three notebooks, two pens, a laptop computer, a cell phone, a complication of wires, a spare sweatshirt, a bag of grapes, an empty cereal bowl, two cloth napkins, my purse, a heating pad, a pile of forms to fill out to placate the insurance company and my employer and the home health provider, one of those claw tools to pick up things you can’t reach, a cat (sometimes two), worry, confusion, longing. 

No, there’s not quite enough room for me.

lossified


prose: here, now
haiku/pwoermd: Frogpond 35.1

(why not)

begins a new / season / why not only yes

 


Questions to ask yourself in the spring:
How high is blue?
Why is why?
If never, then what?
Was it ever spread so thin?
With wings, is it necessary?
Are the complete works complete?
Twirling: Explain.
If you turned around, would it be there?
Are we all remembering the same planet?

begins a new
season
why not only yes