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

…and change

Bonfire

Before I even get to the party everyone there knows I’m getting divorced, so I don’t have to tell anyone or pretend to be happier or saner than I actually am. This is what gossip is good for, I think, drinking my third glass of wine. I don’t think I’ve ever had a third glass of wine in my life. Someone tells me, “All change is for the better.” Yes, yes, I think, sipping wine and eyeing the chocolate, tell it to the dinosaurs.

New Year’s bonfire
stories of what we lost
this year

.

_______________________________________________________________________________________

Dear friends,

2011 was hard for me. 2012 may well be harder. I’m not sure how I would be surviving without poetry, or without all of you. I’m glad I don’t have to.

Things change. And I don’t like that. I cling to the driftwood of sameness until it’s carried me so far out to sea I’ve forgotten where I came from and where I wanted to go, until the wood disintegrates and I’m left holding only splinters. And then, forced to let go and swim, I flail the way an inexperienced swimmer flails in the cold waves of the sea, not knowing that letting the wave wash over you — carry you — expends less energy and is less likely to get you drowned.

One of my resolutions for 2012 is to let those variable waves carry me and see where I get. I suspect I’ll spend some time in the deep ocean, cold and frightened, not sure how to get back. Treading water might be the best I can do for a while. But inevitably, the tide turns; salt water is easy to float in; and it seems likely that I’ll make it back eventually to some kind of solid land. Maybe not the same land I started out from. Maybe a better land, maybe worse; almost certainly survivable. And there will be poetry there and there will be friends. Possibly there will even be extended, strained metaphors. You never know.

Happy New Year, friends. And thank you for everything.

.

so I start thinking
about the next thing I’ll be…
all day the scent
of pine sap I can’t scrub
from my fingers

.

Multiverses: Ready for Launch

Balloon with sail.

Hey everyone,

Every once in a while someone makes you an offer you can’t refuse. This happened to me not long ago when John Hawk, who is a wonderful poet whose poetry I have featured in the Haikuverse, asked me to become the haibun editor of a new journal he was starting, called Multiverses.

I can’t tell you how excited I am to take on this challenge. Haibun have a special place in my heart because I started out as a prose writer and have been wrestling with that craft for so long, and then along came haiku to become my new obsession. Combining the two forms skilfully, imaginatively, and artistically is a goal I have been working toward for quite a while now. (You can read some of my efforts on my “Site Archive” page, in the “Haibun” category.)

I love to read what other people are doing to shape the relatively new form of English-language haibun and I’m looking forward to being part of the process of putting some of that work out there in the world. I’m also looking forward to working with the great crew of editors that John has assembled from around the world (see below). Send us what you’ve got, we can’t wait to read it!

_______________________________________________________________

Here’s John’s announcement:

It is my honor to announce the launch of Multiverses, a new online journal dedicated to publishing modern English haiku and related forms of Japanese poetry, as well as to make an initial call for submissions for our first issue (due out in Spring of 2012). From our editorial statement:

“Each moment of our lives is a haiku waiting to happen. The unique way in which we experience these moments creates an authentic and personal reality known only to ourselves—our own little universe, so to speak. Yet we are all part of the same sum. By sharing our individual experiences and observations, we gain perspective and insight into the world of others, therefore becoming better attuned and more intimate with our own. It is with this idea in mind that Multiverses happened into existence.”

We are so excited and pleased to have an incredible team of editors, including:

Paul Smith, Tanka Editor
Melissa Allen, Haibun Editor
Alexis Rotella, Haiga Editor
Johannes S. H. Bjerg, Features Editor

Please feel free to share this post and spread the word about our launch. For more information about Multiverses, including details on submitting your work (deadline for our inaugural issue is February 15!), please visit www.multiversesjournal.com. We’re all looking forward to reading your work!

John Hawk
Founder, Haiku Editor
Multiverses

Across the Haikuverse, No. 27: Okay, So I Lied Edition

I know, I know. I said I wasn’t going to do this again for a while. But I’m so used to it! I keep reading haiku I love! And then I cut and paste them to a document and then I paste them into WordPress and then I fiddle with the formatting a little and then I press “Publish” and you get to read them. It’s not really that hard. No, really! It’s not! I totally can do it… at least one more time. Right? Please?

…Thanks!

.

_________________________________________________________________________________

.

Haiku

.

brittle moonlight
self-immolations
drawn on a map

— William Sorlien, Haiku Bandit Society

.

hiding their faces well snowflakes
.
de skjuler deres ansigter godt snefuggene

— Johannes S.H. Bjerg, 2 tongues/2 tunger

.

change of seasons
I catch myself talking
to the wind

— Margaret Dornaus, Haiku-doodle

.

a break
in the clouds
how small we are

— Alegria Imperial, jornales

.

in the second-hand book shop, the purr of the three-legged cat

— Mark Holloway, Beachcombing for the Landlocked

.

千の矢の描く千の弧師走空  青柳 飛

sen no ya no egaku sen no ko shiwazu-zora
.
one thousand trajectories
of one thousand arrows—
December sky

Fay Aoyagi, Blue Willow Haiku World  (her blog’s 1000th post)

.

目をつむりセーター脱げば剥製です   渡部陽子

me o tsumuri seitaa nugeba hakusei desu
.
taking off a sweater
with eyes closed
I am a stuffed specimen

— Yoko Watabe, tr. Fay Aoyagi, Blue Willow Haiku World

.

platelets—
the trip we were planning
to plan

— Roberta Beary, Tinywords

.

itallcomestogether in the darkness for the owl

— Johnny Baranski, Monostich

.

longue recherche
des lunettes pour mieux voir
le brouillard

.

a long search
for glasses, the better to see
the fog

— Vincent Hoarau, La Calebasse (dubious translation by me)

.

Haibun

she envies her her boyfriend that never fools around and her cherry-red convertible that never needs repairs and her outfits (complete with shoes and accessories) that can be had for less than ten dollars and the perpetually-shining plastic sun outside her practically-immaculate plastic house but most of all she envies her her god-damn nearly-perfect never-faltering ability-to-smile . . .

she says
“we can’t help who we love”
to no one
in particular
“all guys are assholes”

— Eric L. Houck Jr., haiku

.

Haiga

Kindly click on the links to see the haiga that are not posted here.

.

mouth of the cave
we enter as eagles
exit as sparrows

— an’ya, DailyHaiga

.

opening emergency door,
head-on spring moon

— Kikko Yokoyama, with haiga by Kuniharu Shimizu, see haiku here

.

Wildfire in Winter

— Aubrie Cox, Yay Words! (Click on the image [or the link to Aubrie’s blog] for a larger, more legible version)

.

_________________________________________________________________________________

.

Essayed

Chen-ou Liu posted a great essay recently on his blog Poetry in the Moment (originally published in A Hundred Gourds 1.1) about the phenomenon of “deja-ku”: “Read It Slowly, Repeatedly, and Communally.” Here’s a sample, but please go read the whole thing, it’s fascinating and there are lots of great examples.

.

Today, high poetic value placed upon originality remains ingrained in the Western literary culture. This fear of unknowingly writing similar haiku or the reluctance or disuse of allusion proves that Thomas Mallon’s remark still holds true: the poets live under the “fearful legacy of the Romantics.” Could those poets or editors who are constantly worried about “not being original or fresh” imagine that a poet deliberately using a direct quote as the first two lines of his haiku can achieve a great poem?

— Chen-ou Liu, “Read It Slowly, Repeatedly, and Communally”

.

__________________________________________________________________________________

.

Hey, thanks for indulging me. I feel better now.

.
bitter night
I keep reminding myself
I’m a poet

.

Wave and Particle

seasons

.

You know how it is: time is on your side. Then it isn’t. You cartwheel down the sidewalk one day in spring and watch yourself drive by, ten years older in the passenger seat with your head on your boyfriend’s shoulder, twenty years older in the driver’s seat carpooling to your son’s soccer game, thirty years older in the back seat of the lead car in your father’s funeral procession, your mind emptier than it’s been in years, turning your head to follow the progress of the little girl cartwheeling down the sidewalk. You never noticed her before.

.

the mistakes in my mirror image of myself

.

Well, but why should you have noticed her? Maybe she was never there before. And then again, why shouldn’t you have? Is a little girl really a less permanent feature of the landscape than the house behind her, the one that looks eerily like your childhood home? Houses fall down, streets cave in. Even hills, like this hill your car is climbing to the cemetery, even hills wear down over time, don’t they. Yes, someday someone will pick up this hill without thinking and put it in his pocket. And give it to his little girl when he gets home.

.

seismic movement my errors in judgment

.

The stars are coming out now, it’s that late in the day, the dark comes early now that it’s winter, though surely it was spring earlier today. You step out of the car and join the stream of your father’s mourners, all of you shrinking and fading as you move toward his grave in the darkness. Stars, you think: now they’re eternal — and then one winks out as you glance at it. Yes, it had a good run, but it’s cold and dark now, and everyone living on the planets that spun around it winked out themselves long ago. Time flies like an arrow, only faster. You’ve wasted time, but no need to get so upset about it, everyone does. It’s there to be wasted. And then it’s not there anymore; or more precisely, it is, but you’re not.
You’re not.

.

eight minutes later the truth finally dawns

.
Contemporary Haibun Online 7:3, October 2011

.

I Forgot His Name a Long Time Ago

Stone wall.

Come on, give me a kiss, he says, offering up his cheek. The other waitresses don’t look at me. I’ve seen them dutifully bestowing their kisses, expressions flat, then moving away, on to another task. Give me a kiss, he repeats. The dishes clatter in the sink. I lean over and peck his cheek, which is damp and round and red. I’m just like the other girls now. I can do the job.

He comes over to me one afternoon while I’m sitting filling salt shakers. No one else is there — it’s a lull between shifts. I’m going out to do errands, watch the place while I’m away. I say okay, looking down at my salt shakers, trying to keep from spilling. He keeps standing there until I look up. And then — it’s like a bird flying in my face — his tongue is in my mouth. It flicks in and out. He laughs, turns around and walks out. In the doorway he briefly obscures the sun.

What I can never forgive myself for: I laughed too.

.
leaning against a cold stone wall —
trying to explain

.

Notes from the Gean II:3, December 2010
.

Lunar Rover

Roses outside a window

The craters on the moon, the valleys, the mountains … everything the moon has is higher and wider and deeper than the things we have and this is because the moon has no air, nothing to get in the way of things falling or rising. If only you could breathe there you could grow, you could be a fine seven-foot specimen with an attenuated spine and a pianist’s fingers and delicately pointed ears. You could ride a racehorse forty hands high across the Planitia Descensus just in time to meet two tiny men in wide white suits, flailing along in terror of a fall. You could catch them up joyfully in your arms and set them behind you on your mount, you could take them back to the city you’ve built, full of spires and minarets and elegant hundred-foot lampposts. You could tenderly remove their awkward suits and tell them to breathe, to just try breathing, it’s not so hard once you get the hang of it …

and as a monument to their failure you could erect the tallest grave marker in the city.

summer dusk
the length of a vine
and its shadow

.

Contemporary Haibun Online, October 2011

.

Where We Live

It’s a tiny motel: four rooms, two tacked on to each end of our house like the spreading wings of a Southern plantation. But we’re the opposite of a plantation, we’re the site of endless uprootings. Poor soil for weak vegetation. The less successful variety of traveling salesman, in cheap suits, bearing leatherette briefcases and expressions of bewilderment at how fruitless their lives have turned out to be. Men who’ve been kicked out of the house by their wives and aren’t quite sure yet whether they can go home tomorrow. Drifters who’ve scrounged up enough money somewhere to settle down in one of our nineteen-dollar beds for the night, often leaving behind them the evidence that they had enough left over for a good-sized bender. Even hippies sometimes, though there aren’t a lot of them in this blue-collar, conservative town; maybe they’re just passing through on their way to someplace more congenial — a commune, a city squat, a rock festival. They arrive, unlike most of our customers, in clumps, too young yet to want or need or have to be alone. Most of these people don’t stay long; the wind blows them to us and then blows them away.

Then there’s Miss Knight. June comes and so does she, in her sky blue VW bus, crammed to the ceiling with everything she owns. All summer it sits in front of the motel, down by Room 4, which is her home for the summer and always has been. (As far as I know, anyway; my “always” isn’t very long.) She fills the room up quickly. She’s not the kind of wanderer who travels lightly, who pares down her possessions. She likes things. Not luxurious things but things that are her own, that make her feel at home. Her room feels like nothing so much as a nest, lined with bits of fluff and feathers and string, trifles that seem worthless on their own but make excellent insulation. She wears layers of clothing too, shapeless skirts and sweaters draped around her tiny thin body, even in the heat of summer. She coddles herself, but she thrives this way. Nothing blows her away; she’s rooted.

We don’t know how old she is. Seventy-five? Eighty-five? Her hair is pure white and scant, her spine bent, and sometimes her mind, to us, seems to travel on illogical paths — but maybe it’s our minds that are at fault, too limited to follow her flights of fancy, her mental travels into the less explored regions of the universe. She’s energetic, her eyes sparkle, she takes good care of herself and her dog, the Chihuahua that goes with her everywhere: so whatever age she is, it isn’t too old. We’re not inclined to be critical anyway; the place seems entirely different with her around, less like a dreary way station for the desperate, more like a bucolic paradise, a fit resting place for any respectable elderly woman who spends the year driving around New England in a VW bus. It never feels like summer until her bus arrives, to remind us that we have an acre of land out back, filled with fruit trees and shade trees and flowering bushes. Miss Knight takes daily constitutionals around it, looking at everything with appreciation and curiosity.

She’s friendly, even ebullient, but guarded. She looks hazy-eyed past questions. We don’t know her story, her past or her future. It’s as if she only exists here and now, in the summer in a small motel in Connecticut. The only indication we have of her life away from us is the one postcard that arrives every spring, in advance of her own arrival, letting us know to be on the lookout for her. It sits propped on the dining room table for weeks, while the weather grows warmer, the school year wears on, our other customers come and go, our own lives mutate and progress inexorably. It’s our surrogate for her; we read it over and over, day by day, until she pulls into the driveway again, and then we put it away in a drawer with the ones from every other year.

The year it doesn’t arrive, we all start wondering whether we’re any more real than she is.

summer solstice
how much of my life story
is invented

.

Haibun Today 5:3, September 2011

.

Little girl waving goodbye on the first day of school

Dragonfly Dreams

Assorted dragonflies

Did I have any idea what I was getting myself into when I announced this topic? No, I did not. I had no idea that so many people would send me so much varied and amazing poetry about dragonflies. Just as I had no idea there were so many kinds of dragonflies until I started doing a little (okay, a lot) of research…

I’ll launch into the poetry in a minute, but first off, for those among you who like me have to know every. single. thing. there is to know. about something before you can possibly just enjoy reading about it (yes, we are annoying)… here is the Wikipedia article on dragonflies (which fascinatingly contains an entire section on the role dragonflies play in Japanese culture and even references haiku) and here is the page on dragonfly kigo from Gabi Greve’s World Kigo Database.

Okay, I’ll shut up now and let you enjoy this dream of dragonflies.

_________________________________________________________________________

.

Red dragonfly perched on grass

(Photo by Jay Otto)

.

aki no ki no akatombo ni sadamarinu

The beginning of autumn,
Decided
By the red dragon-fly.

— Shirao, translated by R.H. Blyth
.

toogarashi hane o tsukereba akatonbo

red pepper
put wings on it
red dragonfly

— Basho, translated by Patricia Donegan

.

Origami dragonfly

(Photo by Jay Otto)

a dragonfly lands
on a stranded paper boat…
summer’s end

— Polona Oblak, Crows and Daisies

.

within his armful
of raked leaves
this lifeless dragonfly

— Kirsten Cliff, Swimming in Lines of Haiku

.

Red dragonfly over landscape

(Artwork and poetry by Rick Daddario, 19 Planets)

dragonflies
the soft blur of time
in another land

.

Dragonfly on ferns

(Photo by Jay Otto)

.

out of myself just briefly dragonfly

.
adding a touch
of blue to the breeze –
dragonfly
(Magnapoets Issue 4 July 2009)

.
fading light –
everything the dragonfly
has to say

— Paul Smith, Paper Moon

.

Common darter dragonfly

(Artwork by Amy Smith, The Spider Tribe’s Blog)

.

a crimson darter
skims the mirror-lake…
your lips on mine
tomorrow
may never come
.

twisting and turning
a dragonfly splits
a ray of light …
he says he loves me
in his own way

(Simply Haiku Winter 2011)
.

catching
the blue eye of the breeze
dragonfly

(Simply Haiku Spring 2011)

.

— Claire Everett, At the Edge of Dreams

.

Dragonfly on reeds

(Photo by Jay Otto)

.

on the water lily
remains of a dragonfly
morning stillness

(Evergreen English Haiku, 1995)
.

from sedge
to sedge to sedge
dragonfly
.

with a few brushstrokes the dragonfly comes alive
.

autumn dragonfly
waning
like the moon
a few scarlet leaves
silently fall
.

— Pamela A. Babusci

.

Golden dragonfly

(Artwork by Rick Daddario, 19 Planets)

.

Dragonfly rising
everything shining
in the wind
.

Gold dragonflies
crisscross the air in silence:
summer sunset
.

A cirrus sky
one hundred dark dragonflies
with golden wings

.

— Kris Lindbeck, Haiku Etc.

.

.

Dragonfly on grass blade

(Photo by Jay Otto)

.

The dragon-fly,
It tried in vain to settle
On a blade of grass.

— Basho, translated by R.H. Blyth
.

The dragon-fly
Perches on the stick
That strikes at him.

— Kohyo, translated by R.H. Blyth
.

the instant it flies up
a dragonfly
loses its shadow

— Inahata Teiko (1931-), translated by Makoto Ueda

.

Red dragonfly haiga

(Artwork by Rick Daddario, 19 Planets)

.

red dragonfly
on my shoulder, what
rank do I have?
.

spiderweb down,
a damselfly touches
my lips

— Michael Nickels-Wisdom
.

born in the year
of the dragon-
fly!

— Mary Ahearn

.

Red dragonfly in grass

(Photo by Jay Otto)

.

sunset
from the tip of my shoe
the red dragonfly

(South by Southeast 18:2)

 

dew on grasses
the dragonflies
are gone
.

in a wrinkle
of light
dragonfly
.

— Donna Fleischer, word pond

.

Typewriter

(Poetry by Melissa Allen; illustration clip art)

.

.

through and through the gate dragonfly

— Melissa Allen

.

Red Hot Dragonfly

.

coupling dragonflies
at break-neck speed—
HOT!

(Modern Haiku 35.1)

— Susan Diridoni

.

Dragonfly close-up

(Photo by Jay Otto)

.

on the dried husk
that was an iris blossom
black dragonfly
.

we came here
seeking solitude
the loon
the dragonfly
and the speedboat

— Christina Nguyen, A wish for the sky…

.

Dragonfly and Grasshopper(Artwork by Kitagawa Utamaro: “Red Dragonfly and Locust [Aka tonbo and Inago]”, from Picture Book of Selected Insects with Crazy Poems [Ehon Mushi Erabi]). From the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City.)

.

this brief life a dragonfly
.

dragonfly
where there is water
a path
.
— angie werren, feathers

.

tombô ya ni shaku tonde wa mata ni shaku

dragonfly–
flying two feet
then two feet more

— Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue

.

Dragonfly on rock

(Photo by Jay Otto)

.

a break in the rain…
the stillness
of the dragonfly

— sanjuktaa, wild berries

.

dragonfly—
how much of me
do you see?

— Alegria Imperial, jornales

.

noonday heat
dragonflies slice
the still air

(South by Southeast Vol. 12 #1)

— T.D. Ingram, @haikujots (on twitter)

.

Red dragonfly drawing.

evening breeze
teetering on its perch
a red dragonfly



(Haiku Pix Review, summer 2011)

.— G.R. LeBlanc, Berry Blue Haiku

.

high notes
a red dragonfly skims
across the sound

— Margaret Dornaus, Haiku-Doodle

.

Blue dragonfly

(Haiga by Polona Oblak, Crows and Daisies)

.

the heat
between downpours
blue dragonflies

— Mark Holloway, Beachcombing for the Landlocked

.

Steel blue flash
flies wing
drifts
— Robert Mullen

.

Yellow dragonfly

.

dragonfly dreams
the hospital intercom
repeats her name
.
with the password
to her sanity
darting dragonfly
.
iridescent dragonfly
hard to see
how her Ph.D. matters
.
tell me the old stories
one last time
convalescent dragonfly
.
discharge papers
the dragonfly returns home
on new meds
.
letting go of her walker
she lifts into the night sky
dragonfly
.
— Susan Antolin, Artichoke Season

.

Multimedia Interlude:

Sick of everything around here being flat and quiet?  I found some moving stuff that makes noise for you too.

  • First, there’s this amazing (very) short film by Paul Kroeker of the last moments of a dragonfly’s life, which I discovered via Donna Fleischer at word pond. It’s set to music and is incredibly compelling:

http://www.petapixel.com/2011/08/11/spontaneous-and-creative-short-film-of-a-dying-dragonfly-shot-with-a-canon-7d/

  • Second, there are several versions of the well-known Japanese folk song (I mean, well-known to the Japanese) Aka Tombo, which means “Red Dragonfly.” This is apparently an indispensable part of every Japanese child’s upbringing. There are an almost infinite number of variations of this on YouTube so if these four aren’t enough for you, feel free to go noodling around over there looking for more.

Female vocalists

Male vocalists

Instrumental

With upbeat dance backing track added

.

and on this general theme…

.

perched on bamboo grass
the low notes
of a dragonfly

(Haiku inspired by Tif Holmes’s Photo-Haiku Project:  http://tifholmesphotography.com/cphp/2011/07/july-2011-series-entry-11/)

— Kathy Nguyen (A~Lotus), Poetry by Lotus

.

for when even
the music stops—
dragonfly wings

— Aubrie Cox, Yay words!

.

Dragonfly tiles

(Photo by Jay Otto)

.

mid-morning
a dragonfly and I
bound for Mississippi
.

in and out of view
the computer-drawn dragonfly
on the web page

— Tzetzka Ilieva
.

dragonfly
at 60 miles per hour
those giant eyes

— Johnny Baranski

.

Dragonfly on stalk

(Photo by Jay Otto)

.

first impressions
a dragonfly hovers
before landing

— Cara Holman, Prose Posies

.

Dragonfly zip haiku

.

.

.

— Linda Papanicolaou, Haiga Online

.

In this forest glade
The snail gone, a dragonfly lights
On the mushroom cap

— P. Allen

.

Owl catching dragonfly

.

‘Oh!  Catch it!’

‘I heard they eat their own tails’

When I was a child, living on an Air Force base in Okinawa, it was a common belief, among the elementary school set, a dragonfly would eat itself if you caught it and fed it its own tail.  I looked online and didn’t find any references to this notion so maybe we were all sniffing the good Japanese glue.

Anyhow, even though we constantly snagged lizards and grasshoppers and cicadas, I never saw any one ever catch a dragonfly, as common as they were.

dragonfly
we play in the puddles
afraid to get close

— Steve Mitchell, Heed Not Steve

.

Dragonfly on bark

(Photo by Jay Otto)

.

dragonfly—
wings vibrating
on the rock face
(From the sequence “Ten Haiku: For the Dodge Tenth Anniversary Hike” in The Monkey’s Face)

dragonfly
on my fingernail
looks at me
(From Wind in the Long Grass, edited by William J. Higginson [Simon & Schuster, Books for Young Readers, 1991])

— Penny Harter, Penny Harter homepageA Poet’s Alphabestiary, Etc.

.

An old tree
No bud and no leaf
full of dragonflies.

— @vonguyenphong22 (on Twitter)

.

Dragonfly illustration.

neti neti
a dragonfly hums
raga Megh
(raga Megh(a)=a raga for the monsoon season. Neti neti= a key expression from the Upanishads: “not this nor this” or “not this nor that” alluding to the essence of things.)
.

”the sky’s gone out”
on the radio – and then
a dragonfly
.

dragonfly –
I mark an unpaid bill
“later”

— Johannes S.H. Bjerg, 2 tongues/2 tunger

.

Orange dragonfly

(Photo by Melissa Allen)

.

in and out the reeds
a blue dragonfly
mother keeps sewing
.

stitching
water and sky together
–       damselflies

— Paganini Jones, http://www.pathetic.org/library/5644

.

boys playing games
stones miss the darning needle

— Jim Sullivan, haiku and commentary and tales
.

dragonfly heading to the lemon hanging in the sun

— Gene Myers, genemyers.com, @myersgene (on Twitter)

.

Dragonfly and poppies

(Artwork by Kitagawa Utamaro, “Dragonfly and Butterfly,” from A Selection of Insects)

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bluetail damselfly
escapes the empty cottage
where children once played
(1st place Kiyoshi Tokutomi Memorial Haiku Contest 2009)
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on the bus
to the children’s museum
first dragonfly

— Roberta Beary, Roberta Beary

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flitting idly
from flower to flower
a blue damsel
lights upon the lotus
unfolding iridescence

— Margaret Dornaus, Haiku-Doodle

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Dragonfly with water lilies

(Photo by Jay Otto)

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dark waters
a dragonfly dreaming
its reflection
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iridescent wings
the flying parts of
the dragon

— Stella Pierides, Stella Pierides
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silhouetted dragonfly
reeds pierce the moon
(The Mainichi Daily News, May 30, 2009)

— Martin Gottlieb Cohen

Haiku North America, Day 2

For some reason I didn’t have quite as much energy on Day Two of HNA as I did on Day One. Which might account for why when I went to download my photos from my phone, I realized I hadn’t actually taken any pictures. Well, okay, a few. But this post will be a little less visual than yesterday’s. I’ll try to make up for it by annoyingly sticking my camera in everyone’s face all day long today. You’re welcome.

We started the day with a reading by the authors of the HNA anthology, Standing Still, which is a thing of beauty.

Standing Still, 2011 HNA Conference Anthology

That wonderful drawing on the cover is by Dejah Leger, who also did the wonderful illustrations inside, such as this one…

the fly's wings / raising / settling / the dust

There was a choice of activities after this and I chose to attend Jim Kacian‘s lecture on one-line haiku, which he is trying to get us all to call “monoku.” Hmmm. Aside from that, though, the lecture was dense with interesting information. Although I got a bit lost during his lengthy comparison of the history of tennis strokes and the history of English-language haiku, since on the few occasions I have attempted to wield a tennis racket…let’s just say that I don’t play tennis. (Jim is a tennis pro in his money-making life.)

He examined haiku with many other line lengths and then a wide variety of one-line haiku, and tried to identify the elements that make a particular haiku work as a one-liner. I won’t give you a precis of the lecture, I’m sure it will be published at some point. It worked to make me go out to the book fair and buy Jim’s book of monoku, though.

where I leave off

Naturally I bought a ton of other books as well (who buys only one book at a time?), but the one I would most like to show you is this one by my roommate here, Lidia Rozmus, the transcendent beauty of whose art (stunning, minimalist ink brush painting) and writing (haiku and haibun) are in direct proportion to the transcendent beauty of her kindness and generosity. This is a book about her emigration to the United States from Poland and her adjustment to life here.

My Journey

Here’s Lidia herself in the courtyard of the Inn at Queen Anne, where I retreated after the morning activities with a chicken salad sandwich and a bottle of hard cider to gather some energy for a busy afternoon (read: keep from fainting with exhaustion).

Lidia Rozmus

And here are some other poets who sat with us and chatted over lunch: Wanda Cook and Marilyn Hazelton.

Wanda CookMarilyn Hazelton

Another excursion in the afternoon: On the monorail downtown to (your choice) Pike Place Market or the Seattle Art Museum. I’ve been to the Market. I went to the museum. This may not have been a good idea, since as I think I have mentioned before, I have a severe mouse phobia and this was one of the first things I saw there.

Rat hovering over sleeping person

There was other art that made up for it, though. They were having a special exhibition of American landscape painting. One thing I noticed that many of the artists had in common was that they would incorporate a splash or two of something bright red (usually something man-made) into a landscape that was otherwise more drab in color.

Maybe there was something about this in the interpretive signs, I don’t know. I’m not very good about reading museum signs. It seemed to me that perhaps this was one way of asserting man’s dominion over nature: your eye was naturally drawn to that bright red, making it seem like the most important thing in the picture.

Sometimes I wonder if haiku does something similar to our experience of nature, by focusing our attention on one tiny aspect of it that a human being has noticed.

Mt. Rainier and Puget Sound

After the museum a bunch of us stumbled around looking for a place to eat, finally giving up on the tourist traps of the Market and heading back to our home base of the Queen Anne neighborhood for some Thai food. As we prepared to board the monorail,  a man noticed the excellent NaHaiWriMo-inspired T-shirt (see sample below) that Michael Dylan Welch was wearing and asked him, “So you must not like haiku?”

…Oh. You have never seen a man so happy as Michael was at that moment. The (gentle) lecture that followed started with, “Actually, I’m the first vice-president of the Haiku Society of America, and I love haiku!” and ended with the poor questioner walking away with his eyes glazed over, trying to grasp that everything he had ever thought he knew about haiku was wrong. Or else that he had just run into a pack of lunatics.

No 5-7-5 T-shirt

At the restaurant, Michael first tried to get us all to write haiku individually, and met with some pretty stiff resistance because we were all, you know, completely wiped out. But then Carlos Colon suggested the much more palatable idea of writing renku, so that’s what we did. This is one of those occasions that I really wish I had been alert enough to think of getting a picture of.

Renku participants: Katharine Hawkinson, Michael Dylan Welch, me, Carlos Colon, Marilyn Hazelton, Garry Gay. Present, but malingering: Carolyn Hall, Susan Antolin. Result: A summer junicho entitled “Racha Renku” (Racha was the name of the restaurant we were in.)

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a single cloud
the baby points at the sky

— me, verse 10 of “Racha Renku”

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The first event of the evening was a reading of haibun by featured reader Cor van den Heuvel and anyone else who cared to read haibun. I have to admit that since I was feeling utterly exhausted, I went back to my room for a quick nap and didn’t make it to this reading until quite late, but I really regret it now because I love haibun so much and the few readers that I did hear presented some outstanding examples.

Also, here is where I am going to cheat and show you a picture of Cor reading at Haiku Circle, which I attended in Northfield, Massachusetts in June. Because (naturally) I didn’t get a picture of Cor reading last night, but actually the picture of him reading outside in June is better than any picture I could have taken under the Seattle Center’s fluorescent lights.

Cor van den Heuvel

The final event of the night (at least that I attended) was a panel on haiku publishing moderated by Michael Dylan Welch and featuring Don Wentworth, Ce Rosenow, Jim Kacian, and Charlie Trumbull, all of whom run presses ranging in size from teeny-tiny to small. (Unstartling revelation of the evening: Small haiku publishers do not make any money from publishing haiku.)

There was a lot of discussion of various ways to structure manuscripts of haiku, including by subject, season, tone. And also discussion of how to submit manuscripts to publishers. (Some want you to send them a zillion haiku and let them pick out which ones they want to put in the book. Some just want you to send them a few poems and tell them what the rest of the book will be like. So ask them, I guess is the lesson.)

Don Wentworth, Ce Rosenow, Jim Kacian, Charlie Trumbull

After that panel I threw in the towel and went to bed early last night. Well…I guess it’s more accurate to say I went back to the hotel early. Then Lidia and I spent a while talking, partly about how much we love haiku poets and how happy we are to be here. There is so much talking here. You can’t get any of us to shut up. It’s as if seventeen syllables really weren’t enough to say everything after all.

Across the Haikuverse, No. 22: Not Dead Yet Edition

I’ve been sick with a few different things over the last few weeks. Spent a lot of time lollygagging around in bed. Seem to be getting better now. Still don’t feel much like writing.

Somebody want to comment and let me know what you’re writing these days? It might make me feel better to know that someone in the world is not experiencing a creative slump.

Of course, there are all those people I quote down below. They seem to be doing just fine. Terrific, in fact. There are some spectacular images here. Some precise and lovely language. Some mind-altering revelations.

All of these poems are ones that made me step back when I saw them and go, “Whoa.” And then just breathe for a while, and read the poem again a few times, and feel really thankful I’d seen it.

In case you were wondering what my criteria were for choosing poems for this feature…that’s pretty much it. If a poem seems to me to be saying something that no one else in the world ever had or could say better…it’s going in.

It’s interesting to me, now that I’ve been reading haiku for a while, and have become familiar with the work of so many poets, how even in a form as short and relatively prescribed in form and content as the haiku (or tanka), there is such a wild and woolly assortment of styles possible and extant.

Reading the poems of people whose work you know and love is a little bit like looking at the faces of people you know and love: so familiar, and utterly unique, and the uniqueness makes you love them even more. You smile when you see them and say, “Oh, yes, that couldn’t possibly be anyone but [for instance] John Martone.”

Yes, I’m feeling much better now. Thanks.

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Poetry To Which Attention Must Be Paid

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yes, this one,
gently close the humidor
– the smell of cedar
both dogs whining in the hall
eager to join me outside

—Steve Mitchell, Heed Not Steve

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sun between clouds
the flies on a dead bird
flash blue

— Mark Holloway, Beachcombing for the Landlocked

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grandma’s well
the water tasted like iron
and cold—
that darkness
from which I’m made

— Charles Easter, Tinywords

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物容るゝ壜も物言ふ壜も夏   中村安伸
mono iruru bin mo mono iu bin mo natsu

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a jar to keep things
and a jar which speaks
summer

— Yasunobu Nakamura, translated by Fay Aoyagi, Blue Willow Haiku World

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wishing on the first star for the last time … mockingbird’s song

— Terri L. French, The Mulling Muse (Please go check out Terri’s wonderful haiga associated with this poem)

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white sky –
the absent wind
with a girl’s name

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hvid himmel –
den fraværende vind
med et pigenavn

— Johannes S.H. Bjerg, 2 tongues/2 tunger

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feeling it
not feeling it
the grasshopper
between my hands

— Sandra Simpson, DailyHaiku

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wind
thru

pines
thru

sleep 

— John Martone, originally published in Lilliput Review and quoted on Don Wentworth’s Issa’s Untidy Hut

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everything I see
I am…
autumn moon

— Paul Smith, winner of the 2011 Haiku Pen Contest sponsored by Lyrical Passion E-Zine

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Delicious Bloggy Goodness

Since I am giving this talk next week about blogging I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes a good blog and which blogs I am devoutly grateful for (there are a lot of them). I mentioned a few in the last Haikuverse and here are a few more.

1. Kuniharu Shimizu, whose haiga on see haiku here are a marvel of nature most of the time anyway, has been posting some mind-blowing “linked haiga” lately. They’re like haiku sequences, except…they’re haiga sequences, and they are linked not only thematically but graphically. I’m just gonna stop trying to describe them now and order you to go look at them. My favorites are:

Haiku by A.C. Missias, Joann Klontz, and paul m.

Haiku by Cor van den Heuvel and Taneda Santoka

Haiku by Michael McClintock and Taneda Santoka

2. The fascinating people over at Icebox recently took a poll about which characteristics participants considered essential to haiku. Of a long list of possibilities, you were allowed to choose three. Now they have revealed and analyzed the results of some 104 responses, and it’s a fascinating read, especially if like me you find numbers a welcome break at times from all those words we’re always bandying about.

Full disclosure: I participated in this poll, and I am (I guess?) relieved to find out that my top three choices are identical to the top three vote-getters in the poll. Either I have a vague idea what I’m doing, or I just like to be exactly like everyone else. I haven’t decided yet.

3. Over at Morden Haiku, Matt Morden’s long haibun about his cycling tour of Scotland with his 18-year-old daughter (it was a school-leaving present) had me captivated every step of the way, which surprised me because I normally have very little interest in travelogue haibun. But Matt is so good at painting images in both prose and poetry. And he managed to capture the nature of the bond between him and his daughter without any overt description of it or any sentimentality.

at the end of a day
when I could not ask for more
wild orchids

— Matt Morden, Morden Haiku

4. At La Calebasse, Vincent Hoarau has written a moving and perceptive essay about the work of Svetlana Marisova, an excellent haiku poet from New Zealand. Unfortunately for many of you, it’s in French; fortunately for those same people, he quotes Svetlana’s haiku in English (as well as in his own French translation), so at least you can read those, and Svetlana’s haiku are must-reads.

I can’t really translate French so I wouldn’t inflict my garbled version of Vincent’s essay on you, but I will briefly quote one of his descriptions of Svetlana’s characteristic style, which “depends on the juxtaposition of images, on allusion, suggestion, and concision.” This might be a description of all or most good haiku, but it is true that there is more of a sense of mystery and a deeper resonance to Svetlana’s haiku than to most.

This makes it all the more painful to have to report that Svetlana has an aggressive form of brain cancer, for which she is currently being treated in Russia. I think it’s safe to say that everyone who knows Svetlana and her work is keeping her in their thoughts these days.

wintry sky …
these dark tumours
draining light

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ciel hivernal … / ces tumeurs noires / drainant la lumière

— Svetlana Marisova, French translation by Vincent Hoarau

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Essaying: Words, Words, Words

The last few weeks I kept stumbling across, or getting pointed toward, thought-provoking essays about haiku, many of which I kept constantly open as tabs in my browser so I could reread them or bits of them at stray moments when, say, Facebook was failing to completely capture my attention. After a while (sometimes I’m slow) I started to notice a common theme between several of these essays: Words.

No, I don’t mean that they all contain words. I mean that they all deal in one way or another with the inadequacy of mere words to convey the meaning of haiku, with the fact that in haiku it is just as often what is not said that is important. That space, wordlessness, ma … there are so many ways people have tried to explain this notion of the open-endedness of haiku, the sense of possibility it offers the reader. But these three essays have a lot to contribute to this conversation.

Ian Marshall and Megan Simpson, in an often dense discussion of the literary theory of deconstructionism as it pertains (or doesn’t pertain) to haiku, spend a lot of time trying to decide whether the words in haiku can be trusted: whether they are revealing some kind of absolute truth or faithful depiction of the world, or whether they are saying more about the mind of their author than about any objective reality.

“What I’m getting at, what I’ve been getting at, is that the supposed ideal of ‘wordlessness’ of haiku, meaning that its language can represent the natural world in such a way that it becomes fully present in language, in seventeen syllables or less, is a fiction. But the best haiku are aware of the fiction and of the difficulty or impossibility of using words to achieve no-mind, or selflessness, or wordlessness. Bringing deconstruction to bear on haiku reveals that even haiku to some extent concern themselves with the problematics of representation, and recognizing this enriches our readings of haiku.”

— Ian Marshall and Megan Simpson, “Deconstructing Haiku: A Dialogue

Randy Brooks, in a long and rich interview with Robert Wilson in the most recent issue of the journal Simply Haiku, elaborates on his vision of haiku poetics, which considers the reader to be “co-creator” with the writer of the meaning of the haiku.

“Haiku is not a closed form of verse with three lines of five-seven-five syllables, self-contained and finished by the author. Haiku is an open form of poetry in which the silences before, within and after the haiku resonate with surplus meaning. Basho called this surplus of meaning ‘yojô.’ These unfinished silences are deliberately left open to the reader, so that the reader can enter into the imagined space of the haiku as a co-creator with the author to discover the feelings, thoughts, insights, and overall significance of the haiku. This surplus meaning is shared by the writer and reader, with a playful variety of unpredictable responses. In my opinion, this is the primary joy of haiku—the writer has crafted a haiku as a creative response to nature, reality, dreams, art, imagination, or to other haiku, and the reader gets to enter into that playful haiku with his or her own creative response and imagination.”

— Randy Brooks, interviewed by Robert Wilson in Simply Haiku

And Fay Aoyagi, in a fascinating essay about the history of the moon in haiku, talks about the necessity for subtlety and ambiguity in haiku, the need to leave things out. (The first paragraph of her essay is not specifically about this idea, but it was too wonderful not to quote here.)

“If somebody asked me to choose between the sun and the moon as a place to live, I would choose the moon. In my mind, there are highways with 10 lanes on the sun, but the moon has alleys and narrow streets I can explore on foot. For me, the sun is a destination, but the moon is a gateway and a peep-hole to an unknown world. …
“One of my Japanese friends told me that she did not understand how people write haiku in English. According to her, Japanese culture, including haiku, is very subtle. She said Japanese is a more ambiguous language than English; it is a more suitable language to express feelings. Writing in Japanese, a poet can avoid too much explicitness. I am not sure I totally agree. I think English haiku can be very suggestive, as well. … Haiku is a poetry form which requires reading between the lines. I strongly believe that we can achieve subtlety in English.”

— Fay Aoyagi, “Moon in the Haiku Tradition

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Well. I think in this edition I’ve had more of a sense than most of actually going somewhere, of making some kind of journey.

I can’t help thinking back to when I first started this blog, with a light-hearted, innocent notion that I would be spending a few minutes every day composing these charming little poems. And then…the deluge.

After just a few days of surfing erratically around the Interwebs, I began to realize that the well I had fallen into was deeper and had far more at the bottom of it than I had dreamed.

I was stunned by the richness of so much of the haiku I had found, by how different it was than the haiku I had previously seen or imagined.

I was amazed by the amount and variety of writing about haiku that I discovered, and by the amount of disagreement that existed about what exactly haiku was anyway, and by the quality and profundity of thought that so many poets and scholars poured into these tiny poems.

I had a sense of having found another country. And I knew almost immediately that it was one I wanted to emigrate to permanently, and spend a lifetime exploring.

Well, why not? The scenery is astounding, the population is warm and welcoming, the cultural traditions … well, I need say no more. But sometimes I just kind of look around and think, Wow. I am so lucky to be here.

Thank you for being here too.

Yorick in Moscow

Gravestones behind a hedge

(Artwork by Rick Daddario, 19 Planets)

The cemetery is full of trees. How do they dig the graves? You couldn’t get a backhoe between the trunks. Are there still gravediggers here, men with shovels making dark jokes about the things they unearth in the course of their work? I think about dying here and what it would be like to lie with my head against one set of roots and my feet against another. With a rock over my chest that told everyone my foreign name. People would walk back and forth over me, murmuring, in a tongue not my own, the first and last years I was alive. For decades I would dream my life, until the gravediggers retrieved me, held me up to the light, let the sun shine through my skull.

last frost
my footprint melted
into the soil

Contemporary Haibun Online, July 2011

Babushkas


Broom
..

Old women everywhere, like crones out of fairy tales, sweep dirt from and onto the streets with bundles of twigs. I think about stopping one of them to ask for three wishes. But they stare at me suspiciously from under their kerchiefs and mutter when they hear me speak. “She doesn’t even know Russian. Her coat isn’t warm enough. What is going to become of all of us?” All I really want, I think, is one of those brooms.

new moon
the once upon a time
of my life

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.Contemporary Haibun Online 7:2, July 2011

illustration: Rick Daddario, 19 Planets

The Rainbow Cafe

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We like to visit a co-op cafe in our Moscow neighborhood, one of the new private enterprises that Gorbachev has encouraged; they have more and better food than most of the state restaurants, and are never “Closed for Repairs” when the employees feel like taking a day off, never display “No Vacancy” signs when the place is empty. The staff are solicitous and polite, and apologetic if something on the menu doesn’t happen to be available, instead of incredulous that you might ever have expected it would be.

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winter flea market —
a wind-up doll
that’s already broken

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It drives the staff crazy if I order for myself instead of letting my boyfriend do it for me. For this reason, I make a point of always ordering for myself, and always before he does. They stare ferociously at him while I speak, and only after he gives a slight nod do they write down my order. Even after I’ve been doing this for months, they don’t yield on their principles. No one there ever asks me what I want.

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I eat my chicken Kiev watching them as they bustle from table to table with worried lines in their foreheads, as if they’re calculating profit margins in their heads. Butter drips down my chin. My boyfriend reaches over and wipes it off with a napkin.

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meteor shower
the wishes I make
in another language

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.Haibun Today 5:2, June 2011

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Across the Haikuverse, No. 18: Here Comes the Sun Edition

So. It’s been a long, cold, lonely winter. (That’s a line from some song we sang at our third-grade choral concert. Amazing that I still remember it.)

This is how long it was: Have you ever had one of those dreams where the whole time you knew something really great was about to happen, something really fantastic you could hardly wait for, and the dream went on and on and all kinds of other humdrum, boring things happened, and you were thinking, “Okay, isn’t it about time the really great thing happened now?”, and then it was just about to happen, oh man, and … you woke up. And it never happened.

Yeah. I was seriously afraid this winter was going to turn out to be like one of those dreams. There was the cold. And the snow. And the more cold. And the unrelenting brownness and grayness. … Did I mention the cold? All through March. All through April. Into May. May!

Everyone else in the world (it seemed) was writing these cheerful blossom haiku and I kept looking out my window wondering if this was one of those dreams after all. Cold rain. Bare branches. Me shivering in my sweaters and occasionally even long underwear still, the grass like straw, the cold! so painful it felt like some kind of bone disease! (Should I go to the doctor?)

Well. So okay, it was still only about fifty degrees today with a stiff breeze. But there was sun! There’s supposed to be sun all week. And there are flowers everywhere. There are blossoms! There are lilacs! The grass is green, the leaves are green. …It finally happened!

Not only that, but I handed in my last assignments of the semester last week. Another thing I thought would never happen. And my son finally got his driver’s license, which means I don’t have to drive him everywhere anymore. [Though he will kill me if I don’t mention that he’s been getting himself practically everywhere on his bike since he was like ten, so it’s not like I’ve been a slave to his transportation.]

And my husband finally got over whatever microbial infestation had him in its death grip for the last month, so he can do something besides sit around making exploding-lung noises. Like take me to the Arboretum to look at apple blossoms. And wait patiently while I scribble illegible things about them in a notebook. Cold and lonely no more. So glad that dream is over.

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falling in love with a memory apple blossoms

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Haiku of the Month: All Spring and Summer, All the Time

I’ve mentioned before how you can follow the world’s weather patterns by observing the haiku that is posted on the Internet. Well, I was looking through all the haiku I had collected over the last three weeks and noticed that not a single one referred to autumn or winter. (I must not have been hanging out on enough southern hemisphere blogs or something. I apologize to that half of the globe.)

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river sunrise
a girl’s shadow
swims from my ankles

— Lorin Ford, Mann Library’s Daily Haiku

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as it lands
the mallard shatters the house
in the river

— Polona Oblak, Crows & Daisies

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migrating geese
the shapes of chins
in a crowd

— an’ya, DailyHaiga

(Please go visit this very lovely haiga.)

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spring dusk –
the river pauses
for a moment
to take the weight
of a swan

— Paul Smith, Paper Moon

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twilight
settling on all
the unfound eggs

— Pearl Nelson, Pearl Nelson

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Palm Sunday
a card game called
‘doubt’

— Fay Aoyagi, Blue Willow Haiku World

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summer rain I’m still a fool around gravity

— Johannes S.H. Bjerg, scented dust

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a careless butterfly:
lost among thousands
of heavy raindrops

— Vladimir Devide/haiga by Kuniharu Shimizu, see haiku here

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“The typhoon rain seems to have stopped this morning here, but the clouds are still pretty heavy. People walking on the street are taking umbrella along. Small insects, however, are sometimes careless and venture into the pouring rain only to be slapped down on the ground.

I heard that when the tsunami was approaching, quite a few people actually went out to the pier or seaside to watch the wave. How careless I thought, but I guess that is what happens when one underestimates the real power of the nature. Being curious and being careful are both the working of the mind. It makes a big difference which working one chooses in time of danger. I certainly choose not to be a careless butterfly.”

— Kuniharu Shimizu, see haiku here

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春寒の山のひとつがはぐれけり   齋藤愼爾
harusamu no yama no hitotsu ga hagurekeri

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spring chill
one of the mountains
goes astray

— Shinji Saito, translated by Fay Aoyagi, Blue Willow Haiku World

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it has to end:
the wind
to cherry blossoms

— Alegria Imperial, jornales

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in tranquility
cherry petals are falling
abyssal fish

— Taro Kunugi, from Donna Fleischer’s Word Pond


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secretly
still expecting
the living
that life owes me
– lupins !

— Mark Holloway, Beachcombing for the Landlocked

(I had a hard time choosing between this tanka and several others Mark posted this week that were equally wonderful. You should really go over there and decide for yourself which is your favorite.)

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between tour groups
the garden
just the garden

— Sandra Simpson, DailyHaiku

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open scissors beside a vase of water

— Eve Luckring, from A New Resonance [6]: Emerging Voices in English-Language Haiku, Red Moon Press, 2009, quoted on Basho’s Road

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This is the toy theatre room. You’ll notice the wooden Lawyer. Took forty-two hours to get his jaw right. We’re staging Visions on Wednesday. You should come.

— Ben Pullar, a handful of stones

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(You’re right, this is not a haiku. It’s a small stone, which is sometimes the same thing and sometimes not. You should let Fiona Robyn tell you about them if you don’t already know. And this reminds me — Fiona and her fiance Kaspalita, who are getting married on June 18, are asking for a wedding present of small stones written on their wedding day. They are lovely people and if you write them a poem I promise you’ll get some good karma. Shhhh. Don’t tell them I told you.)

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Web Wide World


So much fun stuff to read this month, so little time…

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Understanding Modern English-Language Haiku” from Winning Writers, April 2010

This is a fascinating essay that features the editors of five haiku journals speaking about the process they go through when writing haiku in general and one specific haiku in particular. The introductory remarks feature a discussion of one of my pet peeves, how profoundly haiku is marginalized in the wider world of poetry and the serious ignorance and misunderstanding of what haiku is among mainstream poets.

It’s encouraging that this essay appears on a mainstream poetry website. I hope that the remarks of Jane Reichhold, John Stevenson, George Swede, Linda Papanicolau, and Colin Stewart Jones do something to enlighten at least a few writers about the real nature and potential of haiku.

cold night
the dashboard lights
of another car

— John Stevenson

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Serendipiku

Speaking of Colin Stewart Jones…I got the link to that last essay off his blog, serendipiku, which is very interesting, as is his static website, also, slightly confusingly, called serendipiku. (It’s called branding, I guess. I must get with the times. Nice work, Col.)

Colin is a wonderful poet and artist. His one-word bird haiga are really fun, and I especially like his graphic haibun, which are unlike any other haibun you’ve ever seen. I recommend in particular “Menu” and “Burberry” and “Midsummer Moon.” The last, about insomnia, contains one of my favorite poetic lines of the month: “Can’t even conjure up a pathetic fallacy.”A possibly crippling ailment for some writers of haiku, probably including me.

secret promise…
almost thirty years now
since I was
the twelve-year-old boy
looking over a high wall

— Colin Stewart Jones (originally published in Muse India 37, May/June 2011)

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Insect Haiku From the Shiki-School

You can download this unpublished manuscript from 1959, by Harold J. Isaacson and Helen Shigeko Isaacson, from the Internet Archive (an amazing collection of online texts, images, and audio which if you aren’t careful will suck you into its orbit and never let you go).

It’s an excellent collection of classical haiku about insects, with commentary. What makes it really interesting, though (to me, anyway, big geek that I am), is that the translations incorporate (untranslated, because they have no real translation) the kireji or cutting words (ya, kana, and keri) that the Japanese employ in many of their haiku for emphasis and/or as a way of marking a pause between the two parts of the poem.

Here are a couple of examples:

Ownerless
the helmet on which sleeps
a butterfly kana

— Choi, tr. Isaacson
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Golden flies ya
Where on the ground has spilled
a melon’s entrails

— Chikuba, tr. Isaacson

At first I thought this manner of translation was very strange and awkward and disliked it. But now I kind of like the rhythm it gives and feel that in some ways it helps me understand better what these poems must be like in the original. I wouldn’t want these to be the only translations I read of these haiku, but I think there’s definitely a place for them in the world. That’s my final answer.

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Women Poets of Japan from The Green Leaf

“The Green Leaf”  has a lot on it, from mainstream poems by contemporary authors to classical haiku in translation to vast quantities of photo haiga to contemporary haiku to…the works of women poets of Japan, which is what I feel like featuring today because I just do, okay? The whole site, though, is well worth rummaging around in, though it feels incomplete and uneven (but who am I to talk) and also it does something which drives me completely out of my mind, which is fail to credit the translator of translated poems.

I hate this because it’s inconsiderate not only to the translator, who has done a very difficult job that deserves to be acknowledged, but to readers who might like to know where they can seek out (or, ahem, avoid) other translations by a particular translator or compare translations between translators. So I was feeling a strange mixture of annoyance and delight as I browsed around here. But then I came upon this tanka and forgave everything.

Gazing across the fields,
at Taketa I hear the cranes
ceaselessly crying:
not a space not a moment
of pause in my longing.

Lady Otomo-no-Sakanoue (8th century)

(There’s a haiga of this poem, too, if you follow the link from the poet’s name above.)

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Bare Bones Haiku

So Jane Reichhold has done it again. Last year when I was just getting started writing haiku I used Jane’s list of 24 haiku-writing techniques to help me understand what haiku were all about and all the different ways they can be written. You can find her list here on the web and also in her excellent book, Writing and Enjoying Haiku.

Jane is great at explaining how haiku work and breaking down the process of writing them in a way even a more-or-less clueless newbie can understand, as I can attest. She does have her own particular understanding of what haiku are, which is not necessarily everyone’s understanding, but hey, who doesn’t.

Anyway, what she’s done now is create this series of fourteen quite brief lessons that take a beginner through the process of learning what a haiku is, what the various parts of a haiku are, what a good haiku looks and feels and sounds like. You could do way worse as a beginner than start with these lessons and their exercises. I really like this one, for instance:

“Find a haiku that you really admire and write it [down]. It would be kind to the author to record his or her name and where you found the poem.

Then begin to rewrite the poem. Maybe start by just changing one word. Or changing one line. Or take a phrase of image you greatly admire and see how many ways you can make it work with other images.”

— Jane Reichhold, “Bare Bones Haiku, Lesson Two: Before Writing Your Own Haiku

(Disclaimer: Obviously, this is just an exercise for your own poetic development — you wouldn’t want to try to publish the results of this exercise or pass them off as your own poetry unless they ended up really, really, really different from the originals.)

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The Haiku Foundation Contest Archive

Once again The Haiku Foundation has created a very cool resource for readers and writers of haiku, which is this archive of past winners of most of the major haiku contests. If you are looking for an online collection of excellent contemporary haiku, needless to say this would be a good place to start.

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“Repetition in Haiku

This is an older (2001) essay by Florence Vilen, discussing when and how repetition makes haiku more effective. Most of the essay is taken up by examples, which really is my favorite kind of essay. And haiku with repetition are some of my favorite kind of haiku, so this made me very happy.

the sound they make
the sound I make
autumn leaves

— Gary Hotham

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Dead Tree News

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tea’s aftertaste,
by Aubrie Cox,
graphic design and illustrations by Katie Baird,
published by Bronze Man Books ($12)
(ordering information)

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So you wanna see the most adorable haiku book ever published? Do you? Do you? You do? Yay! Okay…here’s the cover:

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Cover of the haiku chapbook "tea's aftertaste"

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Yes…that is a hand-sewn Japanese binding in red thread, thanks for asking. And that is a tiny little sketch of the moon reflected in a teacup. I did say it was adorable, didn’t I?

… Not sold yet? Looking for some more substance? Okay, here are a couple of the inside pages:

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distant galaxies / all the things / I could have been

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… I know, right? All the pages are like that.  Aubrie’s haiku are amazing, and Katie’s illustrations are awesome, and you just keep looking through the book going, “Why don’t more people write more haiku that so movingly combine the personal and the universal, that are filled with such astute and original observations of the concrete world, that are simultaneously mercilessly honest and lovingly generous?… And then why don’t they have an artist with the same rare sensibility draw touching little illustrations to go with their haiku… And then why don’t they put the whole thing together in a lovingly designed package and sew it up with red thread?”

It’s a mystery, really. But I wouldn’t spend too long agonizing over it. Just get the book and enjoy it. You’re welcome.

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Sigh. No matter how much I write it always feels like I’m forgetting something. If you figure out what it is, let me know, okay? I’m getting old, I need help with these things.

what I meant to say
still folded into
unopened blossoms

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April 28: Post Office

The main post office on Gorky Street in Moscow. A line of squat beige phones —  a line of people in thick coats to their ankles standing beside them. Staring at them like half-boiled pots, waiting for them to ring. Waiting to hear the voice of someone from the other side of the Iron Curtain.

You’ve filled in the required forms. When do you want to talk? Whom do you want to talk to? For how long would you like this conversation to continue? Be careful: they’ll give you exactly the amount of time you ask for, no more and no less. But the phones are ringing, your mind is buzzing, you can only make awkward, half-thought-through calculations.

Not long after our phones ring and we lift the receivers to our ears like stones, we realize we answered all the questions wrong. The conversations should have been earlier or later, longer or shorter. The people we are talking to are not people we really know. We’ve forgotten the languages they’re speaking. We live in different countries for what we now know is forever, though we meant it to be temporary. “Wait —” we say. “It’s about to end —”

The phone makes a noise that means my life has returned to me. Everything goes silent until it’s the next person’s turn. Down the line, feet shuffle, stirring the hems of coats.

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melting snow —
letting go
of what I meant to say

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(Chrysanthemum 9, April 2011)