A Hundred Gourds 4.2, March 2015
the therapist tells me
A Hundred Gourds 1.4
he begins to buzz
in my pocket
A Hundred Gourds 1.4, September 2012
a junicho renku
the children show off
filling blue watering cans
at the Picasso exhibit
crosses the wall
in the lake shallows
someone has dropped eyeglasses
on ranked hay bales
a quick spinal adjustment
for the unfinished scarecrow
the last chapter
I trace letters
on your back
on a bed of fallen leaves
not quite dawn
rushing the bin
to the curb
clack! the llama’s teeth
meet in my migraine headache
pasta al dente
golden courgette flowers
tiles swept clean
lean on the broom a moment
—Ashley Capes (sabaki), Max Stites, Melissa Allen
A Hundred Gourds 1.3, June 2012
By the time this renku appeared in print I’d almost forgotten about writing it. The process of composition was slightly dreamlike, taking place as it did in slow motion, across a span of nine months in 2010-2011, in a collaboration between three very busy people living on three different continents. (Ashley is Australian, Max a U.S. native who’s lived in the U.K. for many years.) Looking at it again brought back pleasant memories of all our discussions and revisions and of Ash’s expert guidance through the sometimes-exciting, sometimes-infuriating restrictions and stipulations of renku. (Ash also frequently guides the development of renku over at Issa’s Snail, in case you’re interested in seeing some of his other work.)
It’s interesting to me how renku, which started, really, as a party game, is more likely these days to resemble a leisurely pen-pal correspondence. When I have, so to speak, “played” renku as a party game — Live! In Person! One Night Only! — I’ve found that my interest in it rises dramatically. It’s not that I don’t at all enjoy the slower, more contemplative pace of long-distance renku composition, but to me, much of the point of renku linking is the real-time, in-person sparking between human minds and the way it both facilitates the creation of poetry and acts as a strikingly effective icebreaker to create a warm, relaxed group dynamic. (If you’re doing it right, that is. I’ve heard of people leading renku sessions in such a stern manner that they made participants burst into tears. That’s a sad story. Don’t do it that way.)
Writing renku long-distance can also, of course, be a highly enjoyable social experience–certainly composing this one was–but I think that for me it allows my perfectionist tendencies too much free rein for it to be entirely comfortable. When you’re composing more in real time, perfectionism is a luxury you can’t really allow yourself. The point is to have fun, not to come up with the most perfect link that could ever be conceived. Also, as far as I can tell, most of the time writing renku is about a thousand times more fun than reading it anyway; the elusive, subjective nature of renku linking, which makes it so much fun and gamelike to compose, also often makes it a challenge to enter into as a third-party reader. This means that the number of people who actually read even any published renku is likely to be vanishingly tiny–even tinier than the number who read haiku. So even more than with most forms of art, I think, the process really is more important than the product.
Your mileage may vary, of course. I guess all I’m trying to say is, if you’ve never joined a live renku party? Try to do that sometime. Also, Ash and Max? It was a pleasure getting to know you. If we’re ever all on the same continent, we’ll have to do this again.
photo by ayukim
A Hundred Gourds 1.2, March 2011
artwork by Aubrie Cox
A Hundred Gourds 1.2, March 2012
May I direct you to Aubrie Cox’s collaborative Doodleku project? This month she’s posting one of her doodles (see above for example) every day on her blog, Yay Words!, and inviting poetic responses from her readers. And here I thought I would be free of obligatory daily poetry after the official NaHaiWriMo month ended. Ha. You are never free of obligatory daily poetry. Just so you know.
artwork by Chrysti
A Hundred Gourds 1:1, December 2011
My kindergarten teacher was worried about me because I liked to read. In those days kindergarteners were supposed to occupy themselves only with playing, and socializing, and coloring in the letters of the alphabet on worksheets just to familiarize themselves with the shapes that they would be introduced to more thoroughly in first grade. But I could already read and I was tantalized by the books on the shelves behind the teacher’s desk, which she read aloud to us before naptime. When the teacher’s back was turned I scrambled up on a stepstool and grabbed books and ran off with them to a corner to devour them before she could find me and take the books away and scold me for reading and send me back to play with dolls or something else I had no interest in. I felt like a criminal. I felt like a rebel. I felt like a five-year-old who was sick with love for stories and kept having her heart broken, day after day, by never being able to find out what the ending was.
Sometimes I dreamed the endings. Sometimes I wonder whether my own endings or the real ones were more satisfying.
first day of school —
out of time to decipher
the cicada’s drone
Haiku, Tanka, Haiga From All Over
I broke one of my own unwritten rules this edition. I usually try not to feature more than one poem per poet per edition, but I nearly went mad deciding which of the below three haiku by Johannes S.H. Bjerg I should include, so in the end I said the hell with it and decided to inflict them all on you. Please address any complaints to my alter ego, Ms. I.N. DeCision.
still air –
will a dead butterfly
become a butterfly?
stille luft –
vil en død sommerfugl
blive til en sommerfugl?
— Johannes S.H. Bjerg, 2 tongues/2 tunger
swallows leaving youshouldhavesaidsomething
svalerne forsvinder duskullehavesagtnoget
— Johannes S.H. Bjerg, 2 tongues/2 tunger
yoshino cherry tree—
it was never a question
— Johannes S. H. Bjerg, Tinywords
high heat index–
my mosquito bite
the size of a fat raindrop
— Kathy Nguyen, Origami Lotus Stones
off key crooning
in the darkness:
a neighbor braces for fall
— Gene Myers, genemyers.com
All I can do
is point and say
— Kris Lindbeck, haiku etc.
sugar crystals travelling
— Stella Pierides, Stella Pierides
eastern daylight time
(this is a wonderful haiga; please go check it out)
— Angie Werren, feathers
from the beginning —
the moon &
love note after love note
— Patricia Nelson, Moon Viewing Party, Haiku Bandit Society
hiroshima ya tamago kû toki kuchi hiraku
to eat an egg
I open my mouth
— Sanki Saito, translated by Fay Aoyagi, Blue Willow Haiku World
Fay’s Note: This haiku does not have a kigo, but it is one of 8 haiku titled ‘Famous City’ by Sanki Saito (1900-1962). Soon after an atomic bomb was dropped in Hiroshima, Sanki visited the city. When he started to eat a boiled egg for lunch, he noticed that was the first time he opened his mouth that day. He had been speechless with what he saw.
wet rain . . .
you keep telling me things
i already know
[Modern Haiku 40.1]
— David Caruso, DavidHaiku.com
Web Wide World
I’m just going to snap a bunch of links at you real quick like a bunny with a minimum of commentary because, you know, school’s starting soon and I should be doing stuff like buying textbooks and notebooks and sharpening my pencils and polishing shiny red apples to put on the desks of all my professors on the first day so they will be favorably disposed toward me and hopefully forgive me for scribbling haiku in the margins of all my notebooks around my notes on Electronic Resource Management. Ready? Here we go.
A Brief Survey of Senryu by Women, by Hiroaki Sato
This essay, published in Modern Haiku 34.1 in spring 2003, first makes a quick stab at trying to define how senryu differs from haiku, with a note that “the senryû is expected to deal with matters of human and social nature, often in a playful, satirical, or knowing manner” but also acknowledging that the line between haiku and senryu these days can be blurry in the extreme. Most of the piece, however, is taken up by samples of modern (mainly twentieth century) senryu by Japanese women, which are absolutely fascinating — not least because many of them make no attempt to be funny at all, in fact can be quite serious, and I suspect would not be considered senryu by most American haiku poets. They are powerful, compelling poetry, however, and I keep coming back to read them over and over. They seem to me to painfully and eloquently express the difficulties and limitations of many women’s lives.
The moment it blooms with full force it’s cut
— Inoue Noboku
The snow’s falling the snow’s falling these two breasts
— Kuwano Akiko
He leaves and I put away the lonesome sound
— Saigo Kanojo
Okay, so here’s something that’s genuinely funny. One workshop I was sorry I had to miss at Haiku North America was Jessica Tremblay’s session about her well-known “Old Pond” comics based on haiku. The next best thing, though, was discovering that Jessica had drawn a series of strips about her experiences at HNA. I laughed and laughed with recognition at so many of these and if you were there, or have read my reports from the conference, I guarantee you will get at least a chuckle out of them as well.
Another HNA connection: After I saw Eve Luckring’s amazing presentation on video renku at HNA I came home and Googled her straight off because I had to know more about her work, and discovered her astounding website, filled with her photography, short films, art, and poetry, which are often combined in wildly imaginative and original ways. Please go explore, you’ll be happy you did.
A funny and fascinating article by Marlene Mountain on English haiku poetics vis-a-vis Japanese haiku poetics made the rounds of Facebook a couple of weeks ago, provoking lots of interesting discussion: The Japanese Haiku and So On, first published at Paul Conneally’s haikumania (which is worth a look around) in 2004.
re zen. whatever.
— Marlene Mountain
If you haven’t discovered the “Montage” archive at The Haiku Foundation website, you need to run right over there and check it out…for about nine months in 2009 Allan Burns put together this fascinating weekly gallery of haiku, each week featuring haiku by three different poets on a different theme. The whole thing has been turned into a book now which can be yours for a $50 donation to The Haiku Foundation, but while you’re saving up for that, you can download each week’s gallery as a PDF and enjoy yourself mightily reading some amazing poetry.
Charlotte DiGregorio is the Midwest Regional Coordinator for the Haiku Society of America, which is my region and so I get to benefit from her energy and organizational ability as she organizes so many enjoyable and successful events for us here in flyover land. She also has a blog on which she posts many interesting musings about haiku. Quite often she invites audience participation and recently she sent out an email soliciting answers to the question, “Why do you write haiku?” The answers she got back were thoughtful, often funny, usually thought-provoking, and all over the map: well worth reading. Check them out.
Roadrunner published a new issue a couple of weeks ago, which besides being, as usual, one of the most thought-provoking reads in the Haikuverse, is also graphically appealing this time around. Every ku is enclosed in a box with a background of a different color and with a different typeface, and with the author’s name left off — only to appear at the end of the issue in a box matching the color and typeface of his or her contribution(s). (Full disclosure: I have a ku in this issue, in a highly appropriate color, but I’m not gonna tell you what it is.)
I don’t usually think of myself as someone who is overly influenced by the famous “fourth line” in haiku, but I was amazed at how different an experience it was to read these poems without knowing who had written them. I had to force myself not to keep scrolling to the end to read those names. But I ended up wishing that more journals would do something similar. See how you feel.
And finally, here’s an announcement for what promises to be an exciting new online journal, A Hundred Gourds:
The editorial team of ‘A Hundred Gourds’ welcomes your submissions to our first issue, which will be published online in December, 2011. ’A Hundred Gourds’ is a new journal featuring haiku, haibun, haiga, tanka, resources (articles, commentaries, reviews and interviews) and special artwork. ’A Hundred Gourds’ is managed by its editorial team: Lorin Ford, Melinda Hipple, John MacManus, Gene Murtha and Ray Rasmussen. Ron Moss will continue to support us in his valuable role of contributing and consulting artist. We are dedicated to producing a high quality journal, and look forward to your submissions. Books for review (hard copy only) may be sent to John McManus or the haiku, tanka, haiga or haibun editor respectively.
Submissions for the first issue of ‘A Hundred Gourds’ close on September 15th, 2011. Submissions and enquires may be addressed to : Lorin Ford, Haiku Editor: firstname.lastname@example.org ; Melinda Hipple, Haiga Editor: email@example.com ; John McManus, Resources Editor: firstname.lastname@example.org ; Gene Murtha, Tanka Editor: email@example.com ; Ray Rasmussen, Haibun Editor: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Dead Tree News
Once again, lots of print, little time.
Journals: Bottle Rockets, Ribbons
I love both these journals and you should too and here are some examples of why:
From Bottle Rockets 25:
was it the dark
or the candle
— Susan Marie La Vallee
wet bike seat
must be a poem
— Lucas Stensland
here with me distant train
— John Hawk
a low stone wall
neatly topped with snow
— Bruce Ross
on the concrete path
very still with ants crawling
over my skin I did feel loved
— Joey Jenkins
And also in this issue of Bottle Rockets, you must read the wonderful anthology/essay by Michael Fessler, Remarkable Haiku, a collection of the author’s favorite haiku with trenchant commentary on what makes them so memorable for him.
From Ribbons 7:2, Summer 2011:
outside, the crickets
continue to sing,
though they would
never think of it
— Rosemary Wahtola Trommer
oh the places
rather than go
straight to the place
we’re all going
— John Stevenson
snow melt —
watching the world
— Paul Smith
Books: Beyond the Reach of My Chopsticks (Fay Aoyagi); Where I Leave Off/Waar Ik Ophoud (Jim Kacian); Penguins/Pingviner (Johannes S.H. Bjerg)
I’m slowly working my way through the stacks of haiku books I bought this summer: first at Gayle Bull’s amazing bookshop in Mineral Point, Wis., The Foundry Books, which may have the best haiku book selection in the United States and is, terrifyingly, located only an hour from my house; second at Haiku North America. I’ll start with a couple of little books (little only in the physical sense) because somehow that makes them seem less intimidating, although on the inside they are as big as any haiku book ever written.
Fay Aoyagi’s third collection of poetry, Beyond the Reach of My Chopsticks, is as thrilling as her first two, Chrysanthemum Love (2003) and In Borrowed Shoes (2006), and is even more thrilling for the fact that it includes extensive excerpts from both these books as well as a large selection of new poetry. Fay manages to employ fairly traditional haiku aesthetics — kigo, kire — in the service of extremely striking and original images and ideas, often funny and subversive.
another day without
steals my pen
he criticizes my graceless use
in the pool
she sheds everything
she wants to shed
a plum tree
in its third trimester
— Fay Aoyagi
Jim Kacian’s Where I Leave Off is both a collection of one-line haiku and an examination of the poetics of one-line haiku: When and why do they work? He briefly describes various one-line techniques (these were also the subject of the talk by Jim I attended at HNA) and gives numerous striking examples from his own work.
1. “One-line one-thought”: “Rather than a piling up of images upon the imagination, a single image is extended or elaborated into a second context, stated or implied.”
reading the time-travel novel into the next day
— Jim Kacian
2. “Sheer speed”: “The rushing of image past the imagination results in a breathless taking in of the whole…”
in this way coming to love that one
— Jim Kacian
3. “Multiple kire”: “The advantage of one-line poems is that any of several stops can be made by the reader, and a different stop each time.”
where the smoke from a chimney ends infinity
— Jim Kacian
4. And then there’s “one-bun”: “a haibun where the prose element must be contained in a single line.”
the second week
traveling by myself i cross the continental divide, and everything that once ran in one way now runs in another, down and down
on the surface of dark water my face
— Jim Kacian
When Johannes S.H. Bjerg’s (yes, him again) new chapbook, Penguins/Pingviner, appeared in our mailbox last week, there was much rejoicing in our household, since we are all both rabid penguin fans (no, not fans of rabid penguins, for goodness’ sake) and also staunch Johannes fans. So we sat around the kitchen table reading and laughing and musing philosophically. Go ahead, try it.
on the backside
of the moon
the need for bridges
of chrome and sugar
no respect for
in softdrink vending machines
hole in the sky
penguins knead a blue scarf
into a human
in all things flying
— Johannes S.H. Bjerg
And on that note… I think I’m going to drift off to sleep now, off to the far reaches of the Haikuverse, where the penguins fly and no one ever makes you stop reading just when you get to the good part. You’re welcome to join me, that is, when you’ve finished reading everything I tell you to. What, you thought you were gonna get out of doing your homework? Think again, kids.