Tomorrow is Election Day in the United States, which you knew already unless you’ve been living under a rock in Antarctica the last couple of months, in which case I’m profoundly jealous of you because you have probably been having a way better time than most of us here in the U.S. Since I do my best not to expose myself to any form of commercial media and I close my eyes while driving so as not to see billboards, I probably have not suffered quite as much as my fellow Americans, but I live in a battleground state, so I’ve suffered enough.
I think I’ve responded to five polls so far. I respond to all polls I’m invited to respond to because otherwise I suspect the opinions of middle-aged lady poets who like to live in their own private world instead of attending rallies and yakking to reporters all day long would go largely unrepresented in this race. I certainly never hear anyone talking about this demographic.
Mostly I’ve coped, though, by trying to go on with life as normal, which in my case largely means reading vast quantities of everything that is not news. Here’s some of my favorites of what I’ve come across lately.
a whitefish, whiteness
— Matsuo Basho, artwork by Kuniharu Shimizu, see haiku here
his anvil call
striking I, I, I
— Marie Marshall, Kvenna Rad
around dusk a stone offers me its free will
— Johannes S. H. Bjerg, Monostich
impatience of the queen –
— Alison Williams, miso soup
シーソーのかたへに秋の来てゐたり 金子 敦
shîsô no katae ni aki no kiteitari
to the opposite side
of a seesaw
— Atsushi Kaneko, tr. Fay Aoyagi, Blue Willow Haiku World
ils ont encore rasé
une parcelle du bois
j’ai encore maigri
they’ve cut down
another patch of forest
I keep getting thinner
— Vincent Hoarau, La Calebasse (very bad translation: me)
Both of them in the long grass, the haiku poet and the frog he feels compelled to ignore.
— Mark Holloway, Beachcombing for the Landlocked
the TV ignores
— John Stevenson, R’r Blog
helping my dad
tend the cosmos
— Helen Buckingham, tinywords
– glancing behind
— Bill Dennis, Last Resort Gallery
Not long ago I was doing a thorough investigation into the history of English-language haiku and I discovered the following by John Ashbery, which I had inexplicably never encountered before.
Old-fashioned shadows hanging down, that difficulty in love too soon
Some star or other went out, and you, thank you for your book and year
Something happened in the garage and I owe it for the blood traffic
Too low for nettles but it is exactly the way people think and feel
And I think there’s going to be even more but waist-high
Night occurs dimmer each time with the pieces of light smaller and squarer
You have original artworks hanging on the walls oh I said edit
You nearly undermined the brush I now place against the ball field arguing
That love was a round place and will still be there two years from now
And it is a dream sailing in a dark unprotected cove
Pirates imitate the ways of ordinary people myself for instance
Planted over and over that land has a bitter aftertaste
A blue anchor grains of grit in a tall sky sewing
He is a monster like everyone else but what do you if you’re a monster
Like him feeling him come from far away and then go down to his car
The wedding was enchanted everyone was glad to be in it
What trees, tools, why ponder socks on the premises
Come to the edge of the barn the property really begins there
In a smaller tower shuttered and put away there
You lay aside your hair like a book that is too important to read now
Why did witches pursue the beast from the eight sides of the country
A pencil on glass—shattered! The water runs down the drain
In winter sometimes you see those things and also in summer
A child must go down it must stand and last
Too late the last express passes through the dust of gardens
A vest—there is so much to tell about even in the side rooms
Hesitantly, it built up and passed quickly without unlocking
There are some places kept from the others and are separate, they never exist
I lost my ridiculous accent without acquiring another
In Buffalo, Buffalo she was praying, the nights stick together like pages in an old book
The dreams descend like cranes on gilded, forgetful wings
What is the past, what is it all for? A mental sandwich?
Did you say, hearing the schooner overhead, we turned back to the weir?
In rags and crystals, sometimes with a shred of sense, an odd dignity
The box must have known the particles fell through the house after him
All in all we were taking our time, the sea returned—no more pirates
I inch and only sometimes as far as the twisted pole gone in spare color
I was originally going to quote only part of this, but I love, love it so much. The pieces of it are not really separable from each other. (Although, “You lay aside your hair like a book that is too important to read now”? I’m just going to lie down now and roll around in that sentence for a while. Don’t mind me.)
And while we’re talking about stuff I can’t believe I didn’t know about before, here’s a really spectacular introduction-to-haiku website by the British Haiku Society, who apparently have a graphic designer extraordinaire on staff. I mean, look at this thing. .
There’s a slide show, too, so if it’s your turn to give a presentation at the next meeting of the Well-Meaning But Not Necessarily Well-Informed Literati of Calaveras County Club, and you’ve just about had it with explaining to someone different every month that no, haiku do not have to have seventeen syllables…here’s your chance to blow their minds.
And while we’re on the subject of appealing visual design, and the British Isles…Tzynchromesh is the latest venture of Colin Stewart Jones, poet and artist of Aberdeen. It’s a journal that will publish works of fusion..two or more art forms meshed together. Poetry, prose, painting, graphic art, photography, film, music, sound or spoken word. Go.
Colin has also started a Facebook page for people to share their fusion art, appropriately called Fusion. And while I’m on the subject of Facebook, I’d just like to mention for anyone who doesn’t spend much time there that there is a huge, thriving community of haiku poets on Facebook. I probably belong to twenty or thirty Facebook haiku pages, way more than I can possibly keep track of, let along contribute to, but there is a fascinating range of styles and approaches represented there. The granddaddy of them all, of course, still going strong with daily prompts provided by a different poet every month, is NaHaiWriMo. I like Free Haiga and One Line is new and exciting. Gabi Greve has just started Translating Japanese Haiku, which should be fun. Facebook: It’s not just for cats and politics anymore!
So there we go: I’m back on the subject of politics. I got here via a circuitous and sneaky route, not unlike the routes that politicians take when, say, debate moderators ask them their position on the turmoil in the Middle East and they manage to turn the subject back to taxes and how bad it is that people have to pay them when they could be doing more interesting things with the money, like buying entire cities of Chinese laborers to build new and better widgets to entertain the restless American masses. I am thinking of running for office myself soon and I hope you’ll all support me, since my platform consists mainly of the sincere desire that people should spend way more time reading poetry, if only to keep themselves from spending time thinking about how they and their friends don’t have enough stuff and everyone else has way too much. God or, you know, whatever, bless America. God knows she needs it.
november dawn more matter with less light