Tag: haibun

five books

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

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

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

Welcome to the Joy Ride: Haibun, by Peter Newton

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

Haiku 2015, ed. Lee Gurga and Scott Metz

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

the beach road the beach house the beach painting the rain

–Adan Breare

one dark bird in snow rummaging the invisible

–Susan Diridoni

snow through        teeth in
…….the window        a glass

–Eve Luckring

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

–Michael Nickels-Wisdom

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

–Chad Lee Robinson

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

see haiku here, by Kuniharu Shimizu

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

IMG_6781

Out of Translation, by Aubrie Cox

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

rainy Monday
another crumpled
paper crane

country church
forget-me-nots
between the floorboards

spring rain
a joker taped
to the spokes

toys
my father couldn’t fix…
spring rain

opening the shed–
cigarette smoke
from last fall

Into the Light, by Harriot West

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

 

Divided

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

placenta delivered
I burn the draft card
I never had

half-life

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

nuclear rain
our scarification ritual
conducted by robots

as the dark

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

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

leaf
fall
i
keep
saying
no


Free verse: here, now
Haiku: Modern Haiku 42.3

back to the root

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

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

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

spring snow
the chill of
ultrasound jelly


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

smoke

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

dusk the temptation of zero as a denominator

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

deep autumn
the arsenic
at the apple’s core

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

thunderclap
most of me emerges
from a cloud


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

odds

daffodil patch / the odds against / our existence

 


 

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

daffodil patch
the odds against
our existence

(not quite)

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

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

lossified


prose: here, now
haiku/pwoermd: Frogpond 35.1

(why not)

begins a new / season / why not only yes

 


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

begins a new
season
why not only yes

back

I write to you from the hospital, where I’m busy being temporarily disabled. My back decided it had had enough of holding up my body, so it went on strike, in very dramatic fashion — an ambulance had to be summoned in the night, to rescue me from the place I’d become trapped after attempting to walk around my house and nearly fainting from pain. The many astute observers in the emergency room astutely observed that I was more or less unable to sit, stand, or walk without screaming. (Cue horror film soundtrack.) So they sent me upstairs to the regular part of the hospital to lie down quietly, though after two days in the hands of the nurses and physical therapists I can in fact walk, using a walker, without screaming but not without sweating and breathing heavily. Then I have to go back to bed for a while, lie on an ice pack, and think about nothing. I’ve become very good at thinking about nothing. I could probably choose to regard this entire incident as a sign that I needed to think about nothing a whole lot more.

You might assume that three days of lying flat on my back would give me plenty of time to write something more interesting than “My back got hurt and I have spent three days lying flat on my back,” but you would be wrong. That is exactly as interesting, at this stage of my temporary disability, as I am prepared to be. Don’t worry, though, I’m sure that soon enough I’ll forget how to think about nothing instead of something.

among the pills they give me a glacial erratic

(when it’s over)

Night after night this week I’ve lain in bed listening to the downpour, night after night the downspouts shake and the aluminum chimney sings and the roof holds up delightfully under the battering. By day my intestines are uneasy, I’m lonely in a shivering kind of way, and I worry about everything, more or less, that anyone in the world has ever worried about, but by night I have the rain to think about and the rain is always enough and always has been. I dreamed one night that I went out for a walk in it and got wet and cold, but when I woke up I was warm and dry, which is a normal way to feel in the morning but it felt extraordinary. The thing about rain is that no matter how many times it happens it seems like a miraculous phenomenon, or maybe that’s just me. I’m easily surprised and thrilled. I’m easily distressed and alarmed. In the middle is not a place I often am. Here I am in my forty-seventh year and I can’t locate the middle, though possibly I’m getting closer and just can’t tell because it’s a labyrinth and I can’t see over the walls and it’s raining so hard that I can’t hear the minotaur roaring.


 spring rain it will probably be poetry when it’s over

a little more

Easter morning: a child’s pink ball rolls beatifically down the street, trembling with thrilled indecision whenever it encounters a twig, a pebble, a leaf, an irregularity in the surface of the earth. Mysteriously, no child is in sight, no child’s cry of loss can be heard. There are no flowers here yet and we are somber people on our street so the ball is the only pink thing around, more pink on this weak-sunshined early spring day, perhaps, than it has ever been in its pink existence.

sap rising
three or four gumballs
in my pockets

I’ve forgotten to decorate my house for Easter, or maybe I just thought I didn’t deserve any pastel symbols of joy, I’m not sure. I haven’t forgotten, though, to think about Peter, who lied three times and thus broke his own heart. That’s the only part of the resurrection story that I’m sure must have really happened, and that’s the part that always seemed to me the most cruel. But the pink ball wobbles down my hilly street, I sit alone at my kitchen table watching it shine, and it occurs to me for the first time that Peter was forgiven.

every spring
a little more alone
wild violets


Prose: here, now
“sap rising”: DailyHaiku, July 10, 2011
“every spring”: Acorn 27

out of all

lemon out of all proportion


 

I toss your indifference out the window, expecting it to splatter on the sidewalk, but it turns into a hornet, begins to buzz furiously, flies back in, and settles on my shoulder.

lemon out of all proportion

re-enter

today the clouds are a Google doodle. I think a few pixels are burned out in the sky. there are tendrils of ivy curling out of my wifi modem. a songbird with a hyperlink caught in its throat perches on my clothesline, where I’ve hung my URLs out to dry. from the pine across the way, a crow croaks cunningly at me to re-enter my password. I almost fall for this trick, but then I drop my phone in the violets and it becomes a violet, a large and shimmering one, and I pick it and eat it and begin to ring. 

far shore
I swim
through radio waves

it all

Sometimes you just want to write it all the same way you sometimes just want to eat it all–because you’re hungry, and because it’s there. The sad, the terrible thing is that you can’t write it all at once, even if you could easily define “it” and “all,” which you can’t.

On the other hand, the fact that it can never all be written is also the wonderful thing, because there will always be more to be written when you have the need to write. You will always have the need to write it all, so it’s just as well that you can never write it all. It’s true that because this need can never be satisfied you will always be frustrated, but this is true of all the real needs, and so having them is how you know you’re alive.

day moon
the apple dangles
just out of reach

another way

Decide you aren’t going to sweep away cobwebs anymore. It will be another way you’re different. Maybe it’s just because you’re short but you can barely even see them up there. And when you do see them you don’t see something to be swept away. You see something spun out of nothing. You see the work that went into making a pattern. You see silk emerging silkily from an abdomen; you see the elegant, precise word “spinnerets”; you see Ariadne, and you take pity on her.

Say, “No, leave them, I love spiders.” There–you’ve caused a stir, you’ve started a rumor, you’ve launched a myth. You’ve spun your own web, and you’re at the center of it, resting and waiting.

spring cleaning
I find the one thing
I wanted to stay lost

 

the pertinent emotion

It’s like a freight train, if you know what I’m saying. It’s like the microscopic life in a drop of pond water. It’s like a deaf bat. You can just imagine.

I shouldn’t even be saying this. I should be shrugging my shoulders, folding a flotilla of paper boats, setting them on fire, watching them sink.

What would it cost to resurrect the boats, to fit the bat with hearing aids? Just give me a rough estimate. The closest approximation to love you can hazard.

drifting in the current
my answer
when you finally ask