Tag: Melissa Allen

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:

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Out of Translation, by Aubrie Cox

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

rainy Monday
another crumpled
paper crane

country church
forget-me-nots
between the floorboards

spring rain
a joker taped
to the spokes

toys
my father couldn’t fix…
spring rain

opening the shed–
cigarette smoke
from last fall

Into the Light, by Harriot West

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

 

path

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

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

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

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

bus. stop.

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

bus stop / I sync my iPod / to the rain

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

That’s what I mean by a good prize.

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


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


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

Polar Vortex POV

I suspected that mustering haiku poets to write lots of polar vortex poems would act as a kind of voodoo spell to chase the polar vortex away and it looks like I was right, because the temperature has actually been above freezing here for several days in a row and I’m not sure that’s happened since early December. Of course, we’re well into March now so I suppose it’s just barely conceivable that it would have warmed up eventually anyway, but I’m going with the “breath of poetic fire” theory. I hope it’s warmer where you are, too, or cooler, or wetter, or dryer, or whatever condition is most desirable meteorologically wherever you reside.  Thanks to all who contributed for helping out!

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martini–
I make my own
polar vortex
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the snow hollow
surrounding an evergreen;
polar vortex

.–Michael Nickels-Wisdom

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Polar vortex even a whisper is too loud.

— John Ashton

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the polar vortex
nanoneedles my tattoo
of the wind

–Peter Yovu

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polar vortex
distant coyotes
change key

polar vortex
sliding through
the roundabout

–David McKee

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your look
as i take the last slice
polar vortex

–Sondra Byrnes

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me and you
coexisting warmth and cold
polar vortex

–Russell Littlecreek

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polar vortex —
I forget that I forgot to
rake the leaves

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the falling fence (polar vortex) frozen falling down

–Angie Werren

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what I thought     polar vortex     what is

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polar vortex
circling spring down
the drain

–Christina Nguyen

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polar vortex the sidewalk singer’s smack talk

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polar vortex
somewhere a white bear
swimming in circles

–Peter Newton

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polar vortex
the plastic covered windows
sigh

–Heather Jagman

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polar vortex —
the neighbor’s pond freezes
for the first time

–Julie Bloss Kelsey

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antimatter–
lost in a polar
vortex

–Marianne Paul

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polar vortex -- spring catalogue arrives at my doorstep

–Marianne Paul

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Arcs the Beach Grasses Etch in Sand

I keep thinking about poetry being an agent of transformation. One is a different person—one’s life is changed—after reading a poem. Even a bad poem, full of clichés and dud line breaks and flat diction. One looks up from such a poem and is surprised to be free after that little imprisonment. That’s a transformation of a sort. But a fine poem, a poem that immediately permeates one’s being, a poem which, after being read, makes the reader look around and suddenly need to reassess the room, the world—that’s why those of us who read poetry read poetry. As for those of us who write poetry—once, just once, we say to ourselves, let me write one of those world-shifters. Let me be someone’s “suddenly I see” or “oh, that’s name of that squiggly feeling I have always felt” or “so now I need to relearn how to breathe.”

polar vortex
I make my husband drive me
to the shore

–Jean LeBlanc

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this polar vortex
a towel snap to my solar
plexus

*

polar vortex
too numb for color
on the maps

–Rick Daddario

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sick of winter–
the polar vortex
heads south

–Terri L. French

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polar vortex
what isn’t frozen
isn’t

 –Gayle Bull

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polar vortex cracks in moon blues.

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a lowing in me polar vortex

–Alegria Imperial

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polar vortex
his voice cracks
for the first time

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polar vortex
penetrated
in silence

–Melissa Allen

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doors

I begin again I begin

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i know this is not tidy or attractive but it’s what I’m doing lately. sitting in the dark writing with my finger.

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Because you left / my door open / I got out

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after work last night i went to sit on my deck for a while because September. the cats moaned in agony when they saw me out there and repeatedly hurled themselves at the glass of the sliding door. they aren’t allowed on the deck because they jump off it, twelve feet to the ground, and then cower in terror in the back yard but refuse to come in. things are very mixed up in their heads.

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Out of all / the windows - / doors

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my office at work looks out across the Wisconsin countryside. there are at least twelve silos and fourteen barns visible from the office window. they’re all far away, on the horizon, so i never see any people on the farms. just these containers. there are miles of empty field between us.

when i can’t think at work i sit and look out the window and imagine walking across the fields to a barn and opening one of those big doors and walking inside and closing the door and just being part of the farm for a while.

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ephemera

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Ephemera given away by poets at Haiku North American 2013

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I’ve worked in several archives and I can tell you that one of the best words you will encounter there is “ephemera.” This refers to printed material that is (naturally) meant to be ephemeral, to serve a specific purpose and then be discarded — or, as the case may be, preserved in a scrapbook or collected or hoarded or pounced upon by some archivist who perceives historical value in it and tucks it neatly into an acid-free folder and gives it an accession number. Tickets, for instance, are ephemera. Menus. Playbills. Business cards. Dance cards. (Dance cards? What, are we partying like it’s 1899?)

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by moonlight
a sheet of stickers
with unreadable faces

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These objects above might or might not be classified as ephemera, depending on how likely you thought it was that their creators wanted or intended them to be preserved. What they are is giveaways from various poets at last month’s Haiku North America — samples, if you will, of their work. “Samples” sounds a bit ephemeral, but really, these lovely objects don’t look as if they were meant to be discarded. They look like art. Which they are.

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light years can’t explain how we got here

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From top left, clockwise and into center:

  • Postcard by Sandra Simpson
  • a primer of organic forms, booklet by Jim Kacian
  • Art trading card by Linda Papanicolaou
  • Bookmark by Lee Gurga
  • Brochure with map of Japan by Susan Diridoni
  • Pamphlet by Lidia Rozmus

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last day of summer
the wrong words
to the right song

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I would say that they’re going into my personal archives, except that mine is not maintained in a way any self-respecting archivist would ever approve of. For instance I have already used Lee’s bookmark as a bookmark and I’ve been pawing through Jim’s amazing little book while eating spaghetti so it may or may not have some extraneous material attached to it now. I think what I’ll actually do is pile these things in a basket on top of the bookcase I keep my Haiku Stuff in, so they can be Haiku Stuff too. All of it both ephemeral and eternal.

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between two hills the rest of my life

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A Plague of Grackles

darkening sky
a plague of grackles scatters
then gathers again………………………………………………….Willie

against the white lawn
frost-blackened figs…………………………………………………..Bill

someone else playing
someone else’s piano…
au clair de la lune……………………………………………………Melissa

with my good hand
uncreasing the photograph………………………………………..Sandra

in a church fresco
the Devil falls separate
from all the others……………………………………………………Bill

too small to house worms
so many green apples………………………………………………….Bill

a raffish display
his hot pants and spandex
lead the parade…………………………………………………….Willie

launching a rubber band at me
she misses again…………………………………………………….Melissa

a tarte au chocolat,
a steaming pot of tea
and this poem……………………………………………………..Sandra

wild plum blossoms
in the garden gone to ruin…………………………………………….Willie

all legs and tails
three newborn lambs
tumble out of the sack…………………………………………………..Sandra

past the old landslip
he thinks how it must have been……………………………………..Bill

without another word
one more sake;
the mattress comes to me………………………………………………Joseph

try and explain kapok
to a kid who doesn’t care……………………………………………… Sandra

inked above his heart
the tattoo reveals
a floating world……………………………………………………..         Willie

narratives in sparks
climb up the chimney……………………………………………………..Sandra

tarnished moon the colour of this wooden floor…………………. …Bill

the last note of the hymn
an owl’s hunting cry………………………………………………………..Sandra

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Melissa Allen, Wisconsin, USA
Bill Dennis, Pennsylvania, USA
Joseph Mueller, Vermont, USA
Sandra Simpson, Tauranga, New Zealand
William Sorlien, Minnesota, USA

Composed at Issa’s Snail, October 14 to December 2, 2012

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A Hundred Gourds 2.2, March 2013

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(another bird)

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another bird dream probing the tenderness under a wing

Frogpond 36.1

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I was outside this morning, Easter morning, and the birds had all come back to life. The world was light and lively again instead of muffled and deaf in the way of winter. It felt the way it does when you wake up from a dream and the world that seemed so real and important when you were asleep is revealed as a flimsy stage-set world, created by your mind as a venue for its latest improbable fantasy. And now good morrow to our waking souls. 

(angle)

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first frost
between the moon and me
the angle of repose

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Haiku Bandit SocietyJanuary Moon Viewing Party

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Yeah, I know it’s been…approximately forever. There was a trip for work, and then a family vacation, and then a blizzard. Holy moly. Serious blizzard. With serious shoveling. Also, with the grad school and the work deadlines and… okay, I’m making excuses. But no one can be on all the time. I’m off right now. Off for a while. I’ll try to stop by a little more frequently for the rest of January though. I mean February. How do these months keep going by like this?

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the p-word

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1

poetry
if it weren’t
for the words

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2

the poetry
expedition
discovers
a spare sky
for unused stars

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3

an iceberg
engraved
with your parting speech
I’ve had it
with poetry

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4

poetry–
my casual attitude
toward shipwrecks

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5

a single
error
in the code
the end of
poetry

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6

poetry
mapping my mind
with buckshot

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7

a clinical tool
to determine
the extent
of my enlightenment
poetry

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8

poetry
the sounds
from the empty
torture
chamber

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poetry
after going
to all that trouble
I forget to destroy
the world

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