Monday, July 1, 2019

Haiku Poetry as a State of Wonder

Think Small 
 (Theme Song: My Favorite Things from The Sound of Music)

peony buds--
can an ant
  - John Stevenson

Mason feels that "think small" poems stand in stark contrast to one of the prevailing values of Western, and especially American, culture: namely, the perceived need to "Think Big" and thus provide a counter-balance to the cultural bias.

Come To Your Senses
(Theme Song: I Can See Clearly Now by Johnny Nash)

the tickle of bristles
I cover-up
my hickey
 - Yvette Nicole Kolodji

R. H. Blyth called haiku "a door half-opened, a mirror wiped clean." Thinking of it this way, haiku can help us "come to our senses" once again. 

Feel The Moment
(Theme Song: Anthem by Leonard Cohen)

winter night
the slow circling
of the bar rag
 - Bill Kenney

With advances in technology, our lives have become more busy not less so. To paraphrase Basho, haiku allows us to focus on "what's happening right here, right now."

Prepare For Surprise
(Theme Song: Surprise, Surprise by Bruce Springsteen)

sudden gust--
the book opens to a poem
I like even better
 - Carolyn Hall

This group of haiku also operates counter to the prevailing cultural tendency to feel vulnerable by surprise, an thus trying to limit, predict, control it, instead of finding delight in the unexpected..

Only Connect
(Theme Song: We Are The World or Circle of Life from the Lion King?)

migrating whales
all our footprints
wash away
 - paul m

The fifth category is perhaps a "meta-category" in that it encompasses all good haiku, which allows the reader to make a connection between the two parts of the haiku, and also between ourselves and the world. Mason ended his presentation by inviting all to experience the wonder of life through haiku, with his final statement, "Life awaits...may its wonder be with you."

from, HNA 2017 Recap: Scott Mason and The State of Wonder

Monday, June 3, 2019

breeze a synonym for ash

Five words. Five words that propel thought beyond logic to a preconscious state of awareness—a momentary glimpse of wholeness. It has lightning fast precision. I remember reading this poem in R’r 11.1 (Feb. 2011) and instantly it became one of my favorite haiku.  

I’m familiar with Southern California wildfires. One in 2007 forced us to evacuate our home because of immediate danger. Thankfully our house was spared and when we returned there was an inch of ash that needed to be swept up. Ash worked its way into everything—even under the gas cap flap on the car. Because of the wind the ash was able to penetrate the void in and around things. Breeze and ash are bound together in this give and take of definition. Some breezes can only be observed when the ash is disturbed.  

A reader doesn’t necessarily need to experience a major wildfire to appreciate this poem.  Think of an ash at the tip of an incense stick. The slightest breeze both feeds the fire that produces the ash and disseminates the ash. Air is both starting point and the end. This toggle between microcosm and macrocosm gives power to these five words. And its artistry doesn’t diminish through a hundred readings.

If we consider the poem from an aural perspective, the music of vowels and consonants, this poem is a gem. The movement from the long ‘e’ in ‘breeze’ through the staccato of ‘syn.on.ym’ to the open ‘a’ in ‘ash’ with the ‘sh’ at the very end is the trajectory of life. The initial breath in ‘breeze’ carries though the small encounters in ‘synonym’ (like the rain pinging down obstacles in Eve Luckring’s concrete haiku) to the final shush in ‘ash.’ We feel the subtle echo of this music beyond words moving outward and inward. It’s primordial and pure poetry! Thank you, Philip Rowland. 

- Cherie Hunter Day

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Spreading oneself east and west - two poems

November 3rd

Neither yielding to rain

nor yielding to wind

yielding neither to

snow nor to summer heat

with a stout body

like that

without greed

never getting angry

always smiling quiet-


eating one and a half pieces of brown rice

and bean paste and a bit of

vegetables a day

in everything

not taking oneself

into account

looking listening understanding well

and not forgetting

living in the shadow of pine trees in a field

in a small

hut thatched with miscanthus

if in the east there’s a

sick child

going and nursing


if in the west there is a tired mother

going and for her


bundles of rice

if in the south

there’s someone



and saying

you don’t have to be


if in the north

there’s a quarrel

or a lawsuit

saying it’s not worth it

stop it

in a drought

shedding tears

in a cold summer

pacing back and forth   lost


a good-for-nothing

by everyone

neither praised

nor thought a pain


like that

is what I want

to be

- Miyazawa Kenji

You are drunk and i'm intoxicated

you are drunk
and i'm intoxicated
no one is around
showing us the way home

again and again
i told you
drink less
a cup or two

i know in this city
no one is sober
one is worse than the other
one is frenzied and
the other gone mad

come on my friend
step into the tavern of ruins
taste the sweetness of life
in the company of another friend

here you'll see
at every corner
someone intoxicated
and the cup-bearer
makes her rounds

i went out of my house
a drunkard came to me
someone whose glance
uncovered a hundred
houses in paradise

rocking and rolling
he was a sail
with no anchor but
he was the envy of all those sober ones
remaining on the shore

where are you from i asked
he smiled in mockery and said
one half from the east
one half from the west
one half made of water and earth
one half made of heart and soul
one half staying at the shores and
one half nesting in a pearl

i begged
take me as your friend
i am your next of kin
he said i recognize no kin
among strangers

i left my belongings and
entered this tavern
i only have a chest
full of words
but can't utter
a single one

- Rumi

Monday, April 1, 2019

The muscle of metaphor - over the shallowness of simile

When we read memoir, or journalism, because it is “true” it is not happening to us. In reading fiction it happens to us, and keeps happening to us after we are finished with our reading, because it is not “true.” We are not precluded from its truth. The muscle of metaphor is transformative, interpersonal, complete [unifying]. The apprehension of experience via metaphor is a completion [unifying]. She “walked, then rode in a daze, still not quite free of the dog [she] had killed.” “I had felt it die, and yet I had not died.” There is a technical, writerly shaped hole in this parable.

And then there is the tripe of relateability. I’m sorry, the trope. The shallow idea, currently ruling acquisition decisions at Big Five publishing houses, that we like to read memoirs, listen to true stories, because we can “relate,” because something like that has happened to us or we are “like” this person whose true story we read. More insidiously, that fictions must repeat back to us our familiar contexts in order for us to wish to buy them. The shallowness of simile over metaphor.

Self-narratives are normalizations of selfhood, reifications of the discontinuity between one self and one other self through capital investment – the value of the self as distinct content producer.

I am not a writer because I assume that my life is so snowy, so flakey, that I will entertain others with those stories in their various forms, or that the qualities that they are imbued with need or deserve to be shared for their uniqueness.

If the writing in a book is such that it moves the heart, stimulates the intellect, and enlivens the spirit, we can conclude that it is a work of literature –

Period – and as such is entitled to make its own laws.

~ Rebecca Wolff

(from: “Our Love of True Stories Has Destroyed Our Sense of Truth”)

Friday, March 1, 2019

The Weissers and the Grand Dragon

     A cantor named Michael Weisser and his wife, Julie, had moved with their family from Chicago to Lincoln, Nebraska. They felt that their children probably would be exposed to less anti-Semitism there than they experienced in the big city. As it turned out, the Grand Dragon of the White Knights of Ku Klux Klan of Nebraska, Larry Trapp, lived there. When he found out that the Weissers were living in Lincoln, he turned his ongoing campaign of hate mail and phone threats against them.
     Of course the Weissers were alarmed to experience such violent prejudice and were at first quite angry. However, after some time, the cantor had a change of heart, because he felt his faith taught him to love his enemies – and he wanted to put his faith into practice. Julie agreed and they contacted the Grand Dragon by phone with friendly intentions.
     The Weisser family found out that Larry Trapp was a diabetic, confined to a wheelchair, and gradually going blind, so they called and kindly offered to help him with his grocery shopping. His first response was an angry no, but after a pause his mood changed, and he thanked them for offering. The Weissers continued in their attempts to embrace their enemy. Finally, Michael suggested that they prepare a dinner and take it to Larry Trapp’s apartment. He reluctantly accepted their offer.
     When one of the cantor’s friends heard about their plan, he admonished Michael for going too far. Nevertheless, the Weissers did go to Larry Trapp’s apartment. It was a dark and sad place, with pictures of Hitler on the wall, but the dinner went fairly well. Gradually, Larry Trapp softened and his hostility subsided. He told the Weissers how his father had taught him to hate everything that was different from his white, Christian family.
     Later, when speaking of that dinner, Larry Trapp explained that he just couldn’t resist the Weissers anymore. He had never known love like that before in his life. Larry Trapp completely let go of his hatred and was transformed. He resigned from the Klan and wrote formal letters of apology to groups representing African-Americans, Native Americans, and Jewish-Americans. When diagnosed as terminally ill, he even moved in with the Weisser family and converted to Judaism before his death. 

– Reb Anderson (original source: Kathryn Watterson)

Friday, February 1, 2019

"First days of spring – the sky" by Ryōkan

First days of spring – the sky
is bright blue, the sun huge and warm.
Everything's turning green.
Carrying my monk's bowl, I walk to the village
to beg for my daily meal.
The children spot me at the temple gate
and happily crowd around,
dragging to my arms till I stop.
I put my bowl on a white rock,
hang my bag on a branch.
First we braid grasses and play tug-of-war,
then we take turns singing and keeping a kick-ball in the air:
I kick the ball and they sing, they kick and I sing.
Time is forgotten, the hours fly.
People passing by point at me and laugh:
"Why are you acting like such a fool?"
I nod my head and don't answer.
I could say something, but why?
Do you want to know what's in my heart?
From the beginning of time: just this! just this!

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Haiku Selection

click on the image to enlarge