Thursday, February 28, 2019

Season Your Poetry Part II

I had such an outstanding response to Season Your Poetry that I decided to do Season Your Poetry Part II to continue the tradition of writing poetry in the Japanese tradition. Matsuo Basho invented the Haibun form during the Edo period while travelling on a journey - for enlightenment! He kept a daily travel journal (nikki) and thus a new poetry form was invented. One of my trips to Japan, I traveled the route of Basho.  Most amazing experience.  A Haibun consists of a brief prose portion with a haiku at the end of that portion. Hai means poetry and bun means prose. At the end, the haiku brings the whole of the prose together.

One of Basho's haiku: “Taken in my hand it would melt, my tears are so warm—this autumnal frost.” A most elegant metaphor for the death of Basho's mother. It acts as a stand for Basho's previous haibun. A reader could have a literal understanding of this metaphor as a haiku, but its full effect—its aware (ah-wah-ray) —is apparent only when one reads the prose of the haibun that precedes it. In the prose of the haibun, the reader clearly sees that Bashō used the word frost to describe holding his dead mother’s white hair,

The western haibun has evolved into a long, vividly described poetry form. I am preferring the original form, the more spare and compact writing. I would like you all to write a haibun for me. the haibun is not to be more than 100 words. The haibun below by Basho from the Narrow Road is only 88 words long. I often write haibun with only 44 words!    Basho's haibun:
     Days and months are travellers of eternity. So are the years that pass by. Those who steer a boat across the sea, or drive a horse over the earth till they succumb to the weight of years, spend every minute of their lives travelling. There are a great number of ancients, too, who died on the road. I myself have been tempted for a long time by the cloud-moving wind - filled with a strong desire to wander.
the summer grasses—
for many brave warriors
the aftermath of dreams
Here is one of my 44 word haibun as another example:
Haibun: Winter Ocean
Walking along the shore, snow begins. The sky is grey overhead and golden sand becomes white. Broken shells roll in the surf. I hold my face up to the sky to be kissed.
lazy snowflakes kiss the shore –
ocean kisses back –
winter romance blooms

Haibun is not flash fiction. It is an autobiographic writing or, a truthful accounting of something that has occurred in your life and directly affected you. Haibun like haiku are not named. However I have begun the practice of naming them for simplicity. I begin Haibun:----- title for the haibun. It is also a seasonal accounting - winter at the ocean, spring picnic under cherry blossoms, autumn canoeing down a river. Take us in the haibun where you are. Edit your words carefully - hold the moment of your haibun in your mind and feel it.  Remember: No more than 100 words! a brief paragraph ending with a haiku.  The haibun can be on any subject as long as it actually happened to you.

I will be catching up with the poems written for my last prompt. I apologize for unexpected sickness. I hope you all enjoy this prompt as much as I enjoyed writing it!  Remember:  NO MORE THAN 100 WORDS!  Please travel among the other poets.  I know I will enjoy this journey!

Hiroshoge  Evening Bell at Mii Temple, from the series Eight Views of Omi Province  ca. 1835
A scene such as Basho would have experienced

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

The Tuesday Platform

While others sleep through the deepening shades of night, I watch as the dark slowly consumes the world like a graphite drawing, if only I could separate sorrow from the grey and fill light into the missing space.

I stumbled upon an incredibly poignant poem by Marilyn Hacker, and was touched by the emotion in her writing. Born in New York City on November 27, 1942 she was the only child of a working-class Jewish couple, each the first in their families to attend college. 

Having attained a B.A. in Romance Languages in 1964, Hacker moved on to work as a book dealer in London from whence her brilliance rewarded her with the first collection of poems, Presentation Piece, was published by the Viking Press in 1974.

Since then, Hacker has published many more collections, including A Stranger’s Mirror: New and Selected Poems 1994-2013 (W. W. Norton, 2015); Names (W. W. Norton, 2010); Desesperanto: Poems 1999-2002 (W. W. Norton, 2003); First Cities: Collected Early Poems 1960-1979 (W. W. Norton, 2003); and Squares and Courtyards (W. W. Norton, 2000).

About Hacker's work Poet Jan Heller Levi states; 

"I think of her magnificent virtuosity in the face of all the strictures to be silent, to name her fears and her desires, and in the process, to name ours. Let’s face it, no one writes about lust and lunch like Marilyn Hacker. No one can jump around in two, sometimes even three, languages and come up with poems that speak for those of us who sometimes barely think we can even communicate in one. And certainly no one has done more, particularly in the last decade of formalism, to demonstrate that form has nothing to do with formula. In villanelles, sestinas, and sonnets—not to mention a variety of forms whose names I can’t even pronounce—Marilyn Hacker can journey us on a single page through feelings as confusing as moral certainty to feelings as potentially empowering as unrequited passion." Read more here

Ghazal: The Dark Times

Marilyn Hacker, 1942

Tell us that line again, the thing about the dark times…
“When the dark times come, we will sing about the dark times.”

They’ll always be wrong about peace when they’re wrong about justice…
Were you wrong, were you right, insisting about the dark times?

The traditional fears, the habitual tropes of exclusion
Like ominous menhirs, close into their ring about the dark times.

Naysayers in sequins or tweeds, libertine or ascetic
Find a sensual frisson in what they’d call bling about the dark times.

Some of the young can project themselves into a Marshall Plan future
Where they laugh and link arms, reminiscing about the dark times.

From every spot-lit glitz tower with armed guards around it
Some huckster pronounces his fiats, self-sacralized king, about the dark times.

In a tent, in a queue, near barbed wire, in a shipping container,
Please remember ya akhy, we too know something about the dark times.

Sindbad’s roc, or Ganymede’s eagle, some bird of rapacious ill omen
From bleak skies descends, and wraps an enveloping wing about the dark times.

You come home from your meeting, your clinic, make coffee and look in the mirror
And ask yourself once more what you did to bring about the dark times.

I also found an exquisite song by Linkin Park which goes beautifully with the poem by Hacker.

Welcome to the Tuesday Platform, the weekly open stage for sharing poems in the Imaginary Garden. Please link up a poem, old or new, and spend some time this week visiting the offerings of our fellow writers.


Saturday, February 23, 2019

Season Your Poetry

Hello Toads. It has been quite a whirlwind with seasons and weather lately, hey? Three weeks ago we had subzero weather and snow here in the South. Then the Polar Vortex escaped its boundaries (a sure sign of climate change but we won't get into that now) and just about froze us into walking popsicles. Then two weeks of lovely springs weather, then cold again. And now my yard is blue with tiny blue violets. Cold weather sneaks in again this weekend. Ah...the end of winter. Or is it early spring? In Japan, they could the months of their seasons differently than we do in the west. At this point, we have: Early Spring - February 4 - March 5, Mid-spring - March 6 - April 4, and Late Spring - April 5 - May 5. the Japanese count their seasons as such: Spring:; February 4 - May 5, Summer: May 5 - August 7, Autumn: August 8 - November 6, and Winter: November 7 - February 3. See the difference? The season I am most concerned with now is Spring. I lived in Japan for a bit and became used to keeping the seasons in the way of the Japanese. I actually helped plant rice in the spring.

Cherry Blossoms and Fuji

The Japanese are all about honoring the seasons and nature. Their belief system, Shinto, holds that when a person dies, they may in that death become a part of nature - from the lowliest flea to the greatest mountain. Therefore, all of nature is to honored. The poetic form of Japan, created by Basho, is the haiku. The haiku is all about being in the moment, all about nature. There is a directory of over 50,000 kigo called a saijiki. A kigo is literally a name for a seasonal piece of a season. I am not going to ask you all to write a haiku. What I am going to do is to ask you for a brief (and I mean brief) poem about a kigo in spring. the form is your choice. The subject is your choice. Just make it about spring. Here is a list of spring kigo. This is from an extensive list of which many kigo have been deleted or apply only to Japan. I have translated the kigo from the Japanese.  Please pick one or several and write a poem or, even a haiku. Remember: haiku must use a kigo and a kireji (a cutting word), be in the moment (sort of like a photograph) and have three lines: 5-7-5 syllable count or, short-long-short lines. Please write no more than 10 lines. In the Japanese tradition make it brief, to the point, and without a lot of flowery description. It is all about the season. Please take the time to read all the poets who post here. I read all the poets every week because I enjoy reading and learning from your words. Who knows, you may learn something? smiles

Spring Kigo
  Season: spring months: late February, March, April, and May; beginning of spring, early           spring, departing spring, late spring, lengthening days, long day, mid-spring, spring dream, spring dusk, spring evening, spring melancholy, tranquility, vernal equinox.

Sky and Elements: balmy breeze, bright, haze or thin mist, first spring storm, hazy moon, March wind, melting snow, lingering snow, spring breeze, spring cloud, spring frost, spring moon, spring rain, spring rainbow, spring sunbeam, spring snow, slush, warm (warmth).
Landscape: flooded river/stream/brook, muddy/miry fields, muddy road, spring fields, spring hills, spring mountain, spring river, spring sea, spring tide, red tide.
Human Affairs: balloon, kite, shell gathering, planting or sowing (seeds), plowing or tilling fields, spring cleaning, swing, windmill, Boys Day, Dolls Festival, Ash Wednesday, Lent, Palm Sunday, Easter ( ~ bonnet/clothes, ~ eggs, coloring/hiding ~ eggs, ~lily, ~ parade, ~ rabbit/chicken/duckling), May Day ( ~ basket, ~ pole), 
Animals: abalone, bee, baby animals (nestlings, fledglings, calf, colt, kitten, puppy, fawn, lamb, etc.), butterfly, bush warbler, cats in love, crane, flying squirrel, frog, horse-fly, lizard, pheasant, robin, mud snail, soaring skylark, stork, swallow, tadpole, whitebait (a fish), hummingbird, nightingale, wild birds’ return (geese, etc.).

Plants: anemone, artichoke, asparagus sprouts, azalea, bracken, bramble, camellia, cherry blossoms, cherry tree, crocus, dandelion, leaf buds of trees and shrubs (almond, apple, apricot, maple, oak, pear, peach, pine, wisteria, etc.), forget-me-not, grass sprouts, hawthorn, hyacinth, lilac, lily of the valley, mustard, pansy, parsley, plum blossoms, plum tree, California poppy, primrose, seaweed or laver (nori), sweet pea, shepherd’s-purse, tulip, violet, willow, pussy willows or willow catkins.

A few spring haiku by Basho to get you in the mood. Note the brevity and the straightforward style.
spring is passing -
the birds cry and the fishes fill
with tears on their eyes

a cloudy day during the cherry blossom season -
whether the sound of bell at 
Ueno or Asakusa 

try to plant
as for a child -
A little cherry tree

頑張る がんばるor, Haijin gambaru! - Good luck and strive to do your best

Terraced Rice Field in Spring



Thursday, February 21, 2019

Wordy Thursday with Wild Woman: Hannah's Boomerang Metaphor Form

Some time back, in 2014, our Toad-friend Hannah Gosselin created an interesting form that I like very much, called the Boomerang Metaphor Form. She began with the "This poem is - " format, and added some intriguing features, in which the first statements are expanded in separate stanzas, and then boomerang around to be repeated  at the end. Here is the premise, as described by Hannah:

Boomerang Metaphors 

* Create three, “This poem is a ____,” statements.

* Support each statement in separate stanzas, (one can choose the length of the supporting stanzas and whether or not to rhyme or employ free verse).

* Restate the statement that’s being supported in the last line of these supporting stanzas, (as mini boomerang metaphor refrains).

* Then name the list of three, “This poem is a _____,” statements again as a boomerang metaphors closing refrain.

Note: One may choose to state the closing refrain slightly morphed but mostly the same. As it seems, words that go out into the world do tend to come back touched – slightly transformed.

* The title encapsulates the three listed elements, “This Poem is a ____, ____ and a _____”

Hannah's brilliant example of her first boomerang poem is sadly not available, as her blog is now private. (I miss her!) So here is my version, to give you a general idea:


This poem is the breath of dawn on a windswept
morning at the edge of the sea.
This poem is a murrelet on the wing.
This poem is a grey whale, spy-hopping.

This poem is misty with early morning fog.
It drapes shawls over the shoulders of
Grandmother Cedar so she won't be chilled.
This poem loves the morning.
It looks to the sky to see all the colours of the day.
This poem is the breath of dawn on a windswept
morning at the edge of the sea.

This poem is a tiny bird who makes her nest
deep in the forest.
This poem must fly great distances,
out to sea and back again,
in order to find sustenance.
This poem sometimes grows tired,
and in need of rest.
Its perch is precarious,
its nesting sites vanishing
along with the old growth.
This poem is sometimes in need of 
rescue and protection.
This poem is a murrelet on the wing.

This poem swooshes up in placid waters,
takes a look around with her wise old eye
and finds that life is good.
This poem is an ancient voice;
she speaks with an old soul.
Then this poem does a series of dives and breaches,
just for the joy of it.
This poem is a grey whale, spy-hopping.

This poem is the breath of dawn, on a windswept
morning at the edge of the sea.
This poem is a murrelet on the wing, heading for home.
This poem is a grey whale, spy-hopping
for the sheer love of living.

                  ***     ***     ***

Well, that is the general gist of it. Smiles. Take a run at it, and feel free to improvise and make it your own. As always, if you don't feel like tackling the whole form, feel free to try another angle. Some people like to simply begin "This poem is -" and proceed from there. 

The main thing is to enjoy the process, whatever you choose to do. Remember, I'm not strict!

Let's see what we come up with.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

The Tuesday Platform: Cowardice and Courage

I recently took out of its plastic sheet this poetry collection of the prominent Tamil poet and writer, Perumal Murugan, after buying it sometime last year. And it has been such a blessing to read his words, his thoughts that carry the weight of the political and social deprivations and their impact on individual lives on a daily basis. There is anger in it, there is passion in it, there is courage in it, and yes, there is cowardice too, as a powerful sentiment and socio-political statement.

Names of Days

Names of days
have become ruins of antiquity
We can give them new names
by flinging up new words
from the warehouse of language

Week, month, year
all such calculations too will go obsolete
Even day

We shall name a day Cuckoo’s Call
We shall name a day Scattering of Snow
We shall name a day Stone’s Softening
We shall name a day Mountain Peak
We shall name a day Crescent Moon

Each unlike the other, each unlike the other
So many days

We shall name some days
Devil’s Scream
Fool’s Grunt
Corpse’s Stench
And get past them easily

~ 23 February, 2015

Songs of a Coward: Poems of Exile, Perumal Murugan, translated from Tamil by Aniruddhan Vasudevan, Penguin India

Good day, poets! Welcome to Imaginary Garden With Real Toads. For The Tuesday Platform, share one link to a poem, old or new, that you would want all of us to read for its poetic craftsmanship, personal significance, or all-encompassing humanism, et al. This is Anmol (alias HA) and I wish you a beautiful week ahead, with its many opportunities and experiences, and not to forget, the poetics.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Weekend Mini-Challenge: Strange News

Greetings, dear Toads. I hope you are having a fantastic weekend. If not, then I wish you a poetry writing/reading experience that brings pure yumminess to your day.

For today’s prompt, I invite you to be inspired by the following questions, out of the Strange News section of Live Science:

1. What if the moon disappeared tomorrow?
2. Can humans smell beauty?
3. Do trees sleep at night?

Please, write a new poem using one, two, or all three of the questions as your springboard.

Add the direct link to your poem to Mr. Linky. Visit other Toads. Have a lot of fun. Curious about the articles? Read them here: 1, 2, 3.