Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Tanka: a poetic form

Blue Iris by the Little Union Canal.     jhhymas

I am just now reading a Christmas gift of the book of tanka by Mariko Kitakubo. The title is INDIGO, published by Shabda Press in Pasadena, California. No date.

This is a wonderful book, full of intelligent and deep musings in this short five-line form. It also includes the Japanese in both characters and romaji, as well as images by the author and an introduction by Donald Keene.

It is hard to pick just one, but here is one of my favorites.

who is
counting fireflies 
by the Nile?

after the dream
of civilization?

Mariko Kitakubo
page 46.


I am hoping to resume blogging now.  jhhymas




Thursday, May 11, 2017

Releasing the Vine Sphinx Moth


I've been neglecting this blog and I quite miss this way of talking to people,

 Just back now from a later-than-usual dog walk, I find a little time to start again,  

A week ago, the moth above turned up indoors perched
where the wall turns the corner into the hall. 
I took some photos, but left it alone there; next morning, it was gone. 
Two days later I found it, still inside, near the window, where it soon began 
to desperately attempt flying through the glass. 
I knew I would damage it by trying to grab it. 
So I found a small clear plastic glass (like the ones provided by a motel) 
and an index card. When the creature paused briefly, 
I placed the glass carefully over it against the pane. 
Then I slid the card beneath him over the mouth of the cup. 
I had already opened the back door 
and I went out at once and released him over the lawn. 
He flew strongly and without hesitation up and away toward the creek. 
As he flew, he dropped a bit of himself, which I think 
must have been the crooked thing at the top left of the photo,
like a malformed antenna or limb. His flight was strong and even without it,
He lifted my whole self toward freedom!

I have been looking at a book of selected poems 
by Henri Cole. The second poem is about 
Monarch butterflies, but I have decided 
instead to give you the first poem, 
a winter poem about gulls.


V-winged and Hoary

All our pink and gold and blue
birds have gone to Panama and Peru,

The willow flycatcher with its sneezy "fitzbew,"
the ruby-throated hummingbird with jewel-

like gorgets and the blue-rumped finch,
its song a warble with a guttural "chink."

Far, far across the ghostly frozen lake,
above the great drifts of snow swaying

like dunes, the frosty Iceland gulls,
pallid as beach fleas, make great loops and catfall

into the wind, They are all that is left.
Throngs of children tiptoe deftly

across the lake to watch the robust birds
plunge headlong into kamikaze dives, lured

by fledgling trout nosed against the shallow ice.
Despite the precarious ice,

the children huddle bundled at the edge:
mittened, scarved, and starry-eyed,

their teeth chattering in the frosty air.
They watch the tireless birds, over and over,

fall from the speckled sky, their downy underwings
and pink, taloned leggings

foam soaked as they grapple with their catch.
The children are in love with the miraculous

oval-lipped trout swimming upward for air.
Snowflakes fall against their

cracked lips as they wait, their mouths agape
in little Os at the spectacle of gulls.


Henri Cole, Pierce the Skin, 
Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2010, pages 3-4.

This is a clear and beautiful poem in fourteen two-line stanzas,
making it about twice the length of a sonnet. If you were to write 
a poem (your task!) about a natural outdoor event that you had witnessed (I might write about the Sphinx moth!) you would want 
to use specific and lovely descriptive words such as the ones 
in this poem. You could let your writing flow across the lines 
and stanza breaks the way this poet does.

I identified this moth from pictures on the Internet, but it is not a common resident here  and is more common in South and Central America. I might make that part of the poem.  jhh

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Feeding Cracked Corn

More snow overnight, of the kind that sticks to the trunks of trees.
My American Wigeons are back and this morning (feed me!)
I had three pairs! Too many mallards to count and 
this years record group of 
American Wood Duck.
TEN PAIRS!

I just looked up wigeons and found that 80% 
of their diet is grass leaves. 
But as grass is now covered in snow, they will
eagerly gobble my cracked corn.
The males have a white stripe on the head
that runs back from the bill. You can see part of it
on the two males in this photo,
but it would show more clearly if they were facing you.
As a result of this stripe, they used to be called
Bald Pates, and some hunters still use this term.

Christmas Eve morning
in the fresh snow
ducks wait to be fed

jhh

Friday, December 23, 2016

The Fragile Edge of a Leaf

When we were building the place at the edge of the wood
near the Tip of the Mitt in Michigan, 
I was the person who did
most of the interfacing with the architect/contractor,
Dick Kappler. This picture, 
which I took of a blown leaf there, 
reminds me of him in two ways. 
When he was building the porches
(which are a very special part of living there--
the bridge to the woods.)
he made a big point of using cedar wood. 
He also pointed out to me that he used screws,
rather than nails, because of their superior holding power
over time. When I took this photo, 
it was the blown leaf--the hole, the tattered edge--
I noticed. Only later, did I think of the experience
of building that house.     jhh


Harvesting the Attic

3.     Made things

Here's the hula dancer I made.
Here's Santa Claus.
Here's May-baskets. Here's
new crepe paper, and a spool
thing that one runs it through to make
the rushes of the hula skirt.

Here are parts of linen pin-wheels
Grandma made, sitting
in the bay window in the sun,
the sun on her shoulder,
and the heating pad, to help
the sun, and the small hooded hook
darting from the fat pads of strictured
huge-jointed finger and thumb.
The hook flashes, winks sunbursts,
filigrees venomous pain.

Jean Pedrick                (1922-2006)

Wolf Moon; a book of hours by Jean Pedrick
Alice James Books, 1974, page 50.

Jean Pedrick is another gift from my poet/librarian friend, Pat Shelley (1911-1997) who I have mentioned frequently in this blog-- and whom I have thought of even more often. Another friend and I acquired Pat's poetry books, and a brown envelope with three Pedrick chapbooks was part of my share. It was only last year that I read these small books and was stunned by their power. 

Then I got others, including this one, through the used book market.
Jean Pedrick was a founding member of Alice James books, an important group that was formed to publish books by women. I knew about this group, but hadn't know her work. I'll be putting other poems by her into this Memory Thread.

This poem is a section of a longer one about the attic, including the mouse life that was part of that space. I chose this section partly because of the Santa Claus, and partly for the grandmother. My brother Robert talked to me about our father's mother--he got to know her on a long visit after I had left home--and the small braided rugs she made.

And all of this is an example of why I call this blog The Memory Thread. It was that same brother who wrote me--as he was dying from cancer--that the memories he was writing came to him easily--he got hold of a little piece of "string" and kept pulling and the memories came easily.  jhh


Thursday, December 22, 2016

Christmas comes on a sleigh

Snow on the bank where the Great Blue Heron stood in summer, searching, 
like Ungerer's Three Robbers, for victims.
It is cold again this year, as it was during this earlier winter,
on the backs of the Little Union Canal..
Yesterday there were many more ducks in the water than this;
how do they stay warm???  jhh



Snowflakes

In my country, there is no one 
who had never been photographed.
Being shot in the face is a way of life.
Frying is not so bad as losing
a photograph of the fried one.
If you spot an egg dying on the sidewalk
you are free to take its picture.
Some prefer to place a friend next to it
but who that might be is up to you.
No two people are alike, although they look
exactly the same. Like snowflakes.
My country is a country of snowflakes,
people just pile up to your wonderment
or disgust (whatever you think is OK).
People take a lot of pictures at Christmas.
People place tiny decorated trees on graves.
Snow country, like the novel by Kawabata.
Everyone wants to live here because we have
invisible fences so if a dog leaves the yard
he's snapped right back in.
You can buy garbage bags with the scent of lemons
or wildflowers. Everyone has a choice.
A man was hired to see if spice scented bags
sold well, if the people liked them, and they
did not, so they took them away.
Don't worry if you are thinking
you'd like something different for your children,
for your own unique little snowflakes,
because we have wonderful schooling in privacy
where a child must stare at a glass of milk
three hours, or until its surroundings grow dark,
whichever comes first.
And children are encouraged to draw, 
always to draw. Christmas comes on a sleigh.
They get their first camera in a pouch.
The wet polaroid slips into their hand,
a memory from the moment of birth.
Another face is born.
My country grows on the deep freeze door
and my country grows in the snowy night.
But no two countries are alike.

Mary Ruefle

Post Meridian, Carnegie Mellon University Press, 
Pittsburgh, PA, 2000, pages 56-57.


I find nothing in my life that I can’t find more of in books. 
With the exception of walking on the beach, in the snowy woods, and swimming underwater. That is one of the saddest journal entries I ever made when I was young. --Mary Ruefle


Someone Reading a Book 
Is a Sign of Order in the World: 
Mary Ruefle

Someone writing a poem that just moves along
and moves along, and moves along,
is a sign of the magic of language,
and of the discovery of interesting sound and meaning
in unlikely juxtapositions. 
June Hopper Hymas

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Loud music, not yours

Quick! The sun's going down 
at 5:04 p.m. this very day!
Turn the porch light on
for our return.

Noise

Solitude unchosen, the drone of it rising to a buzz. That poet
you hate, his dead tune on a bad instrument. Hungover, the
terrible fork glancing the excruciating plate and--that same
morning--the frisson of corduroy, your own, as you walk.
Loud music, not yours; somebody else's good time. the or-
atory of an enemy. The cacophony of someone asking for 
love. Another remark after the argument's been conceded, or
the story's over. Your stupid, habitual politeness when the
telemarketer calls. The restrained ha-ha when only a belly
laugh will honor the moment. Any complaint, even the gen-
tlest, from a person incapable of praise. Someone you know
you'll not see again---the dull click of an unslammed door.

Stephen Dunn

Riffs and Reciprocities; prose poems, Stephen Dunn,
W. W. Norton, 1998, page 61.


These poems are paired on facing pages. 
The companion of this one is titled Music. 
 It would be fun to start to work in pairs like this, another task. 
Some of his other pairings: Bedroom/Kitchen,
Money/Indulgence, Reflection/Shadow.

There arre many more types of pairings 

than just opposites; 
one could make almost anything work. . . 
 jhh

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

How soon the night falls

Before the snow came, 
there was this tender rim of cloud 
along the horizon.
Just the other day.


World's End

At the world's end
on worn-out ground
the one talks of the flowers
adorning Argonne china
in their red pigment is mixed
the gold of old Dutch ducats
dissolved in aqua regia.
How soon the night falls
the other answers
time goes so fast
in this empty country.


Jean Follain         (1903-1971)
Translated from the French by W.S. Merwin

Transparency of the World; Jean Follain
selected and translated by W. S. Merwin,
Copper Canyon Press, 2003, page 81.

In this uncertain time, when so many of the things 
I have cared about seem under threat, I find 
that the work of this poet, who lived 
in other uncertain times, 
captures a feeling-tone 
very similar to the one 
I have today.  jhh