Friday, August 22, 2014

Great Grand Schemes

As you can see by the ugly date stamp; we got up early with Cassie this morning, and I got a chance to try the white Samsung Galaxy 2 on dawn-lit clouds. It took me all day to figure out (it's deep in the menu) how to turn off the date stamp, but I have done it, so now I have to get up early tomorrow and see what's happening.

Writing What I've Seen

           Yuán Méi, (1716–1797)

All things that live
must make a living.
There's nothing got
without some getting.

From fabled beast to feeble bug
each schemes to make its way.
The Buddha, or the Taoist sage?
Unending in his labor;

and morning's herald, the rooster, too
can he not cock-a-doodle-doo?
I hunger, so I plot to eat;
I'm cold and would be robed . . .

But great grand schemes will get you grief
Take what you need, that's all.
A light craft takes the wind
and skims the water lightly.

Translated from the Chinese by J. P Seaton.
From The Gift of Tongues; twenty-five years of poetry from Copper Canyon Press,
edited by Sam Hamill,1996, page 295.

This is (part of) what comes of my having decided not to use translated Chinese poetry two nights in a row. Yuan Mei turns (look him up!) out to be a very interesting fellow from the Qing Dynasty. In addition to poetry, he wrote a classical text , Suiyuan Shidan, on cooking, which sounds quite complete. Here is the list of its sections from Wikipedia:

  • Preface (序)
  • Essential knowledge (須知單): 20 sections
  • Things to avoid (戒單): 14 sections
  • Seafoods (海鮮單): 9 sections
  • "Riversfoods" (江鮮單): 9 sections
  • Sacrificial animal (pork) (特牲單): 20 sections
  • Various animals (雜牲單): 16 sections
  • Winged tribe (birds) (羽族單): 20 sections
  • Water tribe, scaled (fish) (水族有鱗單): 18 sections
  • Water tribe, scaleless (水族無鱗單): 17 sections
  • Various vegetarian dishes (雜素菜單): 28 sections
  • Small dishes (小菜單): 41 sections
  • Appetizers (點心單): 55 sections
  • Rice and congee (飯粥單): 2 sections

  • Tea and wine (茶酒單): 16 sections

  • I am particularly fond of the Water Tribes (scaled and scaleless) and the Winged Tribe, but the heading for pork is also fantastic. I continue to learn things from this Copper Canyon anthology, which I highly recommend. Four four-line stanzas is a nice shape and size for a lyric, I think. Good night!

    Thursday, August 21, 2014

    How much of what I really feel is left unsaid?

    This afternoon we took the old dachshund and us two old people for a walk up the drive to get the mail. Which gave me a chance to take some pictures of the late summer weeds and grasses. This one reminds me of the delicate tones, colors and lines  (here is a link showing some of her work) in the art of illustrator Nancy Ekholm Burkert.  I fell in love with her illustrations at once when I was a young librarian and I saw the early editions of James & the Giant Peach; then I was completely blown away by her Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. If you haven't seen them and you love delicate, careful beauty, check them out!

    The single fence post in the photo is a cedar one remaining from the days when this was a working farm. There are still a few along the drive to our place in the wood. As they age, they lean toward the earth and, as here, are sometimes held up only by remnants of barbed wire. These fences, and the stone piles, are witnesses to the 19th and early 20th century lives spent here.

    The Pear Leaves Redden, Cicada's Song is Done
                                          Ou-Yang Hsiu
                                                                   translated from the Chinese by J. P. Seaton

    The pear leaves redden, the cicada's song is done.
    Wind high up in the River of Heaven,
    flute sounds: cold and cutting.
    A chill on the mat, the water-clock dripping.
    Who taught the swallows to make so light of parting?

    At the edge of the grass, the insects moan,
    as autumn's frosts congeal.
    Stale wine awakening,
    I can't remember when you left.
    How much of what I really feel is left unsaid?
    Night after night moon dawns
    upon my pearl-embroidered screen.

    from The Gift of Tongues; twenty-five years of poetry from Copper Canyon Press, edited by Sam Hamill,1996, page 237.

    I am very fond of these ancient Chinese poems in translation. Of course I know that that the people who had the leisure to write them were not knee-deep in the rice paddies. Their food and comfort was provided by the hard work of others. Their pearl-embroidered screens were made for them by skilled artisans, who probably didn't have the leisure to write poems, either. My own pensioned life is also quite comfortable, although I don't have to learn court etiquette, or fuss about the emperor's planned visit. Or write poems to order. Autumn is coming, and I think this poem captures that feeling well. Twelve lines is a good length for a poem: long enough to give details, but not become too whiny or boring.

    Wednesday, August 20, 2014

    Careless Mice

    I've spent the evening with a wonderful book I recently acquired:
    The Gift of Tongues; twenty-five years of poetry from Copper Canyon Press, 1996.
    I have not even begun to experience everything herein yet,
    and will talk more about this treasure-filled book later!
    I chose this picture of winter in Michigan several years back
    to go with the John Haines poem below.

    If the Owl Calls Again

    at dusk
    from the island in the river,
    and it's not too cold,

    I'll wait for the moon
    to rise,
    and then take wing and glide
    to meet him.

    We will not speak,
    but hooded against the frost
    soar above
    the alder flats, searching
    with tawny eyes.

    And then we'll sit 
    in the shadowy spruce and
    pick the bones
    of careless mice,

    while the long moon drifts
    toward Asia
    and the river mutters
    in its icy bed.

    And when morning climbs
    the limbs
    we'll part without a sound,

    fulfilled, floating
    homeward as the 
    cold world awakens.

    John Haines  (1924-2011)
    from The Gift of Tongues; 
    twenty-five years of poetry from Copper Canyon Press, 1996, page 111.

    Pay attention to the form: very short-line clean stanzas in a pattern 3, 4, 5, 4, 4, 3, 3. Examine your own poems for stanza patterns.

    Tuesday, August 19, 2014

    Woodpecker Alley

    Today's woodpecker brought a friend, but pictures of the two of them aren't good..
    In this through-the-screen picture, you can see that his eye is yellow and
    he has the red mustache that shows he is male. 
    You can also see a little suet on his beak and his long sharp claws. 
    Just a bit later we had a hairy woodpecker, 
    so the word is out; suet is the word.
    And today has been Tuesday, all day.


    It is Tuesday, once called Tyr's Day,
    god of war, not too surprising
    gods of war are everywhere
    they like their names
    in public places.

    It is Tuesday, a day I would rather
    think without unique personality,
    day for ordinary things---
    saying "hello" for its own sake,
    or "see you later."

    Simple Tuesday, a day the weeds grow
    in as well as their nobler cousins,
    those great gaudy roses,
    just Tuesday, time to dwell in,
    maybe to think of a mountain pool or stream---

    though I remember now, my mother
    in her small white cot died on a Tuesday.

    Robert Burlingame (1922-2011) 

    from Some Recognition of the Joshua Lizard; 
    new and selected poems by Robert Burlingame, 
    Mutabilis Press, Houston TX, 2009, page 37. 

    Just recently I read an essay in which someone mentioned he liked this poet, Robert Burlingame. So I checked it out and I like him, too. I was sorry to learn that this poet was already dead before I found out about him.

    I think it would be interesting to try writing a poem on a particular day of the week. I might start off with the day it was when I began to write and see how the poem began to develop. It might be a mistake to find the surprise (if there is one) like the one at the end of this poem too early in your process. What makes this poem interesting is how matter-of-fact and ordinary it is after the opening definitions. You follow the word Tuesday pleasantly through the poem until the poem ends on the same word, after the unexpected shocking information. Three five line stanzas and a closing couplet, an economical, pleasing form. Something else to try. It doesn't need to end with a death, you know. You are the writer.

    Monday, August 18, 2014

    Adult Supervision: to get to the other side

    See the stopped to watch cyclists in the upper right corner?

     Home free!

    On the way to the Recycle Center (here in Emmet County they only pick up the garbage; you bring in the containers, paper and cardboard, and sort them into large bins near the new Fire Station) we stopped to watch this parade. It made me first happy and then sad, when I couldn't find the pictures on the new magical camera. Later, after taking lots of test pictures of the inside of the car and parked cars, I found out where to look on my Android Samsung device and found that I had captured them after all! Rejoicing!


    The turkeys wade the close to catch the bees
    In the old border full of maple trees
    And often lay away and breed and come
    And bring a brood of chelping chickens home.
    The turkey gobbles loud and drops his rag
    And struts and sprunts his tail and then lets drag
    His wing on ground and makes a huzzing noise,
    Nauntles at passer-bye and drives the boys
    And bounces up and flies at passer-bye.
    The old dog snaps and grins nor ventures nigh.
    He gobbles loud and drives the boys from play;
    They throw their sticks and kick and run away.

    —John Clare (1793-1864)

    The story of the English 18th Century "peasant poer" John Clare is full of sadness: increasingly mad, he spent the latter part of his life in asylums. Yet his work has lasted and won new adherents for a long time. The Wikipedia article (link directly above) states that one of the features of his poems was his deliberate and continued use of his native dialect's vocabulary and grammar. This is evident in the poem above. You don't often encounter sprunts and nautles, or realize that you are wanting to make a huzzing or chelping noise---but in the context of the poem, they add flavor, not difficulty. You can also tell he was a serious poet with a mastery of rhyming pentameter.

    Sunday, August 17, 2014

    Those tiny thistle seeds

    I was looking to see if I could find a haiku about Thistle Seeds because I love the way the seeds line up against the clear plastic of the thistle feeder. Often I see things in a photo that I hadn't noticed in real life! I am not a big fan of the artistic merit of these yellow plastic flowers, but they seem to do the trick. I caught these Goldfinch beauties yesterday with the 21x lens of the Samsung that is like a white phone but without the phoning. Even then I had to crop. I am having to refill the feeder about twice a week, but the finch come only two or three birds at a time.

    Held up to the sky, A handful of thistle seeds – Cast into the wind.

    Imagine taking the first name Basho!

    And below is one by the outstanding haiku poet, Santoka that I copied from the World Kigo Database, including the Japanese, the Romaji and an explanation of the language which features striking alliteration.:

    あざみ あざやかな あさの あめあがり

    azayaka na
    asa no
    ame agari

    The English does not convey the alliteration of the Japanese, just the meaning.

    so bright
    rain ends

    Taneda Santoka 山頭火

    Saturday, August 16, 2014

    Grasshopper Underbelly

    We are on the way to town; and there is a grasshopper on the windshield. Or is this a leafhopper? I whip out my new minicamera Elph (about half the size of my iPhone) with the good macro sense and now here he is! Look at the beautiful veins on his wings! Her wings?

    I have been reading all the submissions for the annual haiku anthology today. Some of them are very, very good, and I would like to put many of them here, right now, but that will have to wait until after the anthology comes out in December.

    Have you seen the pocket editions of poetry put out by Shambala? The pocket haiku translated by San Hamill, Shambala, 2014 is 4.8 x 3.1x .4 inches of treasure. And on page 7 just what is needed here tonight.

    Nothing in the cry
    of cicadas suggests they
    are about to die

    Basho, translated by Sam Hamill