Sunday, August 31, 2014

Goldfinch Roundbody

This must be a parent goldfinch; there are quite a few skinny olive-drab children around here
who are also consuming that good quality niger thistle seed. I am pleased by this round adult.

Some time ago I promised to give you some more early poems 
from a sequence called "The World" 
by celebrated poet Czeslaw Milosz. 
Here is one.

The Dining Room

A room with few windows, with brown shades,
Where a Danzig clock keeps silent in the corner;
A low leather sofa, and right above it
The sculpted heads of two smiling devils;
And a copper pan shows its gleaming paunch,

On the wall a painting that depicts winter.
A crowd of people skate on ice
Between the trees, smoke comes from a chimney
and crows fly in an overcast sky,

Nearby a second clock. A bird sits inside,
It pops out squawking and calls three times.
And it has barely finished its third and last call
When mother ladles out soup from a hot tureen.

Czeslaw Milosz

New and Collected POEMS (1931-2001) Ecco, 2001, page 39.

This poem bespeaks a kind of rather quiet, well-ordered European life that was enjoyed by a certain class of people in Europe for many, many years. It is interesting to think about how than shining copper pan and those two clocks and that painting represent a sort of life that differs from much of American life in my lifetime. My mother's and father's parents both were from Arizona pioneers, My father's family came from Arkansas and my mother's people were part of a series of Mormon migrations through Ohio, Illinois and so forth. Both of my parents became college graduates through strong efforts. But our home life was always materially quite simple (through rowdier) than that represented by this poem. I have just begun a book about the life of Dieterich Buxtehude (circa 1637-1707) that has reinforced for me how little I know about European history. I regret once again, not having taken more valuable and interesting historical courses (and acutally studied) when I was in school. More about this tomorrow, when I tell you about the long walk of Johann Sebastian Bach to Lubeck to find out more about Buxtehude's music. And now good night.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The woodpecker's nap

Isn't he beautiful? I am totally in love. I was sitting at the dining table working on the haiku anthology. And he ate and ate and ate suet. My camera was at my elbow, so I didn't have to get up to get it and scare him off. The lines of the window screen are visible in this picture; sometimes they don't show quite this much.

Then he paused a bit and ate some more. I typed in some haiku.

And then he stopped and TOOK A NAP! I swear it! See how relaxed he is; his eyes are closed. He slept for quite some time. When he woke up he ate some more suet.

And all the time, while the woodpecker was monopolizing the feeder, chickadees were dive-bombing the feeder zone, one at a time, from different directions. But not one ever landed on the feeder. Once in a while, one sat on the fence, like this, just looking. But the big bird was King of the Hill. Until he flew.

Tonight I have been looking at the poems in Canadian Nature Poems, which I got because Roo Borson is in it.  The link is to previous posts in which her poems appear.

I found some good poems; then I thought, wouldn't it be wonderful if there was a subject index? And there is! And there is a poem about the Pileated Woodpecker (no nap, though.) Here it is.

from "A Question of Questions"

for R.D.l.

The error lies in
the state of desire
in wanting the answers
wanting the red-crested 
woodpecker to pose
among red berries
of the ash tree
wanting its names
its habitations
the instinct 
of its ways for
my head-travelling
wanting its colours
its red, white, its black
pressed behind my eyes
a triptych
and over
and wanting the bird
to be still and
wanting it moving
whiteflash of underwings
dazzling all questions
out of me, amazement
and outbreathing
become a form
of my knowing.

I move and it moves
into a cedar tree.
I walk and I walk.
My deceiving angel's
in-shadow joins me
paces my steps and threatens
to take my head
between its hands.
I keep walking. 
Trying to think.
Here on the island
there is time
on the Isabella 
Point Road.
We pass a dead
deer on the beach.
Bloated. It stinks.
The angel insists, 'Keep 
walking.' It has all the time
in the world. Is sufficient.
Is alone. 'Keep walking.'
it says and flies off
with my head.

What's left of me
remembers a funny song
also a headless
man on rockface
painted in red
by Indian finger spirits.

The red-crested woodpecker swoops down
and sits on my trunk. Posing.
Dryocopus pileatus. 'Spectacular, black,
Crow-sized woodpecker with a red crest,
great size, sweeping wingbeats, flashing
white underwing.' Pileated woodpecker.
Posing. Many questions.
'The diggings, large oval or oblong holes,
indicate its presence.'

Zen Master,

Phyllis Webb

From Open Wide a Wilderness; Canadian Nature Poetry
Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2009, page 213-214.

I don't know what the bits just before and just after the poem mean; I have copied them as they were presented in the book. Phyllis Webb's selected poems won the Canadian Governor General's Award in 1982.
Look at the effect of the many short lines in this longish poem. Try this out yourself. And it is always fun to put in bits of information you find in the bird book. Sleep well. Dream of flight.

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Happy Stories of the Past Again

My life has been much enriched in more ways than I can describe since I became a birder in 1984. My first bird identification was a Phainopepla in the Southern California chaparral. I found his distinctive crest in a bird book. Since then, I have participated in Audubon Society activities in three different States and even once attended a National Convention.

I want to recommend that you get in touch with your local Auduboners and go for a few birdwalks. You will likely discover some natural places near you that are well worth visiting!

Today, when I decided to take this picture, it was raining (raindrop at center top) and the light was very misty and pale, so I darkened this some. This year, although the goldfinches have their own thistleseed feeder, they come to this one, too. I finally decided to pour a little thistleseed over the Chickadee's sunflower seeds for them. But the big attraction is the suet, which brings different woodpeckers (this is the Downy Woodpecker) the Rosebreasted Grosbeak, and the Bluejay.

I just got myself a big book of John Clare (1793-1864) who was also very fond of birds, 
and of everything he saw in nature, really.
Here is a sonnet of his on the wren.

The Wren

Why is the cuckoo's melody preferred
And nightingale's rich song so fondly praised
In poet's rhymes? Is there no other bird
Of nature's minstrelsy that oft has raised
One's heart to ecstasy and mirth as well?
I judge not how another's taste is caught---
With mine there's other birds that bear the bell,
Whose song has crowds of happy memories brought,
Such the wood robin singing in the dell
And little wren that many a time hath sought
Shelter from showers in huts where I did dwell
In early spring the tenants of that plain
Tenting my sheep, and still they come to tell
The happy stories of the past again.

—John Clare

from "I AM" THE SELECTED POETRY OF JOHN CLARE; edited by Jonathan Bate, 
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, NY, 2003, page 152.

One could do worse than try sonnets; I've been fearful . . . 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Beauty Spots

The deer finally seem to understand the deliciousness of mowed meadow, and I have at last been able to get some through-the-window pictures with my new Samsung Galaxy camera that sort of looks like a phone, and has many annoying features, but does have a good zoom range. I have two groups of deer dropping by: a mature buck with two spike bucks, and a doe with two fawns. The little buck kept trying to get the older one to play, but he just scoffed him away.


Hope is with you when you believe 
The earth is not a dream but living flesh,
That sight, touch, and hearing do not lie,
That all things you have ever seen here
Are like a garden looked at from a gate.

You cannot enter. But you're sure it's there.
Could we but look more clearly and wisely
We might discover somewhere in the garden
A strange new flower and an unnamed star.

Some people say we should not trust our eyes,
That there is nothing, just a seeming,
These are the ones who have  no hope.
We think that the moment we turn away,
The world, behind our backs, ceases to exist.
As if snatched up by the hands of thieves.

Czeslaw Milosz, from New and Collected Poems, Ecco, 2001, page 49. I believe this is the poet's own translation of one of his quite early poems, from a group titled The World. Many of these poems are destined for this blog.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Gentle Poets

This backlit Queen Anne's lace, Daucus carota, from today's Daily Walk is here in honor of the poet Robert Hass, who taught our weekly evening poetry seminar at San Jose State circa 1980-1982. He always urged us to look at the stars, the trees, the flowers and the birds and to name them. He has just been given another richly deserved major honor, the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American  Poets. This honor is given for proven mastery of the art of poetry and carries an honorarium of $100,000. Pretty snappy, wouldn't you say?

At about the same time we were beginning to study writing haiku with the Yuki Teikei Haiku Society, which was founded in San Jose in 1975.  So I think it fitting to give you here one of his poems based on and honoring the major haiku poet Issa, from the book that won Hass his first major award, the Yale Younger Poets award in 1973 for his volume, Field Guide.

After the Gentle Poet Kobayashi Issa

New Year’s morning—
everything is in blossom! 
I feel about average.

A huge frog and I 
staring at each other, 
neither of us moves.

This moth saw brightness 
in a woman’s chamber—
burned to a crisp.

Asked how old he was 
the boy in the new kimono 
stretched out all five fingers.

Blossoms at night, 
like people
moved by music

Napped half the day; 
no one
punished me!

Fiftieth birthday:

From now on, 
It’s all clear profit, 
every sky.

Don’t worry, spiders, 
I keep house 

These sea slugs, 
they just don’t seem 


Bright autumn moon; 
pond snails crying 
in the saucepan.

Robert Hass 

from Field Guide. Copyright Yale University Press, 1973. 

If you have any interest in haiku at all, I suggest you try learning about and writing some of these short poems. It may change your life. It certainly changed mine!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A stove called Coquette

The Daily Walk was beautiful today, with insanely blue skies, a moderate temperature and a fresh breeze. Queen Anne's lace is a wildflower that never whines; it a;ways looks sharp and crisp--even the blown flower is attractive, like a baby's little fist. The arrangement of leaves and stems along the path is often very beautiful and makes me wish for the printmaker's skills, and want to return to my beloved printmaking class with Alan May. Here is a link to his website.

Tonight I found another selection from Roo Borson's book: Rain; road; an open boat, McClelland and Stewart, Toronto, 2012. The selection is untitled and complete on page 5.

All night the scrabblings of mice in the attic have sounded, now reckless, now surreptitious, until with the first pre-dawn light the spell is broken, and one by one they drop off to sleep once more. Now it is the turn of the things in the kitchen to stand out: the beautiful old floorboards, a plate painted in 1937 upright in the dish-rack, the year too painted in gold on its back. Out the window hummocks and windrows blush maroon, the long spindles of the rising sun bringing back the familiar autumn world. Overnight a water strider has died in the bucket, two flies on the windowsill. Err on the side of kindness, say the last words of a dream -- advice that should be simple enough to follow, in a place where the stove is named Coquette and the radio Symphonaire.

     --Roo Borson--

I've spent some time looking for the stove, but the Symphonaire was so easy to find that I am sure it is true. I love the language and the observations in this passage as well as the just pure love for old things, which I also possess. I find it interesting that a poet would use TWO semi-colons in the title of her book. But I wasn't her copy editor, and I kind of like it. Sleep well;  then perhaps you can wake up in time to see the long spindles of the rising sun.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Once More

This is from yesterday's Daily Walk; when the goldenrod are blooming all around, it is a sure sign of autumn's approach. There was a brief and violent thunderstorm at midday. With one big lightning strike close to the house. Crack!  Here is an autumn poem by dear Hayden Carruth.

Once More

Once more by the brook the alder leaves
turn mauve, bronze, violet, beautiful
after the green of crude summer; galled
black stems, pithy, tangled, twist in the
flesh-colored vines of wild cyclamen.
Mist drifts below the mountaintop
in prismatic tatters. The brook is full,
spilling down heavily, loudly, in silver
spate from the beaver ponds in the high
marshy meadows. The year is sinking:
heavily, loudly, beautifully. Deer move
heavily in the brush like bears, half drunk
on masty acorns and rotten wild apples.
The pileated woodpecker thumps a dead elm
slowly, irregularly, meditatively,
like a broken telephone a cricket rings
without assertion in dead asters and
goldenrod; asters gone cloudy with seed,
goldenrod burnt and blackened. A gray trout
rests under the lip of glacial stone. One
by one the alder leaves plunge down to earth, 
veering and lie there glowing, like a shirt
of Nessus. My heart in my ribs does what it
has done occasionally all my life: thumps and
heaves suddenly in irregular rhythm that makes
me gasp. How many times has this season turned
and gone down? How many! I move heavily
into the bracken, and the deer stand still
a moment, uncertain, before they break away,
snorting and bounding heavily before me.

-- Hayden Carruth

from From Snow and Rock, from Chaos
New Directions, 1973, page 25-26

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Monarch in the roadway

Today we took Cassie for a walk and she did what dogs usually do on walks and we passed on by. On the way back down the road, this! My first monarch of the season. And, truly they do like dung; the internet confirms it. They stick their little drinking straw right in and dine on the nutritious moisture! Look it up yourself if you doubt me. I thought I might never see a monarch again! Mostly, this one kept its wings folded, drinking busily, so it was tough to get a decent spread-winged picture. Well met, oh lovely remnant of so much vanishing wildlife. . .       

I have just opened my volume of Canadian poet Roo Borson's poetry. It is called Rain, road, an open boat; poems, and I am loving it! I found her work earlier when I used her poem in this earlier post.  Many of the poems in this book are prose poems, or have prose sections.

Here are some, from a large group titled Late Sunshine:

Having been told at different times in my life that I am gifted, stupid, beautiful, homely, have perfect pitch and a tin ear, I've now begun to wonder on what grounds anyone's opinions can be taken seriously. But then this is the opinion of a person who is gifted, stupid, beautiful, homely with perfect pitch and a tin ear.

There should be a plant whose common name is False Patience. And another called False Promise. Maybe the most delicate-structured of the thus-far unnamed common plants, one with feathery fronds and tiny yellow flowers, should be called False Premise. How beautiful it would be, now that spring is here, to walk through a meadow rife with False Start.
Oh, to be able to fill a notebook with delicate, fresh observations like these! Good night, and may you see another butterfly before summer is gone. I hope I can, too! 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

'Wind from the west and then some . . . ."

Sheep are quite irresistible when one is on a late-summer walk, camera in hand. These are my daughter's Shetlands. They are small sheep--see their tiny little feet? Having gotten used to the idea of sheep from children's storybooks with their fluffy, cotton-ball sheepikins, I am sometimes dismayed at how grungy sheep can get lying around in the barn and the pasture. But I love their solemn regard.

Tonight's Charles Wright poem responds to a question.

What Do You Write
About, Where Do Your
Ideas Come From?
Landscape, of course, the idea of God and language
itself, that pure grace
                                which is invisible and sure and clear,
Fall equinox two hours old,
Pine cones dangling and doomed over peach tree and privet,
Clouds bulbous and buzzard-traced.
The Big Empty is also a subject of some note,
Dark, dark and never again,
The missing world and there you have it,
                                                             heart and heart beat,
Never again and never again,
Backyard and backdrop of earth and sky
Jury-rigged carefully into place,
Wind from the west and then some
Everything up and running hard,
                                                everything under way,
Never again never again.                     

Charles Wright 
from Appalachia: poems, Kindle location 434.

So perhaps I could write about sheep, or mullein spikes abloom in the pasture, or the end of a quiet weekend day. Chicken-like, (see the chickens near the far fence?) I usually try to stay away from The Big Empty, though. Good night!

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

    Friday, August 15, 2014

    They are large and warm

    Roo Borson is another poet who is new to me. I am finding her work very appealing! And now I have been introduced to Canadian nature poetry, in addition.

    The poem below has put me in mind of a poem by Hayden Carruth that I put on this blog earlier. I begin to think that I should take some walks to my daughter's farm and talk to her Shetland sheep. Almost every night I hear the mournful lowing of the cattle that are now being run on the nearby acreage adjacent to that we gave the Little Traverse Conservancy for a nature preserve. The adjacent land was offered to us, but a) the price was double what it should have been and b) the seller wanted to reserve the hunting rights for himself after he sold it! Also, we didn't have the money. The buyer fenced the whole acreage and now the Black Angus roam through the woods, or hang out in groups along the fence. I have eaten some good steaks in my time, but now the whole thing depresses me; I don't look the Angus in the eye as I pass by.

    "Upset, Unable to Sleep, I Go for a Walk and
    Stumble Upon Some Geese"

    Bright dime
    cut in two, one half
    in the sky, the other fallen on the pond,
    but no one will bother to pick it up,
    the moon will never be whole again.
    Up and down the grassy hillocks
    they follow one another, walking
    in groups under the grey glow.
    I haven't even startled them, this is no hour
    for a human. Together here they act
    differently, like themselves,
    warm-blooded, clumsy, bitching
    at one another in a common language.
    I wish I were asleep. They are large and warm.
    I'd like to hold one of them,
    hold, be held.

    --Roo Borson

    from Open Wide a Wilderness; Canadian Nature Poems, Wilfred Laurier University Press, Canada, 2009, page 376.

    Thursday, August 14, 2014

    Looking at Autumn

    I have been waiting and hoping for some of the deer parties of former summers, like this one. 
    But, alas, it is a very quiet year, at least in the deer-party zone. 

    Here is another amazing poem from Charles Wright, our current poet laureate.


    Nature contains no negatives.
                                                Nothing is lost there,
    The word is. Except the word.

    In spring there is autumn in my heart,
    My spirit, outside of nature, like slow mist in the trees,
    Looking for somewhere to dissipate.

    I write out my charms and spells
    Against the passage of light
                                             and gathering evil
    Each morning. Each evening hands them back.

    Out of the nothing, nothing comes.
                                                        The rain keeps falling,
    As we expected, the bitter and boundaryless rain.
    The grass leaves no footprints,
                                            the creek keeps on eating its one word.

    In the night, the light assembles the stars
                                                               and tightens their sash.

    Charles Wright,
    from Bye-and-Bye; selected late poems, FSG, 2011, page 182.

    The music in this poem makes my brain hum. Its detached melancholy, and the music of the phrasing are very moving to me. I also love the way it spreads across the page.

    Wednesday, August 13, 2014

    Good Samaritans on Wheels

    Late this afternoon, we ran some errands and stopped on the way back for some of that Round Cherry Loaf at the Crooked Tree Breadworks on Hwy 119 outside Petoskey, in Northern Michigan. I got two loaves and an Olive Rosemary Loaf and brought them out and put them in the back of the Bronco. Then I tripped over the trailer hitch on the back of my own car and hit the ground with both knees and one hand. For some reason, a flap of skin peeled back on my middle finger, left hand. It made quite a spectacular amount of blood for such a small injury. The pictured bicyclists came rushing over, helped me up, exclaimed at the blood, and broke out their first aid supplies. They had a cooling antiseptic wipe for the blood and a double-sized adhesive bandage for the wound, And they were SO NICE and SO SYMPATHETIC! They made me feel better right away. The man in front volunteered to take the trailer hitch off the car and did so! What a help!
    I forgot to get their names and almost let them get away without a picture before I thought of it. "You're on Facebook tonight!" I told them then. And here they are, with many, many thanks. My knees seem to be OK, thankfully. Tomorrow I will refresh the first aid supplies in my car; you should, too! Then write some haiku!

    helped after a fall
    by strangers on bicycles--
    high white autumn cloud           JHH

    Tuesday, August 12, 2014

    Woodpecker Zone

    Through the kitchen window one can barely see this Pileated Woodpecker; event of the day!
    This is a tiny slice from an iPhone photo, the only one before he flew. 
    I looked up because I heard that pileated woodpecker call.

    All day I have been thinking about haiku, since I am editing 
    this year's anthology for my Yuki Teikei Haiku Society.

    And the one I want to share with you tonight
    (as I remember it)

    to the other side
    I try to cast a pebble--
    spring melancholy

    Mr Tokutomi had lost a great deal of strength owing to his long bout with tuberculosis. 
    He never lifted his arms high. This poem says a great deal about living with that limitation 
    (or any limitation) in the classic 5-7-5 syllable form.

    Monday, August 11, 2014

    Celestial Visions

    View of Little Traverse Bay tonight from Sunset Park, Petoskey, Michigan.
    It has been unseasonably dry here, but on the drive home there was a slight rain-sprinkle.

    Memory: An Abstraction
                        After Shostakovich's Quartet #10, Opus 118 by Aubrey Williams

    At the edge the dusk silhouettes a tree's delta
    of branches over a red sky.
    In the middle the sun is a spear of bone-white.
    Yellow streaks of egg-yolk and the solid vertebrae,
    spotted vermilion with flesh, frame everything.
    This image, too, uncertain as the music
    that traps the seasons in myth,
    finds its constant peace in my dreams.

    The waterfalls thunder while ghosts whisper their ragged
    tales, strips of old cloth flitting in the breeze
    despite the groan of the storm in the pound of water.
    Above, the sky breaks into shadow. We cannot find our way
    back for the charts betray us. We rely on the stars,
    but cloud cover mutes the night with flat silence.
    We cannot travel in the daytime so we shout and listen.
    We have stumbled into language, touching the stones
    with our bare feet---these cool humped alphabets sprayed
    with water beneath a gray unfeeling dawn.

    Kwame Dawes, 
    from his Midland, Ohio University Press, 2001, page 21.

    The idea of basing a poem on the reaction to a piece of music is a pleasant and interesting one. While I was typing, I thought about strange it might be to try to write to Shostakovich's music. Then I looked up Aubrey Williams (I had assumed he recorded the music) and discovered he was a painter, who once had a whole exhibit of paintings in response to Shostavich in London in 1984. So this is a poem about a painting about a musical composition. Culture just keeps on giving! Do something in response to culture in your own work tomorrow!

    Sunday, August 10, 2014

    More Moon Talk

    This was the night of the big moon, but this was the best I could see from the yard of Goatsbeard Farm. Later, through the big windows at home (after the moon rose higher and the features were more visible) I have been looking for the rabbit in the moon, or the man bearing wood, or carrying a thorn bush. Or even the dog.  (See last night's post.) I just looked again;  I think need a diagram, or a hint. I'll try again later, just before getting into bed.

    Here is the tale as told in Germany from the same Wikisource page I used last night.

    Ages ago there went one Sunday morning an old man into the wood to hew sticks. He cut a faggot and slung it on a stout staff, cast it over his shoulder, and began to trudge home with his burden. On his way he met a handsome man in Sunday suit, walking towards the Church; this man stopped and asked the faggot-bearer, “Do you know that this is Sunday on earth, when all must rest from their labors?”
    “Sunday on earth, or Monday in heaven, it is all one to me!” laughed the wood-cutter.
    “Then bear your bundle forever,” answered the stranger; “and as you value not Sunday on earth, yours shall be a perpetual Moon-day in heaven; and you shall stand for eternity in the moon, a warning to all Sabbath-breakers.” Thereupon the stranger vanished, and the man was caught up with his stock and his faggot into the moon, where he stands yet.
    And here is another selection. I look forward to looking at Wikisource for other interesting topics, viewed in clusters.
    Alexander Necham, or Nequam, a writer of the twelfth century, in commenting on the dispersed shadows in the moon, thus alludes to the vulgar belief:—“Nonne novisti quid vulgus vocet rusticum in luna portantem spinas? Unde quidam vulgariter loquens ait:

    “Rusticus in Luna,
    Quem sarcina deprimit una
    Monstrat per opinas
    Nulli prodesse rapinas,

    which may be translated thus: “Do you know what they call the rustic in the moon, who carries the faggot of sticks? So that one vulgarly speaking says:—

    “See the rustic in the Moon,
    How his bundle weighs him down;
    Thus his sticks the truth reveal,
    It never profits man to steal.”

    I hope I've mentioned on this blog before how thankful I am that Miss Isabel Zimpel taught me Latin at Burnt Hills Ballston Lake High School in the early 1950s. I wasn't that grateful at the time, but find it still of almost daily usefulness, in all sorts of situations involving language. I would never have guessed at the time that it would turn out to be my most useful class. Which is why some students should have chances to learn things that aren't "useful"! So say I, and perhaps, so says the moon, if one could read it. And it has been Sunday on Earth and we had a very good visit with our grandson. I hope you had a good Sunday, too! Good night.