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!

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