Saturday, January 31, 2015


From this summer, the year of the bucks in Michigan.

we have to say farewell
the deer's antlers
have to branch


from Moon Woke Me Up Nine Times; selected haiku of Basho translated by David Young. Knopf, 2013, page 50.

Sky in the Stream

Today's flotilla below the winter weeds.

Where the Words Are

When the day stops speaking
and my head empties, dropping into sleep,
the mice begin in the attic
delivering all the messages
I could not finish during the day.

And, in the scurrying, bits of text
drift into my dreams, so seamless
the transfer of information
that I wake, unknowing, surprised
by the ideas I have uncovered in the night.

Sharon Olson
The Long Night of Flying, Sixteen Rivers Press, 2006, page 29.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Lavender Shadows

Afternoon light at the edge of the canal.

Are They Shadows

Are they shadows that we see?
And can shadows pleasure give?
Pleasures only shadows be
Cast by bodies we conceive
And are made the things we deem
In those figures which they seem.

But these pleasures vanish fast
Which by shadows are expressed;
Pleasures are not, if they last;
In their passing is their best.
Glory is most bright and gay
In a flash, and so away.

Feed apace then, greedy eyes
On the wonder you behold;
Take it sudden as it flies,
Though you take it not to hold.
When your eyes have done their part,
Thought must length it in the heart.

Samuel Daniel  (1562-1619)

It has been a long time since this poem was written. About 400 years. Yet is still is completely understandable and clear to us, and the diction is very modern. While might not say "behold" much or use the phrase "length it" both carry a clear meaning to an English-speaking person. Consider that Geoffrey Chaucer (1343-1400) with whose poems we struggle, was only about 200 years before the British poet Daniel, and we can see why we srill speak what is called Modern English. It has such great resources for poetry!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Novel Begins Here

The little gal at the mid-left is just finishing a full-body shake!
Ducks, I know. . .

The Novel Begins Here                                             

Sylvia decides to rewrite her journal,
beginning with the significant events
of a particular day in October she wishes to hide,
and asks herself if future scholars
will debate the differences in penmanship
from day to day, or lament the layer that is lost,
that shows up around the corners, fast-fading palimpsest,
and wonder which is the correct version,
for now there is reference only to the last
pomegranate clinging after all the leaves are gone,
a mile-and-a-half race on the turf, the favorite scratched,
footprints across the frosty glass, turning brown,
airline tickets received, destination left blank,
an ordinary day again, winter setting in.

Sharon Olson

The Long Night of Flying
Sixteen Rivers Press, 2006, page 27.

Here is a link to a post with a Tomas Transtromer poem called How The Late Autumn Novel Begins.

This is a wonderful sort of poem! Notice how there is only one period, at the end! Just keeps rushing on! I have loved this kind of poem even since I first heard this read. I've written one myself. And so should you. Another task!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Blues and the landscape

Perhaps I should start a blog just for these rearview window pictures that I love to take on trips. 
Something about the brilliant Western light astounds me. 
By the reflection, you can tell 
that I took this with my iPhone, that handy marvel.
Take a look out of your car window soon!

(for Bill and Sonja)

Today the news from Selma and Saigon
poisons the air like fallout,
        I come again to see
the serene great picture that I love.

Here space and time exist in light
the eye like the eye of faith believes.
         The seen, the known
dissolve in iridescence, become
illusive flash of light
         that was not, was, forever is.

O light beheld as through refracting tears.
Here is the aura of that world
         each of us has lost.
Here is the shadow of its joy.

Robert Hayden  (1913-1980)
Art and Artists; poems, Everyman's Library, 2012, page 77.

This is a great little anthology, about 4'' x 6.5 inches, It would make a great gift or a pocket companion. Very wonderful and eclectic choice of poems inspired by works of art. This week, or next, try to get to a museum and find an art work you can see from a bench or chair. And task yourself to write a poem. Look at the art work for 15 minutes or so before you start to write.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A small bird, dark . . .

Cherry blossoms from the spring of 2007 in Japan!

Sometimes it pays to go backwards---maybe just a little way---
maybe a long way. I have finally gotten my hands on a copy of
Burned Kilim by Robert Pesich
published by Dragonfly Press in 2001.
My first memory of Robert Pesich was my observation of him 
at the Foothill Writer's Conference many years before that, 
seated on stairs talking earnestly to another poet. (I think it was Henry Carlisle.)
Their serious expressions impressed me, and I might have been 
a little jealous of the attention
young male poets often received in these situations. . . 
The book turns out to be worth serious attention, with very interesting subject matter 
and excellent handling of the language and themes throughout.
Here is the one I chose for tonight.

A Window in the City

I was in the back, in the bathroom,
reading the Times on the toilet,
a small article under a yellow night-light
because the switch was blown.
"Old woman finds infant in dumpster,
revives him with songs."
It was then that I could hear
someone knocking on the neglected
window in the corner, above my face.
A small bird, dark as my eyes
returning to her chicks.
The nest wedged against the hinge
keeping the window open with its woven
mouth of mud, grass, and tangled
cassette tape holding my voice,
a few words, a brief song, made useful.
Tiny ligature of a greater voice
that brings me to the window.
Black back-alley, bricks,
dumpster and sour diesel.
The birds resting in my breath
while outside, someone shatters
a glass, or a mirror
under a brief snow of blossoms
floating down from somewhere.

Robert Pesich 

Burnt Kilim
Dragonfly Press, Mountain View, California, 2001, page 47.

Monday, January 26, 2015

No longer white, not yet green

This is the way things looked this morning, as if ducks lined up for inspection.

And, from the bedroom window, just a little earlier, I spied these guys taking naps
on what would be the sunny bank if the sun wasn't clouded out. I don't know
where the girls sleep, but I have read they nest in the grasses.
And, I think it is too early for that!

Poem: The Morning Walk

There are a lot of words meaning thanks.
Some you can only whisper.
Others you can only sing.
The pewee whistles instead.
The snake turns in circles,
the beaver slaps his tail
on the surface of the pond.
The deer in the pinewoods stamps his hoof.
Goldfinches shine as they float through the air.
A person, sometimes, will hum a little Mahler.
Or put arms around an old oak tree.
Or take out lovely pencil and notebook to find a few
touching, kissing words.

Mary Oliver

Long Life; essays and other writings, Da Capo, 2004, page 83.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

"hushed and glittering points"

The muted palette of today's late afternoon reminds me of some Japanese woodblock prints; 
that, and the delicate tracery of the dry grasses. The ducks like to hang out here, 
just where the stream bends.

The Tsugaru Strait

A shelf of black stratocumulous clouds has formed in the south
Two ancient blue-green peninsulas
Take turns to brush away the fatigue of the day
         . . .two merging currents
         extracting sea fog again and again. . .
The waves, their hushed and glittering points
Repeated reflections in a variety of angles
Or, the weaving of stripes of silver and onion green
Or tin pest and Prussian blue
And when the water changes its costume of seven colors
Exulting in its companions
          . . .a flashy and lucid wedding
          in the Oriental fashion. . .
The ship's smoke flows toward the south
The channel, a ghastly beautiful arsenic mirror

Before you know it, the land of Hokkaido is undulating
As rainclouds whirl their black tails
Under the northern sun

Kenji Miyazawa

Strong in the Rain; selected poems, translated by Roger Pulvers
Bloodaxe Books, 2007, page 83.

Here is a short Wikipedia article on the Tsugaru Strait, which separates Honshu from Hokkaido.

Look up tin pest in Wikipedia--that's very interesting! In the context of the poem, I thought it was just another color, like Prussian blue. This poem makes me want to go to Hokkaido; actually, I have wanted to go ever since I saw the book of photos that Michael Kenna took there.
This Japanese poet, Kenji Miyazawa, holds a very high place in the history of 20th century Japanese poetry. There is not way I can compare them to the originals, but I am very impressed by the poems in this book!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

where the waves are wild and rough . . .

I might never tire of this brookside haven.


I sleep
under the willows
all afternoon
and wake, covered
in green caterpillars

the river, too
is green, and cloudy
flowing slow
grassy banks gentle
with sleeping ducks

I remember
a brief dream
a wooden boat
the long journey
downstream to the sea

where to, then?
the boat is too small 
to go far
out where the waves
are wild and rough

always my dreams 
turn back to the land
my soul tossed out
onto the riverbank
settling, grounded

Joy McCall

rising mist, fieldstones
Keibooks, Perryville MD, 2015, page 61.

This author has been writing the five-line form known as tanka for a long time, but only recently began to publish, as a result of finding her publisher as she looked for someone to make a few handmade books of her work. In this book, she uses her familiar stanza, but has presented the work assembled in page length poems. I am never sure what to think when I find a poet who doesn't use capital letters or punctuation (except for the essential question mark.) but she really doesn't seem to need them. In an afterword, the publisher tells us that the poet is in ill health and expects not to live much longer. The book is available through Lovers of this short form will find much to admire here.

Friday, January 23, 2015


More tranquil memories from the autumn woodlands.


No sleep, not tonight. The window blazes.
Over the city, fireworks soar and explode.
No sleep: too much has gone on.
Rows of books stand vigil above you.
You'll brood on what's happened
and what hasn't. No sleep, not tonight.
Your inflamed eyelids will rebel,
your fiery eyes sting,
your heart swell with remembrance.
No sleep. The encyclopedias will open
and poets, dressed carefully,

bundled for winter, will stroll out one by one.
Memory will open, with a sudden hiss
like a parachute's. Memory will open,
you won't sleep,
rocked slowly through clouds,
an easy target in the firework's glow.
No sleep: so much has gone on,
so much been revealed.
You know each drop of blood
could compose its own scarlet Iliad,
each dawn author
a dark diary. No sleep,
under the thick blanket of roofs, attics,
and chimneys casting out handfuls of ash.

Pale nights row noiselessly into the sky,
their oars silk stockings delicately rustling.
You'll go out to the park, and tree limbs
will amiably thump your shoulder, making
sure, confirming your fidelity. No sleep.
You'll race through the uninhabited park,
a shadow facing more shadows.
You'll think of someone who's no more
and of someone else living so fully
that her life at its edges changes
to love. Light, more light
gathers in the room. No sleep, not tonight.

Adam Zagajewski

Canvas; translated from the Polish by Renata Gorczynski, Benjamin Ivry and C.K. Williams,
Farrar Straus Giroux, 1997

I cannot stay away from this marvelous poet! So here we are again. Short sentences, longer sentences, short lines, longer lines. And the clear movement of the mind, the way it often moves. Praise to the translators, too, for something that is so vivid in English.

Thursday, January 22, 2015


A winter evening approaches over the Little Union Canal.

When we moved here, I went to a great deal of trouble trying to find out the name of this
100-year-old stream, Finally, at the local Historical Society, I found it was named the 
Little Union Canal, and had been dug using horsepower quite early in the 20th Century.
Last month, a map came in the mail detailing the road extension nearby. On the map,
this canal is clearly labeled Eagle Drain. (This is the town of Eagle, Idaho.)
Isn't that truly ugly? I think my heart may break. . .

Narcissus and Echo

Shall the water not remember      Ember
my hand's slow gesture tracing above      of
its mirror my half imaginary       airy
portrait. My only belonging       longing;
is my beauty, which I take       ache
away and then return as love       of
teasing playfully the one being       unbeing.
whose gratitude I treasure       Is your
move me. I live apart       heart
from myself, yet cannot       not
live apart. In the water's tone       stone?
that brilliant silence, a flower       Hour,
whispers my name with such slight      light:
moment, it seems filament of air,       fare
the world become cloudswell.       well.

Fred Chappell

The Language They Speak Is Things To Eat; poems by North Carolina Poets. Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1994, page 111.

Over the past year, I have found some of the most interesting poems in topical or regional anthologies like this one. I got this book because A. R. Ammons is in it, but there is plenty of other good poetry in it as well.
The magical double strategy of this poem is that the end word of each line rhymes with the end word, as well as making another poem, or cry, by itself. And all of it goes with the story of Narcissus and Echo! 
Now I think of how I would manage the task of trying something like this, only shorter, to begin with, because the idea is soooo interesting! 
I should also mention how much I like the word-compound "cloudswell" which lifted up my heart.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Past the helpless guards

Imagined winter frost at twilight. iPhone app FX Photo Studio.   jhh

The Concert, by Vermeer

Imagine the man who stole this painting.
He sees himself seated between the two women,
his face averted, safely hidden:
the woman to his right, older, his wife;
the woman at the keyboard, younger, not his wife.
The painting reminds him of possibilities,
the three of them seated there, 
no sound but music,
fragile notes emboldened by the tile floor,
and then no sound.

Thieves have paraded the painting past the helpless guards,
past the ghost of Isabella Stewart Gardner
and the ghost of her dog, which did not bark.
Each day the new owner takes the painting from his vault.
He is learning about provenance, and theft,
how holding is not owning,
how no peace comes with power.
He hears fingers pressing the keys trying to sustain each note
past time, past the limits of memory.
When he presses one of the women close,
time passes and is gone.

Sharon Olson

The Long Night of Flying
Sixteen Rivers Press, 2006, page 40.

This stolen painting by Vermeer can be seen and read about here in Wikipedia; it is still missing.

When you have a lot of poetry books, as I do, it is fun to look for things to share here. I have known Sharon for many years; she worked as a librarian, as I did, and lived in the Bay Area for many years. I never see her any more as she moved east several years ago.

Your task is to write a poem in two stanzas about a painting. Use flowing lines and don't force things into a certain meter or form. The first stanza describes the painting and perhaps makes a little story about what you see. The second stanza goes somewhere else. In this case, about a famous theft and about the moral consequences of owning somethings very valuable that is not yours, really. You could go in another direction suggested to you by the painting, into history, or an autobiographical memory, or whatever else is suggested to you by contemplation of the painting (or other work of art.)

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

One foot at a time


today too
keeping perfectly quiet..
little duck


Because of his compassion 
for all living creatures, 
even flies and spiders, 
Issa is one of the most beloved 
of classical haiku poets.

This translation is from David Lanoue's
Issa website, -- 
Lanoue has translated hundred's of Issa's
haiku and his translations are also available 
in book form.

Monday, January 19, 2015

This Mysterious Joy

 Today the blue sky painted the creek with its bright color.
In the clear air the mountains east of Boise were adorned with gorgeous cloud.
Today's photo of the Little Union Canal was modified in that app called Waterlogue.

Sitting by Myself

In my village, another year has gone floating by;
is there anyplace where we do not lament the passing seasons?
The songs of the birds echo in the valley,
                              sounds scattered in fragments.
The dew streaked chrysanthemums invade the steps,
                               their shadows perfectly round,
When I am free of illness, I watch the emerald waters;
deeply moved, I lie all day in the grey mist.
At sunset, the herdboy's flute seems to match my mood:
I strain some wine, and invite my neighbor
                                to share this mysterious joy.

K'ANG HAI    (1475-1541) (Ming Dynasty)

The Columbia Book of Later Chinese Poetry;
Yuan, Ming and Ch'ing Dynasties (1274-1911)
Translated and Edited by Jonathan Chaves, 
Columbia University Press, 1986, page 248.

After I chose this picture, I knew I wanted an ancient Chinese poem to partner it. First I had to find the book, which I had put away, and then I had to find the poem. When I saw the poet's dates, I couldn't help thinking that "Columbus sailed the ocean blue, in Fourteen hundred ninety-two." Of course they didn't know about each other. . .  So many winters and summers! I have seen a few myself.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Whose bark comes free in puzzle pieces

Sycamore, surviving, where there used to be a creek in San Jose.   jhhymasphoto


Under the acacia lit with yellow pollen, beneath the pines where the straw sprays out in a structure of crystals, startled from cool caverns of dirt, the insects labored, falling over crumbs. In those hours, between two and five p.m. it doesn't matter which shady tree you drag your body under, the mind goes walking slowly, with no relief. Ants, building with crumbs. And sowbugs that play dead in your hand, sequestered, curled into hollow grey balls. Potato bugs climb over the exposed roots, their unwieldy heads burned out and blind. Over the ground, the shadows sway, in and out of focus. And afternoon registers, incandescent, along the streets of sycamores, whose bark comes free in puzzle-pieces, leaving a raw geography of the world.

Someone must know how the house fits into the street, the street into a map of the world. But nothing that happens inside this house will be recalled, nothing will escape into history. Outside, the night like a developing photograph, moon and stars, the bamboo shaking its paper knives. And how far out of hearing the upstairs window light. How far. How grave.

Roo Borson

The Whole Night Coming Home
McClelland & Stewart Limited, Canada, 1984, page 80.

It would be hard to overstate how much I love this prose poem. And indeed, the work of Roo Borson just stuns me! Everything thoughful, everything fresh, everything devoutly observed, and every word a perfect choice! 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Where was this museum?

Here is another from my tiny stock of my mother's double-exposure slides 
that were in the giant batch that I sent to Scancafe for scanning last year. 
I am beginning to wish there were more. I don't know quite how to describe
how delighted I am by this great-eyed beaten-metal face and the pointy breastplate
in juxtaposition with the sheer domesticity of a child, a neighborhood and 
a fence!  I don't recognize the child, but maybe someone in my family will. . .

Here is another poem from Ted Kooser.

Walking on Tiptoe

Long ago we quit lifting our heels
like the others--horse, dog and tiger--
though we thrill to their speed
as they flee. Even the mouse
bearing the great weight of a nugget
of dog food is enviably graceful.
There is little spring to our walk,
we are so burdened with responsibility,
all of the disciplinary actions
that have fallen to us, the punishments,
the killings, and all with our feet
bound stiff in the skins of the conquered.
But sometimes, in the early hours,
we can feel what it must have been like
to be one of them, up on our toes,
stealing past doors where others are sleeping,
and suddenly able to see in the dark.

Ted Kooser
Delights and Shadows
Copper Canyon Press, 2005, page 5.

Friday, January 16, 2015


This is one of the first digital collages I ever made.
Since things can be combined in many ways; it really offers a lot of possibilities. 

Before Mark Strand became one of the great contemporary American poets, he trained as a painter. At Yale in the nineteen-fifties, he studied under the color theorist Josef Albers, and throughout his life he has continued making paintings, prints, and collages. In recent years, Strand, a former Poet Laureate of the United States and professor of literature, most recently at Columbia, has moved away from writing altogether to focus on art. A collection of his collages, made in Madrid and New York, is currently on display at the Lori Bookstein gallery, in Chelsea. Over e-mail, I asked Strand about collage, color theory, and the connection between his poetry and his art. (In the questions, I refer several times to an interview with Dr. Melissa Birdwell—actually, a tongue-in-cheek interview Strand conducted with himself for the catalogue that accompanied an exhibit of his collages last year in Shanghai.)

The collage pieces currently [no longer] on display at Lori Bookstein are made not from found materials but from paper you made and colored yourself, at the Dieu Donné artists’ space here in New York. Can you explain a little about the paper-making process—what draws you to it and how you incorporate it into your collages?

Well, making paper is fun. Mixing pigment with pulp and adding the blend to the pulp that will eventually become a sheet of paper is wonderfully absorbing. With something called “formation aid” I use my hands to create the various swirls, swoops, drops, and dribbles that bind with the basic sheet of pulp. That basic sheet can be thick or thin, opaque or transparent, black or white or any color I wish. This is the first stage in the making of my collages. I make papers that I believe I can use or that I envision using. I am helped by [the Dieu Donné founder] Sue Gosin, who got me started making paper.

In your interview with Dr. Birdwell, “she” points out that your work has less in common with that of surrealist-collage artists like Kurt Schwitters than with the playful paintings of artists like Paul Klee or de Kooning, who, early in his career, painted simple geometric shapes. Francine Prose, who wrote the introduction to Lori Bookstein’s exhibition catalogue, observed that the torn scraps in your pieces seem to be exchanging “playful, private jokes.” Is making these collages a fun, joyful process for you?I wanted to make collages that looked something like paintings, and that did not look like other people’s collages. I did not want mine to be literary in any way or to suggest the surreal. I started collaging as an escape from making meaning. I got tired of writing poems, of trying to make sense—verbal sense. It is a relief to make a different kind of sense—visual sense. One must think, of course, but it is an entirely different kind of thinking, one in which language does not intrude. Cutting and tearing paper and pasting the pieces down gives me an immense amount of pleasure. It is as if I were in kindergarten again.

From The New Yorker article by Rachel Arons, Sept 24, 2013:
"Mark Strand’s Playful Collages"

It is interesting to think about collage and how things jostle and push against each other when combined when one is writing poetry.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

This Duck Thing; a Journey


This photo lacks something in classic beauty, 
but I have so rarely been able to catch them clearly in flight!  
Here we have Ms. Mallard in front and Mr. Wood Duck behind her wing. 
The beautiful blue patches on the mallard's wing, 
which were hidden when she is on the ground 
are now completely revealed. I will have to investigate 
whether anyone has made an educated guess 
as to the evolutionary purpose of these feathers, 
which are similar in several other kinds of duck.
Note also how the wood ducks line up atop the retaining wall
which separates the lawn from the banks of the canal,
while the mallards come closer to the house.


A journey continues until it stops
A journey that stops is no longer a journey
A journey loses things on its way
A journey passes through things, things pass through it
When a journey is over, it loses itself to a place
When a journey remembers, it begins a journal
Which is a new journey about an old journey
A journey over time is different from a journey into time
An actual journey is into the future
A reflective journey is into the past
A journey to Rome is both
A journey to Pittsburgh is probably neither
A man on a journey keeps waving goodbye
A crystalline journey is frozen in time
A journey tests its own limits
A celestial journey ends in heartache
The arm is a journey within the sleeve
An empty journey forms a circle
A journey without an umbrella is incomplete
A journey always begins in a place called Here
Pack your bags and imagine your journey
Unpack your bags and imagine your journey is done
A journey is one step too many
A journey with fog must be a pastel
If you're afraid of a journey, don't buy shoes

Mark Strand

Chicken, Shadow, Moon and more, by Mark Strand.
Turtle Point Press, 2000. Pages 65-67

This is a wonderful little almost-square, illustrated book that would make a great gift!

It should also inspire you to make use of this idea of traveling through a poem of your own in which each line is a single idea on one ordinary word. So here is your task: pick two or three common nouns and begin lists or make beginnings with each one. It will often become obvious which word you prefer to enlarge upon. I think having each thought on its own line is a good idea, although some of the lines may ring changes on each other as in Journey. Some of your lines may require commas, but you will notice that the lines in the poem above require very few. It is almost certain that this exercise, once some time is spent on it, will give you ideas for some other, completely different poems! Imagine your journey!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Arp, Miro, Calder

Finally made it to the Boise Art Museum for the vary last day of an exhibit featuring the works of Hans Arp, Joan MIro and Alexander Calder. It was an interesting exhibit because of the hard-edged forms used by all of them, and because they had known each other in Paris. The works by MIro were mostly serigraphs, large, bright, hard-edged and curving, I like the polished sculptures by Arp about the best of anything and I found the the Calder things didn't please me as much as they did years ago.

Because much of this work belongs to the Albright Gallery, it made me think about about exhibits and how they are put together.  I suppose the gallery benefits from the publicity, but without their cooperation, the museum could not have assembled this much valuable art to show. There is so much about the great world I do not know. 

In smaller gallery, there was a very nice exhibit of the local self-trained artist James Castle, who suffered from profound deafness from birth and was never formally educated. He lived at home all his life, making art with whatever he could get his hands on, like the insides of envelopes and discarded homework. This display was a nice corrective to the pretentiousness and somewhat dated quality of the works in the other exhibit. These were all small pictures on "found cardboard" mostly made with soot and spit, which the labels referred to delicately as "wash." Many of them are competent exterior and interior views of nearby places. But some of them contain what the museum calls "totemic forms" some of which looked like elongated Fisher Price featureless peg toys with a more solemn aspect. It is these figures that, to me, provided a link to the work of the other artists.

I need to remember to take a few notes when I go to museums, because I love to write about these things and have already lost key information in less than a week!

Tonight, I have for you a mysterious poem by Gu Cheng.

Parting Thoughts

I will die
become a shifting riddle
the future scholar's gaze
will fill with suspicion

leave hovering fingerprints
leave staggered footprints
shatter the language
skew the music

this is no child's sleep talk
or geriatric game
this is to bring one period of history
to a permanent end

Gu Cheng

Nameless Flowers
George Braziller, 2005, page 50.

     Think about art; think about history. 
     It is plenty to get your mind around.
     Good Night!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Blue, Orange and Ivory

The blue snowshadow so beautifully 
complements the mallards' orange feet.
Alas, in the last day or two most of the snow has melted!

moon fades into dawn
an ivory moth settles
within the lily

James Hackett

The Way of Haiku; an anthology of haiku poems 
James W. Hackett, Japan Publications, Tokyo, 1968, page 79.

This work is plunging me ever deeper into the world of haiku, which it is very much fun to pair with images. I was lucky to find an old copy of Hackett's book, which containes hundreds of his excellent haiku. The one above is written in the classic 5-7-5 form.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Winter Trees

Just before the winter sun sets over the Little Union Canal.
Eagle, Idaho

Winter Trees

All the complicated details
 of the attiring and
 the disattiring are completed!
 A liquid moon
 moves gently among
 the long branches.
 Thus having prepared their buds
 against a sure winter
 the wise trees
 stand sleeping in the cold.

William Carlos Williams 

Sunday, January 11, 2015


I found this web in the late summer of 2007.
A seb is such an evanescent thing.

In the dusk the path
You used to come to me
Is overgrown and indistinguishable,
Except for the spider webs
That hang across it
Like threads of sorrow.


One Hundred More Poems from the Japanese,
translated by Kenneth Rexroth
New Directions, 1976, page 27.

These little poems from long ago are so delicious! You have to remember not to eat too many!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Watching the Hills

On the Adriatic, watching the islands, 
I made this little watercolor in the blank book 
my teacher published with his preferred drawing paper. 
It's out of print now, but I sometimes find a used copy
with only the first few pages sketched on for assignments in a drawing class.
(Usually, the first assignment is to draw your own hand in contour.)
It is lovely off-white drawing paper (that takes a light wash) and has a slight texture.

On the Yangtze Watching the Hills

From the boat watching hills--swift horses:
A hundred herds race by in a flash.
Ragged peaks before us suddenly change shape,
Ranges behind us start and rush away.
I look up: a narrow trail angles back and forth,
A man walking it, high in the distance.
I wave from the deck, trying to call,
But the sail takes us south like a soaring bird.

Su Tung-P'o (1037-1101)

Su Tung-P'o; Selections from a Sung Dynasty Poet,
translated by Burton Watson
Columbia University Press, 1965, page 23.

This is one of the earliest extant poems by the Sung Dynasty poet, translated by one of his finest English translators. He was traveling with his brother, with whom he had a very close relationship, although they were often separated by their government assignments.
I am reading a book about the life of this poet by Lin Yutang. Originally published in 1947, it is still in print. It is called The Gay Genius. It is an amazing piece of very readable scholarship by Yutang, who left China long before that, and brought with him as much old material on Su as he had. Ir is wonderful to me that these poems have survived almost a thousand years.

Friday, January 09, 2015

We Recognize Ourselves in Them

This was my Wildlife Event of the Day! 
This white duck was hanging out with the mallards this morning. 
You can see part of the curled feathers atop his tail that mark him as a male mallard relative. 
While I was watching him through the window, 
he did a series of neck exercises similar to this one. 
It almost seemed like he was posing. 
He was just sitting justbeyond the white patio fence. 

I have been saving this quote from Mark Strand for posting here.
The full In Memorium for Strand can be found here:

"Strand saw poetry as a humanizing influence in an increasingly inhumane world. He told Inscape a few years ago:

If every head of state and every government official spent an hour a day reading poetry we’d live in a much more humane and decent world … Poetry delivers an inner life that is articulated to the reader. People have inner lives, but they are poorly expressed and rarely known. They have no language by which to bring it out into the open. Two people deeply in love can look at each other and not have much to say except “I love you.” It gets kind of boring after awhile—after the first ten or twenty years … When we read poems from the past we realize that human beings have always been the way we are. We have technological advancements undreamt of a couple thousand years ago, but the way people felt then is pretty much the way people feel now. We can read those poems with pleasure because we recognize ourselves in them. Poetry helps us imagine what it’s like to be human. I wish more politicians and heads of state would begin to imagine what it’s like to be human."

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Orange Boots for the Llama

This is half of one of my mother's slides that probably should have been discarded:
1) After developing, when it was seen to be a double exposure
2) When I went through our family slides after my mother died and discarded hundreds of them, mostly of trips and conferences where I could not identify any of the people.
3) Just before I spent a quarter to send this slide to India with many of its companions
to be scanned by Scancafe, from whence the careful workers send 
the files back with every picture right side up!

Still, I am very glad it survived, and I have it:
1) because of the faint and beautiful children's faces in the lower left.
2) Because of the individualized expressions on the faces of the llamas.
3) because of the elegant and beautiful decorations on their sides.
4) because I did not know llamas were capable of such hauteur.
5) because the second exposure has gifted the right-side llama with bright-orange boots.

Tonight's poem is from a poet I recently discovered, although he has actually been around quite a while.


The tractor runs over dirt and shapes it, turning
stubble and moving the hill
furrow by furrow to the terraces,
slicing clods, wearing
them away and chopping roots
to rot in sweet beds of decay.

The owl, eyes like arenas
the weeds and hungry ditches.
She guards the air like a monument
shedding a field of energy downwind.

Old hubcaps burning all night in the creek.

Robert Morgan

Red Owl, W. W. Norton, 1972, page 73.

Poem recipe or task: Write a poem in a dozen lines. The first stanza describes something common in your environment in a clear, original and forceful manner. Try to use strong, simple-sounding words like roots, stubble, clods and weeds. The second, not quite as long, describes an animal or bird doing what it would naturally do nearby the activity in the first stanza. End with a single line in which something perfectly ordinary (and not out of place in this environment) becomes mysterious and surprising.

And remember my reminder: IT'S ALL ART, ALL THE TIME!

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

The uses of imagination

My granddaughter's garden: the large orange clump is carrots,
the blueberries are at lower right, the two purple cherries have cherry stems,
there are green beans and a small tomato with a green leafy stem. 2009.

The Acrobat

He walked on his hands, so perfectly upside-down
that he seemed to make past present, present past.

Then the floor opened and swallowed him.
We looked at each other: who would believe it?

A moment later, the doorbell rang.
There he stood, with a basket of oranges.

In Secret; Versions of Yannis Ritsos by David Harsent
The Sheep Meadow Press, Rhinebeck, New York, 2013, page 33.

You can read about the life of that fiercely bearded fellow, 
Yannis Ritsos at this link.

A task or two. Using whatever pens or pencils you have around, draw the small and useful garden you have dreamed about. Even a pot of herbs, if that is what you want. Then write a six-line poem in three stanzas, telling a tale with some magic in it. Just a little magic.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Early in the New Year

Patiently waiting outside the back door 
for another distribution of cracked corn. . .

ganjitsu ya
harete susumi no

New Year's Day--
the clouds are gone and sparrows 
are telling each other tales

Ransetsu (1653-1708)

Haiku; Japanese Art and Poetry; Judith Patt, Michiko Warkentyne, Barry Till, Pomegranate, Petaluma CA, 2010, 
page 74.

Wouldn't it be fine to listen to the animals chatter? What sorts of tales do sparrows tell? What I love so much about my childhood pal, Dr. Doolittle, was the way he understood the language of animals. Those early books stay with one, so it seems.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Dreaming in the People Bed

Cassie, now our Only Dog, sleeps in the bed just like a person 
and often puts her head on the pillow.

O Little Root of a Dream

O little root of a dream
you hold me here 
undermined by blood, 
no longer visible to anyone, 
property of death. 

Curve a face 
that there may be speech, of earth, 
of ardor, 
of things with eyes, even 
here, where you read me blind, 

where you 
refute me, 
to the letter.

Paul Celan (1930 - 1970)

Translated by Nikolai Popov and Heather McHugh

I found this dream-poem tonight while I was looking for something else. I was struck at once by the short life span--only half of mine--of Paul Celan. And by thinking, yet again, of those terrible times in central Europe during the Holocaust in which he, of Jewish birth, had to somehow try to survive. 

The structure of this poem is extremely interesting: three five-line stanzas, of ever-decreasing width. I have had a sort of prejudice about a poem with a shorter width at the end; they often look to me as if they are about to topple over. 

An interesting task might be to use the form of this poem to write about something else.