Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Tanka: a poetic form

Blue Iris by the Little Union Canal.     jhhymas

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

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

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

who is
counting fireflies 
by the Nile?

after the dream
of civilization?

Mariko Kitakubo
page 46.


I am hoping to resume blogging now.  jhhymas




Thursday, May 11, 2017

Releasing the Vine Sphinx Moth


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

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

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

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


V-winged and Hoary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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