Sunday, February 27, 2011

Ah Sunflower, Weary of Time: Issa's Sunday Service, #92

Where does one begin when beginning with The Fugs?  A band of poets masquerading as rock/folk stars or rock/folk stars masquerading as poets?

One of best places to begin is with William Blake, whose song, "Ah Sunflower," is this week's Sunday Service selection.   It wasn't number one with a bullet, to be sure, in fact the purveyors of songs like "Kill for Peace" probably wouldn't have been too happy if it was.  Still, there is something about this little number that reminds we of many a poem of death, but in this particular case, specifically one of Basho's most famous ku

The summer's grass!
all that's left
of ancient warriors' dreams.

It was "Arise from their graves" that got my attention in the Blake; to we the dead pining youth and pale virgin aspiring to go where the sunflower has been reminds me of how warriors' dreams become summer grasses.

Literally and figurately, at least that's how I read it.  Here's the Blake / Fugs lyric:

Ah Sunflower, weary of time,
Who countest the steps of the sun;
Seeking after that sweet golden clime
Where the traveller's journey is done;

Where the Youth pined away with desire,
And the pale virgin shrouded in snow,
Arise from their graves, and aspire
Where my Sunflower wishes to go!
William Blake

The Fugs were made up primarily of Tuli Kupferberg and Ed Sanders, with other various members going and coming through the years.   For those who wish to refresh their minds or familiarize themselves with the Triassic period, here's Ed Sanders's own unique take on the history of the band 

The Fugs were always about The Fun as well as The Anarchy (the Marx Brothers and the Three Stooges come to mind - their participation in attempting to levitate the Pentagon set the standard for a new type of protest); in this video, you can hear how they adapted Howl to the world of music, delightfully:

While we're on a roll, here is Tuli Kupferberg's beautiful "Morning, Morning" from the Fugs second album:

Richie Havens cover of it on his seminal album, "Mixed Bag," is very soulful (& slicker) and the one many will remember before the original.

The Fugs also performed Matthew Arnold's "Dover Beach," some other versions of which was covered here not long ago.  Tuli Kupferberg did an arrangement of it that the Fugs performed on an early album.  Here is a video of Ed Sanders and the Fugs performing it at Tuli's funeral. It is not optimally recorded but beautiful for all that. 


This week's feature poem comes from Lilliput Review, #107, January 2000.  Enjoy.

The Poem
He spoke of the word,
a fox, full of wild odors,
surprising as a startled skunk
underfoot.  And how
this other world strikes,
a bit of venom for the proffered wrist.
A love cry hangs
in this eternal after-instant.
Carol Hamilton

are a waste of time...
translated by David G. Lanoue


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Go to the LitRock web site for a list of all 90 songs
Hear 'em all at once on the the LitRock Jukebox

Friday, February 25, 2011

Louis Jenkins: Before You Know It

Prose poetry is an anomaly to the casual reader.  What exactly makes it a poem or, more precisely, what exactly is a prose poem?  There are no quick or easy definitions.  I think of prose poetry as supercharged language, as hyperkinetic and compressed in both image, idea, and execution.

Then again, that might be the definition of any good poem.  In any case, the work of Louis Jenkins meets all the above criteria and more.

My introduction to Jenkins came via a poetry friend and subscriber to Lilliput Review, who queried me one day if I would be interested in reading a volume of prose poems, one of her favorites, entitled Before You Know It: Selected Poems 1970-2005 by the poet Louis Jenkins.  She even offered to send me her personalized copy and so I took her up on it.

Louis Jenkins is a marvel of a prose poet, dealing exclusively in that form.   He has been featured any number of times on The Writer's Almanac with fine work, including "The Couple" and "The Speaker."  The site, Your Daily Poem, has also highlighted his work from Before You Know It, including "Driftwood."

Jenkins is at once imaginative, dark, humorous, and mysterious, as well as being always inventive.  On the surface, his style has a linear bent, which masks a cyclical intent.   At its very best, his work has a certain uncanny quality, a probing at essence, too often missing in poetry.  If there is a prose analog to his work it might be found in the magnificent fiction of Steven Millhauser, one of the few postmodern fiction writers I can get on board with precisely because of an attention to detail and loving description, to say nothing of a pervasive lyrical tone, akin to the poems of Louis Jenkins.

First Snow
By dusk the snow is already partially melted. There
are dark patches where the  grass  shows  through,
like islands in the sea seen from an airplane. Which
one is  home?   The one I left as a child?   They all
seem the same now. What became of my parents?
What about  all those  things I  started  and  never
finished?   What were they?   As we get older we
become more alone.   The man and his wife share
this gift.   It is  their breakfast:   coffee and silence,
morning sunlight.   They make love or they quarrel.
They  move  through  the  day,   she on  the  black
squares, he on the white. At night they sit by fire, he
reading his book, she knitting.   The fire is agitated.
The wind hoots in the chimney like a child blowing
in a bottle, happily.

In A Tavern
"It's no use,"  he says,  "she's  left me."   This is after
several drinks.  It's as if he had  said,  "Van Gogh is
my favorite painter. "It's a cheap print he has added
to his collection.    He's been  waiting  all evening to
show it  to  me.   He  doesn't  see  it.  To him it's an
incredible landscape, empty,  a  desert.   "My life is
empty."   He likes the simplicity.   "My life is empty.
She won't come back."    It is a landmark,   like the
blue mountains  in  the  distance  that  never change.
The crust  of  sand  gives way  with  each step,  tiny
lizards skitter out of the way ....  Even after walking
all day there is no change  in  the  horizon.    "We're
lost," he says.   "No," I say,  "let's go on."   He says
"You go on. Take my canteen. You've got a reason
to live." "No," I say, "we're in this together and we'll
both make it out of here."
                                                      Louis Jenkins



This week's selection from the Lilliput Review archive includes two fine poems from #139, October 2004.  Enjoy.

in this old photo
see me standing in the shadow
of my father
ash, he casts no shadow now
and I struggle for light
Jeanne Lupton

  you are just beginning
  to learn the lessons
  that finally
  I have unlearned.
  David Lindley

I only have my shadow...
autumn dusk
translated by David G. Lanoue


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Go to the LitRock web site for a list of all 90 songs
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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wednesday Haiku - Week 5: John Stokes

Hokusai: Brooklyn Museum

Wednesday Haiku, Week #5

on a gray
winter day
the morning glory
John Stokes

one inch from its tip
translated by David G. Lanoue


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Go to the LitRock web site for a list of all 90 songs
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Sunday, February 20, 2011

40: Issa's Sunday Service, #91

Today's song, "40" by U2, is based on the Psalm 40, lifting a great deal of the lyric directly from the Bible.   Here's U2's rendering:

I waited patiently for the Lord
He inclined and heard my cry
He brought me up out of the pit
Out of the miry clay

I will sing, sing a new song
I will sing, sing a new song

How long to sing this song?
How long to sing this song?
How long...
How sing this song

He set my feet upon a rock
And made my footsteps firm
Many will see
Many will see and fear

I will sing, sing a new song
I will sing, sing a new song
I will sing, sing a new song
I will sing, sing a new song

How long to sing this song?
How long to sing this song?
How long..

"40" comes from the album War, the most famous song from which is "Sunday Bloody Sunday," a song which dealt with the Bloody Sunday massacre in Northern Ireland.  The reason I mention it is that, injected into the lines from Psalm 40 in U2's rendition, you'll find the refrain "How long, how long to sing this song," which it shares with "Sunday Bloody Sunday."  "Sunday" opens the album, "40" closes it; the refrain they share book ends the theme of how long, how long must this go on (and on and on).

Something we continue to ask about Iraq and Afghanistan. 


This week's featured poems come from Lilliput Review #108, the broadside entitled "Selected Wu Songs" by the poet Linda Joan Zeiser.  Two other poems from this broadside have been previously posted here.  Enjoy:

Long, black cat stalks a crooked path,
a hint of anguish fill the dawn.
Violet smoke lifts from the incense stone,
as the duckweed bobs on the still, green pond.

Red strawberry bursts across my tongue,
her juices fan my woman-lust.
These crimson reds in a violet dusk,
move my heart into her ecstasy.
Linda Joan Zeiser

whichever way I turn...
translated by David G. Lanoue


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Friday, February 18, 2011

"Some Business in Another World" - The Little Treasury of Haiku, Part 3

"Black Crow for New Year" by Totoya Hokkei @ the Brooklyn Museum

This is part 3 of a rather longish review of a relatively compact little volume of poetry, The Little Treasury of Haiku.  One of the translators of the second great wave of haiku in English, Peter Beilenson, while occasionally wordier than might be desired, has proved himself to me to be a premier translator of Japanese haiku.  This volume has provided more engagement and enjoyment than many an anthology and for that I am certainly thankful.

Following on parts 1 & 2, the finale, part 3:


That white peony . . .
Lover of the moon trembling
Now at midnight

There is a lot one might imagine in Gyodai's scene: perhaps it is a lover of more than the moon that waits or perhaps the it is simply the white peony that trembles.  The image, or double-image, of peony/moon is lovely.

Now this old poet
Emerges from the purple depths
Of the convolvulus

Chora seizes upon the moment of reverie, a moment that in fact may go on for minutes or hours so, really, the moment seized is the exact one after reverie.  The morning glory has seduced many with its charms; the purple depths of otherness, of the creative mode observed or conjured, is infinite.

Hands upon the ground
Old aristocratic frog
Recites his poem

Sokan, too, visits the source of all creativity, reminding us of what the true poem is really composed.  Or, perhaps, it is Master Frog that does the reminding.

Before the sacred
Mountain shrine of Kamiji . . . 
My head bent itself

The sense of spirituality in haiku, haiku as a way, is very close to the surface of these poems.  Issa tells us that his body senses even before his mind the sacredness of certain moments in certain places.

"Magic Theatre, For Madmen Only."   How lost Mr. Haller was, and we may all be, in our minds ...

Now take this flea:
He simply can not jump . . . and
I love him for it

Another poem by Issa, this one brimming with his huge compassion for tiny things - as is often the case, Issa sees something of himself in the flea's predicament.

Squads of frogs jumped in
When they heard the plunk-plash
Of a single frog

I'm not sure how good this poem is but I simply had to include it because it feels like such a logical extension of Bashō's most famous haiku.  Here if we imagine, as Issa would, that the frogs are human-like, than what a homage we have to the great master who "jumped" first, and to that moment that we all replicate with our tardy leaps.  Wakyu seems to be smiling with this poem.

With the new clothes
Remember . . . the crow stays black
And the heron white

This second poem by Chora feels in many ways more like a proverb than a haiku, something certainly not all that common in the form.  Often one might derive a proverbial sentiment but the execution is more subtle.  Perhaps it is the translation; in any case, it is a fine reminder for all and sundry, be it fine verse or no.

In lantern-light
My white yellow chrysanthemums
Lost all their color

In this first of two haiku by Buson, the artist's eye sketches the very quality of light itself, no mean feat when his brush on this occasion is steeped with words.  Buson snares the single tick of eternity nearly perfectly every time.

Morning-misted street . . .
With white ink an artist brushes
A dream of people

This 2nd by Buson, takes the quality of light even further - white ink on white canvas to paint a dream.  Mr. Warhol would have appreciated this one, its very uniqueness coming as it did long before the imaginative acts descended into the repetitive stunts we so often see in the post post-modern world.

"He takes an empty canvas and sticks it on the wall, wall ..."

Buson's brush is loaded with ink ...

At Nara Temple . . .
Fresh-scented chrysanthemums
And ancient images

The contrast Bashō highlights is the now and the ancient - what seems to be a clash really resolves in oneness, the flowers are eternal and the images transitory when held to the light just so.

Chanting at the altar
Of the inner sanctuary
A cricket priest

Issa's humor accomplishes the same sort of seeming conflict of images, with the same result; the cricket, of course, isn't a priest on one hand and the other, of course, very much is.  The Buddha essence of cricket chanting would humble most of us anyday.

On these rainy days
That old poet Ryokan
Wallows in self-pity

Here is the core of meditation; to see oneself for what one really is.  Once consciousness is raised, back sliding is rare.  Humor in this poem, as with the previous Issa poem, is an important tool.

Roadside barley stalks
Torn by our clutching fingers . . .
As we smiled farewell

Smiles belie the clutching as humble manners conceal deep-felt emotions.  The barley stalks are not all that suffer in Bashō's perfectly wrought moment

3 Death poems:

Suddenly you light
And suddenly go dark . . .

Full-moon and flowers
Solacing my forty-nine
Foolish years of song

If they ask for me
Say: he had some business
In another world

Three beautiful death poems draw this volume to a close.  I can't imagine anything finer and more precise than Chine-Jo's haiku.  The critical word that unites the short life of the firefly to the narrator is "fellow."  We are all one in that and how few words she takes to sum up the mystery of all things.  Chine-Jo was one of Bashō's ten leading pupils, a fine woman haiku poet.

Issa brings irony and self-deprecation to this death poem - his other, a bath when you're born, a bath when you die, how stupid, being more famous - yet he manages to let us know what is most important to him, no matter how foolish.

Sokan also brings the humor in his poem, sounding almost like the humorous epitaphs one finds on older gravestones. Still, we might ask, what could that business be?

For a petite little volume of older English translations of classic haiku, I can hardly imagine A Little Treasury of Haiku being more pleasurable.  There were lots more poems than the handful I've highlighted that are well worth a read through or two.  If you see this brief book on  a used bookstore shelf sometime (or would like to pick up a reading copy for under $5), grab it up. 


This week's featured poem comes from Lilliput Review #138.  5 poems from this issue have previously appeared in two different posts; here's a sixth that stands with the best of any ...

Pigeons in the square
as always.  How could one bear
to live for ever?
David Lindley

amid weeping dewdrops
pigeons coo
"Praise Buddha!"

translated by David G. Lanoue


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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wednesday Haiku - #4 - Charles Trumbull

Wednesday Haiku, Week #3

writer's block
the tap tap tap of rain
on the skylight
Charles Trumbull

spring rain--
one Buddhist sermon
two haiku
translated by David G. Lanoue


Send a single haiku for the Wednesday Haiku feature.  Here's how.

Go to the LitRock web site for a list of all 90 songs

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Monday, February 14, 2011

Haiku North America, Seattle, August 2011

Logo by Dejah Leger


Michael Dylan Welch sent along an announcement for the Haiku North America conference this coming August and ask that I pass it along to all interested.  A posting seemed to be the fastest, best way to do that, so for those interested, here you go.

Haiku North America 2011 – Seattle, Washington

Save the date! Haiku North America 2011 will be held August 3 to 7, 2011, in Seattle, Washington.

Members of the Haiku Northwest group have generously offered to host the 2011 conference and they have many exciting plans already in the works, including a harbor cruise. The conference itself will be held at the Seattle Center, at the foot of the Space Needle, providing easy access to haiku writing and walking opportunities such as Pike Place Market (via the monorail), the Olympic Sculpture Park, the Experience Music Project rock-and-roll museum and Science Fiction Museum, and countless other attractions—including fleet week and the Seafair festival, with the Blue Angels performing overhead.

The conference theme will be “Fifty Years of Haiku,” celebrating the past, present, and future of haiku in North America. The deadline for proposals has been extended to February 28, 2011 (, but sooner is better. Proposals do not have to fit the theme. If you’ve already submitted a proposal, please confirm with Michael Dylan Welch at that you can come to Seattle on the new dates. Speakers already include Cor van den Heuvel, Richard Gilbert, David Lanoue, Carlos Colón, Fay Aoyagi, Jim Kacian, Emiko Miyashita, George Swede, and many others.

Detailed information on registration, lodging, and the conference schedule will be available in March. For further information as it becomes available, please visit And check out the new HNA blog at

See you in Seattle!

Garry Gay, Paul Miller, Michael Dylan Welch
Haiku North America


here and there
in little meetings...

translated by David G. Lanoue


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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Take This Waltz : Issa's Sunday Service, #90

Photo by Lourdes Cardenal

Leonard Cohen recorded a gorgeous homage to Federico Garcia Lorca entitled "Take This Waltz," the lyrics of which are an English version of Garcia Lorca's poem "Pequeño vals vienés," and which is today's featured song on Issa's Sunday Service.  According to the website, Poetry Connection, in"1986 Leonard Cohen's English translation of the poem "Pequeño vals vienés" by Lorca reached #1 in the Spanish single charts."

The mystery of Garcia Lorca's death has never been solved - whether his killing was purely political or whether it was personal or some combination of both - though just two years ago, the story was back in the news when an unsuccessful attempt was made to find his grave.  In a previous edition of the Sunday Service, The Pogues sang of Garcia Lorca's horrific end in the song "Lorca's Novena," and posited that, before his killers were able to return and mutilate his body as planned, he simply got up and walked away.

So, Garcia Lorca walks on these many years later.  If you would find him, look in the lines of his poetry.

If you would find him, look in your heart.

Here are two fine brief examples of his exquisite work.

My shadow glides in silence
over the watercourse.

On account of my shadow
the frogs are deprived of stars.

The shadow sends my body
reflections of quiet things.

My shadow moves like a huge
violet-colored mosquito.

A hundred crickets are trying
to gild the glow of the reeds.

A glow arises in my breast,
the one mirrored in the water.

I know that my profile will be serene
in the north of an unreflecting sky.
Mercury of vigil, chaste mirror
to break the pulse of my style.

For if ivy and the cool of linen
are the norm of the body I leave behind,
my profile in the sand will be the old
unblushing silence of a crocodile.

And though my tongue of frozen doves
will never taste of flame,
only of empty broom,

I'll be a free sign of oppressed norms
on the neck of the stiff branch
and in an ache of dahlias without end.
Federico Garcia Lorca

And here is the version of the poem recorded by Cohen:

Take This Waltz
Now in Vienna there's ten pretty women
There's a shoulder where death comes to cry
There's a lobby with nine hundred windows
There's a tree where the doves go to die
There's a piece that was torn from the morning
And it hangs in the Gallery of Frost

Aey, aey, aey, aey
Take this waltz, take this waltz
Take this waltz with the clamp on its jaws

Oh I want you, I want you, I want you
On a chair with a dead magazine
In the cave at the tip of the lily
In some hallway where love's never been
On a bed where the moon has been sweating
In a cry filled with footsteps and sand

Aey, aey, aey, aey
Take this waltz, take this waltz
Take its broken waist in your hand
This waltz, this waltz, this waltz, this waltz
With its very own breath of brandy and death
Dragging its tail in the sea

There's a concert hall in Vienna
Where your mouth had a thousand reviews
There's a bar where the boys have stopped talking
They've been sentenced to death by the blues
But who is it climbs to your picture
With a garland of freshly cut tears?

Aey, aey, aey, aey
Take this waltz, take this waltz
Take this waltz it's been dying for years

There's an attic where children are playing
Where I've got to lie down with you soon
In a dream of Hungarian lanterns
In the mist of some sweet afternoon
And I'll see what you've chained to your sorrow
All your sheep and your lilies of snow

Aey, aey, aey, aey
Take this waltz, take this waltz
With its, I'll never forget you, you know
This waltz, this waltz, this waltz, this waltz
With its very own breath of brandy and death
Dragging its tail in the sea

And I'll dance with you in Vienna
I'll be wearing a river's disguise
The hyacinth wild on my shoulder
My mouth on the dew of your thighs
And I'll bury my soul in a scrapbook
With the photographs there, and the moss

And I'll yield to the flood of your beauty
My cheap violin and my cross
And you'll carry me down on your dancing
To the pools that you lift on your wrist
Oh my love, oh my love
Take this waltz, take this waltz
It's yours now, it's all that there is

Aey, aey, aey, aey


And, finally, a fine live rendition of the song:


This week's featured poem comes from Lilliput Review, #109, originally published in April 2000.   Enjoy.

   Buried in a pile
   of camellia petals:
   camellia petals.
   David Rosenthal

a new year--
the same nonsense
piled on nonsense
translated by David G. Lanoue


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Friday, February 11, 2011

A Haiku Moment in James Joyce's The Dead

Note:  In order to give a break to reader's who have patiently followed the first two installments (one and two) of my review of The Little Treasury of Haiku, I've decided to post this take on a very particular aspect of the lyricism of James Joyce's "The Dead."  Next week will be the 3rd and final installment, whether I'm done or not.


The climactic moments of James Joyce's seminal story "The Dead" are among the most renowned in the history of Western literature. The story is relatively simple though, as with all things Joyce, its unveiling is subtle, precise, and powerful.

Gabriel Conroy and his wife, Greta, attend Christmas festivities in Dublin at the home of his elderly aunts, the story being set around the beginning of the 20th century. In the telling, the story is rich with interior revelation, and what is ultimately discovered is that Greta is pining away for her long dead lover, Michael Furey.

Gabriel finds himself left in the impotent position of being jealous of a dead man. Greta has cried herself to sleep in a fit of sorrow and Gabriel sits by his wife, thinking, and gradually begins to fall asleep himself.  The snow hitting upon the window pane echoes the gravel thrown against Greta's window by dying Michael Furey.

That's all you need to know to read the closing moments of this fine story, which I will quote at length for their beauty alone (if you haven't read the story and wish to, or haven't read it in awhile, you can find it here or download and listen to it here):

She was fast asleep.

Gabriel, leaning on his elbow, looked for a few moments unresentfully on her tangled hair and half-open mouth, listening to her deep-drawn breath. So she had had that romance in her life: a man had died for her sake. It hardly pained him now to think how poor a part he, her husband, had played in her life. He watched her while she slept, as though he and she had never lived together as man and wife. His curious eyes rested long upon her face and on her hair: and, as he thought of what she must have been then, in that time of her first girlish beauty, a strange, friendly pity for her entered his soul. He did not like to say even to himself that her face was no longer beautiful, but he knew that it was no longer the face for which Michael Furey had braved death.

Perhaps she had not told him all the story. His eyes moved to the chair over which she had thrown some of her clothes. A petticoat string dangled to the floor. One boot stood upright, its limp upper fallen down: the fellow of it lay upon its side. He wondered at his riot of emotions of an hour before. From what had it proceeded? From his aunt's supper, from his own foolish speech, from the wine and dancing, the merry-making when saying good-night in the hall, the pleasure of the walk along the river in the snow. Poor Aunt Julia! She, too, would soon be a shade with the shade of Patrick Morkan and his horse. He had caught that haggard look upon her face for a moment when she was singing Arrayed for the Bridal. Soon, perhaps, he would be sitting in that same drawing-room, dressed in black, his silk hat on his knees. The blinds would be drawn down and Aunt Kate would be sitting beside him, crying and blowing her nose and telling him how Julia had died. He would cast about in his mind for some words that might console her, and would find only lame and useless ones. Yes, yes: that would happen very soon.

The air of the room chilled his shoulders. He stretched himself cautiously along under the sheets and lay down beside his wife. One by one, they were all becoming shades. Better pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age. He thought of how she who lay beside him had locked in her heart for so many years that image of her lover's eyes when he had told her that he did not wish to live.

Generous tears filled Gabriel's eyes. He had never felt like that himself towards any woman, but he knew that such a feeling must be love. The tears gathered more thickly in his eyes and in the partial darkness he imagined he saw the form of a young man standing under a dripping tree. Other forms were near. His soul had approached that region where dwell the vast hosts of the dead. He was conscious of, but could not apprehend, their wayward and flickering existence. His own identity was fading out into a grey impalpable world: the solid world itself, which these dead had one time reared and lived in, was dissolving and dwindling.

A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.

The last paragraph is really unparalleled in lyric prose, as fine a passage in English as ever written.

So, how did we arrive here, you may ask?  While reading a classic winter haiku the other day, I was suddenly reminded of this scene from "The Dead " and was struck by how very Eastern, in both spirit and execution, the moment is.

Snow falling, falling, gently falling, over all, the living and the dead.  In that thought is the essence of haiku itself, in both philosophy and revelation.  In the narrator's mind, he suddenly envisions how we all, the dead and the living, are unified in nature,  the soft covering of snow enveloping us acting as a reminder of what we often casually repress.  We are one with the earth and with life, its transitory nature and its eternal now.

You may see a cinematic replication of this final scene on youtube: it comes from John Huston's excellent adaptation, which finally found its way to DVD at the end of 2010.

Obviously, the universal quality of this moment crosses cultures and time; it is, simply put, the human condition.  But whenever evoked by an artist of the quality of a Joyce or Buson, an Austen or a Bashō, that very simplicity is revealed in a richness and texture which makes everything worthwhile.

Another great master, R. H. Blyth, was fond of finding haiku in Western art so, though it is seemingly odd, it is also interesting that Mr. Joyce makes two appearances at the Hut in the same week.


This week's Lilliput Review archive poems shared the same page from issue #137, May 2004.  Here they electronically replicate that feat.  Enjoy.

Cemetery gate
swinging back and forth
meeting shadows of maples
Rebecca Lily

two years since your death ...
in this September sky
a contrail
Pamela Miller Ness

First Month--
at the cat's grave too
plum blossoms
translated by David G. Lanoue


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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Wednesday Haiku - Week #3: Ed Markowski

Wednesday Haiku, Week #3

Earth day
our grandsons plant a package
of grape gob stoppers
Ed Markowski

 Send a single poem for Wednesday Haiku @ Issa's Untidy Hut to:

wednesday haiku AT gmail DOT com

candy lined up
on leaves of bamboo...
thick summer grasses
translated by David G. Lanoue


Send a single haiku for the Wednesday Haiku feature.  Here's how.

Go to the LitRock web site for a list of all 89 songs

Hear 'em all at once on the the LitRock Jukebox

Sunday, February 6, 2011

There, There: Issa's Sunday Service, #89

John Flaxman's art of the Siren episode of The Odyssey.

Last week, while checking out some fav blogs, I stumbled across this Radiohead song, "There, There," in a live version, posted on Donna  Fleischer's wonderful word pond.  So, I grabbed it up and ran, since it is replete with a reference to sirens in The Odyssey.

Here's the elliptic lyrics:

In pitch dark I go walking in your landscape.
Broken branches trip me as I speak.
Just 'cause you feel it doesn't mean it's there.
Just 'cause you feel it doesn't mean it's there.

There's always a siren
Singing you to shipwreck
(Don't try, don't reach out
Don't try, don't reach out)
Steer away from these rocks
We'd be a walking disaster
(Don't reach out, don't reach out
Don't reach out, don't reach out)
Just 'cause you feel it doesn't mean it's there.
(There's someone on your shoulder)
(There's someone on your shoulder)
Just 'cause you feel it doesn't mean it's there.
(There's someone on your shoulder)
(There's someone on your shoulder)
There there!

Why so greedy and lonely?
And lonely
And lonely

Heaven sent you to me
To me
To me

We are accidents
Waiting Waiting to happen.

We are accidents
Waiting Waiting to happen

All of this, of course, recalls James Joyce's modern telling of the tale in his monumental achievement, Ulysses. The Sirens episode is a bit thorny, but worth the effort.

Jingle jaunty jingle.

In perhaps their best and certainly my favorite film, Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou, the Coen Brothers nailed The Odyssey.  Check out this amazing clip that captures the Sirens at their finest:

Donna Fleischer's original post, with the following live Radiohead performance of "There, There," may be found here.

And here:


This week's poems come from Lilliput Review, #110.  They followed one after the other in the issue.  Curious.


   . . . drop this word into your vein
   and let your blood dissolve it

   . . . let the poison churn
   and saturate your eyes
   in wine

   Go blind

   Go blind

            Jerry Gordon


     I see your
     divinity slipping
     between your fingers

     There --
     index, ring.
   Brian Murray

even our fleeting snow
translated by David G. Lanoue


Send a single haiku for the Wednesday Haiku feature.  Here's how.

Go to the LitRock web site for a list of all 89 songs

Hear 'em all at once on the the LitRock Jukebox

Subscribe to Lilliput Review

And, just as a little test to see if anyone ever makes it this far, I couldn't resist one more:

Friday, February 4, 2011

A Pluperfect Moon: A Little Treasury of Haiku, Part II

Note: Following last week's post, here is Part II on The Little Treasury of Haiku. As I write this note, it is looking like there will be a part 3 ... perhaps after a brief pause, eh? Meanwhile, let's plunge right in, shall we?

Master Buson seems to be waiting ... patiently.


Now the swinging bridge
Is quieted with creepers . . .
Like our tendrilled life

Another beautiful little Bashō poem; to more contemporary sensibilities, certainly the "Like" is unnecessary. We are all in the business of throwing everything overboard that is unnecessary, correct?  The traditional contrasting of diverse elements here reveals metaphor, which usually goes unstated or even is totally avoided in haiku.

The image is strong, though, particularly for modern man. When was the last time anyone thought about a rope bridge being muted by vegetation? And so our lives, you say?

And so our lives, indeed.

Watching, I wonder
What poet could put down his quill . . .
A pluperfect moon!

Now here is a conundrum wrapped up in a riddle. There will be no easy retrieving when pulling the string of the balloon of that pluperfect moon. What is the translator after here, is it analogous to something Onitsura wrote - is he speaking of the past and present moments simultaneously or some syntactical implication that is simply beyond my comprehension here?

This is the deep end of the haiku pool and now I'm thinking I shouldn't have been so flip about Master Suzuki in part I of this post.

White chrysanthemum . . .
Before the perfect flower
Scissors hesitate

This is another wonderful poem in a fine translation. However, when compared to R. H. Blyth, as noted in a previous post, we see the difference between fine and great:

The scissors hesitate
Before the white chysanthemums,
A moment.

Using just one more word than Beilenson, Blyth captures the same action and the action which immediately follows (or happens). In the former, the flower is not cut; in the later it is.

Did Beilenson fumble or Blyth interpolate? I have no idea, once again I am shamed before Dr. Suzuki.

But I do love that I have both of these to compare, propelling me ever closer to Master Buson.

Fireworks ended
And spectators gone away . . .
Ah, how vast and dark!

Now here is a Shiki poem I can cozy up to. There is more than the art and the emptiness - though emptiness there is. The emptiness in this poem reverberates in a way I often find lacking in Shiki.

My volume had a glorious typo in this one: "firewords" for "fireworks."

Deepen, drop, and die
Many-hued chrysanthemum . . .
One black earth for all

The use by Beilenson of heavy alliteration - du, du, du - is most effective in this dark poem by Ryushi. Even if you read the d sounds lightly, it could be each petal detaching and falling off, one by one. Take your pick, the endgame is the same.

Plume of pampas grass
Trembling in every wind . . .
Hush, my lonely heart

Trembling is the word which links the two elements of this ku. Lonely is the word that breaks ours.

Winter rain deepens
Lichened letters on the grave . . .
And my old sadness.

Nature not only mirrors the poet's old grief, it deepens it literally, in the way water highlights etched letters on stone. This simple, natural act calls all back to mind, because old really is the most important word here. The grief, it is thought, had begun to fade like the letters but upon seeing the faded letters again, the pain too comes to the fore, and is as wrenching as ever. A perfect, if grief-laden, haiku moment.

From my tiny roof
Smooth . . . soft . . . still-white snow
Melts in melody

I like what this poem seems to be about, though I'm not so sure of the translation. The last line feels a bit forced, and not as clear as it could be. Still, a lovely winter subject, embodying a lovely, universal feeling.

Under my tree-roof
Slanting lines of April rain
Separate to drops

Another type of roof, another fine weather poem; this time the poet, with an artist's eye, closely observes water's mercurial qualities. The picture is perfect; there is a sense that everything is exactly so.

Riverbank plum tree . . .
Do your reflected blossoms 
Really float away?

Buson the painter is sketching something with words that even he, perhaps, could not capture with a painter's brush. What is real, the poet seems to be asking himself, as he questions the plum tree, what is not?

The seashore temple . . .
Incoming rollers flow in time
To the holy flute

Another beauty by Buson, this time auditory instead of visual (though it is that, too, just not primarily). Because the temple is so near the sea, we glean that the sea is a source of all things i.e. music. The beat and rhythm of the rollers is the primal sound, the sound which cannot be said, the aum/om sound of all things, the sound all music is based on. The flute is holy, the temple is holy, the sea is holy.

Holy, holy, holy, holy . . .

Finally, for this post

Moonlight stillness
Lights the petals falling . . . falling . . .
On the silenced lute

Stillness and silence and falling, falling. There is an ominous quality to Shiki's poem. It could simply be that all are asleep, hence the stillness and the silence, and yet the falling makes one wonder at that very silence and stillness.

Let's leave the mystery be, until part III, either next week or soon thereafter.


This week's issue from the archives is Lilliput Review, #135, from January 2004.

in the snow
perfect yellow ensō
Ed Baker

pissing a perfect
a cold night
translated by David G. Lanoue


Send a single haiku for the Wednesday Haiku feature.  Here's how.

Go to the LitRock web site for a list of all 88 songs

Hear 'em all at once on the the LitRock Jukebox

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Wednesday Haiku - Week #2: Mark Brooks

 Wednesday Haiku, Week #2

                        red moon
                        their father's hash pipe
                        between them

                            Shimi (Mark Brooks)

Send a single poem for Wednesday Haiku @ Issa's Untidy Hut to:

wednesday haiku AT gmail DOT com

which of you owns
that red moon
translated by David G. Lanoue


Send a single haiku for the Wednesday Haiku feature.  Here's how.

Go to the LitRock web site for a list of all 87 songs

Hear 'em all at once on the the LitRock Jukebox