Friday, August 30, 2013

Robert Bly: Writing Again

Photo by ecstaticist

A couple of weeks ago I did a post with a poem from This Tree Will Be Here For A Thousand Years (revised edition) by Robert Bly and mentioned I would be getting back to it. 

Back we are - here's another poem from that collection which I like very much.

Writing Again

   Faces crowding at the window!
   I turn away,

   When I write of moral things,
   The clouds boil
   By day's end
   A room of restless people,
   Lifting and putting down small things.

   Well that is how I've spent this day.
   And what good will it do me in the grave?

        ~ Robert Bly 

Not unlike the part of the poem, "Women We Love Whom We Never See Again," I quoted previously, the opening here feels like we are in the other place, the land of dream, of archetype, of the subconscious.

And what of the title?

I suppose there are a lot of ways to read that last line, that question, and I would suggest that some of them are positive. But I'll leave that to you, the reader - is it something that feels negative, positive, indifferent? Just a conjurer's trick, or something more?

For me, the answer is in the first stanza.

The Month of the Grape Harvest by René Magritte (click to enlarge)

faces of devils
faces of foxes...
spring breeze
translated by David G. Lanoue

Study for The Month of the Grape Harvest (click to enlarge)


Send a single haiku for the Wednesday Haiku feature. Here's how.
Go to the LitRock web site for a list of all 175 songs

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Chen-ou Liu & Tony Burfield: Wednesday Haiku, #130

July 4th
the ghost my friend keeps
under his pillow
Chen-ou Liu

Photo by Steve Jurvetson


Insect Poetry Competition–
each cricket
with the same line

Tony Burfield

Photo by wd9hot

an arm for a pillow--
the year ends
or doesn't end
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 175 songs

Sunday, August 25, 2013

It's Hard to Be a Saint in the City: Issa's Sunday Service, #175

It's Hard to Be a Saint in the City by Bruce Springsteen on Grooveshark 
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Early in his career, Bruce Springsteen drew the inevitable comparisons to Bob Dylan and probably rightly so. This is one of those songs that prompted the comparison and, whether it is truly warranted, there you go. 

The lyrics are a bit too cumbersome (in line length, not execution or clarity) to include in this format, so here's a link if you are interested. References to Casanova and the Prince of the Pauper are what brings the song to the Sunday Service.

The live version that follows can only be described as incendiary (he dedicates the song to Pete - that's Mr. Townshend who was in the audience that night back in '75 at the Hammersmith Odeon) and the pedal is all the way to the metal, with the dual guitar solo that wraps it simply killer. 

You were warned.


Photo by mylittlefinger

world of Buddha's law--
the snake strips
his clothes
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 175 songs

Friday, August 23, 2013

Charles Trumbull - A Five-Balloon Morning: Small Press Friday

Charles Trumbull is a poet of quiet, deep emotion. His haiku are ripples on the pond; the source invisible, yet of paramount importance.

A Five-Balloon Morning has a subtitle, New Mexico Haiku, and, though that sets the scene, it is in no sense strictly regional or limiting. In fact, as regular readers of haiku might attest, the more particular the focus, the greater the potential for a more universal theme - in the hands of the right poet, that is. 

Charles Trumbull is the right poet.  

raking into piles
leaves from a tree
I climbed as a boy

The great haiku poets, Bashō coming to mind here, can include an entire lifetime, or lifetimes in one three line verse. And that's what we have here. 

                                        first Christmas
                                     without my mother
                                   without my childhood

Time and memory intertwine again, with tone and subject that certainly is reminiscent of another of the great masters.

hometown visit
fine sand in the doorways
of vacant storefronts

I seem to be focusing on time here, but rather let's say the poet is. There is a sense not just of the past in these lines, but of the future, the reclaiming back of things as they were. Certainly thoughts such as these are never far away in a desert clime.

wild asters
brilliant in the field
after the fire

Nature again takes center stage - the wild joy of the first two lines is suddenly muted at the cause. Yet, still, the wild asters are brilliant and need we worry why?

wind-twisted juniper
at the precipice
you take my hand

This is a ku of balance, wherein the dual-hinge door of the second line swings both ways, perfectly. Certainly, the wind of the first line, even if not at the moment present, might conjure the caution in the third, at a pre or subconscious level.

in the dark corner
where the crucifix hung
a white shadow

There is something, always, about shadows - doppelgangers of sorts, and in this case the 'shadow' is white, and is a 'shadow' of something no longer there, something which perhaps no longer exists.

Yet something that persists.

There is a separate section in this collection entitled Trinity, which is about a visitation to the Trinity site in the desert where the first atomic bomb was detonated. Here are three ku from that powerful collection within a collection which grabbed 
me and held on:

Trinity site
in the guard's vehicle
fuzzy dice

The allusion to Einstein's remark about God and dice immediately leaps to mind and the reverberations take that mind to many a dark place.

we drive through the gate
feeling very American -
weeds through asphalt

The juxtaposition between feeling and reality here is more than the sum of its parts. Perhaps there is an implicit comparison between the weeds and the humans, perhaps not. 

What we do know is that they have both sprung up in a post-apocalyptic reality. 

squabbling children-
the grasshopper
hops away

Such a simple poem, such a complex world. Like how various animals are portrayed in horror movies - horses, dogs, cats - the grasshopper has its say.

This fine collection of contemporary haiku comes from Red Mountain Press. Trumbull has composed a set of poems that in some ways are like whispers, just barely heard, until we learn how to focus in on the sound. It isn't so much the volume of the sound as it is the locale.

It comes from within. 

As a bit of a bonus to the work above, what follows is a video from the Haiku Foundation of Charles reading some haiku. This video is part of an ongoing series entitled The Haiku Foundation Readings and may be found in the Haiku Foundation Video Archive.


this world of ours--
so fast the bonfires
burn out
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 174 songs

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Michael L. Newell & Joel Dias-Porter: Wednesday Haiku, #129

Photo by Sara Biljana

Windblown rain-rusted
merry-go-round drifts in fog,
creaks across decades.

Michael L. Newell


 Photo by :: M @ X :::

Labor Day-
Sweat beads the neck 

Daddy's beer
Joel Dias-Porter

Photo by Glen Van Etten

one by one the wind
rustles them
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 174 songs

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Hits of Sunshine (for Allen Ginsberg): Issa's Sunday Service, #174

Hits of Sunshine (For Allen Ginsberg) by Sonic Youth on Grooveshark
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Sonic Youth makes a spectacular return to the Sunday Service, with one of my favorite 'tunes' - "Hits of Sunshine (for Allen Ginsberg). There's lots to recommend this tune - it is one long noodle, nicely cradled between opening and closing lyrics. It runs plus 11 minutes in contrast to last week's selection, which barely clocked in at 1 minute.

Is it all noodle for noodling sake, you ask? Well, put on the headphones and you will find a delightful balance of two lead guitars, one per speaker, plus a fat-ish bottom in the middle, to sustain the journey.

Besides the hat tip to Mr. Ginsberg, we've got a painter with a conflicted goddess, all manner of colors, there is blues and haiku (so precipitously spaced as to hint at Sal Paradise), and all those yellow shadow girls.

Yes, lots to keep the wary wondering and the curious curiouser.

Hits of Sunshine (for Allen Ginsberg)

Today I said goodbye to my conflicted goddess
Her lush eyes show surprise
At how we could gather knowledge
The painting has a dream
Where shadow breaks the scene
And the colors run off
Blue is bashful, green is my goal
Yellow girls are running backward
Until the next time, with six hits of sunshine
The lights will blind us with blues in haiku
The shadow has a dream
Where painters look to sea
And colors burn out
Now I know where I once saw you
Stepping into muddy water
John's reflection decried perfection
Now you walk him through the garden
Waiting in the wings
Painters shade their dreams
With falling colors

See me wave goodbye forever
Happiness the goddess lover
Hurry back remember last time
The hits of sunshine, the hits of goldmine
I'll see you back tonight
Where painters love the light
And yellow shadow girls

As long as we are conjuring Allen via extra-psychic means, here is a little something from the recent full-length feature, Howl

Here is a delightful little 10 minute interview/reading by Allen, so he may speak for himself:


Photo (detail) by Vinoth Chandar

in the hell painting
perched on a fence...   
a lark sings
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 174 songs

Friday, August 16, 2013

John Bennett: 2 Poems - Small Press Friday

Hunting & Gathering
           ~ John Bennett

Time to
go berry
picking &
hang the
scalps from
this week's
kill up
to dry.

John Bennett is the periodic reminder I need to pay attention in a very different way than my hippie-ass mentality 'normally' does.

Shaping Up for Enlightenment
                         ~ John Bennett

     It's important
     not only
     to have
     no expectations
     it's important
     to steer
     clear of
     things that
     are the
     result of


Right brain, left brain, no brain - let's cover the waterfront


sneaking in a 3rd poem

frost kills the grass
the coaxing voice
of a crow 
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 173 songs

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Bob Carlton & Charlie Mehrhoff: Wednesday Haiku, #128




Bob Carlton


Photo by NASA/SDO

the fireflies
here and there
an echo
of the sun

Charlie Mehrhoff

Photo by OuchCharlie

flitting firefly--
uncaught by the hand
uncaught again!
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 173 songs

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Welcome to the Monkey House: Issa's Sunday Service, #173

Welcome to the Monkey House by The Dandy Warhols on Grooveshark
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Today's song is as brief as brief can get - mere seconds over a single minute yet, though only the title seems to allude to its source, Kurt Vonnegut's Welcome to Monkey House, somehow it feels to me that it captures nicely the spirit of that volume.

Which is pretty weird, since it primarily talks about the outs and ins of the music biz:

Welcome to the Monkey House

  Wire is coming back again
  Elastica got sued by them
  When Michael Jackson dies
  We're covering Blackbird
  And won't it be absurd then
  When no one knows what song they just heard
  Unless someone on the radio tells them first
  So come on come on come on
  Come on come on come on
  Come on
  Come on come on come on
  You monkeys

The Dandy Warhols have been a late acquired taste for me. Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia is an album I can listen to almost anytime and come away tapping, scratching and smiling. 

On the other side of the coin, Mr. Vonnegut was great fun to hear in person. What follows is one of his routines he regularly trotted out and, like so much of his work, this is at once spot-on, hysterical and somehow is lightly tinged with ennui.

Or maybe I need another cup of tea.

Perhaps the most famous story from Vonnegut's Welcome to the Monkey House is Harrison Bergeron - if you haven't read it, have a taste.

Nothing like a little Vonnegut to get things straight. 


 Photo by William Cho 

laughing politely
while tea is served...
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 173 songs

Friday, August 9, 2013

Scott Metz - lakes & now wolves: Small Press Friday

Next to silence, haiku is perhaps one of the most succinctly profound ways to confront the mystery that is life.

Scott Metz is a purveyor, and innovator, in the field of modern English language haiku. He receives testament of this in his new book, lakes & now wolves, fittingly published by Modern Haiku Press, from some of the best and most well-known haiku aficionados of our era: john martone, Richard Gilbert, & Philip Rowland.

Rowland provides a laudatory introduction and, for those wishing to speculate where the poet fits in the modern haiku continuum, I highly recommend. It is perceptive, it is insightful, it is deeply knowledgeable, and, of course, like all introductions, it is ultimately beside the point. 

And I say that in a good way.

Because lakes & now wolves is, I'm sure Messers Rowland, martone, and Gilbert will agree, about the work, and very fine work it is, indeed.

a packaged squid
and the impression
in its own ink

This is at once post-modern and classical, not only in subject and form, but most importantly in tone. The link here between modes I would characterize as wabi-sabi

And, whenever I say something like, someone objects.

New Year's Day-
the wreath has fallen
between the doors

Somehow, this little poem is perfect. Traditional, in that it is seasonal, it embodies the very spirit of the transition signified by the new year, captured in the image as succinctly as might be.

a child's drawing
the ladder to the sun
only three steps

I remember drawing this - those steps reach on forever. See. One, two, three ... do you?

These more or less traditional ku, in terms of form, are interspersed with some of the finest monostiches conceivable. I had to restrain myself in choosing these 6 examples:

didn't want the cricket didn't want the silence

If this simple poem doesn't precisely capture the First Noble Truth, I'll eat one of my many, many hats.

meadow speaking the language she dreams in 

Of course, for the poet or lyrically-imbuded, it is the meadow that is dreaming, forever dreaming, dreaming ...

under my skin a pasture with one tree

For me, this poem is kin to the previous, I take it literally ... is there any other way?

without permission part of me begins to bloom

In the poetic tradition, it is sometimes nigh impossible to avoid comparison to those who came before - however, in this case there is an objectivity, for better or worse, that makes this poem work when what might be thought of as its precursor works perhaps more subjectively.

Or maybe not.

in kilobytes out across the peony night that Bashō rag 

The old pond just ain't, kilobytingly, what it used to be - but this poem still rocks my world (notice how it is its internal rhythm that holds it together, balances the poem out: kilobytes-peony).

the war awakens the face of an insect in the mirror 

Finally, something very serious, indeed - Kafka dovetailing with Robert Ardrey, human nature at its absolute worse, right here in my own cubby, gazing back. 

The work of Scott Metz stands, at once, with anyone working the form, and it stands alone.

I don't think I could give a finer compliment. This small press gem is available directly from its small press publisher Modern Haiku Press.  

To gaze in the distance is to gaze inward.

To read this book is the same.


Photo by Add Rein

take a peek
in hell's mirror!
lover cat
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 172 songs