Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Kala Ramesh & Elmedin Kadric: Wednesday Haiku, #209

Photo by John Morgan

fallen blossom
  the silent  farewell 
deepens the sunset
Kala Ramesh

the panhandler
cheers me on
Elmedin Kadric 

Photo by Margherita Ballarin  via foter

lotus blossoms--
the beggar's smoke
wafts over
trans. by David G. Lanoue


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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Chen-ou Liu & Lisa Espenmiller: Wednesday Haiku

Kaji-jo by Chooro Kuniyoshi 

in twilight
cherry petals fall
without a sound
Chen-ou Liu

Photograph by Robert Ashworth

early morning
redwoods shrouded
in the sound of fog
Lisa Espenmiller

Ash man by @doug88888

the cherry tree
that made blossom clouds
becomes charcoal 
trans. by David G. Lanoue


PS  Click to learn how to contribute to Wednesday Haiku  

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Steve Sanfield: a Tribute

Poet and correspondent, David Giannini, contacted me last week to pass on the sad information that haiku master poet, Steve Sanfield, had died. I'd just recently begun to acquaint myself with Sanfield's work in two anthologies of English language haiku which I've been reading over the last couple of months. The first, Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years, edited by Jim Kacian and ..... has a single poem of Steve's and the second, The Unswept Path: Contemporary American Haiku, edited by John Brandi and Dennis Maloney, which has a narrower geographical focus, has a whole section with over 35 poems.

I'll be writing more about both these anthologies in future postings. In one of life's little synchronistic moments, I'd just finished up the section of poems by Steve in Unswept Path when the news of his death came my way.

First, a poem by Sanfield from Unswept Path:

Because I have nothing else
I have begun to love
my sorrow. 

This is as touching as it is universal - at some time in each of our lives we experience the loss of love itself, which is replaced by another kind of love altogether as in this poem. This next poem is something of a prayer, one that would be appropriate each an every morning that a lapsed agnostic rises:

The silence before the dawn:
may it enter
my heart.

Another universal situation, at least as sketched out in the first line, with something of a wish/prayer for all that face it alone. Poem after poem deeply explores the ennui, the sorrow of our days:

to shake all morning
because you touched me 
—a simple bow

This is love, desire, and gratitude, all wrapped in one, in love's full glory. The poet makes us feel the emotion in an extraordinary way. 

And then this remarkable piece:

like a new season
she stands between me
and old sorrows

Remarkable in how the poet captures the transition between two exacting emotional states, the old sorrow we are all so reluctant to give up because our love is still so deeply entwined with it, and the new love standing aside in the path, showing the way. 

Here is so true a definition of love itself, I'm tempted to append it (in my own print copy) to the separate definitions in the unabridged Webster's Dictionary:

each time
surprised by it:
beauty beyond desire  

If these moved you, you can find many different editions of Steve Sanfield's work here. If you'd like to sample a few more poems, this website has a nice representation.  The later will, I'm certain, lead you back to the former. 

By the way, Sanfield called many of his poems 'hoops,' instead of haiku, and here is the reason he gave:

"I call them hoops rather than haiku, because haiku is a Japanese word for a poem usually written according to very specific guidelines. I wanted to step beyond those lines and also add another season—the season of the heart. And further, as Black Elk says, "that is because the Power of the world always worked in circles and everything tries to be round. In the old days when we were a strong and happy people, all our power came to us from the sacred hoop of the nation, and as long as the hoop was unbroken, the people flourished." 1.

Love, loss and sorrow were obviously major points of focus for Steve Sanfield. This last poem is the only one in Haiku in English, and it shows something more implied than explicit in the examples above, and certainly something that could not be more universal for those paying attention:

The earth shakes 
just enough
to  remind us.


After putting together the above post and preparing it for posting, I ran across the following poem by Steve in my morning reading from the exemplar collection, Haiku Mind: 108 Poems to Cultivate Awareness and Open Your Heart (another being read for future posting), edited and annotated by Patricia Donegan:

a petal falls
across the table

What an astounding body of work by Steve Sanfield ... 


Photo by Kentama

by itself
my head bows...
plum blossoms!
trans. by David G. Lanoue


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Gerald Vizenor: favor of crows: New and Collected Haiku

favor of crows by Gerald Vizenor has plenty to celebrate and plenty to ponder. The poems here are largely quiet, occasionally listless, many are image-based and some are simply revelatory, in the sense that anything revelatory can be simple.

But wait: perhaps that listlessness is something else. 

       bright hollyhocks
teeter in the rush of trains
        flurry of faces

Like many fine haiku, these poems on the surface do not give up their essence easily. So, we see that if it is mind that struggles, lay aside mind and, as again with many fine haiku, something else appears: meaning opening up with the first rays of the sun.

            gusts of rain
trees turn away from the sea
            beach stories

Gerald Vizenor is a poet, critic, cultural theorist and academician, a leading Native American writer of the last half century and a member of the Chippewa Nation. He is a haiku scholar as well as haiku poet - his introduction, entitled "Haiku Scenes," displays his command of haiku history and haiku essence, and situates him in the Zen Buddhist / R. H. Blyth school of haiku theory and practice.

            red poppies 
trace the motion of the sun
        elders in the park

His linking of Native American culture and concepts to Japanese culture is at once informative and historical (Vizenor, as was true with many Americans, encountered the culture first hand during a tour of duty in WW II), and the relationship to nature and animism in both cultures makes for interesting, thought-provoking theory.

        china sunrise
tourists circle the statues
        cicada fugues

Ultimately, there is a balance of theory and feeling, the academic and the lyrical, and the truth is revealed in the poems themselves. His haiku are firmly nature based and season themed, with two contrasting elements stylistically prompting revelations both large and small, succinct and resonant, as in this poem.

    marsh marigolds
trembling in the rain
     faces on a bus

This haiku reminded me simultaneously of the classic haiku of the horse and the trembling flowers (a little help, anyone; I can't quite recall the poet or the poem exactly) and Pound's petals/faces/Metro poem.

The book is arranged seasonally, as are many traditional haiku collections. The autumn section is particularly strong, with the following poem recalling Bashō's famous autumn crow haiku (scroll down for multiple translations via this link):

          spider web
billows on a bare branch

Vizenor is at once subtle and almost understated, presenting us with images and contrast, and letting the reader take it from there. Like the finest haiku throughout time and across cultures.

         mountain snow
warblers search for apricots
           no regrets

We know the warblers have no regrets; how about you? 

Or perhaps the warblers do. What to make of these clever little sparrows?

       noisy sparrows
flutter over the birdbath
     clearing the snow

Sentience, learned behavior, coincidence?  Some things to ask ourselves as well as the sparrows.

Gerald Vizenor asks, and his answers are of the very best type; they are suggestive, they are lyrical, they are alive.

This is a book I anticipate revisiting again and again, as the seasons return again and again.  And, as with the seasons, one can anticipate a return of joy, each time different, each time the very same. Give it a try, from the library or the nearest bookstore, electronic or otherwise

It will reward you deeply. 


Eigenfaces by Ylebru

the first cherry blossoms
soon scatter and stick...
people's faces
trans. by David G. Lanoue


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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Laurie Kuntz & Roberta Beary: Wednesday Haiku, #206

The old man
picks the fruit
Laurie Kuntz

family christmas
the one who drinks  calls
just to talk
Roberta Beary

Artwork (detail) by Sidney Paget

a prize-winning chrysanthemum!
the old man
trans. by David G. Lanoue


PS  Click to learn how to contribute to Wednesday Haiku