POEMS — Your Topic. Your Price.

Street scene at the Ballad Market

This whimsical scene at Seattle’s Ballard Market the other day made me smile. This pair of poetical hustlers are bittersweet reminders of the plight of poets everywhere.

They brought to mind the funny (but not-too-funny) little poem by Hayden Carruth, written when he was studying and writing about the Japanese haiku master, Basho, who lived and wrote in the late 1600s.

Basho, you made
a living writing haiku?
Wow! Way to go, man.

This pair at the market did not appear to be doing much business, but they were earnest and eager, and I wish them the best.

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Spring haiku

Japanese Woodblock Print by Kyosai (1831-1889)
Japanese Woodblock Print by Kyosai (1831-1889)

Relax noisy crows,
I mean your babies no harm.
The cat, however …

Thoughtful Christmas Gift

My first haiku with an original illustration. a most wonderful gift from my thoughtful daughter-in-law
My first haiku with an original illustration. a most wonderful gift from my thoughtful daughter-in-law

This Christmas, I received a couple of poetry-related gifts.  The first was an original hand-drawn and illustrated version of a haiku I wrote.

It was done by my talented and thoughtful daughter-in-law, Sarah.  I had written this haiku last year in honor of my late father.

Now, it is I who feel honored and delighted!

This is as close as I’ve ever come to having an authentic version of an original haiku.  The old haiku masters produced total works of art, complete with beautiful hand-lettering and illustrations to complement the poignant words.

The idea for the verse came about while going through my parent’s belongings before getting their house ready to sell.  I came across my father’s old Bible.

It was so well-worn that it was literally being held together by duct tape.

My father never finished high school, and spent his life as a farmer and mechanic.  He didn’t travel, and he had no hobbies except for studying the Bible and ancient times.

He became a bit of an amateur scholar, ordering books on theology and history.  I packed up a few of books to pass along to my scholarly son, but the prized possession from the old house was that Bible.

Now, my prized new possession is this illustrated haiku.

Father’s old Bible
Held together with duct tape.
Now he’s face to face.

Dad was not just interested in history for history’s sake, or out of a mere intellectual curiosity.  He also had a deep faith.  He had seen the difference that God had made in his own father’s life and he believed in Jesus as well.  He did his best to introduce his own children to that faith.

I’ll write about my other poetry-related Christmas present in a subsequent post soon.

Happy New Year!

 

 

You say cicada, I say locust

Cicadas shed their skin
Back in Missouri where I grew up, we had an insect about the size of the end of your thumb that folks called locusts.

The proper name for these critters was “cicadas,” but for me, they will always be locusts.

These bugs made a terrible racket when they started their serenade. Some sources say the noise is so loud it can damage the human ear.

I won’t take that bet. They can be exceedingly annoying.

But they are also fascinating because they molt and leave behind an almost perfect exoskeleton. As a kid, I would collect these artifacts like little relics.

My fellow poet over at Dancing Echoes recently wrote a haiku about these creatures.

Dancing Echoes does a great job coming close to the original idea of haiku.

The old haiku masters combined words with beautiful calligraphy and drawings to form a total experience.

Dancing Echoes pairs each poem with a beautiful photograph. In this effort, she approaches the complete experience achieved by the old masters. You could say it’s haiku for the modern age.

The cicada haiku from Dancing Echoes reminded me of an old poem sitting in my files gathering dust. It’s not haiku. But it does feature a cicada — or rather, a locust.

SOMETIMES IN THE
MOONLIGHT

Sometimes in the moonlight
The feeling comes afresh,
The old familiar feeling,
The aching of the flesh.

Sometimes in the summer
The noisy locust strains
Against the skin that holds him.
To shed his crusty chains.

When the trees grow weary
Of their summer masquerade,
And fallen leaves are gathered
I hunger for the shade

Of limbs that never falter
And love that never cools,
Where ruin never alters,
And where death never rules.

Crow haiku

Japanese Woodblock Print by Kyosai (1831-1889)
Japanese Woodblock Print by Kyosai (1831-1889)

Crows show up in some of the most poignant haiku. They are such marvelous creatures, it is not surprising they captured the notice of the haiku masters.

My favorite guy, Issa, wrote this:

The crow
walks along there
as if it were tilling the field.

Perhaps the most famous crow haiku is Basho’s Autumn Crow:

A crow
has settled on a bare branch —
autumn evening.

Spring came early to western Washington this year. On a recent walk, I encountered some crows who were very upset about my presence.

Relax, noisy crows,
I mean your babies no harm.
The cat, however …