e a m harris

Roaming the byways of literature

Archive for the category “Poetry”

A new haiku challenge – ‘The rays of the setting sun’.

Once again the Carpe Diem site has come up with an interesting prompt. Its inspiration is a classic haiku by Kikaku, a contemporary of Basho.

This is a translation of the poem:

in the rays of the setting sun
there flutters along the city street
a butterfly

I think it is a lovely image. Mine however leaves the butterflies and concentrates on the sky:

Red-rimmed clouds gather
in the west. Behind them,
today’s sun sets.

As I roamed around the house and garden mulling the haiku and trying different versions in my head, I felt it should be expanded into a tanka.

Red-rimmed clouds gather
in the west. Behind, today’s
sun sets. My neighbour
passes me in the street.
‘Nice day tomorrow,’ he says.

A first poetry book is published “The Lotus of Fire”

An interesting story of self-publishing and the value of keeping trying.

Congratulations to Sharmishtha Basu on this milestone.

Poetry about poppies

Red poppiesI took this photo of oriental poppies in the summer and thought it would be nice to have a poem or two to go with it.

Googling brought up a large number of websites, but most of them were about war poems. I wanted peaceful, wholesome, summery images.

Persistence wins: I have found a couple.

Wild Poppies by Marion McCready overflows with images. Her poppies are made with ‘henna silks’ and ‘move like an opera’. They wear ‘lipstick dresses’ and are ‘urgent as airmail’. I love the energy of them and the mystery of their lives.

James Stephens, not content with a few poppies, wrote In the Poppy Field.

He writes about a conversation between the poet and Mad Patsy which includes:

An angel walking on the sky;
Across the sunny skies of morn
He threw great handfuls far and nigh
Of poppy seed among the corn;

Poems for a perfumed world

Carpe Diem has an interesting article on using all our senses to describe the world and not just sight and sound. How often are we treesconscious of the smell of a scene? Do we reach out and touch something to find out its texture? I love to touch the petals of flowers and their leaves – the variety of texture in the natural world is amazing.

Out of this comes a challenge to write about smell, and I’ve tried to do it justice.

The van, driven past
the wood’s edge, stirs up scents
of damp earth and rich green.

Reading the poems already posted suggests that most people concentrate on the perfume side of this sense, as I’ve done. One day, maybe, I’ll write about the stink of sewage – would that be in the spirit of haiku?

More deeply into haiku

Stepping Stones coverI’ve started to read Stepping Stones: a way into haiku by Martin Lucas, a former president of the British Haiku Society. I was very sad to learn that he has recently died. He leaves behind much influence and inspiration for those who enjoy haiku.

This book is not a technical ‘how to’, apart from the introduction which concentrates mostly on the important differences that the Japanese and English languages force on haiku. It is an anthology of modern English language haiku with a commentary on each one.

The commentaries encourage a deeper and more thorough reading of the poems by questioning and speculating about the context and significance of each of them.

For instance, on the haiku about the actions of a monk while swimming in a river by Steve Dolphy, some of the questions to consider are: was he alone or with other monks? was he wearing his saffron robes or had he stripped? was his ducking under the approaching oar hasty and fearful or calm and dignified? Of course, we don’t know. Each reader must ‘see’ the scene for themselves and arrive at an understanding accordingly. In another, by Andrew Detheridge, about clinging to a donkey’s tail we are encouraged to ask the circumstances: a children’s game? a moment of disorientation? a real donkey or a paper one?

Considering questions like this has made me take note of how selective a haiku writer is. The points important to the poem are abstracted from a much more complex scene.

A lot is left up to the reader. This is one reason haiku don’t contain judgements – the reader’s response should not be coloured by someone else’s opinion.

I am learning a great deal from this way of looking at an individual poem – more as a reader than a writer. But if we can’t read properly, how can we write?

Sunflowers and the sun

Carpe Diem has set us a lovely challenge this time. The prompt is ‘sunflowers’ – very evocative and open to many interpretations.

Fields of sunflowers;
each tracks the sun, east to west.
Nightfall will stop them.

A different haiku challenge

The Carpe Diem site has several different challenges. The one I’m trying today is to complete a haiku given the middle line.

The given line is:

mists over the foreign highlands

Extra restrictions are that it must follow the classical form and use one more kigo (season word) for Autumn. ‘Mist’ is a classic Autumn word.

I looked up some kigo words and found them inspirational.

Now it is twilight;
mists over the foreign highlands
hide the harvest moon.

Although we only have to produce two lines, this challenge isn’t easy, but on the Carpe Diem site are links to a number of amazing poems it has inspired.

Is there anyone who doesn’t love roses?

Roses

No two roses
are the same, but all are born
twinned with beauty.

Haiku challenge on ‘Shallow Water’

Today Carpe Diem has given us a double challenge. To use the prompt ‘shallow water’ and to relate to an Australian legend of the Dreamtime.

The Carpe Diem website has the full legend of Mirragan, the Fisherman, and Gurangatch, the creature he fished for. Well worth a read for an exciting tale and an insight into another culture.

Here is my attempt at this prompt:

Night! The shallow stream
is black. Only the star-eyes
of Gurangatch shine.

Haiku challenge from a ghost

Carpe Diem has given a complex challenge this time. It includes some imagined ghost writing by Basho.

As usual there are some inspired haiku to read based on his examples. The subjects are more diffuse than usual, but mainly revolve around spring.

I have followed the trend:

Each day a little
longer than yesterday: spring
grows into summer.

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