The path after days
of rain – a geometry
of mossy neatness.
I google ‘sea-slug’;
my screen fills with images;
all are beautiful.
Above the burning
hills: false clouds of smoke. The land
made ready for growth.
On the surface this doesn’t seem very kigoish, but in Japan farmers burn the old grass off the hillsides in preparation for planting – thus it is a kigo of Spring.
Recently, however, I stumbled on an article on Pope the gardener in the blog Eighteenth Century Media. Apparently Pope was famous, not only as a poet, but also as a gardener, and friends and fans frequently asked his advice on major and minor aspects of gardening. He may have designed gardens; he certainly had things to say about them.
He favoured the classical style (modern in his day) in which there was a balance between nature and artifice, display and restraint, variety and simplicity. This balance was not just aesthetically pleasing but morally as well. Restraint and ‘consulting the genius of the place’ showed good taste and self control.
Among his writings are a number of Epistles written in verse. One of these, The Epistle to Richard Boyle, Earl of Burlington, although about the use and abuse of riches, also contains a lot of advice on gardening. As a detailed how-to of horticulture it might not be very useful but it’s aesthetics might be useful for any kind of design.
Oft have you hinted to your brother peer
A certain truth, which many buy too dear:
Something there is, more needful than expense,
And something previous even to taste – ’tis sense:
For those of us who don’t have a fortune to spend on our gardens, it’s comforting to think that all we need is sense, which is free.
Departure is a huge topic – every time we go to work or shopping or wherever, we depart from where we are. Sometimes we depart further afield on holiday, to visit or to escape. We may be tourists or refugees; we have departed willingly or fearfully. Some kind of departure is inevitable.
Everything departs: spring or rainy season, animals or plants, days of celebration or grief.
Since haiku are usually about nature I have chosen to look at departures in the natural world.
Each season to its
own time. Each bird to its own
song. Then both have flown.
The haiku challenge is to write about it, but I’ve never seen any Shinto shrine, so my poem is more about a shrine of the mind.
A soft breeze whispers
in the eaves of the temple;
frost on the roof melts.
My motto is
Keep calm and party on
so, when I found in The Art of the Chinese Gardens (published by China Travel & Tourism) a lot of place names associated with inviting guests, drinking wine and generally being sociable, I knew I must make a poem out of them.
The result is below. It may actually be more a semi-found poem as the short connecting lines are my invention.
Once, in the
Twilight of the Setting Sun
The Sunlight Welcoming Pavilion
Garden of Harmonious Delight,
The Gate for Inviting the Moon,
The Pavilion for Bestowing Wine –
Pearl of Shichahai.
They chattered in
The Pavilion for Enjoying the Scenery
The Hall of Cheerful Melodies:
Places of Mutual Affinity.
Later we left
The Moon Inviting Terrace
The Tower of Clear Voice
The Musical Gully.
The Solitary Hill
Snow on the Broken Bridge.
For my late night reading lately I’ve been re-reading The Rattle Bag, a poetry anthology edited by Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes. Apparently the original intention was a collection aimed at the young or new poetry reader, but it doesn’t shirk serious subjects like death, love or loneliness. I love it and, to judge by the reviews around the web, so do many other not-so-young people.
Here is a collection of poems to which the term ‘quirky’ seriously applies, though there are plenty of ‘normal’ poems for readers who like their quirky in moderate doses.
On a more serious level the book goes to the edge of what poetry is, both in subject and form: midnight mice, no punctuation and horses eating violins crowd together with the more traditional.
One of the innovations is to arrange the poems alphabetically by title. This means that the usual pattern of date or subject is broken up. Sylvia Plath is on the same page as Shakespeare, while a pet cat precedes a pilgrim.
I’ve had this book for some years (it was published in 2005) and have read most of the poems already, some several times. However, this time I’ve had a serious look at the glossary at the back.
Many of the entries are dialect or archaic terms I already knew, and some I don’t really want to know: should I care that a danegun is an “old firearm, fairly primitive”?
But there are plenty of new-to-me words to enjoy. I’ve seen many solons (gannets) in my time, but have never met a goney (albatross). As I write the gullies (seagulls) are squawking outside. I didn’t know a rack was a cloud in the upper air and I wonder if, like other clouds, it can be scrowed (streaked).
Carpe Diem has started a series of posts on tanka techniques. Even for non-writers, it’s worth reading the post to enhance understanding and appreciation.
The first technique is to add mystery and depth. Autumn is a good time for mystery I think; not only do we have Hallowe’en and the supernatural, but we are in a sort of between-ness – assessing summer just gone and looking forward to/dreading winter to come.
But autumn is a time of its own, as the old Japanese writers knew so well and wrote about so movingly, as in this tanka written by Toshiyuri and quoted on Carpe Diem:
Cries of quail
from the shore of Mano cove
waves of plume grass
ripple in autumn dusk.
My response is:
A dense, white fog fills
the garden; among yellowed
grasses no blade stirs.
A crow, hidden in whiteness,
croaks three times, then falls silent.
Picture from Photo Pin.