Wednesday, November 30, 2016
I spend a good part of each week helping students fix sentence fragments in their essays, and another good part of each week creating my own sentence fragments disguised as haiku. I have always loved the "know the rules so you can intentionally break them" aspect of the craft of writing. This includes breaking all the laws of physics, which might be a little out of the scope of this blog entry, but I promise I'll return to it in the near past.
Those of you who know my work know that "shards" of things often make an appearance. A haiku is a shard of image, a shard of moment, a thing whole unto itself that is also a piece broken from a larger whole. This is part of the allure of haiku, how it so blatantly allows the reader to "fill in" all the space around it.
It also describes haiga, which offers in visual form the image broken from its context, becoming self-contained yet evocative of something more, something at once known and unknown.
On this last fragment of the month, a fragment of image, a fragment of moment, in which may or may not be contained all of something, to begin us on the journey of today...
Monday, November 28, 2016
Poetry (and all art) is the LAST thing we should let slip from our lives, especially in this disturbing world wherein lies and hate and an overall lack of critical and creative thinking are gaining ground.
Please support poetry presses. Please buy books. Please buy art from local artists. These are the only things that last. And while we last, poetry and art give meaning to our lives. Please shop on Main Street or Spring Street or Broad Street or wherever the small, locally-owned shops are located in your town.
I have brazenly included my own books to illustrate this plea, but I'd be just as happy if you buy the books of other poets and writers (there is some wonderful fiction and memoir and biography out there, too).
Give the gift of poetry and art. Buy some for yourself while you're at it. Splurge on poetry. We need poetry. Poetry needs us.
For people in the vicinity of Sussex County, New Jersey, two local bookstores go out of their way to support local authors. Please visit Black Dog Books on Spring Street in Newton and Broad Street Books in the very center of Branchville for books by local authors and other wonderful gifts.
Feel free to post a comment below about other great bookshops and local artists and craftspeople. Support a neighbor and a community as you do your holiday shopping this season.
Saturday, November 26, 2016
A walk yesterday and today along one of my favorite railtrails provided the inspiration I needed to see colors anew. Thanks to this morning's flock of bluebirds, I even remember there are colors other than brown.
in this wind-swept place
Friday, November 25, 2016
Geez, what is with the earth tones? Even as a kid, I loved all the names for the shades of brown pencils in my father's Prismacolor collection: terra cotta, sienna, burnt ochre, light and dark umber. This time of year, the browns come into their own, as if to say, Appreciate me while there's time, before the world goes white.
You might not think of brown when you think of seashells, but as you can see from the moonsnail pieces in the haiga to the left, there's umber, and copper, and a grayish mauve that saturates into terra cotta in the topmost whorl. You can't stop staring at those three gorgeous broken shells, can you. You aren't even reading this. I could write "the" six times, and you won't even notice: the, the, the, the, the, the.
You want them, those shells, don't you? Heck, I want them, and they're right here on my desk in front of me.
I desire colored pencils in all the shades of brown I saw in the woods this morning: oak-tannin, wheat-field, November phragmities, cattail, coffee-bark, hopping wren...
...you know that's going to be a poem some time soon...
The seashore is an example of a "natural collage," a random (laws of geology, hydrology, physics, meteorology notwithstanding) collection of stone, sand, shell, patterns of water, wind. Broken shells defy the adjective "broken," being almost as beautiful as they were when whole, sometimes more lovely for revealing the inner whorled column.
Can we defy the adjective "broken"? I think this is what artists do in every work of art: either celebrate the broken or take the first steps toward mending the break, forming the broken thing into something new.
From broken to new. It's what we are working towards in these difficult weeks, holding on even to broken things, because broken is still better than surreal. Collage is better than chaos. Even a few square inches here and there.
complaint echoes complaint
throughout the night
Thursday, November 24, 2016
(Can you image what these posts would be like if I drank coffee?)
The brain itself is a collage. Of course, then, we are drawn to collage as a means of expressing all the simultaneous, important, beautiful, worrisome, haunting, haunted bits of information we want to impart.
I wonder if we process stuff better when it is presented in this aggregate. Certainly we make connections when we have stuff to connect. Can you look at the above collage with an awareness of how your eyes are moving up, down, around, across; how you are reading some words and forming others to tell yourself what it is you are seeing? I sort of do that in slow-motion as I am creating the collage. Then I let it take me in new directions as I write the text that will "complete" (wrong word for a collage) it.
Then I start thinking of the next one...
the memory of
a feeling of
not enough of
And of course, a poem is a kind of collage, and haiku and tanka incorporate the power of the seemingly random juxtaposition of disparate elements in order to make or present or suggest meaning(s).
The order of disorder. Guided serendipity. Beauty from a mess. Fun.
a measure of sky
that isn't sky
from brain to bird
Wednesday, November 23, 2016
Long weekend coming...If the cranberry mimosas don't slow me down, there will be haiga!
when we see the sky
we seldom recognize
Tuesday, November 22, 2016
I was just reading about gendai haiku, which always makes me long to write gendai haiku. This means, depending on whose translation/explanation one trusts, haiku that is modern, post-modern, surreal, avant-garde...rule breaking, to be sure, but not in a way that is disrespectful of the original "rules" of haiku (not that there were any such "rules" to begin with, but the myths surrounding haiku are hard to shake). And so, the above "magpie indiscretions," found haiku, collage, erasure...a rough draft to send us on our way...
(...and wouldn't "magpie indiscretions" be a great book title? Hmmm...)
Sunday in the ark
Sunday, November 20, 2016
I think one of the reasons I love visiting historic homes--especially the homes of writers and artists--is because I like to glimpse the outward evidence of that creative center. Edith Wharton's library at The Mount in Lenox, Massachusetts. Emily Dickinson's room in her Amherst house. Thomas Cole's studio in Catskill, New York. These are places that inspire me. I love the light, the gardens, the trees, the stuff of everyday life around the center of extraordinary creation.
To find and re-find, fine and re-fine, one's center is a daily practice.
That place in which one can, in some small way, begin to traverse the rift between the world that is and the world that could be.
That place to escape and, in escaping, fully engage.
The place where, in all comfort and solace, the lack of comfort and solace is contemplated and formed into something meaningful.
I long for this place, even when I'm here.
having been broken twice
into shards of shards
Saturday, November 19, 2016
"Now it's time for your contribution to this dialogue," I wish I could add as a little tag at the end of my poems. It's your turn, reader, to make this collection of words a conversation.
Even in silence, lots needs to be said.
Especially in silence, lots needs to be said.
Friday, November 18, 2016
I really do need to get that haiku collage workshop organized, don't I?
recalling the heron
Wednesday, November 16, 2016
What is it about a reflection or shadow that so intrigues us? Both are the result of light; without light, there would be no reflection, no shadow. The absence of the thing is the thing after all. This, too, may get to the essence of art in any medium.
Tuesday, November 15, 2016
as if by her own dreams
the traveler at rest
This past week, as I've looked back over some of my work, I see new meanings...and new is not always better, especially when warped by the filter of despair, discouragement, and disillusion that has permeated recent days.
Were we being "framed"--set up, betrayed, tricked--by our own dreams? That was the furthest thing from my mind when I made this little notebook sketch in the lobby of the Paramount Hotel near Times Square this past summer. But now that I look back, George and I were in the city to see The Crucible, so perhaps the idea of being "framed" was lingering there in the space between the subconscious and the intentional. All I perceived at the moment was the lovely not-quite-profile of this stranger sitting in the lobby, with the oversized piece of generic hotel art behind her, the art more lovely for her face in front of it.
A colleague of mine--a computer science instructor who also loves poetry--just appeared at my office door to ask me about a stanza of one of my poems. "What does it mean?" he wanted to know. I cannot usually quote my own work from memory (that's why I write it down!) but I knew exactly the lines to which he was referring, and I also could tell him the precise inspiration for those lines, and how I used a painting technique as a metaphor for how to live one's life.
Our conversation probably didn't last longer than 45 seconds, but we covered the power of metaphor, the relationship between poetry and painting, the mind of Vermeer, how artists know when a piece is "finished," and why a line or two of a poem can stay with us. And, of course, what it all means. Maybe.
Monday, November 14, 2016
As I look at it and read it, I contemplate the power of the phrase, something that is the basis of short-form poetry such as haiku.
Choice is the memory of all.
Ah, well. Go forth and try to create something good and lasting despite Monday.
Saturday, November 12, 2016
staring at something
that was never there
no faces here just the sun and shadow
a use for these forgotten words
p.s. And at last, eureka yes, voila, merde, yay: a use for the old edition of the MLA Handbook. O blessed rage for order!
appears to quote
Friday, November 11, 2016
A couple of weeks ago, I was showing my Creative Writing students paintings by Andrew Wyeth as prompts. "The man never bought a tube of blue paint," we concluded.
These haiga collages are making me think of my poetry in terms of color theory. I don't quite know what that means, since I know nothing about color theory. But I'll come up with something.
having been painted clean
all that's left
is this little speck
a cobbled path
an ivied wall
the paper beneath
an artist's hand
Thursday, November 10, 2016
In a way, creating a work of art (or appreciating a work of art) might be analogous to casting a vote. But that metaphor can be saved for another day.
And the crazier the universe gets, the smaller I go. The power of crafting one haiku, one haiga, on one little corner of the page of a notebook, is a rearranging of the stuff of matter and thought into something that matters, something thoughtful. And around the haiku, there's that aura of silence in which the imagination happens...that's also a place of healing, of resolve, of moving in a direction that feels like forward. Visit that place early and often.
life's square centimeter of question
Wednesday, November 9, 2016
I need to tell myself there is still poetry in this world. As much poetry, in fact, as there was yesterday, and perhaps more. And art in all its other forms.
Small consolation at the moment, when all that was good seems to have been broken. But...poetry.
That might get me through the day.
a mirror for
Monday, November 7, 2016
I began to ponder the connections between dance and poetry, and since each dance segment was so short—just enough time, to my untrained eye, for each couple to maybe make it around the dance floor once, showing their skill to the judges—that I thought specifically of haiku and dance. One little waltz of words, a quick-step of image, a tango of emotion...I came home inspired.
Thank goodness I took a lot of blurry photos, because I realized there were haiga here, in which I could try to partner the images and poems and keep with me a little of the magic of that day.
a constellation of pearls
on the dancer's back
Thanks to Noelle MK and all the dancers.
Sunday, November 6, 2016
Okay one more for today, because, you know, I have papers to grade. Another haiga from a couple years back. I love photographing interiors; this one is taken from outside through a window, I think, if I'm recalling the location correctly.
asking of it only what it is light
is it her touch
or the lily I miss
now that the sky
Haiku or other short-form poems (such as the tanka above) with a collage, forming a haiga...This is one of my favorite creative outlets these days. Maybe it's the satisfaction of tearing magazines to shreds, or the search for the perfect image, or the writing of the poem itself (which usually happens as the collage is taking shape), or the smell of the glue stick...well, okay, not that last one. I may offer a workshop on haiga collage soon (perhaps in January, between semesters). I think my Creative Writing students enjoyed this; it seemed like a productive way to ease ourselves into the Fall semester.