Saturday, December 17, 2016


It took me far longer than it should have to find the spiral notebook I've had since I was in high school, in which I'd write out my favorite poems (thus beginning a life-long desire to edit anthologies). Instead of being on the bottom shelf of my poetry bookcase, it was right here behind where I sit as I write. But those were unsettling moments, not knowing where this treasured possession was.

I was looking for it to find the poem to which this haiku alludes. Allusion is a common characteristic of traditional haiku and tanka. I have a book of the tanka of Princess Shikishi, translated into English by Hiroaki Sato, and each page has an abundance of footnotes explaining Shikisi's allusions to the work of other poets. Haiku and tanka were a form of conversation, of give-and-take, of dialogue between poets.

I have never (consciously) set out to do this in my haiku or tanka, until this morning. I no longer have the book, which was titled Translations from the Chinese, but I have remembered for more than thirty years (thanks to copying the poem into in this notebook) the lines from "Five 'Tzu-yeh' Songs":

For a moment when you held me fast in your outstretched arms
I thought the river stood still and did not flow.

At the Paulinskill today, which was frozen over, I thought of these lines. I thought of them again in relation to politics and the sorry-spiral state of the country and the world these days, days of good-bye, days of people and things here one moment, gone the next. Truth and sanity...farewell. Is this merely a polar vortex of our discontent; will respect for truth return? To answer this, we should live so long.




  1. Jeannie -- these blog posts of yours are just so beautiful. In relatively few words you offer inspiration and provoke thought. Thank you for sharing all of this.

  2. Thank you, Karen! I really, really appreciate this.