Self and reality. Symbol and language. Myth and image. Memory and consciousness.
Dream and unreality: locus communis.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

12/365

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Green pickup— loaded
down with multiple blooming
deep blood-red roses.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Remembering John Stahle

Just a few moments ago I found out details regarding the late John Stahle. He was a gifted, complex man. I wish I knew him better.

The poetry he left behind should be remembered.

A memorial tribute is being arranged in New York City.

For more details, visit: http://rememberingjohnstahle.com/.

On Sentimentality

Heading across the college campus in the dark of Monday morning, the security lights glazed over the parking lot and the sidewalks—and despite the early hour, the air clung close with heavy humidity, pressing in, demanding attention: a typical August morning. At one point, halfway to the classroom, as I passed through a small copse of trees, just above my head a full spider’s web clung between two branches, shining out in front of a street lamp, each strand of the net casting off light. Trapped within the threads hung a constellation of mayflies, luminous, pale green stars clustered in an awkward shape.

Placing the above information into a haiku verse presents a problem: there is no way to avoid the obvious metaphor, the over-sentimental symbolism embedded in the scene.

Haiku are intended to be brief scenes: flashes of personal insight that may at first confuse a reader if he/she skims the material too quickly.
Without pulling back details or deleting circumstances, the image of the web seems trite to me. The fact the timing established is early morning presents unnecessary “drama” to the poem. The fact that the mayflies are clustered as stars adds more forced “mystery” to the equation. However, the moment itself (without listening to the critical editor in my head) the moment itself should lie ripe for a haiku-epiphany: poet confronted with conflicting duality of nature; out of pain comes beauty, circumstances of life and death.

The incident reminds me of the short essay by Virginia Woolf, “The Death of the Moth” which portrays a scene of a common “hay-colored” insect “fluttering from side to side of his square of the windowpane. One could not help watching him. One was, indeed, conscious of a queer feeling of pity for him… He flew vigorously to one corner of his compartment, and waiting there a second, flew across to the other.” In these ten, heavily-detailed paragraphs, she depicts the process of death for a nondescript insect in unsentimental tones. Despite the theme of the essay which analyzes the life-force in every human, animal, or thing, Woolf successfully avoids any overt sentimental tones or cliché observations due to the fact she keeps the focus of her essay on the event of the moth struggling with death, without investing over-sentimental emotions.

Within the scene described in the opening paragraph, the image of the spider’s web could act as a deterrent to a successful reading of a modern haiku— as we know, the English version of the haiku limits the poet to three lines, seventeen syllables— in these shortened sequence of verse, a mildly sentimental scene suddenly over powers the tone, creating a heavily charged, overly emotional poem. Seventeen syllables control the amount of possible elements to position inside the terse lines.

The poet Susan Mitchell created a poem which loosely connects to this concept as well—simply titled “Rainbow.” Using the prism arch as a motif, she begins the work describing a scene which in the wrong hands would be over sentimental—a persona walking along the beach front with her mother and the experience of a rainbow over the waters. She writes:

Now, my mother
is the kind of person—well if she came on
a rainbow in a poem, she would say
sentimental, she would tell the poet
to take it out. She is a great lover of poetry
and has always disliked sentimentality
in art (ll 18-22).

Mitchell strategically chooses a sentimental scene, and then navigates her way around the moment by reflecting back on a realistic, matter-of-fact tone relating to the event. The image of the rainbow is important, yes. It is an epiphany moment, yes. However, she does not dwell on the emotions created from the image—she allows the reader to make his or her own assumptions. The poem is about building connections, bridging lives, not just about a rainbow.
So, back to my problem. After a few moments of further reflection, the following haiku produced itself:
Luminous green fires.
Constellation of mayflies
locked in a spider’s web.

I realize now, the difficulties originally that frustrated me spun out from the want to protect the full scene as much as possible, shove the full moment of humidity, darkness, morning, lights, web, mayflies—I wanted to shove all of these into three terse lines. Through deletion and letting go of key elements—what I felt was needed in the verse to protect it from over-sentimental notions actually proved to me they were causing the almost didactic tone to emerge in the text.

Haiku are intended to be brief scenes: flashes of personal insight that may at first confuse a reader if he/she skims the material too quickly. With further, in-depth, reflection, the reader empathizes with the haiku’s epiphany moment, and discovers how much sentiment the poet invested in the piece.

11/365

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A long warm shower
after a long day. Even
the moon moans softly.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

10/365

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Moonlight in the hall
considers the suitcases
left by the window.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

9/365

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I wash my face. Slow.
The moon is not out tonight.
Only me. Mirrored.

Friday, August 27, 2010

8/365

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Pen shifts. Impatient.
The blank page looks up, waiting—
but nothing to say.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

7/365

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Removed from his life,
he points a gun at the sun.
Shoots blindly. Once. Twice.



This exists as the one time I utilized a fictional situation in these haiku-poems; from the highway the day's heat submerged the landscape in a burning liquid. Everything seemed on the edge of a great apocalyptical resolution, or at least a random personal tragedy.

Stuck in traffic, on the side of the road a few people wandered. Apparently aimless. Homeless. Bitter phrases emerged in my head, such as:
     ruptured life

     eroded life
     wage war on self
     shell of a failing body

The "he" in the above haiku exists as a component of many figures. A conglomeration of different forms from memory.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

6/365

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A mild headache throbs
over my right eye— pulsing—
a soft summer rain.


or


A soft summer rain.
Over my right eye— pulsing—
a mild headache throbs.


or


A soft summer rain—
a mild headache throbs—pulsing—
over my right eye—


Still torn which of the three presents a stronger reaction for the reader. The intent is to show two extremes of emotive thought: pastoral scene/slight physical pain.

In my journal I wrote:
On the edge of the horizon, a thunderstorm slips across the surface of the landscape. From our perspective, it looms up, half covering the dusk with inky shadows, billowing, not bellowing, like a huge canvas sail, edging forward, northwest.

R. shufffles about the kitchen creating a dish for work—the aroma follows me everywhere—green olives, garlic, tomatoes, chicken stock, onion, capers, cilantro... my mouth waters at the assortment.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

5/365

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After hours. Silence.
The house murmurs quietly.
Only the moon hears.

Monday, August 23, 2010

4/365

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Two poems from two different moments of the same day: midafternoon and then evening. The first developed after another series of hours grading, reading flawed research papers, and grading again. After the rain storms, I walked over to the mail center, feeling the last few remaining stages of water lessen slowly, decreasing in intensity, until nothing. The world was humid. Water lay everywhere. A chimney swift did circle once or twice, directly in front of me, with tight, angular wings, coffee colored chest.

Failures of the day
constrict in the throat, until—
look! A chimney swift!



Reading poems in bed.
Quietly turning pages—
as you mumble. Snore.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

3/365

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Outside—summer storms.
Inside—the walls pulse with
vibrations of silence.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

2/365

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Lucky thirteen lies
over me, a rough embrace.
Strong abusive love.



Originally this haiku was created on the Thursday night of May 13— as a means of showing my mild triskaidekaphobia— often I avoid ocurrences of thirteen just to be safe— lately, to combat the absurdity of it all I mention the number, over-embellish its state of ill-fortune. Wanting to establish metaphors explaining the psychological connection that lies between situations I avoid and the conscious, waking self.


Friday, August 20, 2010

1/365

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A persistent hum,
sounding from the old floor fan,
drowns out sense of self.