As many of my readers will know, I am a great advocate for writing a poem a day. Some folk are natural rhymsters and rappers. Others are not. To those who are averse to end rhyme I commend the practice of haiku and senryu writing. It is perfect for a contemplative life. Writing poetry is very grounding. It’s like a daily internal check-in with your heart. But you are also looking outwards, noticing seasonal changes or human behavioural foibles. Haiku and senryu are gentle poems. Gentleness is what we need right now – both with ourselves and to others.
Try it. Seventeen syllables. You can do it in less, but absolutely no more. That’s the boundary on your haiku ballpark. Three lines. Although some people do two or four. The lines are flexible. For haiku you need to use a kigo, or seasonal word, that gives us a hint of the season when written. Something like daffodils to indicate spring. Oh, and another thing. No comparisons. No ‘as a..’ or ‘like a’.
Senryu is more an observation of human behaviour. Often it is wryly amused. But also it often has great affection.
What I offer to you today is really neither a classic senryu or haiku. So that falls into the category of a micropoem. But it was a very pleasing snap taken in our garden. For people who are staying in and do not have a view of spring emerging I thought I would offer this picture with a few words.
Spring arrived in the early morning hours. I awoke to the most sparkling of mornings. The light was golden. There was frost on our field. It is the perfect day for gardening. My 70 year old birthday boy husband has been out since he finished his breakfast. A sunny day in the garden is the best of birthday presents as far as he is concerned. It is the perfect day, as far as I am concerned, to be writing some haiku and sharing them with the world, especially for those who do not have nature within eyeshot.
I have been writing each morning. Here are some spring time haiku for you. I hope you have some garden space, or a window box, some compost, so you, too, can grub around in some dirt.
Many who normally would not be at home midweek and able to surf the internet, welcome! If uncertainty is certainly our new normal, this is my tip for those new to staying at home. Try writing a poem a day. It beats paranoia and if you draft it with pen and paper, that will keep you temporarily distracted from news of Doomsday as you cower behind your bog roll tower. (Seriously, some are going without because others were greedy and somehow thought this bug gives you the shits. It doesn’t. So stop hoarding so those who have medical conditions that require a lot of toilet paper have some! My brother reports that New York City seems sold out.)
If you are new to the writing a poem a day gig I suggest that you connect on Twitter with Poetry Ireland’s poet in residence Catherine Ann Cullen (@tarryathome). She is posting a prompt daily, one for kids and one for adults. From personal experience I can say that writing a poem a day is a very grounding activity. It will help harness some of those monkeys swinging on the bars of your jungle gym mind.
While I am less enthusiastic about poetry manuscript re-writes at the moment I am thinking that I will step up the poetry practice, even if I don’t post daily. For the moment I am sticking with the midweek haiku and the Sunday Weekly. But that may change. Which mirrors our current reality.
While more tweaking, editting and reshuffling goes on I like to take a wee break midweek to just write a tiny poem. I have dubbed the series as HumpDay Haiku. Although some weeks they might technically be a tanka, senryu, or a micropoem. I have written many haiku, most of which would probably not pass muster with the haiku shoguns, but they give me joy. So I keep trying, hoping that one day I will, like Basho, have that transcendental moment when the frog leaps into the pond.
Incidentally, we are seeing signs of spring though the wind blows and the rain falls from the sky relentlessly. This past weekend I saw a frog hop down our lane. Fortunately, we don’t have a lot of traffic. With so much water around I suspect that we shall be tadpole central shortly. They are welcome to take up residence and keep the slug population under control. I just sowed some early lettuce last week as a good companion to the broad beans. My fondness for broad beans is not so much about their taste as the gorgeous deep purple flowers they sport. It has encouraged me to embrace them as indigenous plant protein that can have its flavour enhanced with a certain culinary imagination.
One can only hope that there is a break in the precipitation so we can set the early potatoes we bought last Sunday, along with some onions and shallots. Would that everyone had a little piece of land where they could grow their own vegetables organically. It would make for much more food security in the world. But we humans have clustered in cities this past century. But even urban spaces can create community gardens and can share wholesome food with those least able to afford them. Gardeners are generous folk and like to share. What corner of this earth could do without more spontaneous gestures of kindness?
In an age when you can get blackberries in the freezer year round, or flown in from Argentina in winter, its little wonder that youngsters (oh, I am sounding so OLD!) have no grasp of what foods are in season locally. We are so reliant on global markets one wonders if COVID-19 will wake us up to the value of providing for ourselves locally and in season. Or, at the very least, appreciate how spoiled for choice we are in winter with imported fruits and vegetables. This time of year was considered the hungry gap by our ancestors. It was why there was such feverish preserving and canning done in August and September, for that time of year when a fruit or vegetable was not to be had otherwise.
Yesterday the wind blew and rain poured down. It looked like it was going to be yet another weekend of stormy weather. But lo! There is some sunshine and the clouds there are not too fearsome. So I am going to keep the Sunday Weekly poem post short. Maybe a bit bittersweet. Because it is Potato Day at the Organic Centre and we need to get there early to have the most choice from the many seed varieties that will be on sale. Along with garlic. Which has great medicinal value for those of you in a panic over the Covid-19 virus. Grow your own. Get fresh air. Wash your hands. And be well!
The Sunday poem this week was prompted by a quotation in a Guardian Review article last week. I often don’t get to the Review section until well after Saturday. I am particularly fond of the image I have chosen for this week’s post. I found it a few weeks ago and though I didn’t feel it fit the post that week, I stockpiled the Unsplash image by Donald Gianatti.
Being that I am still deep in re-write mode on the solo poetry collection, I am introducing a little mid-week haiku to relieve my own state of anxiety. Books, it appears, are rather like delivering babies. I have been carrying this project around for more than six months. It is beginning to feel heavy, unwieldy. I am informed that in the eighth or ninth month of pregnancy many women just bark “I want this baby out!” I’m at that stage. I am impatient. My mentor temporises saying “You want your baby to have all its fingers and toes!”
There is also the shadow stuff that rears its ugly head…the ‘am I good enough?’ tape. Then there’s the experience of something akin to imposter syndrome. Call myself a poet?! This is Wobbly Wednesday stuff. Which is all self-indulgence. Then I take myself and the dogs up the lane to the holy well and say a prayer that the work will be good. Publishable good.
In the meantime, here’s something for Hump Day. One for sorrow…there is a lot of that going around in the world. The haiku shoguns will get their knickers in a twist because there is some end rhyme…quite unconsciously done, but there you are! There’s no pleasing some days.
Perhaps it will work its charm and later on we will have a month without every weekend with orange alert storms sweeping over our heads. Yes, we have another storm, this time called Jorge because Spanish meteorologists saw him first. Jorge has had lorries in Galway being toppled by his mighty gusts. But this Sunday morning I wake to sunshine, albeit with a huffing and puffing of wind, inflating the polytunnel’s plastic like an artificial lung. If Leap Day had been the March lion, we would have been devoured like a Roman Christian in the arena. He’s just a bit growly this morning, like a dyspeptic lion that has eaten too much gazelle in a hurry. All this stormy weather is unsettling. We have had these gale force winds every weekend since 31st January. Simmer down already! I would like to report something else in the Sunday Weekly. Although last Sunday, though very cold, we had a dry enough interval to go out and plant some bulbs. I hope that peony I put in a container has not drowned.
While rain was the general outlook for the entire week, there were the diversions of Pancake Tuesday and Ash Wednesday, opening the Christian season of Lent. Which leads me to the Lenten subject of ‘what shall I give up?’ that even the fairly undevout consider, if only as an excuse to shed a kilo. The Sunday Weekly is no homage to T. S. Elliot’s Ash Wednesday. And I promise that a rabbit does have a cameo appearance.