NaPoWriMo Day 10 Good Friday

After the fiend of a yesterday’s concrete poem, today’s prompt is a little bit more in my comfort zone. It is a spin on the spare haiku form. Calling itself Hay(na)ku, it is still the familiar three lines. But instead of syllabic counting you need to count words. Line 1 has a single word. Line 2 has two words. Line 3 has 3 words. You can stop with a single stanza or you can link them a bit like a renga.

Nature does not come into it necessarily, like it would for a haiku. Although nature wanted in when I started writing. Also, I realise that I am a product of my religious upbringing, so other certain seasonal imagery crept in. My creative colleague, http://@HelenShay, did a Maundy Thursday poem instead of the concrete poem yesterday, which may be why my own poem today is straying into that territory. Also…I am a product of my religious upbringing, no matter how lapsed I may now be.

(NB: NaPoWriMo is a bit of a community. It is good to connect!)

But before I give you the hay(na)ku, here are some photo images of nature as it is unfurling this spring in my townland in Ireland. I know that for city dwellers this lockdown must be a lot harder than for us country dwellers. Being able to look at nature, even digitally, is supposed to be good for our immune systems. So this is my contribution to shut-ins’ daily dose of immune boosting nature.

townland home
The townland I call home

Communion
 
Leaves
On twigs
Emerged overnight, tiny
 
Blossom
On blackthorn
Appeared communion veiled
 
Trees
Stand. Say
“Take this. Eat.
 
We
Are memory" 
Twig, leaf, thorn
 
Flower
Bud, fruit
Beech mast floor
 
Tree
Branches bare
You and me
 
Copyright © Bee Smith 2020. All rights reserved.
 

From a Distance

How are you doing? The Sunday Weekly poetry post will offer you two poems this week. I have been writing virtually daily though not posting here on such a regular basis. If you want a daily dose of haiku poetry, illustrated with photos taken in our garden, then I recommend that you follow me on Instagram. Look for Word Alchemy for some #haikusofinstagram.

Here in Ireland we are now restricted to remaining within two kilometres of home, except for travel for food shopping or pharmacies or medical centres. Leitrim, which is just the other side of the bridge in our village was the last county in the Republic to report infection. We live in a remote location and can go days just waving at the odd passing car. So not a lot has changed for us, except the new distancing drill at our local supermarket. For such a small village, we are blessed to have a well-stocked shop. While the rest of the world is hoarding toilet paper, in Ireland there has been a run on flour. Apparently, Ireland is baking her way through quarantine.

But before the first poem, so eye candy from the garden.

Cowslip
Cowslip
Daffodils
Daffodils

The first poem came about when my friend in England had a text from her neighbour that the NASA Space Station is visible every night for a brief time. There was too much cloud cover the first night, but I did manage it in a five minute window on Thursday. You can sky watch for it until 4th April. Plug in your location and they will direct you from https://spotthestation.nasa.gov/.

Irish Earth to Space Station
26th March 2020
 
It was a streak, like a comet.
It was a blip. There. Then gone.
So my friend reported from her own
viewing platform
in another country.
 
A crescent moon with Venus
flirting over Her shoulder.
Eyes bisected vectors of horizon,
West, south, east, northeast.
Then. There.
 
In the newly darkened sky a steady
blinking, an elliptical swirling,
a lumbering quasar moving inexorably
in Enniskillen’s direction, an elephant
patrolling earth, crossing borders
 
in air space. No. Make that
outer space, the final frontier.
Wave to those pioneers.
We salute you, space sailors.
Imagine up there if you can
 
all those waves to you from
a distance, before you disappear
behind the cloud cover.
We are waving to you in your
isolation from our own.
 
Copyright ©Bee Smith, 2020. All rights reserved.

Another bit of eye candy before the next poem…

Quaker Bonnet Primrose
The mauve primrose on the left is called Quaker Bonnet


Pocket
 
A river pebble. A small cowrie shell.
A lock of baby hair tied up with silk ribbon.
An acorn found, picked with foraged morel,
in among crumbs of broken chocolate bourbons.
A shiny penny piece of change to spare,
a bit of luck to give up when the hat’s passed round.
All this collection could be anywhere,
but they are soundlessly secure in their clothbound
world. A pocket. Talismans. Amulets
more valuable than a leather wallet.
 
Don’t let anyone pickpocket your joy.
Jingle your happiness like a carefree schoolboy.
 
Copyright © Bee Smith, 2020. All rights reserved.

Look out for haiku during the week with Word Alchemy on Instagram. Check in here, too. You never know what might turn up…

Start the Week: Write Haiku

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.

haiku senryu micropoem buddha garden

Cocooning

It’s a golden Sunday morning in a week that will shape all our lives. I really like that our Taoiseach has called this time of social distancing cocooning. We are waiting for the new beginning, the afterwards when there will be a transformation and a beautiful butterfly will burst forth. I am sure he may not have have all that metaphorical stuff going on when he was writing his St. Patrick’s Day speech to the nation, but…it works for me! Because there is great beauty in the expressions of kindness to one another that are happening. We are called to cherish one another. May the butterfly that emerges from this cocooning time be one of kindness and universal care, that the time spent in isolation will be a cure for our most selfish instincts. Wouldn’t that be something?!

For those who are staying home and want creative activities, Poetry Ireland’s poet in residence is posting a daily poetry spark to get you started. Check out Catherine Ann Cullen’s Twitter @tarryathome. She posts a prompt for kids and adults. I am writing daily and have been finding writing haiku a wonderful exercise in focusing on calm. Spring is here, despite some cold temperatures and hoar frost in the morning. Things are growing and transforming. Our little acre is waking up and looking lively.

Stay tuned for random haiku here on the blog. Even if you don’t have a window and are unable to get out to public gardens to view the daffodils, I will beam you some of nature’s signs that creation persists. Haiku writing can be habit forming though. You have been warned! Given the restrictions of seventeen syllables, a seasonal hint, and making sense in the English language, not to mention having a little Zen something, it can be fiendishly challenging. A bit like crossword puzzles. But so worth it! It really does cure the hamster wheel of negative thoughts going round. Try it!

But here is the Sunday weekly poem. Which was in part sparked by a quotation from an Egyptian poet Iman Mersal:

Poetry is a journey in the dark towards an unknown destination.

Iman Mersal
I Know You Read This Poem
 
I know you read this poem
as if it were some sorcery,
or a conjuring trick, or as if
it were a spell for a way out.
I know you read this poem
with fear in your heart.
 
I know you read this poem
as it if were a map
of an uncharted territory.
And I know! That's an oxymoron,
but they often contain all known
fears at their very heart.
 
I know you read this poem
because you want to learn
how to read your own heart,
because you seek a kind of light
to show you the way out. 
And because you also want
 
there to be more than fear
in your heart. So…
You turn again and again to art.
Which is why I know you read
this poem, which is part spell and
part prayer, from deep in my heart.
 
Copyright © Bee Smith 2020. All rights reserved.

Vernal Equinox Haiku

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.

vernal equinox haiku

HumpDay Haiku 3

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.

In the meantime HumpDay Haiku is here:

HumpDay Haiku

HumpDay Haiku No.2

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.

But I digress. On for the latest HumpDay Haiku!

HumpDay Haiku 2

HumpDay Haiku

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.

Wednesday Haiku Wisdom

In the midst of some marathon re-writing, cutting and pasting, arranging the sequence of poems for my debut solo poetry collection, I felt the need to haiku.

I have written (and failed to write) many haiku, senryu and tanka in my day. Often when I am busy, but have poetry simmering on the back burner of my brain, haiku is my go-to form to keep my hand in. Then I take a little fun time out illustrating it with Adobe Spark. Or you might call that avoidance activity. Both might be correct assessments. Stirring the creative pot takes many different forms. Either way, it helps keep me going when the neck pain and scrunched over the laptop shoulder hunch are knocking me out.

After the storms, the blink of sunshine that made for some Sunday afternoon gardening and outdoor tea drinking, we now have…

Now…back to work!

Outside

I am away on a field trip later this morning that will feed the imagination of students participating in a Creative Ireland project. It is a collaboration between a ceramacist and me,my role being heritage background on place and natural heritage(trees and rocks), as well as some creative writing on both subjects. Museums fill the creative well. When it came to poetry practice this morning I turned to photos taken on my Scotland trip the first week in May. One artist, Ross Hamilton Frew, in an exhibit in Glasgow’s Lighthouse, accompanied his visual art with haiku. The opening line was “Outside My Room.” So I write a series of haiku and a tanka, using that as the opening line. 

Outside my room

The world is a play of light

Chiarascuro

 

Outside my room

Is a still and green jungle

Burgeoning summer

Outside my room

Bees sup on mallow’s nectar

The world continues

Outside my room

Is much like inside my room

Alive, untidy

We each have certain passions

That breach the boundary walls

Copyright 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.
The original artwork that sparked this morning’s poetry practice.
The featured image today is a snap I took in the library of Skail Home Farm at Skara Brae, Scotland.