Summer Solstice Sunset Senryu

The long light evenings give way to leisurely after dinner walks with houseguests. We found ourselves up on the Cavan Burren yesterday evening just as the angle of light was its brightest before it gradually began to fade into the long twilight. Some summer solstice senryu seems to be in order for poetry practice this morning. We were up in the park a half hour before the gates close at 10PM. After a day of on and off rain the light show showed up a luminous green from the moss and lichen.

Cuilcagh Mountain cavan Burren park
Cloud shadow and fairy trees process
The way to the holy mountain
Cavan Burren Park
When humans were giants
We walked as tall
Casting long shadows

Cavan Burren cow and calf
Bathe in the long light
The calf and her mother
Bronzed forever



Which segues neatly into a photo of Cavan Burren Park’s iconic Calf Hut Dolmen. Basically, the captstone slipped at some stage to create a saltbox effect. At some point in the late 18th or early 19th century a farmer decided to mortar up one end and make it a cattle shelter for the new born calves.

Calf Hut Dolmen Cavan Burren Park
Calf Hut Dolmen Cavan Burren Park

By twilight we were home for dessert and tea. The guests had an early morning start. It wasn’t dark at bedtime.

I am revelling in the summer solstice light and the full moon’s light. I hope you are bathing in its fey joy, too. We are still three days of the exact solstice and the moon will be waning by then. In the meantime, let the yin and the yang sky dance and bring you delight.

Words and images Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Zoomorphism

It is probably down to David Attenborough and the BBC wildlife documentaries he produced. I was chatting on the Local Link bus on Saturday to an elderly lady. (Who am I kidding; I am eligible for the free bus pass in three years!) Any road, she’s a fan and she shared little titbits of animal behaviour that had caught her fancy. The examples surely made animals relatable and more like us humans (or the reverse). Which pretty much defines zoomorphism. 

I am having a slow morning. The weather has changed. I woke with a “logey” head, a low grade headache that makes me feel very draggy. It has taken two cups of Earl Grey to get the poetry engine to start. And on days like today, I find senryu comforting. So – a series of zoomorphic senryu for poetry practice this morning. Senryu is like haiku, in that is only seventeen syllables. It explores behaviour- usually human foibles – whereas haiku concentrates on the cosmic quality of nature.

Unbroken chain

Signals danger’s alert

Badgers asleep 

Holding paws

Barren Aunt Meercat

Gets to be nursery maid

Nature’s stop gap.

Penguins are not shy

They let themselves

Love and mate as they like

Poor Peg!

The mourning grace

The loss of lifetime mate

Solitary swan

Sleep, eat, watch, wait

The patience of an old dog

Stalwart company

Feral feline

So decisive of desire

Unflinching focus

Copyright 2019 Bee Smith

Featured photo is of the wild cat who eventually came in from the cold and onto my lap.

When a Haiku is NOT Haiku ?

Call just any old three line 5-7-5 or seventeen syllable a haiku and you could find yourself on the samurai sword point of the Haiku Shoguns. Because, gentle reader, who may now be quivering in anxiety, a haiku must have a seasonal word or kigo. It is a zen-like contemplation on the eternal wisdom of nature. With a little “Ah-ha!” of enlightenment thrown in.

Everything else is mostly senryu, which takes a gently humourous slant on human foibles. Or it might be a katauta, which is senyu for lovers. Which may segue into sedoka, a kind of three line back and forth between the two parties.

Everything else three line and seventeen syllables is zappai. Are you keeping up?

Here’s how…

Haiku 1

Gorse covered hillside
Wind drifts scent of coconut
An April's chill day

No earth shattering “Ah-ha!”, I know. I didn’t say it was a good example! I am barely awake, much less enlightened at this time of morning! The next one I wrote does have a seasonal hint (hawthorn = May), but does have the little humourous rib.

Haiku 2

Hawthorn's lace and frill
Edging pasture's boundaries
Farmer frippery

Next up is a katauta:

Over many seasons
I have watched your loving hands
I see signs - aging

which then becomes a sedoka when you add the following three lines.

Even your child-size hands
Finally have all grown up
In your magic gloves

Finally, the everything else zappai.

The house is so still
Outside barely a breeze stirs
Making me restless

So now you know when a haiku is really not a haiku. You shall be spared the haiku shogun’s samurai sword point. Just remember. 1) Don’t rhyme. 2) No more than seventeen syllables all in. 3) And use that seasonal hint. And 4) If you have reached an enlightening moment you have haiku gold!

Love and Work in Poetry

Another day and another poetry form in the Poetry Daily. Some mornings I am stuck. Then I refer to a wonder article that lists 100 Poetry Forms on http://writersdigest.com. At random I pick one I have never heard of before. I was feeling a bit jaded this morning so I plucked the Dodoitsu from the list. I have long played with haiku and senryu, so another Japanese form seemed perfect for a morning when I wanted to write in brief. With the dodoitsu you have the broad expanse of a further nine syllables to play around with! Yes, a rash ration of a whole twenty six syllables arranged in four lines. Like haiku and senryu, there is no rhyme. The first three lines have seven syllables each. The capping line has five syllables. The poetry form tends to take ‘love and work with a comical twist’ as its subject according to the website article.

So I flexed my fingers and finally got out my notebook and pen for poetry practice. I do find Japanese poetry forms kind of zen. Face the blank page, instead of a blank wall. But often poignant. Also often very funny.

Another Kind of Zen

First, the poet awakens
Pause for tea ceremony
Then takes up her fountain pen
Bows to the blank page

Creative Process

The creative process is
a building skip full of flops,
retakes, almost but not quites
But still. Keep trying!


Long Love

Well! we can still huff and puff
Argue the toss all bluster
Lower lip bound to quiver
Then kiss "Goodnight, Love!"


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Featured image Photo by Simson Petrol on Unsplash

Senryu Saturday

Over the next two weeks I will be teaching three workshops each week. So I am relieved that NaPoWriMo will be providing daily poetry prompts from tomorrow. Because  this little engine that could is running our of steam. And I do seriously think that April will be the end of my Poem A Day writing. At some point I need to address editting…

However, the brief sweetness of senryu suggested itself for today as I prepare to deliver a workshop on creative non-fiction.

Today would have been my sister-in-law’s 65th birthday. She died just after last Christmas and her funeral was the day after New Year’s. My husband will be memorialising her today planting sunflower seeds, a flower they both favour and have adopted as a family symbol. Gardening, as his late mother knew, heals all.

The scent of hyacinth consoles

He knew to plant many last autumn

Copyright 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Friday Senryu

After the bonus poem for World Poetry Day yesterday, I figured I could cut myself a little slack on poetry practice this morning. Especially, as I have a cat who has somehow managed to injure his left hind leg. So I am more concerned about keeping him warm and quiet; we shall have to see if that will mend matters. He is a wily, often bad-tempered, utterly loveable former feral whom I have socialised into a household. He is full of contradictions. He yearns to belong. He auditioned long and hard to come indoors, but then had the arrogance to misbehave and bully the girls. We could not have that! Manners maketh the man I would quote to him over his windowsill supper many times. It can be a bit of work in progress some days. But he is a bit of a spirit animal for me, or familiar, or a Pullmanesque daemon.

The love for our companion animals (and they for us) is often complex. We since we do not share a common language. Apparently domestic cats only meow to communicate with humans. They enrich our lives immeasurably even as I complain about the amount of cat litter I have to change (there are four cats in this household.)

At any rate, I need to attend to my pet. So senryu it is for today. Haiku is concerned with nature. Senryu has the same number of syllables, but its concern his with human nature.

Limping cat snarls and snaps
I offer soft words and strokes
Now you purr

The formerly feral feline

And simply for species equality I include one for the dogs. We have two dogs in the household as well. Then I need to become matron of Pet Hospital.

The auld dog's day: breathe, sleep,
sniff air, sun bask
the odd sprint for old time's sake

Have a good weekend. Happy Friday. Hug your fur babies. Pat a friend’s companion animal, but ask nicely first. Animals require that they give consent, too.

Spring Haiku

Sorry, but out where I live nature and the seasons are really in your face. Some days, the poetry practice just defaults to haiku and senryu. It comes with the territory when you live in a geopark I suppose. Haiku, senryu and micropoems certainly work as a poetry etude for me this morning.

Earth incubates
Her womb warm
Even when its cold
outside-
Still growth
Every spring
Nature's in your face
Surprise!
Tweet, caw, coo-woo, chuckle
Neighbour's conversation
Early morning
Catkins
Caterpillar fuzzy
Sun bright
This misty morning

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

January Micro(scopic) Poems

It is one of those bright winter mornings where there is real fire in the sun’s rays. You can understand why Brigid’s feast day is this time of year. You can also understand why some translate her name as ‘bright arrow.’ She is also described as a ‘sun gold’ or ‘red gold’ woman. On this Irish morning I get it. It is very real and imminent.

For my poetry practice this morning I felt drawn to writing haiku, senryu and micropoems. Micropoems are little things. Haiku celebrate a (hopefully) epiphanous moment in nature; senryu look (often wryly, frequently fondly and humourously) at human nature. They do it in seventeen syllables or less. Micropoems cover the rest of the tiny poems that fulfill neither technical description. They have a wider thematic brief and also tend to have titles, whereas haiku and senyru go out into the world nameless.

This was actually how I started the day.

 A thump as beak meets glass
Hey! Open up the Birdy's Café!

This time of year in Celtic lore is considered a wrestling match between Mother Winter, the Cailleach, and the Maiden, Brighid.

The Last of the Cailleach

Safe in her cave
Sucking marrow from bone
Bright rays piece her fastness

Actually, it is often the coldest weather right at this time of year in Ireland. Often this is the the last push for snow and ice at Imbolc, so we acknowledge this by making hearty stews and mashed potato or ham and colcannon. Neeps are not just for Burn’s night either. Turnip and bacon is pure January comfort food. Making a stew from shin of beef probably inspired this.J

To fire our bellies
We want to sup marrow from bone
Hungry days

But then the Maiden Brigid is right on the threshold of the season and year. Spring is coming. We see it in the bulbs popping up. The gorse has bloomed again in this upland country. (And it’s scent is almost tropical! True!) This little poem is a riff on the old custom of welcoming St. Brigid into you house, opening your front door and saying the welcome aloud.

These fiery rays
Melting morning's frost
Brigid is welcome! She is!
A welcome to Brigid, acknowledging both her saintly and goddess status

This is a week where I will be giving public readings of some of my Brigid inspired poems, weaving St. Brigid’s crosses, telling Her folklore to groups and generally having a lot of fun. It is time to bake my special seed cake because we are on the threshold of new growth. It’s time! We can feel it in our belly.

Haiku to a Quieter Mind

I am prepping for a workshop later this week which combines a walk in a Geopark forest with mindfulness and haiku writing. Synchronously, a friend pointed me to a website that is  running online haiku courses to override negative thinking. While I am not sure that haiku writing can achieve that, what I do know is that because it is grounded in the present moment it is similar to mindfulness meditation. While it may not completely quiet a mind, I do think a regular practice of writing haiku or senryu may help the mental chatter and static recede. Nor am I persuaded that it is constructive to label any of our thoughts as ‘bad.’ It is what we do with our thoughts – whether they harm ourselves or others – when put into action that is more to the point. Mindfulness meditation helps us enter into a space where we witness our thoughts and let them go. Or,alternatively, they can be put to paper.

Haiku is traditionally nature based and is no more than seventeen syllables long. Senryu is also seventeen syllables long, but takes human behaviour, often human foibles, as its inspiration. Either, being grounded in a moment of perception and realisation, ground our witness consciousness using this abbreviated format. It may not calm you, but I do believe it helps centre even the most restless and anxious mind.

Today’s poetry practice is neither haiku or senryu, but a tanka. A tanka is a five line poem made up of a haiku with a capping two liner made up of fourteen syllables. Traditionally, the Japanese use a format of 5-7-5-7-7 syllables. I have kept the syllabic count, but arranged it to make sense as an English language speaker.

Leaf frost

Golden sun crowning Paddy’s hill

The day is in right order

Light spreads over our townland

The world is in right order