2021 Haiku A Day Anyone?

Happy 2021! I took a two week break from blogging. The laptop, which represents work, was firmly left closed and put away in the drawer. I hope you have had a time of rest during these Twelve Days of Christmas that are time our of time. Literally! The twelve days were leftovers when they switched from the Julian to Gregorian calendar. My rest has been spent reading, calling/Zooming friends and family, making nice food, eating same, making sure I get some exercise everyday (step counter appended) and writing a haiku, senryu or tanka for the Omen Days.

The Omen Days come from a tradition of observing nature during the Twelve Days of Christmas, from 26th December/St. Stephen’s Day/Boxing Day until Epiphany/Nollaig na Ban on 6th January. From each day’s observation one should have some augury for the month of the year ahead. So Stephen’s Day would be Day 1 of the Omen Days. And January 6th is Day 12 of the Omen Days.

Some use tarot cards. I used some Emily Dickinson Divination cards last year. I cannot say if they accurately foretold the theme for each month in the year ahead, but I can say that over 2018/2019, writing a poem a day sustained me while my husband’s sister was dying, the funeral and aftermath.

This year nature and it’s resurgence (and THERE is a lovely word of the year for 2021, isn’t it?!) has sustained us in our isolation. So it seemed right to write a haiku, senryu or tanka each day through the omen days. We shall see if they have been any kind of augury.

Then,as I was totting up some steps on my pedometer the other day, I wondered if I could keep a haiku/senryu/tanka journal for the 365 days of 2021. I have said in previous posts that I feel that Doorways is a real theme for 2021. What doors will open? Maybe by keenly observing nature I will record this threshold time.

I have been given a lovely notebook with bees on it by our goddaughter. It is quite small. A perfect size for keeping a haiku journal. I have a couple projects that are going to keep my nose to the grind stone over the next few months, so keeping my poetry writing hand active with small, obtainable daily objectives seems sensible.

It’s been frosty and cold most of these Omen Days with Day 8 being the exception. Far sunnier than we normally experience in winter, too. My ten year old grandniece in Pennsylvania is a keen amateur meterologist. I wonder what she would predict from our weather? Although she is having far more fun following tornados in Galveston.

Here is a sampling of my Omen Days haiku, senryu and tanka. Haiku traditionally has a season word and, ideally, a bit of an ‘Ah ha! wrapped up in its seventeen syllables. Senryu also has the same seventeen syllable pattern, but observes human nature rather than the environment. A tanka is basically a haiku/senryu capped with two lines of seven syllables each.

Omen Day 1 - St. Stephen's Day, 26th December 2020

When's the sky true white?
A blank page that's fluttering
Wind an ocean roar

Omen Day 4 - 29th December 2020

Birds glide on thermals
They trust in their skill - or fate
Would that I could
Omen Day 5 - 30th December 2020

The forecast: snowfall
Frosty, bone cold daybreak
Prediction: mug's game!

Omen Day 8 - 2nd January 2021

Look up! Starry night
Dots of light sprawl the sky
The infinite small

The haiku shoguns would probably come after some of these efforts. But sometimes you just have to allow yourself to do the best you can and not let others judge it as not good enough.

Be gentle with yourself. Take care. We are not out of this viral storm yet. In the meantime, continue to create. Keep the hearth fire burning in your soul. St. Brigid’s Day is coming soon, and with it a 30 Day e-course to keep you inspired and resilient.

Snowdrops, a harbinger of Spring and Renewal, sacred to the saint and goddess Brigid

Featured image Photo by Jude Beck on Unsplash

Enter Winter

It has been a week where rain has been turning into sleet. We have had hoar frost for a couple mornings this week and a distinctly unbalmy -1C at dawn today. Which is blooming cold for Ireland! The Light in the Window: 21 Days Journey through December’s Dark Days e-course started winging into email inboxes last Tuesday. We have our first Zoom fireside chat in a couple hours.

And yet, what I want to report on is the amazing play of light and cloud at both dawn and sunset this week. Also, fog banks hovering on the horizon. As I tap out this blog outdoors is a white mist. We have an orange alert fog warning tonight. But it is also very beautiful. I am wont to say we live in Tir na nÓg, and weeks like this tend to prove my supposition.

Most days I have been running around with a camera to capture some of the gorgeousness on display. I like winter since moving to Ireland. Or maybe it comes from living out in the country. Either way I have been seriously excited about it many days this week.

At dawn I was looking out at the frost and fog and felt some tanka coming on. So you get a bonus weekly poem.

8:30 AM, St. Nicholas Day, -1C

Each twig is outlined
Trace tree's bare bones with the frost
Backlit by pale sun
Fog freezeframes this whitened world
The blackbird looks in at me.
10AM, St. Nicholas Day, -1C

Gold light glimmering
Frost crystals shiver teardrops
Eyewatering cold
A good day to be alive
If you have a place inside

Which leads into a segue regarding this Christmas. Spare some cash for whatever local charities who are supporting the homeless. This is what one organisation is doing to provide support with Virtual Santa Boxes during this time of Covid19. https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=2770392549878979. The pandemic has done one good thing. It has really made people think creatively and laterally to achieve what is needed. I hope we keep it up once the virus is under control by spring.

Late Summer Misty Morning

It is probably hot most everywhere in the Northern Hemisphere. Even in Ireland it was 22C yesterday and with the general humidity of an island climate, it felt pretty steamy to the likes of me who is heat averse. I was awake at dawn, unusually for me now that I no longer write a poem a day. It was a pleasant reunion with the amrit vela, the darkness before first light. I watched the sun rise over the wind turbines on Arigna and then a mist roll down until it stopped right at our property line. The willow trees that soak up the sogginess and bogginess of our acre were completely gilded with dawn light. The global axis turns down into autumn; it is, to me at least, the most breathtaking time of year anywhere in the world here in Ireland.

The Sunday Weekly will be brief this week. There is garden produce to process. There is a funeral in the neighbourhood and we are negotiating the new rituals of Covid19 that have altered centuries old mourning traditions. Masked, I handed a cake into my neighbour’s home yesterday for their visitors. The door stood open since it was a fine day. One person stood across the length of the small sitting room, while the other sat masked by the door. It is a tight fit for social distancing in these old cottages and houses. I asked the local funeral director what the drill is to be: 50 in the church, the rest out in the car park for both the removal and funeral. Masks mandatory from Monday and Monday is the funeral. Hand gel is at the church door – the new holy water, I guess.

But I return to nature and the seasons, the immutably mutable of life. I turned my hand to a tanka for this week’s poem.

Mist's incoming tide
Dawn's sun gilds the blackbird's beak
Crowns his willow home
Heat haze recedes -the tide's out
Leaves just bathed in topaz light

Have a good week. Get yourself some time out to bathe in nature. I have produce to process and put in the freezer. I fancy some peach cobbler for supper. The warm weather is set for this week, which may mean more opportunities for me to meet the amrit vela of the day and watch the light pad across our acre from the east.

The featured image is a Photo by Helena Gunnare on Unsplash

Fledglings

We are all fledglings these days. We can learn a great deal from nature. Certainly with cocooning we have more time now to carefully observe nature in our New Normal.

Just eleven days ago, as Ireland began Phase 1 of our Roadmap to Returning, my husband discovered a nest of baby blue tits in the cavity of some concrete blocks that had lain fallow during lockdown when some hard landscaping work had ceased. Tony, being a Franciscan at heart, immediately began to create a fortress to make sure Mama Bird could get in and out while our cats were not going to be allowed to indulge in any serial killer instincts. This Sunday, we can announce that they have flown the nest. Also, there is only one starling that is still rooming in the eaves over my writing space. The fledglings have begun to go out in the world, though Tony reports that one of the baby birds has been visiting him and watches him while he works in the garden. Perhaps the bird feels comforted by Tony’s protective presence.

We are all fledglings now. Cautiously, for essential tasks, we admit strangers to our homes. And then, if you are me, you spray every surface they could potentially have touched in the process of putting in copper gas pipes so I could make dinners. All delivery people and installers are masked, but it can be hard to stay with them in a heat wave. Well, for us, anything over 21C (70F) is a heatwave. We are languishing in afternoon temperatures rising to 24C this weekend.

Which is why I am posting the Sunday Weekly poem a bit later than usual. I am a shade plant. Though I am not really a morning lark by nature, in hot weather if I am going to be anything other than a slug, I have to perform essential tasks like the long(ish) dog walk, as well as some housework and garden weeding and watering before I reach melting point at 11am. We have a breeze today, so I made it to 11:30.

Ireland tends to feel shorted on summertime, but this year of lockdown has seen long, long periods without rain, lots of sunshine and now, temperatures that are warmer than we are used to experience at this time of year. The hawthorn blossom is spent and the elder is flowering early. A friend also noticed that the orchids we have around here seem to be out earlier, too. The springtime palette of purples and yellows is now yielding to the pinks of celine, lupin, foxglove and snapdragon. The rose Galway Bay has bloomed. The mallow, which had self-seeded all over the place in the poorest of conditions, is flowering early, too. Summer is looking very magenta pink this year!

Because it has been a busy week, with bursts of social interation with trades people, as well as unaccustomed heat, I have cut myself some slack on the Sunday Weekly Poem front. I have written a tanka again this week. Summer has come in. We have lots of work to do and have to pace ourselves through it.

Smell the roses if you can while you still can…

Rose Galway Bay

The New Weekend Normal

How do you keep track of which day of the week it is if you are not working a regular job, at home or otherwise? What routine is part of your Covid 19 New Weekend Normal? One friend confessed that she ordered out for takeaway food each Saturday. Partly it was to take a break from cooking. Mostly, to have some kind of marker in the week that was regular. Although getting a takeaway these days means collection is by appointment and a masked and gloved person slides your order to you on a tray. It feels faintly illicit. For me, now that NaPoWriMo is done, it is getting back to my Sunday Weekly post. That is my New Weekend Normal.

Ireland began Phase 1 of its Roadmap to Reopening last Monday. Although there was an initial rash of more people stopping and having a shouted chat from the lane to us in the garden, things have slumped back to the quieter rhythm. It is as if now that we have had a little ration of other faces different from the ones we have been looking at for the last two months and more, that we have crept back to our old cocooning ways. That Ireland’s two month drought, which coincided with the Call to Cocoon, broke this week, does not mean there is a rush for tiny outdoor tea parties. At writing, there is a storm, heavy rain for sure, but also really blustery wind over 40 km an hour. So this weekend the weather has us indoors.

The New Normal also means that every diary date that has been noted in January is cancelled. This Saturday I was scheduled to give a Mindfulness Walk in the Cavan Burren. On Sunday we should have been fine dining at the MacNean Restaurant, celebrating our niece’s 28th birthday. At this point, I am looking forward to FaceTiming with her and thinking that, all being well, we might get to see her August 11th! As for the Sunday lunch, I shall have to hope we can get a 2021 slot.

Though I have to say that the Phase 1 of reopening seemed to unlock my ability to tackle re-writes, to edit individual poems for the manuscript that has languished between adjusting to our Covid19 New Normal and the diversion of daily poem writing for NaPoWriMo/GloPoWriMo. Anecdotally, I learned that many people had difficulty concentrating in the early days of Stay in Place. Although in many respects our lives did not change radically, it is often the subtle readjustments that throw us. Like when your cooker goes kaput and you are cocooning. For the first time ever I have invested in White Goods by looking at a photo of shopfloor model and paid by credit card over the phone. The delivery on Monday should be interesting. Nonetheless, things are shifting. The energy is subtly different.

Here in Ireland
 
This week, we opened the windows a crack.
So suddenly things felt a whole lot more people-y.  
Though news travels tractor pace
up and down our lane, more cars passed
Monday, May 18th, and people didn’t just wave,
but pulled up, hand braked, to shout out catch ups.
 
Surprise that our neighbour next door went back to hospital
was it two weeks ago now. Shock that the cocoon funeral
actually had shoulder-to-shoulder pall bearers!
But the craic is the director has six family members on call.
There were pickups of garden cuttings set out on our wall
with shouted debates on how to avoid cultivation errors.
 
Just when we could have invited a friend round
for an outdoor cup of tea sitting two metres away,
the two month drought broke.  The great wind
that might wind up being called Ellen blusters.
The willows are bending over at their waists
performing hourly ritual prostrations.
 
We remain in.

Cocooning prior to Covid-19 meant a time to go within, to regroup and recharge. It is especially sacred time for introverts to take time out when things just get too people-y. Here’s a poem I wrote before our current context. https://sojourningsmith.blog/2018/10/24/cocoon/.

Given the re-writes, the jigs and reels of submission guidelines, the brief fever of flash fiction writing this week, I am going to offer a tanka as the Sunday Weekly poem today. In terms of reopening from cocooning, I feel as if we may have cracked the pupa, but I feel like a very dozy caterpillar. The weather turned heavy this week as the low pressure system approached and a number of us (myself included) have felt zonked some days.

A tanka is a haiku followed by two seven syllable lines portraying a complete picture or mood




Sunday Weekly, Poetry Edition

Contemplating the function of poetry in these strange times, it seems to me that the themes of impermanence and small joys speak to our current global condition. Elegies exercise grief over loss. Odes, too, can eulogise. Haiku, senryu, and tanka offer a snapshot image and feeling that is already gone except for the paper it is written on. Perhaps nature and love poems are the compensating joys, even if that, too, proves evanescent. The Celtish culture defined poetry as being ‘all memory.’ Memory can be a tricky thing. Holes can appear; we mend and make do to create meaning in the face of the great imponderables. In the face of our inchoate, post-Covid 19 future, philosophy may help us navigate day to day reality, but poetry may actually be what helps us navigate grief and uncertainty.

I know that some of my readers will be in the belly of a polar vortex this weekend. One Ohio based Facebook friend posted a photo of snowflakes on dandelion clocks. Here in Ireland today is chillier, after several days that were 20C (or 68 Farhrenheit in old money.) The sunshine made it feel warmer and I anointed myself with sunscreen for the first time this year, as one step beyond the floppy hat protection. We had the full Flower Moon, the last supermoon of 2020, this past week and astronomical Bealtaine (or Beltane outside of Ireland). As if waiting for its cue, the hawthorn began to unbutton its tight white buds and began to flower. I wrote a long Beataine poem this week that has been sent to a friend who posted me some life enhancing Lockdown light literature – crime fiction by Antonia Fraser, Raymond Chandler and J. M. Cain. I asked what I could send as a thank you and all she wanted was a Bealtaine poem! Classy lady, as another friend commented.

In the USA it is Mother’s Day. On this side of the pond we celebrate that on a Sunday that is close to the vernal equinox; it also is close to Lady Day, the feast of the Annunciation of Mary. Either date, the celebration of Mother’s Day has strong Marian overtones. Bealtaine, the month of May, is also a great fertility celebration as the growing season gets into full swing.

So for the Sunday Weekly I have written some tanka, although I have played a bit fast and lose with the rules in the latter. One is a salute to American Mother’s Day, which must feel rather odd this year for families that don’t share one roof. Lilacs are strong in my childhood memories of the month of May. Partially because there was a bush by the kitchen side door. Also partially because of hay fever memories from the bouquets brought to school for Marian celebration processions.

And this other tanka-ish poem is a nod to my near neighbours. I shouldn’t really say they are noisy, but… Their nest in the roof’s eaves is just above my writing space. So I cannot help but notice them.

Have a peaceful, restful Sunday with many small joys.

Featured image is a Photo by Nellia Kurme on Unsplash

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.

Tanka

At some point during my sleep I briefly woke with the day’s poem all neatly configured. But I didn’t sit up and write it down then and there. So the poem was a dream. The dream was a poem…or poetry writing. It drifted back into morpheus.

I have a demanding ten days ahead. So today is my day of rest. I need reading. I am being fed by friends. But I crave a deluxe Sunday breakfast first. So I am keeping poetry practice short and sweet. Also, I am saluting the latest accessory to help me move through the next ten days. You know how there are shoe women or handbag women? Well, now you know which one I am.

I used the tanka for a writing exercise on trees with the school group on Friday. It has been awhile since I turned my pen to writing one. So for this restful Sunday the Poetry Daily gives you a tanka on a handbag. My new one is the colour of Colman’s English mustard. I was calling to me like a siren from high up a shelf in the shop. It has mock tortoiseshell handles. I am completely infatuated.

It’s my day of rest. I am feeling a bit frivolous.

The tanka is essentially a haiku or senryu followed by a couplet of seven syllables each. Like haiku there is no rhyme.

Handbag

I carry sunshine
zipped up inside my handbag
along with these things -
hairbrush, hankies, compass, pen,
pebble stones. Forget lipstick.



Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Featured image Photo by Debora Cardenas on UnsplashFeatured image

Deep Time

Poetry practice today is informed by some wildlife – a moth- found on our front door yesterday. Also the walking workshop I delivered to 50+ school kids yesterday up on the Cavan Burren. In a landscape with million year old furniture I was trying to explain when their first ancestors -these were local kids- turned up in Ireland mere thousands of years ago, when sea levels were lower before the last of the big Ice Age melt off. This is background information before these kids make pottery with local ceramic artist Jim Fee.  Humans have been making pots for tens of thousands of years. Writing is a bit of an afterthought – after farming, domestication of animals, megalith making. It was a Bronze Age development. Although perhaps poetry existed in oral form or in singing before that. But the writing down – into stone, onto bark or papyrus- that came fairly late in the day as an art form. The first poetry was recorded by a woman – a princess and priestess- in 3,500BCE in Babylon. Art making was the hand work  that filled the glove of the spiritual and sacred in the ancient world. It was deeper in our DNA even then the urge for food security. As was our human capacity for awe at the workings and movement in nature. We were still part of nature then.

It is one of the great pleasures and privileges of living within Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark that this sense of deep time and survival. Much will pass away, but the art will remain, and the rocks. 

 

So, to the daily poem. I am keeping it short to allow contemplation to be long. A tanka today. A haiku capped with a seven syllable couplet. Which brings me back to that moth. Which my Collins’ “Complete Irish Wildlife” suggests is called the Angle Shade

Angle Shade

Before you are lost

Let me know, name, record you

Survive in deep time

It is just a slip between

A different angle shade

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