Monday, October 31, 2011

Smithsonian poems

I missed my weekend entries the past couple of days because we had friends in town and I didn't stick to my one-a-day regimen. Now I'm having trouble tapping into the frame of mind I usually write haiku from.

That means it's time for a frankenhaiku -- one that takes randomly selected bits of text and stitches them together to see what happens. Sometimes I'll use lines from earlier, more intentional haiku; sometimes from another source. Tonight's poem is constructed from the November 2011 issue of Smithsonian magazine:

potato fields --
his abundant protests rang
growing love in suffered life

Pretty far from the conventional haiku spirit, so maybe frankenpoem is a more appropriate term than frankenhaiku this time.

If you're interested in the process: I used assorted dice to pick a page of the magazine to pull text from. Then rolled the dice again to pick which line of that page the text would come from.

Below are the 10 lines (from 10 different pages) I used to cobble together words and phrases that I liked the sense of. Even using the limited palette of words from these randomly selected lines, I haven't been able to resist editing it multiple times.

If you take the lines themselves in their entirety and read them as a 10-line poem, I like some of its moments, too (especially in the last 5 lines or so):

before the potato (and corn)
fields with up to 20 landraces the
on the orders of Pope Shenouda after his release. "At the
abundant, reasonably healthy food for
February) joined in protests against
Big Ching rang in the day with the People's Republic anthem
(left) and a metroplex growing to fit 23 million people
the Greek goddess of love
in the Netherlands, Belgium, Prussia
life. Yet they have long suffered

Friday, October 28, 2011

pool of broken glass, redux

In this previous post, I was unhappy with the repetition of the word "pool(s)" in such a short poem. How about some variations?:

pool of broken glass
the color of the sea
in tour brochures

pool of broken glass
the color of
screensaver seas

pool of broken glass
the color of

I like to let haiku stand alone without talking too much about specific scenes that inspired them. Sometimes extra description feels like cheating; sometimes it's because I want to let readers' interpretations be more open.

I hope that the image in these poems will remain evocative, but I also have to share the original sight that inspired it. It was a sculpture by 20th-century artist Robert Smithson that we saw recently at the Dia: Beacon art museum in Beacon, NY. The sculpture is called Map of Broken Glass: Atlantis, and its combination of lethality (giant shards of broken glass) and beautiful, inviting color was really effective. You can see it on the Dia: Beacon website here, although the photo doesn't do justice to the work's color.

Smithson is most famous for his larger Land Art works like Spiral Jetty, so it was interesting to see his sculptural work on a more intimate scale. Great use of materials and textures.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


On the outskirts of town there is a reservoir -- a many-fingered lake popular with the locals for boating, fishing, hiking. There was a lake like this near my hometown growing up, and now there's this one near my current, adopted hometown, three states away.

The similarities between the two are striking, although maybe less so when you learn that both lakes are man-made, created in the past 50 years or so. When we drive on a long, low bridge across an arm of water, it would be hard for me to tell you whether we were crossing the waters of my childhood or of my now. I guess the woods around this one are almost never blanketed in snow. Around that one the land is hillier and there's a slope cleared perfectly for sledding, despite the unavoidable, icy stream at the bottom.

Both lakes were created in rural areas, but that doesn't mean the land was uninhabited before. Small roads disappear into the waters of each. My brother and I would follow our dad down the gentle slope of such a road into the water with our fishing rods -- the macadam underfoot (and underwater) still new-seeming and almost untouched by mud or algae. One terribly dry year we paced the rocky foundation of an old farmhouse that had previously stood just off the road, but now was usually hidden well out underwater.

Tonight, as my wife and I drive onto a bridge across our local lake, she points to a parallel road disappearing into the water:

autumn dusk --
seagulls line the road
right into the shallows

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

five serenities

five serenities --
heads in the wig shop window
watch in unison

streaming clouds

streaming clouds --
two shadow animals slink
away from the streetlamp

Monday, October 24, 2011

crow flies by

crow flies by --
in his beak an eyeball
or an acorn

Sunday, October 23, 2011

commuter train

commuter train --
three still herons
face back the way we came

Saturday, October 22, 2011

subway mariachi redux

sharp red shirt
and cowboy hat --
duct-taped guitar

Still trying to work out the best angle of approach to the image of the subway mariachi player, from our recent trip to New York. Not convinced that this is it, either, but we'll keep playing with the image...

Friday, October 21, 2011

pool of broken glass

pool of broken glass
the color of swimming pools
in hotel brochures

I really don't like the repetition of pool/pools in such a short poem, but haven't come up with a solution yet. That will be something to edit/rewrite if I keep working on this image.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

subway mariachi

Margarite and I have been traveling so I put the blog posting on hold while we were away. Didn't stop the haiku writing, though, so now it's time to do some catching up.

We traveled to New York -- first to the city where we visited an old college friend of mine (who has also provided 2 guest haiku for the blog in the past). Then we went north to see friends near Poughkeepsie who greeted us with the news that they were getting married, now that the state would let them.

So it was an inspiring trip full of the unparalleled energies and beauties of 1). New York City, 2). seeing distant friends, 3). autumn in the Northeast, and 4). the New York Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck, NY. Seriously -- do you have any idea how photogenic sheep are?

More importantly for the blog, at least, there was plenty of fresh fodder for haiku.

Here's a first version of one image from the city:

bouncing down the steps
the subway mariachi's
duct-taped guitar

What I wanted to capture in that version was the bounce in the musician's step as he descended into the subway. But it sounds too much like the guitar has been dropped and is tumbling down the stairs. I'll try re-working it to improve on that.

Here's another approach to the same figure with a different focus:

subway mariachi --
his guitar patched
with fraying duct tape

Friday, October 14, 2011

satellite view redux

In a comment to yesterday's post, my friend Alan Mitchell offered this variation on my poem:

satellite view

a strange bird

I love it -- an example that even short, short poems can usually be improved by some judicious trimming. So here it is promoted from the comments to be a guest post for today. (Alan also contributed a guest haiku for this post on Sept. 11th.)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

satellite view

by satellite view


a strange bird scolds

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

rat snake redux

rat snake
old judo partner
13 years of silence

Today's haiku is a frankenhaiku created using lines from poems that appeared previously on the blog. The lines themselves were selected using numbers elicited from my wife (who didn't know the system I was using, so the line selections weren't intentional in any way). Sometimes randomly generated results are surprisingly linear and coherent -- and sometimes they get a little weirder...

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

rat snake

rat snake
along the roadside
a coil of moonlight

Monday, October 10, 2011

after each berry

after each berry
the thrasher
glares over his shoulder

Sunday, October 9, 2011

under the streetlight

under the streetlight --
stepping down from the curb
the possum stumbles

Friday, October 7, 2011

reading in bed

reading in bed --
her yawn echoed
by a passing car

Thursday, October 6, 2011

low, red moon

low, red moon --
my wife's breath sweet
with root beer

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

fogged mirror

fogged mirror --
streaks and spots
of clear reflection

The haiku in Sunday's post has had me thinking about this one from the archive. It first appeared in South by Southeast in 2001 (v.8, issue no.1).

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


the bull looks from the cape
to the man

Monday, October 3, 2011

tiny words

Today instead of a poem of my own, I'd like to direct you to a fantastic site called "tiny words: haiku & other small poems". They share all of their content online and also publish print editions -- sometimes 3 or 4 issues spread out over the year, although all of 2011's poems will be gathered into one volume.

Today's haiku over there -- by Margarita Engle -- is exquisite. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

first cool evening

first cool evening --
from the shower
wisps of steamy song

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Saturday senryu

the roar in his ears --
their first kiss
caught on the jumbotron