72 Seasons: Tristichs 21-30 April #NaPoWriMo 2019 – #lettersfromladyn

“At first their names too were borrowed from the Chinese, meaning that they did not always conform to the vagaries of our local climate. Eventually, in 1685, the court astronomer Shibukawa Shunkai revised them and in their present form they now serve to illustrate a natural, poetic pilgrimage through the ever-changing landscape of the Japanese year!” Read more: https://www.tokyoweekender.com/2018/05/the-poetry-and-precision-of-japans-72-microseasons

For Poetry Month 2019, 1-30 April, I have been creating a daily three-line piece on the theme ’72 Seasons: Three Lines that are True’. I haven’t been quite as disciplined as in previous years, letting a few days lapse at a time. I am remembering that my grandfather kept a diary where he entered fragments of facts of the day – amount of seed ordered, a visit, a doctor’s appointment. I always wondered about keeping a diary with such spare wordage coupled with a consistency of updating. I have found the process very anchoring – enough that I might continue it for my own pleasure. There is a real, but easily forgotten, wonder in playing a day-to-day life part in the earth’s turning – and the continual joy of feeding! The final 10 below. The previous two lots of ten are also on the blog.

21.04.2019

‘new ruins’ on display at the Abbey

lonesome hoot of a reclaimed CIE train

memories of the level crossing at Buttevant

22.04.2019 (Earth Day)

not wasting things that might-not-come-again

moveable feasts and coinciding celebrations

the last of the stash of easter chocolate

23.04.2019

freckles on fresh eggs shells

chilli jam

seeded wholemeal bread

24.04.2019

wednesday: the working week

wondering about the truth of weather forecasts

the usefulness of sodium bicarb for brown bins.

25.04.2019

a windy day is not a day for thatching

april is not a month for hay-making

being a hoarder is not without advantages

26.04.2019

middle parts are mandatory

at times neither memorable nor noteworthy

friday is not the end of everyone’s work week

27.04.2019

another 10 year milestone

food and friendship are the best of company

relief of boarding a double-decker bus

28.04.2019

middling news from home

comfort of clearing out old stuff

wild garlic pesto, locally foraged, is a gift

29.04.2019

wildflowers

a patch of daisies that escaped the cut

dandelions half blossom, half clock

30.04.2019

last day of April

nothing unusual about rain

always, nonetheless, a little extra to the ordinary

72 Seasons: Tristichs 11-20 April #NaPoWriMo 2019 – #lettersfromladyn

“At first their names too were borrowed from the Chinese, meaning that they did not always conform to the vagaries of our local climate. Eventually, in 1685, the court astronomer Shibukawa Shunkai revised them and in their present form they now serve to illustrate a natural, poetic pilgrimage through the ever-changing landscape of the Japanese year!” Read more: https://www.tokyoweekender.com/2018/05/the-poetry-and-precision-of-japans-72-microseasons

For Poetry Month 2019, 1-30 April, I have been creating a daily three-line piece on the theme ’72 Seasons: Three Lines that are True’. Unlike other years, I am using the older proponents of haiku as my mentors with their focus on close observation and their trust in the moment-as-it-is and with an emphasis (though not strictly observed in my case) on the natural world. A nod here too, as always, to the go-between that is Imagism. Find the middle 10 below.

11.04.2019

talking about art

artificial air

a real fear of falling

12.04.2019

scent-notes non-blending

garlic sweat and aftershave

blocked sewer and sweet magnolia

13.04.2019 – Castle Ward

first bluebells

a dandelion clock poised for take-off

animal scat mostly composed of seeds

14.04.2019

last sunday of advent

adding lemon juice to warmed fresh milk

curdled milk to baking soda

15.04.2019

high wind

sirens

a recorded version of Fauré’s Requiem

16.04.2019

a day for looking forward

weather forecast – good and bad in it –

making lists

17.04.2019

new takes on old recipes

top-hat types: hen-shaped mallow and candy eggs

frozen berries with experimental crumble

18.04.2019

this walk by the river is called Jane’s Shore

I don’t know who Jane is

the hollow stump seems to have become hollower.

19.04.2019

hot cross buns

gluten-free crumpets

everything is improved by melting butter

20.04.2019

im Lyra McKee

holiday saturday, spring sun on a bluebell path

and were you there? did you see which hands held the gun

that, just last night, took the life of this sacred woman?

72 Seasons: Tristichs 1-10 April #NaPoWriMo 2019 – #lettersfromladyn

“At first their names too were borrowed from the Chinese, meaning that they did not always conform to the vagaries of our local climate. Eventually, in 1685, the court astronomer Shibukawa Shunkai revised them and in their present form they now serve to illustrate a natural, poetic pilgrimage through the ever-changing landscape of the Japanese year!” Read more: https://www.tokyoweekender.com/2018/05/the-poetry-and-precision-of-japans-72-microseasons

Happy Poetry Month and hoping this finds you well! From 1-30 April, my plan-of-action is to create a three-line piece on the theme ’72 Seasons: Three Lines that are True’. Unlike other years, I am using the older proponents of haiku as my mentors with their focus on close observation and their trust in the moment-as-it-is and with an emphasis (though not strictly observed in my case) on the natural world. A nod here too, as always, to the go-between that is Imagism. Find the first 10 below.


01.04.2019

a shade above third of the standard size –

narcissi and

makeshift vase.

02.04.2019

unremitting, three-part-call.

unseen collared dove

unkempt backyard.

03.04.2019

Steeped in luck”

the long dry spell is over – mammatus clouds,

as seen in photos, over the Copper Coast and Teconnaught.

the slow dragging éisssst of tyres over surface water.

04.04.2019

a Thursday

sun, rain, gale, storm

a sense, you could say, of there being time for things

05.04.2019

all the furnishing has been lovingly chosen

nothing inpires

only the houseplants radiate light

06.04.2019

Mournes hidden in a heat haze

behind the Cathedral, gravestone carvings

‘good’ and ‘love’

07.04.2019

enough funds

at this rate

today

08.04.2019

yesterday now

nothing substantial

planning the next adventure

09.04.2019

sting to the bright day

a new skill mastered

joy of an easy-to-cut turnip

10.04.2019

(found)

only identified by her last name He

4 bees lived in a woman’s eye and fed on her tears

she was cleaning a relative’s grave when they got in

– Source: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/apr/10/doctors-discover-four-live-bees-feeding-on-tears-inside-womans-eye

72 Seasons: Poetry, Precision and Three Lines that are True for #NaPoWriMo 2019 – #lettersfromladyn

“At first their names too were borrowed from the Chinese, meaning that they did not always conform to the vagaries of our local climate. Eventually, in 1685, the court astronomer Shibukawa Shunkai revised them and in their present form they now serve to illustrate a natural, poetic pilgrimage through the ever-changing landscape of the Japanese year!”

Read more: https://www.tokyoweekender.com/2018/05/the-poetry-and-precision-of-japans-72-microseasons
Narcissi & Mini Proseco Bottle

Happy Poetry Month and hoping this finds you well! For the last couple of years I have set myself a daily poetry practice for what has become Global Poetry Month based around the tristich or three-line stanza. I’m working with in the three-line format again this year. From 1-30 April, my plan-of-action is to create a three-line piece on the theme ’72 Seasons: Three Lines that are True’. Unlike other years, I am using the older proponents of haiku as my mentors with their focus on close observation and their trust in the moment-as-it-is and with an emphasis (though not strictly observed in my case) on the natural world. A nod here too, as always, to the go-between that is Imagism. I’ll post them here on the blog every 10 days. What follows is a kind of meandering meditation on the motivaion behind this year’s approach.

Clear Sight: The Comfort of Close Observation

‘May you live in interesting times’

– Chinese curse

Poetry, precision and small acts of truth telling are on my agenda through the month. I’m trialling this as a kind of medicine. I have worked in the digital world through information/ communications/ marketing roles for almost a quarter of a century – mostly in the voluntary, community and arts sectors. Starting with web content management and listserv administration and graduating to social media and mobile platforms in line with changes in technology. The last few years in particular has seen an unimaginable rise in information sharing, and the task of Sisyphus that is discerning whether what is being shared has the marks of truth or not.

À la fin tu es las de ce monde ancien..’ This early part of the 21st Century is, in every sense of the word, ‘interesting’. In the noughties I carried out an act of translation of Apollinaire’s ‘Zone’ – http://www.toutelapoesie.com/poemes/apollinaire/zone.htm#. By which I mean I tried to really understand his movement through Europe early in the 20th Century, and what it’s translation-defying first and last lines were really saying, through reading everything I could get my hands on about it and all translations.

One of the commentators suggested that the start of new centuries tend to be turbulent. I’m adding my two cents worth having lived through and celebrated the change to the New Millenium, that the human spirit in those moments of momumental, but not naturally occurring, changes of calendar tends to register possibility in the new and try to ‘future proof’ so that the mistakes of the catastrophic past might not be carried into this ‘clean slate’ type new epoch.

There is no clean slate. There is now, I think, a sense of vacuum. A sense of having looked hard at the past with the wish to not recreate it, but like a horse refusing at a fence, there is a shying away from the normal task and pattern of ‘creating’ that future. I don’t know about you but I’ve often observed that while the demons from the past dance in the present, the first stirrings of the future also haunt this same premises. There they caday about together, as it were, in a fairly uncomfortable manner and are hard to organise into go or stay. And while a ten year plan may seem daunting to the average cricket, a whole millennium’s worth of forward planning, including the hope for Utopia, is beyond the human imagination. Quo Vadis. Cue the fake news artists, the snake oil sellers, and Chicken-Licken wired to the moon.

It is the end of the world as we know it. That is, of course, the true and ongoing part. In my humble opinion, however, what needs enquiry is the place where the desire ward off an impending cataclysm (I have quite a list from global to personal, as I expect you do) meets the desire to create a some sense of workable future. For me, this is aided by a clear-sighted look at the what’s here now. More simply put, information about seasonal fluctuation, no matter how reliable it may be in the location those seasons occur, aren’t at all as useful if a body is actually living somewhere else.

Foresight: Truth and the Future

“We are so far from knowing all the agents of nature and their diverse modes of action that it would not be philosophical to deny phenomena solely because they are inexplicable in the actual state of our knowledge. But we ought to examine them with an attention all the more scrupulous as it appears more difficult to admit them.” (also translated as ‘The weight of evidence should be proportioned to the strangeness of the facts’).

Pierre-Simon Laplace

“But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright Brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.”

Carl Sagan

Foresight, as no one ever said, is 20/20 vision, like poet and prophet is the same word in some language which I forget now. This is in the category of a lovely lie I was once told (here as convenient lie is to the inconvenient truth, the lovely lie is to the plain truth) by someone who knew how to conjure and wield words you’d be forgiven for wanting to be true.

In the midst of all this début de siècle hubbub it’s hard to get an idea of what is actually going on. If truth is that which is in accordance with a sense of fact or acuality (broad brush strokes…), how is the truth related to the future?

I have a fascination with all things divination. Longer than I can remember. My first beloved toy was a small blue lion with a sunlike mane that I called ‘Leo’. Tea leaves, tarot, divining rods, crystals, horoscopes, dead sea scrolls, ‘gifts’ of extra sensory perception, bibliomancy, Novenas, apple cores, the yarrow, Nostradamus, Cathbad, John Dee, scrying… I once did a poetic listing for my own entertainment and to show that pretty much every stick and stone was inspiring some ‘fortune-teller’ somewhere to have a revelation or insight. I think this fascination is true for almost all those who write poetry, even those who ‘doth protest too much’.

It’s also the province of crack-pots, conspiracy theorists, the business of government and corporate strategists. (In the interest of full disclosure, my academic training is in the area of business strategy – creating sustainable prosperity going forward – whether at the level of individual firm, sector, and national state).

For me it’s a triangular, or maybe a circular interest. If you look at the places where alchemy, religion and science cross lines you find that the emphasis on ‘that which is not yet known or is potentially unknowable’ – whether actual or future – sticks an exceptionally creative stick in the wheel. The drive to see around corners, to know the unknowable, to explain the inexplicable, makes the task to get the wheel in forward motion very compelling.

Whether increasing the probability of beneficial outcomes, a get-rich scheme, or a hope for immortality, this drive has configured all we know about our known world. In the mainstream, the forecasters – from frameworks to assess probablity of future outcomes to news programme pundits, are the voices crying out in the desert for better understanding of what is going on now in order to create a more favourable negotiation of circumstances at some time that is not here yet, given that what is not here yet may have some of its own elegant tricks up its epoch sleeves.

Nevertheless when I am inspired to write poetry, it has never yet been in the spirit of ‘prepare ye’ with a Michaelangelo-like sketch of a helicopter in the margins. I have rarely seen this type of poem and I’d probably, with no harm to the writer, not choose to read much further if I did. For me, there are clear lines between poetry and prophecy. The reason that I’m talking about it now is, however, that by the matter of clear transcribing of what is the poem-coming-into-being, there is a hard to account for, after the fact, enlightening sense of prescience which I am far from alone in experiencing as a writer, which is why the digging ground of the two being the same is an argument for which I can make a case.

So that’s a long winded walk back to where the car is parked.

The Three-line Trick

This year’s NaPoWriMo practice is a small good thing. That’s all it is. Day-by-day observation of what is there – poetry and precision. On the one hand, a good discipline in the kind of precision that is connective tissue in poetry and makes it long-lived. On the other, a kind of grounding, anchoring, that may be at least a tracking of the truth in reference to a present actual rather than the past or projected fears – which have their place, but here in the sense of being able to discern what is likely to yield good information going forward. A practice that while remaining true to itself also transforms simply by being recorded and where no transformation has actually happened in real terms.

Images and uisce beatha (non-alcoholic variety)

No matter where experimentation takes me, I remain profoundly influenced by imagism. For me, the haiku as I understand it (a kind of happy accident between two zen moments which takes you down a third path) is a kind unit of currency in this kind of poetry.

Recently I faciliated a series of workshops which, by way of happenstance, centred on images – finding them; considering the place where verbal and visual images overlap and where they have different strengths and potentials.  We created legends for existing images, selected visual images but presented them in words (why this one and not that, why highlight this but not that?), recreated those images which live only in memory because you didn’t have your camera that day.

On Saturday, I attended a workshop facilitated by the brilliant Colin Dardis and Geraldine O’Kane looking at micro-poetry (‘little miracles’). For me, the short poem is the best because you are pushed to really look at your selected images – anything out of place is quickly discovered.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, I’d bought a Hugh MacDiarmaid Anthology and what has held my attention is one of the epigrams with ‘A Glass of Pure Water’ – which reads ‘praise of pure water is common in Gaelic poetry’.  I hadn’t come across it but I love the idea. In fact, I have to admit I like the image of the pure water that he extends out from in the poem to where the poem actually goes – which I need to sit with a bit, I think.

But that idea of the praise of pure water has stayed with me in my imagination. One of my practice pieces at the workshop on Saturday was an attempt at a cinquain based on a jug of water and glasses on the table of the workshop room in the Linenhall Library.

This morning I wrote three short poems (of the non-formal form variety) – one on a selected image (as per Saturday), one giving a legend to an image that I have been carrying around me with for the right time for words to come, and finally, something from my childhood that I very much wish I had a photo (although if I had taken it I suspect that I’d have appeared stranger in my grandmother’s farmhouse in West Limerick than I already did) – two plastic buckets that held springwater, the only drinking water available.

The below is the image I have been carrying around with me. ‘Water, water everywhere…’ as the old poem goes. It’s Monevasia in Greece, July 2011. How haunted we were by the fear of dehydration.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

A hiatus, haiku & the siren blackbird

I’ve been planning for a while to do a month of short posts just to get the feel of it rather than letting the thoughts gather into a big heap. So October – starting with All-Ireland Poetry Day – is LettersfromLadyN month.

It’s been haiku season since my last entry. I now know a lot about what is not a haiku, and am greatly encouraged by a textbook which tells me that Basho, Buson, Issa had their bad days; and their disciplies were simply struggling… and let’s not mention Western haiku.

The time came to produce a haiku-on-demand (new season at the Writers’ Group) and I was hit by an aural image from earlier in the year.  The songbirds came back in force this late spring, now that my lovely Mew is no longer here to bother them (though mice seemed to be more her thing, I’d always thought). Perhaps they were re-claiming their territory but lauds and vespers seemed to be brought directly to me by massed thrush choirs. One particularly loud member of the blackbird family clearly got its riff from the local ambulance service because I was woken each morning after five by an ambulance tearing through Church street and up onto Irish Street.. followed by contented chirping. It was almost impossible to tell the ambulance siren  and the blackbird apart, but in the evening I’d just say – most likely the blackbird. In the early hours I woke up startled – every time. I wondered what the other thrushes thought? Now I’m wondering for the first time – what happens to the songbirds? So quiet now and it isn’t such a long time ago.

The other thing that struck me while reading up on haiku was the similarity in landscape – the moon, the cherry blossom, cranes, blackbirds – could so easily be here. But then, of course, there is the wash of the translator. Would that we were able to carry the tune flawlessly like the siren blackbird.

Translating Part 2

Description begins with visualization of what you want the reader to experience. It ends with you translating what you see in your mind into words on the page. It’s far from easy…If you want to be writer you must be able to describe it, and in a way that will cause your reader to prickle with recognition. Stephen King / ‘On Writing’

Good bone structure – is that the secret? I’ve been thinking a lot about translation. The most recent thinking came while listening to Handel’s Laudate Pueri and Dixit Dominus. I didn’t learn Latin and as I watched the choir completely caught up in words that I guessed were psalms of praise – I wondered about our need for languages that have a special brethern to translate them. The grand illusion of looking up for answers. The beauty in the sound of words beyond our comprehension might be expressing exactly the nature of, the cure for our yearning. 

This sound is incredibly stirring but the poet still kicks back with clean, sharp lines in everyday language and there is a sense of relief. The truth is out. There are no answers, things are as they are.

I go back to the imagist, the modernist, the haikuist, the early century Irish monastic writers, the objectivist, and the book which I am currently reading. It’s not a new book. The Faber Book of Modern European Poetry (ed A Alvarez) was published in 1992.  There is a mighty range of poets from Paul Celan to Miroslav Holub but I’m still seeing the strong, clear lines as if the images were caught on a cold clear day.  Like faces which are not especially beautfiul except when sketched because the skin is closer to the bone.

And Alvarez says in his introduction that what I suspect is true – there is a certain culling in the collecting process. Some wonderful works in their own language are not here because the specificity of sound-quality and of context. ‘Similarly’ he writes ‘Miroslav Holub’s poems are idiomatic, translucent and sane in a way that makes you feel they would work powerfully in any language’.

I don’t think, of course, that it is essential for poems to be translatable. To be honest it’s greed on my part as a reader to want to be able to get at other poetic delights in ordinary languages. I want to be close to as many poets as I can – and I want to get close to the readers of my poetry – and those poems that seem to survive radical changes of style and adornment that come with all kinds of translation seem to be ones that have good bone structure.