news from Ireland:
this year from the apple trees
I wrote this haiku for David O Riordan, an artist and poet who posts on Twitter under the moniker: @Batuphonos. David writes haiku in English and Irish, using the traditional 5-7-5 syllable structure. I find his poems crisp and evocative and I always enjoy them.
Last night Mewby and I rented this great movie about the 1935 debate team of historically all black Wiley College in Texas. Based on true events it depicts the efforts of educator Melvin B. Tolson to inspire his students through knowledge and training to challenge the discriminatory world of the Jim Crow south they have been brought up in. The movie does a great job of recreating the atmosphere of those times; the social upheavals, the class struggles, as well as the fight for racial equality and the general all-pervasive sense of fear that black people had to endure in the segregated south where lynching was all too common. Many of the characters in the movie are based on historical characters: 14 year-old debate team member James L. Farmer, Jr. (Denzel Whitaker), later went on to co-found C.O.R.E., the Congress of Racial Equality) and Tolson himself (played by Denzel Washington) was an educator, columnist, social activist and politician. At the end of the movie we are told that he went on to become a world renowned poet. “Why have I never heard of him?” I thought to myself, and promptly stuck this volume on my amazon wishlist.
Altogether, this is a wonderful movie with outstanding performances and a palpable sense of tension and excitement throughout. The movie is also graced by the presence of two Oscar winners in Washington and Forest Whitaker. Very highly recommended!
Here are three haiku I wrote over winter vacation. My haiku mentor, Stephen Gill, seemed quite happy with when he saw them. It seems I am making progress.
This first one is an old memory stirred up when I was home:
peeling an orange –
across the hallway Daddy kneels
praying at his chair
I wrote that on my first morning back home. I woke up early through jet lag, and my mom, being a restless spirit, hadn’t gotten enough sleep the night before so didn’t get up till late. This meant I had a long slow breakfast by myself in the kitchen, with my feet up on a heater, eating toast and oranges, drinking cup after cup of Yorkshire tea and reading Dharma Bums.
dark December dawn –
in my mother’s kitchen
tea and Kerouac
Chris Carver at work, had lent me Dharma Bums a couple of weeks before and I had taken it back with me to read on the journey. The bit I was reading that morning happened to be about Jack Kerouac hitchhiking all the way across America to his home town for Christmas, where he surprises his Mom in the kitchen and gives her a big hug. It’s a nice scene and it was timely reading it a couple of days before Christmas myself. Kerouac, one of the first people to popularize writing haiku in English, was by pure coincidence the topic of our first haiku class when I got back in January. Stephen, had decided to play us a recording of Mr. Kerouac reading his own poems. On the comments he made on the haiku I submitted, he asked me if I was telepathic.
The last one I wrote a few days after my return to Kyoto. I woke up one morning at a ridiculously early time, and picking up Matteo Pistono’s In the Shadow of the Buddha, soon found myself lost in it.
sleepless reading –
under the kotatsu
dreams of Tibet
On October 22nd, I joined the Hailstone Haiku Circle’s composition stroll in Nara. The weather was temperamental, but we didn’t get a full downpour until the evening – once I’d gotten back to Kyoto – so we were lucky. Though the maple leaves hadn’t changed yet, the leaves of the 南京黄櫨 (Chinese tallow tree) had turned a beautiful crimson.
Plunging from the open grassy plain into primeval forest, we came upon a stream and Stephen Gill carefully placed some stones for the ladies to cross over.
cross the beck
on freshly-placed stones
Here in the woods we also encountered a stag who had somehow managed to avoid getting his antlers removed this year. The deer in Nara are quite unafraid of humans, and so to avoid having them injuring people their antlers are removed. This fellow is obviously faster or sneakier than most.
Here we are under a massive oak, descendant of oaks that have been here for thousands of years.
At Shinyakushiji we viewed 12 ancient statues of heavenly guardians, a big fat Buddha, and in the garden flowers like these:
Shinyakushiji - a boy admires a girl admiring Budhha
The persimmon trees in Nara were hung with luminous fruit… But I couldn’t help noticing the metal fencing and forsaken machinery – that was painted the same colour!
rusty ripe persimmon - In the long grass abandoned metal fences
Finally we returned to a cafe, where we had tea and delicious apple cake – and shared our haiku.
Finally something decent on the TV.
I was delighted that my own two offerings met with the others’ approval. And even more so that one of them made it onto the Hailstone website report. You can read some haiku by the other members and Stephen’s report there.