Posts Tagged ‘Haiku’

The Liz and John story

Friday, April 29th, 2011

My old friend, Elizabeth Wassell, at her Dangerous Pity book launch

My wife and I recently reconnected with an old friend from Sarah Lawrence College. When we were young and poor in New York, Elizabeth Wassell was our elfin-voiced friend who shortly after she graduated from SLC was scratching a living as a food critic. Liz always had an extraordinary way with language, and I remember standing next to her at some gathering of neurotic New Yorkers, listening to her describe the “succulent morsels” she had just eaten. The shockingly inventive language she used to recreate the food can only be described as semi-erotic, and I have a vague memory of Liz trailing a pod of anorexics and bulimics, hanging on to her every word.

Today Liz has four novels under her belt. I just read her latest, Dangerous Pity. In this spookily-entertaining book set in Nice, Liz explores what one critic described as the “host-parasite” relationship between famous author and stalker. Her premise: the writer invites in the stalker, making him equally culpable in the mess that ensues. Great story – and very true, I think. Liz tells me she is now returning to her food-writing origins in the soon-to-be-published, Sustenance. Should be entertaining!

Among the many pleasant surprises we discovered during our catching-up: Liz is married to John Montague, the great Irish poet.

The poet, John Montague

Montague, born in Brooklyn but Irish to the roots of his hair, is a name I recall from my 18 years in London. (Montague was the first poet to occupy the Ireland Chair Of Poetry, the Irish equivalent of Britain’s Poet Laureate). I never got around to reading the work of this particular literary lion at the time, but am now relishing Montague’s Collected Poems (1995). I am struck by his uncanny ability to give a clear sense of Irish history and strife with prose-like clarity, but through the most astoundingly lyrical language and imagery. I suppose that is the very essence of Ireland.

And, for all his important chronicling of Irish bloodshed and human heartache, I must confess I am growing increasingly partial to Montague’s love poems. Here’s the haiku-like opening stanza of Tracks, an exquisite poem about a couple making love in a hotel, first published in Montague’s prize-winning, The Great Cloak (1978.)

The vast bedroom
a hall of air,
our linked bodies
lying there.

Basho couldn’t have said it better.

Buddhist literary themes

Friday, February 18th, 2011

Chionin Bell

Butterflies in haiku poetry often suggest the transitory nature of life, a key Buddhist concept. Here’s an old haiku poem, anonymous from what I can tell, that neatly brings together the butterfly and Buddhism. The image in this haiku suggests to me a butterfly seeking momentary respite in the sanctuary of a temple, both key images of my novel, Buddhaland Brooklyn.

Upon the temple bell
A butterfly is sleeping well

A poem in offering to the literary gods

Monday, February 7th, 2011

Poet-painter, Yosa Buson

As my novel, Buddhaland Brooklyn, is poured over at my publisher, I make a silent offering.

From one of the classic Japanese poet-painters, Yosa Buson (1716-1783), a haiku capturing the sentiment of my little book:

In a bitter wind
a solitary monk bends
to words cut in stone

Snow falling haiku

Friday, January 28th, 2011

Masoaka Shiki

The skies are grey, my daughter is home for the weekend, and I am cleaning out my closets. Perfect time to make another respectful offering to the literary gods as my novel, Buddhaland Brooklyn, makes its way in the world. Here is a seasonally appropriate haiku from Masoaka Shiki (1867 – 1902).

snow’s falling
I see it through a hole
in the shutter….

Haikai offering

Saturday, January 8th, 2011

A large waterfall by Utagawa Hiroshige

As part of my haiku series of “offerings” to the literary gods, as my novel Buddhaland Brooklyn is readied for sale, I present a poetic morsel from one of my all time favorites, Yamazaki Sokan (1464 – 1552.) The poet was one of the granddaddies of haikai no renga, which are sort of offbeat and humorous linked verses that morphed into formal haiku. Sokan had a lovely sense of humor – here’s a taste.

O thou obsequious frog
With hands spread on the ground
And croaking flatteries of such solemn sound.

Haiku to bring in the New Year

Friday, December 31st, 2010

Kobayashi Issa

A New Year’s offering from my hero, the poet-priest, Kobayashi Issa (1763-1827)

Here’s the New Year
And on top of old foolishness
New folly is piled

Haiku From Poet-Priest, Matsuo Basho

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

Poet-priest, Matsuo Basho

Matsuo Basho (1644 – 1694) is considered by many to be the finest of all Japanese poet-priests when the haiku art form was blossoming in the 17th century. Basho routinely left his village, traveling by foot throughout Japan’s countryside. For Basho taking to the road as an itinerant poet-priest was a disciplined means of renouncing his human ties, to be reminded of his cosmic solitude, all of which he exquisitely captured in haiku.

Beneath the roof,
Drops of spring rain
Trail slowly
Down the honeycomb.

Consider this a poetic offering to the literary gods as I polish my novel, Buddhaland Brooklyn.

A haiku poem for our age

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

The 19th century haiku poet, Masaoka Shiki

I am sending my second novel, BUDDHALAND BROOKLYN, out into the world. To mark the occasion, I am celebrating with little haiku offerings to the literary gods. Here’s a haiku from Masaoka Shiki (1867 – 1902), considered the last of the four great haiku poets, and the father of modern haiku. What I love about this poem is that it is as true today as it was when it was written – the definition of timeless literature – and it of course resonates with the recovering business journalist.

Men are disgusting
They argue over
The price of orchids

An offering to the gods of all novels

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

Buddhist poet-priest, Kobayashi Issa

I am just about to show my second novel, BUDDHALAND BROOKLYN, to my agent. In celebration, I will, for the next months, regularly post Haiku poems, my humble offerings to the literary gods.

First an offering from my hero, Kobayashi Issa (1763-1827), a key background figure of my new novel:

Tub to tub
The whole journey
Just hub-bub!

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