“White Cranes of Heaven”

Sometimes you get a lovely gift out of the blue.   This weekend was an example.   I went to my favorite junk store, just to escape cabin fever, and found a beautiful print.  I am not sure the painter, but it looks like an early Japanese work. It seems 18th  century to me, but I still am searching for the painter.

I have sent the pix of this rather long print to friends and we have come up with some names: Hokusai, Utamaro, Koson, Koitsu, Kunsai, and a few others.  None of us know the piece, but it is so lovely it’s sure to be well known.  I’m not sure it’s a woodblock process made from a painting, or just a print of a painting, because the process is long and complex and it’s hard without really knowing what you are looking at.

In any case, this is a marvelous gift for a couple of reasons….plus I could afford it.

A couple of months ago I started to compile a lot of poetry.  I wanted to publish a small volume of nothing but poetry.  The title flew into my head and I couldn’t get it out.  Ok.  I would work around it. But since it was so visual, I knew  there had to be a cover that fit the title.  I did a search on white cranes, etc. and nothing really fit. At least to my mind.  I am a painter and thought, well, this is a case where I am going to have to paint my own cover.

Fate, as my friend Bill Penrose said, intervened.  This beautiful piece was sitting there in the junk shop, rather dirty, the glazing smeared with something, but I walked by it and my heart just stopped.  There, without effort….was the cover for the poetry book.

I brought it home and just couldn’t believe it.  It was perfect.  I took it out of it’s very good frame (the previous owner went to a lot of expense for the frame, and the print itself was a good one…and 6 inches longer than I thought…more cranes!) and cleaned it carefully.  The print was excellent, the matting very good, and the frame was….well, appropriate for the subject.  It’s about 40 years old in style…but works fine for the print.  I would have had something else, but tant pis.

I was chortling as I looked at the piece.  Just last week I wrote a short poem of the title: “White Cranes …..”  and the print expressed exactly what the poem was going for.  This poem below is just the first pass through.  It will change with thought and revision.

My gratitude to some friends who joined me in the research and pointed out sites to go to: Berowne especially who is very wise in these things.  Thanks, Berowne.

Sometimes life is a mystery.  Other times….well, life works with you very well and throws you cookies.

Lady Nyo


White Cranes of Heaven,

Rancorous, quarrelsome birds

Flee a sallow, saddened earth–

Wintertime’s fierce grip does not

Allow for much mercy.

They fall into ranks,

Set their GPS

And ride the chilled thermals

Until they disappear like smoke.

Only their chiding cries

Remind us they were not ghosts.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2009

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12 Responses to ““White Cranes of Heaven””

  1. papa2hapa Says:

    I do love Japanese wood block prints. And the poem is reminds me of the Imagist syle, but with a turn at the final two lines, almost like a closing couplet of a Shakespearean sonnet.


  2. ladynyo Says:

    Hello! Welcome to my blog!

    I am rather new to Japanese wood block prints, but do know a little about Japanese painting. I find it hard to tell the difference without close examination.

    I love your description of my poem……Yes, it’s a bit like an eclectic group of poetical styles.

    Funny, the biggest objection I have received from a few people about that poem is the usage of “GPS”. It was felt by one to ‘anti-classical’ because the poem to some should carry on in a classical style.

    A modern term would be a disruption to the ‘message’ of the poem.

    Well, I don’t know about that…..but I love other takes on these poems.

    Soon I will have on the blog a ‘tanka chain’ done with Nick Nicholson, a poet and very fine one at that from Australia. I will try to present the most used poetry forms (mostly tanka) from the 8th century through the Heian Court era….Women’s poems were so much freer and more original because they were not using the same forms (Chinese) that men were at these times. Well, I am reading up on this for an entry and then the poetry stuff presented.

    Thank you for reading and leaving a very good comment. I will have to look up “Imagist” more.

    Lady Nyo


  3. Nick Nicholson Says:

    Hi Jane,

    It’s a beautiful print from what I can tell and yes, it looks like it will be perfect for the cover of the book. What a find! I know little about Japanese art, so I’m afraid I can’t help in identfying the artist.

    The poem about the cranes is very lovely and picturesque. I especially liked the third line. I, too, don’t think the GPS thing works terribly well because it introduces a technological image into a poem which is otherwise grounded in the natural world. That aside, though, I liked the poem very much 🙂


  4. ladynyo Says:

    Hey Nick!

    Yes, that print is gorgeous! As Bill says: “It’s fate”. LOL! I don’t know about that but it’s pretty close experience, I would guess.

    Well, you know me. I write and I rewrite…sometimes….LOL!…nothing is in concrete except when I really like something and then I don’t move my feet.

    Who sez that GPS isn’t grounded in the natural world?? We use it to get around in the natural world….LOL! Well, perhaps you are right. I just wrote that poem very fast, with an eye to the title, so it will have to go through revisions.

    Open for suggestions here….

    Well, I agree in a strange way. this poem can be much better, and perhaps I just need to think more. Maybe study that print. Something will come to mind.

    But! I looked up “Imagist” and damn….I knew about Ezra Pound, and some of the other Imagist poets, but didn’t know they were called this. And I can see the Japanese poetry connection. In part, it’s the abiding ‘one theme/thought/moment’ idea that is so prevalent in classical tanka and haiku and other forms, but it’s wonderful to find Westerners writing to this.

    Concentrating down our poetry into this frees us in a very important way. And can make the psychological or philosophical intention of a poem so much stronger. Or at least this is a thought I have been having. It’s very different than most of our approaches to Western verse.

    Thanks for reading the blog, Nick, and for leaving your comment. In a few, I think I can start that entry on the background on early Japanese court poetry and we can start that tanka exchange we talked about.

    My very best.


  5. Berowne Says:

    I like the poem and I agree that the GPS reference introduces a slightly discordant, possibly comic note into the imagery. Picture that print above, with one of the cranes checking his wristwatch; something like that.

    You might like to try your hand at the comedic; members of your backyard menagerie critiquing the kibble, say. Could be interesting.


  6. ladynyo Says:

    LOL! Well, the backyard menagerie is quivering right now because I have to pull a tooth tonight….the vet is on vacation. And to do this with a new vet would be around….oh….600.00??? at least.

    I am bucking up my courage, Berowne, because I don’t like blood and guts.

    As far as the poem, it seems it’s running thusly: no one likes the GPS reference.



  7. Berowne Says:

    > the vet is on vacation

    That’s what his assistant says; personally, I think he’s learned to hide in a closet when he hears your footsteps… 😉


  8. ladynyo Says:


    Yeah, I’m bringing in snarly cats and dogs, and injured, too.

    Smart man. And since he doesn’t generally charge me……he loses money when he hears my footsteps….

    Husband called….(this is the ‘fainting goat’ husband when he sees blood) he is supposed to help in the surgery tonight on Charlie, and he’s claiming that he has been asked to work overtime…..

    I believe that. He’s the one who WASN’T helping at all with the stitchery of the cat a while ago, yet he was floating around the vet’s surgery stripping his clothes off..(sweaters and shirt) and hyperventilating. LOL!

    Actually most vets take off January because of the holiday craze and boarding and January is pretty poor pickings….Perhaps dogs and cats are inserting the fecal plugs like bears and going to sleep …naturally…in January.

    Well, I am NOT looking forward to even examining Charlie’s mouth…there are other functioning teeth in there….and I don’t know if his jaw isn’t broken…that tooth is a large one…bottom canine. And the mouth very swollen. And no knock out shot here.

    I’m getting myself sick to my stomach. I rather work on the other end than the mouth.


  9. Berowne Says:

    Courage to all caregivers and patients, and best wishes for a speedy recovery from all injuries, physical and otherwise.


  10. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you, Berowne. That means a lot, actually. I haven’t eaten all day (and that is a caution…) because I keep thinking of what we have to do here this evening…in about 1/2 hour.

    I need the courage, Berowne. I am flying blind here…I don’t know if I can get the root out, or what will happen. Charlie won’t be out…he will be very conscious and in pain….and probably will bite. So I have to have a plan here: do I do a lateral pull, or do I yank upwards and hope the root comes out? I don’t think that will happen because I have gone back to a very old volume of anatomy on domestic animals. That root is in the jaw deep. But the tooth, though he hasn’t let me touch it yet, is sticking out at 9 o’clock, and looks like it’s wiggly. I think it’s broken off at the gum, but tissue is holding it in there. Oh, god, I just wish he had swallowed it last night and I just could put a quarter under his blanket and told him what the tooth fairy left!

    But thank you, Berowne. All three of us just have to buck up our courage and do what we can. I did notice today when I took his collar off that he has wounds around the throat and on the side of his head, but I think with a good bath we can figure out what to do there.

    Appreciate your best wishes…we will all need that. My stomach is turning over right now.


  11. Margie Says:

    Poor Charlie, poor Jane! I feel both your pain. I’m not crazy about blood and I’m terrified of causing pain to another, even if it means helping in the long run. Has this already happened? If so, I hope it went well. If not, I hope it does go well and quickly.

    On another note, I think you should write some funny poetry, or prose. I keep remembering Bart and Laura – they were fun!


  12. ladynyo Says:

    My fainting goat of a husband did the cutting. I was the fainting goat last night.!
    Am leaving in a moment to take him to a REAL vet for the top tooth to be surgically removed.

    I think I will run the Metamorphosis Series again….Bart and Laura….they WERE fun.

    Thank you, Margie….emotional, dog overload here.


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