Kobayashi Issa (1763-1827)A Haiku Poet with Enormous Heart.

May 7, 2017

 

My beautiful picture

My beautiful picture

(Dawn to the East, cellphone)

=

I have had “The Essential haiku: Versions of Basho, Buson, and Issa” for a few years and have only really gotten to Basho. But recently reading Issa, (Issa means Cup-of-Tea), the world of haiku opened up in ways I didn’t expect.

What is remarkable about Issa’s poetry is the compassion for the lowest of creatures (insects, etc.), the deep interest in the commonalities of life, compassion for humanity, and the celebration of the joyful celebration of the ordinary.

Haiku can be a perplexing poetry form. Recently I have read a lot of bad haiku. I’ve written about this before. (I’ve also written bad haiku myself) It seems people throw together observations and call it haiku. It generally isn’t. There are ‘rules’ and structures for this poetry form, and it seems that many people who attempt haiku have no regard for even reading or researching some of these fundamentals. If they started with a reading and research of renga, they would get some background of haiku, or hokku, which is what haiku was first called.

Renga, or linked verse, is marvelous to read. One poet starts with a three line poem, another picks it up, and so on. They can go on for a hundred linked poems or more. Usually accompanied by sake.

What was remarkable of renga, and later of haiku…is the shifts and dissolves that remind one of early surrealist films. And there are some modernist poets, like Ezra Pound’s XXX Cantos, or even better, Wallace Stevens’s “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” that comes near to the renga spirit, this shifting and resolve.

But the Buddhist tradition embraced this shifting and resolve. Renga, and then haiku, have a way of embracing this life, this transitory nature of all things.

I came across a part of a 14th century treatise on poetry: “Contemplate deeply the vicissitudes of the life of man and body, always keep in your heart the image of mujo (ephemerality) and when you go to the mountains or the sea, feel the pathos (aware) of the karma of sentient beings and non-sentient things. Give feeling to those things without a heart (mushintai no mono) and through your own heart express their beauty (yugen) in a delicate form.”(from “Basho and the Way of Poetry in the Japanese Religious Tradition”)

Again, haiku isn’t as simple as it seems. But it’s direct, forceful and of a keenness that satisfies.

People complain of the ‘oddness’ of haiku. Perhaps it is this ‘shifts and resolve’ embedded in the form. To me, Issa has less of this than Basho or Buson. There is a directness and compassion of Issa that deeply involves the heart and eyes.

My words will not convince anyone. But perhaps examples of Issa will.

Lady Nyo

Haiku of Issa: from The Essential Haiku, edited by Robert Hass

 

New Year’s Day—

Everything is in blossom!

I feel about average.

The snow is melting

And the village is flooded

With children.

Don’t worry, spiders,

I keep house

Casually.

Goes out,

Comes back—

The loves of a cat.

Children imitating cormorants

Are even more wonderful

Than cormorants.

O flea! Whatever you do,

Don’t jump.

That way is the river.

In this world

We walk on the roof of hell,

Gazing at flowers.

Don’t kill that fly!

Look—it’s wringing its hands

Wringing its feet.

I’m going out,

Flies, so relax,

Make love.

(approaching his village)

Don’t know about the people,

But all the scarecrows

Are crooked.

A huge frog and I,

Staring at each other,

Neither of us moves.

All the time I pray to Buddha

I keep on

Killing mosquitoes.

What good luck!

Bitten by

This year’s mosquitoes too.

The bedbug

Scatter as I clean,

Parents and children.

=

And my personal favorite…

Zealous flea,

You’re about to be a Buddha

By my hand.

A few of my own, struggling with the form.

Dogwoods are blooming.

The crucifixion appears

White moths in the night.

Tibetan earthworms

Bring a halt to all labor.

Here? Fat koi eat well.

Soft rains caress earth

A hand slides up a soft thigh.

Cherry blossoms bloom.

Sorrow floats like air

Strong winds blow throughout the night

Plague of death descends.

Pale lavender sky

Balances the moon and sun

The scale shifts to night.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

“Call and Answer to Ono no Komachi”

May 1, 2017

kohut-bartels-bop-6

(J Kohut-Bartels,  1995, ‘Birds’, watercolor)

Tonight is OLN (Open Link Night) at dversepoets pub.  I don’t know who is tending the bar tonight because I am posting this early, but they are sure to give a good reading of poems there and a stiff drink to boot.

“Call and Answer” is a work in progress…my attempt to riff in verse with Ono no Komachi.  One of my very favorite poets of any age.  She was a fascinating person and poet.  I included an essay on her in the ‘essay section’ of “Song of the Nightingale”, published 2015.  She is slippery, though.  Different translations of the same poem can give a variation in message.  I have found, for her, the best translations are done by Hirshfield and Aratani.  Jane Hirshfield became a mentor to me, of sorts, when I first started writing tanka.  From her it was: “Good start. Still not tanka yet.”  This was helpful.

Lady Nyo

=–=

 

 

Did he appear

Because I fell asleep

Thinking of him?

If only I’d known I was dreaming

I’d never have awakened.

…..Komachi

 

How long will it last?

I know not his hidden heart.

This morning my thoughts

Are as tangled as my hair.

My blushes turn my face dark.”

……Lady Nyo (from “Kimono”, work in progress…)

 

When my desire

Grows too fierce

I wear my bed clothes

Inside out,

Dark as the night’s rough husk.

……Komachi

No moon tonight

Only a cold wind visits.

Murasaki robe

Stained the color of grass

Invisible on this earth.

……Lady Nyo   (Murasaki is the color purple.  it is also a grass that has dark lavender tops.  It was used as a dye.)

 

At least no one can blame me

When I go to you at night

Along the road of dreams.

……Komachi

Come to me, my man,

Part the blinds, come into my arms,

Snuggle against my warm breast

Let my belly

Warm your dreams.

…..Lady Nyo

 

One of her most famous poems:

 

No way to see him

On this moonless night—

I lie awake longing, burning,

Breasts racing fire,

Heart in flames.

…..Komachi

 

When my need denied

Burns my breasts-torments me

I tear open robes

To lie naked in moonlight

The wind your hands, caressing

……Lady Nyo

 

 

Night deepens

With the sound of calling deer,

And I hear

My own one-sided love.’

…..Komachi

 

Autumn wind startles–

Lowered to an ominous

     Key—Ah! Mournful sounds!

     The fat mountain deer listen-

   Add their bellowing sorrow.

…..Lady Nyo

 

The cicadas sing

In the twilight

Of my mountain village—

Tonight, no one

Will visit save the wind.

…..Komachi

 

Tonight, foxes scream

Cued by a howling wind.

Maple leaves quilting

A lonely time of season

No one to share the moonlight.

……Lady Nyo

 

 

 

A diver does not abandon

A seaweed-filled bay.

Will you then turn away

From this floating, sea-foam body

That waits for your gathering hands?

…..Komachi

 

So lonely am I

My soul like a floating weed

Severed at the roots

Drifting upon cold waters

No pillow for further dreams.

…..Lady Nyo

 

 

Is this love reality

Or a dream?

I cannot know,

When both reality and dreams

Exist without truly existing.

…..Komachi

 

Dreams, reality

How can one truly know?

I stumble through dreams

I stagger through the lost days

Tell me: what has more substance?

…..Lady Nyo

Ono no Komachi just begs for a call and answer.  Her poetry is sublime.  I just had to take this opportunity.  She inspires on the deepest level.

All Komachi poems were compiled from the Man’yoshu and the book, “The Ink Dark Moon”, by Hirshfield and Aratani.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2017

Rose Garden in the Spring…..

April 29, 2017

coRose Garden April 2017

 

We’ve been working on this rose garden for two years and finally it’s taking flight.  The New Dawn roses are old, probably 15 years old, and lucky for us, they were far apart enough to set the seated arbor last year.  Most of the roses are varieties:  David Austin Roses, others I can’t remember having been transplanted from different parts of the property, and these patio roses that will take over the landscape and certainly a contained rose garden.

Though the patio roses don’t have much scent, the English roses do, and species like Graham Thomas and Madame Carriere on the side of the house and now 15 feet high, are highly scented.

Trying to grow grass between plants, but so far the only thing I have been able to grow under the roses is catnip.  I mixed blueberry (in pots ) with the border roses because they both seem to like each other.

Of course, this being Georgia, we have to contend with red clay, but ta-da!  Roses like clay…a mixture of good soil and clay.  The clay feeds into minerals the roses need.  I throw in coffee grounds and chicken manure from my 8 chickens …I don’t care if it is ‘hot’ .  After a few days it’s not.  Chicken manure and feathers are some of the very best rose food, and if you look at the ingredients of the most expensive rose food, like Osmocote… you will see this in the first few ingredients.

I need to find bee balm to plant within the spaces of the roses….it will help with pollination and hopefully will transfer to the veggie garden.  Last year, Fred bought one of those ‘get rid of your mosquitoes sprays….and overnight…there were hundreds of dead honey bees out there…around the flowering catnip plants.  I sat on the steps and cried.  This will never happen here again.  Catnip really brought the honey bees around…a precious and endangered pollinator.  I am trying to do everything I can to promote the pollinators.  Planted what I thought was butterfly bushes (stupid Home Depot) and I have yet to see any blooms.  I want to put a bee skept in the garden just to see if I can provide a home for bees.  But I don’t want to get stung. Nor do the cats…..

Lady Nyo

Lady of Shallot.jpg

Fred’s hand around a Lady of Shallot…very sweet scented.

My beautiful picture

My beautiful picture

Blurred closeup of the New Dawn Roses…..they smell like Ivory Soap!

H

 

blueberry bush in rose garden.jpg

Haven’t a clue why some of my pix are coming out on their sides…but this is a blueberry (potted) bush laden with blueberries, not ripe yet, but soon.  Rabbit’s Eye I think.

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, April 29, 2017

“I Remember…” Albert Kohut, 1915-1989.

April 27, 2017

Source: “I Remember…” Albert Kohut, 1915-1989.

“I Remember…” Albert Kohut, 1915-1989.

April 26, 2017
My beautiful picture

My beautiful picture

Dusk from the East, taken by my phone.

Today is my father’s birthday.  Had he lived, he would have been 102.  He didn’t, dying at the young age of 74.  Today I read poems at Sevananda here in Atlanta for the Earth Day Celebration, between 6-9pm.  Though is poem isn’t exactly a Nature Themed poem, my love of Nature was formed by my father’s great love of it.  He had marvelous gardens, the best tomatoes, explored the gorges of New Jersey and other places, was a long distance runner, and restored a 200 year old house in rural New Jersey.  He was so loved by everyone who knew him. It’s been almost 3 decades since he died, but I love him so much.  I just wish I could have told him, shown him more of this.

Jane

I Remember….

 

I remember the scream

In the middle of the night

Of something dying

Down by the river,

Killed by an owl

Or possibly a fox.

 

 

I remember bolting awake

In my parent’s bed,

My heart in my throat

My father just died

The funeral over

Sleeping in

His bed,

Afraid to move from this reality

To the next,

No comfort to be had

Even with the scent of

His tobacco in the sheets.

 

I wandered the house,

Touched the walls,

Looked through windows

To a landscape not

Changed over years,

Ran my hands down the

Black walnut banister,

Smooth, smooth

As if the days would turn back

Just by this touch

And he would be here.

 

That scream somewhere on the banks

In the middle of the night,

When I jerked from sleep to

Awake, knowing, he was dead-

The father who loved me

Was gone forever.

I knew then

I was unmoored from life

floating out of reach of love.

 

A scream that challenged dreams

He would come back,

He wasn’t awaiting the fire

He would wake up,

Much as I did,

In a cold-sweat fear

And slowly, slowly

resume his place in the living.

 

There are unseen things

That happen in the night,

Down on the river bank,

Where life is challenged by death

Where a rabbit screams his mighty last

Where the heart leaps to the throat,

Where the most we can hope

Is a silent ghost

Who walks out of the river’s fog,

Extends his arms

And embraces the sorrowing.

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2014

“Poem of the Night”

April 25, 2017

    Night Fog 2 

For the Earth Day Event at Sevandanda I have to pick a number of poems to read.  I have found that the problem for me is not writing the poems, but in reading them aloud. I stink at this.  There is a line in this particular poem I sing, and it means breath control and pacing.  I still stink at this. LOL!  But IF I relax and enjoy the poems I will do better.  Still scaring the cats and dogs with my attempts to get a handle on public reading.  Wish me luck.

 

Poem of the Night

 

The streets are gleaming tonight

as if a million stars were brought to earth,

flattened into urban mirrors

under lamp posts reflecting

an empty nothingness.

 

It is a dull mid-winter night,

straining towards spring

with all intention of leaching

the dying season’s

last insult, unleashing it

upon mankind’s discomfort

one more time.

 

“A foggy day in London town”

Is what I think when I look down

This cotton-wool streetscape,

But that has tune and purpose,

And this muted stillness has none.

 

The rain left a muffling fog,

Mercifully erasing stark bones

of tree limbs reaching to the sky

Black beggars on seasonal parade.

 

Yet,

there is a strange beauty to the night,

Transforming what was common,

Dissolving borders, barriers, dimensions,

Making a mirage, an alien oasis.

 

Heavy mists swirl around the ground,

Lift past the unfocused light

combine with the creeping gloom

And turn a hand to pale mystery.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

February 1st, 2011

 

Earth Day 2017. Where do we go?

April 22, 2017

 

cosmos

Cosmic Couplings

This is also predicated on where we have been.  Over the past few years, I have been cleaning out my life of people who don’t belong there.  Abusive people, users, opportunists, and some that should never have darkened my door. We learn, but usually are left with some sort of wounds. This might be life.  I have ditched family members who are toxic, and of course we come across  other toxic people in our lives.  Very recently I was asked by someone to ‘join’ my online group and I had to scratch my head.  This man we knew for at least a decade.  He floated from household to household, and rarely did anything positive. In fact, he rarely did anything except play on his computer. He was so negative people started to avoid him.  He dissed everyone and word does get back to those he ‘injured’.  Hell no.  The point of life is to center down in those things that stretch you and to avoid to mundane, the stupid and the evil ones out there.  They will suck out the energy of life.

Our world is certainly in a turmoil.  Sabre rattling and warships, terrorism and the uncertainly of life in the best of times throws us off course. And politics don’t help.  I keep getting (as everyone does) these begging emails from politicians I wouldn’t vote for: misogynists, opportunists, the usual run of that breed. Who have way much more money than I do.  Politics make me nauseous.

So….it’s Earth Day today, and  we look around the world at what is happening.  A lot of poets of my acquaintance have also the same issues:  what do we do about a world in turmoil?  I think the greatest ‘weapon’ we have in our arsenal is that we are poets:  We can address these issues through our poetry. We know that many don’t read poetry, but still,  this is our voice.  We must use it where we can.

Further, I believe that we can serve our Earth best by cultivating the soil.  Either a simple procedure or a more extended one:  plant trees, plant gardens, at least grow enough to can, store, freeze and share with neighbors.    I can’t think of something better to do with our time and energies than utilize and improve the soil beneath our feet.

Happy and Productive Earth Day!

 

The Garden at Dawn

Dawn moon appears

Low in the eastern sky.

Like an idiot’s grin

From cheek to cheek,

A glow so intense

It startles the eye.

My hands deep in soil

Planting tender shoots of life

With reverence that feeds the soul

As seedlings feed flesh later to come.

There is God in this black soil,

Earthworms and tiny bits of life

Independent of will or wishes.

Moonbeams spill on this tilled earth

Like a benediction of blessing

And bathes plants and planter alike

With expectation and promise.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2017

“The Fox”

April 19, 2017

Image result for foxes

(Huffington Post.com)

 

I am to be one of the ‘featured’ poets at the Earth Day Celebration April 26, 2017 at Sevananda Foods, here in Atlanta, Ga.   Poetry readings are to be of a Nature theme, which is proper for the event.  The poetry is from 6-9 pm with open mic after.  In trying to select appropriate poems for this event, I had a hard time culling out poems.  I selected 15 poems.  It should be interesting.  I don’t read well in public so I will have to work on this. Already my vocals are scaring the cats and making the dogs howl.  Posting this early for dversepoets pub Open Link Night on Thursday.

Lady Nyo

PS: I LOVE foxes.  I would have one here if it wasn’t so illegal.  No fox was hurt or injured in the writing of this poem.

The Fox

Yanked from sleep

By a scream

Wrapping around the belly,

Fueled by some instinct,

Long buried thread of ancestors.

Bolting upright

Knowing without knowing

A terrible slaughter was tearing

The soft night apart.

I had heard that sound before.

Coming fully awake,

heart pounding through my chest

I listened again, and there!

The vocals of a hen attacked

By something stealing through

The soft night, waiting beyond

The edge of sleep.

 

Three dogs have I

City dogs, though with

The blood of once-fierce hounds.

Not one of them would

Run out to do battle.

Grabbing the collar of the

Biggest, he turned and bit me-

He was no fool.

There was danger

In that dark night-

He was doing his best

To avoid it.

 

Stupid hounds!

I’ll face the monsters

Out there myself!

And switching on the porch light

I saw the dark flight of something

Fly across my yard and vision,

Take a sharp left and disappear

Into the night where porch light met

A dismal darkness.

 

Running to the chicken coop,

Found a young hen, a pile of feathers

Mounded around her, still alive

Clucking mournfully.

 

How do you comfort a tail- less hen

At dawn, with a crescent moon

Throwing feeble light upon the ground of slaughter?

I’ve raised hens for enough years

To know they are merciless to the injured.

But the events of the night

Had stunned their own instincts

And she burrowed amongst them,

They crowding around, covering with feathers and warmth,

Rocked out of their slumber

Clucking out warnings to further attackers:

Let the night and its beasts hear their rage!

 

In the morning I asked my neighbor

Once a south-Georgia farm boy what to do.

His answer was bloodier than

The attack of this young fox,

For young he must be,

Not to kill his prey on first strike.

 

“Spread poison in the kudzu,

Here, I’ll lend you a shotgun-

Fox be vermin and bred for no good.”

 

There is something mystical

In a fox who dares to live in a city.

Or desperate.

 

Birthed in the kudzu growing

From the leveling of a small forest

Sheltered in one-foot wide drainpipes,

Feeding on rats and rabbits

With a taste for chicken from time to time.

 

No.

I’ll lock up my chickens

Let a dog prowl the fence,

And leave off the

Modern methods of slaughter.

 

There must be a balance in nature

As it struggles to right itself

To bypass concrete and the destruction

Of habitat by mankind.

There will be a balance

And I will stand with the foxes.

 

Oh, it is a marvel and a mystery!

For every species is the center of its universe,

If only for him.

 

We are connected by a fine thread to all else,

Our survival depends upon this,

Yet our eyes are blinded to the truth

And something in the proclamation

Of “Inheriting the Earth”

Lies and trips us up,

And we are no more shepherds

Of these species than wolves

In human skin.

 

The world is what it is,

With its own rules of hunger, survival,

We just a cog in this great Mandala,

And most of us attempt to bypass

These laws of nature, still clothed with

Dead dreams of conquerors.

 

And some of us know this deep in our bones.

 

We are blind to the beauty of life

That we are not alone.

The tragedy would be if we were,

And we deny our connection to what we now proclaim “vermin”,

Believing for some bad reason this makes us more human.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2017

Haibun Monday: Fear

April 17, 2017

pleasant-grove-alabama-storm-damage

(A tornado in Alabama last year.)

Kanzen Sakura over at d’versepoets pub is presenting the Haibun Monday challenge.  And it is about Fear.  We all have them, and they are legion for most of us.  Come read what makes the heart flutter and the stomach queasy.  Thank you,  Toni….your prompts always entice!

Lady Nyo

Haibun: Fear

 

Global Warming has brought significant changes to the South, and Atlanta is now nicknamed “Tornado Alley”. In the almost fifty years I have lived here, I have seen disturbing changes. My first acquaintance with a ‘tornado’ was when I heard what I thought was a tornado and I was in the bathtub. My now-ex-husband headed for the basement leaving me in the water. It turned out to be a train. There was a track back in the woods we didn’t know of.

One flattened our local park and was called ‘severe wind shear’. From the looks of it, it seemed like a tornado. Trees, hundred year old oaks flattened to the ground, an indeterminate path through the park, a warzone of defeated greenery.

I fear the heavy winds and rainstorms. I am powerless before them. The only way to save oneself is to head for the basement and cower with whatever lives down there. And of course this adds to the fear.

 

Winds begins to rise

Fear out runs common sense

The worms are safer

 

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2017

Happy Easter and the Awesomeness of Spring!

April 14, 2017

 

 

Neighbor called …found 4 baby kittens and a momma in a outside vent.  Mother ran when we got her babies…about 4 weeks old, but perhaps we can entice her to our house. Beautiful babies, the essence of Spring rebirth, Easter.  but that is now 13 cats here.  Yikes!  But perhaps I can get them adopted in a few months.  Who can ignore such babies?  Three black babies and one grey stripped. Already slurping formula.  Always room for one more.  For four.

Image result for dogwood blossoms

(williamneill.com)

A Haiku….

Dogwoods are blooming
The crucifixion appears
White moths in the night.

(Dogwoods are a Southern tree here in the South.  White blooms
having the form of the Christian Cross, with nail heads.  They bloom in the spring  right before Easter. They are a symbol of Christianity in Nature.)

A Spring Tanka….

 

Thin, silken breezes

Float upon a green-ribbon

Of spring—pale season.

Scent of lilies, myrtle, plum

Arouse bees from slumber.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2017

 


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