Posts Tagged ‘poetry’

“Original Blessing”, a poem.

August 14, 2018

Sailboat, watercolor, Jane kohut-bartels, 2006


I wrote this when I felt  battered from Baha’i to Fundamentalist Christians.  I was dizzy with anger and then realized  these people were nothing of great consequence except for trouble and worry.  Their actions were nothing of love but of dominance and hatred.  We all must find our own way in our beliefs. 

Lady Nyo

Original Blessing”


I am dizzy with love,

Standing in the rain,

This cosmic blessing

Pouring on my head,

Mingling with tears of gratitude

Til one stream

can not be deciphered

From the other.


I am an Original Blessing,

As are you,

And we are not born in sin,

But brought into the light of life

In great joy and anticipation.


Our first bellows are not of pain

But surprise at the roominess of the Cosmos,

As we kick our feet, flail our arms

And finally open our eyes at the glorious colors

Of Nature.


Original sin would have us

Born rotten,

A theological monkey on our back–

But I know no God of the Cosmos

Who would scar these tiny blessings

With such a heavy burden.


Original Blessing is a deliverance,

A deliverance of hope, trust and pride

A heritage where we can discern and save


Walk in harmony with the Earth,

Stride with God across the span of life–

For this Earth is our cradle,

And all in it our kin.


For a truly wise person

Kneels at the feet of all creatures

And is not afraid to endure

The mockery of others.


And when the day sidles up to night

I will settle into the nest of the Earth,

Draw the dark blanket of the Cosmos

Across me,

Pillow my head upon stars

And know that the blessings I have been

Graced with today and always

Have come from the womb of God.


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2017-2018




“Spring Orgy” for

July 24, 2018

backyard with OLWeeks rose.jpg(O.L. Weeks Rose, non fragrant)

Sarah over at is hosting today, poems about the meanings of flowers.  This is my take.  I have 60 some rose bushes here on the property, some 40 years old and older.  Many just planted this spring.  Husband dragged home 11 rose bushes from a movie set they were throwing away.  All lived.

Lady Nyo

Spring Orgy


The roses are having an orgy.

They haven’t the decency to wait for the dark,

But ply their lust in the soft, morning light.


Randy Graham Thomas is leering.

Madame Carriere is blushing.

Her pink silk-petal gown flutters

As she twists coyly to avoid his embrace.


By 10am the sun warms their scents and foreplay is over.

The wind at 11am entwines the two.

Pistils and stamens are seriously ‘at it’

Brushing languorously over parts

An hour ago were covered discreetly.


At high noon in the heat of the day

Pollen is floating all over the air

And even the wide-eyed cats

Sitting under tender foliage are blushing.


The garden gnome is licking his lips

While a concrete hand creeps to his crotch.


This fall there will be rose-hips aplenty.

Red nipples packed with tiny seeds,

Evidence of a spring-time lust.


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2018

“Cosmos Cinquains”

July 22, 2018

fullmoon mystery moon


Chained lady

Beckoning from galaxies

Teasing the Hunter Orion





Sees her beckon

Unhoods Aquila fast

Argo-like he sails across space




Hitching Comets

Calls Sagittarius forth

Anger that he misses




Sullen monster

Corona Australis

Reticulum thrown unwisely




Hunting dogs

Leaps across galaxies

Baying at the moons





Pities the Chained Lady

Shifts Heavens to shield her virtue



Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2018






“Ten Thousand Leaves, Love Poems from the Man’yoshu”

July 9, 2018

Samurai Woman

I love Japanese poetry, especially the poetry of the Man’yoshu, a collection of remarkable and ‘democratic’ poetry, in other words, poetry that was included in this great document by priests, courtesans, samurai, peasant songs, fishermen, nobles and many other sections of Japanese society from the 7th and 8th centuries of Japan.  In fact, this great document is also an incredible collection of poetry by women:  this is the first time women’s voices were heard in such length. 

Lady Nyo

“Ten Thousand Leaves, Love Poems from the Man’yoshu”


“Thick and fast stream my thoughts of you

Like the layers

Of endlessly falling snow

Upon the cedars.

Come to me at night, my man.”

—– from the Man’yoshu

It was the first golden age of Japanese civilization. In the eighth century appeared the great metropolis of Nara, (the imperial capital) its broad avenues lined with magnificent temples. Culture rushed in from Korea, China and over the Silk Road, from as far away as Persia, and even from Venice.

We think of Japan in isolation, as it was to become centuries later, but in the 7th to the 10th centuries (approximately) the cultural influences were vast and wide and foreign.

In the 8th century, Japan found it’s first voice, a clear and powerful voice to become one of the most impressive, sophisticated and frank compilations of poetry the world has ever seen. (There are other earlier and then later collections of poetry, but the Man’yoshu is considered to be the best of the poetry collections. There are many reasons (cultural and court changes, etc) but this is a long study and can’t be done in this short presentation.

There are not 10,000 poems (leaves) but over 4,500. Most of these are love poems, (somon)where lovers speak with disarming frankness and clarity, speak to us across 1300 years as if they were us.  Actually, the poems express a decided lack of neurosis that we have come to view sex in the last few centuries. There is nothing of barriers when it comes to the human heart, longing, emotions and sexuality in these poems. Many of them are openly, expressly erotic.

The authors or contributors of these poems extended from Emperors, Empresses, courtesans, samurai, priests, beggars, fishermen, peasants: a cross section of remarkable variety. A truly democratic endeavor. This was never again to happen in Japan, not at least to this extent.

Otomo No Yakamochi (718-785) is considered to be the main complier of the Man’yoshu. These poems actually span a 130 year history, from around 630 AD to 759 AD.

There are three basic divisions of the poetry in the Man’yoshu.

Banka: elegy on the death of an Emperor or a loved one.

Somon: mutual exchanges of love or longing poetry.

Zoka: Poems of Nature, hunting, etc.

This short presentation will focus only on the Somon form.

Generally the Man’yoshu poetry is considered to be declarative rather than introspective, imagistic rather than abstract. There is an incredible freshness to it all.

There are basically two forms of poetry in the Man’yoshu: choka (long poem, 5-7-5-7-5-7, etc. ending in 7-7) and tanka. (5-7-5-7-7). The ‘long poem’, choka (which isn’t very long by our modern and Western standards) died out of fashion, and tanka became the predominant form of Japanese poetry for the next 1200 years.

Although one would think so, there isn’t a lot of Buddhist influence in the poems. If any religion, there is more Shinto influence especially in the Zoka form, but even that isn’t large. This may seem strange to us, with our notions of culture in Japan, but even centuries later, with the Priest-Poet Saigyo, there is little Buddhist thought within his poems. Religion just doesn’t play such a dominant role in most Japanese poetry, especially at this time.

“Going over the fields of murasaki grass

That shimmer crimson,

Going over the fields marked as imperial domain,

Will the guardian of the fields not see you

As you wave your sleeves at me?”

====Princess Nukata

This poem is considered by many to be one of the greatest poems in the Man’yoshu. It is presented near the beginning of the collection, giving it prominence. The answer by her former husband (she is now married to the Emperor) Prince Oama, (his brother) is a beautiful poem in its own right.

“If I despised you, who are as beautiful

As the murasaki grass,

Would I be longing for you like this,

Though you are another man’s wife?”

===Prince Oama

“Do not let men find out

By smiling at me so apparently,

Like the clouds that clearly cross

Over the verdant mountains.”

—–Lady Otomo Sakanoue

There are more poems by this poet than any other woman in the Man’yoshu. What is remarkable are the amount of women poets included in the Man’yoshu. This is only possible because the Confucian philosophy was not prominent yet in Japan. When it became influential, women lost much status: before they were allowed to own property, title, name, divorce, to keep custody of their children. After, they were relegated to indoors, stripped of much power and status.

“Whose words are these,

Spoken to the wife of another?

Whose words are these,

That bade me untie

The sash of my robe?”


Many of the poems in the Man’yoshu were folk songs, or parts of folk songs. And this repeated interest in ‘the wife of another’ was an object of male desire; the Man’yoshu is full of this theme.

“As I turn my gaze upward

And see the crescent moon,

I am reminded

Of the trailing eyebrows

Of the woman I saw but once.”

—-Otomo Yakamochi

This was written by Otomo at the age of 16!

“I have fallen into a yearning

With no requite,

For a girl who, when night comes

Sleeps pillowed in another’s arms.


“If men can touch

Even the untouchable sacred tree,

Why can I not touch you

Simply because you are another’s wife?”

—-Otomo Yasumaro

To finish with some anonymous poems:

“The flowers of the plum,

Were covered with fallen snow

Which I wrapped up

But when I tried to have you see

It was melting in my hands.”

“This body of mine

Has crossed the mountain barrier

And is here indeed!

But this heart of mine remains

Drawing closer to my wife.”

“The moon crossed the sky

And I saw him only once

In its pale light

Yet, the person whom I saw

Does appear to me in dreams.”

“I shall not take a brush

To this hair that lies

Disheveled in the morning,

For it retains the touch

Of my dear lord’s arms that pillowed me.”


I end with some poems of my own inspired by the verse below:

Thick and fast stream my thoughts of you
Like the layers
Of endlessly falling snow
Upon the cedars.
“Come to me at night, my man.”

….Man’yoshu, 8th century

Come to me

If even only in my dreams

Where my head rests upon my arm

And not yours–

Let this veiled moon

Above and these dark, broodingpines below

“Be witness to our love, my man.”

Come to me,

When the rocks have disappeared

Under sheets of snow,

The moon appears through tattered clouds.

I will be

Listening for the sound of

Your footfall in the dark.


Come to me, my man,

Part the blinds and come into my arms,

Snuggle against my warm breast

And let my belly

Warm your soul.

Above poems of mine were included in “Song of the Nightingale”, published by Amazon. 2015

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2011-2015



(“Nightingales”, Jane Kohut-Bartels, watercolor, 2015)

“Issa, Cup-Of-Tea”

June 29, 2018

owls, baby 2

(unfinished watercolor, Jane Kohut-Bartels, 2018, “Baby Owls”)

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


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, 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, and a compassion for people.

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



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.


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2018








“The Geisha”

June 26, 2018


Computer really screwed up today: If I am slow (or swimming in the wrong direction) please be patient with me.  I don’t know what happened but perhaps if I go eat ice cream it will self-correct?  Dogs want some, too.  93 today. Ugh.

Toni Spencer (from d’ and other sites) and I have been recently discussing jisei, death poems of samurai and others. At the end is a further explanation of this ritual and definitions.  Toni is an expert on Japanese poetry and culture.

Lady Nyo


Moon sits low
above solemn pines.
The night is cold.
As dawn breaks
the geisha kneels, waiting.

Plum tea kimono wraps
her tightly-
white would be right
color of mourning,
color of death.

Her lover, disgraced
has embraced
blood the sacrifice
to wipe clean a
particular stain.

She to follow
Honor fulfilled,
death follows death
rigid path of decree.

A life mostly of sorrow.

Opening her gown,
she exposes white skin,
her maid, quietly weeps
slides back the shoji
exposing a winter landscape-
white snow on rocks
white snow like her skin
soft, soon to disappear,
one to melt,
one to white ash.

Yes, life mostly of sorrow.

winter is silent,
no wind at all,
snow falling like silken petals
Ah! She will never see spring
or cherry blossom time!

Floating over muted,
glassine air
comes the sound-
two monks
playing flutes
welcome the day.
Shakuhachi artists,
mournful sound,
sound that brings
peace to an anxious heart.


She bows her head,
picks up the tanto-
and opens the vein.

Blood of her line
answers to that
of another.

So full of sorrow.

I wrote this short poem listening to Shakuhachi artists. The sound of their intertwining flutes, poignant, heartbreaking, set this poem going. The raw, alien nature of their music was transporting, bringing peace.

There are a few issues to explain. This is a ritual suicide, (for women, called jigai) not uncommon in feudal and even modern Japan. A geisha, an entertainer, could take lovers, and even become a favored member of a family. She could not get married and remain a geisha.

This geisha has decided to follow her disgraced lover into death. However, she is wearing a kimono that is not ‘proper’ for a ritual suicide. I think she does this to embarrass the officials. Perhaps it is a personal protest. The tea ceremony is imbued with its own ritual and I link these two together.

Depending on the original offense of her lover, his death and the death of part of his family would restore the honor of the family. She chose to sacrifice her life for his honor.

A tanto is a short knife. A woman would not cut her abdomen (seppuku), but would open the main vein in her neck. She would have tied together her legs at the knees, over her kimono, so she would have some modesty in death.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2010-2018


Haibun: “Seasons Change”

June 25, 2018

Supermoon in dec.

Jilly is hosting tonight….something about radical haibun….we will see.

Lady Nyo


Autumn wind startles–
Lowered to an ominous
Key—Ah! Mournful sounds!
The fat mountain deer listen-
Add their bellowing sorrow.


The gingko filters the sunlight, the ground a crescent- printed cloth fit for a yukata. It hits my hands and feet, creating white scars that do not burn. I welcome the sun. My bones grow thin.

This passage, from summer to fall, eternal movement of Universal Design, counts down the years I have left. There is so much more to savor. Two lives would not be enough.

Tsuki, a beggar’s cup too thin to fatten the road, still shines with a golden brightness, unwavering in the chill aki wind. The Milky Way reigns over all.

Sharp moon cuts the sky
The fierce wind from the mountains
Disturbs dragonflies.


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2018

“Rain Waiting to be Born”

June 22, 2018


(Watercolor, Jane Kohut-Bartels, 2004?)

Second day of summer, much like late spring and we haven’t any real storms in Atlanta to take away the dust and parchedness.  I am praying for rain, any rain.  A good thunderstorm (sans tornado) would be nice about now.

Lady Nyo


I feel the rain waiting to be born.
I hear the banshee wind
Racing around eaves,
Scaring the haunts in the attic,
Making hambone frenzy with
Powdery limbs.


Trees now tilting whirligigs
Ancient pin, water oaks
Dancing St. Germaine’s dance–
Frenzy below amongst quilted colors
Ruffling the feathers of nature
Tossing the spectrum wide.

I smell mossy rain finally born,
Hear the clatter on a tin roof
Smell again the musty fog
Born of a sullen, moaning stream
And head for bed under the eaves,
Shared with a Banshee wind
And a hambone frenzy until dawn.


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2018

“Musings On A Closing Day”

June 19, 2018

Mt. fuji women


I move my chair
to observe Mt. Fuji-
monstrous perfection
topped with the cooling crust
of spring snows.

Languid movement
of a branch,
like a geisha
unfurling her arm
from a gray kimono,
makes petals fall,
a scented, pink snow
covering my upturned face
with careless kisses.

Timid winds caress
my limbs,
a fleeting relief
to tired bones
brittle now with
a sullen defeat of life.

Raked sand of garden
waves barely disturbed
by feet like two gray stones
as grains flow
round ankles.

I realize once again
I am no obstacle to
the sands of time.

My heart is quieted
by the passage of nothing
for in this nothing
is revealed the fullness of life.


Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2016-2018

“Bhava Yoga”

May 22, 2018


(Watercolor by Jane Kohut-Bartels)

Bhava Yoga

Morning’s roseate sky
Has been blasted away,
Branches now whirligigs
Swirl with a fierce southern wind
As windows rattle in frames.

A tattered umbrella
Shades from a relentless sun.
I listen to Bhava Yoga
The vibration of Love,
Where imagination meets
Memory in the dark.
Yet surrounding these soothing tones
The world outside this music
Conspires to disrupt, sweep away
All thought, reflection.

The fierce wind gets my attention.
I can not deny its primal force.

Still, the pulse of Bhava Yoga
Draws me within,
Feeds imagination with memory,
Calls forth something as enduring as the fury outside,
And I feel the pulse of the infinite.
We are like birds,
Clinging with dulled claws to
The swaying branches of life.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2014 (from Pitcher of Moon,, 2014)


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