Posts Tagged ‘“White Cranes of Heaven”’

Saigyo, Warrior Priest and Poet, some of his poetry and a little of mine.

May 4, 2015
was to be the cover painting for

was to be the cover painting for “Pitcher of Moon” but didn’t work out. Jane Kohut-Bartels, small watercolor.

This is a very  little of Saigyo, the Heian-era priest and poet.  Reading Saigyo is like falling into the rim of the Universe: you have no idea where you will land nor what you will learn.  But the trip will  profoundly change you.

In “Mirror For the Moon”, a collection of translations by William LaFleur of Saigyo, one gets the idea that Saigyo transcended the usual route, the accepted and comfortable route of poet/priests of that era.

There were tons of poetry written by many poets, officials, etc. about the moon, nature, flowers, etc.  But Saigyo’s poetry had an ‘edge’, a difference:  his view of blossoms, moon, nature, was not just the usual symbol of evanescence and youthful beauty:  his view of blossoms, nature, were more a path into the inner depth of this relationship between humanity and nature.   He spent 50 years walking the mountains, road, forests, fields all over Japan and his poetry (waka) reflected his deep understanding of the physicality of nature:  all seasons were felt and experienced not from the safety and comfort of a court, surrounded by other silk-clad courtier/poets,  but out there in the trenches of nature.  His poetry is fomented in the cold and penetrating fall and spring rains, the slippery paths upon mountain trails, the ‘grass pillows’ and a thin cloak, the deep chill of winter snows upon a mountain, the rising  mists that befuddle orientation,  and especially, the loneliness of traveling without companionship.

Saigyo became a poet/priest, but before that he was and came from a samurai family.  He was, at the age of 22, a warrior.  He always struggled with his past in his long years of travel, wondering how this  former life impacted on his religious vows.  His poetry reflects this issue.

I have begun to re-acquaint myself with Saigyo and his poetry, having first come across his poems in 1990. There is something so profound, different, that calls down the centuries to the heart.  His poetry awakens my awe and wonder of not only nature-in-the-flesh, but in the commonality of the human experience.

Lady Nyo

Not a hint of shadow

On the moon’s face….but now

A silhouette passes–

Not the cloud I take it for,

But a flock of flying geese.

Thought I was free

Of passions, so  this melancholy

Comes as surprise:

A woodcock shoots up from marsh

Where autumn’s twilight falls.

Someone who has learned

How to manage life in loneliness:

Would there were one more!

He could winter here on this mountain

With his hut right  next  to mine.

Winter has withered

Everything in this mountain place:

Dignity is in

Its desolation now, and  beauty

In the cold clarity of its moon.

When the fallen snow

Buried the twigs bent by me

To mark a return trail,

Unplanned, in strange mountains

I was holed up all winter.

Snow has fallen on

Field paths and mountain paths,

Burying them all

And I can’t tell here from there:

My journey in the midst of sky.

Here I huddle, alone,

In the mountain’s shadow, needing

Some companion somehow:

The cold, biting rains pass off

And give me the winter moon.

(I love this one especially: Saigyo makes the vow to be unattached to seasons, to expectations, but fails and embraces his very human limitations)

It was bound to be!

My vow to be unattached

To seasons and such….

I, who by a frozen bamboo pipe

Now watch and wait for spring.

(Love like cut reeds….)

Not so confused

As to lean only one way:

My love-life!

A sheaf of field reeds also bends

Before each wind which moves it.

(And Love like fallen leaves….)

Each morning the wind

Dies down and the rustling leaves

Go silent: Was this

The passion of all-night lovers

Now talked out and parting?

From “Mirror For the Moon”, A Selection of Poems by Saigyo (1118-1190)

Three of my own “Moon” poems….in the form of Tanka.

The moon floats on wisps

Of cloud that extend outward

Tendrils of white fire

Burn up in the universe–

Gauzy ghosts of nothingness.


Shooting star crosses

Upended bowl of blue night


Fires up with excited gaze!

A moment– and all is gone.


(and one more….)


The full moon above

floats on blackened velvet seas,

poet’s perfection!

But who does not yearn for a

crescent in lavender sky?


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2015……these last three poems were from “White Cranes of Heaven”,, 2011, Jane Kohut-Bartels


“First Snow”, from ‘White Cranes of Heaven’

December 25, 2014

My beautiful picture

Clach Mhullinn....home

Clach Mhullinn….home


The morning brought a first snow,

And with it wind over the mountain.

I watched snow turn to ice,

Invisible sleet hit the panes a’ hissin’.

Soon a crystal coat on tender branches—

Invisible hands pulling to earth,

Anchoring them fast.

I depend upon the silence

Creating a space to remember,

Solitude, too, now to be shared

Only with ghosts,

Or perhaps a cat or two.

Inside the comfort of crackling of wood,

Well seasoned of last year’s axe,

The sweet, sharp tang of pine and oak,

The groan of a log shifting its failing weight.

I remember your boot kicking it back off the hearth,

Sparks flaring upward,

Stars enfolded by a blazing sun.

Outside the pelting sting on windows,

The howl of winter racing round eaves

Looking for attic-access between clapboards,

A hambone skeleton dance to

Shake its palsied bones warm.

Soon  fading light at twilight

Suspends the day

In a cocoon of white, unfocused mystery.

The night brings a muffled benediction

Over the land,

And memory is put aside for the morrow.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2010-2014, published by, 2011, as “White Cranes”

“Walking In The New Winter Woods”…..poetry

November 28, 2014





Walking in the new winter woods,

the crunch of frozen ground beneath

my boots,

my dog’s paws will be sore tonight

for we aim far afield.


I think of this morning when we

argued at breakfast,

the smell of maple bacon should

stop all that, but didn’t.


We can’t get past the desiccated ghosts

who have taken up residence in our hearts, inviting

slights and outright blows never delivered

but still lingering in the air.


I took the gun loaded with birdshot

in case there was a duck down by the pond.

Was, but those were sitting ducks

didn’t seem right, too easy a target

like this morning at breakfast when either one

of us could have let swing and landed a good one

on tender flesh and raw nerves.


The dog is game for hunting, but my heart

isn’t in it.


My thoughts go back to you standing there,

that old apron around your waist,

determined not to let me see tears

and my heart cracks and soon I head back with

a peace offering of a bough of holly.


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2010-2014

“Walking In The New Winter Woods” originally published in “White Cranes of Heaven”,, 2011

“Twelve Tanka”…..

October 23, 2014


"White Cranes of Heaven", cover painting by the author

“White Cranes of Heaven”, cover painting by the author

These tanka were composed when I was writing  ” The Kimono”, yet to be published. Some violate the pivot line and other ‘rules’ of tanka.  There are many parts to tanka and it is wise to learn them.  It just takes time.

A few of these tanka are published already in “White Cranes of Heaven”,, 2011.

Lady Nyo~

This is the problem!

Do not give over your soul,

it returns tattered.

What tailor can mend the rips?

The fabric too frayed by life.

A modest woman

does not seek comfort with thieves

Emptiness is fate.

Better her eyes turn upwards

to Heaven, soul comforted.

Human frailties

wounds that bleed such heated blood

leave a dry vessel.

Without the moisture of love

the clay reverts to the ground.

Tears soften venom.

Knives bring satisfaction to

hands still covered with love.

Trembling, can’t find the mark

but the shame returns, pierces.

The heart is brittle.

Hands can not soothe its aching

only honest words

can make the sore mind attend

unless pain ever constant.

A woman in grief,

is force that races nature.

Better now anger

contempt will replace her love.

She will be stronger for it.

Minute to the hour

The heart races on the edge,

sharpened existence.

Feet trammel the rocky ground

While pain flies up to Heaven.

Birds fly in the blue.

All is gray upon the earth,

heart is stopped with bile.

White crane lifts off lake water,

my heart follows them.

The tanka below is the Lady Nyo’s (from ” The Kimono”) death tanka.

Shall an old gray wolf

subdue a woman like me?

I shall be born soon.

The wolf head I will cut off

and nail the pelt to the cross.

The morning wren sings,

I stand in the moonlit dawn

kimono wrapped tight.

Last night my final peace made,

now free from all attachments.

Bolts of lightening flash!

The sky brightens like the day

too soon it darkens.

My eyes opened or closed see

the futility of love.

Had I not known life

I would have thought it all dreams.

Who is to tell truth?

It comes at too sharp a price.

Better to bear flattery.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2008-2014

“Songs of Summer”…….and Happy July 4th! Our Independence Day.

July 4, 2014


Summer cartwheels through the sky!
The fertility of months
Expressed from field to orchard,
Above in the sky, and deep below,
Where the earth gathers green energy
And transforms by magic
Fruits for the mouth and eye.

Fledglings tipped out of nests
Try new-feathered wings on warm currents,
Calves butt heads and race in calf-tumble
Climbing rocks and playing king-of-the-hill,
Spring lambs past the date
For the tender-est of slaughter
Coated in white curls,
The smell of lanolin sweet in their wake.

There is fresh life in the pastures,
Now with steady legs and bawling lungs,
They graze upon the bounty
And grow fat for the future culling.

Tender shoots of wheat and corn,
Waist-high, defying devious crows,
Paint once-fallow fields in saffron and
A multitude of hues-
Golden tassels forming,
Waving under an oppressive sun,
And when the sky bursts open
In random welcomed rain,
Heaven meets Earth-
The cycle complete.

These are the songs of Summer.
The bleat of lambs,
The cymbals of colliding clouds,
The noise of fierce light,
The plaints of cows with udders taunt,
The loud quarrelling of a swollen brook,
The scream of a hunting hawk
Calling for its mate,
The pelt of an unheralded storm
Upon a tin roof,
And the quiet sighing of
An unexpected wind-
A benediction to the day.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2007-2014

“Winter Into Spring”, a poem

May 1, 2014
 Marsh Geese, watercolor, Jane Kohut-Bartels, 2007

Marsh Geese, watercolor, Jane Kohut-Bartels, 2007


This is such a weird Spring.  Warm, almost balmy days, and then fierce rain and wind storms. Today it feels like Winter again with chilling temperatures  not changed since morning.  The afternoon sun doesn’t help, this pallid and feeble orb barely breaking through  a white sky.  There is no blue to be seen, and I pull out sweaters and socks and watch the cats curl into balls.  Even they know that Winter is not done with us in some way.

Lady Nyo 





Mysterious, unfathomable, muted season,

where life and reason are suspended

upon a cold metal wire.

The wind a sharp razor of clipper glass

sailing through glassine air

slicing the pallid sun’s rays–

an attempt to warm a frigid earth

to a remembered fertility.


Solemn seasonal palette,

white, gray, black,

cut with a flash of blood-red–

Kamikaze cardinal!

like the demon wind bearing its name,

dares the thin and paling air

to brighten for a flashing moment–

A witness to recurring life.


Season of bountiful snow,

brings a thirst to the land

where hoar-frost leaches

moisture with a crystallized withering-

hands to crack, bark to shatter,

and all dries and curls about

in a perverse furnace of freeze.


One day, a pale day

a southern breeze

breaks through the bonds of Winter

brushes up, slides up

upon the ice

and a crack like a thump is felt in the gut

a slow drip-drip of water

signals the end of this harsh season,

as icicles emit a hesitant stream,

and then the ice dam down in the brook

cracks with a louder sound

and the rush to Spring

is heralded with these natural sounds.


A blind movement

felt deep in the soil-

a careful stirring,

barely a rumble in the gut of the Earth

as birth beneath replaces death above

pushing through the Earth womb

to a pallid sun above-

the tyranny of Winter now broken.


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2011, 2012, from “White Cranes of Heaven”, published by, 2011

“Blackberry Winter”, a poem

April 3, 2014

 April is Poetry Month.  There are some great online poets, unfortunately I don’t know of any local poets  I could recommend.  If  Atlanta is a town that embraces poetry, it has eluded me, so I  am going to be posting some of my favorite poets, in particular  William Stafford (1914-1993).  Stafford is a voice of American poetry and one who is not well known amongst many American poets.   His voice is a steady voice, born in the Midwest and the forests where he was doing alternative service during WWII.   Stafford is not well known to many but I have found  some Indian poets in Mumbai, etc. have studied him in university    and  found him to be an authentic American voice.  William Stafford speaks to our hearts with poetry of challenge and consolation.  We are enriched with reading his verse.

Lady Nyo





“Blackberry Winter” is a Southern term used when there is a cold spell in the mid spring and the blackberries are just beginning to bloom. They fruit around mid to late June.

This period is also called “Dogwood Winter”, etc.  I’ve shared blackberries in the North Carolina mountains with a cotton mouth snake that I didn’t notice was under the bushes, eating the blackberries, too.  I moved away quickly, supposing that there were more somewhere else.

Lady Nyo



It is Blackberry Winter

One last shot across

The bow of an emerging Spring.

Winter does not play fair.

It will not give up the ghost

Exit with a dignified bow

preferring to show its last rotting tooth.

The blackberries are blooming.

White collar frills surrounding

Kernels of lusty fruit,

Soon to be black as midnight

Sweet as a baby’s kiss

Unavoidable staining of hands and mouths

To be shared with a snake or two down below.

The Easter planting is done

The earth knows Winter’s game

And blankets seed

With dark, moist soil

Cozy enough to shelter tender life.

We will make blackberry wine

From Blackberry Winter.

The present chill will

Sweeten the fruit

And we will give a toast

To Winter’s frayed glory.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2014

“Blackberry Winter” from “White Cranes of Heaven”,, 2011

“Alluring Moon”, a short poem

February 28, 2014




I’m pretty passive about these opportunities, but I shouldn’t be. They are good experience and also sell books. But mostly, they are fun and a chance to read and hear other poets.

To those in and around Atlanta,  you are invited.


Avondale Estates’ monthly poetry reading will feature Jane Kohut-Bartels on Tuesday March 4 at Savage Pizza at the corner of Laredo and N. Clarendon. The evening begins at 7 p.m. with an open reading during  which anyone may read from original works or another favorite poet. Ms. Kohut- Bartels will read at 8 p.m.

Jane Kohut-Bartels is a writer of novels since 1990.  Presently she has five novels that she is completing and is publishing two in the next two years.  Since 2007, Jane has been writing poetry and presently has published 4 books of poetry, short story and one novella.  “A Seasoning of Lust”, “The Zar Tales” (this book includes “The Zar Tale”, a novella about Turkey and the Zar ritual and it’s attempted oppression by religious elements), “White Cranes of Heaven” (50 seasonal poems) and this January, 2014,  she published “Pitcher of Moon” (Poems of Gratitude and Spirituality).  She is to publish her 5th book, “The Nightingale’s Song” from Australia in the fall of 2014.  These books are all available at and Createspace, Amazon.  Jane is also a member of the Anglo-Japanese Tanka Society in Kent, UK and is listed in the Bibliography of Tanka Writers in English, which is a world-wide compilation of published tanka writers, amongst other literature groups.  Jane specializes in medieval Japanese literature.  She also has been published in the prestigious 25th  PoetsCRIT Journal published in Mumbai, India, and also is to be published this July in the same Journal.

 Jane maintains a blog at  that has had over 115,000 readers in the last 5 years.

Thank you, Friend Julia Ewen.

Lady Nyo

Alluring Moon 


The moon sits moored

In a midnight sea.

Clouds sweep her face

Shading a pale, wavering beacon.


She tugs at her moorings

And floats

Across upended bowl of Heaven

Into the harbor of dawn.


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2012

from “White Cranes of Heaven”

the picture is from GaryHartPhotography, ( and is the cover of my new book: “Pitcher of Moon” , now on CREATESPACE,


“Autumn Dusk”……

October 25, 2013


(Oil Painting, Jane Kohut-Bartels, “Dusk” 2008

Autumn is a time of incredible beauty and mystery.  After a long, slow, sullen summer, the air is refreshened by winds and currents from the North and everything seems to change over night.  The windchimes herald this season and their clanging outside brings our attention to changes that startle and excite us. Too short a season by far.

Lady Nyo 


Stuttering winds blow across

Clouds tinted by the failing sun.

Brittle air softens,

Now a faded blue–

Shade of an old man’s watery eyes.


A late flock of Sandhill cranes lift off,

Pale bodies blending in the

Twilight with legs

Flowing dark streamers,

Their celestial cries fall to


 A harsh, chiding rain.


The trees in the valley

Are massed in darkness

As waning light leaches

Color from nature,

Creeps from field to hillock

And all below prepares for the

Rising of the Corn Moon.


Even frogs in the pond

Listen between croaks

For the intention of the night.



Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2010

From: White Cranes of Heaven, 2011


Autumn Tanka…..

October 16, 2013
"North Carolina Stream", watercolor, janekohut-bartels, 2008

“North Carolina Stream”, watercolor, janekohut-bartels, 2008

Autumn colors from my bathroom window today

Autumn colors from my bathroom window today

My beautiful picture


Barn Owl, J. Kohut-Bartels, 1999, watercolor

Barn Owl, J. Kohut-Bartels, 1999, watercolor

It’s just beginning to be Autumn here in the southern US, and I can’t resist the season.  It’s one of my favorite and there is something different in the air, the smell of wood smoke already, though the temps don’t make sense for this.  Perhaps some homeowner is clearing a plot of land, but the smell makes me dizzy with anticipation.  The wind chimes have been ajangle over the past few nights, and the north winds are becoming more active.  Every so often, there are whirlpools of leaves, gathered up in the street and dancing like dervishes.  The real fall will come, with soggy rains and denuded trees but perhaps this season makes us feel alive: there is so much natural activity after a slow and sullen summer.  The miracle of the trees changing, the clouds overhead, gray leaden expanses that turn golden underneath at dusk, the cast of light so different from the season before. Yesterday I  saw two  low flying Canada geeze go honking right over my head and they startled me.  Soon we will see the formations of Sandhill Cranes as they migrate south.  You hear them a long time before you see them far up in the moddled sky.

In the midst of posting chapters from “Tin Hinan” I came across some fall tankas I had included in “White Cranes of Heaven”.  This, with what was going on outside, was enough to change course on this blog right now.  I’ll get back to the next chapter of “Tin Hinan” but right now there is a squirrel in the bird feeder and I saw a yellow fox in the dying kudzu out back.  Last night I heard two very mournful owls in the trees behind the house.  Enough to turn my thoughts to a favorite season.

Lady Nyo

I look up at blue

Sky this morning, watch leaves fall-

Whirling, colored tears.

Clip my face like dull razors,

The strokings of memory.

Is the whistling

Of the wind- a train, a plane?

Nature plays fiddle

And our senses are confused,

We dwell in chicanery!

Shooting star crosses

Upended bowl of blue night


Fires up with excited gaze!

A moment– and all is gone.

This grim November,

The month of my father’s death

Always bittersweet.

My memories float, weak ghosts-

Haunting in the fog of life.


So lonely am I

My soul like a floating weed

Severed at the roots

Drifting upon cold waters

No pillow for further dreams.


A late Summer moon

Floats above the conifers.

Autumn is coming.

Do pines know the season turns?

Their leaves don’t fall; do they care?


Come into my arms.

Bury under the warm quilt.

Your scent makes me drunk

Like the wine we gulped last night.

Too much lust and drink to think.

When Autumn enters

Inexplicable sadness.

Season fades to death.

Hunter’s moon sits in Heaven–

Garden spiders finish, die.

Autumn wind startles–

Lowered to an ominous

Key—Ah! Mournful sounds!

The fat mountain deer listen-

Add their bellowing sorrow.

Out with the gold fish,

The bullfrogs croak their sorrow.

Summer is passing

Autumn brings sharp, brittle winds

But Winter is the cruelest.

Like the lithe bowing

Of a red maple sapling

My heart turns to you,

Yearns for those nights long ago

When pale skin challenged the moon.

Overhead, the cranes,

Sandhills, swirl in board circles.

Broken GPS?

No matter, their cries fall down

Celestial chiding rain.


To end this  with a simple poem, not a tanka.


Autumn night winds

Hiss over the land

Round corners

And pulse under eaves.

Clashing wind chimes add sharp discord

As bare branches answer with a grating groan.

Above all,

The moon casts a feeble light

Too thin to fatten the road. 

(this poem from “White Cranes of Heaven”, published by, 2011)

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2011-2013



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