May 20th 2016

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chasing
·····love—a toad hops over the double yellow
········line
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Work slowed today. I drove to town with my daughters and picked up our new ducklings—three little Pekins. In the meantime, one of our mallards, the only one of the three that survived winter in the wilds, has decided to live in our brook again, and now with her new boyfriend. Maybe she’ll have her own clutch of ducklings to keep our Pekins company.
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196 May 20th 2016 | bottlecap
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May 19th 2016

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lovers
·····in the afternoon—grass clippings under her
········skirt
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I wrote and rewrote yesterday’s haiku. I may finally have it the way I want it. Nice thing is, having almost written 200 haiku, I feel as though the whole of the collection is like a larger poem; and maybe something I can be pleased with.
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I think about these little poems on and off through the day.
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When I’ve written my 366th haiku, I’m not sure I’ll want to stop. It’s easy to be swept up by life and altogether forget the small defiances of writing. I have, at times.
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195 May 19 2016 | bottlecap
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May 16th 2016

Yesterday’s haiku was loosely inspired by Buson’s haiku:
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piercing chill
····stepping on my dead wife’s comb
········in the bedroom
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mi ni shimu ya/naki tsuma no kushi o/neya ni fumu

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Buson’s haiku is very well known among readers of haiku in English—if not famous. It’s also famous in Japan though for a different reason. When Buson wrote the haiku his wife was alive and well and would outlive him by 31 years. In some circles the haiku looses its burnish because of its lack of emotional veracity—it doesn’t express the poet’s feelings genuinely. More to the point: Buson’s chill is a literary feint rather than an expression of true feeling. Implied in this critique is the assertion that haiku aren’t meant to be fictional but are, ideally, deeply personal, truthful and spontaneous expressions of realized truths—an aesthetic that, perhaps, reflects the influence of Zen Buddhism and the ideals of satori, a “state of sudden spiritual enlightenment” .
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It’s an idealization of the form that one often encounters, but it’s belied by the poets themselves including, of course, Basho, who frequently revised his poems.
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There’s also the implication that the reader, who is apt to identify with a poet like Buson and Basho, feels cheated when their empathy is bestowed on a work of fiction. They want to experience the poet’s emotional life, but fail to comprehend (this being my criticism) that the poet is always writing literature, is always (in a sense) telling a lie, and that the work of creating literature (as distinct from truth-telling) is also a part of the poet’s emotional life.
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To experience Buson’s haiku about his dead wife truthfully is to do so as an artist and a poet—and that, if you ask me, is just as moving and authentic.
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falling
·····on the early morning snow—apple
········blossoms
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Snow fell in the early morning hours. The tops of the mountains were capped with snow and the cars and trucks carried it into the valleys.
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192 May 16th 2016 | bottlecap
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May 15th 2016

Among other pieces by Bach, Telemann and Händel,  my daughters performed Charles Ives’s Unanswered Question. I’ve always liked the piece though it’s not music I’d go looking for. The music is programmatic. The strings, as Ives described them, represent “The Silence of the Druids—who Know, See and Hear Nothing” The horns ask “The Perennial Question of Existence” repeatedly and the woodwinds speak to the answerers, humanity, who become increasingly vexed by their inability to answer the question, their efforts ending in a final burst of dissonance. The question is asked a last time and is answered by the “The Silences”, left in “Undisturbed Solitude”.
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But to me the answer has always been the question.
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That is, the point isn’t to answer the question but to ask it. It’s up to you, but if you suppose life doesn’t begin or end with birth or death, then there must be a reason for the silence. And the reason, perhaps, is that we’re meant to ask the perennial question for the duration of our existence in this world. What does it mean to never know whether our being will blink out of existence?—to never know, with certainty, that our lives matter?—to never know whether we’re part of a greater creative mind and being?
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Who will you reveal yourself to be?

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It’s a beautiful question, really, and perhaps with all the world’s beauty, brutality, joy and tragedy, we answer it solely in the ways we ask it.

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now
····only my own tears—her lost toy years
········later
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191 May 15th 2016 | bottlecap

May 13th 2016

When I wrote last night’s haiku, William Carlos Williams’s poem The Red Wheelbarrow was in the back of my mind—which could almost, itself, be a kind of haiku. Sometimes the haiku is simply a description of what’s there and nothing more, needing nothing more.

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rainfall—
····the moon’s smudge in the black
········clouds

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How long since I’d written about the moon?—a staple of Japanese haiku. Going out tonight the rain was light enough and the clouds thin enough to see its glow—but still a dark night.
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189 May 13th 2016 | bottlecap

May 12th 2016

There’s a new book out (or new to me) collecting and annotating Edna St. Vincent Millay’s lesser known poetry.  I think I’ll pick it up but, for now, I’ve only perused. The back pages reprint some newly discovered letters. In one of them she frets that there might be an editor, when she’s no longer alive and kicking, who will dare to change a single letter in one of her poems.
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Now that’s a wonderful thought. Why should she care? She’ll be dead and gone, and yet, like her, we do. But why? When I was a teenager, I idolized Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Shakespeare, Keats, Milton, Blake, Frost. Like Keats and Frost, my bid was, and has always been, to lodge one poem in the reader’s memory.
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But what does it matter? Another recently released book is a collection of Emily Dickinson’s poetry as she collected it. Contrary to the usual tale of a cloistered poet dying in a litter of poems, Dickinson’s collection reveals a woman carefully considering her legacy—the poems to keep, what order to put them in, how future readers will read them. She was binding her poems in distinct collections before she died.
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The wonderful trick of the human mind is in living. I don’t know how else to put it.
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mid-
·····May—petals sticking to the shovel’s
········mud
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188 May 12th 2016 | bottlecap