February 9th 2016

Tonight I listen to Carl Phillip Emanuel Bach, the son of the great Johann Sebastian Bach. His music is utterly unlike his father’s, but also unlike any of his peers or contemporaries: not always successful, but always daring, brilliant creative, unafraid and original. I don’t feel like any of those. I write the same haiku. How many about the snow, the cold, the moon? I’m in a despairing mood.
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I read today that writers make less and less money.
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I make none. It’s my own fault. I dislike competitions. I dislike submitting my work. I don’t take rejection well. I don’t like publishing my writing. I both want and don’t want to be read. I want to write for others and only for myself. Sometimes I want all my writing to disappear—including hundreds of pages I don’t publish here. I both care and don’t care. I’m angry and accepting.
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Acceptance that I will never make a living as a writer.
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But for a moment—some equilibrium.
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in
····the oak’s roots—winter’s deepening
········cold
·in the
And tomorrow I ready my winter’s lunch:
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ice
····cold orange—color of the summer’s
········sun
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92 February 9th 2016 | bottlecap

February 8th 2016

 

Today is the Chinese New Year. 1966 was the year of the Fire Horse. I was born at Midnight. Asked whether I should be born on the 7th or 8th, the answer was: Always look forward.
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It begins to snow tonight.

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I recall nights like these when I was a teenager. The night was so dark that I couldn’t see the road, neighboring fields, or even my own hand. I learned to follow the road by following the elevated middle. If I stepped too far to the right or left, I could feel the grade descending to the ditch. If there was just a little light, I walked looking at the branches overhead. I followed the narrow roadway of stars made by the road’s passage between the trees.

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wind—
····into and out of the steetlights’
········blizzard

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Tonight is just as dark but for the further street lights. The snow is felt on the skin, but only seen in the blizzard beneath the streetlights.

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91 February 8th 2016 | bottlecap

February 7th 2016

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Another trip into the heart of Vermont today. Very strange to see so little snow in the middle of February. The snow was melted from the yards and the berms of the roads were muddy under the bright sun.

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unaware
····of her beauty—mud on the little girl’s
········boots

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At a bookstore. Not knowing who they waited for, I saw a mother and her little girl. The mother read a fashion magazine and the little girl, sitting next to her, looked out the window, longingly swinging her legs.

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90 February 7th 2016 | bottlecap

February 6th 2016

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utterly
····stymied—finding the lost sack
········of radishes

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Funny how we forget these little things. Now I’m stymied by this sack of radishes in February. I first wrote:

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no idea
····what to write—the lost radishes
········in February

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I’ve been thinking about my promise to describe the haiku I love, though as with all things that changes from year to year. Right now I’m especially enamored by Basho and have been reading him enough that I think I begin to sense his personality; and I think he had a more serious disposition that Buson while Buson was probably warmer, more gregarious and approachable.

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When Buson was dying, he said to his desciple, “Even being sick like this, my fondness for the way is beyond reason and I try to make haiku. The high stage of ‘My dream hovers over withered fields’ [Basho’s last poem] is impossible for me to reach. Therefore the old poet Basho’s greatness is supremely moving to me now.” Called his ‘death poem’, here is what Basho wrote:

Sick on a journey,
····my dreams wander
········the withered fields.
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It’s moments like these when Basho’s imagination reminds me of Salvadore Dali. He draws together ideas, in the space of a few words that are unexpected, shimmering and dreamlike—or like a strange delirium, half unconscious.

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A wild sea—
····and flowing out toward Sado Island,
········the Milky Way

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Or:

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Winter solitude—
····in a world of one color
········the sound of the wind.

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And one of my favorite, because the association between the thinned moon and the insets singing is inexplicably perfect in its impressionism:

Winter garden
····the moon thinned to a thread,
········insects singing.

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Stillness—
····the cicada’s cry
········drills into the rocks.

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And perhaps among his most delirium-like:

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The jars of octopus—
····brief dreams
········under the summer moon.

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While there are qualities to Buson’s poems that aren’t attained by Basho, Buson, to my knowledge, rarely makes these same associative leaps, rarely experiences the world with the same sort of synesthesia. And there’s a depth of metaphor that I don’t often notice in Buson, Issa or Shiki, who are more apt to spell out associations. Another way of putting it, perhaps, is that Basho sees what’s not there, whereas Buson shows us what’s there in a new way. Having written all that, I confess my impressions are through the filter of translation.

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snow
····on Moosilauke—nights floating on a sea
········of melancholy

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Nights when I drive over Sharon hill, I can see Moosilauke far on the horizon. Moosiluake is deep in my memories—from the time I grew up in Vermont. It’s a large mountain, apart from the other Whites, and stands so far above any of its neighbors that seeing it for the first time can feel breathtaking. At night, when only the snow is visible and the mountain beneath has gone to darkness, the quiet span of the ridge can seem to float with an ancient loneliness.

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89 February 6th 2016 | bottlecap

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February 5th 2016

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owl’s cry—
····a winter’s night pours from the moon’s
········cup

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The moon wanes tonight to a thin thread. Tomorrow night it will be all but gone. I think our barn owl has come back to visit us again this winter.

Once again I write this during the last minutes before midnight. Tomorrow, I’ll have some haiku to write about; but tonight’s captures, perhaps, something of the strangeness I admire in Basho’s haiku.

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88 February 5th 2016 | bottlecap

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