December 15th 2015

Midway through December, as I continue to write haiku, I notice I pay more attention to the world, aware of poetic contrasts, interrelationships and vividness. Writing haiku is a kind of mindfulness. Haiku are short and can be written in an instant, though this doesn’t mean they’re simple or trivial. I continue to edit the haiku I’ve written this past week.

But the experience is different than a sonnet. I can spend a week or months on a single poem, turning the same imagery and ideas over until I arrive at something that feels organic and, ideally, spontaneous. But writing haiku allows a poet to inhabit a different world each day—each day newly imagining a new poem. This brings an awareness to everyday doings. The first realization is how frustratingly similar each day can feel. I travel the same roads. I see the same clouds. The trees are bare, the floor leaf-strewn, and the rivers shine through them.

I want my haiku to offer a variety emotions and observations. Even if I write them every day for a yearI want to avoid repetitiveness. That means one has to look beyond the familiar to the unfamiliar which is, after all, what haiku do. They also make the familiar unfamiliar and new. So writing haiku requires not just mindfulness but an aware inquisitiveness. The poet who writes haiku isn’t passive. Basho warned that haiku were only to be had in the journey. He famously wrote:

“The moon and sun are travelers through eternity. Even the years wander on. Whether drifting through life on a boat or climbing toward old age leading a horse, each day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.”

Today I travelled south to Woodstock and I travelled west and north to Randolph. The sky was a beautiful mix of broken clouds and blue sky. The wind was strong today, and moody. My tarps were blown off the woodpiles and tonight the wind is just as rancorous.

I wonder about my own spiritual journey.

I was in love with the world today—its little vanities, nobility and introspection. The sun lit some mountains and not others. The smaller rose above their statelier neighbors when the sun swept across them.

When the sun is this low in winter the undersides of the clouds are always dark and broody.

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December’s
····clouds—buttoning her coat from the bottom
········up

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“Real poetry is to lead a beautiful life. To live poetry is better than to write it.” ~ Basho

Back in April I wrote a haiku inspired by Basho’s famous poem about the old frog. I’m not the first, but I might be a little fond of my own:

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old pond—
·····ice melting into
··········the sound of frogs

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This time of year you can look through the woods and see everything missed in summer—brooks, houses, further fields. I saw an old shed I’d never seen before.

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finding
···in the old shed—the moon
··········in a puddle

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39: December 15th 2015 | bottlecap

 

 

December 14th 2015

·
mid-
····December—streetlights above a moonless
···············mist
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There were a variety of haiku schools through the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries and Basho, as he developed, studied and wrote under the influence of several. By the close of his life he began promoting his own style called “lightness” or light-heartedness—haiku drawn from the everyday or “mundane”. This was a very different aesthetic from the commonly vulgar, too literary or overly refined haiku of his contemporaries. When reading Basho’s haiku in translation, however, the modern western reader may be apt to dismiss them as trivial. They require at least some familiarity with the Zen aesthetic. I want to explore that aesthetic in my own haiku, that lightness or simplicity, but I don’t know if it’s possible. I walked to the village store this evening after nightfall. The evening remains warm, overcast, and a mist rises from the damp road.
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38: December 14th 2015 | bottlecap

December 13th 2015

I’m watching my wife and daughters rehearsing the Christmas revels. I sit in the back row. The players are dressed in Scottish kilts and regalia. They sing a combination of Christmas carols and traditional Scottish tunes. I’ve always loved the unadorned music of the Irish and the Scots. Must be in my blood.

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I see a little girl,
Across the street she skips.
I wonder who someday
Will be the one to kiss her lips.

I see a little boy
Who runs in circles round.
I wonder who she’ll be
Will turn his spinning upside down.

Let happiness be theirs
Though sorrow’s in every smile;
Their world be free of cares
If only for a little while.

·

I wrote this on the spur of the moment–tonight. And I can’t write anything that’s not a little bittersweet. I’ve been reading Buson’s haiku, different yet as memorable as Basho’s. They can be very simple–and sometimes deceptively so.

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under
····the Milky Way—the roadway
·········home

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Once again I’ve come home too late at night. I may sleep in a little, again.

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37: December 13th 2015 | bottlecap

 

 

December 12th 2015

I write for perfection in my poetry. A haiku a day forces me to post poetry I normally wouldn’t. This afternoon while I sat in Spaulding auditorium, watching my family practice in the Christmas Revels, I reconsidered last night’s haiku. I explain too much. In brevity, I think, is greater expressiveness.

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in
····the window at night—seeing only
··············myself

only·

I wrote for a while at the Hanover book store. Looking out a window at night is like looking into a mirror, even on a busy street.

I like being by myself in a busy corner—a comfortable kind of loneliness.

36: December 12th 2015 | bottlecap

 

December 11th 2015 | among birches

Because my haiku don’t come to me until minutes before midnight, I’ve been very tired. I think about the day’s observations, still vivid.

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cardinal
····in the birches—an instant before cutting
··············my finger

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I didn’t want to go out today, but had to do a small job. In the cold morning I was clumsy with a knife. Tomorrow I’ll be sleeping in.

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35: December 11th 2015 | bottlecap

December 10th 2015 | speechless

Showers passed through this morning. The night had been warm. The roads glistened and the limbs were black. The birds had finished off the sunflower seeds. I filled the feeder.

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thunder
····in December—me, the chickadee,
···········speechless

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I broomed the bridge behind our house nonetheless. The drive into town was an autumn’s mud season. The roads were slippery and I had to use four wheel drive. Before I can shift back into two, I have to stop the truck and shift into reverse.

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It’s a late fall in Vermont.

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this
····way that—the girl’s boot prints chasing
············her boots

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The mother carried the girl’s purple umbrella. And as is the way with me, I wished I could live a little of everyone’s life. By the end of the day and home, the sun spilled fitfully into the house. There wasn’t much. Winter solstice is only a few days away.

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not
····enough to broom—December’s sun on the kitchen
············floor
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34: December 10th 2015 | bottlecap

December 9th 2015 | footsteps

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wife’s
····footsteps—remembering everything I forgot
·············to do

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33: December 9th 2015 | bottlecap

Was supposed to be doing something else, then became immersed. Stoked the woodstove. Read some from my Peanuts comic books, then studied haiku, Basho’s and modern haiku, and then heard my wife’s footsteps at the back door after a long night out.

December 7th 2015 | buds in winter

  • Today’s post marks one month of writing haiku/haibun. I hope all of you are enjoying them; and my thanks to all who have commented. At first, I was only going to write haiku, but they readily became haibun. Now, as I begin to  understand the form, I already imagine ways to more expansively explore it.

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buds in December—
····the old tree·dreams of another
············summer

 

I’ve been meaning to cut down an old maple.  There’s one branch left. I go out but change my mind. Though winter is arriving, the limb is already blackened by buds.

31: December 7th 2015 | bottlecap

December 5th 2015 | spotless

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after
····three days of rain—the spotless
········moon

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29: December 5th 2015 | bottlecap

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I woke last night, sometime in the early morning, and saw the moon through the frosted window. Over the motionless field it seemed especially bright.