Issa

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Some time ago I read a post about Issa, the haiku master, and I subscribed to receive a daily haiku translated by David Gerard Lanoue. (It may have been someone’s Poetry Friday Roundup post–If so, let me know so I can give you credit!)

*Update–It was Robyn Hood Black’s wonderful Poetry Friday Roundup post from about a year ago, entitled, “Daily Issa and Creatures Great and Small.” Go check it out and perhaps you’ll choose to sign up to receive a daily Issa haiku as well!  Rereading her post, I realized that I’d misnamed the translator–Yikes! I’d listed his middle name as his last name. I’ve now corrected that as well. Thanks, Robyn!

Here are three Issa haiku I particularly enjoyed over the past year.

1813

.鶏やちんば引々日の長き
niwatori ya chinba hiki-hiki hi no nagaki

the lame chicken
dragging, dragging…
a long day

That one aptly summarized my feelings mid-way through a trying school day–or maybe it was mid-morning.

And then there were some days when I felt like the snake in this one:

1824

.穴を出る蛇の頭や猫がはる
ana wo deru hebi no atama ya neko ga haru

from his hole
the snake pokes his head…
the cat slaps it

Finally, this one struck me as the perfect caption for a picture I’d taken a few summers ago.

1825

.小粒なは安心げぞかたつむり
ko tsubu na wa anshin ge zo katatsumuri

so teeny-tiny
peacefully resting
snail

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Last night as I struggled to sleep, instead of counting sheep, I counted syllables and wrote this haiku.

Tossing, turning thoughts
A lone cricket’s serenade
Midnight companions

Molly Hogan (c) 2017

Please head on over to Kay McGriff’s blog A Journey Through the Pages. There you will find her powerful poem in response to recent events in our world and also links to other poems in this week’s Poetry Friday Roundup.

Yesterday…

11454297503_e27946e4ff_h.jpgDSCN1194.jpgYesterday I woke early. I slipped from bed before the sun had slipped over the horizon. I sipped warm coffee and dabbled in my notebook, playing with a few ideas and some poems. I examined a moth that had visited over night and still rested beneath the exterior light. In the garden the hummingbirds darted and hovered and dipped their needle beaks into phlox blossoms and bee balm.

Yesterday I slipped away for an early morning walk on the beach. I left a meandering trail of footprints along the shore. The waves swished and the gulls called. The piping plovers and sand pipers rushed back and forth, playing tag with the surf. I soaked in the serenity of stretches of sand, sky and water. No one else was in sight. My fingers traced water-etched grains of drift wood and I followed a butterfly as it danced and fluttered across the sloping sand.

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Yesterday I sat on the back porch and felt the sun warm on my legs. The chickens clucked contentedly and strutted by to see if I had anything to offer. My cat dozed under the lawn chair. I read my book until my daughter and two of her friends joined me. We talked of their lives as they head out to their first year out of college–Two of them, my daughter included, heading to Philadelphia, one to Arizona. My husband joined us. We sat on the porch and talked about nothing important, nothing newsworthy.

DSCN1162Yesterday I painted with my husband. We worked on the front of the house, brushing rich strokes of color over old, worn paint. Companionable and quiet. Productive.

Yesterday I talked on the phone with two of my sisters, catching up. We chitchatted about our children, tag sales, jobs, books, exercise, our Dad.  We shared. We connected.

Yesterday I also talked with my son. He called on his way home from work and we chatted leisurely about this and that–his girlfriend, his summer, his job and when we would see each other next. He tried to educate me about preseason football. I encouraged him to get new tires and to make an appointment to have his teeth cleaned.

Yesterday I played cards with my daughters. “One more game,” we kept saying. We laughed at our competitive natures and commiserated at the difficulties of the game. They kept up a running repartie, peppered with laughing comments and quotes to each other–quirky inside jokes or references to shows/movies they’d watched together. I basked in the moment and in their friendship, which once wasn’t and now so clearly is.

Yesterday I slipped into bed next to my husband. My book was waiting. I fell into its pages and then, shortly afterward, drifted away into sleep.

I don’t know what today will bring, but I’m so grateful for yesterday.

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Some Days

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“Some Days”
by Philip Terman

Some days you have to turn off the news
and listen to the bird or truck
or the neighbor screaming out her life.
You have to close all the books and open
all the windows so that whatever swirls
inside can leave and whatever flutters
against the glass can enter. Some days
you have to unplug the phone and step
out to the porch and rock all afternoon
and allow the sun to tell you what to do.

Read the rest here

I woke feeling pulled in two directions this morning. I yearn to linger in the joys of schedule-free summer days, yet I feel the advent of the school year pulling me toward my classroom, planning, etc.  I also feel the weight of those remaining items on that lengthy “To Be Done Over the Summer” list.

Some days, I think, you have to step away from it all and simply read poetry. If you’d like to do so as well, click on the link to head over to the fantastic blog, Reflections on the Teche, where Margaret Simon is hosting this week’s Poetry Friday Roundup.

Amy Lowell

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True confession: I had never heard of the poet, Amy Lowell, until this gem came into my Inbox this week courtesy of the Poetry Foundation’s Poem of the Day. I’m assuming I’m in the minority here, as a quick google search revealed that a collection of her work was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1926. Additional research revealed that she inspired some controversy during her lifetime, and the more I read about her, the more intrigued I was.

An outspoken, cigar-smoking woman, Amy Lowell was a poet, a critic, a lecturer and also an avid collector during her lifetime. She was a huge fan of John Keats and during her lifetime, she amassed the largest collection of his work in private hands and wrote a 2-volume Keats biography. (She bequeathed her vast collection to Harvard University.)  She was a huge supporter of Imagism (also new to me!), a movement in poetry whose adherents strove for “clarity of expression through the use of precise visual images.” (poets.org) and then moved into working with polyphonic prose, a “rhythmically free prose employing poetic devices such as assonance and alliteration.” (Collins English Dictionary)  (You can read more about Amy Lowell and her work, here and here.) Don’t you love discovering a “new to you” poet?

I was surprised that this poem, Bath,  was first published in 1916, as it felt quite contemporary to me. Lowell’s descriptive language and dynamic, inspired word choices wowed me. I was especially struck by the contrasts between  a “fresh-washed” and scented day, sunlight boring, cleaving and cracking (such active almost aggressive verbs!), and languid water play.
Bath by Amy Lowell
The day is fresh-washed and fair, and there is a smell of tulips and narcissus in the air.
       The sunshine pours in at the bath-room window and bores through the water in the bath-tub in lathes and planes of greenish-white. It cleaves the water into flaws like a jewel, and cracks it to bright light.
       Little spots of sunshine lie on the surface of the water and dance, dance, and their reflections wobble deliciously over the ceiling; a stir of my finger sets them whirring, reeling. I move a foot and the planes of light in the water jar. I lie back and laugh, and let the green-white water, the sun-flawed beryl water, flow over me. The day is almost too bright to bear, the green water covers me from the too bright day. I will lie here awhile and play with the water and the sun spots. The sky is blue and high. A crow flaps by the window, and there is a whiff of tulips and narcissus in the air.

Inspired by Amy Lowell, I attempted my own prose poem.

Light and Shadow
The rising sun has brushed away the lingering tendrils of fog and the air is redolent with the scent of roses.
The gauzy glow of light flows through the film of wispy curtains, bathing me as I sit at my desk, pen in hand. One sunbeam slices through a gap in the filtering cloth and shimmers in a path to the desk top, motes dancing along its trajectory. That single golden beam rekindles the old wood so it glows, amber-lit with embers of once lived days. Idly, I place my fingers in the light, setting the dust fairies swirling, whirling. I position my fingers and a lopsided rabbit and then a dog appear briefly in the spotlight. A fly vibrates lazily in the window, trapped between cloth and pane. His shadow movements dance in the wings.
Outside, framed by the window, the hydrangea blooms exuberantly. Its sun-lit, buoyant blossoms burn white against the verdant shade collecting in slumbering pools between leaves and stems. I sit back at my desk and relax into the moment, content to hold my pen loosely in my hand and to watch the play of light and shadow.
The air is infused with the scent of roses.
Molly Hogan (c) 2017
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This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Donna at Mainely Write. Enjoy!
Note: Please excuse any wonky formatting—wordpress is  not cooperating with me today!

“Old” Friends

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hI smiled to myself all spring. I hugged the thought to myself month after month. As the time approached I felt like I was holding a secret close–a delicious secret. Whenever I thought about it, I felt buoyed, lifted with excitement. I savored the waves of pure, sweet anticipation.

It all started last fall, when one of my best friends from college called and proposed that some of us get together to celebrate our 50th birthday year. Over the next few months, she found a house to rent on the coast of Maine, and after a flurry of e-mails, texts and phone calls, and plane and car reservations, six of us committed to be there.

In 1985 we arrived wide-eyed at college, coming from Ohio, New York, Maryland and Kentucky. Most of us met our freshmen year: In fact, 5 of the 6 of us were in the same freshman dorm–4 of us on the same floor. Bashford Hall. 2nd floor. Over the years some of us have stayed in touch, while others drifted off in different directions. In some instances, we hadn’t seen each other in 28 years! (How is that even possible?)

Now, in 2017, we were coming to Maine from Oregon, Ohio, Maine, and Kentucky. Between us, we have 12 children. The youngest is 12 and two have already graduated from college. We all have turned or will turn 50 this year. (How is that even possible!?) We were all excited to reunite and perhaps slightly nervous. How would this be? A whole week together after so many years apart…

On Friday, July 22nd, the first three arrived at my house–Long hugs, tears and exclamations of “OMG, you look just the same!” The years simply fell away and as one friend later noted, “we didn’t miss a beat.” That night we looked through an old photo album and a scrap book. (Ok. Maybe we don’t look exactly the same.)

“Oh! Remember that?”
“Who is that?”
What was I wearing?”
“What was I doing??”
We laughed and laughed and talked and talked late into the night. The next day we drove to our “tree house” retreat and reunited with another friend there. More happy tears and long heartfelt hugs.

Over the course of the week, we adventured in the daytime and then after dinner, sat around the kitchen table talking late into the night. Our sixth friend joined us and some of us had to depart early. We reminisced and we shared our stories from the past oh-so-many years. I was repeatedly astonished and moved by how connected I felt with these women and by how openly and easily we shared. Heartaches and triumphs. Births and deaths. Hopes and dreams. Fears and concerns. The years fell away. Past and present merged.

Now that our week has ended and we’ve all returned to our homes, I look again at those college pictures. We were so young. So fresh. So new. We met at such a pivotal time in our lives. The ties that bound us then were clearly stronger than the passage of years, for neglected as they were in some cases, they never broke. I’m still trying to process our week together–to make sense of the intensity of our connection. But mostly, I’m smiling to myself through the lingering goodbye tears and hugging the thought close to me. I have a delicious secret–a renewed connection to five fabulous women who knew me back when I was getting to know myself. In the words of the Kahlil Gibran, my heart has found “its morning and is refreshed.”

Running

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hMy daughter, Adeline, graduated in May. Today, she flies to Nicaragua to do field research with a graduate student for a couple of weeks. When she returns in August, she’s decided to move to Philadelphia. Like she texted to me recently, it kind of feels like the beginning of the end. Of college. Of summer. Of her life at home with us. I know what she means. I’m excited for her but quite nervous as well. It’s that whole “your children are your heart traveling outside your chest” thing.

Last night I returned for a few hours from up the coast where I’m having a week long reunion with college friends. I wanted to help Addie pack and get organized. I wanted to hug her close and say in person, “I love you. Have fun and make good choices.

After I got back, we went out to the store to pick up some last minute items for her journey. As we walked out, bags in hand, it was raining. Addie took off, racing toward the car. She ran across the parking lot through the drizzle, and as I watched her, a lifetime of moments coalesced into that one single moment. I saw her taking her first steps. I saw her little feet in shoes on the wrong feet (her unintentional and for a time concerning default choice). I saw her running as a young child and more often than not falling, picking herself up and running onward, eager to be a part of whatever was going on. I saw her running on the soccer field with her distinctive bent-way-forward stance. And now on this rainy July evening, she was running toward the car, ready to get home and finish packing. Ready to head out on a new adventure and into a new stage of her life.

I stood outside Target, the light rain falling on me, chilly on my skin, polka dotting my shirt,and I simply watched her run.

A Summer Splash of Ogden Nash

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I’m not sure when I first discovered Ogden Nash, but it may have been when reading The Tale of Custard the Dragon to my entranced children–we all quickly became die-hard fans of Belinda and her “realio trulio little pet dragon”. Or perhaps it was at my sister and brother-in-law’s wedding when they chose Tin Wedding Whistle as one of their readings. I mean, really, who can resist these lines?

…Somehow, I can be complacent
Never but with you adjacent.

Near and far, near and far,
I am happy where you are;

Likewise I have never larnt
How to be it where you aren’t.

Regardless, I dare you to try to read just one Ogden Nash poem. They’re simply addictive–Clever, satirical and utterly delightful! Ogden Nash’s creative light-hearted verse is the perfect treat on a hot summer day. His whimsical word play goes down like an iced glass of lemonade with a splash of sparkling seltzer. Enjoy!

Here’s a poem that’s simply perfect for the steamy, humid weather that’s been visiting us in Maine recently.

Summer Serenade
by Ogden Nash

When the thunder stalks the sky,
When tickle-footed walks the fly,
When shirt is wet and throat is dry,
Look, my darling, that’s July.

Through the grassy lawn be leather,
And prickly temper tug the tether,
Shall we postpone our love for weather?
If we must melt, let’s melt together!

Nash used exaggeration and absurdity to good effect. He was an irreverent rhyme master and often created words to fit his rhyme scheme. Apparently, he was also an early sufferer from the infamous Man Cold. Just consider these lines from his poem Common Cold in which he berates a doctor for dismissing his illness as merely a common cold:
...This cold you wave away as naught
Is the damnedest cold man ever caught!
Give ear, you scientific fossil!
Here is the genuine Cold Colossal;
The Cold of which researchers dream,
The Perfect Cold, the Cold Supreme.
This honored system humbly holds
The Super-cold to end all colds;
The Cold Crusading for Democracy;
The Führer of the Streptococcracy.
...



Here are a few Nash limericks showcasing his creativity and his classic inventive spelling.

Arthur

There once was a man from Calcutta,
Who coated his tonsils with butta,
Thus converting his snore
From a thunderous roar,
To a soft, oleaginous mutta.

Requiem

There was a young belle of old Natchez
Whose garments were always in patchez.
When comment arose
On the state of her clothes,
She replied, When Ah itchez, Ah scratchez.

If you’re interested in hearing Nash read his own work, you can click below to hear him read one of his poems for children, “The Adventures of Isabel.” Finally, Natalie Merchant set this same poem to music. Click below to enjoy her version of  “The Adventures of Isabel.”

By the way, if you’re not familiar with Merchant’s album Leave Your Sleep, you really should check it out. In this 7-year project she selected 19th and 20th century children’s poems and set them to music. She collaborated with 130 musicians in a wide variety of musical styles. It’s a rare treat!

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Katie at The Logonauts . Click on the link to enjoy even more poetry there!