Tag Archives: haiku

Winter Renga

photo 4Yesterday we had one of our winter rengas up at Harnham Buddhist Monastery.  Just a small group this time, but the renga unfolded over the course of the afternoon as usual.  We decided to ring the changes by creating the schema with verses inspired by the Seven Factors of Enlightenment, another one of the lists Buddhism is fond of, interspersed between the traditional season, moon and love verses, with some left open.

The Seven Factors of Enlightenment are Mindfulness (sati), Investigation (dhamma vicaya), Energy (viriya), Joy or Rapture (pti), Tranquillity (passadhi), Concentration (samadhi) and Equanimity (upekkha).  You may or may not spot these verses but it was interesting to notice this renga naturally seemed to lean towards the light, suitable for our theme and for the season.

Warm wishes for a light-filled and kind 2015.

L

x

photo

Half Moon Plantation

*

Facing north

frost on the roof tiles

another short day

*

the flock’s breath

rises beyond the hedge

*

all our words

flow past

riverine, brackish, Anglo-Saxon

*

we walk in the dark

to the Half Moon Plantation

*

wait!

there are more of us

than I counted

*

Bulgarian Daniel asks

of Pali in English

*

even though the details

don’t matter

all there are are details

*

chisel marks in stone

how much arch is air?

*

startled grey heron

struggling upward

such awkward beauty

*

the last miles in mist and then

to climb out of them

*

he gave up

deciphering nature

orchid, begonia, geranium

*

the gift of green tea

much more than its flavor

*

a hut under attack

splinters, blood and excrement

left by an obstinate crow

*

no words come

success

*

after breakfast

they discuss

fire extinguishers and assembly points

*

food for the lion

longevity for the gazelle

*

borrowed light

does not warm you

but shows the way home

*

on the shore of the lake, gorse

bright yellow in December

*

to hold on like Philae

saving energy

getting closer to the sun

*

close your eyes

collect the sparks.

§

A ‘Seven Factors of Enlightenment Renga’

at Harnham Buddhist Monastery

on Saturday 27th December 2014.

 

for Peter Angelucci and Melanie Cook

 

 

Participants:

 

Ajahn Abhinando

John Bower

Linda France

Geoff Jackson

photo 2

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Midsummer Renga

 

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The Unlit Stove

 

 

At midsummer’s tipping point –

the translation of green

into fruit, seed

 

a canopy of sycamore

over the swings at Burnlaw

 

light tread of hooves

muzzling

for favourite grasses

 

a round hole

in the roof of the temple

 

so much depends

upon a black hen

running after its chick

 

the broken hose

left her drenched, laughing

 

baskets of petals

gathered, infused

to scent small wrists

 

a rust-winged moth

on our mullioned window

 

practise patience

wait for a spark

from the unlit stove

 

what wisdom

will the shamans reveal tonight?

 

tracking love’s origin

from eyes to hands

throat to heart

 

copper in the veg patch

shock tactics for slugs

 

restless dog, biting

going round in circles

we are all dying

 

shallows at the jetty

a mirror for the tree house

 

who is she?

head on the table

tilted forward

 

the kite’s tail trembles

an orange wish in the blue

 

enter Puck

who steals

the moon

 

held in each leaf

a gleaming bead

 

the growl of haymaking

nudges the curlews

onward

 

apples fattening

on the orchard trees.

 

 

 

 

 

A genius loci renga

at Burnlaw

on 28th June 2014.

 

 

 

Participants:

 

Ajahn Abhinando

John Bower

Holly Clay

Linda France

Linda Kent

Eileen Ridley

Christine Taylor

 

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DISENCHANTMENT

New Year’s morning –

everything is in blossom!

    I feel about average

From After the Gentle Poet Kobayashi Issa

By Robert Hass

IMG_7191The poet I’ve started the year with is Robert Hass, my interest piqued by an essay on him in Tony Hoagland’s fascinating Real Sofistikashun (Graywolf Press, 2006).

…Hass might be described as a speculative describer who has made a tender tentativeness part of his style.  Even moving through his own mind, it seems, he has the delicacy of an ecologist who wants to record an environment without disturbing a leaf.  At the same time that Hass is tonally tentative, he is also resourcefully inquisitive, ever probing into other sources and pockets of consideration.  It is the paradoxical blend of these qualities – gentility combined with a probing persistence – that best describes his poetics.  His ability to register and collate the subtleties of subjective and objective is exceptional.

That overlapping of subjective and objective is a tricky thing to pull off – anchoring the imagination in the real without getting its feet wet – but it lies at the heart of everything we perceive and might write about.

All knowledge rests on the coincidence of an object with a subject.

Coleridge

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I was immediately drawn to one of Hass’s poems called ‘The Problem of Describing Trees’:

The Problem of Describing Trees

The aspen glitters in the wind

And that delights us.

 

The leaf flutters, turning, because that motion in the heat of August

Protects its cells from drying out.  Likewise the leaf

Of the cottonwood.

 

The gene pool threw up a wobbly stem

And the tree danced.  No.

The tree capitalized.

No.  There are limits to saying,

In language, what the tree did.

 

It is good sometimes for poetry to disenchant us.

 

Dance with me, dancer.  Oh, I will.

 

Mountains, sky,

The aspen doing something in the wind.

 

I recognize that struggle of saying ‘what is’ without adding or subtracting anything, while still holding true to the I/eye’s response.  I particularly like the line:

It’s good sometimes for poetry to disenchant us.

I seem to keep coming across talk about the need for ‘re-enchantment’, based on the idea that we have lost our sense of the mystery of things.  While that may be true, it is also possible to look at our current situation another way:  that we are burdened by too much enchantment, bewitched by the media and the material world so utterly we have lost any sense of what’s underneath all the glitter and hunger.  Despite its capacity for truth-telling and clarity, poetry (as an expression of our cluttered, foggy, polluted minds) can also tell it so slant that it tells it wrong.  Just so much more smoke and mirrors.

Coleridge again, in 1796:

Poetry – excites us to artificial feelings – makes us callous to real ones.

IMG_7362We mistake words for the things themselves and hold onto them only inasmuch as they serve our particular view of things.  The words don’t care – they’re only words.  Aren’t language, views, poems all just our own open questions?  On a good day we hear them singing and can dance.

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Iowa, January

In the long winter nights, a farmer’s dreams are narrow.

Over and over, he enters the furrow.

RH

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Perfection

photoA renga from Harnham Buddhist Monastery yesterday; the genius loci schema adapted to incorporate the Ten Perfections (paramis – positive qualities to cultivate as part of the Buddhist path – generosity, morality, renunciation, wisdom, energy, patience, truthfulness, resolve, kindness, equanimity).  Ajahn Sucitto calls them ‘ways to cross life’s floods’:

The parami take spiritual practice into areas of our lives where we get confused, are subject to social pressure and are often strongly influenced by stress or stress-forming assumptions.  Providing alternative ways to orient the mind in the stream of daily events, the ‘perfections’ can derail obstructive inner activities and leave the mind clear .  Cultivating parami means you get to steer your life out of the floods.

Tomorrow night we’ll gather for our ritual of Forgiveness and Aspiration – the best way I know to begin a new year.  The New Moon, traditionally a good time for setting fresh intentions, falls on 31st so this year our usually rather arbitrary ‘new’ beginning should have added resonance.  May you have a peaceful and clear crossing of the threshold at the dark of the moon.

Getting Used To Darkness

Brief blue scatterings

lighten the limbo

at the end of the year

*

cold gates clunking

mark the way in

*

the open water

receives sun, breeze

and a lone swan

*
getting used to darkness

I know you are there

*

how even the body relaxes

when you enter a house

full of good people

*

Emma watched the pull

to text back many times

*

fear’s sour taste –

not having

not being enough

*

we sit with the impossibility

of nothing

*

these walls built from stone

out of the fields

they now enclose

*

two gardeners

on their hands and knees

*

the bleached tree guards

stake out a promise

of soft glade and birdsong

*

crossed fingers behind your back

won’t do it

*
spines on cacti

fine and scarlet

beneath dim light

*

grant me a spider’s skill

her slow spun wheel

*

he listened

with complete attention

to the difficult guest

*

geese graze tight-in

amongst the Cheviot ewes

*

dark clouds

arced glow

rippling at the shore

*

a rumour of snowdrops

instead of first snow

*

the young oak

have yet to learn

to shed their leaf

*

two hundred kilos of salt

awaiting the weather.

 

A genius loci/parami renga

at Harnham Buddhist Monastery

on 29th December, 2013.

 

 

Participants:

Ajahn Abhinando

John Bower

Chandra Candiani

Linda France

Geoff Jackson

Linda Kent

Eileen Ridley

Tim Rubidge

Christine Taylor

 photo 2

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Chokushi-Mon

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freed from all fear of man

You are lost
until the gate
is found

under the Chinese Nettle tree
spangled shade

gravel
raked
just so

island of white
a single stone

king of the garden
a peacock
cloaked in terrible eyes

shining paths
lead up and down

on a gentle rise
shades of pewter
and lichen

grandfather pine
the tallest tree

all of us wishing
for the same thing
I toss in my silver

the only colour
five-petalled mauve

are they flowers
or seeds dusting
the master’s haiku?

cast in bronze
letters I can’t read

the carved bird
forever on the brink
of flight

sprinkled awake
by the circling spray

facts speak
for themselves
no one listens

always stone
that takes us home

pruning the yew
a line of string
precisely level

enough work
today dreaming

may we all live
in houses stronger
than earthquakes

on the Atlas Cedar
new cones ooze resin.

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A nijuuin renga at Chokushi-Mon,
Kew Gardens
on 18th July 2013.

The title is a line from Kyoshi Takahama’s haiku set in the Japanese Landscape at Kew. He composed it there on May 2nd 1936 and it was installed as a feature, in English and Japanese, by his daughter 43 years later.

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There are actually two peacocks although I couldn’t tell the difference between them.  One is called George – presumably after George III, in whose reign so much of Kew as we know it now was established.IMG_5931

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A Hinge for the New Year…

fern

Flower Renga

New year’s day
lilies flush
with unspent pollen

risking themselves, the first
snowdrops, a hellebore

how to describe
the scent of hyacinths
sweet, intense, alive

an infusion of rosebuds
in a glass pot

picking out the stars
by name like flowers
in a night garden

rhododendrons bud
like birthday candles

along Oystershell Lane
brown buddleia rise
above fences painted green

all buckle and tilt
the empty garden

each bud on my magnolia
wrapped
in a pair of miniature wings

iris reticulata
the familiar strange

blue sky and sunlight
birch tree glittering
a fog in my head

poems about my mother
the first flowers

as if I’ve swallowed the city
concrete and metal
cherry, forsythia

so many flowers
furred, miaowing

I sow self-heal
Prunella vulgaris
heart-weed

puffs of smoke
are cypress pollen

her clever way
with daisies
pressed in clay

the room’s a garden
my thousand-petalled heart

six hours of gardening
my winter-stiff body
learning to bend

amaranthus in the hothouse
its crimson dreadlocks

above the birches
a buzzard’s wings
filtered sunlight

planting out mimulus
‘fear of unknown things’

buds plumping
on leafless branches
the foxglove tree

five red freckles
inside the yellow cup (Cowslip)

the garden gathers us in
like children
wanting their mother

too many words
nothing to do with gardens

we walk across
to Dunstanburgh
sea pinks and kittiwakes

a garden transformed
with words and work and weather

‘Derrick Cook’
unpromising name
for such a delicate geranium

ash trees’ pinnate leaves
ripple in the sky

a bumblebee
rings the bells
of the foxglove

in the Tropical House
a lesson in adaptation

all evening
the smell of lilies
before I find them

collecting elderflowers
a gap in the rain

ivy-leaved toadflax
tangled on the wall
yellow lips, purple lips

as if I have no choice
dancing to the tree’s tune

amber? vanilla?
we press our noses
into its white petals (Encyclia abbreviata)

Hylde-moer, Hylde-moer
what is she calling for?

half-Rothko, half O’Keefe
I paint the light
of the flower in oil

Ward 9 – flowers forbidden
he takes his Nanna plastic

five hours
in the meditation garden
a cat’s cradle

gathering mullein flowers
remedy for earache

he splits a root
of meadowsweet
the smell of germolene

dong quai
Chinese angelica

orange and blue petals
in my tea cup
a pot pourri

a day of gifts
a calla lily, chocolate, Patti Smith

coming home
to a crescendo
of white gladioli

trimming the privet
housework outdoors

despite the rain
the fragrance
of sweet peas

in one envelope
a whole garden

harvest mites
berry bugs
chiggers

a sliver between clouds
to cut the grass

sixteen poets
sixteen renga lilies
in the sun

we cut a tray of violas in half
‘yellow duet’

our last day in the garden
is like a wedding –
photographs and cake

Anaphalis – ‘pearl everlasting’
its name a lie

the stink of rot
from the compost bin
clings to my hands

elderflower, lemon, sage
for an equinox cold

seeds of light
on chandeliers
of cow parsley, hogweed

the fern by her bed
an emerald flamenco

petals so gorgeous
you can’t get close enough
like silk, like skin

a glory of an afternoon
calligraphy of thorn and ash

time already up and away –
planting bulbs
I won’t be here to see

everywhere you choose to sit
there is a fountain to cool you

a grass labyrinth
loved and glittering
in russet light

one fallen frangipani
the smell of sex

counting the trunks
on Goethe’s palm
a poet’s blessing

I can’t help but love
her love of the garden

‘a beautiful tree
we sometimes forget
to admire’ (On Radio 4 – the ash)

you paint your toenails
the colour of parma violets

the haiku master
named after a banana
Musa basjoo

bravado of mistletoe
alien, unapologetic

safe in my pocket
the biggest conker
I’ve ever seen

persimmons – like people –
sweeten when they ripen

his reindeer ears
more like flowers
birds of paradise

he draws me
the circle of Ryoan-ji

flowers of glass
a bower
round their door

frost redefines
roadside ivy

a wasp’s nest
enough
for my winter garden

pine and bamboo
keepsake from the cloud gallery. (British Library)

*

Flower verses extracted from the renga journal I kept throughout 2012 – slightly rearranged to fit the requisite patterning in a different context, but pretty much as they were written.  A way of stepping into the new year – reflecting on where I’ve been already and clearing a space for where I might find myself in the months ahead.

Warm wishes to you all for 2013 – a thousand flowers!

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Renga at the End of the Year

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The Gate of the Moon

Nowhere left

for the rain

to run to

*

solar panels capture

a dull grey sky

*

this hill

rising above

winter earth

*

three hundred thousand miles

reflected in a puddle

*

a quick burst

glimpses of red

waxwings scatter

*

assorted woollen socks

circle the rug

*

in awe of grammar

we follow the rules

we have never heard of

*

the white Buddha

mossy round his knees

*

the poetry master said

if you don’t understand anything

it’s all right

*

how convert digital

love to analogue?

*

while the clock ticks

memories chime

to a different rhythm

*

a year’s worth of tears

spilled before breakfast

*

she draws

small villages

when she’s lost

*

the language of light

tells the garden its season

*

how to be an artist?

invite someone dangerous

for tea

*

the fox in Brian’s garden

weighing his options

*

what we’ll see

when it’s all over

the gate of the moon

*

seedheads of honesty

waxy, translucent

*

the mouse carefully sniffs

the air outside

the opened trap

*

budding black already

ash branches, tips uplifting.

A Renga in Winter

at Harnham Buddhist Monastery

on 27th December 2012.

 

 

Participants:

Ajahn Abhinando

John Bower

Chandra Candiani

Linda France

Geoff Jackson

Martha Jackson

Neda Popovic Bras

Christine Taylor

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Home & Gardens

When I get home I want to do everything at once – listen to the radio, read the Sunday paper, watch my new DVD (David Attenborough’s Kingdom of Plants), eat, drink, write, go into every room to remind myself of what I’d left behind, text my nearest and dearest, read my mail, edit my photos etc etc etc.  A terrible burst of simultaneous desires after sitting behind a wheel for three hours.  In the end I settle for unpacking before having a cup of tea and some crackers while I listen to Simon Armitage’s play The Torch Bearers on Radio 3 (part of this year’s FreeThinking Festival at the Sage which I missed, being away).  I say I listened but it didn’t really go in (apart from his recurring motif of Lunaria annua  – Honesty – which did make me prick up my ears).  My mind was just too full of motorways and trees and gardens and all the different beds I’d slept in while I was away, all the friends I’d stayed with.

Jackie Hardy, haiku mistress, in Sheffield, who reminded me that Basho (1644 – 1694) was named after the banana plant that his disciples planted outside the hut he’d moved into to live a more solitary life.

 by my new banana plant

the first sign of something I loathe –

a miscanthus bud!

Jan in Oxford (whose key I’ve managed to bring home with me…), who left on Friday morning to spend the weekend at Alice Meynell’s (1847 – 1922) house in West Sussex with her friend, the poet’s great-granddaughter.

Alec Peever, my longtime friend and collaborator, who lives in Ducklington in a house almost as old as the Botanic Gardens in Oxford (1621).  I collected the slab of sandstone I’d found in my garden some years ago that he’s carved for me: my translation of the name of this place – ‘Stanley’.

My namesake in ‘rural Bolsover’ (currently in need of protection from various plans for development – supermarket/garage/housing), with whom I took the horti out of culture and went to see A Taste of Honey at Sheffield Crucible (raw and compelling, spiced up with a live jazz trio) and visited Harley Gallery – Wendy Ramshaw’s wonderful poetic Room of Dreams.  Ramshaw designed the gates at Mowbray Park in Sunderland, where Alec and I worked together in 2000.

At this time of year it’s always the trees that leave the strongest impression and I’ve been ‘woodbathing’ as much as possible, breathing in all their goodness (particularly at Harcourt Arboretum), whilst mourning the loss of the ash trees in Denmark and possibly soon Kent and the threat from the dieback fungus spreading further (52 cases reported nationwide so far).

That’s the last of my travels for the next few months.  Now I just have to find the words to describe all these different Botanicals, the wonders that I’ve seen…

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