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Category Archives: Haiku

Flowers

I wrote this poetry and took these pictures on a trip to British Columbia with Kathy via Jasper National Park and Mount Robson Provincial Park. It was for my mother’s 88th birthday and, at that point in her life, each birthday was an important event. She was the last of her generation in our family, on both sides.

I took pictures of two flowers common to temperate areas in North America: Fireweed and Paintbrush. Fireweed is hardy and is often found in areas which were disturbed by fire or oil spills generally spreading out in open areas left behind. It is part of the first step in ecological succession.

 

Appearing amidst destruction,

Flourishing,

Restoring,

Inviting to embrace.

Filling alpine meadows,

Colouring once damaged landscapes,

Lighting paths,

Giving hope.

The Indian Paintbrush or Prairie-Fire is widespread and was used by Indigenous peoples for food, hair conditioner, and to treat rheumatism. This is an example of the coastal variety.

Painting the world alive,

Gently,

Sensously.

Off Nature’s palette,

Dancing vibrantly,

Living colours.

During these times with the COVID-19 health crisis, which revealed the deep social, economic, and political fissures in our world and the social activism emerging after the murder of George Floyd, Canada has to take time to look at its own history and treatment of marginalized peoples. This begins, but does not end, with how we treated and continue to treat First Nations’ people. This is a song by a local singer-songwriter, Connie Kaldor, who sings poignantly about the murdered and missing indigenous women across Canada. The report, completed in June 2019, had over 90 recommendations, which have not been acted on. In Canada, protests against systemic racism highlight this lack of action.

 

Why Do I Write Poetry

During a professinal development event, a presenter spoke about teaching poetry. To my knowledge, this person spent little time teaching, yet he was a supposed expert about all things teaching. In the course of his presentation, he expressed disdain for poetry. He claimed, without evidence, we teach poetry without explaining to students why we teach it.

In my teaching, I described reasons why I taught something, opening up learning to include what students considered important. This included questions about topics and content. Often, students began with a negative view of poetry. With time, we got over hurdles together. Without a collective effort, we do not overcome issues in life and learning. We end up with haiku written through rote formula:

Here are five syllables

And here I write seven more!

Are you happy now?

The presenter indicated, despite having written poetry, he was unsure why teachers taught poems written. I think there are good reasons, but I could be wrong.

Poetry calls me to choose words, paradoxically spare and spacious. Spareness is in the number of words; the fewer the better. The space allows the reader room to interpret. What did the poet mean? What senses are invoked through the word choice?

Instead of counting something, poetry asks me to explore life and understand quality is not evenly distributed. I have privileges, maleness, whiteness, education, that others do not have the eauitable access to.

Choosing words,

Caring about each–

Describing feelings,

Experiences never identical.

Revealing thickness in meaning,

Experiencing sameness different–

Bringing us together,

Bridging worlds.

I told students, who struggled with reading and writing, poetry was an alternative to express themselves. I used ee cummings, as a model, to overcome worries about grammar, spelling, and capitalization.

i dig ee cummings

no punctuation

no capitols

won’t worry about spellin either

no sweat

aint no problem

i write poetry

I enjoy poetry. I always have. I remember a poem, The Elevator, I memorized in Grade 4. I think it Walter de la Mare wrote it. My friend memorized a poem called Douglas Fir. His name was Douglas. When I enjoy who and what I teach, I bring enthusiasm to writing poetry.

Artists, including poets, are often at the forefront, addressing social issues. In our times this includes Maya Angelou, Thomas Merton, Wendell Berry, Adrienne Rich, Parker Palmer, Thich Nhat Hanh, etc. Sometimes, I do not think of these authors as poets. Each of them wrote/writes poetry helping to raise my awareness about issues.

Below are the wonderful and poetic words of Thich Nhat Hanh.

Peace in our heart

I close with a poem I wrote many years ago as a 15 year old in high school. I have never been a fan of what we call capitalism. What we have is predatory and is at the root of current political, economic, and social issues. Only a handful are admitted to the club.

Captains of Society

Captains of Society

Shallow, superficial, arrogant

Single ambition

Greatness in the eyes of others

Only those with resources can apply

The rest

Forgotten

Pay a high price, but…

It’s their fault

They own their misery.

A cheque to charity

Assuages my conscience

What about the despair?

Don’t care

I claim I do

Donations in badfaith,

It’s a tax receipt

I really claim, but…

Done on the backs of others

Get the staff to donate time

Not mine.

Increase taxes

Not mine!

No way!

It’s wrong!

Tax others!

What is work?

I create jobs

It’s a spectator sport

This work, which

I manage from afar.

Drive luxury wheels

Shout

Curse

What’s the hold up?

Who’s blocking my way?

The ‘75 Ford station wagon

Engine shot

Dead broke!

Is it their home?

 Throw a party

Drink

Eat

Be merry

No concern for homeless

A romantic notion this ‘hobo jungle’

Not my world

What’s wrong?

It’s not my fault

I gave at the office.

After all.

Throw money at problems

It might help

Don’t

Stop, see, care

If it really helps

Denying, refusing, unfeeling

I pay for a clear conscience

After all.

 The misery

In surround sound…

Is out of sight;

Out of mind

On some mornings and evenings, I observe the sun rising/setting with the moon in the sky. Several years ago, early in the school year this occured. I began haiku class with poems describing phenomena we often take for granted. I emphasized poetry  often emerges from what is overlooked.

Great poets have a way of lifting extraordinary phenomena into fuller view for us. I modeled this with shared from Pablo Neruda, Mary Oliver, Wendell Berry, etc. I try to write poetry in a similar way.

Greeting and adieu

Sharing the sky together,

Guiding one’s journey.

I took this picture as I approached Waterton Lakes National Park enroute to Spokane. It was a beautiful evening with just a wisp of cloud below the rising moon. It was as if Nature decided a needed two guides on my trip.

On many trips, I pass mountains, which, even when I stopped, I did not grasp their majesty. It is as if they have their own language and ways of being.

Clouds surrounding,

Momentarily crowning,

In regal splendour.

I take many pictures of Mount Robson as I drive from Edmonton to parts of British Columbia. Even with clouds, it has a majesty about it.

 

.

 

Pensive Pirate

For me, creativity and energy emerge in quiet moments. Kathy took this picture in Glacier National Park. I paused to scribble. We only saw a handful of people on the walk in and out.  For me, Nature gives me room breath and refresh.

Pausing, reflecting

Fortifying one’s spirit

Soaking in Nature.

Even though I enjoy quiet and solitude in Nature, I am drawn to its loudness. I love waterfalls, their power and what is not readily visible remind how much of life is a mystery. Whenever we travel, we stop and hike into various waterfalls. What is ironic is I have a fear of heights, which limits my ability to get close. On the other hand, Kathy is part mountain goat, so we get wonderful pictures.

Now and then, I get a chance to get closer and, on this trip, Cameron Falls offered me an opportunity to do just that.

In Waterton Lakes National Parks, I had to keep my distance as the drop off on the overview was too much for me. The result is an overload that drains me of energy. This is a view of Blakiston Falls, which are bridal falls. In case there is any doubt, Kathy took the picture. Below, I express gratitude to see through another’s eyes.

Revealing beauty

Viewing through another’s eyes

Nature’s abundance.

Neighbours

Here is a wonderful quote from Abraham Joshua Heschel on how we should live life and, I think, view our neighbours in all their forms:

“Our goal should be to live life in radical amazemement [to] get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.”

I dip into my photographic archives and poems I wrote around them. Again, this is a trip to Waterton Lakes National Park. It is closed right now. It is interesting to revisit the images and remembrances they stir. It is a reminder of living life in radical amazement, taking nothing for granted.

During the trip, we hiked in an area where there were signs about the possible presence of grizzly bear. Its Latin name is Ursus arctos horribilis. The horrible is an apt description if you end up on the wrong side of one.

When I hike, I wonder what hides from my sight and is quiet as I pass. The dense underbrush path hides things from me, giving them a sense of security. The signs reminded me I am not alone, and our neighbours are not always human.

As luck had it, we saw bear that day. At first glance, this one had the right colouring for grizzly. A closer examination indicated it was missing the tell-tale hump on its back and the wider forehead of a grizzly and was a brown coloured black bear. Behaviour wise it was too close to humans, as it was right next to the road and a hotel. Grizzly are pretty reclusive neighbours.

This one was a black bear for sure. Its colour did not make identifying it a problem. As well, it was smaller. That suggests it was younger, probably born a year before we were there.

Even black bear are dangerous. I tell hockey players I coach about the bear rule to decide on what is appropriate language. I tell them, even with our friends, we don’t know what might trigger a negative (horrible) response. Bear attack about 1 out of 10 times they make contact with humans. We just don’t know which of the 10 times.

Hiking someone’s home

Treading warily, softly

Horribilis‘ habitat.

Not all our neighbours are fearsome. This mountain sheep posed for his picture.

I leave you with this poem about neighbours of various forms.

Neighbours near,

Some visible;

Ducks laugh and swim

Distract us, grouse–

Protect family and spouse

Woodpecker’s hunting lunch–

Delectable larvae, I’m sure.

Others less in evidence;

A fish plays–

Loon here and gone

Games of hide and seek.

A moose–

Signs they have been,

Tracks and droppings.

Insects whirring in the stillness’

Butterflies flitting and feeding

Moving seeds from place to place.

Phantom breeze brushing the floor,

Up high, solitary leaf responding

Waving

Trees sighing.

What watches me?

Neighbours present,

Unseen community–

Nature piecing its puzzles,

Seamless, yet not form fitting.

Happy Haiku

As part of my PhD, the university required I take two ethics courses. In 2012, I took an ethics class. A central theme in the course was the role eudaimonia plays in one’s life. We often translate eudaimonia as being happiness. It is more than being happy in the moment, as that is fleeting. Instead, Aristotle expanded on it to mean human flourishing and even blessedness, which occurs even in moments of distress.

When we think of eudaimonia in that way, it opens up opportunites to reflect on how we experience flourishing. In my case, it is the human relationships, a love of sports, hockey specifically, and writing, particularly poetry. I began to write poetry again, not because I felt at ease with the world, rather because I was unhappy at the time. It was opening up my heart in ways to allow this unhappiness to be dealt with one in ways to help me flourish.

Writing haiku is one poetic form I enjoy. Part of writing them is fun I had teaching how to write them. Students challenged me to write a haiku on the spot. I always began with an idea usually, but not allows, about nature. I got three lines down and then went back to select better words and focus on the syllables.

Students seemed to engage differently as they saw me enjoying writing haiku. Adults sometimes complained. For example parents and administrators questioned teaching poetry. I responded with it is good to write poetry as we learn how to select and use language in precise ways, plus it is fun. They did not always get it. Students did.

Here are a couple of examples that come to mind. It is not that we write as much as it is a process of writing and being written.

coursing cool current

tearing over life’s rocks

crossing to healing

Language and words bridge one’s private struggles and and make it visible and public. I strugled with these haiku. I think I need more practice. I hope they make sense.

Wearing down rough edges

Bridging life’s busyness

Pausing to flourish.

.

Nature’s Palette

Regardless of where we travel, we are always in a different ecology. In the mountains, I see how they reach into the sky and how they impact the sky my view. Quite often, I see this change as it is different than what I see at home. Change happens regardless and, when I am out of what I understand as “normal,” change appears different. For me, this is noticeable as the sun sets

Fingers reach the sky

Colours mingle with others

Day merges into night.

I took this picture several years ago on our way to Spokane. As we walked by the river, the sun set. It was a bit overcast and gray, so the colours blended together more than I am used to.

We walked and came around a back street getting another view of the mountains.

last colours dancing

this day slipping away

dark curtain sliding in place.

Rich palette in hand

Desert sky as a canvas

Nature painting masterpieces.

In early March, Kathy and I were in Phoenix. I walk every day and this was my last walk of the day. As I walked, I walked into the sunset and the sky lit up with vivid colours. I suspect being in a desert setting had something to do with it. It is hard to believe we were in a large urban setting.

I always try to remember Nature is all around me. Take care and stay well.

Haiku

Hanshan wrote this Haiku. I enjoy reading and writing Haiku. A poem’s meaning is usually shrouded in mystery, but Haiku even more so.  There is so much left to the imagination.

I turn off the light —

my heart a precipice

before the moon

I have not written a Haiku for a while, but decided to take a run at it. Mine is less abstract.

Words separate spaces

overflowing and alluring

Flooding my senses

A Bee

When I taught poetry, I included haiku and writing them overlapped with our Social Studies curriculum. Bashō was a traditional Japanese poets in a Social Studies unit. As well, I asked students to draw pictures to add richness to their poetry.

Several parents and one administrator questioned the value of writing haiku. I told them it was finding the right word to express one’s self. That was enough for most adults, but the administrator and one parent did not get it. What is ironic is both make their living speaking publicly and I think writing haiku might be helpful.

I chose this haiku, because quite often we struggle to give up things we do not do well and seek the comfort of safe places. In this case, the bee is comfortable in the peony and is reluctant to leave.

Usually, the students enjoyed writing poetry and understood the benefits. Several students used poetry to keep notes in other classes. The students were concerned about the 5-7-5 syllable pattern than actually writing poetry. I told them to get their broad ideas down, find new words, and massage the pattern into place. They took their time and learned how to use a syllabus in the process.

How reluctantly

the bee emerges from deep

within the peony

Frog

Frog.

Basho‘s haiku were gentle and had spaces in them to find silence.

Silence is broken by the sounds of the world and then silence returns. The silence speaks to us when we listen with care and sensitivity. It is in the silence that the noise makes sense. It speaks to us in its echos and traces.

Silence asks us for attention, our presence and mindfulness.

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