Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Haiku Challenge

Looking for a New Year's haiku/tanka to feature tomorrow, New Year's day. Deadline 9:00 AM, Eastern Daylight Savings time.

Best haiku/tanka received will get the winner a free 6 issue subscription to Lilliput Review. Or a 6 issue extension or 2 chapbooks for those currently subscribing. Previously published haiku/tanka considered.

Mail entries to: lilliput review AT gmail dot com.

Good luck,

Chinese Love Lyrics: Moon, Bird, & River

Continuing the exploration of my poetry shelves, the next book I come to is Chinese Love Lyrics, one of those slim verse volumes produced by Peter Pauper Press back in the day. Books from this press were inexpensive ("prices even a pauper could afford") yet at once decorative and, most importantly, often full of classic and unique translations of Asian literature, frequently from Japan and Asia.

Chinese Love Lyrics is subtitled "From Most Ancient To Modern Times," concentrating mostly on the older poems from the time of the Tang Dynasty. The very first in the book is probably the very best:

If I were a tree or a plant
I would feel the soft influence of spring.
Since I'm a man ...
Do not be astonished at my joy.
Anonymous (1005 A.D.)
translated by Gertrude L. Joerissen

In this surprising little four-line lyric, how far we have become removed from nature is simply and powerful captured. The first three lines imply that people are not affected by "the soft influence of spring," but line 4 quickly pirouettes, revealing undifferentiated joy as just such an affect. Here is another four-line lyric, a poem that in one essential image captures love in all its beauty and transformative power:

Watching the Moon
My beloved knows
that I watch thee, O moon,
And when thy beams caress her,
Our separation is less cruel.
Chiang Che-Kin
translated by Gertrude L. Joerissen

In Chinese poetry, as well as Japanese that was so heavily influenced by it, the moon was a ubiquitous presence, often shining down on lovers separated by great distances, as in this poem. That ubiquitousness is an important spiritual element, grounding humans in the very transitoriness of life and directly connecting us to nature. That it is used in love poetry as a lyrical, romantic facet adds a depth that is is at once essential and resonant.

In fact, this connectedness can be further illustrated by two more of my favorite poems from this particular collection, one using bird song and the other a river as the moon is used in Chiang Che-Kin's poem.

Birds Singing at Dusk
The cool wind of evening
Blows bird-song to the window
Where a maiden sits.
She is embrodiering bright flowers
On a piece of silk.

Her head is raised;
Her work falls through her fingers;
Her thoughts have flown to him
Who is away.

"A bird can easily find its mate
Among the leaves,
But all a maiden's tears,
Falling like rain from Heaven,
Will not bring back
Her distant lover."

She bends again to her embroidery:
"I will weave a little verse
Among these flowers of his robe ...
Perhaps he will read it
And come back again."
Li Po
translated by Peter Rudolph

A River of Love
I live at the upper end of the River,
And at the lower end live you;
Every day I long to see you but cannot ...
Though from the same River we drink.

When will the River go dry?
When can my sorrow come to an end?
Only may your heart be like mine ...
My love for you will not be in vain.
Li Chih-Yi translated by Ch'u Ta Kao

Li Po's poem has the young woman hearing bird song and, with it, her thoughts take flight to her distant lover. Embroidering a little verse, perhaps this very one into her lover's robe is a nice touch by the poet (and his persona), giving one pause over our parochial use of the term post-modern in recent times, as if "modern" culture was the first and only culture to reflect upon itself and its own creations with artistic distance, be it ironic or no.

As the moon's light and the bird in flight connect the lovers in the two previous poems, so the river connects a separated pair. I love the fact that they take life from the same source, as life has always centered around the sources of water. The juxtaposition of the questions of when the River will dry and when will the lover's sorrow end is particularly poignant, equating as it does death with the end of love. Simple a lyric as it is, it returns us to the source of all things, a touching reminder of our implicit involvement with nature which today we push so far from whom we are and what we do.

Finally, one last poem from this lovely collection that may remind you of something a bit more modern than classic Chinese poetry, if a tad short of a ramble in the field of post-modernism.

The Separation
Daylight! And I must leave.
Beloved friend, do not rise!
Give me the little lamp
That I may look at thee again,
That I may pull all of thee into my heart
And into my soul ...

Now, thy lips! I hear the gong
Of the night watchman sounding.
Work leads to evening, and
Each evening brings me to
Thy arms, which are my recompense.

Look! The leaves are covered with pearls.
Of dew....A blackbird is whistling.
Until this evening, adiew
Ma Huang-Chung
translated by Gertrude L. Joerissen

Here we have the lovers, a morning bird, a coming separation, one of the lovers holding back the other ... of course, I'm thinking of one of Shakespeare's greatest scenes:

Act 3, Scene 5

Wilt thou be gone? it is not yet near day:
It was the nightingale, and not the lark,
That pierced the fearful hollow of thine ear;
Nightly she sings on yon pomegranate-tree:
Believe me, love, it was the nightingale.

It was the lark, the herald of the morn,
No nightingale. Look, love, what envious streaks
Do lace the severing clouds in yonder east.
Night's candles are burnt out, and jocund day
Stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops.
I must be gone and live, or stay and die.

Yon light is not daylight, I know it, I:
It is some meteor that the sun exhal'd,
To be to thee this night a torch-bearer,
And light thee on thy way to Mantua.
Therefore stay yet; thou need'st not to be gone.

Let me be ta'en, let me be put to death;
I am content, so thou wilt have it so.
I'll say yon grey is not the morning's eye,
'Tis but the pale reflex of Cynthia's brow;
Nor that is not the lark, whose notes do beat
The vaulty heaven so high above our heads.
I have more care to stay than will to go:
Come, death, and welcome! Juliet wills it so.
How is't, my soul? let's talk; it is not day.

It is, it is: hie hence, be gone, away!
It is the lark that sings so out of tune,
Straining harsh discords and unpleasing sharps.
Some say the lark makes sweet division;
This doth not so, for she divideth us.
Some say the lark and loathed toad change eyes,
O, now I would they had changed voices too!
Since arm from arm that voice doth us affray,
Hunting thee hence with hunt's-up to the day.
O, now be gone; more light and light it grows.

More light and light; more dark and dark our woes!

This delightful little volume can be found on Amazon, which I don't link to, and there are some slightly more reasonable (and descriptively more reliable) copies at abebooks. Chances are that if you head off to a local used bookstore, if you are lucky enough to have one, and are patient and persistent, a reasonably priced copy will come your way.

And you'll have gone outside! There's a bunch of nature out there, for sure, and more than a few potential poems, both literal and figurative, awaiting your particular attention.


A couple of quick items: the November/December Small Press Review has selected issue #170 as a featured "Mag Pick" for that issue - as always, back issues are available for a measly $1 or, if it's a tight month, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope and I'll send a copy so you can see what they are on about. For those with a subscription to SPR, you can see their Nov/Dec issue here in pdf form.

In addition, Longhouse Publishers and Booksellers has selected Ed Markowski's broadside "15 Poems" as one of their "Prime Picks" of the last few months. You may see their fine list of choices at their blog, A Longhouse Birdhouse.

Finally, Norbert Blei has highlighted the Ed Markowski broadside on his excellent blog, Bashō's Road: for a taste of the broadside, click here. The broadside is issue #172 (which is still in the process of shipping to subscribers) - if you'd like a copy, the terms are the same as in the previous paragraph.

And congrats, Ed, for all the much deserved attention


For those not tuned in last week, the new feature I'll be highlighting in these weekly posts will be the Lilliput broadside issues, which have been published throughout the full 20 year run. Broadsides feature the work of one particular poet; the idea is to let the poet stretch out a bit, so there is no ten-line restriction as in regular issues. They are available for $1 or 3 for $2: here's a full list of those published to date. This week's poem is from Mark Hartenbach's excellent broadside, "Butterfly, Corkboard," which was issue #158, published in August 2007. Hope you like it.

exploitation poem
why do we insist on testing one another
without so much as a single warning shot
an episodic glance, an indifferent shrug

we demand a dent in memory
build or rebuild our ego
with scraps of others

we feign the blues
& forgetting
depend on an element of surprise

we fine tune our desires
knowing when to surrender to surface
& when to sink teeth deep

when to conjure up names
that promise dead flowers
& stale perfume

when to take another
to the edge of the water
& when to pull back at the last moment

when to translate
the firmament
into inevitable embrace

& when
to casually mention
that every star is dying
Mark Hartenbach

And Issa, an old time stargazer with many poems on the topic:

in cold water
sipping the stars...
Milky Way
translated by David G. Lanoue


Sunday, December 27, 2009

Sartori in Tangier: Issa's Sunday Service, #35

Tangier, 1961

Here's a little something I never expected to happen on Issa's Sunday Service: a LitRock instrumental. Not only is it appropriate but, considering the circumstances, it's perfect. This week saw the birthday of guitar impresario, Adrian Belew, whose studio and solo work, and contributions to the groups The Bears and King Crimson, are the stuff of legend. Particularly his instrumental contributions are legendary, though his lyrics are pretty amazing, too.

So, how is an instrumental, in this case "Sartori in Tangier," LitRock? For those who know a bit of Beat history, Tangier looms large. It is where Bill Burroughs went while avoiding legal complications, following the path of Paul and Jane Bowles. On my wall right now I'm looking at a famous photo of Burroughs, Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky, Alan Anson, Corso and Bowles posing in Burroughs' garden in Tangier, 1961 (Photo above). In addition, it alludes to Kerouac's novel, Satori in Paris, in its title. Satori, of course, is what all were seeking; in English parlance, enlightenment (NOTE: as pointed out in the comments, the actual title is Sartori, not Satori, but the pun seems intended and, in the end, seems a wash) .

This cut comes from the King Crimson album, Beat, which also supplied the sixth song in this series, "Neal and Jack and Me." Also included on the album is a cut entitled "Heartbeat," which may be an allusion to the Beat Heart Beat by Carolyn Cassady, wife of Neal. "Neurotoica," another cut on the album, refers to a Beat magazine of the same name and "Howler" gets its name from the original, Mr. Ginsberg himself. So, if ever there was a Beat rock album, this is it.

Ironically, "Sartori in Tangier" actually features the work of the other guitar impresario in the band, the incredible Robert Fripp. On this cut, Belew ably backs up Bill Bruford on a 2nd set of drums. Just watch the following live performance and attempt to keep your jaw from hitting the floor.


This week's poem comes from issue #55, April 1994. The issue was previously featured in a post back in January of this year.

Here is the mountain
from which no one has fallen.
Here is the lake
where no swimmer has drowned.

Here is the gun
that was never loaded.
Here are the toys
that have never drawn blood.

Here is the revolution unbetrayed.

Here is the poem that saved a life.
Robert Edwards

autumn mountains
one by one
the evening falls
translated by David G. Lanoue


PS For a list of all 45 (and a half) songs to date, click here.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Snow Storm by Tu Fu

A poem for those alone, away from home, or with no home at all.

Snow Storm
Tumult, weeping, many new ghosts.
Heartbroken, aging, alone, I sing
To myself. Ragged mist settles
In the spreading dusk. Snow skurries
In the coiling wind. The wineglass
Is spilled. The bottle is empty.
The fire has gone out in the stove.
Everywhere men speak in whispers.
I brood on the uselessness of letters.
Tu Fu
translated by Kenneth Rexroth

Happy holidays, all.


Thursday, December 24, 2009

War Is Over (Now)

Hope everyone is enjoying the various holidays celebrated around this time of year and all have a friend, a companion, perhaps family to spend time with.

Currently, I'm reading two books on classic Chinese love poetry. I hope to be taking a longer look at these in a future post, but, for now, here is a poem of love, from the Peter Pauper Press book, Chinese Love Lyrics, to go with the idea of peace. Enjoy.

Among the Bamboos
Bring me no more flowers. Bring me
cypress branches in which to plunge my face.

When the sun has disappeared behind
The mountains I put on my robe of blue
With the thin sleeves and go and sleep
Among the bamboos she loved.
Tu Fu
translated by Gertrude L. Joerissen

in night's winter rain
a face...
his parents' gate
translated by David G. Lanoue

Happy holidays,

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sympathy for the Devil: Issa's Sunday Service, #34

Friday, December 18th, was the birthday of Keith Richards and so, running perhaps a little counter to seasonal sentiment, this week's selection is "Sympathy for the Devil" by the Rolling Stones. The list of historical events is obvious, but what's the lit connection, you might ask? Jagger has claimed that the song was influenced by French writing, particularly Baudelaire, but isn't really exactly sure. Folks have pointed out a lot of parallels to Mikhail Bulgakov's classic novel, The Master and Margarita, and though this connection may be tenuous I'll take it, coupled with Jagger's account, and call it a LitRock sizzler. Though originally attacked by fringe groups as promoting Satanism, the songs strong moral underpinnings are rather obvious to anyone who bothers to listen. That the singer takes the persona of The Devil certainly has its model in religious sources, in the West starting with the Bible itself (which, of course, is a 3rd lit reference).

As a bonus, here's a live performance by the Stones, arguably at their creative peak from their film, "Rock and Roll Circus."


Though I've featured most of the poems from the double sized issue, #53, from February 1994, in two previous posts, I've managed to dig out one more little gem that I somehow overlooked. So, this week's feature poem by Hugh Hennedy:

After Graduation Day
Like isolated notes
Blackbirds stand on the wires
In the fog off the ocean, and the music
Sounds slow and quiet,
Mostly strings down low
Hugh Hennedy

And one from Issa:

wisteria in bloom--
voices of pilgrims
voices of birds
translated by David G. Lanoue


PS If you receive The Hut via email or a reader, you may miss audio and video attached to posts, especially Issa's Sunday Service. For the full post, just click through.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

20 Poems by Georg Trakl, translated by James Wright and Robert Bly

For translation, so below

A while back, I did a post on Georg Trakl, mentioning the translations by James Wright and Robert Bly, entitled 20 Poems (available online as a .pdf here). I've finally found the time to read through the translations a couple of times and my enthusiasm for his work is unabated.

The appeal to Wright and Bly is apparent; these two poets, known for their "involvement" in the deep image movement, find essential source material in Trakl's work. The poems revolve around the images, many of which appear as motifs, even in such a small selection of Trakl's work. The abiding feeling I get is one of evocation; the poems do not posit answer or philosophy or even present an open-ended question. It seems to me that they are really the stuff of archetype, a kind of dream-like essence that dwells firmly in the border between the conscious and unconscious. A dream-poetry, a Jungian poetry, probing into the uninterpretable human spirit.

In Hellbrun

Once more following the blue grief of the evening
Down the hill, to the springtime fishpond–
As if the shadow of those dead for a long time were
------hovering above,
The shadows of church dignitaries, of noble ladies–
Their flowers bloom so soon, the earnest violets
In the earth at evening, and the clear water washes
From the blue spring. The oaks turn green
In such a ghostly way over the forgotten footsteps
------of the dead
The golden clouds over the fishpond.

The best of Trakl's work is firmly grounded in nature; one thinks of Wright's The Branch Will Not Break, the most naturalistic of his works. In actual execution, the work itself feels closer to Bly than Wright; better than Bly, hitting a universal chord Bly frequently speaks of but doesn't quite achieve lyrically. This is, of course, strictly a matter of taste. Trakl's work is haunting and it lingers with me long after I've put it down and, siren-like, summons my return as to an elusive, spirit-infused wood.

What is hinted at in many poems is most explicitly sketched in the following, which conjures a sort of contiguous sense of all time. There is an historical tapestry here, yet that seems to be something of a background against which a larger story is unfolding, one that mixes equally the sadness and sweetness of existence itself.

Song of the Western Countries

Oh the nighttime beating of the soul’s wings:
Herders of sheep once, we walked along the forests
-------that were growing dark,
And the red deer, the green flower and the speaking
river followed us
In humility. Oh the old old note of the cricket,
Blood blooming on the altarstone,
And the cry of the lonely bird over the green silence
-------of the pool.

And you Crusades, and glowing punishment
Of the flesh, purple fruits that fell to earth
In the garden at dusk, where young and holy men
Enlisted men of war now, waking up out of wounds
-------and dreams about stars.
Oh the soft cornflowers of the night.

And you long ages of tranquility and golden
When as peaceful monks we pressed out the purple
And around us the hill and forest shone strangely.
The hunts for wild beasts, the castles, and at night,
-------the rest,
When man in his room sat thinking justice,
And in noiseless prayer fought for the living head
-------of God.

And this bitter hour of defeat,
When we behold a stony face in the black waters.
But radiating light, the lovers lift their silver eyelids:
They are one body. Incense streams from rose-
-------colored pillows
And the sweet song of those risen from the dead.

The overall mood is of dread, foreboding. All of history comes to Trakl's point in time; World War I and its coming horrors, of which he was a victim, are pre-figured here through the lens of history, yet Trakl is not after the political. The most salient point, his true focus, is humanness, human existence. There is a sense of loss: the loss of nature and a related innocence. Two of Trakl's poems I highlighted in an earlier post capture nature before this loss. Not many of his predominately naturalistic poems are contained in the selection by Wright and Bly, though naturalistic elements permeate the work throughout.

Just as Trakl's poems seem to dwell in a place between the conscious and unconscious, they also seem to inhabit an imagined space between the poems of Wright and Bly themselves. Here is the stuff of dreams, and something more:

In Venice

Silence in the rented room.
The candlestick flickers with silver light
Before the singing breath
Of the lonely man;
Enchanted rosecloud.

Black swarms of flies
Darken the stony space,
And the head of the man who has no home
Is numb from the agony
Of the golden day.

The motionless sea grows dark.
Star and black voyages
Vanished on the canal.
Child, your sickly smile
Followed me softly in my sleep.

The sense of foreboding in Trakl is the main focus of the 20 poems translated in this little collection. In "Birth," there seems to be a balance achieved between the prophetic and the pastoral; ironically that balance seems to be man himself.


These mountains: blackness, silence, and snow.
The red hunter climbs down from the forest;
Oh the mossy gaze of the wild thing.

The peace of the mother: under black firs
The sleeping hands open by themselves
When the cold moon seems ready to fall.

The birth of man. Each night
Blue water washes over the rockbase of the cliff;
The fallen angel stares at his reflection with sighs,

Something pale wakes up in a suffocating room.
The eyes
Of the stony old woman shine, two moons.

The cry of the woman in labor. The night troubles
The boy’s sleep with black wings,
With snow, which falls with ease out of the purple

Perhaps the two threads of nature lost and coming dread are inextricably woven together. As with Wright's work, I want to read hopefulness in the natural world, even with its built-in dread, and not the loss of nature due to man's perception of being outside of or over nature. As with Wright, however, one doesn't get one's wish. What one does get is a unique, poetic panorama, a haunting vision that's is at once powerful, delicate and a thing of beauty: the poetry of Georg Trakl.


Pictured above is Trakl's grave marker, with his poem "Music in the Mirabell" inscribed in stone. As may become apparent in the poem, Mirabell is a garden. Here is an English translation of what is described as the "second version" by Alexander Stillmarker, in a volume I just purchased, Poems and Prose, published by Northwestern University.

Music in the Mirabell

A fountain sings. Clouds, white and tender,
Are set in the clear blueness
Engrossed, silent people walk
At evening through the ancient garden.

Ancestral marble has grown grey.
A flight of birds seeks far horizons.
A faun with lifeless pupils peers
At shadows gliding into darkness.

The leaves fall red from the old tree
And circle in through open windows.
A fiery gleam ignites indoors
And conjures up wan ghosts of fear.

A white stranger steps into the house.
A dog runs wild through ruined passages.
The maid extinguishes a lamp,
At night are heard sonata sounds.


I've been deliberating on what to feature from the Lilliput archives since, over the years, I've featured poems from the full run of regular issues in this blog,. Should I highlight "Brobdingnag" feature poems (poems over the usual 10 line limit), of which there have been 57 to date? Or perhaps poems from the 45 broadside issues, featuring the work of individual poets? Or perhaps poems from the 20 "Modest Proposal Chapbooks" that have seen the light of day? An interesting dilemma.

I decided to feature poems from the broadsides and leave the longer poems and chapbooks for some future time. So, here from the poet David Chorlton's 2008 Lilliput broadside, Venetian Sequence (Venice, twice in one post), is his poem "Of Sighs." The title refers to the famous bridge in Venice named "The Bridge of Sighs." The bridge was named by Byron, who helped popularize the myth that prisoners headed toward their execution got one final look at the lovely Venice through one of the bridge's small windows and sighed. David here extends the prisoner's imagined experience to what might be heard:

Of Sighs
From the sentence to the executioner
the way is short and the windows
on the bridge prevent the prisoner
from looking at his reflection
in the water below, although he can hear,
between the words of his accusers,
the murmur of the pigeons
nesting in the mane of a lion’s head.

For another poem from the 15 poem sequence, "Paganini," check out this post from when the broadside originally appeared in March 2008. For more info on Lillie broadsides, check here.

There have been many musical pieces referencing this famous bridge. In rock, there is Robin Trower's rendition. In folk, there is a song by legendary Ralph McTell, which seems only to be related to the bridge by title. Here is an instrumental by one of my favorite world fusion band's, John McLaughlin's Shakti:

And the master's final word:

a pigeon cries--
even deep in the Thousand Islands
it's Buddha's world
translated by David G. Lanoue


PS. For those of you receiving posts via email, you may not see icon for Grooveshark song (or YouTube videos in other posts). Just sayin' ... you might want to click through.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Best Poetry Blogs: A Baker's Dozen

Some news on the home front: Lilliput Review is one of 13 blogs featured in the Suite 101 article Best Poetry Blogs: A Baker's Dozen by Joseph Hutchison. I am quite humbled to be in such fine company and tip my hat to Mr. Hutchison for his recommendation. Suite 101 is a resource I've used countless times while researching poetry, both for this blog and for work at my daytime job, so it's a real honor.

The article begins:

The Web offers terrific resources for poets, and among the most useful are poetry blogs. They address a need that all poets have for a circle of like-minded people devoted to sharing their knowledge and passion about poetry. This is especially important for poets whose local communities don’t offer poetry groups and for poets who can’t afford the hefty cost of an MFA program. Poetry blogs help readers keep up on new publications, issues of craft, poetic trends, and strategies for dealing with ...

For the rest, head on over to Suite 101

a soot-covered doll
but displayed in the seat
of honor
translated by David G. Lanoue


Stolen Child: Issa's Sunday Service, #33

Monday the 14th of December is the birthday of Mike Scott of The Waterboys. From perhaps their finest album, certainly my favorite and their most successful commercially, Fisherman's Blues, comes their rendition of W. B. Yeats's haunting, dark fairy story, "The Stolen Child," which is this week's Litrock selection for Issa's Sunday Service. Here's the original poem by Yeats:

The Stolen Child

WHERE dips the rocky highland
Of Sleuth Wood in the lake,
There lies a leafy island
Where flapping herons wake
The drowsy water rats;
There we've hid our faery vats,
Full of berrys
And of reddest stolen cherries.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world's more full of weeping
---than you can understand

Where the wave of moonlight glosses
The dim gray sands with light,
Far off by furthest Rosses
We foot it all the night,
Weaving olden dances
Mingling hands and mingling glances
Till the moon has taken flight;
To and fro we leap
And chase the frothy bubbles,
While the world is full of troubles
And anxious in its sleep.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world's more full of weeping
---than you can understand.

Where the wandering water gushes
From the hills above Glen-Car,
In pools among the rushes
That scarce could bathe a star,
We seek for slumbering trout
And whispering in their ears
Give them unquiet dreams;
Leaning softly out
From ferns that drop their tears
Over the young streams.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world's more full of weeping
---than you can understand.

Away with us he's going,
The solemn-eyed:
He'll hear no more the lowing
Of the calves on the warm hillside
Or the kettle on the hob
Sing peace into his breast,
Or see the brown mice bob
Round and round the oatmeal chest.
For he comes, the human child,
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world's more full of weeping
---than he can understand.

Scott adds the refrain from Yeats's poem at the opening and so its serves as the chorus for the song. Very nicely done, indeed. This is the first appearance for both The Waterboys and Yeats on the LitRock list, but I have a feeling it won't be the last.

The Waterboys have put together and will be performing an all-Yeats show in March 2010 at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin. The 5 shows have almost completely sold out. No doubt this will be something of an historical event; one can only hope that a recording will be made, either live or in the studio afterward.


This week's featured poem comes from Lilliput Review #52, from December 1993. Here's a number from Pittsburgh's finest purveyor of the short poem, Bart Solarczyk. Enjoy.

Words (for Keith Richards)
Most things come & go.
Some things last forever.
We are all forgiven.
None of us is saved.
Bart Solarczyk

And the master:

have you come
to save us haiku poets?
red dragonfly

translated by David G. Lanoue


Friday, December 11, 2009

Among the Flowering Reeds

With Among the Flowering Reeds: Classic Korean Poems Written in Chinese, Kim Jong-Gil has performed an astounding acrobatic-like feat of translation, bringing to modern English speaking audiences a genre of poetry as lyrical, philosophical, and important as any in world poetry. These translations are exquisite in the sense that they are at once precise, evocative, poetic, and faithful to English, the language into which they are translated. Part of White Pine Press's "Korean Voices" series, which in turn is part an overall catalogue of some of the most outstanding poetry titles offered anywhere, Among the Flowering Reeds is a must read for those who love Asian poetry in its many glorious manifestations.

Why Korean poems written in Chinese, you may ask? The reason is that Korean as a written language (hangul) is relatively recent, dating back to the 15th century. Previous to that, classical Chinese, wen yen, was used in Korean literature, as it was for most East Asian literatures. Since there were significant differences in the two languages, the development of hangul became necessary. However, hangul as the written language took some time to catch on and writers and poets continued to use Chinese characters well into the 20th century. As a result, much of Korean literature was originally written in Chinese.

Jong-Gil's selection of 100 poems in Among the Flowering Reeds covers more than 1000 years, from the late 9th century into the early 20th. Jong-Gil notes in his introduction that, because of the nature of classical Chinese, he has had to take liberties with the literal sense of the words in order to capture the poetic and rhythmic quality of the original. How this has all been translated into not just competent, but lyrical, near flawless English is an accomplishment to be held in deep admiration.

Of the 100 poems I marked 27 as outstanding, to be returned to for further review. Many are written out as basic quatrains, whatever there original forms may have been. There is a quiet subtly to these works, delicate yet strongly resonant of life experience. Here is a small taste:

At My Study on Mount Kaya

The frenzied rush through the rocks roars at the peaks
and drowns out the human voices close by.
Because I always fear disputes between right and wrong
I have arranged the waters to cage in these mountains.
Ch'oe Ch'i Wǒn

Night Rain on the River Hsio-hsiang
A stretch of blue water between the shores of autumn;
wind sweeps light rain over a returning boat.
As the boat is moored at night near the bamboo,
each leaf rustles coldly, awakening sorrow.
Yi Il-lp

At a Station House
Through nearly fifty years in the lifespan of a man,
I have had little luck with my ill-fated career.
What have I achieved these years away from home?
I have returned empty-handed from so far away.
Still the forest birds warble kindly to me;
the wildflowers, wordless, smile to make me stay.
But the devil poetry always nags at me;
together with poverty, it it the root of all my grief.
Kim Kŭk-ki

Now Shine, Now Rain
Now shine, now rain, and rain becomes shine:
that is the sky's way, as well as man's.
My glory may well lead to my ruin;
your escape from fame will bring you a name.
Flowers may open or fall, but spring doesn't care;
clouds will come and go, but mountains do not argue.
Men of the world, you must remember
you won't find happiness where you crave joy.
Kim Shi-sŭp

A Fisherman
Mountains rise over mountains and smoke from valleys;
the dust of the world can never touch the white gulls.
The old fisherman is by no means disinterested;
he owns, in his boat, the moon over the west river.
Sǒng Kan

On a Journey
At an edge of the sky, I grieve for my youth;
I long for home, but home is still far away.
As spring lets loose the wayward east wind,
no one owns the wild peach, but it bursts into bloom.
Kim An-guk

Slow Chrysanthemums
The chrysanthemums are slow to bloom this year,
I have found no autumn joy by the eastern hedge.
Heartless, indeed, is the west wind: it blows
into my greying hair, not yellow chrysanthemums.
Sǒ Kǒ-jǒng

These translations are so smooth, so seemingly effortless, they seem to not be translations at all. Get it at the library, get it at your favorite independent bookshop, or, best of all, get it directly from White Pine. Support the small press.

It supports you .


This week's featured issue of Lilliput Review is #170 from July of this year. With this issue, I will have featured highlights from regular issues over the last 20 years on this blog. It's really hard to imagine that there have been over 360 posts here since Issa's Untidy Hut started back in November of 2007. Many poems were also featured at the previous short-lived blog, Beneath Cherry Blossoms, before it. I'm still weighing how to proceed. Meanwhile, here's some highlights from #170. Enjoy.

It's our task
we must take on
so much
discard so much
until finally
carrying just a little home
and on the way
losing that too
John Ajac

How to make a poem...
----------Freeze-frame one moment of
your life
----------add a dim reference to
your father
----------throw in the name of a local plant for effect
J. Bruce Fuller

Poems hanging among the weeds, some :: so easy to read
Grant Hackett

Being mindful of the breath
until the breath
conquers the mind.

The current green.
The lily of water.
Charlie Mehrhoff

And Master Issa:

touching the princess lily's
pure water
David G. Lanoue


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Scorpion Prize and Albert Huffstickler

Back a number of months ago, I was contacted by Paul and Scott of Roadrunner ("best short poetry magazine ever") to judge the 18th installment of their haiku selections, The Scorpion Prize. I was simultaneously flattered, honored, and a bit intimidated.

After all, what do I really know from haiku? If you are looking for an expert, here's the place to be. And there are many more "well-versed" folks who could be chosen, but I accepted the invitation in the generous spirit in which it was extended. Still, I was kind of haunted by the idea of being a judge; here's the opening of the essay:

-------------The Scorpion Prize of Issue IX:3

---After studying this collection of some 80 or so haiku, I've
come to the conclusion that it is, more likely than not, the
judge who needs judging.

---There is much here I am unqualified to read, no less
deliberate over. We are deep in the land of modern English
language haiku (or ku), advanced division. Reading through
I was often confused, frequently bemused.

---So, what manner of judge is this, one might rightly ask?

---Well, let's put it on the table: if I have a bias (and I'm an
editor, so what's with the "if"), it is toward what is known in
English language Haikuville as the one breath poem: screw
the syllable counting, the poem is the length of one breath -
in, out, pause.

---Period (or not).

---The groaning in the distance is, no doubt, audible over
large land masses, as well as sizable bodies of water. ...

The quality of the work was excellent; deciding which were the top three poems was truly a test of humility, liberally shot through with hubris. A little like that coffee-infused vodka going about these days. A contradiction in terms, like judging poetry, or being an editor for that matter.

To see how I worked it all out, check out the full essay with top three haiku (pdf document). If you are a poet or connoisseur of the short poem, Roadrunner is a must. My thanks to both Scott and Paul for their faith in me - I greatly appreciate it.


Some misc notes of interest: of the 6 prizewinning haiku in the 2nd Annual Bashô Haiku Challenge, only one was from the United States (Peter Newton). The others were from Japan (William Appel), Poland (Jacek Margolak), Romania (Eduard Tara), Canada (Terry Ann Carter), and Croatia (Dubravko Korbus). The only one I've been unable to contact about winning: Peter Newton from the US. So, if anyone knows Peter's email (I have an email address - it didn't bounce, but no reply) or knows him, if you would give him a shout out from me, I'd appreciate it.

He knows where I am.

Also, there has been some Albert Huffstickler related news. There is an interesting spiritual-themed post at Thousand Voices that features a great poem by Huff, entitled "The Cure." Also outlaw poetry and free jazz has posted a notice about emailing Austin City Council to get a local park named after Huff. I posted here about this back in August, but evidently its getting down to the wire so now is the time to be heard.

If you have enjoyed Huff's work as much as I have, drop them a line. There is even a sample of what you might say in the outlaw poetry post. Here's one of the many poems Huff published in Lilliput over the years. I've posted this one before but there are no good poems that don't bear a second reading.

Cafe Poem

The woman in
the corner,
white on black,
white skin,
black hair,
black dress,
lights a
long, white
the orange flame
against her cheek.

Albert Huffstickler


Sunday, December 6, 2009

What Keeps Mankind Alive: Issa's Sunday Service, #32

This week's Issa's Sunday Service features two repeat offenders: Tom Waits (as musician) performing the work of Bertolt Brecht (as inspiration), in this case "What Keeps Mankind Alive," a devastating little ditty if ever there was one. Monday, December 7th is the birthday of Mr. Waits, hence this week's selection. The song comes from The Threepenny Opera, with lyrics by Brecht and music by Kurt Weill. Here's the words:

What Keeps Mankind Alive

You gentlemen who think you have a mission
To purge us of the seven deadly sins
Should first sort out the basic food position
Then start your preaching, that’s where it begins

You lot who preach restraint and watch your waist as well
Should learn, for once, the way the world is run
However much you twist or whatever lies that you tell
Food is the first thing, morals follow on

So first make sure that those who are now starving
Get proper helpings when we all start carving
What keeps mankind alive?

What keeps mankind alive?
The fact that millions are daily tortured
Stifled, punished, silenced and oppressed
Mankind can keep alive thanks to its brilliance
In keeping its humanity repressed
And for once you must try not to shriek the facts
Mankind is kept alive by bestial acts

Happy birthday, Mr. Waits. And, as a little present, here is ol' Uncle Bill, of Naked Lunch fame, to give his rendition of same:


This week's feature poem comes from issue #48, a broadside entitled Tibetan Gun Flower by the poet Charlie Mehrhoff. Back in August, I read one of the poems from this broadside, "springtime in a city park,"(page down a bit to see) at the Six Gallery Press reading. Recently, I posted another, entitled "fact:", at the daily Twitter feed (which cross-posts to Facebook). For those of you who don't lean in those directions, here it is:


to think that god had to become me
in order to throw his cigarette out the window,
write these words.
Charlie Mehrhoff

And here's another from that same broadside, previously unposted:

leaf, green leaf
her shadow
upon the silence of an empty road
that is poetry.

Charlie Mehrhoff

And, of course, the last word goes to the master:

a wood fire--
her shadow in the window
pulling thread
translated by David G. Lanoue


Thursday, December 3, 2009

2nd Annual Bashô Haiku Challenge Winner

After weeks of working through nearly 500 haiku from 99 poets, I've made a final selection of 56 poems to be published in the 2010 2nd Annual Bashô Haiku Challenge chapbook. Though I received 3 times as many entries as last year, the task seemed a thousand times more daunting. I set no particular limit or had no particular length in mind for the chapbook, so the final selection represents only the highest quality of work I received. Last year's chapbook contained 25 haiku, making this year's over double the size. I would have been happy to publish another chap of the same size, but the quality of entries demanded a weightier book and I am even happier to oblige with that.

The winning poem comes from William Appel of Japan:

falling off
the mountain
William Appel

I will let William's poem speak for itself, only saying that to evoke the entire macrocosm via one of its smallest components, in just 5 words, is a daunting accomplishment and the stuff of great haiku, indeed.

The five runner-up poems, each of which will receive a book from Jim Kacian's red moon press (page down a bit at this link for the titles), plus a 6 issue subscription to Lilliput Review and two copies of the chapbook upon publication, are as follows:

waiting for you --
the window changes
into a mirror
Jacek Margolak

Up the river –
a boat splits
the Milky Way
Eduard Tara

in and out
of the ambulance's wail
Terry Ann Carter

standing among the aspens just one of the grove
Peter Newton

a cloudy night
only croaking of the tree frog
gives shape to the bush
Dubravko Korbus

Choosing these 6 poems among the 56 selected overall proved to be quite a challenge, so the title, Bashô Haiku Challenge, swings both ways, for the editor as well as the poets. I'd like to thank everyone who participated this year and say sincerely that, though the task was massive, it was well worth the effort. The work brought great joy, sadness, and the myriad gamut of emotions that move between.

Part 2 of the "daunting task" begins with the shipping out of the 6 prizes and 6 issue subscriptions to all 50 plus poets whose work will be included in the forthcoming chapbook. I anticipate publication of the 2nd Annual chap to be sometime mid-year 2010. I sincerely hope to get all of the new subscriptions out in the mail over the next 4 weeks. Since this happens to dovetail with the new issues going out to current subscribers, I'm not quite sure how I'm going to pull it all off. Bear with me, folks - all good things are worth the wait, as the cliché goes.

One last note for the moment about the contest; I'd like to particularly thank the online haiku community for embracing and promoting the challenge. The amount of international submissions I received (and accepted for the chapbook) was truly amazing. Thanks particularly to haiku societies in Australia, Canada, Croatia, and Great Britain and, I'm sure, others I wasn't even aware of that sent out notices about the challenge. Thanks, too, of course to all who submitted and the stateside folks, such as Jim Kacian at red moon press, that really gave the whole idea a nice lift. I'm sure I've forgotten someone but you get the idea: I am grateful, indeed.


The new issues, #'s 171 and 172, begin going out this week, contributors having just received their copies. With an additional 50+ copies to be printed, collated, folded, and stapled (see above), it will be awhile before they all get in the mail. I'm hoping to post the majority of them over the next 4 weeks, but chances are it may take a bit longer.

Ah, the price of success of a one-person operation.

This week's featured issue is #169, from July 2009. With next week's feature, almost all of the anthology issues from the last 20 years will have made been highlighted on the blog over the years. I've been thinking about what direction to go in future posts. More about that soon. Meanwhile, enjoy these highlights in their attempt to counter the darkness of the coming season:

A good poem
Should smell of tea,
earth or newly split wood.
A few words piled together
To make something of a hut.
Dennis Maloney

there was a time
when thinking of sunflowers
sunflowers appeared
Constance Campbell

My childhood flowered :: with a color I can't finish
Grant Hackett


that blew
Stephanie Hiteshaw

And the master's final word:

in autumn frost
lushly blooming again
roses of Sharon
translated by David G. Lanoue