Recently, in my day job, the poetry group I moderate had a session on the mystic poet Rumi. It was the second best attended meeting, after our session on haiku. I read lots of Rumi in preparation since, though I appreciated what I'd come across of his work randomly, I hadn't delved deeply. I learned a lot, including the controversy over the 'Americanization,' or New Age approach, to translating his works, which de-emphasizes certain specific religious aspects for a more general spiritual approach. While doing some background work, I ran across the following intriguing brief poem, or quatrain:
O my God, what irony it is That we are at the bottom of hell, And yet are afraid of of immortality.
Rumi translated by Nevit Oguz Ergin
Which immediately called to mind this:
In this world we walk on the roof of hell, gazing at flowers.
Issa translated by Robert Hass
Could it be that, at the core of both these poems, from markedly different cultures, there is a single message?
Could they be about our lack of attention to what is, both invisible and visible?
Of course even between two brief poems, there may be much that is dissimilar. Still, what is more important: the common ground or the disparities?
One of the great ballads of English literature, "Sir Patrick Spens" tells a tale of a sailor, the sea and tragedy, the stuff of legend. It has been covered many times by folk musicians through the years, such as Buffy St. Marie, the great Robin Williamson, and a true legend himself, Ewan MacColl. I've chosen a version by Fairport Convention, since they lean more to folk-rock and, well, because I like it very much.
One can hardly ignore the Sandy Denny version, with Fairport Convention, so here is that for those prefer her dulcet tones:
And for those who prefer their ballads on the page, you can find it here since it's a little long to include in a post.
Well, as my father used to say, I should have known better. The modest little one week challenge/call for New Year's haiku elicited quite an amazing response, so amazing as to cause me to adjust a bit my original plan. So, I've selected 6 haiku for your reading pleasure, the first and winner, by Alan Bridges, warrants a 15 issue, rather than 6 issue, subscription to Lilliput Review as originally announced. The 5 runners-up, a category I originally had no intention of utilizing, will receive the original first place prize of a 6 issue subscription (or 6 issue extension to a current subscription) to Lillie.
The runners-up are presented in no particular order. And cheers, first, to everyone who responded. There were many a fine haiku that just missed the cut, for a variety of reasons not the least of which is editorial ignorance. And second, cheers to the winners and runners-up (I'll be in touch about your subscriptions). For the rest, I hope something grabs you here. Happy new year, all!
New Year's Day setting my playlist to shuffle
new year's day the earth retracing her steps
new year's day – I let the tea steep a little longer
Because serendipity is the only way to travel, I investigated the artist responsible for the artwork I'd found to grace this post (pictured at the very top), and was fascinated to read his story, which you can find by clicking on his name below the picture.
Along with the writer of the article on McCutcheon (R. C. Harvey), I was particularly fascinated with the artwork below, entitled The Ballad of Beautiful Words. Clicking on the art won't enlarge it enough to read, so click here instead and I think you'll agree that many a poem may be found within.
In the late 19th century during the the artist's early career all the illustrative material in newspapers was drawn, as it was previous to the perfection of photographs for newsprint. So, the artist literally drew everything: sports, news, crime, portraits and sundry topics. What follows is Carey Orr's comment on perhaps the most significant contribution of all by McCutcheon, something which, at the time, was entitled "slow ball:"
“John McCutcheon was the father of the human interest cartoon. His Bird Center series was perhaps the first to break way from the Nast and Davenport tradition of dealing almost exclusively and in the most intense seriousness with political and moral reforms. McCutcheon brought change of pace. He was the first to throw the slow ball in cartooning, to draw the human interest picture that was not produced to change votes or to amend morals but solely to amuse or to sympathize."