Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Gift

There's no reason for beauty,
The cosmos does not need it,
Beauty is the gift of God,
It is how God redeems it.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Renga Ramblings 5

Renga Ramblings 5

Renga and Rhyme

Japanese poetry does not use rhyme as an element of construction in its poetry.  It isn’t the case the Japanese poetry does not use rhyme at all.  In Jane Reichhold’s “Basho: The Complete Haiku” Reichhold has a closing section on ‘Haiku Techniques’.  Two of the techniques, numbers 8 and 19, refer to uses of rhyme.  In my study of Tanka I have observed that Tanka poets will, at times, cultivate a particular vowel sound producing both assonance and end rhyme.  Reichhold also points to the use of ‘Frame Rhyme’, what I would call ‘Slant Rhyme’, to produce a humorous effect in haikai.

But this kind of rhyme isn’t part of the way rhyme is used in, for example, English or Chinese poetry.  In English poetry rhyme is an element of construction.  By this I mean that if you are going to write a Shakespearean Sonnet you need to follow a particular end-rhyme scheme because the rhyme scheme is a structural element of the form.  The same is true of the Rubai Quatrain or the Englin Quatrain or Chinese Quatrain forms.  In Japanese forms rhyme is sometimes used, but such usage is not definitive of a form like Tanka or Haikai.  That is to say if there is no rhyme in a Tanka, which is to say the majority of Tanka, that is not considered a flaw.  But if there were no rhymes in a Shakespearean Sonnet, or if they were placed incorrectly, that would be a strike against it.

In general English language poets who write in Japanese forms have found the absence of rhyme in these forms to be congenial.  For one thing, it resonates with the modernist tendency to retreat from rhyme.  I suspect that one of the attractions of Japanese forms for English language poets is the absence of rhyme in an ancient tradition of poetry.

But, since I am writing poetry in English, and since English poetry does use rhyme, I began to explore the possibility of incorporating rhyme into Renga.  I wanted the rhyme usage in Renga to reflect the manner of Renga.  By ‘manner of Renga’ I mean the link and shift patterning, or texture, which distinctively marks Renga.  After a lot of experiments I came up with something which seems to work.  The pattern of end-rhyme I’ve developed is as follows:

The last syllable of the last line of Verse X
And the last syllable of the first line of Verse X + 1

Here is an example:

Summer ends with the first chill
One more blanket on the bed

“I think that instead
Of purchasing brand new clothes,
This year we’ll make do.”

Dawn, with many shades of blue
Seen through many colored leaves

(From ‘Sunset Sky’)

The last syllable of the last line of the first verse is ‘bed’.
The last syllable of the first line of the second verse is ‘stead’.
The same pattern applies to ‘do’ and ‘blue’.

These rhymes link the consecutive verses sonically.  One commenter on this blog noted that the effect of rhyming in this way was a kind of braiding of the images.

The shift occurs because no two consecutive rhymes are the same rhyme.  In other words there is a shift from ‘bed/stead’ to ‘do/blue’. 

In the two line verses the first line rhymes with the previous verse and the second line rhymes with the following verse; both lines, then, are involved with rhyming.

In the three line verses the second line does not rhyme and adds some sonic spice.  My feeling is that if the second line of the three line verse was also involved in the rhyme scheme it would tend to become too sing-song.  The second line of the three line verse adds a little variety and unpredictability to the sonic flow.

Another aspect of traditional Renga esthetic I’ve incorporated into rhyme usage is that the last line of the first verse, the hokku, does not rhyme with the first line of the second verse.  This gives the opening verse its traditional stand-alone feel.  Using the river metaphor I often rely on, the opening verse gives us the setting, but the journey really begins with Verse 2, and hence the introduction of rhyme begins with the last line of Verse 2 rhyming with the first line of Verse 3.

What is the effect of incorporating rhyme into Renga?  The immediate effect is that when a poet follows a rhyme scheme it limits the available words the poet can use.  I felt this immediately.  This is both a plus and a minus.  It is a minus because what happens if I come up with a really superb link, but the link does not lend itself to the rhyme scheme?  That can feel frustrating.  It is a plus because if I relax into the rhyme scheme commitment, it gives me more focus as I compose each new link.  It is a way of whittling away at too many possibilities.

Lately I’ve experimented with the idea of using such a rhyme scheme in parts of a Renga.  This happened because I was composing a Renga, and I came up with what I thought of as a really good link, but it didn’t rhyme.  By this time I had written enough rhyming Renga to feel confident about my abilities and in this instance I decided to forgo the rhyme and see what happened.  I discovered that I was able to return to the rhyme scheme a few verses later.  What I noticed is that the non-rhyming sequence stood out in this 20-verse Renga of rhyming links.

The Renga poet can use this, I think, to highlight, for example, a moon verse sequence, or a fall verse sequence.  Instead of a sequence that is distinguished by lack of rhyme, what if three to five verses followed this kind of rhyme scheme and they were all on the same topic?  It would add a lyrical dimension to a moon sequence, particularly if the rest of the Renga did not follow this rhyme scheme.  In other words, the rhyme scheme is not an either/or.  It can be used in an entire Renga, but it can also be used as an effective means for creating unity in a topic field.  And the reverse is also true: in a Renga that follows this rhyme scheme, the absence of rhyme for three to five verses will highlight those particular verses as significant.

I have come to regard this approach to rhyme in Renga as an optional tool.  Sometimes I use it, and often I do not.  It is a tool that the English language offers the Renga poet as part of our English language heritage.

In closing I suggest that if you are interested in this approach to rhyme in renga that you click on the ‘renga’ label listed at the right of this blog.  I have posted some renga that use this rhyme scheme.  The Renga ‘Flow of Grace’ is my personal favorite.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Sound Steals Mind

The first of Taurus,
A cool wind bends the lilacs
Under a gray sky
The sound of wailing sirens . . .
The police?, an ambulance?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Renga Ramblings 4

Renga Ramblings 4

The Pulse of the Poem

When I first began composing Renga I wrote in the free verse style that is widespread among western Renga poets.  (You can see a few examples of this approach in ‘The Narrow Road to Renga’, published by Jane Reichhold and her Aha Press.)  My belief is that this free verse approach to lineation has established itself in western Renga  because almost all of the poets who are interested in Renga have their roots in free verse Haiku.  And even when that is not the case, they will have absorbed free verse norms simply from learning about poetry today from college courses and poetry workshops.  I’m suggesting that free verse approaches to lineation are, for many poets, normative.

The change for me came when I read Steven Carter’s “The Road to Kommatsubara”, which is an annotated translation of a Hyakuin Renga (100 Verses) by Sogi, along with a lengthy historical introduction and the translation of a manual of Renga construction.  I noted that Carter stuck fairly closely to the 5-7-5 and 7-7 pattern of the Renga verses.  Carter’s translation also contains a parallel transliteration.  I began to recite the Japanese transliteration, just to get a feel for the sonic dimension of the Renga.  Carter’s translation is interspersed with many notes, annotations, and esthetic asides.  This means that the translation only has a few verses in a row before some annotations appear; so I was able to take small chunks of the Renga and recite the verses to get a feel for the sound.

I then turned to Earl Miner’s book “Japanese Linked Poetry” which contains a translation of my favorite Renga, ‘Sogi Alone’.  Miner’s layout allows one to read the transliteration uninterrupted from beginning to end.  When I did this I uncovered a dimension of Renga that I had not understood before.  I call this the ‘Renga River’, or the ‘Renga Pulse’.  There is a subtle ebb and flow as the lines change length.  There is a steady pulse, but the pulse is like the flow of a river.  Or, and this is the best analogy I’ve come up with, it has the feel of canoeing down a stream; there is the pull of the oars, followed by a few moments of coasting.

What suddenly hit me is that it is precisely this pulse which serves to hold the images of a Renga together.  It is a dimension of beauty in Renga that emerges only when there is a regularity of line, a formal construction.  This is part of the meaning of the formal parameters of Renga; of the 5-7-5 and 7-7 verse sequences.  I wanted to reflect this dimension of Renga in my own Renga composition.  For this reason I began to compose Renga in a formal fashion, mimicking the syllable count of the Japanese.

This underlying unity of flow is, I think, an important element of why Renga works.  In a poetic form that is non-narrative, where the links between verses, how they relate to each other, can, at times, be obscure or even completely opaque, what holds these images together?  I would like to suggest that it is the underlying pulse that gives Renga its sense of unity. 

Elaborating on the river metaphor; the images of a Renga resemble the sights and sounds one encounters on a canoe trip.  If I were to write up my canoe trip as a series of images, in many ways it would have a Renga feel to it.  Except that what would be missing from my write up would be the flow of the canoe on the river itself.  By having a regulated line, Renga offers the poet and reader access to the flow of the journey.

I began chanting my Renga in a very simple manner.  I just wanted to see how that would work.  And sure enough, the pulse emerged.  In a sense one can view the verses of a Renga as verses of a song and it is the underlying meter that ties all the verses together.

The end result of this was to compose Renga as a type of formal verse in English, again mimicking the 5-7-5 and 7-7 syllable count of the Japanese.  This seemed to work well for me.  In fact, by now it has become second nature.

A few years after shifting to a formal verse structure for Renga I encountered some Renga poets who had gone through a similar evolution in their Renga writing.  The specifics differed; they did not move to a more consistently formal usage by reading Carter and Miner, although they were familiar with these authors.  Rather, they found over time that a regulated line gave the Renga a sense of unity and a stronger sense of flow.  My friends didn’t adhere to 5-7-5 and 7-7 that I do.  Instead they would attempt to consider the lineation of the link they were linking to and to mimic it in their own links, thereby giving the overall Renga a greater sense of uniformity.

I am very encouraged by the results of my own Renga composition and those of others.  I believe that a longer line in Renga, longer than one finds in minimalist Haiku, contributes to the overall sense of an underlying current that holds the images together.  And I have come to feel the wisdom of such a formal approach.   Such an approach contributes significantly to the pleasure that a well written Renga has to offer.

At Yosemite

Yosemite Falls
The tall granite cliffs
Pines cling to ledges
While clouds slowly drift

Friday, April 20, 2012


Overcast morning
The sound of two crows cawing
In the windless warmth

Dew upon the Douglas Fir
Seen through the venetian blinds

After a moment
He returns to his laptop
To check his email

Rolling out of a driveway,
The neighbor's new S.U.V.

Bright in the moonlight
Of the waxing gibbous moon
Keeping track of time

Her mother-in-law's birthday
Coincides with golden leaves

At the gift shop
Rows and rows of greeting cards
For all occasions

Reading Ecclesiastes
The minister takes comfort

Even though the snow
Lies in drifts upon the ground
And the sky is gray

Unexpectedly the mist
Rises in the warm March air

Around the plum tree
A few petals have fallen
From a few branches

Two friends have to acknowledge
That they are now far apart

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


The rain's falling all day long
Here on the Russian River
The sky slowly turns to night,
Mists make the trees look darker

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Galactic Time

Venus is crossing
The face of the sun
Here on planet earth
Fresh streams swiftly run

Friday, April 13, 2012

Why They Parted

Poisoned words
Rippling through the rooms of the house,
Wave after wave polluting the days that will follow,
Like a cunning plague infected rat maliciously spreading its flea-bitten sorrow

Thursday, April 12, 2012


Moving clouds
An empty house
('For Sale' for three years)
Long grass obscures the door
A few ghosts sometimes appear
At the large living room window
Their presence on earth isn't quite done
Like building construction that's been delayed
Like words unspoken that I wanted to say
Like waiting for a summer that never will come

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


"Could you repeat that?
I must have misunderstood." --
The mist filled morning

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Elizabeth Daryush Day

Elizabeth Daryush Day

Elizabeth Daryush (December 8, 1887 to April 7, 1977) was a British poet who significantly contributed to the development of syllabic verse in English.  She was the daughter of Robert Bridges, a British poet laureate.  She married Ali Akbar Daryush and lived in Persia for a time.  She was one of the first translators of Hafez into English and I suspect that Persian poetry had a lasting influence on her.

Elizabeth’s father, Robert, had an inclination towards a syllabic approach to poetry.  I suspect that this makes Elizabeth one of the first poets to grow up with a syllabic approach to poetry part of her everyday life.  But Robert’s approach to syllabics was complex and was based on an analytical approach to the classification of different types of syllables.  Elizabeth retained her father’s interest in syllabics, but dropped her father’s analytical approach.  Instead Elizabeth’s approach was strictly aural.  That is to say the number of syllables in a word is what an ordinary person would count upon hearing the word.  Thus Elizabeth’s approach did not require the appropriation of an abstract system.  Rather it is an approach very easy to understand and easy to communicate.

Elizabeth’s poetry was slightly dated in its style in some ways.  Though a syllabic approach is new, many of her word choices and images come from an earlier, Victorian, period.  And all her poetry that I have read rhymes.  This didn’t seem to bother her at all and she continued to write in her chosen style.  Over the decades, with the rapid increase in modernism in poetry and free verse views, this meant that her poetry sounded more and more like a relic from a previous generation.  Nevertheless, Daryush had her strong defenders and she had a following.

The question of using a somewhat dated style is an intriguing one.  I can think of several examples of artists who have wedded themselves to a style which, during their lifetime, became dated, but they continued to work in the style they found comfortable.  I think the most famous example would be J. S. Bach who wrote in a highly contrapuntal manner at a time when that High Baroque approach was being replaced by a simpler, more chord based, approach to music.  None of J. S. Bach’s sons continued in their father’s manner; instead adopting the more contemporary approach.

When an artist speaks in a somewhat dated manner, I think a few generations need to pass before their work can be evaluated cleanly.  Contemporaries will tend to be dismissive because they are breaking new ground.  But three or four generations forward, and the work in question will be appreciated on its own terms instead of contrasting it with what others were doing at the time.  I’m suggesting that this may be applicable to Daryush as well; I’m not sure of this, but this kind of thing has happened before.

Elizabeth Daryush’s most significant contribution for a syllabic approach to poetry was her composition of syllabic sonnets.  Daryush demonstrated that a syllabic approach to the sonnet was efficacious and could work well.  Her most often referenced poems are some of her syllabic sonnets.  Here is probably her most famous one:

Still Life

Through the open French window the warm sun
Lights up the polished breakfast-table, laid
Round a bowl of crimson roses, for one  -
A service of Worcester porcelain, arrayed
Near it a melon, peaches, figs, small hot
Rolls in a napkin, fairy rack of toast,
Butter in ice, high silver coffee-pot,
And, heaped on a salver, the morning’s post.

She comes over the lawn, the young heiress,
From her early walk in her garden wood,
Feeling that life’s a table set to bless
Her delicate desires with all that’s good.

That even the unopened future lies
Like a love-letter, full of sweet surprise.

Notice the absence of iambics, the colloquial usage, and the use of rhyme-defined run-on lines.  The rhyme scheme is Shakespearean, but Daryush divides the sonnet into 8 lines, 4 lines, and 2 lines.  The opening 8 lines give us the setting.  The 4 line section introduces to us the character of the sonnet, the heiress.  And the concluding 2 lines sum up all the previous lines. 

Daryush’s shift to a syllabic approach to the sonnet brings the sonnet full circle back to its origins.  The Italian sonnet was a syllabic form.  When the sonnet was transmitted to England poets were attracted to it, but they needed a few decades of tinkering to shape the sonnet according to the needs of a metrical approach.  So the Italian 11-syllable line became iambic pentameter, and the rhyme scheme was changed as well.

I would like to see some new editions of Daryush’s poems.  Perhaps a selection of the best by a judicious editor.  For those taking a syllabic approach to poetry, and to the sonnet in particular, such an edition would be a wonderful resource.


Waiting for the moon
Rabbits in the hedge
Petals are falling
By the mountain ledge

Friday, April 6, 2012

Looking Back

From the day we met
A thousand years have vanished,
They passed so quickly --
The children are grown and gone.
Winds blow freely through the house.

Translators Day

Translators Day

I’ve put aside a date on my developing Syllabic Poetry Calendar to honor translators; specifically translators of poetry.  And even more narrowly, those translators who have translated syllabic poetry from other cultures into English.  And, finally, bringing this into sharper focus, those translators who have done their best to communicate the formal parameters of the original into English.

Translation is difficult and I feel that translators have not been given their due.  It was, for example, translations of Italian Sonnets into English that introduced that form to the English speaking world.  Many of these very early translations are fine works in themselves.  And that, I think, is the great contribution that translators give to their native culture.  If the translation itself is attractive and poetic, the translation serves as a sign to other poets that there is potential here, something to be looked at and developed.

One of my favorite examples of such a translator is Helen Craig McCullough and her translation of the Kokin Wakashu.  It is the finest volume of translation from the Japanese that I have read.  McCullough keeps close to the formal parameters of the Tanka, the 5-7-5-7-7 syllable form.  This serves as a demonstration of the efficacy of that form in the English language.  Her translations are often excellent poetry in themselves.  And there are judicious notes which help the reader to understand cultural references. 

I think of McCullough’s translation of this ancient collection of Tanka (known at the time of its publication, the 10th century, as ‘Waka’) as an exemplar of what translation should be like.  In the ‘Translator’s Preface’ she writes, “Two basic options exist for the translator of classical Japanese poetry.  A waka may be treated as a point of departure for a very different poem in another language, or an effort may be made to reproduce content, form, and tone as faithfully as possible.  The second method, which seems the more conducive to an understanding of Japanese literature, has been the one adopted here.”

Most modern translations into English of East Asian poetry into English adopt the first method; that is to say the original poems are treated as a point of departure for a very different poem in English.  My view of this approach is that what is occurring is not actually translation.  It is closer to commentary.  At its best the result is a kind of midrash on the original poem.  But because the formal parameters are ignored I do not think that such a procedure yields what I think of as an actual translation.

Fortunately, there are translators such as McCullough, Cranston, Carter, Arntzen, and many others who comprehend that form is part of a poem’s meaning.  This especially applies to poems that are part of a long formal tradition such as the Tanka/Waka and the Sonnet.

So let’s take a moment to express our appreciation for those translators who have opened doors that were previously closed and thereby enriching our own world of poetry.

Thursday, April 5, 2012


She holds her baby
Under the almost full moon --
Another lullaby

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


A few clouds
In the sky
Morning sun
Blackbirds fly

Syllabic Quatrain Day

Syllabic Quatrain Day

Greetings Poetry Friends.  Today is Syllabic Quatrain Day.  I have chosen April 4 to celebrate the Syllabic Quatrain in English poetry.  April is the 4th month, and choosing the 4th day of the 4th month felt like a good day for celebrating the four-lined form.

The word ‘Quatrain’ in English can refer to stanzas in a longer poem (longer than four lines) or to a four line poem.  I use ‘Quatrain’ here to refer only to the four-line poem.  A specifically Syllabic Quatrain would, then, be a four line poem where the individual lines are defined by syllable count, rather than by stress.  The most common Syllabic Quatrain has all four lines having the same count.  But there are types of Syllabic Quatrain where the count varies from line to line.

The Quatrain is, I suspect, a universal poetic form.  It is found from Wales to Persia to China.  In each culture the Quatrain takes on peculiarities that are often derived from the specific language in use.  Thus the Syllabic Quatrain is often embedded in additional rules governing rhyme, caesura, internal rhyme, and consonantal placement.  It can become very complex.

For example, the Chinese Quatrain is a syllabic form that breaks down into two major types consisting of four five-syllable lines or four seven-syllable lines.  In addition to this, there are rules regarding the placement of caesurae and the distribution of tones. 

In the Welsh Englyn, there are rules governing end-rhyme, internal rhyme, the interplay of internal and end-rhyme, the relationship between true rhyme and slant rhyme, line count, consonant placement, and others as well.  I have not attempted to compose Englyn myself, having only recently become aware of this tradition.  But from what I have read the form poses quite a challenge.

One thing I have noticed is that in contrast to these heavily rule bound Quatrain traditions, the English language syllabic Quatrain seems to be relatively open-ended.   There aren’t many regulations beyond the syllable count and, often, rhyme scheme which is always, as far as I have observed, end rhyme. I think one of the reasons for this is that syllabic poetry in general is fairly new to the English language and so syllabic poets writing in English are still testing the field.  A second reason, I suspect, is that contemporary poets view poetry as a highly individual art and tend to resist the weight of tradition and highly regulated types of poetry which are thought of as impinging on self expression.

In those cultures where the Quatrain is highly developed, and has a long history, one can see what I think of as the poetry-as-craft approach.  One of the reasons for all of these regulations in the Englyn, the Persian Rubai, and the Chinese Quatrain, is the same as the kind of rules that evolve around any craft.  In sewing or quilt making certain kinds of patterns and stitching have emerged over time.  In the craft of bonsai certain techniques have developed over the years.  In woodworking types of tools and ways of turning and shaping the wood have been elaborated.  It is a natural tendency for human beings to generate these kinds of formal challenges.

Another reason for these kinds of developments in poetry is that they are fun, both for the poet and the audience.  An elaborated form is a challenge to the poet and part of the fun for the audience is simply to see if the poet can accomplish the task of meeting all the parameters of the form.  There is something genuinely satisfying, as a poet, to be able to write a strictly Shakespearean Sonnet, or an elegant Villanelle.  Similarly, I suspect poets have been attracted to these elaborate Quatrain forms because adhering to them yields a sense of satisfaction.

There is also a sense of connection generated with past poets and contemporaries using the same form.  I have read how the great Quatrain poets of China knew each other, referred to each other and enjoyed the works of poets from the past writing in the same form.  Adhering to a formal structure creates a sense of community and embeds the poem in a history.

I also suspect that part of the elaboration of regulations surrounding Quatrains has to do with the brevity of the Quatrain form.  Given such a brief poem, it seems natural to me that poets would look for ways to deepen the meaning and texture of the poem through the use of these kinds of regulations.

Personally, it was the Chinese Quatrain that opened up the form for me.  My attempt initially was to imitate as closely as possible the Chinese model.  It was a good starting point.  Since then, my efforts at Quatrain composition have branched out.  I have, for example, experimented with line length.  Some of my Quatrains use a shorter line than the Chinese Quatrain forms, while others use longer lines, some much longer as in 20 syllables per line.  I have also opened to additional rhyme schemes and, on a few occasions, Quatrains without rhyme, although I have to say I have not found the rhymeless Quatrains to be satisfactory. 

It was after my engagement with the Chinese Quatrain tradition that I became aware of other cultures and their Quatrain traditions, such as the Rubai and the Englyn.  I think these traditions have much to offer an evolving syllabic approach to English Quatrain poetry.

But I’ve also discovered that many of the regulations of these Quatrain traditions are language specific.  The placement of tones in Chinese Quatrains is a good example, and some of the regulations for the Englyn, I am told, reflect the structure of the Welsh language.  These regulations that are specific to non-English languages often are not transferrable to an English language context.  There is a kind of sifting that takes place as one attempts to apply the structures of the root language to a different language.  Some of it comes through and some of it falls away.

Finally, and I find this humorous, I discovered the great trove of English language Quatrains.  Most of these are metrical, yet for an evolving syllabic approach to Quatrains I have found them helpful.  Emerson wrote some wonderful Quatrains.  Among modern poets, J. V. Cunningham is skillful in Quatrains.  Let’s take a look at a few examples.  Here’s one by Emerson:


Boon nature yields each day a brag which we now first behold,
And trains us on to slight the new, as if it were the old:
But blest is he, who, playing deep, yet haply asks not why,
Too busied with the crowded hour to fear to live or die.

This was the poem which started me thinking of the potential for longer lined Quatrains.  Each line here is 14 syllables.

Here’s another by Emerson:


He took the color of his vest
From rabbit’s coat or grouse’s breast;
For as the wood-kinds lurk and hide,
So walks the woodman, unespied.

This Quatrain is more of a picture, less of a thought piece than most English language Quatrains I have read.  A lot of English Quatrains are self-labeled ‘Epigrams’, meaning brief, sharp (possibly witty, possibly acerbic) observations.  Here’s an example from Dorothy Parker:

The Actress

Her name, cut clear upon this marble cross,
Shines, as it shone when she was still on earth;
While tenderly, the mild, agreeable moss
Obscures the figures of her date of birth.

This is a strong image, painted clearly for the reader.  The title makes the Quatrain a commentary on the folly of fame and the vanity of life in general.

Here is ‘Epigram 76’ from J. V. Cunningham:

Good fortune when I hailed her recently,
Passed by with the intimacy of shame
As one that in the dark had handled me
And could no longer recollect my name.

Here we have a thought piece centered on the personification of Good Fortune.  We have moved away from image into Epigram more narrowly conceived.

Finally, here’s a Quatrain from a series called ‘Sad Epigrams’ by Timothy Steele:

A Short History of Post-structuralism

Words don’t match things, and authors are erased;
Reality reflects the theorist’s taste.
Yet, to the grief of all, the text fights back,
Whether it’s ‘Hamlet’, ‘Emma’, or Iraq.

This epigram is rich in reflection both esthetic, in terms of literary criticism, of modernism, and finally a political dimension.  And all this is contained in a four lined poem; very impressive.

Again, it has been my observation that, for the most part, Quatrains in English tend to be epigrammatic and thoughtful.  This is in contrast to the picture-painting found in many Chinese Quatrains.  I suspect, though, as the English language Quatrain evolves that the range of topics and types will increase.  The syllabic Quatrain has a rich, international, heritage for us to draw on.  Over time I suspect that the English Syllabic Quatrain will develop its own types, additional rules, and traditions, thereby enriching this form.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Sunset Sky

Cobwebs in the sun
A warm day has just begun
In the small garden

A cat sleeps under a bench
That sits near the wooden gate

He pauses and waits
(It is usually on time)
For the bus to work

The driver's calm, yet alert
Threading through heavy traffic

"Please be specific,"
Says the cabbie to her ride,
Turns away and sighs

Clouds overhead stream and glide
Casting shadows on the ground

Rolling through the town
The sound of the old church bell
On Sunday morning

You've had plenty of warning
That this would happen to you

When one's days are few
Feelings are hard to contain
Wind blows where it will

Summer ends with the first chill
One more blanket on the bed

"I think that instead
Of purchasing brand new clothes,
This year we'll make do."

Dawn, with many shades of blue,
Seen through many colored leaves

Falling to the street
Bits of litter from a truck
Falling on the frost

Teenagers, when they feel crossed,
Are prone to much violence

The inconvenience,
When some things happen slowly,
Leads to impatience

Long periods of silence
Calms the agitated mind

Finally she finds
A spot on an empty bench
Next to the fountain

All the models are so thin
Wearing clothes that are so bright

In the morning light
Waves upon the ocean sand
Like a lullaby

In two days he'll say goodbye
To all his friends at college

All that knowledge
In the books stacked on the desk
How will it be used?

She decides it's time to choose
Between career and mother

Among some other
Things she finds an old date book
From decades ago

Underneath some sweaters thrown
On a shelf in the closet

The old deposit
Slips from an account long gone
In a wooden box

The lawyer slowly unlocks
The secrets of the estate

At the iron gate
Ice upon the old brick path
Sparkles in the sun

A few children dash and run
Throwing snowballs in the air

The sun's intense glare
Off the solid stretch of white
Pinches the moment

The new block of apartments
Freshly painted yesterday

There's been a delay
In his plans for higher ed --
Not enough money

"Don't worry, honey,
It's not the end of the world.
We'll manage somehow."

Still, her wrinkled brow
Betrays a sense of worry
As the night deepens

The light of the waning moon
At three a.m., fills the bedroom

He awoke too soon,
Now the dream is incomplete --
Waiting for morning

The moon has already set
A darkness with vague shadows

The night light's soft glow
At the bottom of the stairs
She pauses and smiles

After dating for three months
They spent the night together

Warm April weather,
Fresh wind and sunlight mingle
Under the white clouds

In the city park the crowds
Gather for the holiday

Children's laughter, children's play,
Children's voices beck and call

Cherry blossoms fall
Cheerfully onto the grass
And the garden path

By the stone bird bath
The gardener trims the hedge
With great precision

It is a long tradition
To honor the equinox

In the gift-wrapped box
There's something for everyone --
Grandfather smiles

"I think it might take awhile,
I've only just retired."

The sunset sky is on fire
Clouds of red and orange and gold

Darkness deepens, night unfolds,
Starlight songs from long ago