jornales

for a moment of joy or moments no one pays for, i give myself a ‘jornal’. this makes me rich. try it.

For World Poetry Day: Transformation by haiku (a commentary on Basho at Notes from the Gean)

on a bare branch

a crow settled down

autumn evening

Basho

(trans. by Jane Reichold)

“How true!” was all I could say of these lines, the first of Basho’s that I have read– my introduction to haiku. The spare lines also stunned me yet they opened up spaces akin to meditation. Perhaps, I had thought, I should read it slowly as in praying and I did. The passing scenes I’ve seen in drives had suddenly turned into an immediate moment and I, in it. I recognized the feeling; it also happens when a painting or performance draws me in.  Of course, I was reading a poem and I understood it or so I had thought.

I can’t recall from what collection I read ‘on a bare branch’ among the few books I found at the Enoch Pratt Library eight years ago in Baltimore, where I was then staying. I had just stumbled on haiku, surfing the web for poetry and clicking on the page of Baltimore haiku poet Denis Garrison.  Browsing through the posted works, I thought how easy to do it and so, with the spunk of an ignoramus, I wrote one, responding to his submission call. He sent it back with kind words. It had possibilities, he said, and he even rewrote a line. How encouraging!

I had just ended a long career in media and journalism and on the daring of a friend, had taken up fiction writing in New York and later, poetry—dreams that long hovered in my hard working years. I thought haiku would come as easily as both, which I tackled the way I had wielded words in thick gray slabs. I had studied American, English and continental literature in the Philippines, a country closer to Japan, but had not been aware of haiku until then. And so, I wrote a few more of what I thought was haiku, imitating how Denis demonstrated it and sent these again; I received an outright rejection that miffed me. Yet his advice (or was it a command?) for me to read up on haiku goaded me up the marble steps of the Baltimore library.

The haiku shelf nestled in an alcove of special collections on a mezzanine. The small table felt almost intimate. The few haiku small books felt ancient in my hands, the pages fragile. I could not take them home. I had to take scrap paper from the librarian’s desk to write on. Only Basho’s ‘bare branch’ remains among bales of my notes and haiku drafts. I’ve read more of Basho and volumes of other haiku poets since. I’ve learned that the simplicity and immediacy of the ‘bare branch’ that entranced me had also deceived me. Haiku, after all, is a centuries-old art.  I realized I might never get to an iota of what makes it what it is. But haiku has transformed me since.

Nature and I have turned into lovers, for one, as if I’m seeing clouds, the sun and the moon for the first time, or flowers and birds. Yet, as a child, I prowled bamboo groves and shaded streams to catch dragonflies and wait for the kingfisher’s shadow. As an adult, I walked on streams of blossoms shredded by the wind, relishing fragrances and dreams. I used to throw open our windows for the full moon for me to bathe in. I thought I had shed them off when I left home for North America where I finally live the four seasons with blossoms like daffodils and cherry blossoms or trees that inflame in the fall like the maple that I used to know only as words in poems and songs in a borrowed language from an implanted culture I memorized as a child. But haiku has lent me ways to see things simultaneously through the past into the present, as well as from a pinhole as in a bee wading in pollen to the vastness of a punctured moonless summer sky. I leap from image to thought and feeling simply and exactly losing myself in what a moment presents like how I felt reading ‘bare branch’ the first time.

Some writings on Basho especially in his later haiku identify such a moment as Zen. As a Southeast Asian, I know Zen. It’s part of my heritage. But how come I’m ignorant of haiku? It must have been our destined Western colonization that encrusted our Eastern beginnings with layers of European and American culture, hence, blocking it. In an unfortunate historical accident when Japan occupied the Philippines during World War II, my parents could have learned haiku and passed it on to me. Instead, those years inflicted so much pain that I grew up with my mother’s family trying to survive a pall of sorrow from my grandfather’s execution by the Japanese Imperial Army. Japan, for me, represented the horror of cruelty. Then came haiku. I hadn’t thought of that sadness I inherited when I first started reading on it, delighting even at Basho’s Oku-no-hosomichi (Back Roads to Far Towns) leading me by inroads to Japan.  When the Fukushima tragedy struck last year, I plunged into it, writing a haibun about families being rescued and some haiku, finding myself in tears. I realized a healing has crept deep in me, of which my grandfather must have had a hand.

From my first imitations of Basho, I kept writing haiku that I later found out from rejections were but fragments. Yet two flukes won for me awards in 2007, one from a growing volume of fragments that I kept tweaking as a single entry to the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival, the other, another failed haiku I expanded as free verse for the Passager Annual Poetry Award (Baltimore, MD). These fired me to keep on. I haunted more sites on the web, picking beds for my haiku. Peggy Willis Lyles, my first editor, sent back my submission to The Heron’s Nest, the first journal I dared to submit with kind sweet comments yet I pushed more; until she died none of my haiku made it (one later did with Fay Aoyagi who took over Peggy’s contributor’s list). Werner Reichold of LYNX, on the other hand, loved my first submission. Still, more rejections from other journals pounded on me to give up.

But my prose and free verse had started to crackle with a ‘textured richness’ as one editor described it–obviously influenced by my practice of writing haiku—and made it to literary journals. I’m writing less of both these days, finding in haiku the closer bridge to pure image and thought—more of my haiku, a few tanka, haibun and haiga have been published in other journals since. I’m also reading less of descriptive texts, dropping the first sentence if lacking the synthesis in a line like haiku. I can’t hope to fully know all I must or even write a perfect haiku but I step into its waters everyday and steep myself in its calmness, its virtue that first drew me in.

Notes from the Gean, 3:4 March 2012 pp. 61-62

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March 21, 2012 Posted by | comment, haiku, poetry, reflection | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Here is how I used to post in my blog. The haiku is but part of the text I wrote as a comment at PEN International’s blog. And I was still going by the idea that I would pay myself a ‘jornal’, (daily wage) with each moment of bliss or come to think of it, a haiku moment! Hence, my blog’s name, ‘jornales’. My readers though didn’t pick up on it so I dropped the idea. This would be my 360 something post. If I persevered with my idea of giving myself wages, I’d be a multi-billionaire, by now! Maybe I should start all over again. Because the haiku here is my first and so far, only award-winner, I should double the ‘jornal’ I gave myself then at $2000.

jornales

How can’t I not pay myself a ‘jornal’ of $1000 for the beauty of cherry blossoms? I’m sure you agree.

I used to live half of the year in Baltimore. A trip to Washington, yes, at the Jefferson Memorial and the Mall was like a ritual for me and the friend I stayed with. 

But the very first cherry blossoms I’ve seen and I thought it a miracle was at Washington Square by New York University in Manhattan; we then lived a block away on Cooper Square. And later an even more breath-snagging burst of blossoms on a day the sun descended at its tenderest happened at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens.

Of all the spring blossoms, indeed, that of the cherry tree draws the most awe. How can’t a cloud of pink not make one think of a state or place other than this brown earth. Even just being under the shade…

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March 15, 2012 Posted by | comment, haiku, poetry | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

morning tide/seashore/high tide (my last post at NaHaiWriMo for now)

a.*
morning tide—
still
the heaving waves

b.
seashore–
washed off burdens
lapping at our feet

c.
billows and clouds
fading as dreams—
high tide

NaHaiWriMo prompt: seaside, seashore 07/16/2011
*the only one I posted on the site

I’m taking a breather from writing haiku on the NaHaiWriMo FB site to rethink on where I am and where I’m going with this genre. My writing a haiku has been taking me longer and longer, more tedious because the more I’m learning about what makes a good one, the more conscious I am of each word I put down. I feel that this process is taking a toll on the intuitive way I write poetry as most of the lines I write do seemingly write themselves out in one breath. Not so, with haiku that I want to work; yes, it comes easy when I’m ‘haiku-ing’ for myself or in this blog but when I begin to be conscious of ‘judging eyes’, I falter and fail and I write what for me and often I’m not wrong, a ‘lame’ or ‘yikes’ haiku.

I guess I should try to learn more, read more from Basho who lured me into the art in 2005 when I found a collection of his haiku, honestly the first I ever read having been schooled in continental literature, at the Enoch Pratt Library main library in Baltimore. Perhaps, I should reflect more on how his haiku often turn out as a meditation like in the famous ‘old pond’ where the frog’s splash fractures the silence to remind him that in the stillness of a pond, there is sound, there is life that brings him back from the ether to the frog.

But not wanting to lose my haiku-writing cells, I’m still writing with the prompts privately and continuing with my haibun memoir, some of which or excerpts of which I’ll post here once in a while.

July 21, 2011 Posted by | haiku, poetry | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Wanted: Your haiku for the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival–could be you like me or the novice who won with her first and only entry

Sakura cherry blossoms

My first published haiku, which also won for me an honorable mention, has something to do with this post. The year was 2007, the second year of the Vancouver Blossom Festival (VCBF) Haiku Invitational. I had just arrived from Manila as immigrant to Vancouver and on my first visit to the Marpole Branch public library I read the haiku submission call on the bulletin board. I sent a single entry, “cherry tree/shedding petals at dusk/moths in flight”, that changed my haiku-writing life, which was then quite wobbly.

Ten years before then, cherry blossoms for me, bloom only in words—in the Philippines, the closest equivalent would be ‘kakawati’ tree that blooms in clumps on a twig, which is why we could use it to dance, honoring its glory, holding the ends of the twig in both hands, making it like an arc over our heads as we sway and twirl, and kick our heels when we raise it high to skies over a sun and its court of cotton fluffs or winged clouds.

My first cherry blossom viewing held me jaw-dropping, a stiff neck that evening from looking up in disbelief—how could it be real, the brush of pink descending as breath on eyes which cannot tell between silk and soft rain? The first blooms at Washington Square in New York and the Brooklyn Gardens washed me Oz-like, suspending my disbelief in the Wizard. But it was the street canopy in Baltimore’s Riverside St. that inspired my haiku—my near-dusk walks to the end of the street round a gazebo on an elevated band stand and back toward the sunset on Federal Hill. Magical is a paltry word.

Had I expected Vancouver to be a cherry blossom city? Who is an immigrant who doesn’t realize the place she chooses to live in can never be life in brochures, slices of scenes in the movies, even award-winning documentaries? In the spring, Vancouver skies turn into mere patches of blue through cherry pink intaglio of blooms. Women walking under street canopies of it seem prettier, men to my often-skewed eyes softer, children no longer buds but dwarf trees blooming when under the trees in a breeze wear petals on hair and cheeks.

Submission Call

This year, a novice haiku writer’s life could change, too, like me. The submission call for entries has just been released for the 6th VCBF Haiku Invitational. Anyone from any part of the world can send in haiku starting March 1. Deadline for submissions is May 31. To enter, visit http://www.vcbf.ca and follow the links. Past submissions have come from Australia, Bangladesh, Croatia, France, Germany, India, Israel, Japan, Malta, New Zealand, Nigeria, Poland, Romania, Russia, Trinidad and Tobago, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

This year’s judge will be an’ya, editor of moonset haiku journal. She resides in Oregon. Winners will be advised in the fall. The winning haiku will be published by Haiku Canada, Rice Paper, and on the VCBF website. The top haiku in five main categories (youth, B.C., Canada, United States, and International) will also appear on TransLink SkyTrains and buses all over Metro Vancouver and read in celebrity readings during the next festival in 2012.


Why a cherry blossom festival in Vancouver?

Cherry blossom viewing in this city is considered a sport. About 50 park locations have picnic sites to celebrate the blossoming trees and 23 city neighborhoods bloom with 43 different cultivars of cherry trees in washes of pinks; from a blush to a riot of pinks to pure snow white cherry blossoms–all 37,000 of them.

But cherry trees were introduced to the city only in the 1930s, ‘40s and ‘50s from gifts presented to the Vancouver Park Board, though 500 cherry trees from the mayors of both Kobe and Yokohama for planting at the Japanese cenotaph in Stanley Park honoring Japanese Canadians who served in WWI made the most impact in reshaping the city’s landscape.

The tradition of tall, stately and long-lived shade trees dating from the 1800s gradually changed. In 1958 three hundred more cherry trees were donated by the Japanese consul, Muneo Tanabe, reported in the newspaper as “an eternal memory of good friendship between our two nations.” By the time the Park Board completed its first comprehensive street tree inventory in 1990, nearly 36 percent of the 89,000 trees on city streets were represented by trees of the Prunus genus—the flowering plum and cherry trees. Of the 479 different classifications of trees identified in the inventory, the most common species was Prunus serrulata ‘Kwanzan’, the Kwanzan flowering cherry. (12.6 percent). Further observations on the cultivars, however, favor Akebono cherry trees in recent years.

The heart of the VCBF lies in a 22-hectare (55-acre) garden in Van Dusen Gardens, a botanical garden opened to the public in 1975. VanDusen’s collection includes 11,500 accessioned plants representing more than 7,300 taxa (plant families) and 255,000 individual plants from around the world, representing represent ecosystems that range from tropical South Africa, to the Himalayas, to the South America and the Mediterranean, across Canada’s Boreal forests and Great Plains to plants native to the Pacific Northwest.

The garden design features displays of plants in picturesque landscape settings. Specific garden areas are planted to illustrate botanical relationships, such as the Rhododendron Walk, or geographical origins, as in Sino Himalayan Garden. These areas are set amidst rolling lawns, tranquil lakes and dramatic rockwork with vistas of the mountains and Vancouver cityscape.

Sakura Days

Here, the VCBF Sakura Days Japan Fair as in years past will be held this year on April 2 and 3. As in 2009, pacifi-kana will be participating in Sakura Days, staffing a table to inform and engage, leading ginko (haiku walks) into the garden, and a reading of Haiku Invitational winners on the performance stage in the Gardens.

This year also marks Vancouver’s 125th Year hence a ‘birthday’ theme might be part of the haiku invitational.

(Also submitted for Sketchbook. From pacifi-kana announcements and backgrounder at http://www.vcbf.ca)

March 8, 2011 Posted by | culturati news/views, haiku, poetry | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Angelus (for One Shot Wednesday)

How elating—
the walk by the harbor at dusk: the hour
hardly fits the feeling. Yet, day melting on
to ground and water seeps off as mist,
abstracting realities, transforming
states into half-dreams—a moment
that soon passes.

My feet cease
scissoring, a mindless technique
to cut into the half-hour—the
slice of time at which the heart is said
to pump faster, hastening
the river flow the body has entrapped—
and stilled, remember my childhood
but failing to recall

the minute-
prayer angel Gabriel’s hailing
Mary who was to have a child—a fairly
domestic scene that for ages had mystified
this hour. But brake on my steps holds me
not in prayer to dwell on such angelic
moment. I stand smiling, no less
a fool being alone, at this:

on grass patch a duck pair
bedded as a robin circles blinking disbelief ,
head turning in ways, ‘Lost, am I?’
—a look so innocent as much as
beguiling, a circlet that isolates
stark truths, blinds eyes
to mirrors: this moment
a black figure heaving on the crosswalk
hooded for heat—in the harbor
he makes like home, chills make
for walls—the freeze hangs on his
wiry moustache, a Cheshire grin to passersby
‘God bless!’ So like Gabriel
I imagine in tone yet so unlike

the angel in that his chant and greeting
fall insipid on indifference littering
the walk–I pass him by
resume my steps tight clipped
his eyes trail the dull beat my Reeboks
drum on the bridge. My heart contracts—
startled at the suddenness, the broken
rhythm signals a must

some help: the robin whisks its wings
to my eye path—in the
half-light its wing-spread so like
a minute Gabriel. Unthinking, I stop
to honor a childhood hour, and peering back
at the dark figure the seeping
night has walled in, I sigh
a prayer.

…one of my early poems written in 2008 in a series of what I called ‘journal poetry’ or journals I wrote in verse from memories of my walks at the Inner Harbor in Baltimore right across where I lived half of the year on Federal Hill. Posted here for One Shot Wednesday at One Stop Poetry to share it with you but expecially to a community of artists and poets in this inimitable space whose love for their art ‘spangle’ (my favorite word) the skies (my favorite phrase). Come on in, check us out or better yet, join us.

March 2, 2011 Posted by | free verse, poetry | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Spangled Seasons (for One Shot Wednesday)

Under hazed New York
spheres, spring sousing Riverside, earlier
cocooned in the Moor shedding off
mover’s trip, bundled molehills against
walls –once sparks we strung
onto a nebulae over
nights on Federal Hill—you and
I trudge on.

Trails we looped
between Chesapeake,
Susquehanna and
the Hudson, Venus sputtering
on Pennsylvania woods these,
too, we tucked abreast in
memory, if Manhattan
spares us.

Our cherry
noon-s have leaped into infinity
from finiteness; as well warbled
peace from cypress groves at
Inner Harbor, dandelions mirroring
our masquerade, a yucca spurting
by the window squirrels flying
a trapeze on pines mocked,

ends of days orioles
griped about—we plucked to
spangle our seasons. Soon mere
revenant: Baltimore winters we
skidded, wincing but
un-bruised. I posed for you
that summer cicadas plunged
into passion deaths, smearing

wind shields Fells Point’s
mists we eluded fogged.
Tall suns now spear
mornings at the Moor, we flex
our years on West Broadway: summers
on a mountain lake maybe, a bowery at
Brooklyn Gardens in the fall, sunset
behind Grant’s tomb perhaps, or by

Shakespeare’s lagoon, divining
on its surface the play
of wind on our
dreams

I posted here the first two stanzas of this memoir in verse on Nov. 3 to announce its first publication on Poetry Super Highway, Poet of the Week, Nov. 1-7, 2010. It’s been recently posted on Jendi Reiter’s Reiter’s Block, Great Poems Online, Jan. 19, 2011.

Posted for One Shot Wednesday at One Stop Poetry, where poets and artists who love their art share their work and sustain each other. Join us! Click OSP on my blogroll and find out how.

February 8, 2011 Posted by | free verse, poetry | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

first snow (should be so past tense by now but …)

first snow
in the willow grove–
the waiting begins

First published in Sketchbook 5-6 Nov-Dec issue

…the waiting should be over. Some shoots have started to show in the mulch bed at the courtyard. Vigorous chirping trailed me on my way home the other day when it wasn’t raining; it’s been wet and grey on grey again yesterday and today. Here where there’s more rain, I miss the blinding white snow I used to skim around filigreed edges of the harbor in Baltimore. Oh, last week, a light flurry sent me grabbing for my woolen hat on my way out. I had by then put on my boots–too hot for the day it turned out. The flurries faded in an hour left frozen on grass like belated words. I should bus up to the almost all-year-snow capped mountains that frame Vancouver like Whistler but…

The haiku came to me on a walk by the ball field lined by willows in the neighborhood, not quite a willow grove, really. But I imagine it is and the bent branches looking for their reflections on the water like women obsessed with their long hair. Since their hair like the bare, dried willow twigs have lost their sheen in the ‘winter of their years’, their waiting begins perhaps for their youth to come back like spring. I don’t know–I’m making it all up. But I guess what I’m trying to say is I never really know why I write a haiku the way it is written. I still need to learn to be aware why.

February 4, 2011 Posted by | critique/self-critique, haiku, poetry | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

harbor walk (with rewrite or turning a ‘hanging’ haiku into a tanka)

harbor walk–
webbed-steps tailing us
into the sunset

This haiku, which I’m not sure whether it’s a half- or non-haiku, brings me back to the Inner Harbor in Baltimore. I walked for an hour everyday at sunset way back when I lived there half of the year until four years ago when I started to wait out here in Vancouver for my Canadian citizenship. Most of my early haiku, when I was still groping through it as well as my other poetry, are images of the harbor, Federal Hill Park and the neighborhood.

Rewrite from haiku that hang to a not-sure tanka

harbor walk–
webbed steps tailing us
into the sunset
in blind paths that waver like words
we mislead even the winds

This haiku I posted three days ago seemed to hang, no not seemed, it hang! But I just couldn’t clinch it and so, again, it wrote itself as a tanka. I’m unsure though if indeed it is a good tanka but I like the poem it has turned into.

February 1, 2011 Posted by | haiku, poetry | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lullaby (yet another lyric poem from haiku-strays)

I wrote this poem on one of the early days when obsessed with learning haiku, the form seemed to shape my brain–wherever that part is where words run into lines. This thought, this memory sparked after I wrote a personal essay that I submitted to Passager about my grandmother’s bath-hair washing ritual (“Digos: a ritual” also posted at my other blog, http://filipineses09.wordpress.com). The rhythm apparently timed in with my measured strides during my daily walk at the Inner Harbor in Baltimore where I lived then. Water, birds: seagulls, ducks, robins, ravens, orioles, sparrows; trees: conifers, chestnuts, magnolias; weeds: dandelions, clover, jewel weeds co-inhabited the dome–a span of sky. I walked daily toward dusk, which is why perhaps this poem—or haiku that strayed—is a lullaby.

grandma on a swing
flying on a lullaby–
a smile thin as breath

combing her hair, my fingers
the teeth untangling silk knots–
her tiara

cheeks I kiss–once
a cushion of veined organza
now loose ripples

Paloma, she warbles–
a dove, my name, alights
on her lips, flapping wings

moons chasing suns
sprout wings–in the darkness
whispers grow eyes

in her flight

December 21, 2010 Posted by | free verse, lyric poetry, poetry | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

cherry blossoms and haiku

How can’t I not pay myself a ‘jornal’ of $1000 for the beauty of cherry blossoms? I’m sure you agree.

I used to live half of the year in Baltimore. A trip to Washington, yes, at the Jefferson Memorial and the Mall was like a ritual for me and the friend I stayed with. 

But the very first cherry blossoms I’ve seen and I thought it a miracle was at Washington Square by New York University in Manhattan; we then lived a block away on Cooper Square. And later an even more breath-snagging burst of blossoms on a day the sun descended at its tenderest happened at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens.

Of all the spring blossoms, indeed, that of the cherry tree draws the most awe. How can’t a cloud of pink not make one think of a state or place other than this brown earth. Even just being under the shade transforms us a bit like we seem to grow haloes.

My memories of walking under canopies of cherry blossoms in Washington and Baltimore on Riverside had endured and even inspired me to write haiku–as well around the blossoms hundreds of haiku have been written.

Now that I live in Vancouver, another cherry blossom city, my awe may never cease. I would like to share this haiku I wrote after a walk on Riverside in Baltimore.

 

cherry tree
shedding off petals at dusk—
moths in flight

Copyright © 2007 by Alegria Imperial
Honorable Mention, 2007 Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival Haiku Invitational

 

posted as comment at PEN Blogs

April 22, 2009 Posted by | poetry | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment