jornales

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

if i could linger (my tanka at LYNX June 2012)

if I could linger
under trees, i would implant
myself to bar
the wind from luring petals
to their deathly dance

LYNX XXVII: June 2, 2012

cherry blossoms at Sakura Park, Upper West side, New York

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May 15, 2012 Posted by | poetry, tanka | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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

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

reggae (haibun)

So, why reggae when I could or must dwell on variations of winter? Even the sun has withdrawn to cuddle up with hibernating thoughts and fur-thickened limbs. It’s cold and damp and gray in my city everyday. Which is why perhaps, this morning I woke up with the sound of reggae on a basin in my mind, the kind you hear on Times Square in New York from the subway station on 42nd and Broadway to the corners of that triangle where Tickits booths stand.

reggae–
the sun dripping
on his basin

Always, a robust sun streams no end on the basin from which reggae artists coax notes to rise  like it were a constant season. But we don’t return after the summer or late spring.

catching a breath
his notes leave for the moon–
reggae

Or under a November sky, without the sun and the reggae artist, we would ourselves be lamenting.

reggae  the sun we can’t find

November 24, 2011 Posted by | haibun, poetry, reflection | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

hummingbird haiga (found in New York)

who senses me
when I’m gone?
hummingbird

haiku: alegria imperial
photo/image: eleanor angeles
found haiku at New York Botanical Gardens (in The Bronx)

First posted separately at NaHaiWriMo under ‘migrating birds’ prompt by Pris Campbell

October 30, 2011 Posted by | haiga, poetry | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

full moon/this full moon

full moon
he smoothens a wrinkle
on her hand

this full moon
swathing New York tonight–
is it love?

(the first is a NaHaiWriMo post for the prompt ‘love’ and ‘moon viewing’)

September 12, 2011 Posted by | haiku, poetry | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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