jornales

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

nagging rain & wave lashings in THF’s Per Diem February feature

My two haiku in The Haiku Foundation’s ‘Haiku in the World’ February feature on the Philippines:

 

nagging rain

on the moon’s face…

a baby’s whimper

 

The Haiku Foundation Per Diem, February 9, 2015

‘Haiku in the World’ February feature: The Philippines

Per Diem Archive on The Haiku Foundation Website, and the Haiku App

 

wave lashings—

with every breath

the shore yields

 

The Haiku Foundation Per Diem, February 1, 2015

‘Haiku in the World’ February feature: The Philippines

Per Diem Archive on The Haiku Foundation Website, and the Haiku App

 

As you could surmise, both haiku rise from images of natural disasters which had wrought much havoc and suffering in the Philippines these recent years. In the distance, and the years I have lived in Canada, every face in each calamity transports me back home with the same intensity as if I were there and the same emotions and fears rise again as implied in these two haiku.

 

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April 14, 2015 Posted by | haiku | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

shadows (a haibun)

shadows–
how much longer
can we stay?

Shadows have always fascinated me. As a child, I chased them or rather searched for them. Under trees at high noon when the crown of an acacia tree from across our balcony but covered its root space like a clipped parasol, I’d creep to it and hug the ancient roots, basking in its shadow. By the stream where my grandmother scoured the soot off the iron rice pot and skillet, I’d haunt the silken strips of shadows under bamboo grooves and waited on the engorged shadow of a kingfisher that never failed to fly by; damselflies swarmed around that time, too. But by then, I’d be drawing on the dance of bamboo leaves on the steady current for a clue on which side of the stream is shallowest for me to swim. My grandmother had learned from snoops that I sauntered alone at high noon by the stream–even took dips, shedding off my clothes to wear her pandiling* or tapis** (sarong-like cloth) that when soaked weighed on my body and tended to slip off; I had by then showed signs of turning into a woman. Upbraided, I stopped creeping under the shadowed stream for a while. It was then when I began exploring the wooded orchard of a grandaunt and got chased by a swarm of bees I had disturbed. My granduncle had heard my screams and came with a mosquito net plus some kind of obnoxious spray. I suffered a few stings that my grandaunt soothed with dabs of burnt molasses syrup. I had since then, confined my fascination for shadows under ruins and buildings that block the sun off. Why this disdain for the sun, a friend once asked. What answer could I give for some things I have none?

half
of who we are–
shadows

(Prompt from a free-wheeling discussion with Rick Daddario, 19 Planets Art Blog that you can click on my blogroll, about a would-be no-goal project we have on ‘moon and shadows’.)

*Iluko, the tongue of the northernmost region of the Philippine archipelago I was born with
**Pilipino, native language of the Filipinos derived mostly from Tagalog, the dialect of the central plains in Luzon, the biggest of 7,100 islands, where Manila and also my region are located. Filipinos speak four major dialects of the 87 with Pilipino (and English in its varied adaptations to tongue and colloquial expressions) spoken in most of the islands. I speak but can’t write proficiently in Pilipino.

Copyright (c) 2011 by Alegria Imperial

August 23, 2011 Posted by | haibun, poetry | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments