A Hundred Gourds 2:3 June 2013
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From There to Here: Conversations with John E. Carley

| Introduction | page 2 | page 3 | page 4 | page 5 | page 6 | page 7 |

From There to Here (continued)

— by John E. Carley

Yotsumono: Summer Solstice 2011

summer solstice —
low tide clams
siphon our footsteps

pools of shadow
leach into the ocean

hour after hour
penitents offering
sin after sin

and even now the
sweetness of her breast

In an attempt to facilitate said collaboration I came up with the Yotsumono - a four verse renku sequence where two people alternate to create a short but complete piece. Here verses # 1 and #3 are by the excellent Carole MacRury. I'm at #2 and #4. The poem appears in the Little Book of Yotsumonos - on sale via an internet connection near you.

Other than naked self-promotion, Summer Solstice highlights the other general point, that of phonics. Somehow the field of haiku has been invaded by anti-poets who hate themselves and their language - in fact all language. They sound plausible enough, but the reasons adduced are invariably based on a specious depiction of Japanese poetics. I know this because, during my lost decade, I realised it was impossible to get a grip on renku theory without a close analysis of Japanese prosody. So I bit the bullet, bedpost, carpet, dog, etc., and got on with it. From my experience I'd say that French was easier. But Japanese more interesting.

There aren't too many irrefutable facts in life but here's one: you can't seriously write haiku, tanka, renku - or any other genre of poetry for that matter - if you're not prepared to weigh how and why you use words. Given my own interest in fixed and semi-fixed forms I believe I can advance a cogent theory of how, even using three and two line stanzas, we can achieve the same outcomes in English as were central to the historic evolution of the Japanese source genres. If you put "supple stanzas" + carley into your favourite search engine that should do the trick.

The Hawker's Goose, last six of ha 2012

they calculate
just how they can get by
those city dwellers

an unexpected birth
my daughter pleased

in the hurly-burly
of New Year's Eve, at last
four bells ring out

the ignorant man's letter
jumbled up

one good thing
about friendship is
the lack of need for debt

with next door’s racket
sleepless, evening moon

At a pinch those same theories might hold true for verses in translation too. At least give some indication of how the originals feel. Here we have Basho, Yaba, Ko'oku, Rigyu, Yaba and, finally, Basho again riffing on some universals. It's from the Kasen The Hawker's Goose. All my own work. Apart from the originals.

November Frost, first four of jo 2013

November frost —
standing motionless
a line of cranes

the winter morning sun
affects one so

green oaks and cypress,
a mountain hut
caught in a rain of leaves

the ox cart drags on
shedding trails of salt

With thanks to my daughter for advice on some knotty issues of Japanese grammar here are Kakei, Basho, Jugo and Tokoku hitting a more classical note with the opening of the Kasen November Frost (Month of Frosts) . Yes, the second verse really is that awful.

Well, so much for twenty-three years. From There to Here is definitely a record of progress, but more in the sense of pilgrim's than in the inevitable march of. The good news is that I won't be writing for too much longer. The bad news, that I leave you with a poem.

zip #254 2011

      by the time I      reach the gate post
          another leaf      has fallen

— John Carley,                                         
Rossendale, Lanacashire, U.K.
April, 2013


Green man and John Carley, Port William, Galloway, Scotland