Life on the Deckle Edge
Greetings, Poetry Lovers! I've missed you. We've been happily gallavanting around for weeks to a family wedding, to our son's M. Div. graduation, to a belated "holiday" family gathering, and more. Very grateful for vaccines.
AND, life is currently crazy - we are also very grateful to have found a great weekend/holidays family-meet-up house, just a couple of hours away from our grown kids, near the mountains. (We're closing in a couple of weeks.) Soon in addition to our small coastal cottage in the SC Lowcountry, we'll have a small house in the hills of the SC Upstate. It's not far from where we got engaged in the mountains decades ago, or from our alma mater, Furman University - and close enough for easy day trips to Asheville, NC, one of our favorite spots on the planet.
So we have boxes everywhere, with things from here we want to take there, and things I've bought along the way the last couple of weeks. Seth was here after his recent graduation, and has just moved with his girlfriend to Boone, NC. So he was elbow-high in boxes, and Thursday was his first time driving a U-Haul truck. From the looks of the pix they texted, he did just fine.
And finally, in the last bit of boxy news, I received an unexpected email on Tuesday that rent for my studio space downtown was going up - way up. I was fortunate to rent it very reasonably for seven years, and I loved the dappled-light space in the 1889 building, with its high ceilings and windows and worn wooden floors. But the new cost is beyond my artist's budget, so I'm boxing up my shop this week, too. Whew. My artsyletters business is still alive and well - I'm just moving all my work stuff to our house and will have a larger footprint at one of the two local shops where I sell my wares. My Etsy shop still keeps me hopping, and I look forward to devoting more time to it than I've been able to of late.
Anyway, all of these logistical adventures had me looking for poems about boxes. I discovered one by our dear Emily, and though it's not about moving boxes, its subject certainly resonates with my artistic endeavors. (I hadn't read this one before; hope you enjoy!)
by Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)
In Ebon Box, when years have flown
To reverently peer,
Wiping away the velvet dust
Summers have sprinkled there!
To hold a letter to the light —
Grown Tawny now, with time —
To con the faded syllables
That quickened us like Wine!
Perhaps a Flower's shrivelled check
Among its stores to find —
Plucked far away, some morning —
By gallant — mouldering hand!
A curl, perhaps, from foreheads
Our Constancy forgot —
Perhaps, an Antique trinket —
In vanished fashions set!
And then to lay them quiet back —
And go about its care —
As if the little Ebon Box
Were none of our affair!
You can find facsimiles of other Emily Dickinson poems, too, at http://edickinson.org.
Move yourself on over to Carol's Corner, where you'll find our wonderful Round-up and some gorgeous writing. Thank you, Carol!
Happy Poetry Friday! My merry month of May has indeed been crazy-wild-busy, from start to finish. Grateful for several family gatherings and events this month. I'm away from the computer today, but please enjoy the Roundup over at fellow Etsian Michelle Kogan's place, and wish her a Happy Birthday this weekend!
Greetings, Poetry Lovers - Happy to pop back in during a crazy-busy month to celebrate our wonderful, talented, generous, tenacious Mary Lee Hahn!
Congratulations on your retirement from teaching, Mary Lee. Can't wait to learn of your next adventures.
When you become a bit wistful about the classroom, perhaps the following poem will be good medicine. I found it in one of my old favorites in my studio, CROWN JEWELS – OR GEMS OF LITERATURE, ART AND MUSIC … (and the rest of the title is about three miles long.) This particular volume hails from 1887, compiled by Henry Davenport Northrop, D.D., and published by L. P. Miller & Co. (Chicago and Philadelphia).
No author is credited with this poem; if anyone knows who wrote it, let me know and I'll give credit where credit's due, a century and a quarter-plus later!
TEACHING PUBLIC SCHOOL
Forty little urchins,
Coming through the door,
Pushing, crowding, making
A tremendous roar.
Why don't you keep quiet?
Can't you keep the rule? –
Bless me, this is pleasant,
Teaching public school!
Forty little pilgrims
On the road to fame;
If they fail to reach it,
Who will be to blame?
High and lowly stations –
Birds of every feather –
On a common level
Here are brought together.
Dirty little faces,
Loving little hearts,
Eyes brimful of mischief,
Skilled in all its arts.
That's a precious darling!
What are you about?
"May I pass the water?"
"Please, may I go out?"
Boots and shoes are shuffling,
Slates and books are rattling,
and in a corner yonder
Two pugilists are battling:
Others cutting didos –
What a botheration!
No wonder we grow crusty
From such association!
Anxious parent drops in,
Merely to inquire
Why his olive branches
Do not shoot up higher;
Says he wants his children
To mind their p's and q's,
And hopes their brilliant talents
Will not be abused.
Spelling, reading, writing,
Putting up the young ones;
Fuming, scolding, fighting,
Spurring on the dumb ones;
Gymnasts, vocal music –
How the heart rejoices
When the singer comes to
Cultivate the voices!
Making our reports,
Giving object lessons,
Class drill of all sorts;
Feeling like a fool –
Oh, the untold blessing
Of the public school!
Dedicating this find of a poem to Mary Lee and to all the teachers out there, especially after THIS surreal and challenging year! Kind of heartening to know teaching ancestors were going through some of the same things, isn't it?
And a tip of the hat to my third-grade-teacher-daughter Morgan, as today is the last day of class for her students this year. Whew!
One more tidbit for Mary Lee, again without attribution, but tucked into JEWELS FOR THE HOUSEHOLD; SELECTIONS OF THOUGHT AND ANECDOTE, FOR FAMILY READING by Tryon Edwards, D. D. (Hartford: Case, Lockwood & Co., 1866).
CHEERFULNESS AND WISDOM
So I saw that despondency was death, and flung my burden from me,
and, lightened by that effort, I was raised above the world:
Yea, in the strangeness of my vision, I seemed to soar on wings,
And the names they gave my wings were cheerfulness and wisdom.
Soar on, Mary Lee! #MarvelousMaryLee #PoemsforMaryLee
This week's Roundup is hosted by the lovely Christie at Wondering and Wandering, where you can find out more about the Mary Lee poetry celebration, and other Poetry Friday posts, too.
Greetings, Poetry Lovers! I'm dipping in and out of PF this month with travel and some extra family events and such. Today, steer your compass toward the Alps and visit the amazing and wonderful Bridget at Wee Words for Wee Ones.
Greetings, Poetry Lovers - Here's to the last Poetry Friday of Poetry Month, a bonus fifth one this year! :0) I hope the full moon has smiled on you this week.
Thank you for deliving into dewdrops over here this month with recently translated Issa haiku from Dr. David G. Lanoue, author, poet, professor, musician, former Haiku Society of America president, and Issa scholar. And many thanks to David for allowing me to share these gems. Learn more about David here, and more about Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828) here , as well as through David's many wonderful books!
During pandemic lockdown, David decided to add to his 10,000-plus Issa haiku translation archive by translating several hundred more poems, on various themes. One of these themes was dewdrops, and I fell in love with these haiku and wanted to share them, with David's kind permission. Remember, you can search David's translations of Issa haiku on a variety of topics using the online tool here, and you can follow along on Twitter here to read a different Issa poem each day.
The first post in my Poetry Month blog series was an introduction to David, Issa, and dewdrops; the second focused on 'pearls' of dewdrop haiku; the third on humorous Issa dewdrop haiku; and the fourth on more dewdrop poems with some cicadas thrown in, in light of Brood X. For today's post, I wanted to share a few of the translations with a decidedly spiritual bent, as Issa's poems about "this dewdrop world" are inextricably connected to his devotion to Pure Land Buddhism.
For a much deeper discussion of these matters, you can read David's 2008 article in The Eastern Buddhist, "The Haiku Mind," on JSTOR. [Lanoue, David G. "The Haiku Mind: Issa and Pure Land Buddhism." The Eastern Buddhist, vol. 39, no. 2, 2008, pp. 159–176. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/44362411.] In it, he describes Issa's perspectives on Paradise, which also describe his poetry: "Amida Buddha's Paradise is revealed when one opens one's heart to nature - looking, listening, and deeply appreciatating."
Here are some treasures from David's archives, with his commentary following the poems:
asa tsuyu ni jôdo mairi no keiko kana
in morning dew
shira tsuyu no teren itsuwari naki yo kana
the silver dewdrops
The shimmering dewdrops are telling the truth about life (from a Buddhist perspective): nothing abides.
tsuyu no mi wa onaji narabi zo hotoke-tachi
life of dewdrops--
just the same
as the Buddhas
Dewdrops experience (in Issa's imagination) the brevity of life--a key insight of Buddhism.
oku tsuyu ya ware wa kusaki ni itsu naran
when might I become
grass...or a tree?
Issa is referring to reincarnation. The way the dewdrops make trees and grass sparkle, he wouldn't mind being reborn as one of them.
In a presentation on Issa's dewdrop haiku last fall, David noted that:
--Awareness of the dewdrop nature of life is part of the DNA of haiku.
--Issa explored this theme of transience (Japanese: 無常 mujô).
--No haiku poet in history has ever devoted more attention to this theme. ...
tsuyu harari harari daiji no ukiyo kana
drip-drip, this floating world's
The "Great Thing" (daiji) in Pure Land Buddhism is Amida Buddha's vow to make enlightenment possible for all beings who trust in his "Other Power." Here, Issa is using the expression "floating world" (ukiyo) in its old Buddhist sense of the world being temporary and imperfect.
**All translations © 1991-2021 by David G. Lanoue, rights reserved.**
In correspondence with me about these haiku, David added:
"The dewdrop haiku, I believe, represent Issa's most important image--at the core of his philosophy."
MUCH appreciation to David for his generosity in allowing me to share his work here this month. It's a dewdrop world, as Issa said - and we will soon enough move on like dew ourselves - but poetry offers such meaning and beauty along the way, doesn't it?
Thank you for joining me on this Poetry Month dewdropping journey.
To cap off April's Poetry Friday celebrations, Matt has the Roundup at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme. Thanks, Matt!
[Note: We will be busy with a family wedding this weekend; thank you for your comments, which I always delight in reading, though I might not be able to respond right away today/romorrow. In fact, we have several family celebrations in May, so I will likely take a mini-Poetry-Friday-break or two this month to catch up on custom artsyletters orders and ready my shop for re-opening in person in June. But let the poetry continue, long past Poetry Month! I'll be in and out and back soon. :0) ]