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Life on the Deckle Edge

Poetry Friday - Seth & Holy Chaos

Seth blessing the animals at Haywood Street Congregation, October 2022.


Greetings, Poetry Lovers - I've missed you! The past several weeks have found me criss-crossing South Carolina as we've just moved from Beaufort on the coast to Travelers Rest in the mountains. My husband Jeff moved on ahead to start a new job, while I stayed on in a temporary apartment getting our house there sold and waiting for a basement renovation here to finish up.  To the usual moving stresses, and my sadness at saying goodbye to a place I dearly loved, we had an awful shock last week.  Our wee doggie Rita fell suddenly and critically ill, and she spent a week in and out of the emergency vet near Beaufort. On last Tuesday afternoon, the day before I moved on Wednesday, I had to have her put down in my arms.  My heart is still shattered. 


But life brings us joys as well as sorrows.  Now we are closer to our kids and are celebrating Seth's birthday this weekend. Since today (Friday) is his actual birthday, I'm offering up something a little different.  Seth is one of the pastors at Haywood Street Congregation, a church ministry in downtown Asheville, NC.  He was their first intern in 2017-18.  After graduating from seminary at Candler (Emory), he joined the Haywood Street staff in the fall of 2021.  It's unique place - self-described as "holy chaos." With a heart for those experiencing homelessness and anyone who feels they have no place at the table, Haywood offers a place at the table.  Literally.  Whether it's a dining table with nice linens and homecooked meals, or the Communion table during a service, everyone is welcome.  


Since Jeff and I are now less than an hour away from Asheville, we'll be able to visit Seth and girlfriend Ginnie more often.  [And we're just two hours away from Morgan and Matt and Baby Sawyer in North Georgia. ] A few weeks ago we got to hear Seth preach - always special for us - and I felt compelled to write about the service, for no particular reason.  No two services are ever the same at Haywood Street! I'm sharing that reflection below, if you are interested.  If you're just here for poetry, that's fine too!


Here are two haiku I wrote when visiting Seth during his internship year years ago, followed by my recent thoughts.




bus stop
the hard places
where she sleeps



bottle rockets, No. 38, Feb. 2018






empty street -
she stoops to pocket
a half-cigarette

Acorn, No. 39, Fall 2017



poems ©Robyn Hood Black




To Holy Chaos


by Robyn Hood Black – reflections on Feb. 26, 2023


It's a crisp February Sunday morning, no rain, in downtown Asheville.


Outside the sanctuary of Haywood Street Congregation, people do congregate. Many have come for Sunday's Welcome Table breakfast downstairs, delicious food prepared with love and served on real plates, on real tablecloths, with real meal-time conversations.  Fresh flowers, too.


Around the grounds and in the garden, small groups huddle. Some people have bedrolls and backpacks; most have lines in their faces belying their age. There is quiet talk, and colorful language, and the jolt of a glass jar breaking on concrete. Always, a few folks sleep here and there and everywhere.


This morning, a table is set up offering immunizations for pets.  Dogs are regulars at Haywood Street, and today they receive some extra TLC.


Inside, a few dozen people await the start of the service. The magnificent fresco is a call to worship, its colors echoed in tall stained glass windows - and in the diversity of the congregation. The space is not overly large but big enough, simple but with handcrafted touches whispering, All Are Welcome Here.


Jody invites anyone interested to come up to be "the choir" and help lead the opening songs.  A few people join without hesitation.  At the piano is a beautiful young trans woman, playing with heart and flourish and abundant talent.


Later in the service, that piano will feel the touch of a diminutive fair-skinned, white-haired 85-year-old woman, as she shares one of her favorite traditional hymns. That music, too, moves everyone hearing it.


Today's announcements include one about the award-winning 2021 documentary on the fresco, Theirs is the Kingdom, and about a new group to meet weekly in support of anyone at any stage in their addiction journey.


To say that Haywood Street's services are interactive would be an understatement.  In the "Blessings and Testimonials" time, anyone is invited to share – a spontaneous song, a personal story, some quiet yearning in a heart that needs expression. Today a young woman sings a contemporary Christian song, followed by a man who often shares his vocal talents. Microphones aren't needed here.


Speakers are open and vulnerable, sharing raw hardships as well as sublime blessings.  There are health concerns mentioned in addition to gratitude that a trailer has become available for one of the singers. A lively discussion bubbles up as well, with a few women sharing how they personally hear God.  Differing views are respected in an invisible web of trust. 


Sermons are dialogical, too, and are called "conversational homilies." Today, after our older piano player volunteers to read verses from Matthew following the church calendar, Seth preaches about Jesus's need to be by himself.  For starters, his baptism was followed by 40 days in the wilderness.  Quiet time alone is not always easy, as the temptation narratives illustrate.


Jesus sought out solitude amidst the demands of his unfolding calling, his heavy understanding of who he was and was becoming.  Seth preaches about the necessity of self-care, which can take many forms. His words resonate with many in the pews in the form of nods and words of agreement. 


True to Haywood Street's motto of "Holy Chaos," the service is peppered with an occasional surprise.  A couple of times, a smiling young man with flapping clothes walks at a fast clip up the center aisle, and out the back of the sanctuary toward the offices.  He is high on something, and waves to a few folks each time, and even to the fresco.


At another moment, Jody opens the door to the narthex for someone.  This happens to occur at the exact time that a cat from the animal table, brought inside because it kept trying to get away, receives its shot – and a hearty, screechy yowl permeates the service.


After the sermon, needs are shared and updates given on situations calling for prayer.  Anyone who wants to speak is heard and affirmed by the lovely and spunky woman guiding this response time.  After every contribution, folks shake a little ring of bells left on the pews or their car keys or otherwise join in to support each need.


The offering comes in the form of music and a volunteer holding a basket up front.  Attendees are welcome to give but also appreciated if they would like to give but aren't in a position to. Communion follows, with one volunteer holding a bowl of pieces of homemade bread, and another holding a cup of juice to dip it in.  Anyone may partake.


Today the service closes with a song, "Blessed Quietness," reflecting the morning's theme. During this last hymn, a man who was stretched out on a pew wakes up and looks around.  Even though the elements of this service and the homily will be repeated on Wednesday, it will not be the same.  This is Haywood Street, and no two days are ever alike.


This holy chaos might not be for everyone, but it's absolutely for anyone.






If you've made it this far in my post and need to find the Poetry Friday Roundup, go "Imagine the Possibilities" with our lovely Rose. And to learn more about Haywood Street Congregation, click here

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Poetry Friday - Some Humorous Issa Dewdrops...

©David G. Lanoue. Rights reserved.


Greetings, Poetry Lovers!


Thank you for continuing on this Poetry Month dewdrop journey with Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828), courtesy of the work of author, poet, and professor David G. Lanoue. (Not sure what I'm talking about?  Here are links to my intro post for April 2  and last week's post for April 9 .)


We'll be delving into Issa's dewdrop symbolism more deeply next week, and in the final post for this year's "bonus" Friday in April the week after that. But now that you've gotten a taste of these glorious dewdrops – shining gems of transience that they are – I thought you might enjoy a little break for humor here in the middle.


As you might recall, Issa's life was full of tragedy and hardship and loss.  His respectful sensitivity to small, vulnerable creatures, disenfranchised people, and even to drifting plants and tiny dewdrops has made his work endearing to generation after generation of readers. BUT, Issa embraced and expressed not just the melancholy or poignant moments of life; his poetry offers up plenty of gladness and humor - often ironic - as well.


The poem pictured above could have been penned this year, right?  Especially in light of the pandemic. 


young folk

just don't get it...

evening dew


Of this haiku, David writes:


Young people don't understand the Buddhist lesson of impermanence that the dewdrops teach.  In Issa's time as in our time, they assume that they'll live forever.  Maybe that's a good thing?



Here are a few more of David's dewdrop haiku translations that I hope bring a smile:





hiki no kao tsuyu no keshiki ni nari mo seyo



face of a toad--

adopt the mood

of dewdrops!



In Issa's poetic vision the faces of toads always appear grumpy. Here, he encourages the scowling toad to adopt the (calm? peaceful?) attitude of the dewdrops.



And another address to a wee creature:





shira tsuyu no tama fumika[ku] na kirigirisu


don't crush

the dewdrop pearls!




A katydid (kirigirisu) is a green or light brown insect, a cousin of crickets and grasshoppers. The males possess special organs on the wings with which they produce shrill calls. Although katydid is the closest English equivalent, many translators (such as R. H. Blyth) use the more familiar "grasshopper" and "cricket." See Haiku (Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1949-1952; rpt. 1981-1982/reset paperback edition) 4.1068-69.


And, speaking of insects:





asa tsuyu ya mushi [ni] moraute tsura arau


morning dew--

washing my face

adding a bug



Issa uses the dew (from grass, presumably) to wash his face. He ends up with a visitor. Issa is the most humorous of the great masters of haiku, but his humor often seems to evoke a deeper level of meaning--as (I believe) it does here.



And last but not least today:





baka tsuru ni tsuyu mo kamau-na kamau-na yo



hey dewdrops--

don't tease

the foolish vine!



Issa imagines that the "foolish" vine is thinking that the droplets on its leaves signify rain (hence badly-needed moisture for its roots), but instead they are only tantalizing dewdrops that will soon evaporate.


All haiku translations and comments ©David G. Lanoue.  Rights reserved.


Many thanks to David for permission to share!


AND:  Wishing everyone a **HAPPY International Haiku Poetry Day** tomorrow, Saturday, April 17! :0)


Be sure to visit the always-fabulous Jama's Alphabet Soup for this week's Roundup.  Are you following the Kidlit 2021 Progressive Poem?  If, like me, you've gotten behind – no worries!  You can jump in any time and get caught up.  Margaret has a list of all the links here.


Keep smiling!

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Happy Poetry Month! April Poetry Friday Series with Issa's "Dewdrop Haiku," translated by David G. Lanoue

A couple of the MANY books by David G. Lanoue.


Greetings, Poetry Lovers -  It's OUR month!  Happy April. 


For all the April Happenings in the Poetry Friday universe this year, see Susan's Poetry Month roundup here.


It's been a year since we all locked down, and some of us have been more productive than others.  Friends of this blog know the name David G. Lanoue – author, poet, Issa scholar, a past president of the Haiku Society of America, and RosaMary Professor of English at Xavier University of New Orleans (he has taught there since 1981).


A natural teacher, David maintains a haiku website where, among other things, he shares his more than 10,000 translations of haiku by Issa (family name, Kobayashi), who lived from 1763 to 1828. You can find those translations, searchable by sunject, here


He also shares an Issa haiku each day on Twitter - @issa_haiku - in English and in Japanese.  (Until Yahoo Groups ended in December, these were also available via email.)


About that productivity… With extra time while quarantined last year, David decided to dive into MORE translating - as in, hundreds more poems.  Issa wrote 20,000-some-odd haiku, after all.  I enjoyed reading the never-before-seen translations.  In the fall, he shared many new "dewdrop" haiku, and that's when I knew I wanted to pass along some of these glimmering gems here, if David was game.  He generously was.


So as introduction, we'll start with a well-known haiku by Issa, translated by many scholars over the years.  Here's David's translation.



this world

is a dewdrop world

yes… but…



You might recall that this poem was inspired by the death of Issa's beloved young daughter, Sato. It acknowledges the transience of life, but then that last poignant line lingers – loss hurts. 


When I read one of David's "fresh" new haiku translations this fall, I recalled that famous haiku and choked up:


gathering dewdrops--
each one the life
of a daughter


tsuyu morite naraberu [musume] ga ichigo kana


David added this accompanying discussion:


In Issa's journal, Hachiban nikki, he initally wrote the kanji for "daughter" (musume), though later in the same journal he revised it to read yome ("wife" or "bride"; Issa zenshû4.211, 4.318). The corrected version achieves the ideal 5-7-5 pattern of sound units, but the fact that Issa wrote "daughter" suggests that he was thinking of his dead child Sato, who passed away two years earlier and who Issa had already associated with dewdrops in a famous "dewdrop world" verse. I've decided to go with the original version. Sato is not alone. Every drop of dew--perfect for just a moment--is someone's beloved daughter, living a short life, then gone. 


Poem translations and commentary ©David G. Lanoue.  Rights reserved.



Now, before you think we are going to be wallowing in tragedy all month, as you might be familiar with the series of losses and challenges Issa faced throughout his life, let me offer reassurance. Issa's dewdrop haiku, like the rest of his body of work, explore the wide gamut of human emotions and sensitivities – from silly to sublime.  David's work gloriously celebrates all of it.


We'll learn more about David's books, Issa, and the dewdrop haiku in these next few weeks.  In the meantime, be sure to check out haikuguy.com.  If you are drawn to the down-to-earth, sometimes humorous, compassionate haiku of Issa, let me recommend A Taste of Issa, published in 2019.  This volume is an expanded version of David's 2012 Issa's Best:  A Translator's Selection of Master Haiku.


As David says, " Bashō is the most revered of the haiku poets of Old Japan, but Issa is the most loved."


Thanks for joining us! Our wonderful Poetry Friday fearless leader, Mary Lee, is kicking off the month with this week's roundup at A Year of Reading.  Enjoy!

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Poetry Friday - Spring!

From Songs for Little People by Helen Stratton, with illustrations by H. Stratton, published by Constable in London, 1896.  Source:  The British Library. 


Greetings, Poetry Lovers!  The Spring Equinox is almost upon us.  I sense we are all hungry for Spring.  (Of course, in our region of the country, Spring storms are nothing to sneeze at.  My family members spread around a few states were fortunate in the recent line of severe weather that stretched through all of them.) 


Now the pollen - that IS something to sneeze at. If the layers of gold covering everything are any indication, Mother Nature is on schedule for all this annual renewal. 


I stumbled on the delightful poem and illustration above, while searching for an image to go with the poem below. So today's post nods to Britain's song thrush twice. (A frequent subject in British poetry.  Here's a bit more about this musical birdie at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.) In my own yard, it's the cardinals, Carolina wrens, bluebirds, Carolina chickadees,  some sparrows and warblers, mockingbirds and brown thrashers making a ruckus.  How about yours?


Here's a sonnet by Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889) for today:




Nothing is so beautiful as Spring –
  When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
  Thrush's eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;
  The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush
  The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush
With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling. 


What is all this juice and all this joy?
  A strain of the earth's sweet being in the beginning
In Eden garden. – Have, get, before it cloy,
  Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning,
Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,
  Most, O maid's child, thy choice and worthy the winning.


More about GMH and his poetry here  and here



Earlier this week, I came across a couple of quotes by Joan Walsh Anglund, and I was wondering how old she was and what she'd been up to.  Her illustrations always brought me joy and comfort growing up, and beyond.  While writing this post (Thursday), I meandered into the news that she passed away today.  (Click here to read her obituary in Publishers Weekly.) Here's to all the Spring she brought into lives all over the world. And here's one of her quotes perfect for the season:


A bird does not sing because he has an answer.
He sings because he has a song.

    --Joan Walsh Anglund


Wishing you and yours a safe and lovely Spring....


*Birthday shout-out to our Spring baby, Seth, who turns 26 next week!* 


Our outdoorsy Linda Baie has the Roundup over at Teacher Dance, with thoughts of Spring and a wonderful original poem about TIME.  Thanks, Linda, and enjoy, all!

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Poetry Friday - The 25th Red Moon Haiku Anthology


Greetings, Poetry Lovers!


Lots of haiku goings-on this past week, which is great with me.


First, on Tuesday and Thursday, I presented an online two-part haiku workshop for the Oconee Cultural Arts Foundation (OCAF - near Athens, Ga.), and I loved meeting the most interesting people who participated!  Our own Carol Varsalona was there, as well as other accomplished, fascinating, curious, and generous individuals.  David Oates, who lives in Athens, made the first workshop - tuck that name into your hat for later as you scroll down.


Second, I've been letting a commitment simmer for a while and am now ready to stir it into something.  A long-distance friend and accomplished haiku poet asked me last year if I would write the foreword for a sparkling collection of her work.  It's the first time I've written such!  I hope to do the fine quality of her poetry justice.  Such an honor!  I'll share more when she publishes her book.


Third, I'm way beyond thrilled to have a poem in jar of rain,  the brand new Red Moon Anthology of English-Language Haiku (edited by Jim Kacian and the Red Moon Editorial Staff).  It's the 25th volume in this annual series, and a standard for excellence in haiku circles.  


From the back cover copy:


The Red Moon Anthology of English-Language Haiku each year assembles the finest haiku and related forms published around the world into a single book.  This volume, twenty-fifth in the most honored series in the history of English-Language Haiku, comprises 163 poems (haiku and senryu), 20 linked forms (haibun, renku, rengay and sequences), and 6 critical pieces on the reading, writing and study of the genre.


Jim Kacian writes in the introduction that it's the "unofficial yearbook" of English-Language Haiku - a great description. 


Over the course of 2020, more than 3,000 haiku (and related works) by more than 2,000 authors from around the world were nominated for inclusion. Eleven editors read these.  Then the works were placed anonymously on a roster sent to each judge, and five of ten had to vote to include each piece.  (The editor-in-chief sat out this last part.)


About five years ago I had a poem included in the RMA by default, because it won honorable mention in a Haiku Society of America contest.  But this is the first time a poem of mine got plucked right out of the haiku universe, so to speak. 


The reason I told you to tuck David's name under your hat is that he has a poem in this volume as well, as do some other poets whose work has graced the pages of this blog over time.  David granted me permission to share his poem, so here are both of ours:





family Bible

two dates by every name

but one



©David Oates. 

Originally appeared in Kokako #32 (New Zealand), eds. Patricia Prime and Margaret Beverland.






cold house

the children in the pictures

divide the pictures



©Robyn Hood Black. 

Originally appeared in bottle rockets #42, ed. Stanford M. Forrester.



I love these Red Moon anthologies, because not only do they offer a sampling of fine haiku from across the globe, they hint at what was going on the world any particular year as well.  Most entries in jar of rain are pretty timeless/universal (as I suppose David's and mine are), but there are also pandemic-themed poems and linked verses. 


The gorgeous cover, by the way, is a detail of a woodblock print by Hiroshige, Sudden Shower over Shin-Ohashi Bridge and Ataki (1857).


You can peruse the many offerings of Red Moon Press here, specifically jar of rain here, and learn more about David and his various creative adventures (including Wordland, his streaming show on UGA's public radio station) here


Karen Edmisten kindly hosts our Poetry Friday Roundup this week - Enjoy!

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