Hai! Snaps!

Hai! Welcome to the file cabinet’s SNAP ALBUM, filled with WORD-SNAPS, mostly momentary impressions concisely expressed, and related explorations. Like a low-tech smart phone, even the old pen-&-paper may catch, transmit & evoke image, text, thought, echo & link from time to time, with ability to add ring-tones & visual pops on-line.

vrb-bright flora 001

Menu— [underlined pieces include prose]

Jan. to July–bits & pieces;
Choice Filters– 3 levels of selectivity;
Fresh Bits: Off to the mountains! (1-31-17);
      slanting solstice sun (12-21-16)
the WORD-SNAP Idea–poetry’s 3rd domain

Welcome to Inspiration
Rickety Bridge, Crooked & Bent, Jai!
Digging for Mudville, Floating in the breeze…
“Windows open,” “despite recent rains,” “with curtains for sails,” “light-headed,” “Turning time around,” etc.
–Back in town…
–births & memorials; –the main music
–Basho’s Umbrella; ~~after the rains
~~to Ish; ~~history of the hole
~~ the writer’s challenge

Thoughts further out:
 Spring Sprang Sprung: Season Words
Form, Fabric, Function & Formula
–Why hai, no ku
~~~~~[not up yet]

Jan. to July–bits & pieces


my country car-wash–
driving the puddle without
sloshing the windows

such expressive range
in its bush conversation—
black-headed grosbeak

(so sociable
a young one sat on my hand once
held out full of seed)

big wood pile
building in midsummer—
half way to go

(grown half a year,
consumed half a year)


summer sky
cumulus birds float
between horizons

even without words:
passing the poet’s mailbox
—a blank thought dropped off

sine qua non
medulla oblongata
persona non grata

If your thoughts are as sassy/   saucy
as your eyes are glassy/ glossy,
well, count me in

(with haiku for songs
& a leaky bucket for
carrying tunes….)


[The following little drivel from April was inspired by the Christopher ‘Kit’ Marlowe story, found tracing Shakespeare’s ghosts for the Bod’s Unmasking Will project. The statue is at Marlowe’s old school in Canterbury.]

Muse of Poetry
from her devoted servants
inspiring verse still

her nippled liquors
give no rest once poet’s tongue
has been so blessed

Canterbury boys—
who would-be bards become
suckers for a rite

climb up for a kiss,
stay for a wash & a lick
or quick kneel before

her loosely draped thighs
between their eyes, her fingers
blessing their auras

statuary’s rocket fuel
seducing their pens

poetry & love
neither complete
without the other

born in sensation,
grown in sense, become as
intangible as breath


Choice Filters– 3 levels of word-snap selectivity

The first choice or selection happens responding in the midst of experience, when an impression offers itself for noting, triggered by an image, sight, sound, event, thought, moment charged with a sense of meaning, effect, &/or felt impact. Ah! Oh! Aha! Snap!

The impact may seem to come from without, like the scene that prompts a photograph, or any observation that produces a tangible response. Snap! Or the impulse to receive may originate in the poet who intentionally tunes attention to available material. Implicit in the  act of noting the snappable moment (at least to writers & other artists) is the potential for sharing (even if only with oneself in & at another time).

With the cost of paper & ink (& also the visual image) now so low, no one needs to pre-screen what’s written down very carefully for openers. Right words may still be missing, others temporarily holding the place–maybe hardly more than a few scribbles, like the suggestive lines of a quick sketch, mostly in the white space, which the poet may work with in the darkroom later. Of such notes, some take enough shape to make round 2.

The second level of selection happens in organizing a personal album, where there are still no hard & fast criteria. Even a blurred image may be worth keeping if it evokes worthwhile feelings of the experience, but not necessarily the shot of the thumb over the camera lens or the accidental snap of the dark pocket. It’s your album, after all. Make each snap as sharp & evocative as it deserves.

At this point, you can say, “This is enough. My albums do what I want them to.” They may be shared with interested friends–as arguably something between a personal collection & a modest artistic achievement. As dance & music most obviously demonstrate, no art-forms or practices exist only for the great masters–or the masterworks would never exist. Even for the humblest beginner, the main rewards come from the doing, not the product, except as reflection of the making & vehicle of its spirit.

The third level of selection takes place when choosing material to share the product of what’s made more openly, specific works of poetry or any other art, including issues of with whom, in what venue, and for what purpose. One must then confront the question of artistic value most directly. Is it any good? Might prospective readers find value–pleasure, enjoyment, humor, perspective, insight, realization, transformation in the experience? Will they find it worth their time & that of others on its own merits?

Given the strength of personal experience, both the original & the creative response, this third level can be especially challenging for the maker, but also potentially useful, encouraging the practitioner to experience the work as a newcomer might, to see it from various perspectives, exploring the nature of value in art & practice.

Some great writers & artists made a point of never doing (or at least offering) the same work twice. That’s a bigger challenge for the photographer, faced with the same scenes hundreds of others may have caught before, yet each in changing light & circumstances. How many different kinds of originality are there, in photography or any other art?

A scene of beauty or wonder may be as fresh to the ten thousandth photographer as to the first. In the end, the pleasures of personal experience & of craft can become embodied in what’s made. Does it matter that others have celebrated the same scenes & experiences before, or even that you have? Well, yes & no.

You could say that following the Basho way was already derivative, merely copying, but for the respect shown in the way itself for the facts of original experience. Words matter, but experience is the touchstone. Art happens in the play between perceived image & experience, or, in poetry’s case, words & experience. Words can carry &/or evoke both visual image & the auditory, a sound-play as well as visual & conceptual sense.There are many sources of possible pleasure & other values, in other words…. [to be continued…?]           

These thoughts were triggered today (3/20/2017) skimming this page for  “1-10 haiku or one-line poems” calligraphers might work with & then hang from trees in conjunction with a “poets’ picnic” in May.

I’m struck first by how few of my little word-snaps below seem worth sending. It seems an album can join personal & aesthetic elements in a way happily sharable with family & friends without making any claim on the more impersonal realm of “artistic value.”

It’s quite a different question to ask whether a particular piece has what it takes to bring value to others, e.g., strangers, grappling with issues of artistic value in their own lives & work. My first response is that, while hardly anything of my own seems to qualify, some of Virginia’s immediately stand out: 

when I look at this moon
I think of you…

when I call you say
I’m writing about loneliness
–call me back later

even among pines
some loneliness remains

tchip tchip tchip tchip
nuthatches fling out
chips of bark                  (vrb)

A quarter century ago, in the days when I was still sending work off for publication, I dropped one of Virginia’s little gems in the mail as we were driving out of town on a long trip east, and when we got back, she had a $250 check in the mailbox for what the Kaji Aso Studio had named “best haiku in English” for that year. Something like–

before dawn–
white lilacs
in their own light    (vrb)

It may be worth noting that I had done the choosing, in that case from a pile of 3″x5″ cards on which they’d been scribbled. A friend whose responses one appreciates can bring tremendous advantage to this level of selectivity, a bridge between personal & “the field.” The friend can be partner, companion, fellow traveler, any true reader, or, perhaps, an editor/publisher downstream. Although it may not show up in by-line or attribution, there’s a tremendous ‘network effect’ in creative work, not just in influences received, but even more, in the reaching out encouraged.

Although some of the stanzas are unchanged in the group immediately below, others improved or only came into existence striving to make something responsive to the Weathergram invitation–& today’s deadline. Maybe there’s a 4th level that only kicks in when sending off is imminent…. In any case, here’s what I skimmed from my own recent scribblings to offer.


Poets Picnic, a year in absentia 

blonde fields–
first signs of green
close to the ground

wind then, sun now
this life is no abstraction
–intermittent drivel

pearls of wisdom
beads of folly
ready to string

with colors flying
mirrors on each line take on
countless shifting lives

noisy water
noisy bees
noisy mind

no reason to write
another word—and yet
they keep on coming

birds nest in her trunk 
   lizards catch flies by her feet 
       she creaks in the wind—

just 600 miles—?
so we’re 1/310th of 
a light-second apart!

snow on the mountains
in the valley, pinyon smoke
from every chimney

no prints in, none out
poet’s picnic in winter
just a memory

of which the choosers chose (for hanging as Weathergrams & the Poet’s Picnic chapbook):

blonde fields–
first signs of green
close to the ground

noisy water
noisy bees
noisy mind


along with Gita’s

rickety bridge
my shadow falls through
without a splash

sunshine in
a fragrant rind–
backyard grapefruit

& Virginia’s:

when I call you say
I’m writing about loneliness
–call me back later

even among pines
some loneliness remains

tchip tchip tchip tchip
nuthatches fling out
chips of bark                  (vrb)



Off to the mountains!–
a silent afternoon (with Ish from afar) 

[To save my poor larynx, which inflames with even modest use, and still share conversation, we started with two yellow pads, passed more or less back & forth as our excursion progressed. He arrived around noon, moved his gear to my vehicle, which knows the road, and we headed north towards Dragon Mountain. Ish’s words are in quotes–far fewer on paper, since he could also speak out loud. The photos up so far are from earlier albums, to be replaced with ones from the day when possible.]

Worlds falling apart,
markets crashing?
Off to the mountains!

summer in winter
two old roosters fly off
like spring chickens

a dozen false starts
while mostly staying true
when it counts

Santa Fe Trail —arrow to right
arrow to left—Hermit’s Peak
I hand the pad—& point

[Exchanging pads, I hand what’s above,
while his pad asks, “What’s the name of that mountain to the left?”
The next exchange included the 2 following.]

“shed roof sagging,
large space
 where sky looks in—
like my head”

every house
has its story—
the old road

(so-&-so lives here;
Jill killed there—accidental
bullet through a wall)

“writing & driving!
words are oxygen to you”

more like
carbon dioxide—
hot air

the wild & scenic way–
my finger follows the far ridge-line—
an 8-mile road, us in the middle

behind the mountain—
how much forgotten, unless
bones remember

hard to keep from speeding
the heart races
getting closer—

faced with snow & ice,
we back up from the crossing—
ah! new beaver chew!

sound of the mountain,
sound of the river,
let’s go listen!

gift of such a day—
we clear part of the old bridge
from fallen alder

see worlds in patterns
in ice, in river
in reflections

low sun—
a cool wind blows through—
time to go—



      slanting solstice sun
on the back wall the print of
           –a shining tiger
Snow on the mountain
in the valley, pine smoke
from every chimney

in the bleached pasture
three dark horses graze as if
there’s no tomorrow

(as if they knew snow
would fully cover the ground
before morning)

in the sky,
long thin streams of tinted clouds
lit from within

the word-snap idea//–poetry’s 3rd domain

hai! born again
with each new start
the word-snap idea

To Ansel Adams, making a photograph was often both a poetic & musical experience. Some poetry turns words into music. Poetry can also be photographic. Art changes with the artist, as our idea of life changes with evolving forms, contexts & relations.

As there are different “domains” of life, so there seem to be of poetry also. Organisms make sense of what life is mostly in terms of the perspective shaped by their forms. More or less the same can be said about the domains of poetry, whether identified by inner spirit or apparent form. The first domain seems to grow out of babbling, being carried & swung around, rocked, held & danced with, becoming nursery rhyme, nonsense verse, verbal cartoon, saucy ditty, humorous tongue twister, & playful little game-song.

Equally deep, if not deeper & earlier, there’s the lullaby full of feeling. Arguably, this could be called the first domain, its roots as ancient as feeling. It seems to me that lullaby & some rhymes (like “twinkle twinkle little star”) go deep enough to be right at the fork or the bridge, with some characteristics of first & second domains.

What I’m calling the second weaves this more subtle music of feeling with threads of dream, image, sensation, reverie, personal discovery & thought to become most old & modern poetry–the lyric, lament, lovesong, & elegy, as well as the narrative, all with measured or unmeasured lines branching through countless variously defined forms, from the highly formatted to free, pithy couplet to epic of incantation, sonnet to song-cycle, manic ballad to obsessive pattern &/or ‘air-harp’ warp. Whether collage of metaphors,  philosophical discourse, confession, story, or some garbled mixture of these with snippets of melody, verse, image or whatever, the second domain is even more varied than the first.

Hai! verse or Snap-poetry may be considered a 3rd domain, growing from the individual word-snap–the impression of a moment concisely expressed. Not explained,  analyzed or summarized–just experienced & expressed. Taken singly, the word-snap tends to be highly photographic, a moment of perception, a specific noticing: just that, nothing more, nothing extra; a what in a setting, at the intersection of where & when, now. Snap!

But who can stop at just one? Add more, whether by the same maker or others, and expanded potentials emerge–to extend the portrait, fill out the album, produce a lively show, tell a longer story, explore the diversity of the world, enjoy exchange & surprise (of part with part or person to person) in a ‘playful conversation,’ as in the roots of the Japanese term haikai. In haikai no renga, literally, the “playful exchange style of linked poetry.”

Despite association with masters, the haikai approach is inherently humble, down-to-earth, easily appreciated, understood, & practiced–as easy as snapping photos, on the one hand, & engaging in lively conversation on the other. In both cases, people “respond to whatever’s happening,” as Basho put it. As in any art, not every try makes something memorable, worth coming back to later, even by old-timers adept at darkroom tinkering.

A good part of the value comes from the experience itself, besides, beyond any obvious outer- product–rewards in the doing, in other words. As with dancing or playing a  sport, various pleasures emerge from the activity, along with personal, ‘interior’  effects, like a more finely tuned awareness, more sensitive attention, the glow of exercise.

As with today’s digital cameras, the basic technology is simple enough that even a rank beginner can get lucky, catching lightning in a jar of verse or lightning bugs in a net of air. just by going snap! Or so it may seem once one gets a feel for it. More is also going on, under the surface, e.g., paying attention, framing, noting, composing, tweaking the words, order, & arrangement…exploring possibilities in search of that click! that aha! a sense of aesthetic resolution within the creation.

Though it includes many highly developed traditional (& still evolving) forms, the word-snap practice needs little literary training, being as open to beginners as to veterans of creative experiment. The most  veteran practitioner remans a beginner; the most faithful to tradition goes on exploring new territory.

Although knowing old territory may inform one’s sense of the new, lack of pre-conception can have advantages, too, since it’s ultimately the craftsmanship of attention, quality of engagement & integrity of expression that usually count most. The great haiku teacher Basho never used the word haiku. He also broke outer rules to better transmit the inner nature of artful practices.

Working with the simplest elements, he shared his down-to-earth way with people of all walks of life, trades, & levels of education, i.e., ordinary folks, presumably like us.


For the humble practice close to home, then, where not otherwise indicated, most of the following are by Yours Crudely (rb). The conversational element naturally opens to others, however, starting with other members of the Bod’s self-reference staff.

tchip tchip tchip tchip
nuthatches fling out
chips of bark                  (vrb)

like a summer day–
though the cottonwoods are bare,
winter’s tomorrow        (rb)

This conversationally responsive spirit extends beyond persons & stanzas to embrace the confluence of forms, genres & arts working & playing together. The artwork following is from the vrb gallery, though photos mostly by Yours Crudely.    

This sense of conversation responsive to experience extends across time also, as well as across borders & languages. The Bod’s prior Basho web-site has disappeared, so  a whole new Basho wing is being prepared, with in-depth discussions of his approach to haikai, renga, & the mixed-media sketch. 

For newcomers in the practice, a simple guide to the technology called “Make Yourself a Word-snap Camera” will be available on request. Beginners & veterans alike may find some thoughts of interest at the bottom of this page, in the section for essays. As in any art, craft, & practice, the main definition takes its own shape by example.


Welcome to Inspiration…

Moments snap in place, between breaths, while time rushes on & through as we put a quick pen to the log book at Inspiration, our one-room sounding-box tucked into the south-facing slope under a twisting pine where the creek bends. Facing willows & alders, thick oaks & cottonwood crowns, plum thicket & apple orchard, steep Dragon Mountain slope & sky beyond–the single shed-roofed room of cedar, spruce, pine, a patch of oak flooring, a wall of casket boards, has a loft framed from two leaning pines the river toppled in flood, its spruce ceiling like the inside of a roll-top desk.


opening the door
& stepping in–every time,
the wood’s sweet incense

I spent most of a winter here working on  Basho about twenty years ago, translating snowdrifts, blizzard winds & creek ice cracks with Wookie, a mixed chow, for companion. It was  built in 1990-91, first with Robbie, Gus & Raymond, then with Mitch for most of the inside, including tile & loft designs. Gita made the corner shown below from available saw-scraps.

IMG_1554We started with the doors and windows from the back room of a local warehouse, putting the rest around these–with sound as well as views in mind. We half-joked it was a musical instrument, pointing where strings could go. Now it catches & resonates bird & water talk, too sound-lively for much human conversation, but highly conducive to listening.


Most of these humble little snaps below are from the log book at “Inspiration,” given a short entry every visit, along with a few sequences from town in a different vein. Near the end, at the bottom of the page, there’s a mostly prose piece on seasons & season-words, triggered by hearing an interview with Gerald Vizenour on NPR’s “New Letters.”

Authors are indicated by initials (e.g., gsb for Gita above, vrb for Virginia below). Ones without are by Yours Crudely (a.k.a. rb, rmb, db, etc.). The most recent groups tend to be  nearest the top, post-style, heading back in time scrolling to sequences lower down, but not exclusively. The first sections (2015-2016) are more or less chronological, for example, though prior groups may be so only within themselves.

Better editing would give them a more fitting impression on the page, improve layout & probably add more images. In the Word versions of the same material, stanzas often curve and meander on the page in ways that don’t easily translate onto the website yet. The further down one scrolls, the more editing is probably overdue. Think “raw log-book.” [Most present content should probably be replaced with click-opening files for better layout & illustrations. For now, more pictures can be found on the Galleries page.]



from Inspiration Log

mid-winter thaw–
on the north-facing slope
snow & slick ice

blond grasses
grey branches
blue blue sky

rickety bridge
my shadow falls through
without a splash                                    [gsb]

IMG_1320Hai! stopped in mid-step–
listening to what’s flowing
between cracked boards

(my foot sank, too)                                 

sound of the water
drowned out by
sounds of the wind

a trickle
inside a roar–/ mountain creek & wild air

“Hope these trees have the
good sense not to be fooled into
budding too soon–”

whiffs caught on the breeze
cottonwood buds, like what’s called
“Balm of Gilead”

trees sway in the wind,
grasses spring up from the roots
pens leave a track

no reason to write
another word—and yet
they keep on coming

40 years or so
we’ve been hanging out here
–always a last time

you can pry my pen
from my cold dead hand—or not,
I’ll send you a note

any last words?
I ask Gita, pointing
to the log-book

pfew!!–and with the plane
leaving, the last words were
never spoken~~~~~~~   (gsb)

noisy water
noisy bees
noisy mind

a trickle, burbling
a humming in the quiet
–mother’s cosmic ring

[The following on our first time back at Inspiration after V’s fall, cracked skull, air transport to UNM ER, and week in the “senior psychiatric unit” for observation & strength building, driven home by Gita, who had spent the week with her in Albuquerque.]

I’m crooked & bent
–grateful & unbowed  (vrb)

a long time away
traveling to far off lands
without touching ground

such silence!
our mountain home
–sweet thunder!        (vrb)

[such silence!
our mountain home–sweet thunder
inside? outside?        (vrb)]

willow in bud, cottonwoods half leafed
apple, pear, plum in bloom
river strong                 (grb)

inside? outside?
busy bee hive
in the rafters               (vrb)

smell of wild plum–
come in! the doorway
is open–                      (vrb)

and the whole valley
lined up along the road–blooms
to welcome her back


thick with summer rains
the willows without a thought
beyond leafing out

green, green mountain fields
sprouts, seed-heads, flowers, sweet smells
of skunk coming home
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 7/8/15

penstemon, paint-brush
for the hummingbirds–
purple thistle for the moths

left in the loft
Lucy’s shadow
bright as the sky


48 years ago
arriving in Pondicherry
–the same incense

Harmony—one sniff,
held between parallel palms,
breath straight from the sky

(such a loud ringing
echoes of more dimensions
than fit in one head)

mind spreads out
melts into its picture
transparent as air

the sounds of rain on
wood cabin, slowly soaking
into the dry deck

today’s road–
lined with crowds
of sunflowers

the path to the bridge
arched over with clover still
tips dripping last rain

IMG_1596~~~Digging for Mudville

At the beaver pond—
no dam, no signs of recent
rocks, sticks or branches

I contemplate the freely
flowing stream over the lip

only after he
dives do I realize what
I was looking at

face to face with bright eyes—
 tail flipping while turning

~~~~~a large turtle, front feet on
bank, suddenly dives deep

a muddy cloud left
in its wake, the only trail
to having been here

~~~~~the picture taken
~~~~~only after he’s gone—with
~~~~~nothing there but blur

closer in, I stop to peer–
a frog hops by to where
the turtle had been

stops to look back,
still sizing me up–
a bush between us

poised to flick itself
beyond reach & sight should I
more threat than I seem


At the dam side of the beaver pond now there’s just a slight ridge under water, no remnants of the branches & rocks, twigs &  mud fillings, with a smaller pool over the downstream edge—where the turtle went in. Not your average pond turtle of the kind I used to find on stumps in lake coves as a boy, but much larger, flatter, closer to the sea turtles I’ve seen only on TV. 

He’d been still at first, bolting only when our eyes met, while mine were still focusing, having heard me approach the steep bank above, a shadow that stopped to look….   IMG_1594

The notes above say “to the deep,” but in fact, there are only shallows, not so deep a turtle hunter couldn’t have gone in after, feeling through the mud-cloud, ready to grab in response to a rush up or downstream. I left the pool undisturbed, only the barest shadow of an imagined stick feeling through the mud in my mind, hoping the turtle might find this pool a perfect place to stay a long while. (Next time, I’ll try sneaking up to see without being seen, to keep from disturbing it at all.) 

[How many turtles can you find in the photos above?]

The next time I go,
I sneak up on the…
empty spot….

“How many turtles this time?”
my son asks when I return.

As many as the river/ had sticks poking up–!
–but not as many/ as the rain had ripples—


~~~Floating in the breeze

IMG_1604  floating in the breeze
with both cabin doors open
mild October wasps

as in the old days, they drift
with no hint of nastiness

a gentle lot these
creatures preparing to die
before winter comes

provisions made for next spring,
they’ve lived their long summers out

into the fall air
winter slips in with the night
along the storm’s edge

this Indian summer day
with late sun’s extra blessing

my mother’s face
a century after her birth
–eyes open & closed



“Windows open”

Windows open
the last cool drops just in time
to taste the sweet air

after the shower
sunlit jewels shine
from every leaf

a few minutes of
sun is all it takes to be
…carried away–

10 minutes later
the next storm pulse blows
bands of horizontal rain

sheets in slants
cross-hatched with gusts–
patches of sun

just breezes & calms–
curls & swirls from ridges, a-
rroyos & canyons

so many different
weathers packed together in
a single visit
Despite recent rains”

Despite recent rains
a dry rock riverbed snakes
through the lush willows

after the light shower —
all the leaves & flowers lit

tangles of thistle
irresistibly purple
–heads turning heads  

back of the car full
of leafy willows for birds
stuck at home [6/8/14]

transcendent visions–
coneflowers, penstemon &
a thousand kinds more

plants having sucked up their fill,
even the river has some

a gullywasher
after scouring arroyos
piles of pine needles

the walking bridge, too, dumped on,
whatever the water had–  [8/12/14]

in the deck bucket
6″ of rain–now a
still, clear pool

oh-oh–bees under the eaves
soon honey from the ceiling [8/12/14]

thistles mostly to seed
sunflowers out full  [grb]

countless blooms–
beyond naming–
all inter-twined

seed-heads & clover–
intertwined with
a thousand kinds of nectar

with curtains for sails                 cabin doors open wide

clear water creek
hardly moving at all
only one pearl pool

Basho on the wing
wind sound high in the pines [2/15/14]

in the clear water
every rock & stone
a shining jewel [4/1/14]

blue jays sweep in
to a rare winter feast

the long decaying stump
sprouting a bounty of seed

tomorrow’s wind
heard today higher up
–beyond the mountain

cold wind
off frozen ground
winter shadows

the last bb

in the orchard knee to knee
a long conversation      [vrb, 1/9/14]

back from her walk arms full
–each stick with its history

dried blonde field
startled sparrows, our hearts
go leaping too

turning time around–
retracing one’s steps to find
where we were going

front edge of a storm
orange plum-top tips gone wild
with fluttering light

in the calm between gusts,
almost time to catch our breath

each tree with its own palette,
timing, readiness for night
& a long winter   [10/26/14]

only then thinking
you should be here, too–land-bound
in afternoon sun [11/29/14]

between plains & ridge
following a cloud-bird north
along the high edge

barely visible
in blue sky mountain shadow
fold of light–hawk [vrb]

our cozy cabin
shelter from the wind
howling on the other side

in breaks between gusts [rb]
a warm stone
in my palm [vrb]

~~~~~back in town…

new year–
cleaning the old year’s stove pipe
before the new year’s bath

after the soak
ink runs off, too

(bent over,
looking at the sun upside down
between the legs

inviting the breeze
to dry off that last
moist humid place)

plum sauce
puts the last touch
on the roasting bird


~~~~~”births & memorials.”

like candles
still lit in the mind
glow of late friends

what wide new world will
the mighty bonsai grow into
from its little pot?
~~~~~~~~~~~~~[for Jackson, 9/24/2013,
~~~~~~~~~~~~ “wherever the dream takes us, friend–“]

a rare flower
opening to starry skies now
with the dancer’s leap
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~[for Trudi Bloom, fifty years a friend,
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~from Costa del Sol to wherever we are]

kadish for my father–
7 pops from the air rifle
2 jiggers of absinthe
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~[9/5/2013, r. i. p. in the mystery]

old poet’s journal
with new offerings made for
friends beyond reading

[…& some before reading…]

a peaceful jewel
dreaming within the face of
light’s loving calm                    [“calm’s loving light”]

~~~~~~~~~~~[from a photo of Samadhi Bau, born July 2013]

born among bodhisattvas
as if already perfect–

wrapped in a blanket
of such pure warmth, waking
to such loving eyes

Such karma, such dharma, such sangha
what a path to here, going forward….

The card says: “Samadhi: peace of mind, calm; Bau: precious treasure.”

From Bod Library’s dictionary (i.e., Dick’s Random Pocket):

Karma: deep effects of action, kerf left by the saw blade stroke by stroke, related to what physicists call inertia & momentum.

Dharma: right doing, duties, core responsibilities which teach, clarify & illuminate from within.

Sangha: the community–with-unity, i.e., that multi-faceted whole attentive in its many individually aware parts, working together with good-will for one another & the whole.

Actively caring, compassionate & loving, such a family expresses life’s way of discovering, knowing & nurturing its connectedness. Blessings!


~~~~~”the main music”

concert for the birds:
the main music in the fields
–released butterflies
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~[each tagged by nature & volunteer, 9/2013]

wild rose leaves turning pink, russet,
orange, the countless hues of fall

between light green cottonwoods
yellow willows, bare alder,
oaks just starting to turn

while the river makes
quiet rocks gently sing

slowly flowing pools
whispered clear all
the way to the bottom

a day like this, with so much beauty,
once in a thousand years?

a thousand years
in the blink of an eye
the deep life that sees,

feels & knows
a moment of it–

one, then another
then in groups of three & four–
oak leaves drifting free

floating back into trees
reflected in the water

left behind in the river
where the current has moved on
–branches, clouds & light

reds, yellows, orange
russets, pale ales & ambers
the land autumn stained

only its gentle music
gives the flow away

occasional leaves
riding the transparency
over slow rocks

underneath, sepia tones–
sticking out, all shades of light


only more so–

delicious reds, russets,
the thousand shades of rust
between sun & ground

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ [10/28/13]


[So much for this autumn in its fullness. Some wetter follow.

One of the photos below is a personal original. The others are clipped from different sources, temporarily, for how they suggest seasons.

Although seasons organize much of our lives & activities, I am not much of a fan of so-called “season-words” formulaically applied with special glossaries & dictionaries. Seasonality itself appears as naturally in poems as in photographs. Snow in a photo may or may not  mean it’s winter, however. Maybe it’s a late spring snow, weighing down the crab-apple branches, or first taste in early autumn, or even a freak summer snow, all clearly shown in a snapshot–though a mechanically organized guide would mis-place it.]IMG_0133

~~~~~Basho’s Umbrella

Basho loved the frog’s umbrella, too, the broad-leafed basho itself, dimpled by the rain. Not being so well adapted, we’re happier relying on our tin roof, after a long drought.

enjoying rain-songs
again with frogs & Basho
inside our green drum

summer rains–
let my name be stay-at-home
between lightning strikes

thunder booms after
the flash that makes us jump–
hissing & spitting

[Further north, cars are washed off their roads as the surge of run-off gathers rushing downhill. A week later, our creek is almost dry. What didn’t run away has been drunk in & up by every niche. This sometime in July, I think, maybe August, but summer 2013.]

~~~~~After the rains

And the bridge was still there–
barely, long boards askew
resting on clutter

sticks & mud, the collection
from drought & beavers upstream

riverbed still full
in a hurry, but steady
just skimming bridge poles

a tangle of soaked branches
caught, whooshing, in the current

after 4 days of downpour
floods up & down the mountains

on my hands & knees
pulling debris out, freeing
the collection dam
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~                 9/17/13

~~~~~to Ish

in mid orchestra
one bamboo flute player fills
a zone of silence

echoing beyond the walls
a symphony of pure noise

drums on the tin roof
after a long drought—music
to our ears

where the frame of the skylight
shrank from thirst, rain finds a way

hearts sink
so much work placing each piece
gone by the boards

falling away from the start
the visitor’s boundaries

library silence–
here & there, a bubbling spring
a raked sand garden

torrents of words in boxes
on shelves from floor to ceiling

Senor Wencelaus–
how are you? fine, how are you?
fine, closing the case

mind’s projections almost real
to the wider fantasy—

like voices from graves
a ventriloquist’s dummies
briefly released

quick—before the bird escapes
leaving emptiness behind

~~~~~history of the hole

orchestra members
listening to selves, neighbors
the whole unfolding

one hearing within
another inside
the composer’s score

mute page
just so much visual noise
to one who can’t read

not in the words read,
but the space between the lines,
where the feelers are

wiggly wiggly wiggily
saying all there is to know


~~~~~ “the writer’s challenge”

“When you have to write it out, you try to make it count.” –Ricardo Bods

saying much
in just a few words
–the writer’s challenge

however much
business as usual for
painters, potters, & dancers

like a vow of silence
painful when broken
–an old windbag

a one-tined fan-sound/
whiffing, and whiffing again
with each clumsy turn

waking in mid-sleep
only long enough to guess
if it’s day or night

(first, checking the clock hands,
then wondering if a.m. or p.m.)

is it light or dark,
here in the gray area
between dreams of lives?


[Here’s one from way back, mid-to-late 1980s.]

~~~~grey cranes at dusk~~~~
~~bending in a line along~~
~~~~~crooked fenceposts~~~~~

[Still tinkering after all these years, as nature with the scene itself, mostly crane-less in recent years of drought. The cranes & fence-posts appeared in snow flurries on a cold & cloudy day, the whole landscape water-colored in shades of frost-flecked grey.]

[Here are a few cut from places above.]

muddy mounds of fresh soil,
more fertile or less, would you guess?
I ask Gita. “More!”



Rules & Guidelines of Haiku

Rules & guidelines depend on school & form. To the contrarian, rules may seem meant to be broken. To the student, rules may be meant to be tested. To the master, who has integrated them, rules are meant to be learned well enough to be forgotten. To the philosopher, rules may be operationally determined; part of the situational given, like the foul lines & fences on a baseball field, distance between bases, or foul bunt with 2 strikes.

But arts & crafts are more like frisbee than baseball. You can make up rules for particular games if you want, individually or socially, as in frisbee golf, but you don’t have to. The play is pleasurable enough without any prior game form.

If I take my negatives to a local machine-procesor, I’ll get prints in standardized sizes–e.g., 5″x7″. If I do my own developing, the print can be whatever size I want, at least theoretically. I’m still limited by my equipment, available page-sizes & the like. It may be I choose to work within certain inherited sizes for the convenience &/or their proven  aesthetics. Nevertheless, choosing these sizes for albums doesn’t turn them into rules.

In language study generally, the dichotomy is sometimes expressed in the contrast between descriptive & prescriptive perspectives. The descriptive grammarian simply describes how the language is used; the prescriptive, says this is how it should be used. The down-to-earth way tends to put more attention to the natural contours of the land than to conventional concepts of correctness.


Hai! Snap-back verse– (1/7/ 17)

Hai! is a wonderful expression often used in conversation for yes, you bet, & ah! Orally, it has a pop to it. Looking deeply enough, you can sometime find that pop in haiku also, of whatever school or tradition.  The hai root character draws from the image of an actor with the sense “to play.” The ku means verse, with roots in “breath-stop.” Taken together, the roots could be translated as  play-verse,  pop-verse, or perhaps as-if-verse.

Basho, the first great master of haiku, never used the term. His word for that kind of stanza was hokku, literally first- or opening-verse, derived from its place in renga, “linked-poetry.” Usually by a group making a chain of linked stanzas, Basho’s were called haikai no renga, meaning linked poetry of the down-to-earth haikai style. As in all renga, two verse forms are used in alternating stanzas, one slightly longer, one slightly shorter. The opening verse is the longer, traditionally in segments of 5, 7, & 5 jion–not the same as an American syllable, but from which the 5-7-5 idea became associated with haiku.

One problem with the term haiku is the confusion caused by quite different definitions, uses & approaches meant in different American schools or traditions. At least two emphasize the verse form with a syllabic template (5-7-5), one taught school children for moments in nature, the other used mostly for twists of wit in “slam-style” performance. As with poetry in general, the mainstream of modern American haiku practice has tended to focus more on poetic impact than on verse-formula.

As with all creative arts, makers remain free to develop their own definitions in practice, whether to suit the occasion or in longer term community use. The more I’ve studied Basho, the less I like the term haiku, which easily becomes something that constrains the attention to the mechanical form rather than use the form to open–scene & awareness, observed & observer. It’s just a slight shift in emphasis, perhaps, to use a new term, but at least it can define itself without the many confusions of the imperfect borrowing haiku.

As in English, there tend to be various more or less subtle differences in emphasis between the Japanese ku, verse, & ga, poetry (or song). Some degree of each tends to be involved in any actual making in either language, even in what’s called “free verse.” Nevertheless, though verse may generate most musical effects, it’s primarily the image or other direct experience that gives wordsnaps their pop.

If we are to borrow, the term haikai is far the more useful, going to the heart of the approach, spirit of the enterprise, & attitude of participants. It refers to a down-to-earth way using ordinary language, as distinct from works in a more courtly or academic style. It transcends not only particular forms, but genres & arts, often joined together–prose, verse, expressively stroked image.

Despite plenty of differences, use of the term haikai can be compared to the way beat was used in the 1950s, defined more by the shared characteristics of attitude than by forms involved the the particular expression. It’s a fascinating term, joining the down-to-earth term hai, playful or artful, with kai, exchange or conversation.  

The English word conversation, ironically, tends to have no association with verse at all, or with poetry, yet it perfectly describes haikai no renga, the kind of exchange practiced in linked poetry. Like haibun, the mixed-form sketch, & haiga, a mixed-form picture, the haikai no renga has aspects of verse & poetry, image & music, stillness & flow, from stanza to sequence, gem-like part to creative whole.

All this is preamble to any translation of use to contemporary writers in other places, with other languages, cultural influences, & poetic needs. There should be room, in other words, to explore new versions of inherited forms in both traditional & experimental approaches. In the best examples, these aren’t separate from one another, but called for.

Haiku magazines & groups like the Haiku Society of America, Museum of Haiku Literature, & others, no doubt play valuable roles in carrying the ways across borders, providing networks & vehicles of exchange. Their conceptions may be suitably broad & inclusive to encourage fresh pursuit of creative aims. What does it matter, one might well wonder, if the slam poet’s haiku is a different animal, even with the same verse form?

It matters to me. I’m not necessarily following anyone else’s template, let alone making a more superficial aspects of the verse the defining characteristic of the form. Nevertheless, I’m trying to carry a trans-cultural legacy across into a 21st Century, American English context, not unlike how Basho translated earlier native & Chinese forms into his own contemporary fabric, & that into a new kind of tapestry.

For starters, words have meanings, i.e., can make a difference. That’s why, for an Americans, I prefer something like snap verse, word-snaps or pop poetry to haiku, or even hokku, though “opening verse” might do best of all.  When the camera snaps, the lens opens, capturing an impression in light, &/or in words.

But who stops  at just one?  Add a 2nd & 3rd & you start to have a more complex conversation, with over-tones & under-tones, musical flow & surprising cross-connections, along with snap, crackle & pop all playing together.

[Put snap here, crackle there, pop–]

~~~~~~~       ~~~~~~~       ~~~~~~~

Spring Sprang Sprung: Season Words
—Form, Fabric, Function & Formula

While working on a review of Tony Angell’s new book on crows as a back-up for what turned out to be my column on seasons for the next issue, I was surprised to hear Gerald Vizenour as guest on NPR’s “New Letters” saying his new book of collected haiku is called In Favor of Crows–& that he’d gone to Japan to re-discover his native roots.

We met about 25 years ago during a program organized by our mutual friend Elizabeth Lamb at the International Folk Arts Museum in Santa Fe. Elizabeth had asked me to share some bits from Basho’s journey and my part of a linked poem we’d done together with three other New Mexicans, all there. She’d asked Gerald to  share something of his.

As his turn approached, he leaned forward & tried to hand over his pages, asking me to deliver them. Seeming clear he was fully capable (& looking forward to hearing him), I happily laughed off his offer & joined with everyone else in welcoming him to the spotlight. I was quite pleased I hadn’t been in the least tempted by what must have been his ‘tricksterism.’

On “New Letters,” he mentioned having enjoyed teasing people who used traditional season-word dictionaries with his California haiku, where seasons have different words. We seem to be on the same wave-length on this. It seems rather obvious that the seasons express themselves simply by being in the times reflected in the poems, showing up as in photographs. From there, seasons offer a perfectly coherent or functional way to organize a collection–whether of poems, photographs, or travel sketches. This is quite different than “trying to write by formula,” such a mental construct.

Time is part of the substance or fabric of experience, all of which occur in a context, a setting with place, time & circumstance. Setting will often therefore reflect its season–in weather, state of vegetation, coloration, mood, and corresponding human activity. Poems and photographs may exist as if taken out of time, yet the time portrayed remains, with seasonal order becoming a functional organizing principle, reflecting natural movement.

The more formulaic approach associated with season-word dictionaries is not the same thing, it seems to me, more likely to lead would-be poets astray than to serve a useful poetic function. By definition, such a dictionary serves convention, not poetry. Where a satirist might make fun of people using season-word dictionaries to construct haiku, a trickster makes something that plays with their conceptions without denying the premise, i.e., how basic seasonal time is to the haiku-tuned experience. Examples replace arguments, while encouraging realization that any such dictionary must ultimately be place-specific, as well as time-particular.

Thinking along these lines on our drive to the land just after the radio program:

Gerald Vizenour–
white-capped waves curling across
winter’s green lake top


snow facing north
people facing south
–a spring day in winter     [2/7/15]

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, my riff on the seasonal shifts for “Seeds of Thought” (& related “After-thoughts”) are on (&/or linked through) the “Aldo Zone” page on this site, while more on Basho’s planet-connected calendar can be found in the Basho Wing….

~~~~American Season Words

Leaving most regional & local specialties aside for the moment, the American seasons (not necessarily divided into 4 equal quarters) would presumably have their own seasonal  markers, many associated with holidays which can be considered their own seasons, e.g., the so-called “holiday season” itself running from late November (Thanksgiving) through Christmas & New Year’s Day.


Easter, with eggs & bunnies; baskets, hats, parades, baseball, love, April fools, April 15, Earth Day, May Day, Mother’s Day, rebirth with buds & flowers…


Vacation, beach-balls, boardwalks & bikinis, Father’s Day, 4th of July, flags, parades, fireworks, fires & fire trucks, road & camping trips…


Changing colors, Labor Day, back to school, World Series, Harvest Moon, Hunter’s Moon, Halloween, Thanksgiving…

~~~Winter A+B                 in two parts—

A: “The Holidays,” with about 6 weeks of its own music up to & through x-mas,  Chanukah, Kwanza, Solstice, & Lost Days (not necessarily in that order) through New Year’s Day;

B: The Rest, starting with the New Year’s sense of daylight growing, to Super Bowl, Groundhog Day, Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, Asian New Year…, the Oscars, all the way (in current use) to spring equinox–which is already mid-spring for the lunar calendar.

Although contemporary convention regards solstices & equinoxes where seasons change,  older, more astronomically logical calendars consider them mid-points of their respective seasons—winter solstice being shortest daylight, thus mid-winter; summer solstice being longest, thus mid-summer. This puts the seasonal transition halfway between each equinox & solstice, at least as a semantic distinction. Halloween falls right between autumnal equinox & winter solstice. Groundhog Day & (depending on the moon) Asian New Year happen between winter solstice & vernal (spring) equinox.

Nature and human activities take their courses accordingly. Haiku moments, like other snapshots, catch these in time, & take them “out of time,” becoming in a sense timeless, at least from the perspective in which time manifests as change through duration. In haiku, as in photography, even the act, process or experience of change in motion may be caught in a still frame, or even a series of such frames.

These in turn reflect the seasons of our lives, including the annual cycles of the planet shaping & informing our activities, awareness & experience. One needn’t make particular words follow a mechanical formula or turn conventions into a fetish, nor reject seasonality as an organizing principle, on the other hand. The point is to focus on the actual, as distinct from the imposed mental idea.

Imposed mechanically, by convention, a mental construct can get in the way of the tangible experience, then put moments where they don’t belong. This became obvious to me in the 1980s when Japan Air Lines published a collection of “award winning haiku” arranged by season. Presumably using a season-word dictionary as guide, the editor put mine out of the season in which it was written & still clearly belonged.  [I’ll dig up ASAP.]

Basho himself seems to have enjoyed jerking the chains of those bound by just such “mechanical rules.” As if in response to the conventional rule against repeating  any word of substance within a single or even certain number of stanzas, Basho wrote:

Ah, Matsushima!
Ah, Matsushima, ah!
Matsushima, ah!

more or less, with less room for Miss Translation than usual. He didn’t reject the principles which gave rise to the “rule,” nor even the possible utility of such rules, but showed that at some point, the poetry must take precedence over the rules, as in the old adage, “learn the rules well enough to forget them,” at least be able to. Going to the heart of it, one knows where the guidance applies & where it doesn’t. One doesn’t then do or not do for the rule, but for its reason.

Basho was a tweaker of convention, therefore, as well as verbal trickster, playing with light & shadow, what can be said & what can’t. He seemed to find special pleasure in showing where conventional rules no longer applied, particularly where trumped by higher values, whether of poetry or compassion.

under the same roof
pleasure girls & poets
bush clovers & moon

Asked on his return from a pilgrimage trail to offer his verse impression of a sacred mountain pilgrims could name but were not supposed to picture or describe, Basho brushed—

unable to speak
of Hotspring Peak–here,
feel my wet sleeve

A trickster, for sure.


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