* Delta Ponds: a lyric sequence

Towards the end of our trip this week, we stopped by Delta Ponds, a patch of wetlands near where Ani’s family lives.

The lyric sequence below, inspired by the sights and sounds of the walk, is shared as a sort of thank you to the travel gods.

* Pond-ering *
* Pond-ering *

Delta Ponds – Jose Angel Araguz


Dragonflies rising
from the grass, lighting on
a tall, sun-bleached reed.


Black snake slithers through the rocks,
mirrored by its yellow stripe.


The sound of heron
wings – turning the page so fast,
all words fall away.


The turtle sunning mid-pond:
so far, just a blot of ink.


Dust across my feet
and sandals, each step taken
stirs and covers me.


The slow step of the heron:
water still, and still again.


She says the heron’s
the color of my favorite
shirt as it flies off.


Holding my breath through a cloud
of gnats, words bat from all sides.


Heron’s neck – from “S”
to straight – how does one learn to
write, then stand apart?

* from heron out *
* from heron out *

Happy heroning!


* new tanka up at A Hundred Gourds

Just a quick post to announce the latest edition of A Hundred Gourds – a quarterly journal of haiku, tanka, haiga, haibun & renku – including fine work from around the world.

Read my own contribution here.

* fine print *
* fine print *

This specific tanka is about my friend Dennis Flinn (who I wrote about previously here).  He had a habit of collecting newspapers, stacks of them, with the goal of going through them all.

To go through each word – yes, that’s a fine goal, indeed.

See you Friday!


* David Ignatow in My Own House

Reading the following poem I realized that it would be interesting – to me, to you, to who? – to periodically share a snapshot of what my writing desk looks like.  With that in mind, here is what it looks like this week:

* hey, I can see my house from here *
* hey, I can see my house from here *

This view is from the surface level – what the page would see if it could do a sit-up.  I’ll try different angles next time.

(Points if you recognize the haiku in the kanji.)

The following poem by David Ignatow moves me in how it goes from negating the usual expectations of looking at leaves – the symbolic view of leaves, what the mind does, where it takes them, what it takes them to mean – and then goes in the opposite direction, the prose working to slow the pace of thought and let the realization gradually dawn on both poet and reader: how man becomes more leaf.

My Own House – David Ignatow

As I view the leaf, my theme is not the shades of meaning that the mind conveys of it but my desire to make the leaf speak to tell me, Chlorophyll, chlorophyll, breathlessly.  I would rejoice with it and, in turn, would reply, Blood, and the leaf would nod.  Having spoken to each other, we would find our topics inexhaustible and imagine, as I grow old and the leaf begins to fade and turn brown, the thought of being buried in the ground would become so familiar to me, so thoroughly known through conversation with the leaf, that my walk among the trees after completing this poem would be like entering my own house.


Happy housing!


* from the car: verses & such

As we made our way from O to O – Oregon to Ohio – I found myself writing little lyrics along the way.  I also wrote snippets of our conversation, bits that made me laugh or that meant something to me.

I consider it a sort of travel journal/daybook – one strictly written in the car, with all the randomness and fleeting nature of things passing by a car window, blurring and fascinating.  Keeping these in the car helped shape their brevity.

Today is the last day of the journey.  Expect the usual Influence biz next week.

For now, enjoy my own narrow road from a narrow interior.


DAY 1: Eugene OR to Spokane WA

shadow of a cloud
over the yellow grass – the
first time she’s noticed

“The clouds look painted on —

(in cloud voice)
You guys, they noticed.
I told you they’d notice.
You can’t just put on falsies!”

outside of Fishtrap
clouds in their schools of shade and
light over the trees

DAY 2: Spokane WA to Bozeman MT

snow on the mountains
in Montana – river sounds
cold against my ear

Coeur D’alene River
breaking as we pass – she asks:
why do rivers wind?

“I hope we’re not headed towards those clouds.”

“Where do you think we’re headed?  Behind us?”

DAY 3: Bozeman MT to Dickinson ND

“I’m so tired of driving into the sky.”

cows dip their heads
into the grass
and move their mouths
eating under
through all these clouds

looking down into
the Badlands
we laugh into


DAY 4: Dickinson ND to Eden Prairie MN

Minnesota lakes
on the side of the highway
the sky’s loose pages

pelican alone
on the water – a white that
dives into itself

miles after leaving
North Dakota the red dust
streaked across the car

DAY 5 Eden Prairie MN to Itasca IL

morning fog on the
Mississippi River – map
trembles in my hand

rain dots the windshield
the colors of passing cars
under a gray sky


See you in Cincy!


* some words from Basho & the friday influence

This week The Friday Influence introduces the “some words from” feature – on the last Friday of each month expect a quote or two from poets that have and are presently influencing my work or simply blowing my mind.

Our first feature: haiku poet Matsuo Basho!

Sabes sabi?

Here he is talking about the idea of sabi:

“Sabi is in the colour of a poem. It does not necessarily refer to the poem that describes a lonely scene.  If a man goes to war wearing a stout armour or to a party dressed up in gay clothes, and if this man happens to be an old man, there is something lonely about him.  Sabi is something like that.  It is in the poem regardless of the scene it describes – whether it is lonely or gay.  In the following poem, for example, I find a great deal of sabi.” *

                        Under the cherry

                        Flower guards have assembled

                        To chatter –

                        Their hoary heads together. 

In citing this poem (by one of his disciples), Basho illustrates sabi as something to be experienced, a thing to be completed through the engagement of the reader.

This attention to not only what goes in a poem but what it does in each of us is part of the reason is why I return to Basho’s work often.  He gets this poetry thing in a way that expands it, gets it in a way that shows the way for others.

He is one of the great travelers, both on the road and the word.

Here’s an excerpt from Basho’s travel journal, The Records of a Travel-worn Satchel:

“In this mortal frame of mine which is made of a hundred bones and nine orifices there is something, and this something is called a wind-swept spirit for lack of a better name, for it is much like a thin drapery that is torn and swept away at the slightest stir of the wind.  This something in me took to writing poetry years ago, merely to amuse itself at first, but finally making it its lifelong business. It must be admitted, however, that there were times when it sank into such dejection that it was almost ready to drop its pursuit, or again times when i was so puffed up with pride that it exulted in vain victories over the others.  Indeed, ever since it began to write poetry, it has never found peace with itself, always wavering between doubts of one kind and another.  At one time it wanted to gain security by entering the service of a court, and at another it wished to measure the depth of its ignorance by trying to be a scholar, but it was prevented from either because of its unquenchable love of poetry.  The fact is, it knows no other art than the art of writing poetry, and therefore, it hangs on to it more or less blindly.”


Happy hanging!


* all quotes in this post come from Nobuyuki Yuasa’s translation of Basho’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North and other travel sketches.

** photos snagged from here and here, respectively.

* out to sea on the friday influence

Sea-weed – D.H. Lawrence

Sea-weed sways and sways and swirls

as if swaying were its form of stillness;

and if it flushes against fierce rock

it slips over it as shadows do, without hurting itself.


seaweed, yo.

This week on the Influence: an explanation!

This past few days have been kind of rough in my world.  Nothing major, just life.

What that means for you kind readers is that I was not able to do my usual type of post this week.  Things should be back up and running next week, both blog-wise and life-wise.

Until then, enjoy these sea themed poems.

This next one by Greek poet George Seferis makes me hear things.


haiku – George Seferis

You write;

the ink lessened

the sea increases.


the increasing sea

And one from yours truly:

Correspondence – Jose Angel Araguz

Sin palabras

el mar viene y se va

viene y se va


Without words

the sea comes and goes

comes and goes


Happy coming and going!


* the Borges/Araguz haiku challenge & the friday influence

3 Haiku – Jorge Luis Borges *

They have said something to me,

the afternoon and the mountain.

Already, it is lost.


The antique sword

dreams of its battles.

Another is my dream.


Is it an empire

that light dying down

or a firefly?


luciernaga – much cooler word than firefly.

This week on the Influence – Jorge Luis Borges.

Borges has been a kind of spiritual/writing mentor for me the past couple of years.  He prided himself in being a better reader than writer, and prized the pleasure of reading above any fame and notoriety to be gained in the writing world.

In the introduction to a book of prose poems, he defended himself from those who would bicker over whether the pieces in the book were poems or not, that they were poems to him, some of which took their form in prose.

I took this as permission to take on the prose poem in my own fashion.  But more than that, it gave me permission to own my sense of what a poem is, that it could be many forms aspiring to one spirit.

Which is how I take on haiku.

You take on a form and keep writing until you have a relationship with it, until it is yours.  Whatever gets it out of you, gets you writing, gets it written.

My challenge today is more of an homage.  Here’s to Borges and getting it written.


3 Haiku – Jose Angel Araguz

shadow of a branch

across the page



the tension

between two



down moon-paved roads

cold morning



Happy walking!


* translation by Jose Angel Araguz (word to your Obra Poetica!).

* anagram haiku

I recently finished filling up a notebook.  Before shutting it away for a year or more, I thought I would share a few small things from it.  These short lyrics arrived out of something I call anagram haiku.  Please enjoy and perhaps try a few yourself.


the gods

run like dogs

through our lives



itself in brags

the cherry tree


trees with swag



a brief




is a phase:

ask the sky


Happy asking!


* Williams’ other plum poem & the friday influence

To a poor old woman – William Carlos Williams

munching a plum on   

the street a paper bag

of them in her hand

They taste good to her

They taste good   

to her. They taste

good to her


You can see it by

the way she gives herself

to the one half

sucked out in her hand



a solace of ripe plums

seeming to fill the air

They taste good to her


This week on the Influence: William Carlos Williams.

Last Friday I spoke about my experience reading the Selected Poems of William Carlos Williams aloud and how it gave me a visceral understanding of his cadence and flavor of thinking.  “To a poor old woman” – which I refer to as “the other plum poem” – in  particular embodies some of what I was saying.

Here he takes a phrase made up of five words – They taste good to her – and not only repeats but has the whole second stanza made up of only these words.  Reading it aloud and following the line breaks, the experience of biting and biting into a plum is evoked through the repetition of these words.  It is as if he felt there were no other words suited to describe the experience.  Nothing was more evident to him than – They taste good to her.

plums, yo.

Here’s another one:

Between Walls – William Carlos Williams

the back wings
of the

hospital where

will grow lie

in which shine
the broken

pieces of a green

Here, the attention to detail and the pacing take the reader right up to the shards of glass, right up to the gleam.

Williams is one of the great guides in poems.  I have taught his poems alongside those of haiku poets, using the juxtaposition to highlight the shared spirit between the images of Williams and the concentrated illumination of someone like Basho:


Awake at night —

The sound of the water jar

Cracking in the cold.



Happy cracking!


p.s. check out my feature on the Tiger’s Eye blog: http://tigerseyepoet.blogspot.com/

* translation 2/3 on the friday influence

(from Greguerias – Ramon Gomez de la Serna) *

Curious about the earth, the sky keeps opening and closing the clouds.


The hour differs throughout the stars.  In some it is yesterday, in others today, and in others centuries have passed.


He had a keyring so dusty, he looked like a fisherman of keys.


The socks tucked into the little shoes of the sleeping child wrinkle with his dreams.


This week The Friday Influence is proud to present the work of the Spanish poet Ramon Gomez de la Serna (1888-1963).

First, some reviews: “For me he is the great Spanish writer: the Writer, or rather, Writing…I also would have learned Spanish just to read him” (Octavio Paz).  “…the major figure of surrealism, in any country, has been Ramon” (Pablo Neruda). **

I share these quotes to show the range of influence Ramon (as he liked to be called)  had in his day.  Neruda’s Book of Questions (excerpts of which I translated last week) would not have been possible without the work of Ramon.  He wrote novels as well as stories and essays, but it is in his Greguerias that I feel his singular personality truly shines.

These sentences are packed with images and humor.  They take a little and expand it in the mind.  They do the work of haiku and aphorisms but with a distinct flavor.  I spoke last week of how a poet’s job is partly to see how much they can get away with.  In his Greguerias, Ramon gets (carried) away with himself.

Also, any writer who seriously writes about the stars after the Romantic period endears themselves to me.  Ramon’s work gave me permission to work out some single line poems of my own.  He has opened up to me what a sentence or two can offer lyric poetry.

I discovered his work two years ago by accident, working out my own ideas of prose poems.  His name came up in an essay and I made my way to his poems.  Seeing as he has stayed with me, I have decided to periodically sit down with his Greguerias and translate a few pages at a time.  If I get through the whole book in this manner, I’ll let you know.

Here’s a few more from Ramon:

The night lies there between blue eyelashes.


In autumn, the butterflies come out in the same red as the dry leaves, and the same wind sweeps up the one as the other.


After a while, the sound of the typewriter fills our thoughts with gravel.


Pinocchio opens books with his nose.


Happy gregueriando!


* translated by Jose Angel Araguz (word to vosotros!)

** quotes from Paz and Neruda found on Wikipedia (word to citations!)