* short lyrics: (pre)spring mix

As I am on the road – in Corpus Christi, Texas promoting Everything We Think We Hear to be exact – I thought I would do a short, fun post of some seasonal short lyrics. Could be that the winters in Cincinnati are tough that I’ve got spring on my mind already.

I’d like to say a special thanks to everyone who made it out to my readings this week. Thank you for braving a rather stormy week in Corpus Christi. A very special thanks as well to Alan Berecka and Tom Murphy for the opportunity to read at Del Mar College and TAMUCC, respectively.

Below are poems by Kay Ryan, Issa, Izumi Shikibu, and Edward Thomas. The Shikibu tanka is an old favorite of mine. I ran into it almost ten years ago in an essay by its translator, poet Jane Hirshfield. In writing about doing the translations for her book The Ink Dark Moon, Hirshfield’s essay broke down how in five lines Shikibu is able to present an image of enlightment (“moonlight”) reaching through to even the most materially impoverished life (“ruined house”).



Spring – Kay Ryan

It would be
good to shrug
out of winter
as cicadas do:
look: a crisp
freestanding you
and you walking
off, soft as


    The snow is melting
and the village is flooded

    with children.

Although the wind
blows terribly here,
the moonlight also leaks
between the roof planks

of this ruined house.

Izumi Shikibu**
The Cherry Trees – Edward Thomas
The cherry trees bend over and are shedding
On the old road where all that passed are dead,
Their petals, strewing the grass as for a wedding
This early May morn when there is none to wed.
Happy (pre)springing!
*translated by Robert Hass
**translated by Jane Hirshfield & Mariko Aratani

* milosz and some friends

Recently read an interview with Czeslaw Milosz where he says:

“My motto could be that haiku of Issa—“We walk on the roof of Hell / gazing at flowers.” ” *

Which speaks to the power of the short lyric poem – a haiku in this case – that it can be carried in one’s mental pocket and offered up as something understood and communed with.  What I am moved by is the duality captured so casually, the line between happiness and suffering pointed out with an air of amusement.  This kind of thing requires nerve.


The Japanese poet Issa is amazing.  A great anthology that includes his work is “The Essential Haiku:versions of Basho, Buson, & Issa” edited by Robert Hass.

Another fan of Issa is Don Wentworth, editor of Lilliput Review, a journal that focuses on the short lyric.  His blog is Issa’s Untidy Hut and can be found here:


Happy gazing!


* (found here:http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/1721/the-art-of-poetry-no-70-czeslaw-milosz)