Year of Books, 2018

I saw several posts about how many books had been read in 2018, and I started to put my list together… only to realize it was very, very short. It was only after I moved a stack of books that I had read a lot this year, just not novels. Most of my reading was poetry (or about poetry).

Novels

I can say this, though I only read five novels this year, they are all fantastic, and I recommend them all.

  • Mere wife – Maria Dahvana Headley
  • Dread nation – Justina Ireland
  • Lost Time (Tales of the Lost Book 1) – C.A. Higgins
  • The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms – N.K. Jemisin
  • The Last Firefly of Summer – Robert Ford

Poetry

I’ll start off and say if you aren’t reading Tracy K. Smith, you are missing out. Life on Mars is fantastic. I got The Body’s Question for my birthday from a great friend.

This list also made me realize I bought quite a few poetry books haven’t read them yet…

Poetry

  • The Body’s Question – Tracy K Smith
  • Difficult Fruit – Lauren K. Alleyne
  • Don’t Call Us Dead: Poems – Danez Smith
  • WHEREAS: Poems – Layli Long Soldier
  • Nectar – Upile Chisala
  • New Poets of Native Nations – Heid E. Erdrich
  • Bastards of the Reagan Era – Reginald Dwayne Betts

Japanese Poetry

I started this obsession with The Japanese Haiku Its Essential Nature and History by Kenneth Yasuda. From there, I picked up the Kokinshu, which is one of the first Imperial anthologies of Japanese Poetry. Things may have spiraled out from there…

Yes, I got everything I could that Ueda had written. He had a collection of Basho poems that had translations and commentary which I read last year. Ueda’s Modern Japanese Tanka inspired me to try and write some myself. Far Beyond the Field is haiku by Japanese Women, and Light Verse from the Floating World is full of senryu, a form similar to haiku in shape, but different in tone and purpose.

  • Modern Japanese Tanka – Makoto Ueda
  • Far Beyond the Field – Makoto Ueda
  • Modern Japanese Haiku: An Anthology – Makoto Ueda
  • Light Verse from the Floating World – Makoto Ueda
  • Kokinshu – Rodd and Henkenius (translators)
  • Traditional Japanese Poetry: An Anthology – Steven D. Carter
  • The Penguin Book of Japanese Verse: From the Earliest Times to the Present
  • 1000 Poems from the Manyoshu
  • From the Country of Eight Islands: An Anthology of Japanese Poetry -Hiroaki Sato
  • Women Poets of Japan – Ikuko Atsumi
  • A Girl with Tangled Hair by Akiko Yosano – Jane Reichhold (Translator)
  • Pepper-pod: A Haiku Sampler – Yasuda, Kenneth
  • Poet to Poet: Contemporary Women Poets from Japan – Rina Kikuchi
  • Modern Senryu in English (English and Japanese Edition) – Shuho Ohno
  • Akane Immigrant Poet: English & Japanese Edition: The Tanka of Mitsuko Kasuga, a Japanese Immigrant in Mexico – Aiko Chikaba

African Poetry

The Amazonian algorithms offered up Fuchsia by Mahtem Shiferraw as something I may like, and after reading the whole preview, I had to agree. Turns out it is part of a seres of African Poetry published by University of Nebraska press, which means there will be even more joining my collection.

  • The Penguin Book of Modern African Poetry: Fifth Edition (Penguin Classics)
  • Fuchsia (African Poetry Book) – Mahtem Shiferraw
  • The Kitchen-Dweller’s Testimony (African Poetry Book) – Ladan Osman
  • The January Children (African Poetry Book) – Safia Elhillo

Poetic Non-Fiction

I didn’t finish most of these books, because most of these books are huge. An Introduction to Japanese Court Poetry is referenced over and over again in other texts as the primer on this subject.

The second Waka Anthology was my Christmas gift, and I’ve only made it a little way in. It is a college text book on the subject, and the good news is there are going to be several more volumes to follow

  • An Introduction to Japanese Court Poetry – Earl Miner.
  • Japanese Poetic Diaries – Earl Miner
  • A Waka Anthology – Volume One: The Gem-Glistening Cup – Edwin A. Cranston
  • A Waka Anthology – Volume Two: Grasses of Remembrance – Edwin A. Cranston

LampLight Submissions

I would be remiss to not call out LampLight submissions as a very large part of my readings. We got about 2,000 submissions this year. There were more great stories than I could publish, and such a wide variety of styles, subjects and points of view.

Here’s to reading more of the ‘to be read pile’ in 2019!

On Haiku

Haiku, 17 syllables, 5–7–5. Simple.

No?

Not quite. A haiku isn’t just a syllabic form. There are style and meter requirements as well, and as with translating the poems from Japanese to English, translating the form has its own issues, and there are nuances lost.

So what pieces are needed to make a haiku? There are 17 syllables[1], in a 5–7–5 pattern. The theme of the poem is an observation of nature, with no commentary. There is a seasonal word, and a pause.

The seasonal word is to designate time, but doesn’t have to be ‘spring’ or ‘winter.’ It can be something like ‘snow’ or ‘pumpkins.’ Known as kigo, these words invoke a season.

The pause is a slight shift in the lines. It is usually something like:

5-(pause)–7–5 or 5–7-(pause)–5

The pause is not as dramatic as a stanza break, but rather a slight separation from one line to the other two.

Here, a poem by Master Basho[2]. In this we have all the things above: the seasonal word, frogs for the spring; the concise observation; and the pause between the second and third line:

Old pond
frogs jumped in
sound of water

Now, in modern poets, the seasonal word has become optional; however, the comparison, and the change are still fundamental to the form. As is the length.

So you probably didn’t write a Haiku

That’s cool. First off, you still wrote something, so, that’s awesome. Let me suggest what it might be. You see, there is another 17 syllable form called the senryu.

The senryu is more of a slice of life type of art piece than a haiku is. It is witty, humorous, and is often satirical or sarcastic as well.

Sound more like something you’ve written?

I want to read more!

Don’t we all? Here are some books I’ve been reading.

The best one I suggest is this one:

  • Japanese Haiku; Its Essential Nature and History by Kenneth Yasuda

It contains a breakdown of the haiku, a lineage history through Japanese poetry, AND some great haiku. If you get one book on this list, make it this one.

  • Far Beyond The Field, Makoto Ueda
  • Basho and his Interpreters, Makoto Ueda
  • The Classic Tradition of Haiku, Faubion Bowers

And one on senryu

  • Light Verse from the Floating World, Makoto Ueda

(ok ok, I totally bought almost all of Ueda’s books. I got the one on modern tanka as well, which will be a different post…)

Online Resources

Here are some more resources on haiku:

Wikipedia

Poetry Foundation

Poets.org


  1. Another translation issue, as in Japanese they are not syllables, per se. For this reason, there was significant discussion early on as to whether the form should be shorter in English.  ↩
  2. Translation, Hearn.  ↩

A Poem for A President, 2009

The day President Obama was inaugurated, I listened to part of the inauguration as I was driving. A poem came to mind, nearly fully formed.

I rushed to my destination to get it written, and after a quick editorial pass, it was done. It is playful and light, and celebrates the moment for what it was–a moment. And even now, eight years later, I think it one of the better ones I have written post college.

I have shown this poem to practically no one.

I suspect it is silly of me to wish to divorce a poem of this topic from the politics, to have to stand as I believe it to be, rather than have it burdened by the weight of the divide that politics create.

I suspect that is silly–but I am silly.

So it sits, restless, I imagine, on my hard drive. It has been read aloud, recorded even, but always in solitude.

In the end, I fear, the angry, ugly side of the response to something political is simply not worth the chance.

Which is unfortunate.

The only real regret at this moment is that I didn’t make any attempt to send it to him while he was in office. I know the chance he’d see it is very small, but I’d like to think he’d appreciate it.