I was immediately impressed by Ms. Jana White’s poem I dream of being a weed, posted way back in February. I’ve read other poems about weeds, both literal and metaphorical, but her take on these hardy little plants is both beautiful and unique. She also created a lovely drawing to accompany her poem (a poet after my own heart!), so I decided to let this one sit for a while and incubate in my imagination. I wanted my illustration to be different and complementary to hers. A photograph of a grasshopper, taken by me on a recent run, became the inspiration to return to this poem and create a photo collage. Ms. White’s blog, Poetry of Light, is wonderful and I encourage a visit over there to experience some of her poetry. To hop directly to the full text and original illustration of I dream of being a weed, click here. Photo collage by me. Have a great Wednesday!
I wanted to reveal the next drawing in my “Major Arcana” series for August’s Draw-A-Bird Day. Officially, Draw-A-Bird Day is April 8th each year: you can visit the D.A.B.D. website here – thank you to M.R. Emberson of A-Wing and A-Away for introducing us to it! A number of artist-bloggers here on Word Press have been celebrating it by posting a bird drawing on the 8th of every month. Laura at Create Art Every Day is hosting this month’s birdy gathering! Thank you, Laura!
The Emperor is a Jabiru stork, one of the largest birds in South America: large males can stand 5 feet tall and have a 9 foot wingspan. They eat small animals of almost any variety – frogs, lizards, crustaceans, and even mice and other birds. Drawing (colored pencil and ink on paper) by me. Have a Happy Draw-A-Bird-Day! If you’d like to see the other two drawings in my bird themed Major Arcana series: The Tower and The Wheel of Fortune.
Women and men(both dong and ding)
summer autumn winter spring
reaped their sowing and went their came
sun moon stars rain
E.E. Cummings (1894-1962)
I distinctly remember struggling with E.E. Cummings’ experimental poetry in school – i carry your heart (probably still his most popular poem) presented no challenge, but much of the rest of his work seemed so strange: it was my first introduction to abstract poetry. I also remember that when I finally read anyone lived in a pretty how town, this was the moment I felt like I “got it.” Oh, that’s what he’s doing, I said to myself with a sigh of relief (for my grade in the class). No longer under the threat of a term paper, I have since come to truly appreciate Mr. Cummings’ experiments with language. But anyone lived in a pretty how town is still my entry point to his work and experimental methods. If you would like to read the whole poem, click here (there is also an audio file of Mr. Cummings reading the poem!). Collage (mixed media on newsprint and digital) by me.
As life has conspired to delay my return to art making (Life: “Oh, you are back from vacation? Good! I had been delaying so many minor crises at work and home until you returned!” Me: “Uh-oh.”), I wanted to repost one of my favorite collaborations from about a year ago. Michael Palmer’s Sonnet: Now I See Them is a surreal and modern take on a classical form: the sense imagery is rich and the symbolism of the numbers is fascinating. Mr. Palmer has collaborated extensively over the years with musicians and visual artists and this poem reflects that interaction. If you’d like to read the whole poem, head over here to the Poetry Foundation and see what you think. Drawing (ink on paper) by Chiara Ricci-Tam. She has her own blog on WordPress, Chiaroscurale, where she posts her experiments with art that she does in between her scientific experiments. Stop by and say “hello”!
I didn’t design my trip to Japan to revolve around haiku, although considering the content of this blog, it would have been fitting! I went to Japan to hike on the Nakasendo Way (the old Edo era highway between Kyoto and Tokyo, now the equivalent of a national historic trail), be immersed in a totally new place and culture, and unplug. People do, in fact, plan whole trips around Bashō and his poetry (the tour company I used – and would highly recommend – even offers a “Bashō Tour”). I am not so organized a traveler, however; it turned out that I would walk in the footsteps of Matsuo Bashō (1644-1694) on at least two occasions during my trip.
Matsuo Bashō is one of the four Japanese haiku masters – together with Yosa no Buson (1716-1784), Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828), and Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902). Bashō moved around quite a bit during his life, living in a number of cities, as well as traveling extensively, including on parts of the Nakasendo Way.
Our second night on the trail, we stayed at a traditional Japanese bed and breakfast, called Sinchaya – or New Tea House. I learned “new” is a relative term in Japan, and seems to mean that the inn is merely several hundred years old. Across the road from the B&B was a beautiful pond and garden. I could see the garden from my room and was drawn to wander around and take photographs of it (like the photo above) while I waited for dinner to be ready. There was a brass plaque in the garden, but as it was entirely in Japanese and I was entirely out of reach of Google translate, its meaning remained a mystery to me.
The next morning, our guide informed us that it was tradition for the innkeepers to see us off as we lumbered back onto the Nakasendo Way. Our two lovely hosts did just that, enthusiastically waving and watching until we turned the corner and were out of sight. As the trail glided up between terraced rice paddies, our guide causally mentioned that Sinchaya – in particular, its pond and garden – was the source of a famous haiku written by Bashō. I looked it up later and discovered I had been part of a ritual going back 350 years.
Kiso no aki
Seeing friends off
being seen off, and now —
autumn in Kiso
Later in the week, back in Tokyo in a torrential downpour, we darted from high-rise portico to high-rise portico with another guide. Sheltering under a non-descript overhang in the Nihonbashi district, our guide pointed to a beautiful stone with a brass plaque on the sidewalk. “Matsuo Bashō lived here,” she proudly proclaimed before asking, “Has anyone heard of haiku?” I raised my rain-slickered arm high. The plaque commemorated a haiku he wrote in about 1677:
Yado no Haru
This is a hokku
Matsuo Tosei’s (“Green Peach”)
home on New Year.
Tr. Gabi Greve
Several websites remarked that this haiku was Bashō’s official “grand opening” as a professional poet and teacher. Nihonbashi is now a maze of high rise office buildings – the bashi (bridge) spans the river in the permanent shade of an elevated highway. But tucked in every corner was history and in at least one case, poetry.
It is good to be back and I’m looking forward to catching up on everyone’s blogs. Don’t worry, you’ll be subjected to more pictures from Japan for many Silent Sundays to come!