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FN Themes: Gift

Started by Field Notes, December 19, 2013, 01:48:07 PM

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Field Notes

"Every poem is a gift. Some coal. Some a bit more worthy of holding up to the light" says Peter Newton (below). And here's Michael Dylan Welch: "Perhaps every haiku is a gift, a way of saying 'this matters'".

This approaches the spirit and subject of this first in what we hope will be an ongoing series called
FN Themes, where you will be invited to contribute haiku and other poems on a given subject, and to say something about your choices if you so desire.

Gift. Giving.

Do have one or more poems on this theme? Do you know of any written by someone else?
Is there a poem or two about which you have been prompted to say: "This is a gift". In what way?

Field Notes

Bruce Ross

New Year's Eve
a puppet snowflake drifts
across the stage


Randy Brooks

I immediately thought of this haiku by Raymond Roseliep:

down from the mountain
the sculptor carves
a cherry stone

This haiku was published in Step on the Rain (Rook Press, 1977).

For me this haiku represents the gifts of creation . . . both by forces beyond us and by us. I love the way this haiku scales from mountain to stone from millions of years to the immediate work of carving a cherry stone. I like the way this haiku invites us to take part in the gift of creation.


Billie Wilson

winter solstice—
a shiny red trike
outside the thrift shop

Treetops column/World Haiku Review I:3 (2001)

for years to come
the flowers he planted
along the narrow road

Hermitage I (2004) ; Cornell University's Mann Library Daily Haiku (June 2008).

winter sun
a box of old books
from a new friend

Modern Haiku 43:1 (2012)

spring day—
the pup brings a different stick
from the thicket

Snapshots 12 (2006); Haiku Journey [video/computer game] (Hot Lava, 2006); Moonlight Changing Direction (HPNC Two Autumns Press, 2008 - Guest Reader)

after the thunderstorm
he brings me lilacs
and rain

South by Southeast
19:2 (2012)

the barista
remembers what I like—
chinook wind

Modern Haiku
44.1 (2013)


Michael Dylan Welch

first star—
a seashell held
to my baby's ear

Perhaps every haiku is a gift, a way of saying "this matters." I hope the gift of new life that I receive in having a newborn is reciprocated by my starting to give my baby a sense of wonder at nature and the world around us.


Peter Newton

Every poem is a gift. Some coal. Some a bit more worthy of holding up to the light. Honestly, there is one poem of mine (that recently appeared in The Heron's Nest in Dec. 2013) that I very much consider a gift because it came to me so quickly and completely. I had actually come across a small slab of smooth stone from the East Middlebury River up in Ripton, VT--a place in deep woods where I often go river walking in the heat of July. I came across a striated bit of stone among the millions that line the river bed and banks. This one was different. It had a smooth wave one might see in a modern marble sculpture. I carried it back to my room as a reminder of... what? I must've wondered in my sleep. . . July, the river, solitude, how smooth things can go if you let them, etc... Next morning I looked at my new-found paperweight and said:

                            the age of the river a ripple in stone

Another poem that I consider a true gift, in a different way, is by my friend Jean LeBlanc because I have never had someone dedicate a poem specifically for me. She included it in her recent book The Haiku Aesthetic; Short Form Poetry as a Study in Craft (Cyberwit.NET, 2013) which I only recently received, seeing the poem for the first time. It's a sequence but it begins like this:

                                    the meadow suite
                                    a little room filled
                                    with robin song


Max Verhart

For sale: this cottage
in Virginia creeper.

Clara Timmermans

The original Dutch language version:

Te koop: dit huisje
met een geschenkverpakking
van wilde wingerd.

was published in 1980 in her chapbook 'Een papieren parasol' (A Paper Parasol). With the English translation (by the Whirligig team) it was reprinted this year in Whirligig IV/2 (November 2013).

Clara is quite an old lady by now, daughter of a famous Flemish writer from the early twentieth century. Felix Timmermans is still read - and his daughter too!


John Stevenson

first warm day
the ground
gives a little

Giving is yielding, in both directions. It starts slowly, with a promise.


Peter Yovu

I am drawn to haiku that require unpacking; haiku that reveal their gifts slowly, and with patient engagement. They seem to require something of me.

A poem needs to give the reader something. But it needs to take away something more. Like love, it wounds. How else can it get past our habitual ways of seeing and feeling? Wounding is its gift.

I can't recall who said this, or something like this: in your wound is your gift to the community.

Here are two poems, among others, that I yielded to, and that opened to me as gifts. The first is by Jim Kacian. The second by Mark Harris.

fording the river
the moment closer
to neither bank

A quick reading of Kacian's poem might satisfy the reader with a sense of
being midway on a journey: just that moment when one's past and one's future are held in balance and one might have to make a choice-- go on, or go back.

Upon closer inspection I discover the poem's difficult gift: it presents an impossibility, a state of moving closer to a negation--  to not either bank; to nothing reachable. To a polarity with absence at both ends.

This is different than a mid-way point. It is a no-way, or vanishing point, a point, in fact, that does not exist except in a realm where time and space have collapsed into each other; where the one who finds himself/herself may disappear. Depending on the reader's own experience of this state, it will be either terrifying or joyful.

rain, rain . . .
        we let her unborn twin
        return to loam

Mark Harris' poem also requires careful reading. It opens up once one has accepted that unborn is not the same as stillborn. A stillbirth refers to a
child that has been born, but is dead. Unborn in this poem means exactly that: not born, at least not in the world of common experience.

So once again, we are looking at an impossibility, at something the rational mind will either defend against or yield to. Yielded to, Harris' poem propels us into the realm of myth, where every child that is born is accompanied by a shadow child. What that shadow may contain-- its gift--  will be conceived of differently by different readers.


You may recall this by Robert Frost:  "No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader".


David Lanoue

I believe that this poem is very much about receiving a gift:

to my open palms
snowflakes flitting


tenohira e hara-hara yuki no furi [ni] keri


Richard Gilbert

Here is something -- in the manner of a list poem, authored as text by Jerome Rothenberg:

Originally published in "Shaking the Pumpkin: Traditional Poetry of the Indian North Americas" & before that in "Technicians of the Sacred." Based on native accounts in "The Amiable Side of Kwakiutl Life: The Potlatch & the Play Potlatch" by Helen Codere (1956). Posted by Jerome Rothenberg at 8:13 PM, 2009/01, ][]

Gift Event, after the Kwakiutl

Start by giving away different colored glass bowls.

Have everyone give everyone else a glass bowl.

Give away handkerchiefs & soap & things like that.

Give away a sack of clams & a roll of toilet paper.

Give away teddybear candies, apples, suckers & oranges.

Give away pigs & geese & chickens, or pretend to do so.

Pretend to be different things.

Have the women pretend to be crows, have the men pretend to be something else.

Talk Chinese or something.

Make a narrow place at the entrance of a house & put a line at the end of it that you have to stoop under to get in.

Hang the line with all sorts of pots & pans to make a big noise.

Give away frying pans while saying things like "Here is this frying pan worth $100 & this one worth $200."

Give everyone a new name.

Give a name to a grandchild or think of something & go & get everything.


Eve Luckring

hōchō wo motte shūu ni mitoretaru

holding a knife
I feast my eyes
on a rain shower

Tsuji Momoko
(translated by Makoto Ueda in Far Beyond the Field: Haiku by Japanese Women, 2003, Columbia University Press)

Field Notes

Penny Harter

a spray of dogwood
in the antique vase—
grandmother's birthday   

[Published in tri-fold brochure, A Spray of Dogwood, for Haiku Canada conference, 2007.]

in each jar
of peach preserves
family stories

[Published in a little book Terry Ann Carter designed, but can't remember its title or year.]

so sweet, this
unripe plum warmed
by your hand

[Published on-line in NaHaiWriMo for February/March 2013]

        The Resonance Around Us

As we walk through this field, coarse grasses
vibrate around our ankles. Listen, we are already
in the sky, its rising glissando trembling in the
hollows of our bones—our bones that might be
wind chimes hanging from the trees, clattering
like a hard rain.

Tonight it will snow, each crystal a tuning fork
for the other, each of our upturned faces echoing
the quiet ticking flakes that home on us.

Even those things we deem silent—dead weeds
nodding by the barn, the piles the horses drop
as they drift through the pasture, steam rising
from each before it cools—even these
are singing in their spheres.

Listen, and you might hear the choir of atoms,
those unseen constellations that make flesh,
flickering on and o as they resonate with
the dead who float beside us, their substance
oscillating faster than we apprehend.

Just now some bird that knows the notes
of twilight opened its beak to offer a brief
harmony, and as the dark descends in solemn
chords, a chorus of plum clouds begins to hum
on Earth's horizon.

                                 Winter Stars

My neighbor fills her winter garden with oaktag cut-outs of red and
yellow stars—hangs them from her bird feeder or glues them atop the
planting sticks she's left in the dirt between withered blooms. Yesterday,
she knocked on my door, and I opened it to find her hands overflowing
with stars—each hole-punched and threaded with yarn—a new constellation
for these days of early dark.

'These are for you to hang places,' she said simply, knowing of my need
for joy this Christmas season. As we smiled and hugged one another, I
received them in my cupped hands. Now stars dangle from my doorknobs
and brighten shadowed corners—an unexpected gift of light.

moon splinters
on the river—the glint
of ice floes


Rebecca Lilly

blue asters
God grant me
the serenity

Christopher Patchel Turn, Turn


Mark Harris

I have two poems to offer you.

The first is by Peter Yovu.

calm sea
teaching my son
the dead man's float

Peter's poem harbors a foreboding, one shared by most parents, and yet it is also about teaching and touching (holding up), about love and letting go, a gift.

As for me, this poem of mine comes first to mind.

deep snow
           in a dream, I find
           her password in


Allan Burns

my dying gift . . .
the myriad leaves
of summer

John Wills, mountain (1993)


Richard Gilbert

A second gift is a Ted Talk on sustainability, by Tim Jackson (2010)
Tim Jackson: An economic reality check

Here is some background information and his book to match:

"Prosperity Without Growth" by Tim Jackson
"Prosperity Without Growth (2009) is a book by author and economist Tim Jackson. It was originally released as a report by the Sustainable Development Commission (SDC). The study rapidly became the most downloaded report in the Commission's nine-year history when it was launched earlier in 2009. The report was later that year fully revised and published by Earthscan. By arguing that "prosperity – in any meaningful sense of the word - transcends material concerns", the book summarizes the evidence showing that, beyond a certain point, growth does not increase human well being. Prosperity without Growth
analyses the complex relationships between growth, environmental crises and social recession. It proposes a route to a sustainable economy, and argues for a redefinition of "prosperity" in light of the evidence on what really contributes to people's well being."

The book was described by Le Monde as "one of the most outstanding pieces of environmental economics literature in recent years" [5] and the sociologist Anthony Giddens referred to it as "a must-read for anyone concerned with issues of climate change and sustainability-- bold, original and comprehensive."

Prosperity without Growth has been translated into 14 languages.

What do you think? What does sustainability mean to you? What
definition do you think we should be aiming for?


Tom D'Evelyn

first snowfall—
the cat has not moved
from the window sill

A haiku is a gift for me. Literally. I must make room for it, it's a process of cleaning, emptying, preparing room. In a second sense, the structure of haiku gives form to the metaphysics of gift. The cut creates the transparency by which we see the things of the world as gratuitous, given, unnecessary finitudes, and all the more precious for that.

Michael McClintock

Who knows what hurts himself knows what hurts others is a kind of primitive wisdom that can be extracted, I think, from Peter Yovu's observation (above) about a poem: "Like love, it wounds. . . Wounding is its gift." Likewise, the brighter side is equally true: what comforts one comforts another.

each there
for the other ---
moon and pine

I have wondered, especially when depressed by purple elephants and other absurdities, if this poem of mine from about a decade ago may be little more than poetic treacle.  And yet it is this poem that, when I re-enter and contemplate its fundamental realization and simple image, brings me out of depression and opens my eyes again to the relationships --- seemingly boundless and infinite --- things have toward other things and to ourselves, in our consciousness and experience of the material universe, through our senses and cognitive faculties. It may not be much of a poem but it is my personal touchstone and seems to re-center me before the open gift of existence each time I might feel the box is closed, the door shut, and nihilism is the only philosophy left that makes a particle of sense.

The loving inter-dependence we witness in things, that "being there for the other," is found in this poem by John Wills:

spring flood . . .
a small toad riding
an oak twig

We share a lot with that toad, in that moment, do we not?  Men likewise grasp and ride twigs.  And consider, no less, the lowly twig, and the role it plays in the lives of creatures of all kinds everywhere it exists on the planet. Eliminate twigs from the picture of life on earth and you must take away almost everything else, too. Wills was an empath and could sense the toad mind, I think.

And here, again, in this poem by Wills, wherein he names it "beauty" and shows the gift of it for what it is, which we immediately recognize without explanation:

the beauty
of the summer flowers . . .
first day of autumn

The human being likes to over-think the simple and is, I suppose, generally wary of these "gifts" that are in fact all around us --- in plain sight as well as disguised or hidden in some surprising, unexpected context --- as in the poem above, where all those flowers are dying off.

I'll leave the last word in this seam of naturalist philosophy to the poet Issa and his famous translator, David G. Lanoue, found this morning in Issa's Untidy Hut [posted 18 Dec 2013 07:30 AM PST]:

even his shit
gets wrapped in paper

The absurdity in Issa's poem has within it a vision of the world wherein sadness and rage cannot overwhelm us.


Angelee Deodhar

Here are two I feel fit the season.
Both are from The Scent of Music edited by Marlene Buitelar.

failing eyesight-
we sing only the carols
we know by heart

Beverley George

silent night
the singing hands
of the deaf child

Jerry Kilbride

Ellen Grace Olinger

This haiku was a gift 20 years ago this December.  It was published in Time Of Singing (1997).

coming out of
anesthesia . . .
the Cross on the wall

And this poem today, in gratitude for healing and everyday life.

light from the fireplace
on the floor

This poem by Jim Kacian, from the Haiku in English anthology, is another gift.

pain fading the days back to wilderness

* * *

On an another note, this is my first post for the Forum.  Thanks to Peter Yovu for encouragement.

Very nice idea for a theme: Gift.


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