Poetry Friday: a haiku journey

Friday, April 15th, 2011

For today’s Poetry Friday, in the midst of Poetry Month in the US and Canada, I’d like to share with you an unexpected delve into poetry I shared with Little Brother last week, following an observation he made during a regular walk with the dog. We were out in local woods, which are a carpet of wood anemones at this time of year, when he suddenly stopped and said, “It’s like walking in the sky.” I suggested he hold onto the thought and use it to create a haiku…

Later, back home, Little Brother told me all about the haiku writing in The Way of the Dragon, the third in Chris Bradford‘s Young Samurai series (Puffin Books, 2010), of which he is a huge fan. We found the book and read the relevant section together – and I appreciated how Bradford draws his young and I imagine mostly male readers towards the poetic form through humor as well as cultural inference. We then touched on Basho, and I suggested he take a look at Grass Sandals: The Travels of Basho by Dawnine Spivak and illustrated by Demi (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 1997); read Sally’s post about this wonderful book. He’s a big fan of Demi’s books too so he soon had it off the shelves and was engrossed… and having read it from cover to cover, literally, he then moved on to the titles mentioned in Demi’s biographical notes. Much later, our thoughts returned to our walk and our own haiku. I was definitely upstaged – here’s what Little Brother came up with:

Wood Anemones

Walk among the stars
Treading on the vast green slopes
Then the world flips round

This week’s Poetry Friday is hosted by “haiku nut” Diane Mayr at Random Noodling – head on over.

Poetry Friday: Grass Sandals

Friday, February 19th, 2010

Although it’s February and feels like winter — at least in my part of the country — February actually  marks the beginning of spring in many East Asian countries.  The Asian calendar is particularly sensitive to changes of season.  When I think of writing about the seasons in poetry, the first form that comes to mind is the haiku and the most famous practitioner of its art, Basho.

Grass Sandals: The Travels of Basho by Dawnine Spivak, illustrated by Demi, is a delightful picture book that captures the essence of the wandering poet for children.   In it, Basho is featured as a character embarking on a journey.  Upon his hat, he writes: “Hat, I will soon show you cherry blossoms” and sets off.    Of course, Basho has his adventures — not of the swash-buckling kind, mind you — and he records them in haiku.  He wades in rivers, sits under ancient trees, sleeps on grass pillows, and swims in the ocean.  This meandering but mindful wandering is presented on each page with images, haikus, and Chinese characters — kanji, as they are known in Japanese — for the most salient natural element presented in the poem.  So in addition to being a good book about a famous historical figure, Grass Sandals teaches a little bit of kanji as well!

Illustrator Demi has drawn wonderful images of the traveling Basho on a background of washi — Japanese paper — to great effect.  (You can see more of Demi’s artwork in the PaperTigers gallery.) The genial nature of the poet is well reflected in his expressions.  Grass Sandals is a good introduction to the poet and the form, and a lovely Asian way of welcoming in a season that might not otherwise feel like spring at all!

This week’s Poetry Friday host is Irene Latham at Live. Love. Explore. – head on over!