May 30, 2009

Some Things I Found Online

Here's a variety of things I've found over the past few days:

The Huffington Post had an article by Gretchen Rubin on tips for writing. What an odd place for writing advice! Here's a tip that I believe in:
6. Don't fall into the trap of thinking that creativity descends on you at random. Creative thinking comes most easily when you're writing regularly and frequently, when you're constantly thinking about your project.

I found some validation for yesterday's haiku rant in a London Evening Standard article in which the British Haiku Society's president was quoted as saying, "These entries are not up to standard. They are using far too many adjectives and far too many syllables. They are also too jokey."

We're finally starting to see some inventions, which use alternative energy, coming into the marketplace. The BigBelly Solar Trash Recepticle is taking off-in Philadelphia at least. (An earlier article may be found here.)

It's no longer just about the pinky! (Cryptic, huh?) Click here to read a fascinating article.

May 29, 2009

Poetry Friday--Separating the Haiku from the Haiku

As I grow older, I grow crankier. But, I've also learned to let things go. I'm no longer going to be bothered when anything and everything in 3 lines of 5-7-5 syllables is labeled a haiku. I give up. It's not worth getting my underwear in a knot when all around me are:

  • numerous online "haiku" contests such as "Write a haiku--in 5-7-5 form-- about..." the "Twilight" series, techie subjects, Lord of the Rings Online, food and drink in Portland (OR), pets, or the British summer (this last contest has Yoko Ono as a judge, and the entries appear in London tube stations!)

  • books, wines, ballgames, and just about anything else, tersely reviewed/summarized in 5-7-5

  • lists of computer error message haiku, or cat haiku (they've shown up in my inbox at least once a year since 1998)


  • Although I'd like to call most the above-mentioned stuff, Fake-Ku, I wouldn't dare suggest that anyone is creating fake poetry, and, I wouldn't want you to think that it isn't enjoyable. It has provided me with quite a few laughs over the years, but I don't consider these poems haiku. Therefore, I'd like to propose that English language haiku in which the 5-7-5 form is not the defining feature of the poem, be called something else. We need to come up with something that separates the two types of work. What shall we call our poems? I don't speak Japanese and so have no suggestions for another Japanese term. If we're talking about English language haiku then shouldn't the word be English?

    Using "essence of a moment keenly perceived," as a guide, and after consulting my handy-dandy thesaurus, I'd like to suggest quiddity. It's slightly exotic, relatively unknown, and it means, "the essential nature of a thing." A great name for a haiku!

    Perhaps we should come up with something completely different like Andrew Clements did in his book, Frindle. His character, Nick Allen, a fifth grader, decides to rename a pen. He comes up with frindle and begins using a frindle instead of a pen. (If you don't know it, it's a fun story.) So let's see, what's a good made-up word...sketern? lilnym?

    What do you think? Please use the comments feature to contribute a term of your own. Let me know that I'm not alone in my obsessive pursuit of informing the public about contemporary English language haiku. (Or maybe I am?)

    According to the definition of insanity provided by Rita Mae Brown (but usually attributed to Ben Franklin or Albert Einstein), "doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results," you may think I'm insane, but, I promise, this will be my last rant about faux haiku...

    Here's a quiddity of my own to end this rant:

    cat
    complains loudly
    --May rain

    I'd also like to pass along this link to the Haiku Foundation's digital library, in case you're not familiar with contemporary English Language haiku.

    The Poetry Friday Round-Up for this week is being hosted by Irene Latham at Live. Love. Explore!

    May 27, 2009

    At The Currier

    I visited the Currier Museum of Art this afternoon to catch the "Building Books: The Art of David Macaulay" exhibit. It was definitely worth going to, and I urge anyone in the area of Manchester, NH, to make plans to view it before it closes on June 14. If you're around this Sunday, Macaulay himself will be there at 2:00 PM for "ARTalk: The Way David Macaulay Works,"
    Meet award-winning author illustrator David Macaulay as he discusses his techniques for explaining complex concepts through illustration. Book signing to follow. Free with museum admission, but reservations required. Space is limited. Make your reservations online or by calling 603.669.6144 x 108.
    My daughter and I especially enjoyed looking through the book of mostly children's drawings and comments about the exhibit.

    May 24, 2009

    Phun Photographs

    From haha.nu: the lifestyle blogzine comes artfully altered reality by Chema Madoz.

    from Chema Madoz by Christian Caujolle (Assouline, 2005)


    Additional photos can be seen at Madoz's website, but don't expect to find too much information on the artist. The page titled The Artist (El Autor), is about the work. Being a writer, I'm intrigued by the story behind the art. Even the entry in Wikipedia is lacking information, but at least it tells us that Chema is male, Spanish, was born in 1958, and that his birth name is Jose Maria Rodriguez Madoz.

    I offer you this entry into, or perhaps a revisiting of, Madoz's photos as a way to inspire your own work. Go to it!

    Here's something from me:

    cat tentatively
    claws at raindrops
    on the windowpane
    © Diane Mayr, all rights reserved

    May 22, 2009

    Poetry Friday--YouTube Poetry

    YouTube can be the world's biggest time waster, or it can be a pathway to new ideas. You don't have to be suckered into watching every crazy cat video, you know! (It may be physically impossible--I checked and there were "about 37,800" results when I did a "crazy cat" search.) On Poetry Friday you can view short videos of poets reading their work, introductions to writing poetry, and, animated poems. (My favorite animated poem is Billy Collins' "The Country".) The other day I found a trailer for a full-length haiku film! Who knew? Well, now you do!



    HAIKU: The Art of the Short Poem, a film by Tazuo Yamaguchi, was filmed at 2007 Haiku North America (HNA) conference. The DVD is packaged with a book containing all the featured haiku, and is available for purchase here.

    I attended HNA in 2001 when it was held in Boston. I was still too much of a newbie to actively participate, but I did enjoy the haiku immersion experience.

    through walls
    strangers alarms go off
    much too early

    © Diane Mayr, all rights reserved

    Today, Susan Taylor Brown is hosting the Poetry Friday Round-Up at Susan Writes.

    May 20, 2009

    I've Been Away

    for a few days at NH Library Association conference being held in NH's beautiful White Mountains. The conference was fabulous with me learning tons of new things that I'm sure will be a help to me in my research projects. It's going to take me days to wade through the handouts and my notes and then to explore all the websites that were recommended. What fun!

    Our luncheon speaker today was a young (anyone longer than 50 I consider young) tech-savvy librarian named John Blyberg. Get a load of his title: Assistant Director for Innovation and User Experience. Wow, I'm impressed. I don't know what it means, but it sounds good. Blyberg is the creator of blyberg.net: A Library-Geek Blog. In his speech, he spoke of many things, but one thing he said resonated with me. It is a simple truth, "knowledge is a personal pursuit."

    I hope you engage in your own personal pursuit each and every day!

    May 15, 2009

    Poetry Friday--Baseball Haiku


    Baseball Haiku: American and Japanese Haiku and Senryu on Baseball, edited with translations by Cor van den Heuvel and Nanae Tamura (W.W. Norton, 2007)

    Apple pie and baseball are held up as the model of Americanism. I won't venture to guess what the Japanese equivalent of apple pie is, but I'm sure that baseball in Japan is as big a national sport as it is in America.

    Even those who don't follow baseball probably have some baseball related memories stored away. Perhaps it's a sandlot baseball game, or being the last to be picked for the team. Perhaps it's an elementary school memory of listening to a world series game over the loudspeaker, or another audio memory of baseball cards clothespinned to the spokes of a bicycle wheel. City dweller or suburban dweller, I'm willing to bet that you have a few memories of your own.

    The choice of haiku selected for Baseball Haiku recall memories similar to those mentioned above, and, many, many more.

    American, Edward J. Reilly, captures the angst of not being picked:

    the boy not chosen
    steps over home plate,
    picks up his books

    David Elliott, reminds us that little leaguers are, afterall, just kids:

    Flash of lightning--
        all the little leaguers
            look up

    Alan Pizzarelli presents a common scene with humor:

    bases loaded--
    at the crack of the bat
    the crowd pops up

    Here's one from the Japanese poet, Kawahigashi Hekigoto, which describes a typical childhood experience:

    while playing ball
    it becomes time to go home
    for supper

    In "Introduction: Warming Up," Cor van den Heuvel tells the reader
    Haiku and baseball were made for each other: While haiku give us moments in which nature is linked to human nature, baseball is played in the midst of the natural elements--on a field under an open sky; and as haiku happen in a timeless now, so does baseball, for there is no clock ticking in a baseball game--the game's not over until the last out.
    He does a spectacular job of explaining haiku and senryu to those who may not be familiar with the form. A little baseball haiku history is included, too.

    I highly recommend Baseball Haiku!

    Last month I attended a NH Fisher Cats game. The young woman who sang the National Anthem was a wrong choice in more ways than one...

    national anthem
    sung out of tune
    --minor league game

    butt crack--
    no one hears the
    national anthem

    © Diane Mayr, all rights reserved

    Here's a Poetry Friday challenge for you: dig up a baseball memory of your own and preserve it in a haiku or senryu. Then, visit Kelly Polark's blog for this week's Poetry Friday Round-Up.

    May 13, 2009

    Just For Fun

    I wanted to share a link to BOOK: The Sequel.
    What is it? It’s a book that asks the world to write the first sentence for a yet-to-be-written sequel to any book ever published.

    What fun! Take some time to dive into your memory of the books you've read over the years (or faked reading). You can pick any book, not necessarily your favorite book. (Imagine trying to decide upon your favorite book!) Simply find something that you can twist in some delightful new way!

    You've got two weeks to come up with one sentence and a book title. How tough can that be?

    May 10, 2009

    Happy Mother's Day!


    We spent a perfect afternoon at a NH Fisher Cats game. Here's a resulting senryu:

    home team
    wears pink jerseys
    --mother's day

    May 9, 2009

    Moderation In All Things

    I want to share this opinion piece from the British magazine, Standpoint, website. Its premise is that the em-dash has all but replaced the semicolon. I occasionally use a semicolon, but I think many children's writers stay away from it because children have a limited understanding of what a semicolon implies. Besides, if we are using semicolons, we are probably writing sentences that are simply too long for our audience. Excessive use of em-dashes is something I will have to be more aware of in the future.

    Writers of haiku in English often employ em-dashes and ellipses, and less frequently colons and semicolons to indicate a pause. This practice is a result of English not having an equivalent of the kireji or "cutting word." (See the Haiku Society of America's note on its haiku definition here.) I think the use of em-dashes in haiku can also be overdone, I know I've found myself using them a little too often.

    Image by Rocketeer

    The lesson here is--everything in moderation--including the use of em-dashes!

    May 8, 2009

    Poetry Friday--What Is Haiku? And Who Decides on the Definition?

    Last Friday, on The Write Sisters' blog, I wrote "A Curmudgeon's Review" of Michael Rosen's new book The Cuckoo's Haiku and Other Birding Poems. I got an email from Michael. He told me he had tried to post a comment, but it did not work, so he sent the comment to me. Before reading it, you may want to read the original post. Michael's comment:
    Dear Diane and friends of The Write Sisters,

    I appreciate your care in reviewing my book, as well as your confidence to be "a dog with a bone" about your beliefs in haiku and children's books. I share your passion, while I suppose I have different bones. (It's true, as a dog person, I know about bones...and more haiku, in what you'll find as the same disappointing spirit, is forthcoming from Candlewick in 2011. Twenty-four breeds of dogs featured similarly in this form.)

    As a poet who writes in a variety of forms for both adults and children, I use form, meter, rhyme, "sentence sounds" (the adhesive properties of repeating vowels and consonants within a given line that Frost utilized). Form, in particular provides the pressure. Provides the generative source of ideas and options, forces me to consider and reconsider each word and phrase.

    Like many folks who practice haiku (indeed, practice is the right word), I opt for the 5/7/5 syllable convention. We all know the original Japanese form does not pertain to 17 syllables broken into three horizontal lines but rather, to 17 units of sound arranged in one vertical line. Furthermore, what sounds like two 'syllables' to an English speaker's ear, may not possess two units of sound. For instance, the Japanese word haibun is often used as an example. It possesses one elongated vowel, as well as an "n" at the end of syllable, which counts as another sound. It's pronounced ha-i-bu-n: four sound counts.

    In other words, like any kind of translation, the job is to find an equivalency between languages, not making a precise match. And translation is a constantly renewable art because language dates, language exists in time and place.

    In this book, I applied the idea of haiku to a range of commonly seen birds: THAT is hardly a traditional theme for haiku. Birds, yes, but not a suite of different species. So there began the adaptation. I did attempt to use a seasonal cue for each poem. I did use metaphors and similes, partly as a means of enlarging the scope of the observation, partly as a means of layering common phenomenon with nuance or novelty that would allow the reader to dwell on the page. Partly to appeal to younger readers as well.

    The temptation, which we all have to resist, is to read quickly: I mean, you can zip through a hundred haiku in the time it might take to read a dozen pages of a novel. Haiku, as I appreciate it or use it, needs to possess a centripetal or centrifugal force rather than a forceful gust. It's a churning and a spinning into associations, and not a rolling out of a maxim or a homily.

    Did I practice haiku in this book in a manner that's vetted by the HSA? Would the very nature of this book adhere to their guidelines? I wouldn't know; while I read volumes of haiku, I find them as varied as I find authors of picture books or composers of sonatas or choreographers of ballet. But, as most artists approach their canvas, camera, dancers, piano, I hoped to exploit the power of tradition and the potential of inspiration or innovation.

    So, to me, the real questions are: is the book as a whole a success (the mix of field notes, paintings, and poems)? Are the poems enjoyable, insightful, evocative? I don't believe the reader—especially a kid—would ask are these really and truly haiku?

    We are in complete agreement on your second point: the font that's used for the notes on the page is less than ideal. I tried...I tried...to have it changed.

    Again, thank you for giving this book such serious attention, and for permitting me to raise my hackles as well. Wag, wag...


    I want to thank Michael for taking the time to write such a considered response. Before I comment, I want to quote from Jane Reichhold's AHA Poetry site:
    I am bothered by the several times it is asked, "Is this a haiku?" I think the better question is, "Do I want to accept this poem as an example of haiku for myself?" With this way of stating the question, perhaps one can avoid painful discourses. I am totally for discussion, but when anyone assumes the authority to say "what haiku is(or isn't)", I feel the discussion has ended and turned into something quite different.

    So, to cut to the chase, I'm simply going to state that FOR ME, the poems in Michael's book are not haiku. FOR ME, what's important in haiku is the presentation of "the essence of a moment keenly perceived," not the form. (See NOTE below.)

    Here's one of my favorite haiku from The Haiku Anthology: Haiku and Senryu in English edited by Cor van den Heuvel (W.W. Norton, 1999), if only because it is pure essence:

    snow
    all's
    new

    ~ Raymond Roseliep


    For those who are confused about haiku in English, I'd recommend spending some time with The Haiku Anthology. It doesn't provide instruction--it provides a wide range of examples. If you'd like instruction, check out Patricia Donegan's Haiku: Asian Arts and Crafts for Creative Kids (Tuttle, 2003), or Jane Reichhold's Writing and Enjoying Haiku (Kodansha, 2003).

    I congratulate Michael on the success of The Cuckoo's Haiku and welcome all views on haiku! I'd love to have others weigh in on haiku, too, so please leave your comments and take part in a discussion.

    This week's Poetry Friday Round-Up is hosted by Anastasia Suen at Picture Book of the Day.


    NOTE: The Haiku Society of America's definition of haiku:"An unrhymed Japanese poem recording the essence of a moment keenly perceived, in which Nature is linked to human nature." The definition was updated in 2004 and now reads, "A haiku is a short poem that uses imagistic language to convey the essence of an experience of nature or the season intuitively linked to the human condition." Unfortunately, I think the old definition is clearer than the new one, which sent me running to a dictionary of literary terms to understand what was meant by imagistic!

    May 4, 2009

    Ballpark Rant


    I got back last night from a short family holiday in Florida. One of the highlights of the trip was taking in a Red Sox game! I can't afford to go to a Sox game in Boston--the tickets are hard to come by and well out of the range of a librarian/children's writer. Surprising, though, it was easy to get a ticket to see them play against the Tampa Bay Rays.

    My daughter and I went out for dinner on Friday night. We didn't want to go to any of the gazillion chain restaurants that blanket the Orlando area, so we looked for something unexpected. We drove by an Irish/British/Scottish pub. The parking lot was full. There were people sitting at tables outside. We knew there'd be something besides Bud Light on tap, so we turned around and pulled in.

    Our waitress WAS Irish. The food was fantastic. The beer was, too. The Sox and the Bruins were on the TVs! We found out that the Sox had games yet to play in St. Petersburg before leaving the area. We were told that tickets, although harder to get since the Rays won the AL pennant last year, would still be available. When we got back to a computer later that night, we found that indeed, there were tickets, and that St. Petersburg was about 1 1/2 hour's drive from where we were staying. It seemed that it would be possible for us to drive there on Sunday morning, attend at least part of the afternoon game, then drive back to Orlando to make our evening flight to Boston. When we discovered we could purchase a ticket for $16.00, that clinched the deal!

    Tropicana Field is no Fenway Park, but, it is larger, and thus can hold more attendees at more reasonable prices. It seems a shame that a New Englander has to travel out of the area to see a Sox game live. How many Boston kids, although living in the shadow of Fenway, will never see a game?

    Attending the game at Tropicana Field was reminiscent of a NH Fisher Cats game in that there were lots of families in attendance, there were amusingly corny activities taking place between innings, and parents could treat their kids to a second bag of peanuts because they hadn't spent a fortune to buy tickets.

    Now for some photos--

    Approaching the domed stadium. That blue beneath everyone's feet is a mosaic pathway of aquatic creatures.






    Sox fans take the game quite seriously!

    What do you think? Do the Red Sox fans outnumber the Rays fans? Considering that Sox fans' shirts also come in white, gray, and navy, it looks fairly certain to me!

    Okay, I admit, I had some trouble obeying this rule--especially after the little blunders at second base!