Sunday, March 11, 2012

Honoring Japan with small words

Laid waste on this journey.
My dreams wander scattered
through desolate fields.

~ Matsuo Basho (c. 1644-94)


I pause with Japan to mark one year from yesterday since the earthquake and tsunami that laid waste seaside villages.  

The pictures and news stories are still so clear in my mind, scattered as if through Basho’s desolate fields: a boat perched ridiculously on top of a house; an injured dog discovered by his mate on a stranded beach, a first sign of hope; a distraught mother, her baby snatched from her hands and swept out to sea just moments before.

As these images came rushing in on the tide of the 24/7 news cycle, I wept. I had come to feel a connection with many poets from Japan over the past few years, through my exploration of modern haiku poets on twitter (I tweet poetry and follow other Twitter poets under @haikunut).

I learn by doing, and back in 2008-ish (can't quite remember when) I wanted to learn what the fuss was about with this thing called "Twitter." My goal was to learn about this social media tool and how to use it, not to develop ties or even really to grow in the writing craft (though that seemed a nice potential perk at the time).  Be forewarned if you have yet to tweet with the poets – they will capture your heart.

So naturally, back last March, when the news became too much, I turned to what had become a form of release -- tweeting poetry. Here is one short poem I wrote after the disaster:

I see a boat
on a house
half a world away
and hug my son
tighter to my chest

Writing seemed at the time an anemic gesture, but it was what I had to offer to the journey laid waste.  My fellow haiku poets in the north east towns and villages of Japan would never be the same.  I honored them then and do so now the only way I have ever known how: with small words.


Classic Haiku: The Greatest Japanese Poetry From Basho, Buson, Issa, Shiki and Their Followers, Edited and Introduced by Tom Lowenstein (Duncan Baird Publishers, London, 2007)

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