fish spine picked clean end of conversation

Hello new book! I begin this post with my editor and publisher’s name along with mine, and part of the skeleton of a fish. It’s sometimes a good idea to start with a part of something, a manageable piece, to take time to see the part, and so the whole, more clearly.

So here is Éditions des petits nuages, a small press with a big vision, one that takes risks and sends out into the world a fullness of books on poetry, mostly Japanese-form poems, in French and in English. Poet, translator and editor in his own right, Mike Montreuil’s ‘nuage‘ publications run from the historically important through compilations of contemporary poetry. I’m proud to be published once more with Éditions des petits nuages, pleased that some of my books are part of his publications list.

Montreuil is also the Publications Editor of Haiku Canada, main editor of the Haiku Canada Review and its Haiku Canada Sheet Series, both functions he has recently taken over from LeRoy Gorman. It’s a hat that is not easy to fill, but Mike will do a fine job.  And so, back to some the many poets published under the mantle of the ‘little clouds’: Andre Duhaime, Micheline Beaudry, Maxianne Berger, for starters, and Jocelyne Villeneuve. The Villeneuve project alone is worth many blog pages, as is the collection of years of The Betty Drevniok Award poems and judges’ comments, all this besides Montreuil’s work for The Haiku Society of America and sundry other poetry-related projects.

Now it is my turn again to be published by the little clouds, with fish spine picked clean, a collection of tanka, the five-line poems that can, every once in a while, be written in one line as it is in the title of this blog. It’s one of my briefest tanka, but one that pulls in what I like to portray in such a short poem, an image, but an image that links with an emotion, a very human poem.  After so many publications with my name on them, it’s still amazing to see the title and my name on the spine of this spine.  It’s been a long time coming for another tanka collection (after Your Hands Discover Me/ Tes mains me découvrent, 2010, Éditions du tanka francophone,  Montreal), and it mostly comprises already-published tanka in other other journals, in paper or online, such as Skylark, Take Five: Best Contemporary tanka, or Gusts, Canada’s Tanka Magazine, or in themed books such as Blackbird’s Throat.

These poems might count as a section of memoir expressed in tanka, but as such, it is of course, only the smallest part, a particle perhaps, of thoughts and feelings throughout my life.  Records of a kind. Not a narrative per se, but bits and pieces of nature, happiness, love, and sadnesses such as most people have, and about which many poets write. The ‘spine’, so to speak, of tanka poetry.

And what is this spine, my spine, trying to say and why collect all these pieces of my self into a book.  For I am not famous or rich as a many a poet may and should be. Not a celebrity poet whose books everyone wants personally signed, a writer the world clamours to know more about, which doesn’t matter, as it’s the right time to do what you’re doing as long as it is the right time to be doing it. Ah, I will be known throughout the land for long, oblique, tortured sentences. Still, it’s the way it is. Now is the time for fish spine to be shouting ‘life’ and this is how life is for me: how it has been, how it is, including the lusty erotics… who is to say when those experiences in life have been there and gone. Not me.

fallen into temptation/i unbutton/his shirt —/moon’s wry/romantic grin

never sleep they say/in the path/of a moonbeam/but my love/who’s thinking of sleep

crossing the bridge/across the border/the fire in us/could have melted/this steel

Putting the collection together has given me the chance to share the beauty of a dear one’s love of language, the simplicity of  a Brahms passage, or cross cultures with the poetry of another country, showcasing the relationship between early tanka and the Chinese poets.

languish languid limpid livid/you loved words/they came tripping out/like spring brook water/lively

then three simple notes/down and back/generates a measure/the ordinary…/seeding the/extraordinary

the smiles/of small girls/deny what is written/that no one is glad/when a girl is born                        (with reference to a poem called Woman by the poet Fu Hsüan who died c. AD 278.)

Within this collection of notes and whimsies written over the years, and the freedom allowed by Montreuil as editor, I can even approach being funny, reference Artificial Intelligence, indulge in my liking for the word ‘tarty’, and, using a famous pair of dancers, give a nod to how women are men’s equals, perhaps at times more equal, despite obstacles that few even notice.

it’s been with me, officer/all night long/the robot/had already/learned/to lie

fred and ginger/she in high heels/this marmalade is a hit/packed with tarty bits/of orange peel

The book will be out by March 12th, and I will be reading from it at Ottawa’s Tree Reading Series on March 13th.  Thank you so much,  Mike Montreuil and your little clouds.


The beauty of short tanka

These tanka are from the Spring/Summer 2016 issue of Gusts, Canada’s Tanka magazine. I have a preference for shorter poems, revel in how so few words can say so much, and find longer tanka are often poems to which not enough thought has been given.

only had
one dream about
my father—
he walked
right past me

Stanford Forrester

in between storm clouds
there is hope
for a sunny day
with you

Mike Montreuil

for a heartbeat
let me breathe-in
the scent
of his hair

Huguette Ducharme

the glass—
a taste of lipstick
just before
the taste of wine

Colin Bardell

I’ll bury it
moon deep for now—
this longing
for a lover
like you

Paul Smith

child dies
of cancer
clouds shape shifting
white to black

Pamela A. Babusci

Emptying trash
the letter
I threw away
I throw away

Carol Purington

a contrail
stretching straight
toward the sun
I was watching it
until I felt lonely

Kozue Uzawa

Shinoe Shôda, who died herself in 1965 from an illness caused by the atomic bomb, depicts the tragic death from the bomb of children and a teacher who tried to protect them:

the big bones
must be
the teacher’s
the little skulls
are amassed nearby

Hiroshi Homura’s skillful and unexpected juxtapositions carry a powerful message of radiation and the fallibility of the human body:

at ground zero
of the atomic bombing
unwrapping soap
at night, naked

Yoshiko Takagi describes how children are given tablets to protect them from radiation of the thyroid after the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster in 2011:

how cruel—
on a child’s
one pale red tablet
of potassium iodide

Sanford Goldstein says that variations keep readers alert—and appreciative:

tonight’s relief: /pie /deep /in a cafeteria/ booth         Sandford Goldstein

this child
night after night
and still
the stars

Christina Nguyen

I feel at home
in another life
I was a seagull

Joanne Morcom

you came back
little swallow
I am here

Huguette Ducharme

long line
at the coffee shop—
the perfect place
not to meet
anyone at all

Robert Piotrowski

yellow leaves
grey sky
the drip drip
of time passing

munira judith avinger

little by little
my yoga poses
little by little
I get to know him

Kozue Uzawa

listening to
the Missa Solemnis,
I try to imagine
orphic silence

Mary Kendall

haiku weekend
silk jammies
the narrow road
to the interior

Tom Lyon Freeland

only had
one dream about
my father—
he walked
right past me

Stanford M. Forrester

The image at the top of the post is a detail from the cover of a novel about Murasaki, early Japanese novelist and tanka poet, by Lisa Dalby.