Tom Clausen Home
Haiku Circle (6-02-07)
Home | Home page | Bio for Tom | Haiku & Senryu -definitions/ thoughts | Haiku Chapbooks ( 1) Autumn Wind in the Cracks (1994) | (2) Unraked Leaves ( 1995) | (3) Standing Here ( 1998) | Homework (2000) Snapshot Press, UK | being there (2005) Swamp Press | Tanka chapbooks (1) A Work of Love (1997) Tiny Poems Press | Growing Late- (2006) Snapshot Press | A Haiku Way of Life | Assorted Haiku | Assorted Senryu | Assorted Tanka | Haibun | Favorite Links | Dim Sum -Tom | Robert T. Clausen | Favorite Haiku | Favorite Senryu | Favorite Tanka | Zen Entries | Memorable Quotes | Dalai Lama | Death Poems | Cat Poems | Dog Poems | Train Poems | Longer poems | Song Lyrics | Rt. 9 Haiku Group | Rt. 9 Haiku Group-Tom 3-23-06 | Haiku Circle (6-02-07) | 4-21-09 Mann Library reading | My email address: tpc2@cornell.edu

Haiku Circle- Northfield, Ma. 6-02-07 reading-presentation

HAIKU CIRCLE

 

Introduction for Haiku Circle - June 2, 2007

 

I’d like to begin with my gratitude to vincent and Raffael for organizing this special day and providing a chance for us all to commune with each other.. I’d also like to thank Nate and Rosalind (the Tuft’s) for sharing their lovely place... It is a great honor to be speaking here today and anything positive I have to offer is very much a reflection of the wonderful bounty of haiku and spiritual sharing I have received from the community of poets, including so many of you here... I hope in this reading to give a little something back, though I must admit I’m more comfortable being a listener!

one of my favorite of vincent’s haiku is:

to hear it

not to hear myself

waterfall

 

this wonderfully expresses the credo of all of us in the hold of haiku... we are at best intense and involved listeners! Sometimes I feel we are like spies going about overhearing songs of birds and insects, the degrees of wind, the depths of silence, or like detectives we go about looking intently for clues, for the evidence of the very essence of natural changes and contrasts, we are also like reporters of natural nuances, tuning in to the most amazingly simple and subtle stories that poetically surround us .It is quite a calling to be a beat reporter on this path less traveled!

I feel we all need haiku more than ever today- we are perpetually bombarded with way more news and information than is happily bearable, our senses are too often in gridlock overload mode... haiku is a sane refocus and return to a more decent perspective.

One quality in haiku that seemed very important to me at the outset was the diminishment of the "self". It appeared to me that most haiku excused the self or provided a welcome refuge from it

(the self,) .... it also seemed that many of the best haiku actually served to instantly transcend any feeling of the self:

 

As we all know the self is hard to shake and there are many days that I wake up to a rather tired recognition that I’ve still got my self to negotiate, manage, and suppress from driving my every instinct and motivation... early in my haiku-senryu writing life I penned this three word truth:

myself

monopolizes

me

 

This is my take on the "self" and the way in which it can take over our entire being for better or worse-

Thankfully haiku is a precious refuge from this self and is a happy medium of exchange with others who I assume, are each in their own way struggling through the near endless provinces of the self...I’ve often mused that I am not fully comfortable with being a human being... at times I wonder if in a previous life I was a slug or a sloth, or maybe a turtle or a toad! much of the human experience feels esoteric and perhaps it is the double edged sword of consciousness and thinking that causes me to seek experiences that reduce or eliminate too much thought and the center mainstreams of human activity. As much as I enjoy the range of human contacts, I have learned that unless I get a fair amount of time alone I tend toward being something less than at peace with myself. I love routines and am typically content with repetition that would seriously challenge most people. These qualities have sustained my delight with haiku and contributed to a sense that my whole life was lea! ding and preparing me to discover haiku!

My own haiku beginning was a life-time ago- my son Casey’s lifetime is my measure, since I began around the time he was born in 1988....when I read an article in a Ithaca free paper about Ruth Yarrow that contained several examples of her haiku I was enchanted... it was like an instant recognition, that haiku was exactly the antidote (I needed) for all that was unsettled, excessive and troubled in me and the world. I saw and continue to this day to feel haiku is the near perfect if not perfect voice of our being witness...

From the start I felt haiku had the potential to nourish spiritual and psychological well being. As a form of celebrating, honoring and tuning, as an antidote to our human tendency for excess, haiku was to me both the answer to a prayer and the prayer itself. From the article one haiku that has stuck with me as a top favorite:

after the garden party the garden - Ruth Yarrow

To me this haiku is a touchstone that can be read instructively to reveal all we might see in a garden once the gathering of people has dispersed. On a larger scale this six word poem evokes a telling sense of humanity in the throes of an extended party, using too much of the earth’s resources in ways that are detrimental to many other inhabitants of the earth- yet in an inevitable sense after this "party" is over the earth, no doubt, will remain and will heal itself. Time = Change & Change is our destiny ...

 

On the heels of reading that article about Ruth I went out and purchased Cor’s Haiku Anthology and went to library to check out what I could find HAIKU! To this day the collector in me has enjoyed collecting haiku books, periodicals and creating a haiku library of sorts. The eclectic examples in Cor’s anthology made an indelible impression on me and I was both fascinated and excited by the haiku and wonders about the lives of the poets who wrote those little masterpieces. It was an amazing pleasure to little by little meet in correspondence or in person many of the poets in that treasured anthology and in the various journals I subscribed to at that

time.

At this time I remember my admiration and curiosity about the people involved in haiku made me feel there was some type of magic or chemistry in their lives that I especially hoped to discover...

 

It became obvious to me that to be part of the haiku community or tribe required a steady practice

of reading and trying to write haiku. The process of submitting haiku was invaluable in gaining feedback insight to what worked and what was meaningful to others...As a member of the Rt. 9 Haiku Group for the past four years it is necessary to present about 16 hopefully worthy haiku each month which is many months more than my output... but in the earliest years of my writing practice I totally enjoyed sending poems out and getting in the regular mail my SAE back with the results. There was suspense and excitement to see what others appreciated:

 

Canadian writer-novelist Ann Michaels in a preface to her book, Fugitive Pieces, wrote:

 

" I see that I must give what I most need" - Ann Michaels

this applies perfectly for the "why" haiku for me! In gratitude for all that has been given, here is a selection of some of my haiku:

 

our turn

to stand here-

falls overlook

 

spring sun-

high in his arms

the newborn is shown

 

early morning fog-

in the cereal bowl

the spoon clinks

 

taking me back...

water laps gently

at the shore

 

keeping quiet

the day’s last light

on new grass

 

old friend’s talk-

each holding

car keys

 

cold front-

the forgotten dulcimer

pings

 

 

daybreak-

the spider centered

in its web

 

the day lilies-

some have crossed

the road

 

watering their plants

seeing their house

without them

 

class in the forest

they all look up

to the trees

 

despite

the development

deer path

 

drought-

ants disappearing

into cracked earth

 

lunch alone

without a book

I read my mind

At work I have three desk calendar’s out for the public: a Little Zen, a Wisdom of the East and

a Farside... I love the levity, sage solace and insight they offer to start the day... here is a recent offering from Shri Parthasarathi:

"Nature is forever giving us chance after chance at what we call rebirth and death, and we, in our folly, in our fear of death, fail to understand that which represents a new journey, a new page on which to write, and thus to believe in a new beginning for ourselves"

 

downpour-

a duck waddles away

from the pond

 

my arm snagged-

a good look at

the wild rose

 

sidewalk sale-

wind twists a lifetime

guarantee tag

 

late day sun-

deep on the forest floor

a seedling

sometimes being human feels like being a seedling under a huge canopy of forces we cannot control; as Mahatme Gandhi said: " everything we do is futile, but we must do it anyway"

 

all the voices

songs, waiting

in the broken radio

 

alone in the waiting room

checking the plant

for reality

 

walking the tracks

my thoughts

go nowhere

 

fall colors

in the lake-

one thought after another

I am bewildered at the flow of thoughts I have on any given day... they stream along unbidden from moment to moment, the marvel and malaise of human consciousness and the vast majority of thoughts I have amount to nothing more than some collective range of habits I’ve accumulated and attached to over many years... Thank goodness for haiku! the practice and discipline of haiku is very much about waking up to the world and seeing it fresh as if it was all new again...which it is! vincent in the front piece of his book; between God and the Pine points out

"they know most about beginning who help the rest of us begin"

left and right

he follows the way

of his kicked stone

 

breeding pairs

at the zoo-

with strollers

 

hunting four leaf clovers

students discuss

their childhoods

 

in the garden

right by St. Francis

the woodchuck hole

 

where I sit

on my usual bench

remains of a nut

 

potluck luncheon-

a yellow jacket cleans

its antennae

 

autumn moonlight

folded in

the clothes on the floor

 

daybreak-

from the bread truck’s roof

frost swirls

 

winter wind

the voice of one tree

after another

 

picture window

in all that white

a cardinal

 

overwintering

in the hay wagon

scarecrow

 

undefended:

in the cold rain

their snow fort

"Our poetry now is a realization that we possess nothing. Anything therefore is a delight, since we do not possess it and thus not fear its loss" - John Cage

perhaps my favorite haiku of all, which expresses this so beautifully, by Ryokan:

 

the thief left it behind

the moon

at the window

 

rarely do I act in concert with this spirit, but every now and then...

 

beach walking...

collecting pebbles

and letting them go

 

spring frost-

the park canon aimed

at the church

 

spring

removing the neighbors

from view

 

spring wind-

the kid in the neighborhood

has a new whistle

 

going the same way-

exchanging looks with the driver

of the hearse

 

having brushed off

several small ants

an extra large one...

 

dandelions-

I give someone

easy directions

 

blue sky-

nothing constructive

to offer

 

where I sit

on my usual bench

remains of a nut

 

afternoon sun

a chef naps

at one of the tables

 

the way

the light bulb rests

in the rest of the trash

 

 

the mourning dove

lowers itself

to take off...

 

I hesitate slightly to read the next haiku, my wife said: N-O, absolutely not! She has been an invaluable critic over the years and often improved my little poems but it is a mixed blessing having your best critic living at home... to me this haiku touches on what can be seen when not caught up in the 10,000 things we get caught up in.

 

urinating...

the delicate breeze

among the ferns

 

 

on the trail again

walking deeper

into myself

 

Sunday morning-

a brook sparkles

out of the hills

 

high clouds

one horse leans its head

against another

 

in a hollow

at the base of the trunk

a seedling

 

mountaintop:

giving back

each breath

 

one tree

one bird, one song

the dusk

 

Each of these haiku is for me "a find"... a moment in which something that is given is received our world, our life, our path is abundant with things to find... Annie Dillard, the author of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek wrote:

"If you Cultivate a healthy poverty and simplicity, so that finding a penny will literally make your day, then, since the world is in fact planted with pennies, you have with your poverty brought a lifetime of days. Its that simple. What you see is what you get."

 

When I got married in 1987 and then became a parent just a year later I considered it all as a dramatic new chapter in my life. I embraced the significant changes and even felt that this was the beginning of an adventure, albeit one very different from the adventures I had been accustomed to; bicycling trips, canoeing, freight hopping and living a life of rather endless self indulgence!. I honestly thought I was prepared for married life and parenthood- I guess most people feel or think this and like most people I’ve had my share or worries, wonders and downright despairing times, recoiling from the maddening relentlessness of family life- too often I’ve longed for a vacation from my family when the reality is I’m supposed to feel as if I want to be with them always! Family life requires degrees of selflessness, sacrifice and servitude that exceed my natural inclination to those callings... I’ve certainly struggled with parenting and married life but stuck with it for bet! ter and worse. To add some variety to my presentation I am going to share some of my family related writing, mostly senryu. Writing about the trials and tribulations of domestic life has been a very important management technique. The writing and sharing of these troubles or realities of home life have been entirely cathartic, therapeutic and simply honest. I hope these are not too jarring a contrast to the other poems I am presenting.

wanting my old life

when I wanted

my present life

 

Before getting married a favorite passage of mine from Rilke’s , On Love and Other Difficulties,

( I might have guessed that love was difficult!)is one in which he suggests that the greatest gift one person can give to another is to protect their solitude. I read this passage to my wife early on in our relationship, sort of testing how she felt about such an admirable sentiment. Her less than enthusiastic response should have alerted me that perhaps she had other ideas about what was

admirable and that protecting my solitude or desiring me to do the same for her was not high in her priorities. When our son was born I saw what little chance I had for solitude pretty much evaporate but thankfully this was when I discovered haiku, senryu and tanka, tools I would need to make it through this rough terrain!

 

daybreak-

the rubber duck alone

in the empty tub

 

this quiet morning

even the bar of soap

falls apart

 

 

morning zazen:

marriage counseling

ourselves

 

 

 

the hypnotist

describes her technique

sound of the stream

 

playing a child’s game

I learn all

his rules

 

 

for my son:

lifting a stone

to see

 

 

my son asks

how far it goes

... space

 

the door open

to the meditation room

no one there

 

 

my cat comes up close

then shies away

alcohol on my breath

 

 

 

my child asks

what keeps the moon up?

you do, I reply

 

looking busy

as my wife

pulls in

 

 

in her sleep

she steals back

her hand

 

 

Halloween-

to a simple question

my life story

 

on the wall

Jesus on the cross

above her side of the bed

 

boardwalk-

we go to one end

then the other

 

so much we have...

yet between us too

an emptiness

 

 

 

night train-

part of myself reflected

in thought

 

 

home from work...

the little one brings me

an empty wine bottle

 

 

long grocery line

the modest excitement

of my thoughts

 

 

another full moon

my checkbook

still unbalanced

 

to start the day

her slipper sounds

too fast

 

my mistakes-

no matter how many

coats of paint

 

after speaking importantly

she quickly resumes

sucking her thumb

 

all through

his temper tantrum

her calm

 

 

 

without consent

my old sneakers

in the trash

 

 

my wife asks

if she should feel sorry for me

"I’ve got it covered"

 

 

 

to the cat:

"that’s complete and

utter nonsense

 

we bicker

all through the house

... cleaning

 

my wife admits

she is not perfect

but is glad I am

 

now that I’m over

my bad mood

she’s in one

 

moments into

my music

the vacuum cleaner

 

she’s waited up...

to have some last words

with me

 

 

 

while brushing my teeth

she tells me again:

"lets move"

 

up in the dark

the toilet

overflows

 

done-

the repairman tells me

any fool can do it

 

before sleep

laughing to myself

at myself

 

 

on hold...

branches in the window

wave wildly

 

 

she wanders away...

her snail disembarks

the matchbox truck

 

 

peepers

my daughter whispers

something she knows

 

 

our child

who will not go to sleep-

sheep on her pajamas

 

 

after the pleasant part

of our walk

we hurry

 

behind the wheel-

yet another of his

personalities

 

police car-

my thoughts of what I’ve done

wrong

 

dinner time-

each night

a fallen hero

 

 

lunar eclipse-

back inside something I did

or didn’t do

 

autumn nightfall

dropping my son off

for something else

 

before bed

my son’s music louder

than mine

 

 

 

snowfall

my daughter asks where

we are going...

 

 

mid day

my son’s bear hug

still with me

 

snowy roads

the reason for going

quite slippery

 

 

reading into it

as much as I can

my life

 

after the party

undressing

myself

 

on the bench

a young couple carries on

as if I’m not there

 

summer-

seeing more

of her

 

lingering in bed...

the ceiling has no

answers

 

just in case

weighing myself

after the shower

 

I’m back home-

another reason for the cat

to yawn

 

in the empty room

two quiet types

father and son

 

 

in the dark

through the window light

my wife and child

 

from room to room

on the Clue board

a tiny spider

 

so many things

I need to do

alone

 

evening star...

she sleeps with the lion’s tail

in her little hand

 

my son of age

he now calls me

a buffoon

 

 

quickly

after the artery scan

a Danish

 

 

dining room

next to my wife’s chair

her dog at attention

 

 

Discovery channel-

an older male vanquished

heads for the hills

 

 

my wife gives orders...

our daughter whispers to me

"bad mood"

 

when she’s not looking

I switch

forks

 

April Fools Day-

another year

too true to myself

 

passed down

from my parents

dust pan and brush

 

 

outside the glass door

our old cat has forgotten

it wanted "in"

 

 

 

 

Ann Michaels wrote:

"It’s not a persons depth you must discover, but their ascent. Find their path from depth to ascent"

 

I would like to conclude my reading today with "being there", the chapbook collection that vincent and ed created which so beautifully presents a set of my haiku that allow me to hear and see that which is sustaining and beyond the merely personal, that which is universal. A little story about "being there": At Cornell, a professor in the Fine Arts Department made a sculpture of books authored by people at Cornell... it was first installed in NYC and then re-installed at Cornell. The sculpure was a large "C" with the top of the "C" having the highest stack of books and coming down the "C" there was a descending pile of less and less books until at the lowest far end of the "C" there was one little book, all alone: "being there" Thank you Ed and vincent for creating a book that perfectly fit on the Cornell "C"!

 

crickets...

my eyes closed

to the day

 

long wait alone

in the parking lot...

a dog in the next car

 

morning fog...

a mash of wild apples

on the road

 

alongside the river

the freight train begins

to move

 

farm country back road:

just like them, I lift one finger

from the steering wheel

 

cross country runner

no one ahead

or behind

 

small town-

an old man and a young man

wave at the train

 

the farmer-

with a lot to say

his dog

 

 

summer stars-

the connection of my eye

to the brightest

 

turning off the music

a few miles before

getting there

 

under my breath

Oh boy! sitting down

under the old- growths

 

being there-

in the woods

a tree falls

 

the Zen books

now

on the shelf

 

cabin window-

the plant has gone

everywhere it can

 

log bridge-

going to the end

then returning

 

woodland brook...

the indistinguishable spring

of voices

 

summit view-

stand

where she stood

 

letting her

walk all over me

ladybug

 

mountaintop:

I am, so

I am

 

on the way home

more geese

on the way home

 

 
 

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