Tag Archives: Poems

Haiku and the Brain: An exploratory study

The relationship between poetry and science has been a long-standing fascination of mine. I am happy to report that for the last couple of years I have been involved in a study spanning the two, using haiku to understand how the brain receives, analyses, and constructs meaning. The first exploratory study has been written up and discussed in 3 papers, one of which can be found in the Journal of Eye Movement Research here
Journal of Eye Movement Research

 

 

Mueller, H., Geyer, T., Günther, F., Kacian, J., & Pierides, S. (2017). Reading English-Language Haiku: Processes of Meaning Construction Revealed by Eye Movements. Journal Of Eye Movement Research, 10(1).  doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.16910/10.1.4
This paper is the more detailed, scientifically oriented description of the exploratory study.

Juxtapositions

 

 

 

A more compact version of the same work, addressing the poetry community, is included in the forthcoming JUXTA 3.1: Pierides, S., Müller, H., Kacian, J., Günther, F., Geyer, T. (2017). Haiku and the brain: an exploratory study. Juxtapositions: A Journal of Haiku Research and Scholarship 3(1). Due out mid March 2017!

‘Touching’

Serendipity! On the day I was informed that my haibun Touching —inspired by a scientific project carried out at LMU university Munich — would be featured on the LMU website, I came across an article in the New Statesman discussing the close relationship between poetry and science!

Take a look: the haibun Touching, included in my new book Of This World (Red Moon Press, 2017), at the LMU here and here and the New Statesman article here

LMU, MSense lab,psychology,

OK, may be not so much serendipity, as I often check out writings about the relationship between poetry and science, and have even contributed to a couple of papers on precisely this matter. The papers are forthcoming, watch this space …

‘Dear Yannnis’

Delighted that my epistolary poem ‘Dear Yannis’ (Ritsos) is given another airing on RE  /  VERSE, the online journal.

‘Little Eagle Press presents poems previously published. Well worth another look, we think,’ they say. Thank you to Ralph Murre for giving my poem a second chance, and for the photo art image he created that accompanies the poem. Take a look by clicking here

‘Dear Yannis’ in poetsonline.org

Dear Yannis

In our hands, you said, we hold
the shadow of our hands. I know
the cold absence of the marbles,
olives sprouting from the cracks.

The coffee grinder turns
slowly, gently. The moon
still kind, bathes our wrinkled
hearts in light. In silver. In sorrow.

Old souls sitting by the river
listening to the boat engine
starting, coughing, spitting,
dying. Starting again.

(to Yiannis Ritsos, in response to his poem “Absence”)
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Poem written to the poetsonline prompt: Dear Poet: Epistles to the Poets. For the other poems on the poetsonline.org blog, please see Archive, ‘Dear Poet’ on their site.

Please note English spelling of the original Greek name varies (Yiannis [e.g. Wikipedia], Yannis [e.g. Poetry Foundation]). Wikipedia lists a number of variants: ‘Yannis or Yiannis or Giannis (Γιάννης) is a common Greek name, a variant of John (Hebrew) meaning “God is generous.” Variants include Ioannis (Ιωάννης), YanniIannisYannakis; and the rare “Yannos”, usually found in the Peloponnese and Cyprus.’

International Haiku Poetry Day 2015

In 2015, The Haiku Foundation celebrates haiku on a global scale, encompassing the work and achievements of haiku poets from around the world. From this year on, International Haiku Poetry Day (IHPD), replacing the THF’s National Haiku Poetry Day, becomes the biggest celebration of haiku poetry word wide. On April 17 each year, haiku poets, haiku poetry fans, and organisations will be getting together under the auspices of the THF in order to honour the depth, reach, creativity, and joy of the genre we have come to love.

For this year, the Foundation has organised a series of events, from local haiku readings and celebrations, over HaikuLife, a FilmFest showcasing work submitted by individuals and organisations, to EarthRise, a rolling collaborative poem.

On April 17th, 2015, from 12:01 A.M. at the International Date Line, a wave of haiku contributions begins and rolls throughout the day, with poets offering their haiku at dawn their local time. The finished collaboration, on the theme of Light, will be permanently archived on the THF site.

I am very much looking forward to the day, and the many exciting contributions from poets around the globe. I will be setting my alarm, and posting my own haiku to the inaugural EarthRise.

I am also delighted that the FilmFest, HaikuLife, features a short film of my haiku together with paintings by Alfred Wallis (from the excellent Kettle’s Yard, University of Cambridge, collection). I created this film with the (much appreciated) support of Rob Ward, After-Effects Artist and Animator. Besides my presentation, there are at least 12 other contributions by haiku poets and organisations, amounting to almost 90 minutes of film.

I hope you will be able to join in the fun on IHPD.

For times, url, and other information about HaikuLife and EarthRise, as well as the local (to the US) readings, please visit the Troutswirl blog at The Haiku Foundation site.

Update April17, 2015

Happy International Haiku Poetry Day, folks! Contribute your poems to EarthRise, watch the HaikuLife films, go to the readings, enjoy the day!

My short film, Haiku Journey, is shown today — together with a number of other films — and will be permanently archived on the Haiku Foundation site. Please see here

For an introduction to the Foundation HaikuLife project, and the list of all projects shown, please click

Pattern, Poetry, and ‘Polemics’

What do Pattern, Poetry, and Polemics have in common? The Arts and Crafts Movement’s poet, novelist, publisher, translator, architect, designer, craftsman, retailer, environmentalist, and social activist William Morris! I was delighted to be able to visit the William Morris Gallery, in Walthamstow, which tells the story of William Morris and his multiple achievements: the elaborate, detailed, inspirational designs and their manufacture/production/application; the poetry and prose; the perfectly hand-crafted books; the politics, speeches and support for the Victorian poor… Morris applied himself with awe-inspiring energy and dedication to an astonishing array of disciplines.

There’s an organic unity in his work, each piece containing seeds from whatever he’d been working on, in whatever field. Despite this connectivity and continuation in his work, Morris has often been strongly and unfortunately linked with mere wallpaper design. I found this contradiction interesting in itself, as if the critics and the viewers, the consumers of his work, could not cope with someone different to themselves, someone excelling in many fields, rather than just one, if at that. It is not the only contradiction. The critical assessment of his work rests on this ground of contradictory perception, for example, when it is pointed out that Morris decorated the houses of the rich while campaigning for the rights of the poor.

Yet, Morris himself was aware of the connections between disciplines and the depth achieved when we become conscious of them. Lecturing on design, in 1881, he claimed,

‘any decoration is futile … when it does not remind you of something beyond itself’.

Beyond Morris’ decorations, patterns, and wallpapers lie references to the medieval world, history and myth, nature and society, beauty, and above all the assertion that we are all made of the same stuff. Although referring back to a pre-industrial age, his is a utopian vision of humans fulfilling their creativity, and themselves, in self-determined, non-alienated work, within an egalitarian society that supports them in this endeavour. In those terms, in addition to his role in the Arts and Crafts movement, he comes across as a social thinker and moral visionary working towards a better world.

tenements
the heart of a soft
berry

Here is a link to the amazing William Morris Gallery collection
The wikipedia link here

At the Muenchner Buecherschau (pics)

Münchner Bücherschau 2014,Sharing photos from the evening before the opening of the Muenchner Buecherschau 2014. Delighted to be taking part this year. Can you spot my books? (Tip: Look for the colour blue on the covers!)

Münchner Bücherschau 2014,Gasteig,The Heart and Its Reasons,In the Garden of Absence (Fruit Dove Press, 2012)

Feeding the Doves (Fruit Dove Press, 2013)

The Heart and Its Reasons (Fruit Dove Press, 2014).

Münchner Bücherschau 2014,Gasteig,

I’ll be taking more pics in the next few days, hopefully with people in them, so watch this space…

 

Poetry and Bacteria

I recently came upon the remarkable work of Christian Boek, who boldly took poetry into areas of science and technology and even created a ‘living poem.’ Although this is ongoing work, it already is accomplishing astonishing results in its encouraging poetry, and poets, to boldly go where no poet has gone before…

Boek inserted a line of poetry coded in a DNA sequence, into a bacterium. The bacterium then ‘responded’ by creating a new protein which, translated back into Boek’s letter coding scheme, turned out to be a new poem in ‘response.’ This xenotext experiment is described in James Wilkes’ article, March 2013, on “Bracketing the world: Reading Poetry through Neuroscience.” There was a blog post on Harriet, the Poetry Foundation blog, by Boek himself, and a very good exposition of the whole experiment on Triple Helix Online.

But I mustn’t keep you waiting. Here are the lines of poetry exchanged:

Boek: ANY STYLE OF LIFE IS PRIM
Bacterium: THE FAERY IS ROSY OF GLOW

Read about it on Triple Helix Online. It will make perfect sense.

In VerSuch 1.07.2014

VerSuch … das projekt gendai haiku“, the German-language journal aiming to showcase the state and development of modern haiku, edited by Dietmar Tauchner and Ralf Broeker, is now online. Pleased to see it includes two of my haiku. Translated by Ralf Broeker, they can be found by scrolling down the July 2014 issue. They can also be read here:

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Nationen im Krieg
die Mathematik des Glaubens

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immer Wildrosen in ihren geheimen Tiefen

 

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http://gendai-haiku.blogspot.de

1.07.2014 Wartende wir

Tanka in “Bright Stars, Vol. 3”

Pleased to have seven of my tanka appear in Bright Stars, vol. 3, 2014, the organic tanka anthology produced by M. Kei of Atlas Poetica. This is what this anthology is about:

“Bright Stars is devoted to five line poetry—tanka, waka, kyoka, gogyoshi, shaped tanka, tanka sequence, tanka prose, collaborative tanka—any form based on the short, lyrical, five part poem originally from Japan.”

And

“Bright Stars focuses on the Japanese aesthetic of ‘akarui’ – bright, loud, energetic, urban, exciting, and experimental.”

Here is the Press Release with more information, sample poems, and how to buy this book. I’ve ordered mine!

In the Garden of Absence

In the Garden of Absence

by Stella Pierides

with an Afterword  by Michael Dylan Welch

Awarded the Haiku Society of America Mildred Kanterman Memorial Merit Book Awards 2013 (3rd place, for books published in 2012). 

From the judges’ commentary in Frogpond, the journal of the Haiku Society of America:

“A charming collection… This intersection of the past and present is within all of us, and Pierides mines it well. A very satisfying read” (Vol. 37:1, p. 170).

In the Garden of Absence takes you on a journey echoing the author’s childhood. Yet it does so in the context of adult concerns, uncertainties, and anxieties—as well as pleasures. This book explores the existential fear of loneliness, the many facets of absence, and glimpses a path towards bearing absence and being creatively alone.From the back cover:

“Readers of any book of poetry can assume that each poem has substantial personal meaning for the writer. The poems in this collection go one step further, offering personal meaning to the reader. Stella Pierides pays attention in simple ways (and sometimes vast ways) to her surrounding world, noticing the warmth of a hen’s eggs on Mother’s Day, that only a dog makes eye contact on a crowded train, or in observing the tiny dark holes in a pin cushion as she extracts its pins.”

Michael Dylan Welch, from the Afterword, “Presence in Absence

Cover: from “Welsh Hill,” a painting by Maria Pierides Cover design: Maria Pierides and Rubin Eynon.

How to obtain a copy:

Print edition:

From Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.de

The print edition can be ordered from your local bookshop: ISBN: 978-3-944155-00-5  (Germany) Fruit Dove Press, Paperback, 76 pages.

e-editions:

e-editions are now available from Smashwords

(Apple iPad/iBooks, Nook, Sony Reader, Kobo, and most e-reading apps including Stanza, Aldiko, Adobe Digital Editions, others), PDF and kindle

Publication information: – ISBN: 9783944155012 e-book

– Published by Fruit Dove Press at Smashwords. Price: USD 5.99

Honours, Reviews, Essays:

Awarded third prize in the Haiku Society of America Mildred Kanterman Memorial Merit Book Awards 2013

Previous praise for the Book:

— “In Pierides’s meditations, imagination takes center stage, as do imaginary gardens, real toads, and their negative space… The result is a welcome debut in which the reader will find much to admire.”

In Briefly ReviewedFrogpond, 36-1, Spring 2013 (Click here, please scroll down).

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— “This is an engaging collection…”

Modern Haiku 44.2, 2013 (in the “Briefly Noted” section).
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— “A Poetic Gem… In the Garden of Absence is a lovely little book that sparkles with a quiet brilliance – every word shines.”

Debbie Strange on Amazon.co.uk

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— “In the Garden of Absence is a stunning book. From homely to somewhat obscure, Pierides touches a chord. Her poetry is the essence of haiku and an inspiration for many of us. In the Garden of Absence A must-read book of poetry.”

Sondra Byrnes on Amazon.co.uk

*

–“… everything, from cover to cover, the cover image, the design, the graphical presentation, the empty space around the haiku, also the introduction… all very aesthetically (one more Greek word) appealing and pleasing! Thank you for taking me on this Magical Journey!”

Freddy Ben-Arroyo, Haifa, Israel*

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–“… I really enjoy reading it, and already have some favorites…”

Annie Juhl, Svendborg, Denmark.

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–“I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed reading your book this afternoon while sipping on a chai latte. A few that I particularly like are: “between my ego and yours”, “the horses neighing”, “your vacant stare”, “moment of stillness” and “shooting stars”. The whole book is really lovely… the beautiful cover, the feel of the paper and the afterword by Michael Dylan Welch. Thank you for sharing your beautiful poems with me!”

Lauren Mayhew, Boston, USA

*

–“Stella Pierides pays attention in simple ways (and sometimes vast ways) to her surrounding world, noticing the warmth of a hen’s eggs on Mother’s Day, that only a dog makes eye contact on a crowded train, or in observing the tiny dark holes in a pin cushion as she extracts its pins.”

Michael Dylan Welch, Sammamish, Washington, USA

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–“I cannot recommend ‘In the Garden of Absence‘ by Stella Pierides highly enough. A great Afterword too by Michael Dylan Welch. … The book is entrancing.”

Sheila Windsor, Worcester, UK

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An informative, literary, and well-written essay, “Presence in Absence” by Michael Dylan Welch, first written in October 2012 and included in In the Garden of Absence as an afterword, can be read at Graceguts, by clicking here

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“In the Garden of Absence” wins prize!

In the Garden of Absence

Awarded the Haiku Society of America Mildred Kanterman Memorial Merit Book Awards 2013 (3rd place, for books published in 2012). 

From the judges’ commentary in Frogpond, the journal of the Haiku Society of America:

“A charming collection… This intersection of the past and present is within all of us, and Pierides mines it well. A very satisfying read” (Vol. 37:1, p. 170).

Previous praise for the Book:

— “In Pierides’s meditations, imagination takes center stage, as do imaginary gardens, real toads, and their negative space… The result is a welcome debut in which the reader will find much to admire.”
In Briefly Reviewed, Frogpond, 36-1, Spring 2013 (Click here, please scroll down).

— “This is an engaging collection…”
Modern Haiku 44.2, 2013 (in the “Briefly Noted” section).
*
— “A Poetic Gem… In the Garden of Absence is a lovely little book that sparkles with a quiet brilliance – every word shines.”
Debbie Strange on Amazon.co.uk

— “In the Garden of Absence is a stunning book. From homely to somewhat obscure, Pierides touches a chord. Her poetry is the essence of haiku and an inspiration for many of us. In the Garden of Absence A must-read book of poetry.”
Sondra Byrnes on Amazon.co.uk

–“… everything, from cover to cover, the cover image, the design, the graphical presentation, the empty space around the haiku, also the introduction… all very aesthetically (one more Greek word) appealing and pleasing! Thank you for taking me on this Magical Journey!”
Freddy Ben-Arroyo, Haifa, Israel*

–“… I really enjoy reading it, and already have some favorites…”
Annie Juhl, Svendborg, Denmark.

–“I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed reading your book this afternoon while sipping on a chai latte. A few that I particularly like are: “between my ego and yours”, “the horses neighing”, “your vacant stare”, “moment of stillness” and “shooting stars”. The whole book is really lovely… the beautiful cover, the feel of the paper and the afterword by Michael Dylan Welch. Thank you for sharing your beautiful poems with me!”
.Lauren Mayhew, Boston, USA

–“Stella Pierides pays attention in simple ways (and sometimes vast ways) to her surrounding world, noticing the warmth of a hen’s eggs on Mother’s Day, that only a dog makes eye contact on a crowded train, or in observing the tiny dark holes in a pin cushion as she extracts its pins.”
Michael Dylan Welch, Sammamish, Washington, USA

–“I cannot recommend ‘In the Garden of Absence‘ by Stella Pierides highly enough. A great Afterword too by Michael Dylan Welch. … The book is entrancing.”
Sheila Windsor, Worcester, UK

Haiku Euro Top 2013

An honour to be included together with a number of my favourite poets in the Haiku Euro Top 2013 100 most creative poets!

This list is compiled by Krzysztof Kokot of Haiku Euro Top 100.  Thank you so much, Krzysztof .

The list can be viewed by clicking here. Check out the poets in the list for blooming, bubbling, daring, original work! It’s poetry and it’s fun!

The Living Haiku Anthology

A new, exciting Project in the Haiku world!

The Living Haiku Anthology aims to bring “a multicultural voice of haiku to the general public,” its mission being “to provide numerous and varied haiku, free of charge, to readers from all over the world including schools of education at all levels.” The Anthology team is collecting and documenting many of the finest haiku (and living poets) today. So what an honour and pleasure to be included in it. Please visit and browse the poets and poetry in it. You will find an index of poets here 
And while you are visiting, don’t forget to take a look at my haiku too. They can be found by clicking here

“Feeding the Doves” is now a Goodreads Giveaway!

Dear Friends,

I’ve listed my book “Feeding the Doves” in Goodreads Book Giveaways! There are 12 free copies (print) available to win. Giveaway dates for entering: Aug 25-Sep 25, 2013.

This is how it works:
1: The easy way: See the Goodreads badge on the right side of this Homepage, click to enter!
2: The slightly less convenient way: Find the book in Goodreads (here) and click the enter to win button there.

Either way, Goodreads will do the rest! After the 25th of September they will notify me the list of winners and I will post the books to them!

Good luck to all who enter!

Feeding the Doves

Forthcoming

Feeding the Doves
31 Short and Very Short Stories, and Haibun

Greece has been in the headlines for a very long time. Since ancient times, her  philosophers, historians, mathematicians, shipbuilders, traders, and artisans have been making the news – and, indeed, history. So, amidst the country’s most difficult  years in recent times, many people believe that they know Greece and the Greeks.

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Against this backdrop, the stories – short and very short – collected in “Feeding the  Doves” explore recurrent elements of the Greek psyche, tracing them back to challenges posed by the country’s history and environment. The widow, the old loner,  the refugee, the immigrant, the writer, the expatriate tell us their stories, touching  upon themes at the heart of Greek being, as well as our common humanity: love and l  loss, war, civil war, immigration and diaspora, emigration, poverty, religion, history,  and above all, the will to survive.

 

Cover Design:
Rob Ward, Freelance Animator

Fruit Dove Press
Email: admin@fruitdovepress.com
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[The title story “Feeding the Doves” and the cover image were inspired by a photo taken by Robert Geiss, titled “Feeding Doves” and posted on his (sadly, no longer active) blog “Daily Athens Photo.”]

Haiku From German Tongues

Pleased to be featured in Haiku From German Tongues.

The site founders, owners, and admin, Heike Stehr and Ralf Bröker, by presenting haiku in Englsih, aim

“to give at least a certain impression of the particular range covered by haiku from German tongues to a wider international audience.”

They are doing a great job. Visit and see… you’ll be impressed by the range of haiku and the haiku poets writing it.

Uncanny Attractions (Posted in Haiku Matters 28 May 2013)

Uncanny Attractions

Photo of shopfront in Augsburg, Germany (by Stella Pierides)
Photo of shopfront in Augsburg, Germany
(by Stella Pierides)

I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of the Uncanny. Freud, the writer often associated with this concept, described the following uncanny experience when he came face to face with his own double. While travelling by train, Freud saw an elderly gentleman enter his sleeping compartment by mistake. Jumping up to let him know of his error, Freud realized it was his own image reflected in the mirror on the connecting door. He had found the appearance of what he thought was another man ‘thoroughly unpleasant.’ Without being frightened, he failed to recognise his ‘double.’ Or was the displeasure he felt, Freud wondered in the last note of his last chapter on “The Uncanny,” “perhaps a vestige of the archaic reaction to the ‘double’ as something uncanny?” He leaves us with a question, perhaps an encouragement to take this further ourselves.

Freud was not the first of course to link the concept of the ‘double’ with mirroring, the image in the mirror as well as the ‘other.’ Ever since Plato conceived of material reality as a poor representation of the true Forms, others have found man’s double in several contexts. In literature, for instance, Mary Shelley made the monster his creator’s ‘double’ and leaving him unnamed, led subsequent generations of readers to refer to him with the name of his creator: “Frankenstein.” Conrad, too, wrote the ‘double’ in his stories (e.g., in “The Secret Sharer”).

So what has this ‘uncanny’ and ‘double’ to do with haiku, and my theme of reader-oriented matters? If you read my previous posts, you may have noticed I like playing with ideas; though more thought games than thought experiments.

Let me throw this thought in the pot: Isn’t there in haiku a situation in which, when you come to the poem, you become slightly disoriented by the presentation of the two separate, juxtaposed ideas? (Remember the field of energy, in the previous post?) I think there is. The ‘cut’ and the pause in the juxtaposition of two ideas/images are device(s) which open up the extra perspective(s), depth, for the reader; they also create a sense of strangeness, a momentary, uncanny disorientation… until there is the spark of realization that transforms what was strange and uncanny into familiar and understood. Once resolved, the two initially puzzling parts of the poem appear to us the way Freud, relating that vignette, stood in front of his earlier self and its reflection; the way we stand in front of a Moore, a Hepworth, a Lucian Freud, or the narrator in Conrad’s novel and his secret sharer.

Are you with me? What do you make of the thought that the moment of insight or realization is preceded by the uncanny? That the uncanny in haiku involves being confronted by the juxtaposition of two on the surface unrelated – but on a deeper level related – ideas within a limited space? That the haiku moment does itself involve overcoming this sensation of the uncanny?

Finally, before I go, and in case you are interested, I’d like to mention a couple of places, amongst others, I like to visit for reading poetry, essays, information, learning, fun (in addition to “Haiku Matters, haiku journals and the homepages of haiku societies!). Do let me know your favorites.

The The Haiku Foundation’s homepage and blog “Troutswirl.” On the same site, among many brilliant features, the THF “Haiku Registry,” the place to get a flavor of the work of haiku poets writing in various forms, from all over the world; the “Montage Archive,” the “Book of the Week,” the “Per Diem: Daily Haiku” panel, and “Per Diem Archive,” are my favorites (esp. since I help out with Per Diem!).

Also, World Kigo Database (whether you appreciate kigo or not), Graceguts, Issa’s Untidy Hut (esp. Small Press Friday and Wednesday Haiku), Shiki Kukai Temporary Archives, are full of essays, criticism, food for thought, poetry, poetry and poetry.

On this note, hopefully leaving you with more questions than answers, having raised smiles as well as eyebrows, I’d like to say a big thank you to Colin Stewart Jones, and goodbye to folks who found their way here, from both the writer and reader in me.

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The Wikipedia on the Uncanny here
Sigmund Freud, ‘The Uncanny’ in The Uncanny, ed. by Adam Phillips (London: Penguin Classics, 2003) p. 121-161.
Conrad, Joseph, The Secret Sharer can be read here

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Photo and image manipulation: Stella Pierides

Blind Spots (Posted in Haiku Matters 18 May 2013)

This post is about blind spots, shadows, and the darkness in our minds as readers (and writers). It appeared on Haiku Matters, the blog of Gean Tree Press, and can be read here

Blind Spots
Blind Spots

There are corners and alleys in texts into which we, as readers, may be sidetracked, trapped, and lose our way. The best illustration of this affliction I came across is from another genre, Conrad’s novel “Heart of Darkness” – which I very much like – and Achebe’s criticism of it. I will assume that you have either read this novel or a synopsis of it.

There had been huge praise for this novel over the years. Critics had written about aspects of imperialism, hair, clothes, rivers, language in it – yet, one aspect had gone unnoticed in so many readers’ and critics’ reading. I hadn’t noticed it myself either. Achebe, in his reading of the novel, saw a text underpinned by racism, and pointed to a need in Western psychology

“to set up Africa as a foil in Europe, a place of negations at once remote and vaguely familiar in comparison with which Europe’s own state of spiritual grace will be manifest”

The novel presented Africa as ‘the other world’, a chaotic, corrupting continent, sharing with the West only ancient roots of kinship which were, however, long ago overcome. Such an image of Africa, Achebe pointed out, satisfied a psychological need to get rid of, to disavow what had been repressed and disowned; and it was a dangerous image to be challenged. Instead, it had to be reinforced. Achebe’s criticism – that Conrad’s masterpiece, attempting to examine the European psyche, compromised African humanity by this juxtaposition – illustrates a defamiliarization process, in which the familiar common humanity is denied and the ‘other’ is created.

While at first, years ago, I felt shocked by Achebe’s reading of Heart of Darkness (was Achebe being oversensitive, misreading Conrad’s intention of exposing undercurrents in Western culture?), I came to agree with it; it opened my eyes to the blind spots a whole community of writers and readers, every one of us, may be prone to. Achebe, in his interview in Paris Review, “The Art of Fiction” is quoted saying:

“… all these people who see nothing about racism in Heart of Darkness, I’m convinced that we must really be living in different worlds. … Until these two worlds come together we will have a lot of trouble.”

How could such a massive failure to ‘see’ happen? Had readers, before Achebe, been reading ‘passively,’ submitting themselves to Conrad’s words without thinking, or approaching the text indeed from another world? In such a scenario, Achebe was best placed to see, and bring to our attention, the other side.

Returning to the haiku world and its readers: this is not to imply that some haiku readers, or writers, suffer from a particularly dark streak/from prejudiced thinking, but to illustrate how we are all prone to oversights, blind spots, are subject(s) to our cultural, historical, national environments’ influences. How, like Conrad’s earlier readers, we may be led to overlook, or overreact to, certain aspects in others’ and our own work. Achebe again, when asked what pointed him in the direction of writing:

“There is that great proverb – that until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter… Once I realized that, I had to be a writer.”

Novels and haiku, perhaps the longest and shortest forms, also belong to different worlds, yet I tend to think we benefit from looking at the history and critical readings of both. It may spark insights, awareness of something we might have been missing. Wouldn’t it be useful to bear the possibility of blind spots in mind when we are differentiating between the various haiku traditions, when we are thinking about the content of haiku poetry? When reflecting on the issue of our identity(ies) as readers and poets? When we ponder, or pen, poems about illness, aging, the young, minorities, disadvantaged groups? When, in other words, we are faced with the ‘other’?

Achebe is widely said to have brought to our awareness the African perspective. Might we say that by doing so, Achebe, like Freud, Jung and others, made it possible to accept that our minds, even when open, even when filled with kindness, generosity, benevolence, and respect, at the same time contain blind spots and darkness?

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Conrad, Joseph “Heart of Darkness” see Wikipedia for some of the history of the perceptions/reader appreciation of this novel.
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Achebe, Chinua, “An Image of Africa”, The Massachusetts Review, 18 (Winter 1977), 782-794
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Achebe, Chinua, interview in Paris Review, “The Art of Fiction
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Interested in following this issue in poetry in general? See Poets.org, “Open Letter: A Dialogue on Race and Poetry”, by Claudia Rankine (with Tony Hoagland’s response)
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And something that caught my eye during my internet travels: If something isn’t there in our field of vision: “what isn’t, what can’t be” from a poem “Blind Spot” by Beth Thomas.

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Image: Stella Pierides

NaHaiWriMo February 2013

In a few days, on the first of February, National Haiku Writing Month begins. Again. Once a year, during the shortest month of the year, the shortest form of poetry is being celebrated by writing at least one haiku a day for the duration of the month.  And so a dark, dismal month, in the Northern hemisphere, that is, is being transformed through haiku. (No doubt, the poets in the Southern Hemisphere see this differently. I look forward to hearing what they say… )

Once again, the world becomes quieter. A sense of awe and expectation grips the bankers, the nurses, the old age pensioners, the performers, the writers, the psychologists, the traffickers. All eyes are glued to the NaHaiWriMo panel, waiting for the day’s prompt to appear.  The moment it appears, the magic unfolds. Noradrenaline flows. Nerve cell upon nerve cell get activated, electrical signals spread, transmitter substances are released, sending out tentacles of attention to gather material.

do not disturb —

gathering of poetry

in progress

What a state of mind to be in! Though some poets are more relaxed than others!

The moon, a grain of sand, the sound of the carburetor, the horse’s neighing, the blackbird’s song, waves rolling to the shore; the child’s hand, a kite, tomatoes…  Whether snow, cold or warm weather, the poets are watching and waiting, fingers poised over the laptop to catch it, hold it in the palm of their hand, share it.

Will you join NaHaiWriMo? Do if you can bear the world come nearer to you; if you believe you can hear the wind’s voice; if you can let this big, big wonderful world sing to you.  If not, you’ll be fine. Just watch from a distance: read what these daring poets are attempting to do, day in day out, here

Michael Dylan Welch, the founder and coordinator of the group, put together a first anthology of the group’s work in August 2012, “With Cherries on Top”. It is a PDF of astounding beauty. And so it goes,

cherries

again this insatiable need

to come into bloom

“With Cherries on Top”

A new downloadable book was made available on the 16th of November 2012 by Michael Dylan Welch, writer and poet, and founder of the NaHaiWriMo site and FB community. Titled “With Cherries on Top: 31 Flavors of NaHaiWriMo,” it is a sparkler of haiku, senryu, and micropoetry. It is excellently designed and presented, with fantastic photography, and also well-proof-read by Christina Nguyen. A haiku fireworks to enjoy on many a winter evening.

Image Credit: Michael Dylan Welch

This is how Michael Dylan Welch introduces it:

“In August of 2012, the NaHaiWriMo page on Facebook featured daily writing prompts from 31 different prompters. Each prompter selected at least five of his or her favourite poems written in response. Michael Dylan Welch selected from these poems to produce the online PDF book, With Cherries on Top: 31 Flavors from NaHaiWriMo”

This book is available for free download, from www.nahaiwrimo.com

I am honored to have a few haiku of my own included, and to have been one of the 31 prompters of the month!

In the Garden of Absence – Thank you!

While my first book of poetry, “In the Garden of Absence” is at the printers, being fitted into its paper dress, smoothed, sewn, and shaped physically into a book I can hold in my hands, I’d like to say

a huge thank you to Michael Dylan Welch for his generous Afterword “Presence in Absence.”

Also  a huge thank you to my daughter Maria Pierides for her permission to use one of her paintings, “Welsh Hill,” for the book cover, Maria Pierides and Rubin Eynon for designing the cover, and Thomas Geyer for his help with formatting the print edition.

Special thanks to the members of the nurturing NaHaiWriMo Facebook community (now over 1000 people!) for their continuing inspiration, warm support, and encouragement.

Solitude and aloneness

Do you ever wonder about the difference between loneliness and the capacity to be alone? Between the soul-destroying feeling of utter despondency, emptiness and despair, on the one hand, and on the other, the capacity to be creatively alone, to enjoy the space and freedom aloneness gives and to be productive? I do, often. I have been putting together a small collection of micropoetry, haiku, and senryu on this theme. Titled “In the Garden of Absence,” the collection aims to  reflect on this difference, without, I hope, rushing to answer any questions. Even if I had the answers…

Interested? D. W. Winnicott, the British psychoanalyst and paediatrician originally introduced this concept. If you have access to his work, fine. If not, Jean-Bertrand Pontalis provides the best explanatory note of Winnicott’s concept  (on this capacity to be alone) in the online Gale Dictionary of Psychoanalysis.

Risking oversimplification, I would say here that the capacity to be alone is not the capacity to simply bear being alone until the other person returns, but a capacity to feel and creatively use the space and freedom which being separate from the other person offers. In terms of the child, Winnicott argues, it is the capacity to disentangle herself from ‘mother’s madness’ or the most primitive needs of the mother’s attachment to her own offspring. It is in this sense, I believe, that this capacity, paradoxically, is compatible with the other’s or, in that case, mother’s presence.

I quote from Pontalis here:
“To be able to tell oneself  “I am alone” without feeling forsaken—such is the prerequisite for what Winnicott considers an essential achievement: to be assured of a sense of continuity as between oneself and the other person, or, better still, to perceive discontinuity in a permanent bond, or even its rupture, as the very precondition of that’s bond’s survival.”

Buffling? Visit the whole Pontalis entry when you have a moment… of solitude! Click here

“A Blackbird Sings: a book of short poems”

Thrilling news: A new book brimming with wonderful poetry is out this month. The even more thrilling news: it includes two of my own short poems!

A Blackbird Sings: a book of short poems” edited by Kaspalita and Fiona Robyn, is now available on Kindle and will be available in print from the 1st of November 2012.

This book is the second anthology of  ‘small stones.’ What is a small stone?  “A small stone is a short piece of writing that precisely captures a fully-engaged moment.” It may or may not be a haiku, tanka, or other form.

The editors say:

“This is a book you can dip into and be nourished by again and again. It will surprise you, shock you, move you and delight you. It’ll remind you of the important sparkling details in your own life, and inspire you to pay more attention to what’s around you.”

Well, I can only say I am very excited to be part of this project! Buy the book! You will find yourself coming back to it again and again!

 

The party is over…

The National Poetry Month is now over. What a month it has been! Such wonderful celebrations!

The big, month-long party at ‘Couplets,’ the multi-author poetry blog tour, organized by Joanne Merriam of Upper Rubber Boot Books, has now finished. If you are already missing the buzz, missing seeing more of the new poet friends you’ve made, then you can at least look back and reminisce; leaf through the posts again: the whole month is summed up (posts and links, names and titles of posts) here

See if you can find my entries there!

A big THANK YOU to Joanne Merriam; and a big WELL-DONE!

NaPoMonth Guest: Mary Alexandra Agner

In the continuing  celebrations of National Poetry Month I am thrilled to host

Mary Alexandra Agner, whose wonderful poetry I have been recently savoring.

She can be found online at: www.pantoum.org

Mary writes:

Female Science Professor (FSP) posted an article last month entitled “The
Hate Stage of Writing
“. She discusses the ups and downs of attachment to your
work while writing scientific papers, including a brightly-colored graph showing her
attachment to the papers she’s written (ranging from hate to love) as a function of
the writing lifetime of the paper. I was struck by the similarities and differences
between her commentary and that in Diane Lockward’s thoughtful
discussion of when a poem is finished
.

FSP’s article explores the idea that you know the paper is finished when you hate
it. And while Diane’s article doesn’t address that directly, her advice about
letting the poem sit while you “get uninvolved with it” is, to me, a similar stance.
Anger can make you objective. (It can also make you completely subjective, so
apply it to your writing process with caution.) Anger can give you a distance like
the one Diane is discussing but I’m intrigued that I don’t see poets blogging about
hating a poem and knowing it’s ready to go out, while a scientist does. Undoubtedly
my sampling technique needs improvement.

It is the graph in FSP’s post that catches at me. I would like to see similar ones
for poems, especially some that include the impact of the publishing process on our
attachment to our own work. We should all take to heart FSP’s comment that she
“certainly [doesn’t] submit or finish any of [her] papers in the hate stage.”
Diane, perhaps, might add that we shouldn’t submit our poems in the love stage
either, when you are too close to the work to be objective.

It should not surprise you, this many words into my own commentary, that I enjoy
crossing the boundaries between science and literature, two cultures that have never
seemed that different to me, even after all the energy expended to display how far
apart they are. All the poems in my newest book, The
Scientific Method
, came to me as a guilty pleasure, bridging that gap and making
art out of what I was told was not possible. And the majority of them finished the
revision process with a resounding thump, excepting “Jump the Chromosome”
which I fear I revised away into too little, mostly based on some kind commentary by
an editor (who did not publish the poem). My graph, for the book as a whole, was one
flat line up between “like” and “love”. The only thing that kept my spirits up,
waiting to hear back from publishers, was that the poems continued to ring true for
me year after year. And that, rather than the objectivity of hate, is what allows
me to keep offering poems to editors for publication.

.

You can read a really scientific poem of Mary’s here

.

This post is part of the multi-author poetry blog tour  Couplets, the brain-child of Joanne Merriam, of Upper Rubber Boot Books.

National Poetry Month: Lisa J. Cihlar

Don’t you sometimes wonder where poets and writers’ characters come from? I do! Several times a day! Especially when I am waiting for mine to appear. Well, Lisa J. Cihlar, celebrating National Poetry Month with me today, is posting here exactly about this matter.  And about the gestation, birth and life of her books. Fascinating … Enjoy! 

Cihlar I.   A Character Emerges From the Swamp

Somewhere around a year and a half ago I wrote a poem and there was a character in it called Swampy Woman.  Who knows where she came from?  It happens that I grew up on a farmette in the middle of a swampy area in Door County WI, so I had wetlands always in my psyche, but I didn’t intentionally bring the swamp to my poem.  Besides, that was just one poem and I had no design to write any more.  But then, months later, who shows up but Swampy Woman.  I was hooked after that.  At that time I was writing a poem-a-day with a group of online poet friends and I took off with the character and wrote one poem after another.  When I had about 25 of them, they just stopped coming.

Now that I had them, I wondered what to do.  With the help of my wonderful teacher/mentor Terri Brown Davidson, I revised the poems and shaped the whole bunch of them into a chapbook titled The Insomniac’s House, from a line in one of the poems.  I sent them out to a half dozen contests, and had no nibbles.  Plus it was expensive.  The book was now languishing in a computer file.  Then I saw that “Dancing Girl Press” was accepting submissions—no money involved—and I sent the manuscript off and forgot about it.

A couple of months later I got an email saying that Kristy Bowen of DGP loved the book and wanted to publish it.  I was over the moon.  Kristy hand-makes chapbooks and she does lovely work.  When I asked if she would mind if I got my own cover artist she was happy to let me do that.  I knew Siolo Thompson through Facebook and thought her artwork fit Swampy Woman perfectly.  Siolo read the manuscript and went to work.  When I saw the cover design, I knew I had picked the right artist.  I love the deconstructing bear on the cover and the woman in red; weird and haughty enough to be Swampy.

I got the first of the books in my greedy hands in January 2012 and it was wonderful holding something I had made from nothing but the thoughts in my head.

The thing about this character is that she seems to have caught the imagination of a lot of folks.  Women especially are intrigued.  I think it is because the character has sass.  She is not Mother Nature as we typically see her, all gauzy and pastel.  Rather she is sexy and pushy and apologizes for nothing.  Because of this, the book has sold very well.

As a post script to this story of the genesis of a character, I can add that I have written a couple more Swampy Woman poems.  She just pops up now and then, kind of showing me that she is still stomping around in the cattails.  I’m always excited when she does.

II. A Character Who Remains Unnamed

After The Insomniac’s House poems were done I went back to writing poems on disparate topics.  Then I became interested in prose poems.  I bought a copy of The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Prose Poetry and devoured it.  After that I wrote some pretty bad prose poems.

Luckily practice makes better.  I was writing a lot of poems and themes were emerging.  When going back over the work I noticed I had a bunch of poems written about a character that had no name.  They were all about She.  And She was losing parts—her voice, her ears, her scream.  I didn’t want to look into the psychology of this too deeply, so I just kept writing.

One day I was noodling around on Facebook and John Burroughs who runs Crisis Chronicles Press announced that he was doing a 24 hour chapbook contest.  He would publish his favorite chapbook that was sent to him in the next 24 hours.  That was too fun to pass up so I threw a book together and sent it in.  I expected nothing so when I got an email from John telling me he loved the book and wanted to publish it, I was amazed.  After I digested the news, I asked if I could have some time to edit and put the book in better order.  John graciously gave me the time I needed.  Again I worked with Terri Brown Davidson and made some huge changes to the chapbook:  swapped out some poems, wrote new ones, changed the title, and gave the whole thing a loose storyline.

I sent the changed manuscript to John and kept my fingers crossed for two days until he wrote back that he liked the new version better than the first one.  Huge sigh of relief on my part.  He will publish the chapbook this year under the title “This is How She Fails.”  Again I got an artist friend of mine, Lisa Marie Peaslee, to design the cover and I can’t wait to see the final product.

For me there is something special about following a character through a collection of poems.  I feel like I know these people like I know my best friends.

….

Lisa J. Cihlar‘s poems have been published in The South Dakota Review, Green Mountains Review, In Posse Review, Bluestem, and The Prose-Poem Project. One of her poems was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.  Her chapbook, “The Insomniac’s House,” is available from Dancing Girl Press and a second chapbook “This is How She Fails,” will be published by Crisis Chronicles Press in 2012.  She lives in rural southern Wisconsin.

This blog post is part of the Couplets project, a multi-author poetry blog tour coordinated by Joanne Merriam of Upper Rubber Boot Books “to help promote poetry and poets for National Poetry Month”.