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Monday, 5 December 2016

A Flock of Blackbirds: Haiku and Senryu

A Flock of Blackbirds: Haiku and Senryu

by Margaret Saunders

over the car wash
a flock of blackbirds

spring rain:
after all this time . . .

Canada Day:
an old vet hangs out
a Union Jack

falling snow:
on the reservation
white crosses vanish

silently falling
around the nursing home:
autumn leaves . . .

at the theatre,
the rustle of papers:
I clench my teeth

after the crash
the cry
of a vulture

in the distance - -
in the old vet's room - -
the Q.E.W.

in the April sun
a row of bright headlights
moves down the street

town dump:
through the rubble

a bitter wind:
a single leaf clings
to the maple

morning funeral:
on my neighbour's roof
autumn frost

at the General
an aborted baby hugs
an aborted baby

early this morning
just when I was thinking spring
another snowfall!

suddenly it's spring.
in yesterday's frozen pond
the birds are bathing.

the robin that chirped
in my garden last evening,
has now flown south

the mist blindfolds
the village

in the park
the bandstand ghost
hosts empty stalls

our quarrel
a full moon

the girl serving lunch
in the cafeteria
is scratching her crotch

from the drive-in movie,
honking horns

at the movies,
competing with the stars,
a chink of daylight

on the beach
the lookout chair
looks out and out

under the maple,
a cluster of sleepy cows,
swap flies with their tails.

rain washing
a chalked swastika
down the drain

slowly drifting
towards the ball park:
fog patches

after the reception
a withered carnation

fading into
Steeltown's smog:
funeral cortege

town square
drifting around the cenotaph . . .
plastic poppies

the sleepy kitten
settles in a beam
of autumn sunlight


* I published Margaret's first haiku collection with my Unfinished Monument Press in October, 1979.

* the haiku/senryu were all hand lettered in capitals, so it's hard to know exactly what Margaret's intentions were regarding capitalization

* individual haiku weren't given publication credits, but at the end of the collection, the following mags are listed as 'first appeared in':
Jabberwocky, Cicada, Canadian Children's Magazine, Poetry Toronto, Canadian Haiku: An Anthology, Canadian Thanksgiving Book, Blind Windows, Wee Giant, Mamashee

*I typed the contents of Margaret's collection to send to Haiku Canada president Terry Ann Carter, who is writing histories and essays on the early days of English language haiku. Following is one of my email responses to Terry about those times.

Hi Terry,
I met Margaret at that first haiku meeting at Eric Amann's condo. I've written about this meeting several times, how it was the first time I'd met other living breathing haiku poets (or at least ones I hadn't inspired to write haiku after they'd read my first little chapbooks from 1969).

I've written several times before about this seminal meeting (I'm pretty damn sure it was the inaugural meeting of the Canadian Haiku Society). For the first time I got to meet my mentor, Dr. Eric Amann, who had encouraged and published my early haiku in 1967 in his very respected and influential magazine, "Haiku". In the decade between these early snail mail contacts and our first meeting, I'd been a major organizer in opposing the Vietnam War where I lived in Miami, Florida. Eric, living far away in Toronto, was resident in the mythical, to me, country I'd been born in. After 'dodging the draft' I lived for three years, 1969 - 1972, in the UK in squats and various temporary lodgings (as the Brits would say).

In 1972 I decided I'd had enough of the hippie lifestyle of living on the street, and took a chance and flew with no money or worldly possessions to Canada. So when I finally met Eric I'd been living in Canada for only 6 or 7 years, but I'd acclimatized quickly to my agreeable and supportive homeland.

I suspect that most of us who met that evening at Eric's condo were also initially apprehensive about meeting other Canadian haiku poets. I didn't know if it would be a snooty gathering of multilingual academics, or Zen practitioners, or Japanophiles, expat Japanese or what! So it was comfortable to look around Eric's crowded little livingroom and learn that we were all pretty darn normal Canadians - almost so normal as to be cliches  ;  )-  Dr. Eric Amann turned out to be a shy gnome of a man, substantially shorter than I am at 5'7. Marshall Hryciuk was a big, gregarious laughing Buddha, with long hair and obvious good humour. Margaret was a short, friendly little Scotswoman, grandmotherly, but with an almost flirtatious gleam. George Swede was perhaps the most 'normal' person, who looked and talked like a typical professor.

Margaret and I bonded immediately at that meeting. I'd taken a sixpack of Budweiser beer, in case the meeting was too pompous. I needn't have worried. The 6 beers were quickly shared by all present, & I'm pretty sure most of us enjoyed our drinks while sitting on Eric's floor, Wee Margaret included.

I haven't kept records of specific dates, but I'm sure Margaret almost immediately published some of my poetry in her Hamilton-based litmag, "Wee Giant". I reciprocated, publishing her first chapbook haiku collection, "A Flock of Blackbirds", in October, 1979, with my Unfinished Monument Press.

There was an odd rivalry between Margaret and another Hamilton haiku poet and litmag publisher, Herb Barrett. Both Herb and Margaret were the nicest people you could imagine, and both were talented poets who encouraged dozens of other poets by publishing them. To my memory, having Margaret and Herb compete to publish and review my poetry, and to feature me at Hamilton poetry readings, was like having two doting, but competitive, grandparents fighting for my affection  ;  )-

I can find only one copy of Margaret's "A Flock of Blackbirds", and I'm debating with myself whether to send it to you. Is there any way you can track down copies of her work?

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Poet James Deahl on Trump and Americanism

November 14, 2016

Dear Chris,

         My step-daughter has asked me why Donald Trump defeated Hilary Clinton. (She is a Clinton supporter.) I thought you would be interested in my reply. See below.

         I made my final trip to the U.S. on Thursday to pick up 100 more copies of To Be With A Woman. Odd to think that my final trip was not to Pittsburgh but to Port Huron. Oh, well . . .

November 13, 2016

Dear Straja,

         Today is a mild Sunday morning in the autumn of the year. The sun is out. The back yard is blanketed with yellow leaves from our cottonwoods. The Japanese maple has gone a vivid red. Our squirrels are busy gathering the last of the walnuts. A perfect time to reply to your question.

         Many people in the United States, Canada, and around the world are both baffled and dismayed by the election of Donald Trump. Here is just one of dozens of examples I have read in the leading newspapers. The New York Times supported Hilary Clinton. They were, as writers to newspapers often put it, “shocked and appalled” by the victory of Mr. Trump. Only yesterday (Saturday, November 12) in a major editorial entitled “What Trump Exposed About the G.O.P.” Mark Schmitt stated that this election was unlike previous elections in that it was not about ideology. In Mr. Schmitt’s opinion, identity politics had replaced ideology. A too common view.

         Nothing could be less true. The results of five days ago (1) should not have been unexpected and (2) were purely about ideology. Although I also briefly thought the Trump candidacy was merely a publicity stunt, I saw by mid-summer that not only was Mr. Trump serious but that he would defeat Mrs. Clinton in the general election. I fully expected the result we all saw by midnight last Tuesday. It does, however, shock me that this result shocked so many others. They were not paying attention.

         The ideology that animates the United States is Americanism. The roots of Americanism go back through Ralph Waldo Emerson and his fellow 19th century thinkers to the Puritans of 16th century England and 17th century Massachusetts. One could say that Americanism is as American as apple pie. (But much less tasty.) In short, Americanism is the political expression of the Puritan vision.

         Just about all political activity in the U.S. is an outworking of one strand of Americanism or another. In the most recent election we saw the Kennedy-Clinton-Obama strand pitted against the Trump strand. These were not different ideologies. They were different strands of the same ideology. The Kennedy-Clinton-Obama version was old fashioned, weak, and obsolete. The Trump version was more pure and far more advanced. Mr. Trump represented the future direction of America while Mrs. Clinton represented its past, albeit a very recent past.

         In times of fear, anger, and economic uncertainty — such as the present moment — people will naturally seek shelter in what they perceive as something pure and strong. That is exactly what Mr. Trump was offering. One could say that Mr. Trump won because he was more American that Mrs. Clinton.

         It was clear by mid-summer that Mr. Trump was tightly focused on the fear and anger and economic misery experienced by many, perhaps most, Americans. Five days following her defeat, Mrs. Clinton has still failed to appreciate the depth of these feelings. That is to say, she still does not understand the issues this election was about. Nor does the Democratic Party understand; they have no clue why they, and their Blue Wall, crumbled.

         This has unpleasant social implications. It is suddenly OK to voice ones dislike for people such as Blacks, Muslims, Jews (like my daughters), homosexuals, handicapped people, American ex-patriots (like me), Mexican-Americans, and Asians. Prejudice against and persecution of minority groups will soon have the stamp of government approval. In a sense it may seem as though we are returning to Jim Crow and the social attitudes of the 1950s. But this is not a “return” to anything. Rather, it is a sign of the future direction of our society. It is, most of all, the failure of the liberal idea.

         The liberal idea is one aspect of Americanism. It has been called the New Deal, the Great Society, and, most recently, Obama’s Yes We Can slogan. And it has not worked. So the American people have decided to try another aspect of Americanism, and one that will prove far less pleasant. (Unless one happens to be White, rich, and, male.) It is a serious error to equate Mr. Trump and fascism. But, although Trumpism is not fascist, some of the groups that make up this movement are. And these fascist elements, in their millions, are the strongest of Trump’s supporters. They are the real danger.

         Unfortunately, Canada is almost certain to follow suit. The future of our children will be more dangerous and less enjoyable. And even though I fully expected Mr. Trump to become my next President, I was still somewhat depressed on Wednesday and Thursday. Of course, at my age I expect to be only slightly inconvenienced. My worry is for my daughters and my granddaughter. They will have to confront the rise of fascism.

         Nonetheless, this is a lovely autumn day. A perfect day for a walk.


         . . . James

Image result for america firster cartoon

Hi James,
You're far more prescient than I! I wrote Trump off as a character in that old Simpsons episode, altho Sylvia had feared a Trumpian victory.

Whether Trump won or last, I saw his candidacy as a milestone on the road of the continuing decline of the Amerikaan empire. Following is the blog post I wrote on the eve of the election, and then some further thoughts and posts by other poets two days after.

I agree that the blue collar disillusionment with the status quo is similarly deep in Canada. With a few exceptions, I've spoken with a number of Marmorites on my daily strolls around the village, and almost every male was pleased that Trump had won  :  (     When I asked why, they spit back the usual idiocies about opposing the elites (as if Trump isn't part of both the Amerikaan and global elites). But underneath this superficial misunderstanding of class, there was that gut level knowledge that the working class/blue collar/rural lifestyle is doomed under the current neo-liberal systems.

As you note, there does seem to be a see-sawing effect between the elected governments of Canada & the U.S. - hopefully we already had our Trump, in the watered-down form of that ideological bible believing maniac Stephen Harper. Sad thing is, Trump will have his itchy fingers on the little red button, and he may speed the human race to our biblical final days of judgment, a cosmic power Harper must now envy!

If you'd like, I can include you well-written letter on riffs & ripps?

peace & poetry power!

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Dear Americans . . .


Comments from Stan and Becky and me.
Thanks for your essay on the state of things.
Katherine, inconsolable.

 Yes, fascism and the first horseman,  I heard that white male
militias are now proudly arming themselves in the states.
War and walls all around us now.
So SAD for the beleaguered planet.  He will probably re-open
coal mines, doesn’t believe in climate change, and women and gays
will lose all rights, thanks to a horrid supreme court about to be stacked.
Back in the dark ages now.
We are philosophers watching the decline of the new Rome.
Love from Katherine.

I have never been so shocked in my entire life. I woke up at 5:30 just in time to see that horrid announcement. I had no idea racism and sexism was so rampant in the states. We will be at war in no time, thousands of young people will be slaughtered, and freedom has left the world. I hope everyone who voted for that pompous evil blow-hard gets exactly what they deserve.

I'd say the first horseman has arrived.


---------- Original Message ----------
From: Stan
Date: November 8, 2016 at 11:08 PM

Fascism has arrived.

                                                           ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~

On 2016-11-09, at 7:04 PM, anna yin wrote:

I was shocked too. Sad for friends in USA.

Here are my series of haiku: American Dream

fruit ice cream
with green tea
our first and last meeting

endlessly debating
into this deep autumn -
how much we want green

early dawn
on our lawn
staking a “for sale” sign

hard rain
in the rock lion’s eyes

laying out
poppy after poppy

along the wall
leaves falling
American dream


                                                               .   .   .   .

On 2016-11-10, at 10:05 AM, Katherine Gordon wrote:

Anna, your last haiku re leaves and American dream falling
is so poignantly perfect.

Thanks for sharing, Katherine L. Gordon.

                                                               .   .   .   .

yes, it's the perfect politikal haiku! Thanks for pointing this out Katherine  ;  )

                                                                .   .   .   .

many thanks, Anna!
not all Amerikaans are barbarians, but their politikal kulture sure is barbaric!

I'll add your haiku to the post.



Monday, 7 November 2016

Soft or Hard Collapse for Amerikan Empire?

This is the eve of a turning point in the ongoing collapse of the Amerikan empire. Tomorrow's presidential election will help determine whether this inevitable collapse is a soft landing, like that of the British Empire. After World War 2 the brits faded empire softly folded into being an Amerikan protectorate, what one analyst memorably called 'a theme park for the Americans'.

A Trump victory offers a potentially harder and quickening collapse than a Clinton win. As a fan of Vlad (the bomber) Putin, Trump's victory could signal a rapid deterioration of the U.S. into a mafia state similar to Russia. In place of the Russian oligarchs, a rogue Amerikan mafia state would have as leaders the 'hollow men' board of directors of the multi-national corporations based in the U.S.

A Clinton win would be more of the same old same old. She'd likely continue inadequately managing the weakening imperialist policies of Obama, who couldn't manage much of anything he promised while in office, including closing Guantanamo and implementing an efficient national health care system. As Mao said, I don't care if a cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice.

At the tail end of my youth I was a Marxist, and one of our major Marxist tenets was defining the 'major contradiction' in a political situation. Trump brings to the fore at least two major contradictions in the Amerikan empire. These are the internal contradictions which confound every empire - a large percentage of the citizenry must be marginalized so they can easily be recruited to fight the foreign wars necessary to hold the empire together - while externally the colonies of oppressed people continue to struggle to free themselves.

In fairly recent decades we've witnessed the weakening ability of the Amerikan empire to hold sway with its once powerful rule of Pax Americana. First the Amerikans got their ass kicked in Vietnam. I'm proud to say I was one of the young people who actively resisted participating in that horrible war. Now they routinely get their butts kicked, as witnessed by Afghanistan and now Syria. This is where the dividing line between a 'soft' Clinton and a 'hard' Trump blurs a bit. Trump is supposedly an Amerika Firster, a protectionist, while Clinton has sounded hawkish on Syria. They are both such blustering cartoonish characters that neither offers much hope, although Clinton at least appears sane!

All in all, sitting up here on the sidelines in Canada watching the bizarre reality TV show which is the U.S. of A.,  I'm grateful I had the foresight to leave the U.S. forever in 1969. I never realized what great entertainment it can be watching an imperialist ship of state sink so slowly and crazily. 

                                                          ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~

On 2016-11-07, at 3:21 PM, Kent  wrote:

Right on Chris!

                                                                     .   .   .   .

Thanks Kent!
this is quite the bizarre show - not with a whimper or a bang, but as an episode of "The Simpsons"

Image result for pic sinking American ship

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Every Hero Falls

I would creep away,
toes digging into cold sand
at the edge of slate seas,
while winter froths
the sweet of life away.
All days are filtered through flawed memory,
like the stab  of sunlight on an aging oak tree
where once we stood like champions,
toes braced for the steel spear point
that chastens dreams.
Even the guitar case stands empty
while the troubadour lies stricken,
a steel spear point in his heart
where once plans shone like sunlight
on the oak tree of youth,
empty guitar case
fading light
piercing spear
upturned toes
we all fall like expired stars
into the soundless abyss.

Katherine L. Gordon
November, 2016.Image result for pic empty guitar case