Archive for Haiku

Last Week in Poetry #6: 5/11-5/17/2009

Posted in Weekly Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 18, 2009 by czarnickolas

If it’s Tuesday, this must be Belgium. Unfortunately, it’s Monday, but at least that means this must be Last Week in Poetry. Today we’ve got more great steps for women in poetry, a Yoko Ono sighting, and John Keats’ love life now appearing at Cannes.

1 – Ruth Padel Brings Some XX to Oxford Faculty

As reported by the AP, Oxford broke down another barrier last week:

Ruth Padel, the great-great-granddaughter of Charles Darwin, became Oxford University’s first female professor of poetry on Saturday.

She was voted to the prestigious five-year post by graduates and academics, and she is the first woman to hold the job since it was created in 1708.

Her series of poems about the famous naturalist — “Darwin A Life in Poems” — received rave reviews when it was published earlier this year, and Padel said she wanted to use her new post to unite poetry and science.”

Unfortunately, Ms. Padel’s appointment has been marred somewhat by the controversy surrounding one of the post’s other candidates. Not lost among the coverage of this event is Derek Walcott’s withdrawal from consideration after a smear campaign irreparably damaged his chances at the post. Covered here last week, Walcott faced the resurfacing quarter-century-old sexual harassment charges. Supporters see conspiracy:

James Fenton, a former incumbent of the professorship, went further, blaming Ruth Padel, Walcott’s chief rival for the post, and more pertinently the journalist John Walsh, who wrote an inflammatory piece in The Independent…

Fenton raged: “It has been disgusting to watch as this hypocritical duo have kicked a 79-year-old poet in the slats, not because he represented some kind of threat to the weak-willed young women of Oxford (come on!) but because he stood in the way of Padel’s ambitions.”

Padel herself has disclaimed any responsibility: “What we all should have been talking about all this time was – and is – poetry.” There are few, including Walcott, who criticise Padel’s poetry, although fewer who would place it in the same league as his.”


Los Angeles, 2004

2 – Keats Love Story at Cannes

Professor Harper often cited Keats in class as an example of what one can accomplish by the age of 25, but he admonished us not to get too caught up in trying to catch him. “There will never be another Keats,” Harper always said. Lost in Harper’s lectures was Keats’ romantic life. Thankfully, Jane Campion – the Kiwi director behind “The Piano” – decided to shine some light on the subject. Her latest project, “Bright Star,” shows viewers the romantic side of Keats’ last two years alive, featuring his affair with Fanny Brawne:

“My feeling was that Fanny didn’t know much about poetry, ” Ms. Campion said in an interview before the festival. “But she got Keats’s poems.”

“Fanny blooms with health and beauty, while the poet, played by Ben Wishaw, withers away: tuberculosis killed him at 25. His last sonnet, “Bright Star,” was written on the ship that took him to Rome, where he died.

“The story of Keats has so many portals you can enter,” said Ms. Campion. “I chose not to show how he died, because Fanny didn’t know.”

The movie took a while to get off the ground, in part due to marketing considerations:

Ms. Campion was captivated by Keats’s poetry in high school, and for years dreamed of making a film about his life.

“It was an incredibly unpopular subject when I first thought of it — a very aggressive time, people were only interested in making money. Slowly, shyly, I shared the idea with Jan Chapman, my producer, who also loves Keats.”

3 – Yoko Ono + Twitter + Haiku = Can’t Miss Poetry Event

Citizens of London have a unique chance participate in the world’s first interactive Twitter poetry competition. Not only that, but a certain Mrs. John Lennon will be among the celebrity judges:

“Commuters who pass through King’s Cross and St Pancras are being invited to submit haiku-style poems on the subject of “the great British summer” from their phones using the social micro-blogging tool. The poems are displayed, within minutes of submission, on a board in the stations, from today until Friday. The best will then be selected by judges including the poet Jackie Kay and artist Yoko Ono.”

The competition combines the classic icon of London transportation – St Pancras station – with the micro-blogging giant Twitter:

“From The Ladykillers to Harry Potter, the station has been recorded in film and literature but the thousands of people it brings into London each day are rarely acknowledged,” said Peter Millican, the head of Kings Place. “Poetry is a big component of our spoken word series of events on a Monday and we wanted to raise the profile of the night with a different group of people to our usual audience. Twitter and haiku just seemed to click.”

Poet Jackie Kay agrees. “I’m intrigued by Twitter; it’s a whole new form of communication,” she said. “I’ve always been fascinated by the mystery and brevity of haiku, how people can say simple things, profoundly. I’m looking forward to seeing how these two forms will collide and communicate with one another.”


NYC, 2004

4 – Poetry Therapist

We covered poetry as therapy a few weeks ago, but this week we’ve got a profile on a poetry therapist. It may sound like “hoo-ha” to some, but Nessa McCasey stands by her work, “meeting with individuals, couples and groups to heal ‘individual and community wounds so often overlooked or cast aside during our busy daily lives.'” McCasey acknowledges potential shortcomings, “careful not to hold herself out as a licensed clinical therapist”:

She will not counsel someone with an issue that should be treated in a more acute manner by others. “I might need to tone things down or talk to them privately, to make sure they’re getting help,” she said.

Still, McCasey sees value in poems as healing agents, and she grew her English degree from the University of Michigan in a circuitous way that eventually led her into the job she has today.

“You’ve probably heard of music therapy and art therapy,” she said. “Poetry therapy is under that same umbrella, but it’s a younger organization than the other two.”

Be sure to check out Nessa McCasey’s Web site Writers of Wrongs.

5 – Link of the Week- The Jack Kerouac Project of Orlando

Kerouac is a favorite here at The Poetry Project. If he’s a favorite of yours, too, and you would like to live rent-free in the Orlando house he stayed in at one point, give this link a look.


Poem #30: Weekend Haiku, Second Series

Posted in Haiku Series, Poems with tags , , , , , , , , on May 17, 2009 by czarnickolas

Weekend Haiku, Second Series

selfish beach walkers
five abreast on the bike path
there are rules you know

in town for three days
my dad walks the dog alone
she asks for nothing

eleven miles
a cocky runner’s penance
legs like broken wood

Eastern remedies
vogue and unpronounceable
one man’s last resort

I like Chopin best
he got the piano right
don’t tell Beethoven

sports page doom and gloom
will David slay Goliath?
mountains from molehills

@NBF 5.17.2009


Santa Monica, 2004



Some haiku about running on the beach, family, medicine, music, and basketball.

Poem #24: Weekend Haiku, First Series

Posted in Haiku Series, Poems with tags , , , , , on May 10, 2009 by czarnickolas

Weekend Haiku, First Series

backwards baseball caps
free with leased rims and stubble
girls dating down

naked and afraid
he cowers at my greeting
someone’s lost a dog

a bulbous body
on her back she tells the truth
cunning black widow

garrulous barkeep
I’m not your biographer
I just want a drink

balloons and charades
that’s not what they studied for
clowns frown upside down

arbitrary love
bought and sold at the drug store
Hallmark holidays

@NBF 5.10.2009


Los Angeles, 2008



Nothing says Sunday night like some strict 5-7-5 haiku. I enjoy using haiku to wrap up a busy week, so I think I will institute a “Weekend Haiku” series here at The Poetry Project. Did you know that “haiku” is the plural of “haiku”? This is surprising to me, as the plural of the word “person” in Japanese (hito, 人) is “hitobito” (人々).

Speaking of surprises, it’s The Poetry Project’s one month anniversary on Tuesday. In lieu of gifts, leave a comment in which you describe a dream, the moment you realized Hamlet’s famous soliloquy could have been one-third its published length, or your favorite Poetry Project moment. Bonus points for those combining haiku with hypertext.

Happy Mother’s Day to everyone, even you non-mothers who pretend to have kids for various subversive reasons.

Poet #1: Paul Beatty

Posted in Poets with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 12, 2009 by czarnickolas

Paul Beatty

“I write because I’m too afraid to steal, too ugly to act, too weak to fight, and too stupid in math to be a Cosmologist.”
— Paul Beatty

And thank the good lord for that. Had Carol Jago not introduced me to Paul Beatty’s The White Boy Shuffle during my senior year of high school, I may never have taken up poetry. I had just written a short story – highly derivative of Kurt Vonnegut, of course – called “Joey Jordan, And So Forth.” It was about a basketball-playing poet who never missed a shot. Amazingly enough, so too is The White Boy Shuffle. Ms. Jago saw the similarity, recommended I read the book, and I became a poet. It was really that simple.

Like the good Reverend King
I too “have a dream,”
but when I wake up
I forget it and
remember I’m running late for work.

— from The White Boy Shuffle

I was raised on Dead White Poetry. Although my curriculum included the otherworldly creations of Jack Kerouac, Lewis Carroll, and Edward Estlin Cummings, my distaste for most things dead and white kept me from embracing poetry as my own. It was an art form I never competed in, as opposed to music and calculus. Besides, it just wasn’t black enough for me.

Born to a father who spent his twenties and thirties writing scripts intended for Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy, I could not escape my fate. I was doomed to be the kid who showed up the first day of junior high decked from head to toe in Cross Colours gear and talking like a Boyz n the Hood redshirt. I fetishized basketball, hip hop, and enormous pants, although I found little success with any of them. A boy with my disposition wanted nothing to do with John Keats and William Carlos Williams.

Paul Beatty turned my fetish on its head.

Stall Me Out

why you no rhythm

afraid of women asexual pseudo intellectual
bald mt. fuji shaped head

no booty havin big nose
size 13 feet pigeon toed crook footed

taco bell burrito supreme eatin
day dreamin

no jump shot can’t dunk
comic book readin
nutrition needin

knock kneed sap sucker
non drivin
anti fashion
constantly depressed clumsy no money mutherfucker

take your weak ass poems
and go back to los angeles

While simultaneously channeling his id, ego and superego, Beatty wields metaphors like a battle rapper and apologizes for nothing. As one critic put it: “he makes you laugh in self-defense.” The White Boy Shuffle challenged my notions of poetry and of myself. Beatty’s words were “verse” enough to count, but cool enough to convince 16-year-old me to try playing with poetry.

TWBS and Joker, Joker, Deuce (Beatty’s second published collection of poetry) inspired me so much that the former became my go-to referral for friends and loved ones in search of an interesting read, and the latter a gift to anyone I felt needed a little poetry in their lives.

In addition to re-calibrating my life, Paul Beatty has also remixed the haiku. Like Jack Kerouac before him, Beatty writes poems that – while not adhering to traditional haiku form – accomplish the lots-of-meaning-in-a-little-space goal first mastered by Matsuo Bashō in seventeenth century Japan. Some of these poems feel tongue-in-cheek.

Why That Abbott and Costello Vaudeville Mess Never Worked with Black People

who’s on first?
i dont know, your mama

Others are profound (…and mildly profane).

Mickey Mouse Build a House

don’t you ever feel
like in the game of life

you was the last motherfucker to say


It is entirely possible that I may have stumbled into poetry eventually without Mr. Beatty’s help, but writing conditionally about the past seems beyond the scope of The Poetry Project. What happened, happened, and I will always thank Paul Beatty for helping me get my head on straight (at least at the time).

NF with Paul Beatty

Yours truly, age 18, with Paul Beatty.

Beatty is the author of three novels and two books of poetry. His most recent work, Slumberland: A Novel, has been available for about ten months and makes an excellent gift.