Archive for the ‘book clubs’ Category

Season Words

A small group meets at my house once a month to talk about poetry. We take turns to choose the topic and lead the discussion. Yesterday’s topic was haiku, a classic Japanese form. We considered the arguments about Robert Hass’s poems in recent issues of Poetry, and agreed that the small fragments quoted have to be considered in the context of the whole poem. They should not be thought of as haiku. We read translations, by Hass, Jane Hirshfield and others, of the great Japanese masters. We pondered Gary Snyder’s comment:  “I do not think we should even ‘think’ haiku in other languages and cultures. We should think brief, or short poems. [Haiku] has elements that can indeed be developed in the poetries of other languages and cultures, but not by slavish imitation. To get haiku into other languages, get to the ‘heart’ of haiku, which has something to do with Zen practice and with practiced observation—not mere counting of syllables.” We read some of Snyder’s haiku-like fragments and some of Hirshfield’s “Pebbles,” her tiny poems that she describes thus:  “A pebble … is seemingly simple, but also a bit recalcitrant: it isn’t quite completely present until it has been finished inside the reader’s reaction.”

We also talked about some of the rules of classical Japanese haiku: the “turning” that often occurs, from outward observation to inside the poet’s mind, and the use of kigo, words or phrases associated with a particular season. We decided it would be fun to come up with a set of season words that would fit the environment of the Mendocino Coast. Here’s the start of our list. We’d welcome additions.

Whales swimming south

Whales swimming north with calves

Blennosperma spreading gold over Glass Beach Headlands

Aaron’s Book Club

My grandson Aaron, visiting for the weekend, tells me about the book club that he and his fifth-grade friends have started at their school. Aaron’s teacher came up with the idea, because Aaron and his friend Alexandra were such fast readers.  They started out reading The Magician’s Nephew by C. S. Lewis (the first Narnia book), then met with their teacher, Mrs. Lara, at lunchtime a few weeks later to talk about the book. Alexandra picked the next book, Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix. Next up will be Aaron’s choice, which is The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. So now Aaron and his Mom are on their way to Gallery Bookshop in Mendocino to get the book.

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