Candy is a comforting sight

The wealthy merchant pleasures in the pocket but suffers in spirit.  The petty vendor suffers in pocket but glories in the spirit.
At year’s end,
When debts must be settled,
The sunny amber of the humble vendor’s
Candy is a comforting sight.
Haiku by Basho
More haiku

Imagine a world where your every move matters

Curbside Haiku,” a NYC DOT safety education and public art campaign launched in November 2011, is a set of twelve bright, eye-catching designs by artist John Morse that mimic the style of traditional street safety signs. Each sign is accompanied by a haiku poem. The “Curbside Haiku” installation can be seen citywide on 144 signs to promote road safety. Each design and haiku delivers a safety message by focusing on a transportation mode.

Placed near eye level in high-crash locations near cultural institutions and schools, the colorful signs draw attention to the critical importance of shared responsibility among pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists in keeping New York City’s streets safe.

Here’s one example:

Imagine a world
Where your every move matters.
Welcome to that world.

Posters and signs from the campaign are available for sale from the Safe Streets Fund.  All proceeds benefit traffic safety education and awareness.

This graphic was designed by Mike Licht of NotionsCapital:

Japan bicycle lady, credit Mike Licht,

Via NotionsCapital

Which do you prefer?

I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes.
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.

‘Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird’Wallace Stevens



The Art of the Haiku

Basho (1644-1694) is considered Japan’s greatest poetry writer for composing short yet exceedingly difficult haikuNational Geographic has a beautiful photo gallery currently featuring photographs illustrating a story about a journey on foot Basho took not long before his death.  He actually walked through my prefecture, Ishikawa, on his journey.

The man himself.

The man himself.

“A mound of summer grass

Are warriors’ heroic deeds

Only dreams that pass?”

Haiku are both extremely easy to write but difficult to master.  In English most people are taught to follow the 5-7-5 rule (1 line of 5 syllables, one of 7, and another of 5).  Along with this long-short-long format you also need to include 2 things:  a kigo (seasonal word) and a kireji (a cut marker).  The soul of haiku lies in nature, so people use insects, plants, flowers and other words to show when their poem is set.  The World Kigo Database has an excellent collection of seasonal words for poem writing.  They also have an easy to understand explanation of the finer points of haiku writing:

“Write about a personal experience, not a philosophical thought or idea.
Try to pay attention to the small things in life with all their details,
the seasonal changes of your daily human life.
Every moment of your life counts!
Be Here and Now!

Photo credit kretyen.

Photo credit kretyen.

For more on the (very Zen) philosophy of haiku writing, head over here.  Or if you want to give it a try, head over to the Magnetic Poetry Virtual Refrigerator for a magnet poetry challenge!  You could even join a weekly haiku challenge (Google has shown me the “Recession Haiku Challenge,” “Weight Loss Haiku Challenge” and the “Skateboard Haiku Challenge” among 19430954095 other results ^^).  But here’s my challenge to you:  write a haiku about where you are right now and post it in the comment!  Doesn’t have to be a masterpiece, just give it a try!

Here’s mine:

“The hum of the air-con

Can’t drown out the cicadas

Summer office days”

~MS the Younger

The Art of the Iris

Irises (called ayane in Japanese) pop their velvet heads out of the shallows in Kanazawa'a famous park, Kenrokuen.

Irises (called ayane in Japanese) pop their velvet heads out of the shallows in Kanazawa'a famous park, Kenrokuen.

“But blueflags are blossoming
in the reeds
which the children pluck
chattering in the reeds
high over their heads
which they part
with bare arms to appear
with fists of flowers.”

“The Blueflags”
by William Carlos Williams

Irises in Kenrokuen.

Besides being a herald of spring, irises are also the symbol of the Greek Goddess Iris. Her duty was to lead the souls of women to the Elysian Fields.

The rich color and unusual shape of irises has inspired many artists over many centuries.  Van Gogh saw fields of them from the asylum he stayed in during 1889.

Irises 1889 (280 Kb); Oil on canvas, 71 x 93 cm (28 x 36 3/4 in); Payson Gallery of Art, Portland, Maine (or Getty Museum, California).  Image found through WebMuseum.

Irises 1889 (280 Kb); Oil on canvas, 71 x 93 cm (28 x 36 3/4 in); Payson Gallery of Art, Portland, Maine (or Getty Museum, California). Image found through WebMuseum.

Georgia O’Keefe said “Nobody sees a flower, really, it is so small. We haven’t time – and to see takes time like to have a friend takes time.”

"Light Iris" 1924: Virginia Museum of Fine-Arts, Richmond, Georgia O'Keefe

"Light Iris" 1924: Virginia Museum of Fine-Arts, Richmond, Georgia O'Keefe

The Iris
“I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers.”
~ Claude Monet

~MS the Younger

In a time of destruction, create something

Carolyn sent me this poem by Maxine Hong Kingston:

Children, everybody, here’s what to do during war:

In a time of destruction, create something.
A poem.
A parade.
A community.
A school.
A vow.
A moral principle.
One peaceful moment.

-maxine hong kingston

Moving in its simplicity and naivete.   According to Wikipedia:

Maxine Hong Kingston (Chinese: 湯婷婷; born October 27, 1940) is an American Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley where she graduated with a BA in English in 1962. She is both a prolific academic and autobiographical writer.


Sweetfern Meme – And Valentine’s Inspiration

A very belated meme from the wonderful Sweetfern!

1. Started my own blog (thanks, Dad!)
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band (Irish, sadly dissolved)
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower (with a good friend out in the Hamptons)
6. Given more than I can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland/world
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sung a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched lightning at sea
14. Taught myself an art from scratch (pennywhistle!)
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning (at the Japanese equivalent of Denny’s, ugh >_<)
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown my own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitchhiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping

27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run

32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of my ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught myself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied

40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke

42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight (Greece, four years ago.)
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had my portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater

55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching

63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar

72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had my picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House

87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee

100. Ridden an elephant


These kinds of memes are nice, because sometimes you need to be reminded just how many things you’ve seen an experienced, even when you’re just a young’un like me!  Oh, and I tag ArtandLife to do this meme next!  And speaking of things we’ve done, you should go over to Sweetfern’s blog and read the little excerpt she’s posted about not losing faith in winter.  January and February are the hardest months for me, when I’m just too grouchy and missing green, but that little excerpt reminded me why I should be enjoying it while I can!  My students often ask “What’s your favorite season?” but I can never answer why because all of them are wonderful in their own ways!

~MS the Younger

PS:  Here’s a little pre-Valentine’s poem to get your poem-writing skills ready and raring to go; a poem by the amazing Roman poet Catullus:

“You ask, my Lesbia, how many of your kisses
are enough and more than enough for me.
As big a number as the Libyan grains of sand
that lie at silphium producing Cyrene
between the oracle of Sultry Jupiter
and the sacred tomb of old Battus;
Or as many stars that see the secret love affairs of men,
when the night is silent.
So many kisses are enough
and more than enough for mad Catullus to kiss you,
these kisses which neither the inquisitive are able to count
nor an evil tongue bewitch.”


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