Righteous Polka is back from another righteous hiatus.
While I've been...not posting... I have done a whole lot of researching and writing and talking about poetry. Thanks to a creative writing group at the local public library I am constantly searching for new poets, poems and poetry formats.
Recently our group looked at Japanese poetry. While discussing renga, rengu, and haiku the conversation veered down several different paths including the degree to which poetry, like many things in Japanese culture, is governed by very strict rules, traditions, customs, processes and more rules.
In my opinion rules, when applied to poetry and teenage curfews, force creativity. Have to be home by midnight? The driveway is technically "home" right? And the street? The street is adjacent to home.
Similarly if a poet is limited to using only nouns from list of traditional seasonal words (saijiki and kigo, respectively) you need to do something weird to keep things interesting. Maybe mix up those kigo with modern verbs like texting,overnighting, or swiping. Its a game! The more rigid the rules the more creative you have to get to forge something that reflects your personality, style, and individuality.
In the spirit of breaking rules and doing something weird...the following poem has absolutely nothing to do with Japanese poetry. Or as John Cleese would say, "And now for something completely different."
I do love this piece. Poetry Foundation.org featured it today and my admiration of, and affection for, this poem encouraged me to return to the blog and share it with you. So, questionable link between haiku and Robert Pinsky aside, please read on and enjoy.
Poem of the Day: Samurai Song
BY ROBERT PINSKY
When I had no roof I made
Audacity my roof. When I had
No supper my eyes dined.
When I had no eyes I listened.
When I had no ears I thought.
When I had no thought I waited.
When I had no father I made
Care my father. When I had
No mother I embraced order.
When I had no friend I made
Quiet my friend. When I had no
Enemy I opposed my body.
When I had no temple I made
My voice my temple. I have
No priest, my tongue is my choir.
When I have no means fortune
Is my means. When I have
Nothing, death will be my fortune.
Need is my tactic, detachment
Is my strategy. When I had
No lover I courted my sleep.
Read that again and take a minute to notice the very careful line breaks and choice of words because they are lovely. Read the poem aloud and really appreciate the rhythm. Take a step back and think about what he is saying. He's talking to you about himself, and about you. You are strong, like a Samurai; you make your own fortune and choir.