Wednesday, December 5, 2018

A Quarterly Journal 
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & Owner 
Ray Rasmussen, General Editor
Volume 12, Number 4, December 2018

Chen-ou Liu’s "The Distance of Love," A Commentary by Pravat Kumar Padhy

Liu's Tanka Prose is a serene symbol of eternal love of a mother. The spectrum of the tanka is based on love, grief and solitude (ushintei). The poet symbolizes the emotional credence and divine love for his mother by placing the tanka in the beginning. This, in essence, manifests a long bridge of emotional feeling in the reader’s mind for the follow-up prose. The reader is urged to travel the distance into the prose to fathom the emotional exploration.

The tanka is written in 2/3 style with the line-3 acting as pivot line. The first two lines (kami-no-ku) sets the rhythm of emotional conversation with the sensitive word, ‘murmur’. The pivot line (kakekatoba), I love you… is the main characteristic that links the philosophical entity of the poem in the last two lines (shimo-no-ku) of tanka.

The tenderness of the kid querying ‘do you love me’ is portrayed in a blissful manner. The mother in her spontaneity spreads her hand expressing ‘I love you this much’. The phrase in ‘holding her hands half a meter apart’ juxtaposes the great distance of an ocean away in the tanka. Here the prose is landscaped with a poetic resonance. The time is elastically extended from the childhood memory to the present. The numerical approximation of ‘half a meter apart’ indeed assesses distance which is beyond measurement. It speaks about the biographical sketch of the poet migrating away from his motherland and emotional feeling of loneliness. Rightly the phrase ‘an ocean away’ fathoms the solitude in life. The poet tries to illuminate the immortal love of a mother in the fabric of time and space. The immortal love (expressed as ‘L’) has metamorphosed the expression of nostalgic reminiscence of ‘I love you this much’ into the speechless ‘silence at her end’.

I correlate with my own life experience in my childhood days. Unfortunately, I lost my mother at my early age. When I stood second in the Primary Board Examination in my state, I was offered admission by the State Government in the Sainik School (in the line of Military School) which was far away from my town. My mother used to love me so much and she had expressed once of her great wish that I should have been born as a girl child. She was not keeping good health. She was not in a position to miss me at any moment. I was in my early teens when she passed away at the age of 38, leaving our family in grief and loneliness. It stretches beyond the rhythm of silence like a fallen leaf! Indeed mother’s love is the nectar of a flower, eternal aroma of the garden of evolution and brightness of the sun.

Later on, in the early seventies, I had composed a long poem in memory of my mother, ‘Waiting for My Mother …..’ in my mother tongue, Odia. The poem speaks the fathom of silence and solitude.
Someone consoled me:
She had gone to her father’s home
And would return tomorrow
with ripen jujube fruits for me
I waited for long
Opening the door
And the window
Returning from school
I wait here, oh! my mother
Please do not forget
The last one is our home …

Chen-ou Liu
The Distance of Love

for my mother
on the phone
I murmur to mother,
I love you . . .
an ocean away
the silence at her end

Coming back home after my first day in grade one, I asked, Mom, do you love me?
I love you this much, she said with a laugh, holding her hands half a meter apart.
Now, forty years later, living in another country, I still can't fathom the depth of that L word inscribed in my mother's heart.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Salt to Taste
We all sit together for dinner, including grandma and grandpa, the pet dog relaxing somewhat expectantly in the distance. My parents are doctors so, often, their patients and their various ills and other health issues dominate the dinner table conversation. Everyone stares at the table salt as grandpa tells us again, of the Salt Satyagrah along with the latest discovery of plastic fibers in salt, and other issues centered around the crystalline seasoning. He keeps his sharp eyes on my grandma, who does not touch the sealed salt bottle, placed on the table to remind us of its inherent evil. I suspect mother and grandma may have pre-seasoned the food before serving, but I never say a word.

health bulletin
sprinkles of sugar
in the bitter syrup

Footnote: Salt Satyagrah, the nonviolent civil disobedience campaign  in the British colonial India, was led by Mahatma Gandhi  during the freedom moment of India.
Haibun Today, Vol. 12, No. 4 December Issue 2018

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

pelicans, kingfishers 
and other migratory birds… 
with gentle pace
I enter my remote hut 
enjoying their foreign language

Poetry Corner, 28.11.2018 (Ed. Kathabela Wilson)

*****    ******    *****

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Butterfly Dream

desert marathon --
for a moment I look back
at my footprints

Mainichi News, July 11, 2016

Chinese Translation (Traditional)

沙漠馬拉松 --

Chinese Translation (Simplified)

沙漠马拉松 --

Comments by Chen-ou Liu, 25.11.2018

Combined with the zoom-in technique, the opening line sets the scene while the closing line elevates the haiku to a philosophical/contemplative level, and "for a moment" in the middle line effectively enhances the emotional aspect of the haiku.

We shall always look back to the footprints of yesterday to say had we know if we don’t take a critical look at today’s footsteps. There is always an alternative that is better than good.

-- Ernest Agyemang Yeboah 

Chen-ou Liu, 25.11.2018

Sunday, November 25, 2018

One Man's Maple Moon: Lost Rainbow Tanka by Pravat Kumar Padhy

English Original

drizzling rain
all the day long
I await
the twilight sunshine
to paint my lost rainbow

Cattails, January 2016

Chinese Translation (Traditional)


Chinese Translation (Simplified)


The upper verse sets the tone and mood of the tanka while the lower verse makes a thematic and emotional shift to reveal the healing power of imagination/hope.

Chen-ou Liu, 19.11.2918

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

the orphan
at the crossroad
he stares at
the safety slogans
painted on the billboard

Presence # 62 (Ed. Alison Williams)

Monday, November 12, 2018

Haiku Commentary, 12.11.2018

wave after wave
on an incessant journey 
another sunset 
when I long to change the taste

of salt, the colour of the wind

Skylark, 2:2 Winter Issue 2014

I feel that this tanka is about a hardship that a person is passing through. “Wave after wave” means shifting from one painful event to another, which seem like trials. But, the writer is persistently going through this journey, no matter how much time it takes.

I can also see that the person is fed up with his monotonous life and wants to change his circumstances, and the conditions that surround him.
Spiritually, it describes the endless journey of hardship where one discovers his or her true potential/abilities to change what he or she does not want to see or wish. Both salt and wind are quite significant in spirituality, as both significantly influence the mood and behavior of a person. I can see the person is still not getting on this path, as sunset indicates hopelessness, but also the awakening of hidden powers that can impact our aura. Overall, the writer beautifully disguised both spiritual and social lives in this tanka.
– Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)
The feeling I’m overwhelmed with when reading this poem is a sort of breathlessness, with which the author seems to be trying to deal with. Sometimes life runs faster than us, challenging us to cope, to change, to follow the current of it… to me, it’s a poem about a humble human being, absorbed by the pressing and routine of time (incessant journey…. another sunset….) and the wish to feel free from material perception, which can lead to a more spiritual condition… Impermanence here is the red thread that runs through the tanka: of the beauty of nature, of human perceptions. I do feel all the tension to be more than a soul slave of the perceptions of its body, so a wish to go beyond flesh and bones and find peace of mind, an inner thoughtless shining silence.
– Lucia Fontana (Italy)
I think the two most important words in this tanka that trigger poetic symbolism and concepts are “journey” and “sunset.” A journey in this context could be one’s life, or a spiritual ascension. “Sunset” could be referencing an end of a period of time in one’s life.
I like the gradual pace of the tanka, and the astonishing, yet simple last line. The pace is reminiscent of the subject at hand. In terms of the last line, I believe the writer is expressing his dissatisfaction with the way things are in his life—even rudimentary things. In a sense, he seems to want to break out of reality.
The format of the tanka is the traditional idea of having the first three lines as short, long, short, and the last two lines being long. The poet uses this format well, and does not make the tanka heavy.
I like the use of “w” sounds in the first and last lines, which mimics the wind. The “s” sounds throughout the tanka can be said to be like the noise of waves. Other than this subjective impression, it makes the poem more musical and magnetizing.
An engaging, efficient, and deeply expressive tanka.
– Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)