I have to admit that I came to poetry late. My parents were not particularly invested in my education -- they were struggling with one of my older brothers -- so I sort of got left to my own devices. I read what I could, and as my parents aren't much for poetry, I didn't get a lot of exposure until I was well into school. So until my teachers started bringing me poetry, I read a lot of fiction and non-fiction.
Then, in middle school, poetry started to come alive. One teacher introduced me to haiku. I fell in love. There was something about the intimate focus that drew me in. Of course, at that stage in my life, I also liked boundaries. I was a bit of a science and math nerd at that point -- I still had hopes of either being an aerospace engineer and/or astronaut -- so the 5-7-5 syllables were just what I needed. Unfortunately, like most children, I didn't see beyond the rules, and I never quite understood the poems my teacher provided us.
One of those poems was Basho's famous frog poem:
The old pond --
a frog jumps in,
sound of water.
For me, as a child, this was intriguing. I spent many a lazy days at my neighborhood pond. I enjoyed watching the so-called wildlife -- the ducks, the minnows, and the frogs -- enjoy the unkempt pond. It was always fun to play around the pond, and so I quickly connected to the idea of the old pond. When you are as young as I was, the pond, which I had visited for well over six years, felt old to me. On top of that, tThe pond was my get-away. It was a sanctuary where I could dream and play. In fact, much of my youth was spent playing make believe games around the pond's edge and in the undergrowth nearby. My pond experience was poetic.
And of course, I loved frogs. Despite being a girl, I enjoyed frogs. I grew up playing with boys more than girls, and so found interest in more typically boy pursuits. We loved catching the small frogs that made it into our yards after a good rain. And often, we would take those frogs down to the pond. I may have been a tomboy, but there was always a wildlife rescuer within me. When I first read the poem, the many re-locations came to mind: carrying the frog in a shoebox up to the pond and releasing it at the water's edge.
However, the last part alluded me when I was younger. I would think, "Sure, you hear the water splash, but what is so great about that?" I had not learned what haiku was about, and so the last line was lost on me.
Despite that disconnect, I was still intrigued. I decided to re-visit the form in graduate school -- while pursuing an MFA in poetry. During my undergraduate years I came to learn a bit about the form, that it is the essence of a moment and may not carry any deep meaning. I was also told it was Zen; the moment encapsulates a greater understanding on life. This was not enough, so I sought to learn more. I learned about the seasonal nature of the poems, the personal nature of them (which meant they can have greater meaning or a simple, personal one), and the immediacy of them (most are written on the spot). I learned they take many forms -- they can be part of a group of poems by one person or a group, which would dictate the goal of the poems. I also learned the rules; I only had the vaguest ideas of the rules.
Now, with my greater knowledge of this incredible form, I turn often to the haiku -- many posts on this blog are proof of that. In fact, writing about wine and writing haikus (and their predecessor the tanka) match so well together. As with all culinary delights, wine is a moment, the taste and smells one enjoys as the aromas reach up from the glass, pass the lips, soak the tongue, and slide down the throat are as fleeting as a haiku. And like haiku, there is a natural and seasonal aspect to wine. The two pair well:
Vibrant colors dance,
come to life in each bloom, bud,
and glasses of wine.
Watch: heat haze draws near,
wraps its sun drenched arms around:
I need chilled white wine.
Leaves swap their green coats
for yellow, orange, chocolate;
they want to be red wine.
collected spices drift up
from my cup of mulled wine.
And so, I continue on this poetic journey, drinking one glass of wine at a time.
If you wish to enjoy more of the blog carnival, thoughts on childhood poetry, check out Professor J's Place. And then stop by Bluebird Blvd for a thoughtful take on the power of poetry.
And I keep forgetting to add: share your poems! What was your first poem? What about the first poem to really inspire you?