I like to have a theme or mantra from birthday to birthday. Age 59-60 was “no criticism.” This was just about my creative process (I’m not naive enough to try it with other people!). And I enjoyed it. 60-61 was a difficult year. Miriam Bobkoff came back to Santa Fe to go into hospice and die, and my father died in January in Boston. Maybe the theme was survive, or more like my husband Rich’s approach–let’s squeeze some fun out of life and death whenever possible. I did put a poem on sand in Miami and hung one in the woods in upstate New York, win a few prizes, and see Madame Butterfly from box seats. And my daughter Isabel married her wonderful Tim. So not bad. But no theme.
This April, I set my theme of 61-62 as “educate, appreciate.” It just came to me. But who? I’ve been teaching community college for twenty years now. I’ve educated my students, they me. I’ve prayed in my car (a New Mexican practice, I believe)–let me understand what they are asking for. I don’t want to offer tutoring and then find out someone is homeless. I want to understand what is needed, then see if I can provide.
Appreciate is good, necessary, somewhat familiar. But educate myself? That hasn’t recently been my path. I hate being in poetry workshops, and when confronted with something I’m of the fake it till you make it school…although I did eventually have to read up on menopause and raising teenagers. And taught myself to purl using YouTube.
But I take my intentions seriously. I joined a book arts group. I went to archeology lectures. I–gasp–went to a meeting of investors. Today, I learned inadvertently. At Haiku Canada weekend, Naomi Beth Wakan (considered a treasure in Victoria-or as we would say in Santa Fe a living treasure) taught haiku and tanka.
She gave us the prompt–Poets together. Write a haiku!
the living and the dead
Then, she said, add two lines to make it a tanka.
the living and the dead
an arrangement of driftwood,
my lost thoughts
I’ve been writing these forms for decades, but the differences came very clear. Tanka so much more emotional and expansive; haiku so precise. I’ve tended to strip tanka into haiku in terms of process (as is historical). It didn’t occur to me to add, although of course that makes renga.
We then wrote tanka responding to the person’s on our left. I got something i was pleased with–that I hadn’t been able to write at the time it happened:
we saw the tanager
by the running ditch
you still loved me