Thursday, October 31, 2019

Adaptation and Applause

Guest post by Bacopa Literary Review 2019 contributor Dror Abend-David

"Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery." But there is certainly a great deal more to imitation than flattery. "Mirror," "imitation," or "adaptation" poems, rewrites of well-known poems with slight but pivotal changes, are referred to by many names that betray different attitudes. They all share the flattery of using the original poem as a form to work with--but to different degrees, they can also include elements of parody, criticism, and, of course, competition--the attempt of adapting poets to perform the original poem better, or at least differently, from their own unique perspective.

In my poem, "A Supermarket in Brooklyn Heights," I adapt Allen Ginsberg's well-known poem, "A Supermarket in California." In my adaptation, I compare the works of two important Jewish Modernists: Allen Ginsberg and Louis Zukofsky. The two are contemporaries (although Zukofsky is 22 years older), and they redefine American identity in different manners. Ginsberg courageously discusses his gay identity (hence his reference to Walt Whitman) while providing only scant and sporadic references to his Jewish heritage. Zukofsky, with equal courage, provides extensive and erudite references to his Jewish heritage, creating a model for Jewish American poets that followed him.

Of course, there are other themes in this adaptation as well: West Coast versus East Coast, spectacle versus textuality, and my own perspective as an immigrant who is unable to share the optimist national statements that are made by Whitman and Ginsberg (click on image for a clearer view):


Articles & Books by Dror Abend-David: 

Friday, October 25, 2019

Brindle Bull: The Search for Enlightenment

Commentary by Mixed Genre/Haiku Editor Kaye Linden

Some writers possess the skill and passion to transport a reader to a magical place where we hold our breath for a few moments and sigh with the beauty of the read. Such is Bacopa Literary Review 2019's Mixed Genre First Prize winner Jeff Streeby, with "A Brindle Bull: After Kuoan Shiyuan."
          morning with a caul of mountains
          other things
          I have not forgotten

Those FWP guys I ran into up at the boat launch told me that right below a big tangle of old blowdown the channel would deepen and widen, and sure enough it did. The river was running pretty high for the time of year, but not so high I had trouble with the few low bridges on that upper stretch. 

          July 15th
          again the hours
          disappearing into each other 

At an old diversion dam, a little surprise--a dozen late salmon flies the size of hummingbirds climbed and dived over the one big boil.

          At just the right moment 
          firewood blooms
          making good on their promises . . .
In order to fully appreciate this lovely story, one must understand the analogy expressed. Kuoan Shiyuan was a Japanese Zen practitioner and artist who offered ten images representing the search for enlightenment, symbolized by the slow emergence of a bull. At first one is searching for the "bull" externally until, during years of meditation practice, one realizes the "bull" has been standing there all along.

The journey down the river symbolizes (as rivers always do) the journey of life, where we pass by features and events without truly grasping their wholeness. In this narrator's journey along the river, he undergoes an enlightenment experience when locking eyes with a bull on the bank.
. . . From the shade of a cottonwood, a brindle bull watched my canoe and its reflection move downstream, watched my paddle rising, dripping, then dipping again as it passed into itself at the surface where it seemed to disappear. The old orejano, summer fat and slick and packing a pair of the longest, heaviest horns you ever saw, lifted his blunt muzzle to search the air then looked back at me, no more certain than before.

          On the Jefferson River
          one swallow's perch song
          making a summer
The narrator's perception changes from that experience and the rest is an account of clarity and increased joy.

Why is a bull the choice for the symbol of an awakened experience? The bull is a massive animal, difficult to overcome, manage, or tame. Thus, it is with enlightenment. The more one chases it, the further away it runs.

Jeff Streeby has the knack of holding us spellbound.
And right then, you know, just like that, something happened. Our gazes met and held for maybe a second, no more, each seeing in the other everything in the space between come into focus all at once . . . one second . . . to see it all and figure it out, every last loose end and double meaning clearing up for me for good.
I like the casual way Streeby meanders through his journey on the river, observing and describing such things as "the chirring of cicadas in a willow thicket" or "a stand of tall canary grass." We canoe down the river, enjoying the ride, listening to the guide until "From the shade of a cottonwood," he points out "a brindle bull . . . an old orejano, summer fat and slick . . . lifted his blunt muzzle . . . looked back at me."

The reader is caught up in the effective description of a moment when a magnificent creature connects with a human. The canoeist experiences a true epiphany where he is in the moment and nowhere else, not in the past, nor in the future.

We roll down the river after that experience of now and perceive differently "July's heady musks . . . Elderberry, chokecherry . . . heavy with ripening fruit . . . the chinkle of cowbirds calling."

The journey has truly come alive for this man on his canoe because he has fully realized an enlightened moment with Kuoan's bull.

*     *     *
Jeff Streeby is an American poet and haibunist. His mixed-form collection, An Atlas of the Interior, is available from Unsolicited Press. His chapbook of haibun, Wile: Sketches from Nature, was published by Buttonhole Press. Streeby is an Associate Editor for poetry and prose at OPEN: Journal of Arts & Letters.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Good Fortune: 2019's Haiku Prize Winner Michael Dylan Welch

by Michael Dylan Welch
by Senior Editor Mary Bast

In an earlier post about haiku, Writing on the Head of a Pin, 2019 Haiku Editor Kaye Linden suggested that each word must count, each word must offer meaning.

Our guidelines also noted that the widely-practiced 5-7-5-syllable format isn't necessary. Japanese haiku is based on sounds, not syllables, and many of our haiku entries--as in other contemporary literary journals--vary in number of syllables (see Haiku Society of America and their journal, frogpond).

We invited haiku with "a juxtaposition, a flash of surprise, an interesting perspective on life," and the symbolism in Michael Dylan Welch's Haiku First Prize winning work arises from a juxtaposition of action/variety of flower/ Chinese Zodiac sign.

The Chinese Zodiac, represented by twelve animals, corresponds to a cycle of years. From February 5, 2019 to February 24, 2020, for example, we are in a Year of the Pig--the pig a symbol of wealth whose chubby face and big ears denote good fortune.

I've added in parentheses below a few qualities of each of the twelve animals, so you can see the clever depth of Welch's few words. For example, in the "year of the rat" (the rat characterized as quick-witted and persuasive), someone who has damaged a violin leaves three exotic African violets with the mended violin as a charming and disarming apology.

It is our good fortune to have haiku master Michael Dylan Welch's work in Bacopa Literary Review 2019, and I leave readers to further discern the symbolic range of sign-flower-action in his prize-winning haiku:

         Shēngxiào / 生肖
year of the rat--                         (quick-witted, persuasive)
three African violets
by the mended violin

year of the ox--                          (patient, kind)
peach blossoms
left in the letterbox

year of the tiger--                       (authoritative, courageous)
the glow of cineraria
in misty moonlight

year of the rabbit--                     (compassionate, sincere)
the unfinished painting
of purple jasmine

year of the dragon--                   (fearless, charismatic)
a bleeding heart
fallen to the mantel

year of the snake--                     (introverted, smart)
yellow orchids
for the election winner

year of the horse--                     (impatient, independent)
a pair of calla lilies
nodding in a vase

year of the goat--                       (mild-mannered, peace-loving)
a red carnation
in the journalist's lapel

year of the monkey--                 (fun, active)
the encyclopedia opens
to chrysanthemums

year of the rooster--                  (independent, practical)
talking so much in the garden
she misses my gladiolas

year of the dog--                       (diligent, faithful)
rose bushes hiding
a garden gnome

year of the pig--                        (loving, appreciative of luxury)
the abundance
of hydrangeas

*     *     *
Michael Dylan Welch has served as Poet Laureate for Redmond, Washington, runs National Haiku Writing Month and his website Graceguts, devoted mostly to poetry. His poems, essays, and reviews have appeared in hundreds of journals and anthologies in more than twenty languages. He lives in Sammamish, Washington.