I’m extremely honored to have been commissioned to compose a set of original poems as companion pieces for the baroque masterpiece The Four Seasons by Italian baroque composer Antonio Vivaldi. The commission is part of a multidisciplinary collaboration involving music, poetry and visual digital media art.
Each of the four violin concertos in The Four Seasons gives voice to a different season of the year. The concertos were published as a set with four corresponding sonnets, which might also have been written by Vivaldi when he composed the concertos around 1717.
My job is to write new poems on the inspiration of this venerable music and the sonnets that originally accompanied it, and to read my poems in a performance of The Four Seasons Sept. 22 at 3 p.m. at the Columbus Performing Arts Center on Columbus’ Sunday at Central concert series. The performance will feature members of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra and will showcase a new multimedia artwork by Denison University art professor Christian Faur.
The sonnets that originally appeared with The Four Seasons describe some of each season’s typical natural phenomena – spring flowers, intense summer heat, autumn harvest, winter cold and ice. I aim to mine the depths of Vivaldi’s music and of the emotional associations the music conjures in the context of today’s world, and thereby build bridges between Vivaldi’s world and ours.
Here are violinist Dmitri Sinkovsky and the Helsinki Baroque Orchestra with a wonderfully brittle performance of the “Winter” concerto from The Four Seasons:
My sincere thanks to David Niwa, artistic director of Sunday at Central, for inviting me into this fascinating collaboration.
I am extremely honored to have been part of an epic performance recently that marked the culmination of an exciting new poetry and new music project.
Six new works of texted music were given their world premieres May 22, 2019 as the first of two concerts culminating a year-long project. In The Big SCORE, the Johnstone Fund for New Music commissioned six Columbus poets to collaborate in pairs with six Columbus composers and create six new poems in musical settings.
The Columbus contemporary music ensemble CODE (Columbus Ohio Discovery Ensemble) performed the world premieres of all six new works – including my poem Circles Against the Spin in composer Mark Lomax, II’s setting for narrator and chamber ensemble – on May 22 on the Garden Theater’s New Music at Short North Stage series, in Columbus.
The whole concert was a tour de force. CODE’s performances of all six new scores were stunning, the poets who performed their poems with CODE were all totally on, and the energy in the Garden Theater – raw, real, hip, and overwhelmingly positive – was truly incredible.
Zoe Johnstone’s idea for The Big SCORE was pathbreaking – to pair six Columbus poets with six Columbus composers, commission each pair to write a poem set to music, and see what happened. Zoe and Jack Johnstone selected the 12 artists for the project and, working with their advisors, paired us up.
The Johnstones and their advisors avoided what might have seemed the obvious poet-composer pairings, in the name of shaking things up to see what the resulting unusual collaborative duos would create. For instance, a poet who had collaborated many times with one of the composers in the project was intentionally not paired with that composer for The Big SCORE. The racial and gender diversity of the group of artists was also taken into consideration in making the pairings.
I was paired with Dr. Mark Lomax, II, the winner of a 2019 Governor’s Award in the Arts and a recent Artist-in-Residence at Columbus’ Wexner Center for the Arts. As I told the audience at the May 22 world premiere, Mark’s music for Circles Against the Spin “really found the heartbeat of my poem,” which is about how making a clover chain together weaves two girls into a childhood friendship that, in a very special way, survives the test of time and indeed grows stronger, despite distance and other trials of adulthood.
Mark’s music is playful and lovely and full of joy. And even in the poem’s middle section, where the trials of adulthood put physical distance between the two friends, Mark’s music never loses the youthful innocence that childhood friendships carried into adulthood often have. Listen to the world-premiere performance in the video above.
The other poet-composer duos of The Big SCORE consisted of Dionne Custer Edwards and Michael Rene Torres, the founder and conductor of CODE; Louise Robertson and Jennifer Merkowitz; Scott Woods and composer Jennifer Jolley (formerly on the faculty at Ohio Wesleyan University, currently on the faculty at Texas Tech University); Jeremy Glazier and Charlie Wilmoth; and Barbara Fant and Linda Kernohan.
These phenomenally gifted people are some of the artists who, along with creative pioneers Zoe and Jack Johnstone, are actually making new art happen in Ohio’s Cap City.
Kudos to my fellow artists of The Big SCORE, and deepest thanks to the Johnstones for making this incredible project happen for Columbus.
The next performance of The Big SCORE takes place Sept. 8, 2019 at the Columbus Performing Arts Center, on the Sunday at Central concert series.
Please come, and bring a poem to share at the open mic.
Named after a fictitious novel that features in Wes Anderson’s film Moonrise Kingdom, The Light of Seven Matchsticks blends literary class and sass with a mysterious vibe redolent of the 1920s Prohibition demimonde.
My husband and I are big, HUGE fans of Natalie’s and had heard tell of the speakeasy, so we decided to check it out one evening last summer.
True Prohibition-era speakeasies obviously didn’t have street signs, so we weren’t looking for one for The Light of Seven Matchsticks, either.
But we found the place, descended the charmingly nondescript outdoor staircase, peeked through the peephole in the frosted-glass front door (because you gotta), and stepped into one of the funkiest little places ever.
Inside, we made our way in the low, mysterious lighting to one of the velvet-lined booths, found the menu (that’s part of the fun), and enjoyed some nifty eats and drinks.
I was crunching on yummy duck fat popcorn when I said, “I’d love to do a poetry reading here.”
Fast-forward a few months: I message my friend Rikki, “There’s this great, funky place in Worthington I want to introduce you to.”
Rikki, who loves funkiness at least as much as I do, had heard of The Light of Seven Matchsticks but had never been there. So we met up for drinks and snacks after work.
“I’d love to do a poetry reading here,” I said.
“Let’s do a double feature,” Rikki said.
And here we are.
Please join us Tuesday, April 30 at 7 p.m. at The Light of Seven Matchsticks.
All of the photographs in my haiga mini portfolio, “Ancient Days,” were shot in New Mexico, where earth is poetry in its own right. The haiga above, “waning summer,” shows a wall on a New Mexico pueblo crumbling “back to the earth.” The haiga below, “eroding hills,” depicts the skeletons of mountains that, eons ago, had been submerged in a vast inland sea, and that now stand, eroded and ghostlike, in the New Mexico desert.
In “dust devil,” an ant hill inspires a bit of word play.
I am extremely honored and humbled to have won First Place in the Haiku Society of America’s 2018 Haibun Awards Competition with my haibun “That Summer.”
The genre of haibun consists of the juxtaposition of prose and haiku in ways that allow the two genres to resonate uniquely with each other, creating multiple layers of meaning. Here is “A Brief History of English-Language Haibun” by Jim Kacian, founder and board chairperson of The Haiku Foundation and one of the leading exponents of English-language haiku and related genres. This essay was compiled from Kacian’s introductions, and with Kacian’s permission, by Ray Rasmussen, the present editor of the major haibun journal Haibun Today.
Go create haiga – artworks that join visual image with haiku – inspired by trees.
That was the essentially challenge the wonderful journal Haigaonline issued last fall to all practitioners of the ancient genre of haiga. And is there anyone who wouldn’t want to spend time gazing at, photographing, and writing about trees?
Here is Papanicolaou’s commentary about my haiga in this featured portfolio, and below are the haiga themselves:
Each of the tree haiga in the present portfolio approaches the interaction of text and image differently. In the first, the image of a maple tree in fall colors mirrors line 3 of the poem. In the second, there’s a wider shift as the deep red, not yet fallen leaves of the image serve as visual metaphor for the text. In the third, the image of the tree is a structural support for a concrete poem, bot linked by the revelation of line 3. The text of the fourth is dependent on the image and may not work as a stand-alone poem, but it has the bite that I’ve come to know as characteristic of Jennifer’s senryu haiga. It’s a commentary on the disposability of trees in our consumerist culture.
About eight years ago our beautiful ash tree, pictured in the haiga above (“you would never have guessed”), was diagnosed with the emerald ash borer. I wept for a week as we considered our options, but destroying and removing the tree was simply not one of them. So, we signed up for tree health care, contracting with a tree service to give the ash biennial treatments of a substance that drives away the borer. The tree is still with us and is still glorious, though its thin canopy and brittle branches remain telltale signs of its illness.
I took this photo standing under the ash tree and looking up into the canopy, which was thinning as much from autumn leaf droppage as from the borer. The haiku our fragile tree inspired comments on the ephemerality of all life and our common human delusion that all there is to any life – tree, human, or otherwise – is what meets the eye.
One day last fall, the sun was pouring through the yellow leaves of our maple tree that, from the second story of our home, I felt absolutely wrapped in a warm, golden glow. The image in this haiga relates something of that glow, and whatever emotional warmth the camera could not capture, the haiku, hopefully, helps to convey.
My friend the violinist Siwoo Kim took this photograph while traveling in South Korea and posted an unedited version of it on Facebook. When I saw the picture, the contrast between the vibrancy of the red leaves and the autumnal feel of the setting sun took my breath away. Siwoo gave me his blessing to turn his photo into a haiga, so I edited the image, bringing out more of the drama of the lighting and adding a border and the text of my poem, which the image inspired.
On the day after Christmas 2017, a sadly large number of pine trees were lying at curbs all around our neighborhood. They had been put out just in time for the recycling collectors.
Congratulations to my fellow haiga artists whose work also appears in this issue of Haigonline.
After months and months of preparation, dozens of conversations, a bevy of emails, and a whirlwind of ideas catalyzed by an inspiring and fruitful creative collaboration, the orchestral song setting of my poem “Thorn Tree” was given its world premiere along with those of two other new orchestral songs yesterday afternoon at the McConnell Arts Center in Worthington.
The song settings were composed by Columbus composer Jacob Reed as part of “The Poet’s Song,” a project Reed created to unite poems and music in new art songs.
On a concert program entitled “The Words Beneath the Sound,” featuring musical works with sung or spoken texts, McConnell Arts Center Chamber Orchestra artistic and music director Antoine Clark conducted the world premieres of Reed’s songs, the world premiere of Christopher Weait’s orchestral song settings of Emily Dickinson poems Emily’s Bees and Bells, Walton’s Façade Suite No. 2 – with poetry by Edith Sitwell, and, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of its world premiere, Stravinsky’s L’Histoire du soldat, with a text adaptation I wrote specially for this performance. Soprano Chelsea Hart Melcher was featured as soloist in the Reed and Weait songs, and, in my role as midday host of WOSU Public Media’s Classical 101, I narrated the Walton and the Stravinsky.
As a guest artist, I worked with Thomas Worthington High School students on reading and writing poetry in two class visits. Students were also encouraged to participate in a poetry contest, which was judged by other members of the Worthington community, and the winner of which had his poem set to music by Reed and performed in yesterday’s concert. Poems by all of the entrants in the school poetry contest were displayed along with musical sketches by Reed and Weait, on a “Wall for Sharing” in the lobby at the MAC. The project’s culminating performance, “The Words Beneath the Sound,” yesterday at the McConnell Arts Center brought a rich program of poetry and music before the Worthington community.
This project hit home deeply with me. I grew up in Worthington and attended the Worthington Schools, and I know how committed this community is to quality in education and cultural enrichment. Yesterday’s concert brought a rich offering of poetry and music before the Worthington community in combinations that had never before been experienced in that way. I left the performance with the feeling that we all had experienced something unique and exciting.
From its dissonant opening “thorn” chord to its intentionally unsettled conclusion, Reed’s setting of my poem “Thorn Tree,” like his settings of the poems by the 13th-century Persian poet Rumi and Worthington student poet Nat Hickman he selected for “The Poet’s Song,” explores the text’s emotional depth in rich, dramatic harmonies and sparkling orchestral color.
My deep gratitude to composer Jacob Reed for believing in my poem “Thorn Tree” enough to give it this sumptuous orchestral setting, to Antoine Clark for bringing me into “The Poet’s Song” project, and to the staff of the McConnell Arts Center for making the center an inspiring locus of creativity.
Concluding the 2018 international Women’s Haiku Festival is a haiku by Northern Irish poet Marion Clarke.
ticking clock . . .
so many things to tell
There is the ticking biological clock that, along with other factors, dictates the reproductive fate of every woman. But there is also the ceaseless march of time more generally, the grandfather clock that ticks in tandem with the heartbeat of all humankind. Both clocks are ticking away in this haiku, which points to the special kind of relationship many mothers and daughters share, while reminding us how little time we all have. So many things to tell, more than a lifetime, more than two lifetimes, can hold.
Marion Clarke is from the east coast of Northern Ireland, about which she writes,“The scenery where I live is amazing as the sea, mountains and forest are all within walking distance, so I feel I was destined to become a haiku poet! My poems are inspired by those I’ve loved and lost.”
Demons inner and outer haunt a haiku by Canadian poet Michelle Hyatt.
so much makeup
hiding her face
dark side of the moon
Is this a poem about a woman so desperate for beauty that she goes overboard trying to paint it on, or about a woman who is hiding evidence of physical violence beneath mounds of cream and powder? Each interpretation speaks to a different type of darkness – the inner darkness that cannot let her see and accept her own beauty, or the darkness of abuse. And all of these layers of darkness are set in contrast to the chalky white light of that serene goddess, the ever-watching moon.
Michelle Hyatt enjoys wandering anywhere that takes her to trees, mountains, water, and moonlit forests. It is in these places where her heart feels most at home and finds creative inspiration, which sometimes develops into tiny poems. Some of her other work can be found in Yanty’s Butterfly – Haiku Nook: An Anthology. Michelle lives in Canada.
Polish poet Marta Chociłowska paints a picture of the happy hustle and bustle of a market flower stand in a delightful haiku.
a woman at the market
Imagine a bustling market with a stall where a woman, Eliza Doolittle-like, sells fresh-cut flowers and bundles of long, beautiful willow branches dotted up and down with soft, fuzzy catkins. Isn’t that just like your shopping list? Long and bulleted with comfort-food coziness? This clever haiku is bursting at the seams with the kind of upbeat hustle and bustle that makes you feel fully alive.
Marta Chocilowska, of Warsaw, Poland, is a fan of cats and poetry, co-author of Polish and foreign haiku anthologies, winner of Polish and international haiku contests, and a juror in Polish and foreign haiku contests. She has publications in many international haiku and haiga magazines. She is a founding Member of the Polish Haiku Association.