Podcasting

podcast mic
I read that there are currently over two million podcasts and over 48 million podcast episodes out in the world. Those numbers are incredible on their own, but when you realize that just 4 years ago, there were “only” a little more than half a million podcasts, the growth is astonishing. Those numbers might make you think that the podcast market is saturated, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

I started doing a podcast last year and added another little fish to that big podcast pond. It is a podcast of some of the small poems I post on another site, Writing the Day. I thought there might be some interest by those readers to hear me read the poems and talk sometimes about what inspired them.

Not only are the poems small, but so are the podcasts. Some are under a minute. A few are a few minutes in length when there is some explanation I want to include. You might think that short episodes would have some appeal in these busy time but I don’t think so. I would think the same about short stories, but novels (end especially long ones) are definitely more popular. All those multi-hour true crime podcasts seem to be at the top of lists.

I fell behind on the podcasting. I started with the newest poems but I plan this year to go back and record some of the older ones that continue to get readers. There are about 800 poems there so I’ve got more than enough content. If only I had more than enough time.

Currently, they are available on Spotify (which has been the most popular option), but you can also find them on Google PodcastsPocket Casts, and RadioPublic.

You can find the poems and the story of how that project got started at WRITING THE DAY. It would be great if you stopped by and read a few poems and really great if you went to one of those podcast places and gave a listen.

A Glimpse of Dawn

Dawn —
fish the cormorants haven’t caught
swimming in the shallows.
Translated by Robert Hass

Landscape with a Solitary Traveler
“Landscape with a Solitary Traveler” – Yosa Buson

I woke up at dawn today. That’s not uncommon for me, but I normally don’t get out of bed. Today I did and I went downstairs, made tea, and picked up a book of haiku and read some by Yosa Buson.

He was a Japanese poet and painter and, along with Matsuo Bashō and Kobayashi Issa, Buson is considered among the greatest poets of haiku.

He was born in the village of Kema in Settsu Province (now Kema-chō, Miyakojima Ward in Osaka city). He moved to Edo (now Tokyo) at age 20 and learned poetry under the tutelage of the haikai master Hayano Hajin. After Hajin died, Buson moved to Shimōsa Province (modern-day Ibaraki Prefecture) to follow in the path of Bashō.

Like Bashō, Buson traveled through the wilds of northern Honshū to see the land that inspired Bashō’s famous travel diary, Oku no Hosomichi (The Narrow Road to the Interior). He published his notes from the trip in 1744, marking the first time he published under the name Buson.

A sample poem of his:

隅々に残る寒さや梅の花
Sumizumi ni nokoru samusa ya ume no hana

In nooks and corners
Cold remains:
Flowers of the plum

At age 42, he settled in Kyoto and began to write under the name of Yosa, which he took from his mother’s birthplace. Buson married at age 45, had one daughter, and remained in Kyoto writing and teaching poetry.

keisei wa
nochi no yo kakete
hanami kana

Courtesans come out
to see the cherry blossoms
as though they were betting on their next life

(translated by W.S. Merwin)

Another name change occurred in 1770 when he assumed the haigō (haiku pen name) of Yahantei (Midnight Studio), which had been the pen name of his teacher Hajin, but his poems have been collected under the name Yosa Buson.

I like this poem of his that imagines nature as calligraphy.

Ichi gyô no kari ya hayama ni tsuki o in su

All in one line, the wild geese
and the moon in the foothills
for a seal

Buson died at the age of 68 and was buried at Konpuku-ji in Kyoto.

As with most of the great classical haiku poets, he wrote a final deathbed poem. Since it was recorded that he died in the night, before dawn, I view his poem as a hopeful vision of the next place in his journey.

Shira ume ni akuru yo bakari to nari ni keri

The night almost past,
through the white plum blossoms
a glimpse of dawn.



The Essential Haiku: Versions of Basho, Buson, & Issa

What I Am Listening To: Poetry

podcast iconIn this “What I Am Listening To,” I focus on poetry podcasts. I listen to all of these on the Stitcher app but I suspect that they are also available on other apps.

The Writer’s Almanac – I have been starting my day with The Writer’s Almanac daily podcast of poetry and historical interest pieces, usually of literary significance. Each day’s offering is five minutes long and contains “on this day in history” information as well as host Garrison Keillor reading an accessible poem. Disclaimer: Several of my poems have been featured on the show.

Poetry Unbound  – An immersive reading of a single poem, guided by Pádraig Ó Tuama. Unhurried, contemplative, and energizing. New episodes on Monday and Friday, about 15 minutes each. Anchor your life with poetry.

The New Yorker: Poetry – Readings and conversation with The New Yorker’s poetry editor, Kevin Young. Guest poets select a favorite poem from the magazine by another poet and one of their own.

Poetry Spoken Here – An almost weekly poetry podcast that features interviews with poets, reviews of poetry books, examinations of individual poems, and investigations of themes in poetry.

Poetry from Studio 47 – a weekly radio broadcast that airs on NPR affiliate, South Dakota Public Broadcasting. The show highlights poetry from the Midwest, the Great Plains, and beyond. Each episode is roughly five minutes long.

Bookworm – This is an intellectual, accessible, and provocative collection of literary conversations. The host, Michael Silverblatt, is superb. He’s the reader any author would love to have. The show mostly features novelists but the huge archive contains poets too.

The Slowdown – This podcast seems to have ended but the archive is full shows with poet Tracy K. Smith delivering a different way to see the world with a close, personal reading of a poem.

Writing the Day – Personal plug. I have been writing poems on my website Writing the Day since 2014. I started recently adding a podcast version of poems – my reading and sometimes some explication. These are short (under two minutes) episodes. Currently available online on Anchor and with or without an app on Spotify. and on Google PodcastsPocket Casts, and RadioPublic.

Simple Wisdom

On another blog of mine I had been posting a series of short pieces of simple wisdom. That blog began as “Evenings in Paradelle” and I intended it to be shorter weekday posts while this blog are the longer Weekends in Paradelle posts. That blog became One Page Schoolhouse and has occasional posts that I hope inform readers.

Some of those short posts included Zen koans, quotations, and aphorisms. (I don’t see quotes and aphorisms as the same thing.) Some of the posts were migrated to this blog.)

An aphorism (literally “distinction” or “definition”, from the Greek) is an original thought, spoken or written in a “laconic” and memorable form.

The Aphorisms of Hippocrates is one of the earliest collections which includes aphorisms like this one:

 “Life is short, art long, opportunity fleeting,
experience misleading, judgment difficult.”

There are aphoristic collections (AKA wisdom literature) such as the Sutra literature of India, the Biblical Ecclesiastes, and in the work of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Søren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, Franz Kafka, Robert A. Heinlein, Blaise Pascal, and Oscar Wilde. There are anthologies like the Oxford Book of Aphorisms.

There is even an anthology of Ifferisms – aphorisms that begin with the word “If.” Some samples:

“If the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.”  
– The Bible (Matthew 15:14)

“If we have not peace within ourselves, it is vain to seek it from outward sources.” 
– François de la Rochefoucauld

“If we have our own why of life, we shall get along with almost any how.”  
–  Friedrich Nietzsche

“If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.”   
– Scottish Proverb

“If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.”  
–  Booker T. Washington

Some examples, like those below gleaned from a Wikipedia entry, do seem indistinguishable from the kinds of quotes you find in quote books and on posters and bookmarks.

Good art seems ancient to its contemporaries, and modern to their descendants.
— Plutarch

Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

That which does not destroy us makes us stronger.
— Friedrich Nietzsche

It is not uncommon to commiserate with a stranger’s misfortune, but it takes a really fine nature to appreciate a friend’s success.
— Oscar Wilde

No good deed goes unpunished.
— It said Clare Boothe Luce but I’m pretty sure it was Tacitus

It is better to be hated for what one is, than loved for what one is not.
— André Gide

I’m going to add my own spin on the definition of aphorism. When you pull a clever line out of essay, poem, novel or other work, that’s a quotation. When someone sits down and writes an original short, memorable line that makes sense when you read it but it makes even more sense when you read it again and think about it, that is an aphorism.

I am going to nominate here some aphorisms written by James Richardson. He is an acquaintance. (A quaint phrase for someone who you can’t call a friend because you don’t know them that well, but have met and know better than many of your Facebook and Twitter “friends.”)

I could add a list of them here, but they are not best consumed in handfuls. To me, the best of them are like Western koans.

If you view a kōan as an “unanswerable” question, then you may not even want to seek an answer – but people DO answer koans. Rather than see them as unanswerable or even meaningless, look for an answer. Don’t get hung up on the “correct” answer because that is a dead-end. Koans do have some traditional recorded answers” (kenjō), but don’t be fooled into believing that they are anything more than additional questions.

Richardson’s aphorisms are not usually questions, so they don’t have answers. They are quotable. They require additional thought and explication.

Here are four of Jim’s aphorisms. Consume slowly.

The road reaches every place, the shortcut only one.

Shadows are harshest when there is only one lamp.

Each lock makes two prisons.

All stones are broken stones.

You can find more of James Richardson’s aphorisms in:
Interglacial: New and Selected Poems & Aphorisms  
Vectors: Aphorisms & Ten-Second Essays  
Life as Viewed in a Mirror: a Bok of Poems and Aphorisms

Also worth a read is Jim’s By the Numbers which was a National Book Award Finalist. 

Tracking a Thought Fox

We had snow earlier this week and I like to walk in the woods during or right after a snowstorm. The woods have an extra layer of silence and though some things are covered, other things stand out in the greater contrast against the whiteness.

Before the snow, I came across on my woods walk these tracks by the side of a river. It doesn’t take any tracking skill to know that several deer had been there for a drink.

deer tracks
deer tracks

deer tracks

One of the things I enjoy doing is following fresh animal tracks in the snow. I suppose as a boy and in scouting, I had done some uninformed tracking, but what really got me interested was reading  The Tracker in 1979. It’s what I consider to be a classic of the genre and a great story even if you have no great interest in learning to track. The author is Tom Brown, Jr. who began to learn tracking at the age of eight in the southern New Jersey Pinelands with his friend Rick and an Apache elder, medicine man, and scout,

He has since written many other books about tracking, survival, and also about the philosophies of nature. In 1978, Tom founded the Tracker School in the New Jersey Pine Barrens where he offers classes about wilderness survival and environmental protection.

One of the basic classes on tracking covers not only identification but things like pressure releases which Tom describes as a way to “determine not just the animal, the direction it was heading and when it passed but the track becomes a window to the animal’s very soul. ” He makes a distinction between identifying and following tracks, and “sign tracking.”

That snowy day, I set my tracking goal to find fox tracks and be able to stalk, using a “fox walk,” and approach the actual animal. Not an easy thing to do, but very satisfying if achieved.

The tracks of a gray fox are slightly different from those of a red fox, but to a novice, they might look like those of a dog or coyote. All four have 4 toes and claws that do not retract. Male foxes, (both red and gray) are called “dogs.” Females are known as “vixens”.

tracks

When you encounter tracks in the field, they are rarely as clear as in the clip art images in books. These tracks in the snow (below) are actually quite clear but they break down as wind and melt occur. And the better trackers can also read into tracks whether the animal is walking, running, or creeping up on prey.

Years ago when I taught a winter tracking class, I called it “Stories in the Snow” with the idea of having students do more than just identify the animal or bird, and try to imagine the situation in the context of the setting.

To quote Brown’s The Tracker book, “The first track is the end of a string. At the far end, a being is moving; a mystery, dropping a hint about itself every so many feet, telling you more about itself until you can almost see it, even before you come to it. The mystery reveals itself slowly, track by track, giving its genealogy early to coax you in. Further on, it will tell you the intimate details of its life and work, until you know the maker of the track like a lifelong friend.”

fox tracks
Fox

I would have guessed that my snowy quarry was a red fox for the slightly tighter pads and equal sizes of the front and rear paws. Red and gray foxes live in New Jersey but I have seen red foxes in these woods before, though I’m actually not certain that my fox is red or gray, male or female. I wish I had been able to follow the tracks to their owner.

Not unlike humans in the woods, an animal will take the easiest route of travel unless it is being chased or spooked. It is basic survival: conservation of energy.

There was a point where I could tell that the fox took a leap (like the one pictured above) and a pounce, possibly at a mouse or vole. And finally, there was a place where it climbed up a bare rocky area and despite my best efforts I could not track where it exited. I’m no Tom Brown, Jr.

This was more of a “thought fox” that I imagined walking ahead of me that morning. I take that from Ted Hughes’ poem “The Thought Fox” which is one of his best-known poems.  It was inspired by fox tracks outside his home and a dream that the fox entered his room and touched the paper he was writing on.

Here’s an excerpt:

I imagine this midnight moment’s forest:
Something else is alive
Beside the clock’s loneliness
And this blank page where my fingers move.

Through the window I see no star:
Something more near

Though deeper within darkness
Is entering the loneliness:

Cold, delicately as the dark snow,
A fox’s nose touches twig, leaf;
Two eyes serve a movement, that now
And again now, and now, and now

Sets neat prints into the snow
Between trees, and warily a lame
Shadow lags by stump and in hollow
Of a body that is bold to come

The fox’s tracks in the snow are like the words Hughes is trying put on the white paper. We all leave tracks, and in those tracks are our stories.

 

Emily and Margaret

Today is the birthday of Emily Dickinson.

She wrote nearly 2,000 poems and published about 10 of them in her lifetime. She did occasionally send poems to friends and she also might include them when she sent someone a gift of baked goods. I have tried to imagine which poems she might have sent with a pound cake, for example.

I read this morning that one person who did know about her many poems was the family’s Irish maid, Margaret Maher. She worked for the Dickinson family for 30 years and was eventually treated as part of the family.  She and Emily were close, though quite different. Emily described her as “good and noisy, the North Wind of the Family.” They spent a lot of time in the kitchen baking loaves of bread and cakes. Emily was known to have written many poems on the spot using whatever paper was nearby, including chocolate wrappers and the backs of shopping lists. Margaret tried her hand at poems too and they wrote poems back and forth to each other.

Most important to literary history is that Emily trusted Margaret with her poems and stored them in Margaret’s trunk that she had brought with her from Ireland.

Emily gave Margaret explicit instructions to burn her poems after she died. But, as with other writers like Franz Kafka, the caretaker of the writing couldn’t bear to destroy the work.

Margaret gave the poems to Emily’s sister, Lavinia. Unfortunately and inexplicably, Lavinia had already burned most of her sister’s letters. Luckily for the world, she thought the poems should be published.

The one photo of Emily was disliked and discarded by her family, but saved by Margaret Maher. She made it available to Roberts Brothers publishers for the first book of her poems which appeared in November 1890. Included with that first edition of edited and censored poems is that lone photo (a daguerreotype) of Emily Dickinson. emily

A DAY
by Emily Dickinson

I’ll tell you how the sun rose, —
A ribbon at a time.
The steeples swam in amethyst,
The news like squirrels ran.

The hills untied their bonnets,
The bobolinks begun.
Then I said softly to myself,
“That must have been the sun!”

But how he set, I know not.
There seemed a purple stile
Which little yellow boys and girls
Were climbing all the while

Till when they reached the other side,
A dominie in gray
Put gently up the evening bars,
And led the flock away.


Another version of this post and others about Emily
appear on my Poets Online blog.