In a recent interview at Female First, Penny said that One Bowl is a kind of sequel to Recycling Starlight (Mountains and Rivers Press, 2010), poems she’d written in the first 18 months following the death of her husband, renowned haiku scholar William J. Higginson. Penny feels the poems in One Bowl are “less raw and more contemplative, showing that time does heal.”
“One Bowl” took my breath away when I first read it — its unadorned language so pure and luminous, its message especially appropriate for this season of material excess. Knowing that this was written by a poet well acquainted with grief (Penny also lost both parents in the same year), I was also reminded that a loved one, one single person, can be a person’s entire universe. I like how she blends the temporal and the celestial, creating ever spiraling associations with the human heart at its core.
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♥ PENNY HARTER ♥
“One Bowl” is a haibun, a genre that developed from a diary form of writing which Matsuo Basho, the 17th century Japanese poet, kept as he went on pilgrimage in Japan. His most famous one is known as The Narrow Road to the Far North — sometimes translated as “The Narrow Road to the Interior.” Today, many poets worldwide have expanded the meaning of this “journey” or “pilgrimage” to also include an inner journey through experience and/or emotion. Haibun consist of poetic prose — like a prose poem — with haiku integrated into the whole. The haiku should not directly continue the narrative but relate in theme, mood, or tone — expanding the ripples of association.
As I load the dishwasher this evening, I think about how it would be to have one bowl, one fork, one spoon, one knife, one cup . . . and one small shelf to keep them on. Washing these by hand after each use, I would raise each piece to the light to contemplate its shining singularity.
One bowl—cupped hands. Which bowl would I choose from the many I possess? A small bowl my late husband bought at a private school crafts fair thirty-five years ago, its form born from a student shaping clay on a wheel. Brown lines criss-cross its white glaze, triangles circling the rim.
One bowl, one spiral on a potter’s wheel, one orbit of a planet round its host, pulling the spectra of a star’s gaseous fire from red to blue, and back. One bowl, one arm of the Milky Way slowly wheeling through the unfinished round of the sky in the iris of your eye.
One . . .
winter hive —
the cluster of bees
Copyright © 2012 Penny Harter. All rights reserved.
For me, the closing haiku in “One Bowl” emphasizes the interconnectedness of all things, which I have always felt, and sense even more these days. Plus, I’ve long been fascinated by how bees keep the hive warm in winter — clustering in a ball and vibrating their wings rapidly to produce heat. They keep rotating, the bees at center move to the outside, and those outside gradually move inward. Sharing the task as one organism. That seemed to fit with the theme that the poem led me to — the oneness of it all. And the bowl’s being circular led to all the other circles, spirals, orbits, iris of the eye, etc., that found their way into the poem.
Before I wrote “One Bowl,” I had been longing for more simplicity in my life. And I was reminded of a British friend who lives lightly on the Earth. Years ago when he visited my late husband and me, he remarked that he didn’t need a dishwasher. He only had a few pieces of crockery and flatware, pots and pans, etc., and when he was done, he washed them. At that time he lived alone, as I have been doing since Bill’s death in 2008. So I found myself contemplating how it might feel to have just “one bowl” and one set of flatware, one pot, etc. Some days I look around me and wonder why I’ve kept even this much “stuff” during my down-sizing move from North Jersey to the Southern Jersey shore area to be near family. I may get to “one bowl” yet!
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Thanks so much, Penny!
♥ I highly recommend that you all read One Bowl in its entirety at the Snapshot Press website. Such pristine images and moments of clarity are a welcome balm for the soul!
♥ Other Penny poems at Alphabet Soup:
♥ Just in case you don’t already own a copy, check out the 25th Anniversary Edition of The Haiku Handbook (Kodansha, 2010), co-written by Penny and her late husband Bill!
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The always lovely and gracious Robyn Hood Black is hosting today’s Roundup at Read, Write, Howl. Check out all the poetic goodness being served up in the blogosphere and enjoy your weekend. I’ll be hosting next week!
Copyright © 2012 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.