What a nice surprise to find one of my tanka included in this beautiful exhibition at the Bristol Museum & Art Gallery in the UK.
“In autumn 2019, poets from around the world responded to a call for haiku, a form of short Japanese poetry, based on Japanese prints in the collection at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery. People sent in more than 800 beautiful, thought-provoking poems from thirty countries worldwide. See the selection below.
This piece of tankart appeared in Frameless Sky 6 as part of an ongoing competitive challenge. In the last issue, a photograph I submitted was selected by a poet to go with her poem. Since my photo was selected, I was then asked, in turn, to contribute a tanka or haiku for the next issue. I wrote this tanka as a prompt. There were some wonderful pictures submitted, and it was very hard to select just one. In the end, I kept returning to this lovely ink drawing of a willow.. Terri Hale French, a distinguished and accomplished haiku poet was the artist. Our combined effort appeared in the latest issue of Frameless Sky. It’s a real honor to have this collaborative piece of tanka art published. Many thanks to Christine L. Villa, poet and editor of Frameless Sky.
Who are we really? We can present ourself to the world in many ways, and we do. It’s been quite a while since I posted a longer poem on my blog, so today I offer you a poem called “Mask Maker.” It was written to an ekphrastic prompt on Rattlea few months back, but it was not selected. The two winning poems were brilliant and should have been chosen.
What’s great about writing to a good prompt is how an image can pull all sorts of ideas from us. The prompt was a picture of several sets of hands modeling in clay. I toyed with the idea for quite some time and discarded two other poems until I settled on the one that grew into this poem.
The Ekphrastic Review: writing and art on art and writing, has published my poem, “Sunday Morning.”
Let me give you a brief “back story” on this poem. Many years ago, I stopped writing completely for around twenty-five years. Total silence in my life. I don’t know why it happened, but it did. After what can only be be termed a spiritual experience on a trip to the Fijordland in New Zealand, poetry somehow magically entered my life again. I can’t explain this. It just happened, and I know it happened for a reason. This poem was the first complete poem I wrote when my poetic “voice” returned, and it’s only been read by one other person until today. It’s taken me about fifteen years to gather courage to submit it anywhere. My deepest thanks to editor, Lorette C. Luzajic, for publishing this piece.
Here is the link to the journal: http://www.ekphrastic.net/ekphrastic/april-21st-2016
Rijksmuseum, Out the Window (c) 2013 Mary Kendall
Hymns unsung, prayers unsaid,
I sat by the window and prayed
for forgiveness one more time;
one more time I begged.
Holding the cup of coffee in my hand,
I hoped the warmth would fill me
where your words had left me cold,
but I knew nothing could do that—
fire can burn for hours and be unfelt.
Hymns unsung, prayers unsaid,
I lay down on the empty bed, pulling
the blanket across my cheek, turning
from the window, from the sky
and the sun, praying for some rest.
Note: The window in the photo is not, of course, the window of the poem. I love taking pictures of windows when I travel, especially indside looking out. This photo was taken in June 2013 when my husband and I were in Amsterdam, visiting the beautiful Rijksmuseum.
I am both speechless and honored by the selection of my poem, “Kamakura Beach, 1333” as the artist’s choice of the October ekphrastic challenge by Rattle, one of the finest contemporary poetry journals. The artist/photographer is Ana Prundaru. My thanks go to Ana for selecting my poem for this challenge. I am deeply touched by her very thoughtful and generous comments.
To read the poem or listen to the audio on Rattle, here is the link:
Note: there is an audio of me reading the poem on the Rattle page but I’ll include it here as well:
Kamakura Beach, 1333
The sea washed scarlet that night.
The tide rushed in—swelling and breaking—washing all traces out to sea on the waves of Kamakura Beach.
You know nothing of this, you who long for adventure and pleasure—youth who search desperately for meaning in lives that are too rich, too busy, and still so poor.
Your small boats arrive in early evening, the carmine sunset at your back, and you quickly gather driftwood, tinder, and fallen black pine branches to burn. You light the fire.
A trail of smoke begins funneling up to the starry sky. The fire burns hot and one by one, you feed it twigs, boughs, pine cones bursting into streams of sparks and wild flames.
And in your wanton rambling, one girl grows silent—she alone hears the hallowed chanting, the cries of battle, the shrieks of arrows piercing skulls, the stench of life exiting too abruptly.
She wanders over shallow rocks, her hand touching stone, knowing the pain hidden in the silence of eight hundred years. The rest of you are unaware…you laugh too loudly, move
too fast, not noticing the shifting colors of the setting sun. Listen and you will hear the shogun cries of warriors and farmers that once shook the sacred sands of Kamakura Beach.
Can you smell the fierce fires, the burning buildings, the blazing rafters crashing and lighting the darkening sky? Can you hear the screams of those buried here long ago?
Time slipped by like swifts at dusk darting in the fading sky. The fire raged on and on, and lives were ravished in a single breath. It was our fate to die on Kamakura Beach.
With Samurai mind and clean, sharp blows, the sacred sword was swift. One by one, we died…each of us choosing honor, this bleak beach now strewn with bones, bodies and blood.
You who come to visit—feel the cool churning lapis blue water, and see the late sun boldly brush red on sand, water and waves. Remember us—we who lie buried on Kamakura Beach.
Let your fires roar, let them spark in comets to the stars. Under the dark night skies long written in indigo and ink, we will walk together here on Kamakura Beach.
Morning tide will come—swelling and breaking—washing your presence out to sea— remembering our final night, a night of fire and blood, bone and bodies on Kamakura Beach.
The sea washed scarlet that night.
Here is the broadside link:
Rattle also posted a download of a broadside that includes poem and picture side by side. It is so beautifully done with the shadows of the boat creating a subtle image under the poem. Very appropriate to this particular poem, I think.