Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thoughts to Ponder on - Realms

Perhaps the other realm sees us as normal, like how we see the ants, the tiniest creature. They see us in a normal light, part of creation, the norm of their realm. We however have to guess the whole world about them because we have not the faculty to see them, only the faculty to feel them, an earthworm in the realm of earth.

Haiku - In the Distant Cloud

in the distant cloud
the silouette
of a bird's flight

Prize Winning Haiku - Tonight the sea Sweeping to us ..

the sea tonight
sweeping to us
the stars

a winner of the Croatia's Iris Haiku Magazine "A little Haiku Contest" organised in March/April 2009 with moon and stars as theme.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Haiku - Gawking at us from the roof

gawking at us from the roof
the pigeons we gave auntie
two miles away

early spring class
robust laugh breaks
through the chill

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Brain Running Away from Abuse

Poetry is the brain running
away from abuse, the chain
of slavery and the whips of
geniuses who think they know
best how it should work.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Dont use too much of your head when writing

Dont use too much of your head when writing...
space the thoughts between your heart and
we would have meaningful pauses
that would give more delights.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Haiku - The Blindman's Table Manner

haiku for the day -

a world of surprise
not a grain on the table
the blindman's table manner

not a grain left
to complain about
the blindman's table manner

i live near the blindman's association in Kuala Lumpur, so I get to see many bllindmen dining in coffee shops. One thing I am surprised about these blinded is that they are so clean and well dressed. This afternoon, I specially noticed a young man who was helped to his table. Then the lunch came. I seldom took an interest in how these blind people... Read More ate but realising that there is a haiku here, i paid attention. Yes, he took to the fork and spoon and carefully ate the rice and vegetables heaped on the plate. The soup he used his spoon then his hands to take the little bowl to his mouth. When he had finished, I was shocked to see that there was not even a grain dropped on the table. On the other hand, the man right on the other side had one grain dropped near his plate. The fact that we have eyes dont make us better beings than these blindmen sometimes.

Haiku - A longing Heart

from my room a longing heart
struggling between the muffled
sounds of the festival

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Senryu (humour haiku) Obama's China Tour - Trade balance

trade balance

obama prays he is not

talking to a Great Wall

Haiku - Obama China Tour

Obama's China tour
climbing the Great Wall
of economic balance

Sunday, November 15, 2009

My Favourite Haiku - Topaze crystals

topaz crystals
this dusk
showered rainfall

A Haiku Lesson

Every haiku lesson should start with this haiku of Matsuo Basho the man who revolutionises the haiku world;

old well
ta frog jumps in
the sound of water

Outwardly, it is just a simple frog poem but if you analyse it it actually contains elements that not only embodies the essence of haiku but what haiku is all ab out.

The old well represents humanity and its feelings.
Remember it is old well, humanity with its complex feelings accumulated over the years. Here in the well, it is unperturbed silence, humanity waiting to be touched by the world of arts, poetry, paintings, music.

Now comes a a frog ...well that represents haiku itself.
The frog jumps in means the haiku taken in by humanity....and the sound of water is the resonating effect it has on us. Remember it is just not the sound of any water, but the sound of water in an old well which is always echoed and more intense than sound made in open space.

I think when you read more good haiku which you can find by googling, you will get to what haiku is actually. There is no one definition as there are various schools of thoughts on this genre.

Reading and writing as well as making friends with haiku poets will slowly lead you to it. I think so. Robert has a magazine simply haiku which you can get to know all the prominent haiku poets. There is also the World Haiku Club beginners group which conduct lessons on the genre for interested parties.

Well stay tuned. Just post your writings here and there are enough people to critque them. Thanks Phyllis.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

the old well is
an old woman,
dispirited, hunched,
aggrieved of all
its drawers

a dark realm
reigns over here
ever ready
to throw its vengeance
on unsuspectful

only heaven has
the generosity
to give it grace -
the rain fills it up
and when the
weather is fine
the sky plays with it
a gentle childful game
of master sun, queen moon
and angel stars

nobody greets
the old well
a good morning
or evening

all they do
is ungratefully
bend over,
scaring its peace
and tranquility
with a coquettish bucket
that goes splash
before going down
into a private sanctum
to whittle away its vitality
yesterday, today,
tomorrow, everyday;
always in a hurried
and callous manner
the water slushes
sloshes, splashes,
slashes to echo
the well's discontents

the old well is
an aggrieved woman
beaten to hatred
a restless soul filled
to the brim with
vengeance and chagrin

to pass by one at night
one would be lucky
if one's heart does
not stumble and
race faster
than one's legs
because the well's
ominous mouth
in all the solemness
of its sobers and age
is ever ready
to draw your spirit in
with its damp,
dark and cold tales
and selfishly holds it there
with the tenuous grip
of a viper for a thousand years

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

My Haiku earlier posted on Facebook

this my horror haiku -

dug out doll
staring at my fear
two empty sockets

one of my favourite haiku -

leaf by leaf
the wind tears away

sunset lotus
they too have closed
for the day

Picked from My Facebook Postings

My haiku for today: mid autumn festival/she steps out/to a full house Yesterday was the full moon festival. The moon was a perfect ball and in many places, people watched street operas to pass the beautiful hours.

three sparrows on a flight
up and down, up and down
over the padi field

John thinks haiku is about layers, peeling away the layers of mysteries, meanings of a thought, ia situation, an inspired moment. The sylllables are layers you peel away to reach the haiku encased right in the heart, the womb of nature, the sanctum nature transmits to us its humour, its love, its individuality.

I really love these words by the Samoan Prime Minister on the tsunami two days ago - "The winds have uttered their strength, earth has spoken their grief and the wave has scattered its strength," Tuilaepa said in the chiefly Samoan language.

My haiku today: night forest trekking/ standing out an unobtrusive/ sacred tinkling shrill *the little tinkling sound of an insect, i was quickly drawn to meditate upon as it has a gentle calming effect on the mind.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Travel Macao Haiku - The Ruins of St Paul

St Paul's Ruins
a concrete history
of Portuguese Macao

St Paul's Ruins
a torn page with
the essentials intact

St Paul's Ruins
a slab of
concrete history

Courtesy of Wikipedia

The Ruins of St Paul
Portuguese: Ruínas de São Paulo,Chinese:大三巴牌坊) refer to the façade of what was originally the Cathedral of St. Paul, a 17th century Portuguese cathedral in Macau dedicated to Saint Paul the Apostle. Today, the ruins are one of Macau's most famous landmarks. In 2005, the Ruins of St. Paul were officially enlisted as part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Historic Centre of Macau.

Built from 1582 to 1602 by the Jesuits, the cathedral was the largest Catholic church in Asia at the time, and the royalty of Europe vied with each other to bestow upon the cathedral the best gifts. With the decline in importance of Macau, which was overtaken as the main port for the Pearl River Delta by Hong Kong, the cathedral's fortunes similarly ebbed, and it was destroyed by a fire during a typhoon in 1835. The Fortaleza do Monte overlooks the ruin.

The ruins now consist of the southern stone façade — intricately carved between 1620 and 1627 by Japanese Christians in exile from their homeland and local craftsmen under the direction of Italian Jesuit Carlo Spinola — and the crypts of the Jesuits who established and maintained the Cathedral. The façade sits on a small hill, with 66 stone steps leading up to it. The carvings include Jesuit images with Oriental themes, such as a woman stepping on a seven-headed hydra, described by Chinese characters as ' Holy Mother tramples the heads of the dragon'. A few of the other carvings are the founders of the Jesuit Order, the conquest of Death by Jesus, and at the very top, a dove with wings outstretched.

Resisting calls for the dangerously leaning structure to be demolished, from 1990 to 1995 the ruins were excavated under the auspices of the Instituto Cultural de Macau to study its historic past. The crypt and the foundations were uncovered, revealing the architectural plan of the building. Numerous religious artifacts were also found together with the relics of the Japanese Christian martyrs and the monastic clergy, including the founder of the Jesuit college in Macau, Father Alessandro Valignano. The ruins were restored by the Macanese government into a museum, and the facade is now buttressed with concrete and steel in a way which preserves the aesthetic integrity of the facade. A steel stairway allows tourists to climb up to the top of the facade from the rear. It is customary to throw coins into the top window of the ruins from the stairs, for luck.

Travel Macao Haiku - Fisherman's Wharf

all in the neighbourhoods
Tang Dynasty Palace and
the Roman Coliseum

Macao Fishermen's Wharf
i walk around fishing

Macao Fishermen's Wharf
as good as the old wonders
the new old architectures

Macau Fisherman's Wharf is a 120,000-sqm² park and the first themed entertainment attraction in Macau. It is centrally located in the outer harbour. It combines top-flight entertainment, accommodation, fine dining, retail, convention and exhibition facilities in one single location which takes just a 5-minute walk from the Macau Ferry Terminal and Heliport. Be it for business or pleasure, visitors are able to find a brand new experience in this world-class, round-the-clock, free admission entertainment complex, which is rapidly emerging as a popular landmark and meeting point for both Macau citizens and tourists in search of the vibrant and the new.

Theme Park

The twin fumaroles, 40m high manmade volcano towers over the shoreline to form the most eye-catching icon of Macau Fisherman's Wharf. Vulcania offers not only great photo-taking opportunities but a chance to tour the labyrinth of the volcano's vast interior.

Aladdin's Fort
This adventurous environment comprises kiddy rides and the first-ever war games arena in Macau. Decorated as an Arabian marketplace, the arena offers the latest war games equipment and a variety of game sets such as 'Shoot on Target', 'Spy in Action' and 'Action Combat'. The War Game arena opens daily from 10:00am to 10:00pm.

The Underground Amusement Centre
The newly opened Underground Amusement Game Centre - fitted out with spectacular sci-fi interior - occupies a total area of 950 sq.m² and is the largest such facility in Macau. The Centre is a paradise of electronic games featuring the newest and most exciting electronic games available such as the F1 simulator, Initial-D, GUNDAM fighter, Guitar Mania and first ESP simulation theatre.

Roman Amphitheatre
The 3,500 sq.m² Roman Amphitheatre is located in the mid-area of Macau Fisherman's Wharf. This spectacular, multi-functional performance venue features a 199 sq.m² multi-purpose stage equipped with world-class audio and visual technology as well as professional lighting system - an ideal venue for all kinds of outdoor performances and variety shows. This pioneering theme-built outdoor performance venue can cater to audiences of 2,000 at one time.


Macau Fisherman's Wharf provides a truly international collection of restaurants and bars ensures that there's always a right place for the occasion. From a range of fresh and cooked food service or takeaway to refreshment, Macau Fisherman's Wharf provides a perfect place to relax and social.

More information on Dinning


In addition to fine dining and entertainment, Macau Fisherman's Wharf offers some of the most popular branded fashion labels in the world as well as top-line sportswear, golf products, special Portuguese souvenirs, jewellery, fine art galleries and toyshops.

Meetings, Incentives, Conventions & Exhibition Facilities

Convention & Exhibition Centre
Located at the basement level of Aladdin's Fort area, this elegant venue is themed around a fascinating ancient civilization. The 5,000 sq.m² Convention and Exhibition Centre comprises a 2,787 sq.m² pillarless designs and 6.4m high Main Hall that can accommodate up to 168 round tables or 3,500 standing guests; the Main Hall can also be conveniently sub-divided into 3 sections with separate entrances.

The 111 sq.m² built-in stage, together with a full range of cutting edge audio and visual technology, are in place to serve myriad types of performances and shows. To address meeting and banquet needs, some 5 multi-function rooms, when connected together, can accommodate up to 60 round tables. An additional special feature of the Convention & Exhibition Centre is the 1,300 sq.m² themed pre-function area. In addition, 2 specially designed VIP rooms give direct, private access to the car park to accommodate special arrangements for important guests.

Team building exercises and 'war games' training facilities are also available, while our experienced event coordination team is happy to tailor-make special programmes for your function or event.


The Rocks Hotel
The 72-room, Victorian-inspired Rocks Hotel is located at the far end of Legend Wharf and boasts an individual balcony for every room. The stylish Sky Lounge, situated on the roof of the hotel, is a convenient and comfortable place to rendezvous for moonlit champagne assignations and business meetings alike. Fine alfresco dining is also available in the green, quiet grounds of the hotel while Vic's Café offers fresh imported Australian seafood served buffet style in the restaurant abutting the inspired lobby setting.



Babylon Casino
Babylon with 90 casino tables, the Macau's first boutique casino, draws its inspiration from the mystical Assyrian kingdom that was once the epicentre of the ancient Western world. 12 stone pillars, each carved with mythical gods, stoically support the gilt-encrusted casino, on top of which sits the splendid Sky Garden.

Other Facilities

Fun Fun Miami - Children's Day Care Centre
Macau Fisherman's Wharf means fun and entertainment round the clock for the whole family but sometimes parents want to party on their own. And that's when the Children's Day Care Centre comes into its own. Conveniently located in Miami Building, the Centre caters to children aged 3 years and above, and provides them with a host of diversionary entertainment from video viewing to video games to library. Children's Day Care Centre available daily from 11:00am to 7:00pm.

The car park is located on the basement level of the Rome Building, offering 400 parking spaces for cars and 70 spaces for motorcycles.

Source: Macau Fisherman's Wharf

Sunday, July 5, 2009


apsara, the first of them i saw
were trapped on the angkor wall
three hundred years of cold storage
with their blossoming bosom
that could carry your eyes through
a prism of pleasures given only
to the mighty kings who once lived here
so lonely they stood now in all the corridors
they sent shivers down my spine

apsara, the second time i saw them
was in the cultural theatre in seam reap
fair skinned ravishing damsels with voluptuous
physiques and high octaved songs lifting
the spirits of those from near and afar

they were children of old apsaras, nymphs who
nearly had their wings clipped by revolutionaries
but peservered to keep the steps of their triumphs alive
so that young apsaras can be born and stand tall on
mount meru again, churning the milk of creation
and sing their heart's content night after night
their costumes and dance steps were luxuriant, their
hands and finger graceful as butterflies, setting them
setting them apart from the Thais and Malay dancers

the third time, i saw the apsaras was at the Cham
Museum of Sculptures in Danang, fragments of an
enchanting and glorious past that had been torn apart,
torn apart like the temple stones, altars and pillars
where apsaras struggled to glimpse at the world,
their voluptuous physique and bosom entrancing as ever

john tiong chunghoo

Thursday, July 2, 2009

My Friend is Thinking about his Race

i want to have somebody to talk
my friend is thinking about his race

i want to take somebody out to have a good meal
my friend is thinking about his race

i want to talk about his interest with him
my friend is thinking about his race

i want to really teach my friend a thing or two
my friend is thinking about his race

i want to tell him to have wider look of life
my friend is thinking about his race

i want to cheer everything up with him
my friend is thinking about his race

i want to tell him he is living like a stone
my friend is thinking about his race

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Travel Taiwan Haiku - Spider Webs over Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake
casting nets over the water
two giant spiders

Sun Moon Lake
calm as the lake
two giant spider webs

Sun Moon Lake
suspended over the lake
two giant spider webs

Sun Moon Lake
calm as the waters
two giant spider webs

John Tiong Chunghoo

Whiteness all filled up

the white space on the paper
or the computer is the universal mind
a garden, lake, a theme park
where seeds of words can grow and
bloom into flowers of every kind
a mickey mouse, a donald duck, a reindeer
a leatherback turtle, a humpback whale,
birds, bees and butterfly of every kind to partake
in their enfolding shapes, shades, scents
and secret juice from the heavens

Michael Jackson Tribute

now as i look into the night sky
the little star twinkling, twisting, spiralling
in the farthest corner well that's
michael jackson

michael jackson
refund me the star,
never mind the tickets

these london tickets
now these heart crushing
limited edition momentos

beat it, billie jean is not my lover
michael jackson
is no more back in town

michael jackson
keeping the london tickets
to remember the star

michael jackson
the star in the man takes
over his life

michael jackson
outshone by the star
in the man

michael jackson
drowned out by
the star in the man

michael jackson
drunken by music
and stardom

michael jackson
the star and vulptures
eat up everything of the boy men

john tiong chunghoo

A billion Pride

there is a tightness about the Chinese
a jar of wine, sealed and tied with the
help of one billlion hands

there is a tightness about the Chinese
a star twisting and jostling to win
your fancy among one billion

there is a tightness about the Chinese
a surname the weight of one billion ton
each wishes to shoot through the heavens

there is a tightness about the Chinese
five centuries of the rise and fall of civilisations
a dragon all claws, whiskers and fiery eyes
tidying and polishing its billion scales
so that they dazzle with power and excellence

there is a tightnesss about the Chinese
gunpowder all ready to blast through
crackers in one billion hard foldings

john tiong chunghoo

Travel Haiku - Thousand Islands, St Lawrence River (New York)

one striking Thousand Islands memory
a tug of war with
a 10kg trout

For a summer weekend on the water, head to the boaters' paradise of the Thousand Islands (1,864 to be exact) of the St. Lawrence River in northwestern New York and southeast Ontario. Everything from fishing boats to jet skis and houseboats to kayaks can be rented by the hour, day, or week. This area also offers some of the country's best fishing, with record-size salmon, muskie, bass, and walleye just waiting to be caught. Wilderness anglers can head to the Oswegatchie Headwaters and hike or paddle to fish for brook trout.

john tiong chunghoo

My Aquarium

i used to admire my brother who had
aquariums of fishes outside the garage
and in our rooms, fishes that swam
through every phase of our teenage years
now another of his fruitful hobbies steals our sights,
breath and hearts
he keeps a garden of orchids, many he
fervently crossed breed himself with a secret
wish to name a few at least after his sweet heart,
special friends and luminaries in town
with also the hope some would make their
way into every florist's vocabulary
the blade leafy shrubs have started to
make a cut into the finer part of our life
showering us dainty fair ladies in their best wear

i am always at a loss of their names
those protrusions with an array of flowers
of subtle shapes, racy exploding colours and scents
carrying apt names such as slippers, tigers, spiders
monkeys, giants and lady Joaquim

and fishes, he had silver and gold arowanas
that flial in the aquariums with a grace
that you wish your girlfriend can match up to
and oscars that grew so big a solid orange and
black frame they carried the aura of a master
an air of authority and decisiveness you wish you
had cultivated to swim up the heart of your own boss

then there is the ikan parang, a worn curved chopper,
a steely mass of the Creator's fluid creativity
played out in crystal clear water

as i reflect on my own aquariums
i feel not slighted too though i have no real fishes or flowers
i see them in names like neruda, plath,
emily, angelou, ted, langston....
they too help send me to seventh heaven
with a few strokes of their heartstrings
filled with the vibrancy and gems of their grey matter

john tiong chunghoo

Saturday, June 20, 2009

World Famous Painting Haiku - Van Gogh's Starry Night

quiet night
a genius artist's trailblazing

quiet night
the heavens swirl
in the birth of a star

a country quietly sleeps
while the heavens swirl
in the birth of a star

silence pierces the sky
as the heavens swirl
in the birth of a star

Starry Night
Van Gogh's talent sweeps away
the stars

a country sleeps
through one artist's
starry dream

Starry Night
a genius trailblazes
through the sky

by john tiong chunghoo
the master

amid the humdrum of the living cells
a spirit meditates with the pristine aura of a lotus
while another stands by with such a nonchalance
i am left with awe as to who he is;
the devil himself or just another, another spirit

i first saw only his shoulders in a forest
i thought only i have the carte blanche to roam
a forest swarmed with the flowers of my love,
the power of my scents and the echoes of my dreams

I commend the the spirit that sits all day
rain or shine, meditating the quietness of
the interlocking cogs of clocks that so gently
unleash its power it has the world by every inch of its breath

i thought the spirit to be the ultimate meditator
to learn from until i saw the nonchalant one reveals
himself, and leads us in his all encompassing
heart soul and mind do; he is so grand we are
drawn to the overwhelming peace of his very heart

i soon learn that one day i too would
sit in a frame meditating on the working of
a body mind and soul with the same spirit
looking over us with a nonchalance you would
never know he is the real master of us all

john tiong chunghoo

Saturday, June 6, 2009

A Celestial Stage

A grandiose theatre stage our universe
The sky its backdrop,
The twinkling stars, its white angels
The Moon its alluring princess
And the Sun its master of ceremony
Honouring everything with a name
Giving each created a character and form
Pampering the windows of our souls
The lightnings and thunders
Are the drums and strobelights
Punctuating the climaxes and suspense
Of these celestial histronics
Raging through our heavens
And the cumulous clouds the scene parters
The gentle winds are to show directions
And the rains a bonus to calm
The audience's nerves and boost fertility
To beget flowers, greenery and everything lovable!

These COMMENTS are culled from the poetry site where it was first posted:

Ben Gieske (8/26/2008 7:46:00 AM)
Full of active and imaginative images feeding the senses and imagination. I like the ideas you create; ex., “the rains a bonus to calm” (very soothing) , and “Honouring everything with a name” (a great idea) .

Fred Babbin (8/23/2008 11:09:00 AM)
Not my way of writing, but it's well done. I like it.

Penny Hemans (11/5/2007 3:55:00 AM)
the contrast between our planet and the universe is superb john.. opens out a whole plethora of thoughts... xxxPenny

Cheryl Moyer (7/20/2007 10:55:00 AM)
john - You paint a gorgeuos world indeed! I wish I could hang it on my wall like a Picasso! Check out my 'Birth bangs' sometime and see if you like it.
thanks for this - Cheryl

Robert Howard (1/26/2007 9:13:00 AM)
A lovely and gracious poem and a powerful affirmation of life. I love the driving metaphor of the universe as the greatest of all performances. It flows like beautiful music.

nn mn (6/16/2006 2:04:00 PM)
Nicely woven - good optics.

Duncan Wyllie (4/14/2006 10:01:00 AM)
Lovely imagery, colourful languge, thankyou for sharing your art, Love Duncan

Elya Thorn (1/2/2006 10:56:00 AM)
Amazing imagery, 'Celestial stage' I never heard this word combiantion but now.... A very very good poem!

Gina PrettyBrownEyes (12/20/2005 3:50:00 PM)
i love your descriptions and i like the idea of this poem. it was interesting

Chionh Zhe Wen (12/18/2005 7:19:00 AM)
Very beautiful poem, I love it a lot

Friday, June 5, 2009

Rose & Lotus

what does the rose tell
the lotus when they meet?
lovely, i wish to be able
to spring up over the water
to catch nature's majestic
moment with a serene ballet pose
on a green green lush platform

what does the lotus tell
the rose when they meet?
lovely, every of your inch
exudes class, gracious
gratitude folded one over
the other i would bring you
to every of my friends to
show my warmest regards
to their care and concern

what is your greatest joy?
Rose asks in return
Lotus says it is in the
heavens that bless her
with an immaculate shroud
so that she could stand tall
at every occasion especially
in the temple where she
is offered to the gods and goddesses

What about yours?
Rose says it is when a pair
of lovers keep her warm
between their bosom as they
hold on to each other to say 'I love You'
she says she could have
written each of those luscious
lustrious words on her every fold

Your regrets? Rose says it is
in the single thorn she has to
live with - being used like a
tool - to show love
some of which never really lasts

Yours? The Lotus laughs
and sighs - 'You know
it is in the nights when
all you have are frogs
to serenade you their love songs.'

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Matsuo Basho

One day in the spring of 1681 a banana tree was being planted alongside a modest hut in a rustic area of Edo, a city now known as Tokyo. It was a gift from a local resident to his teacher of poetry, who had moved into the hut several months earlier. The teacher, a man of thirty-six years of age, was delighted with the gift. He loved the banana plant because it was somewhat like him in the way it stood there. Its large leaves were soft and sensitive and were easily torn when gusty winds blew from the sea. Its flowers were small and unobtrusive; they looked lonesome, as if they knew they could bear no fruit in the cool climate of Japan. Its stalks were long and fresh- looking, yet they were of no practical use.

The teacher lived all alone in the hut. On nights when he had no visitor, he would sit quietly and listen to the wind blowing through the banana leaves. The lonely atmosphere would deepen on rainy nights. Rainwater leaking through the roof dripped intermittently into a basin. To the ears of the poet sitting in the dimly lighted room, the sound made a strange harmony with the rustling of the banana leaves outside.

Basho nowaki shite A banana plant in the autumn gale -
Tarai ni ame o I listen to the dripping of rain
Kiku yo kana Into a basin at night.

The haiku seems to suggest the poet's awareness of his spiritual affinity with the banana plant.

Some people who visited this teacher of poetry may have noticed the affinity. Others may have seen the banana plant as nothing more than a convenient landmark. At any rate, they came to call the residence the Basho ("banana plant) Hut, and the name was soon applied to its resident, too: the teacher came to be known as the Master of the Basho Hut, or Master Basho. It goes without saying that he was happy to accept the nickname. He used it for the rest of his life.

I. First Metamorphosis: From Wanderer to Poet

Little material is available to recreate Basho's life prior to his settlement in the Basho Hut. It is believed that he was born in 1644 at or near Ueno in Iga Province, about thirty miles southeast of Kyoto and two hundred miles west of Edo. He was called Kinsaku and several other names as a child; he had an elder brother and four sisters. His father, Matsuo Yozaemon, was probably a low-ranking samurai who farmed in peacetime. Little is known about his mother except that her parents were not natives of Ueno. The social status of the family, while respectable, was not of the kind that promised a bright future for young Basho if he were to follow an ordinary course of life.

Yet Basho's career began in an ordinary enough way. It is presumed that as a youngster he entered the service of a youthful master, Todo Yoshitada, a relative of the feudal lord ruling the province. Young Basho first served as a page or in some such capacity.1 His master, two years his senior, was apparently fond of Basho, and the two seem to have become fairly good companions as they grew older. Their strongest bond was the haikai, one of the favorite pastimes of sophisticated men of the day. Apparently Yoshitada had a liking for verse writing and even acquired a haikai name, Sengin. Whether or not the initial stimulation came from his master, Basho also developed a taste for writing haikai, using the pseudonym Sobo. The earliest poem by Basho preserved today was written in 1662. In 1664, two haiku by Basho and one by Yoshitada appeared in a verse anthology published in Kyoto. The following year Basho, Yoshitada, and three others joined together and composed a renku of one hundred verses. Basho contributed eighteen verses, his first remaining verses of this type.

Basho's life seems to have been peaceful so far, and he might for the rest of his life have been a satisfied, low-ranking samurai who spent his spare time verse writing. He had already come of age and had assumed a samurai's name, Matsuo Munefusa. But in the summer of 1666 a series of incidents completely changed the course of his life. Yoshitada suddenly died a premature death. His younger brother succeeded him as the head of the clan and also as the husband of his widow. It is believed that Basho left his native home and embarked on a wandering life shortly afterward.

Some surmises about Basho's decision to leave home have to do with his love affairs. Several early biographies claim that he had an affair with his elder brother's wife, with one of Yoshitada's waiting ladies, or with Yoshitada's wife herself. These are most likely the fabrications of biographers who felt the need for some sensational incident in the famous poet's youth. But there is one theory that may contain some truth. It maintains that Basho had a secret mistress, who later became a nun called Jutei. She may even have had a child, or several children, by Basho. At any rate, these accounts seem to point toward one fact: Basho still in his early twenties, experienced his share of the joys and griefs that most young men go through at one time or another.

Basho's life for the next few years is very obscure. It has traditionally been held that he went to Kyoto, then the capital of Japan, where he studied philosophy, poetry and calligraphy under well-known experts. It is not likely, however, that he was in Kyoto all during this time; he must often have returned to his hometown for lengthy visits. It might even be that he still lived in Ueno or in that vicinity and made occasional trips to Kyoto. In all likelihood he was not yet determined to become a poet at this time. Later in his own writing he was to recall "At one time I coveted an official post with a tenure of land." He was still young and ambitious, confident of his potential. He must have wished, above all, to get a good education that would secure him some kind of respectable position later on. Perhaps he wanted to see the wide world outside his native town and to mix with a wide variety of people. With the curiosity of youth he may have tried to do all sorts of things fashionable among the young libertines of the day. Afterward, he even wrote, "There was a time when I was fascinated with the ways of homosexual love."

One indisputable fact is that Basho had not lost his interest in verse writing. A haikai anthology published in 1667 contained as many as thirty- one of his verses, and his work was included in three other anthologies compiled between 1669 and 1671. His name was gradually becoming known to a limited number of poets in the capital. That must have earned him considerable respect from the poets in his hometown too. Thus when Basho made his first attempt to compile a book of haikai, about thirty poets were willing to contribute verses to it. The book, called The Seashell Game (Kai Oi), was dedicated to a shrine in Ueno early in 1672.

The Seashell Game represents a haiku contest in thirty rounds. Pairs of haiku, each one composed by a different poet, are matched and judged by Basho. Although he himself contributed two haiku to the contest, the main value of the book lies in his critical comments and the way he refereed the matches. On the whole, the book reveals hi to be a man of brilliant wit and colorful imagination, who had a good knowledge of popular songs, fashionable expressions, and the new ways of the world in general. It appears he compiled the book in a lighthearted mood, but his poetic talent was evident.

Then, probably in the spring of 1672, Basho set out on a journey to Edo, apparently with no intention of returning in the immediate future. On parting he sent a haiku to one of his friends in Ueno:

Kumo to hedatsu Clouds will separate
Tomo ka ya kari no The two friends, after migrating
Ikiwakare Wild goose's departure.

Basho's life for the next eight years is somewhat obscure again. It is said that in his early days in Edo he stayed at the home of one or another of his patrons. That is perhaps true, but it is doubtful that he could remain a dependent for long. Various theories, none of them with convincing evidence, argue that he became a physician's assistant, a town clerk, or a poet's scribe. The theory generally considered to be the closest to the truth is that for some time he was employed by the local waterworks department. Whatever the truth, his early years in Edo were not easy. He was probably recalling those days when he later wrote: "At one time I was weary of verse writing and wanted to give it up, and at another time I was determined to be a poet until I could establish a proud name over others. the alternatives battled in my mind and made my life restless."

Though he may have been in a dilemma Basho continued to write verses in the new city. In the summer of 1675 he was one of several writers who joined a distinguished poet of the time in composing a renku of one hundred verses; Basho, now using the pseudonym Tosei, contributed eight. The following spring he and another poet wrote two renku, each consisting of one hundred verses.. After a brief visit to his native town later in the year, he began devoting more and more time to verse writing. He must have made up his mind to become a professional poet around this time, if he had not done so earlier. His work began appearing in various anthologies more and more frequently, indicating his increasing renown. When the New Year came he apparently distributed a small book of verses among his acquaintances, a practice permitted only to a recognized haikai master. In the winter of that year he judged two haiku contests, and when they were published as Haiku Contests in Eighteen Rounds (Juhachiban Hokku Awase), he wrote a commentary on each match. In the summer of 1680 The Best Poems of Tosei's Twenty Disciples (Tosei Montei Dokugin Nijikkasen) appeared, which suggests that Basho already had a sizeable group of talented students. Later in the same year two of his leading disciples matched their own verses in two contests, "The rustic haiku Contest" ("Inaka no Kuawase") and "The Evergreen haiku Contest" ("Tokiwaya no Kuawase"), and Basho served as the judge. that winter his students built a small house in a quiet, rustic part of Edo and presented it to their teacher. Several months later a banana tree was planted in the yard, giving the hut its famous name. Basho, firmly established as a poet, now had his own home for the first time in his life.

II. Second Metamorphosis: From Poet to Wanderer
Basho was thankful to have a permanent home, but he was not to be cozily settled there. With all his increasing poetic fame and material comfort, he seemed to become more dissatisfied with himself. In his early days of struggle he had had a concrete aim in life, a purpose to strive for. That aim, now virtually attained, did not seem to be worthy of all his effort. He had many friends, disciples, and patrons, and yet he was lonelier than ever. One of the first verses he wrote after moving into the Basho Hut was:

Shiba no to ni Against the brushwood gate
Cha o konoha kaku Dead tea leaves swirl
Arashi kana In the stormy wind.

Many other poems written at this time, including the haiku about the banana tree, also have pensive overtones. In a headnote to one of them he even wrote: "I feel lonely as I gaze at the moon, I feel lonely as I think about myself, and I feel lonely as I ponder upon this wretched life of mine. I want to cry out that I am lonely, but no one asks me how I feel."

It was probably out of such spiritual ambivalence that Basho began practicing Zen meditation under Priest Butcho (1642-1715), who happened to be staying near his home. He must have been zealous and resolute in this attempt, for he was later to recall: "...and yet at another time I was anxious to confine myself within the walls of a monastery." Loneliness, melancholy, disillusion, ennui - whatever his problem may have been, his suffering was real.

A couple of events that occurred in the following two years further increased his suffering. In the winter of 1682 the Basho Hut was destroyed in a fire that swept through the whole neighborhood. He was homeless again, and probably the idea that man is eternally homeless began haunting his mind more and more frequently. A few months later he received news from his family home that his mother had died. Since his father had died already in 1656, he was now not only without a home but without a parent to return to.

As far as poetic fame was concerned, Basho and his disciples were thriving. In the summer of 1683 they published Shriveled Chestnuts (Minashiguri), an anthology of haikai verses which in its stern rejection of crudity and vulgarity in theme and in its highly articulate, Chinese-flavored diction, set them distinctly apart from other poets. In that winter, when the homeless Basho returned from a stay in Kai Province, his friends and disciples again gathered together and presented him with a new Basho Hut. He was pleased, but it was not enough to do away with his melancholy. His poem on entering the new hut was:

Arare kiku ya The sound of hail -
Kono mi wa moto no I am the same as before
Furugashiwa Like that aging oak.

Neither poetic success nor the security of a home seemed to offer him much consolation. He was already a wanderer in spirit, and he had to follow that impulse in actual life.

Thus in the fall of 1684 Basho set out on his first significant journey. He had made journeys before, but not for the sake of spiritual and poetic discipline. Through the journey he wanted, among other things, to face death and thereby to help temper his mind and his poetry. He called it "the journey of a weather-beaten skeleton," meaning that he was prepared to perish alone and leave his corpse to the mercies of the wilderness if that was his destiny. If this seems to us a bit extreme, we should remember that Basho was of a delicate constitution and suffered from several chronic diseases, and that his travel in seventeenth-century Japan was immensely more hazardous than it is today.

It was a long journey, taking him to a dozen provinces that lay between Edo and Kyoto. From Edo he went westward along a main road that more or less followed the Pacific coastline. He passed by the foot of Mount Fuji, crossed several large rivers and visited the Grand Shinto Shrines in Ise. He then arrived at his native town, Ueno, and was reunited with his relatives and friends. His elder brother opened a memento bag and showed him a small tuft of gray hair from the head of his late mother.

Te ni toraba Should I hold it in my hand
Kien namida zo atsuki It would melt in my burning tears -
Aki no shimo Autumnal frost.

This is one of the rare cases in which a poem bares his emotion, no doubt because the grief he felt was uncontrollably intense.

After only a few days' sojourn in Ueno, Basho traveled farther on, now visiting a temple among the mountains, now composing verses with local poets. It was at this time that The Winter Sun (Fuyu no Hi), a collection of five renku which with their less pedantic vocabulary and more lyrical tone marked the beginning of Basho's mature poetic style, was produced. He then celebrated the New Year at his native town for the first time in years. He spent some more time visiting Nara and Kyoto, and when he finally returned to Edo it was already the summer of 1685.

The journey was a rewarding one. Basho met numerous friends, old and new, on the way. He produced a number of haiku and renku on his experiences during the journey, including those collected in The Winter Sun. He wrote his first travel journal, The Records of a Weather-Exposed Skeleton (Nozarashi Kiko), too. Through all these experiences, Basho was gradually changing. In the latter part of the journal there appears, for instance, the following haiku which he wrote at the year's end:

Toshi kurenu Another year is gone -
Kasa kite waraji A travel hat on my head,
Hakinagara Straw sandals on my feet.

The poem seems to show Basho at ease in travel. The uneasiness that made him assume a strained attitude toward the journey disappeared as his trip progressed. He could not look at his wandering self more objectively, without heroism or sentimentalism.

He spent the next two years enjoying a quiet life at the Basho Hut. It was a modest but leisurely existence, and he could afford to call himself "an idle old man." He contemplated the beauty of nature as it changed with the seasons and wrote verses whenever he was inspired to do so. Friends and disciples who visited him shared his taste, and they often gathered to enjoy the beauty of the moon, the snow, or the blossoms. The following composition, a short prose piece written in the winter of 1686, seems typical of his life at this time:

A man named Sora has his temporary residence near my hut, so I often drop in at his place, and he at mine. When I cook something to eat, he helps to feed the fire, and when I make tea at night, he comes over for company. A quiet, leisurely person, he has become a most congenial friend of mine. One evening after a snowfall, he dropped in for a visit, whereupon I composed a haiku:
Kimi hi o take Will you start a fire?
Yoki mono misen I'll show you something nice -
Yukimaroge A huge snowball.

The fire in the poem is to boil water for tea. Sora would prepare tea in the kitchen, while Basho, returning to the pleasures of a little boy, would make a big snowball in the yard. When the tea was ready, they would sit down and sip it together, humorously enjoying the view of the snowball outside. The poem, an unusually cheerful one for Basho, seems to suggest his relaxed, carefree frame of mind of those years.

The same sort of casual poetic mood led Basho to undertake a short trip to Kashima, a town about fifty miles east of Edo and well known for its Shinto shrine, to see the harvest moon. Sora and a certain Zen monk accompanied him in the trip in the autumn of 1687. Unfortunately it rained on the night of the full moon, and they only had a few glimpses of the moon toward dawn. Basho, however, took advantage of the chance to visit his former Zen master, Priest Butcho, who had retired to Kashima. The trip resulted in another of Basho's travel journals, A Visit to the Kashima Shrine (Kashima Kiko).

Then, just two months later, Basho set out on another long westward journey. He was far more at ease as he took leave than he had been at the outset of his first such journey three years earlier. He was a famous poet now, with a large circle of friends and disciples. They gave him many farewell presents, invited him to picnics and dinners, and arranged several verse-writing parties in his honor. Those who could not attend sent their poems. These verses, totaling nearly three hundred and fifty, were later collected and published under the title Farewell Verses (Kusenbetsu). there were so many festivities that to Basho "the occasion looked like some dignitary's departure - very imposing indeed."

He followed roughly the same route as on his journey of 1684, again visiting friends and writing verses here and there on the way. He reached Ueno at the year's end and was heartily welcomed as a leading poet in Edo. Even the young head of his former master's family, whose service he had left in his youth, invited him for a visit. In the garden a cherry tree which Yoshitada had loved was in full bloom:

Samazama no Myriads of things past
Koto omoidasu Are brought to my mind -
Sakura kana These cherry blossoms!

In the middle of the spring Basho left Ueno, accompanied by one of his students, going first to Mount Yoshino to see the famous cherry blossoms. He traveled to Wakanoura to enjoy the spring scenes of the Pacific coast, and then came to Nara at the time of fresh green leaves. On he went to Osaka, and then to Suma and Akashi on the coast of Seto Inland Sea, two famous places which often appeared in old Japanese classics.

From Akashi Basho turned back to the east, and by way of Kyoto arrived at Nagoya in midsummer. After resting there for awhile, he headed for the mountains of central Honshu, an area now popularly known as the Japanese Alps. An old friend of his and a servant, loaned to him by someone who worried about the steep roads ahead accompanied Basho. His immediate purpose was to see the harvest moon in the rustic Sarashina district. As expected, the trip was a rugged one, but he did see the full moon at that place celebrated in Japanese literature. He then traveled eastward among the mountains and returned to Edo in late autumn after nearly a year of traveling.

This was probably the happiest of all Basho's journeys. He had been familiar with the route much of the way, and where he had not, a friend and a servant had been there to help him. His fame as a poet was fairly widespread, and people he met on the way always treated him with courtesy. It was a productive journey, too. In addition to a number of haiku and renku, he wrote two journals: The Records of a Travel-Worn Satchel (Oi no Kobumi), which covers his travel from Edo to Akashi, and A Visit to Sarashina Village (Sarashina Kiko), which focuses on his moon viewing trip to Sarashina. The former has an especially significant place in the Basho canon, including among other things a passage that declares the haikai to be among the major forms of Japanese art. He was now clearly aware of the significance of haikai writing; he was confident that the haikai, as a serious form of art, could point toward an invaluable way of life.

It was no wonder, then, that Basho began preparing for the next journey almost immediately. As he described it, it was almost as if the God of Travel were beckoning him. Obsessed with the charms of the traveler's life, he now wanted to go beyond his previous journeys; he wanted to be a truer wanderer than ever before. In a letter written around this time, he says he admired the life of a monk who wanders about with only a begging bowl in his hand. Basho now wanted to travel, not as a renowned poet, but as a self-disciplining monk. Thus in the pilgrimage to come he decided to visit the northern part of Honshu, a mostly rustic and in places even wild region where he had never been and had hardly an acquaintance. He was to cover about fifteen hundred miles on the way. Of course it was going to be the longest journey of his life.

Accompanied by Sora, Basho left Edo in the late spring of 1689. Probably because of his more stern and ascetic attitude toward the journey, farewell festivities were fewer and quieter this time. He proceeded northward along the main road stopping at places of interest such as the Tosho Shrine at Nikko, the hot spa at Nasu, and an historic castle site at Iizuka. When he came close to the Pacific coast near Sendai he admired the scenic beauty of Matsushima. From Hiraizumi, a town well known as the site of a medieval battle, Basho turned west and reached the coast of the Sea of Japan at Sakata. After a short trip to Kisagata in the north, he turned southwest and followed the main road along the coast. It was from this coast that he saw the island of Sado in the distance and wrote one of his most celebrated poems:

Araumiya The rough sea -
Sado ni yokotau Extending toward Sado Isle,
Amanogawa The Milky Way.

Because of the rains, the heat, and the rugged road, this part of the journey was very hard for Basho and Sora, and they were both exhausted when he finally arrived at Kanazawa. They rested at the famous hot spring at Yamanaka for a few days, but Sora, apparently because of prolonged ill- health, decided to give up the journey and left his master there. Basho continued alone until he reached Fukui. There he met an old acquaintance who accompanied him as far as Tsuruga, where another old friend had come to meet Basho, and the two traveled south until they arrived at Ogaki, a town Basho knew well. A number of Basho's friends and disciples were there, and the long journey through unfamiliar areas was finally over. One hundred and fifty-six days had passed since he left Edo.

The travel marked a climax in Basho's literary career. He wrote some of his finest haiku during the journey. The resulting journal The Narrow Road to the Deep North (Oku no Hosomichi), is one of the highest attainments in the history of poetic diaries in Japan. His literary achievement was no doubt a result of his deepening maturity as a man. He had come to perceive a mode of life by which to resolve some deep dilemmas and to gain peace of mind. It was based on the idea of sabi, the concept that one attains perfect spiritual serenity by immersing oneself in the egoless, impersonal life of nature. The complete absorption of one's petty ego into the vast, powerful, magnificent universe - this was the underlying theme of many poems by Basho at this time, including the haiku on the Milky Way we have just seen. This momentary identification of man with inanimate nature was, in his view, essential to poetic creation. Though he never wrote a treatise on the subject, there is no doubt that Basho conceived some unique ideas about poetry in his later years. Apparently it was during this journey that he began thinking about poetry n more serious, philosophical terms. The two earliest books known to record Basho's thoughts on poetry, Records of the Seven Days (Kikigaki Nanukagusa) and Conversations at Yamanaka (Yamanaka Mondo), resulted from it.

Basho spent the next two years visiting his old friends and disciples in Ueno, Kyoto, and towns on the southern coast of Lake Biwa. With one or another of them he often paid a brief visit to other places such as Ise and Nara. Of numerous houses he stayed at during this period Basho seems to have especially enjoyed two: the Unreal Hut and the House of Fallen Persimmons, as they were called. The Unreal Hut, located in the woods off the southernmost tip of lake Biwa, was a quiet, hidden place where Basho rested from early summer to mid-autumn in 1690. He thoroughly enjoyed the idle, secluded life there, and described it in a short but superb piece of prose. Here is one of the passages:

In the daytime an old watchman from the local shrine or some villager from the foot of the hill comes along and chats with me about things I rarely hear of, such as a wild boar's looting the rice paddies or a hare's haunting the bean farms. When the sun sets under the edge of the hill and night falls, I quietly sit and wait for the moon. With the moonrise I begin roaming about, casting my shadow on the ground.
When the night deepens, I return to the hut and meditate on right and wrong, gazing at the dim margin of a shadow in the lamplight.

Basho had another chance to live a similarly secluded life later at the House of the Fallen Persimmons in Saga, a northwestern suburb of Kyoto. The house, owned by one of his disciples, Mukai Kyorai (1651-1704), was so called because persimmon trees grew around it. There were also a number of bamboo groves, which provided the setting for a well-known poem by Basho:

Hototogisu The cuckoo -
Otakeyabu o Through the dense bamboo grove,
Moru tsukiyo Moonlight seeping.

Basho stayed at this house for seventeen days in the summer of 1691. The sojourn resulted in The Saga Diary (Saga Nikki), the last of his longer prose works.

All during this period at the two hideaways and elsewhere in the Kyoto-Lake Biwa area, Basho was visited by many people who shared his interest in poetry. Especially close to him were two of his leading disciples, Kyorai and Nozawa Boncho (16?-1714), partly because they were compiling a haikai anthology under Basho's guidance. The anthology, entitled The Monkey's Raincoat (Sarumino) and published in the early summer of 1691 represented a peak in haikai of the Basho style. Basho's idea of sabi and other principles of verse writing that evolved during his journey to the far north were clearly there. Through actual example the new anthology showed that the haikai could be a serious art form capable of embodying mature comments on man and his environment.

Basho returned to Edo in the winter of 1691. His friends and disciples there, who had not seen him for more than two years, welcomed him warmly. for the third time they combined their efforts to build a hut for their master, who had given up the old one just before his latest journey. In this third Basho Hut, however, he could not enjoy the peaceful life he desired. For one thing, he now had a few people to look after. An invalid nephew had come to live with Basho, who took care of him until his death in the spring of 1693. A woman by the name of Jutei, with whom Basho apparently had had some special relationship in his youth, also seems to have come under his care at this time. She too was in poor health, and had several young children besides. Even apart from these involvements, Basho was becoming extremely busy, no doubt due to his great fame as a poet. many people wanted to visit him, or invited him for visits. for instance, in a letter presumed to have been written on the eighth of the twelfth month, 1693, he told one prospective visitor that he would not be home on the ninth, tenth, eleventh, twelfth, fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth, suggesting that the visitor come either on the thirteenth or the eighteenth.3 In another letter written about the same time, he bluntly said: "Disturbed by others, Have no peace of mind." That New Year he composed this haiku:

Toshidoshi ya Year after year
Saru ni kisetaru On the monkey's face
Saru no men A monkey's mask.

The poem has a touch of bitterness unusual for Basho. He was dissatisfied with the progress that he (and possibly some of his students) was making.

As these responsibilities pressed on him, Basho gradually became somewhat nihilistic. He had become a poet in order to transcend worldly involvements, but now he found himself deeply involved in worldly affairs precisely because of his poetic fame. The solution was either to renounce being a poet or to stop seeing people altogether. Basho first tried the former, but to no avail. "I have tried to give up poetry and remain silent," he said, "but every time I did so a poetic sentiment would solicit my heart and something would flicker in my mind. Such is the magic spell of poetry." He had become too much of a poet. Thus he had to resort to the second alternative: to stop seeing people altogether. This he did in the autumn of 1693, declaring:

Whenever people come, there is useless talk. Whenever I go, and visit, I have the unpleasant feeling of interfering with other men's business. Now I can do nothing better than follow the examples of Sun Ching and Tu Wu-lang,4 who confined themselves within locked doors. Friendlessness will become my friend, and poverty my wealth. A stubborn man at fifty years of age, I thus write to discipline myself.
Asagao ya The morning-glory -
Hiru wa jo orosu In the daytime, a bolt is fastened
Mon no kaki On the frontyard gate.

Obviously, Basho wished to admire the beauty of the morning-glory without having to keep a bolt on his gate. How to manage to do this must have been the subject of many hours of meditation within the locked house. He solved the problem, at least to his own satisfaction, and reopened the gate about a month after closing it.
Basho's solution was based on the principle of "lightness," a dialectic transcendence of sabi. Sabi urges man to detach himself from worldly involvements; "lightness" makes it possible for him, after attaining that detachment, to return to the mundane world. man lives amid the mire as a spiritual bystander. He does not escape the grievances of living; standing apart, he just smiles them away. Basho began writing under this principle and advised his students to emulate him. The effort later came to fruition in several haikai anthologies, such as A Sack of Charcoal (Sumidawara), The Detached Room (Betsuzashiki) and The Monkey's Cloak, Continued (Zoku Sarumino). Characteristic verses in these collections reject sentimentalism and take a calm, carefree attitude to the things of daily life. they often exude lighthearted humor.

Having thus restored his mental equilibrium, Basho began thinking about another journey. He may have been anxious to carry his new poetic principle, "lightness," to poets outside of Edo, too. Thus in the summer of 1694 he traveled westward on the familiar road along the Pacific coast, taking with him one of Jutei's children, Jirobei. He rested at Ueno for a while, and then visited his students in Kyoto and in town near the southern coast of Lake Biwa. Jutei, who had been struggling against ill health at the Basho Hut, died at this time and Jirobei temporarily returned to Edo. Much saddened, Basho went back to Ueno in early autumn for about a month's rest. He then left for Osaka with a few friends and relatives including his elder brother's son Mataemon as well as Jirobei. But Basho's health was rapidly failing, even though he continued to write some excellent verses. One of his haiku in Osaka was:

Kono aki wa This autumn
Nan de toshiyoru Why am I aging so?
Kumo ni tori Flying towards the clouds, a bird.

The poem indicates Basho's awareness of approaching death. Shortly afterward he took to his bed with a stomach ailment, from which he was not to recover. Numerous disciples hurried to Osaka and gathered at his bedside. He seems to have remained calm in his last days. He scribbled a deathbed note to his elder brother, which in part read: "I am sorry to have to leave you now. I hope you will live a happy life under Mataemon's care and reach a ripe old age. There is nothing more I have to say." The only thing that disturbed his mind was poetry. According to a disciple's record, Basho fully knew that it was time for prayers, not for verse writing, and yet he thought of the latter day and night. Poetry was now an obsession - "a sinful attachment," as he himself called it. His last poem was:

Tabi ni yande On a journey, ailing -
Yume wa kareno o My dreams roam about
Kakemeguru Over a withered moor.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Haiku Collection

an ant moves along
the silhoutte of a leaf

little bloom
a bee gently sips
careful of his steps

the hydrangea
under the lens
a graduation party

grey clouds over
the abandoned castle
secrets behind the walls

double joy
carnations join garden buddha
to cheer up he world

Haiku Collection

crowded table
all that matters
his scribbling; "I love you".

in the mist
your image and warmth
so vivid

all in white
her longing for someone
to mark a trail in her life

lazy afternoon
spent listening to cicadas
and differentiating blooms

when dady's seat
was big enough for both of us -
thirty years ago

bringing a human
touch to the garden
a lady in stone

early morn
at the bustop
thinking about Twin Towers

a lovely topic
to warm up a visit
right at the entrance - a bloom

Haiku Collection

when he says
"I love you"
the blooms trumpet it to my heart

table manners -
the flamingo always
a mirror while dining

autumn end
the last remaining
maple fiery charm

dried river
childhood curiosity of
treasure under the flow ebbs

in the country
only the grand bridge
to remind me of the world beyond

at the dock
the sweet music
of lapping waves

on a bare wall
the rich harvest
from our corn fields

human thoughts
at last travel
faster, higher than the clouds

Slow, but we learn
to appreciate the snail
for its symmetry

Haiku Collection

a precise step
a focussed thought
one, two and three

thick long tresses
to the foot
the indian yogi's vow

wrapped in

humbly the buddha
shows us a path
if only we would look for it

in the rocks
stories of yesteryears
if we care to look inside

setting sun
crickets and frogs
play sendoff tune

the koi fish's
debut dance
the backdrop a cheerful sky

midnight tears
wet my pillows
another girl tied his tie

Haiku Collection

abandoned house
the pan and stove
stir my desire to cook

longing -
to grow

foray into the world
step by step

door opens
for those who know
where they want to be

the unseen rules
sand dune

the order
outside the teahouse

the patriotic song of
a country also heard
heard in its waterfall

opportunity knocks
on the door of the man
with a clear goal

thought patterns
each step brings
out its beauty

Haiku Collection

childhood friends
always waiting for their perch

intimately open
the door for him
to the tea ceremony

taking all routes
to be close
to the Holy Buddha

busy town square
the pigeons
joining in the fun

the mist
spreads thinly over the green
surreal touch

joyous tune
oiling a
tired heart

tokyo night photo
desires for younger days
surge back

bowl - the clear tinkle
it makes
when empty

Haiku Collection

the field
blazes with the red
of the giant rose

all these neons
a million shadows
my turmoil

this blue
in the bloom
the silhoute of diana's eyes

whichever way you go
looks like you're imprisoned

spring glory
the monk's solitary walk
abundant sakuras

in the park
the joy of
being alone

Haiku Collection

the fallen flowers suddenly
dance to a different tune

falling autumn leaves
we touch every topic
in our talk

on the slim red flower
the gentle grasp of
a dragonfly

closing the distance
the sail pierces
the golden sky
the moon casts us
in a shadow play

the sea
paints the sky
over and over

in the ripples
my predicarment

begging bowl
the boy hungers
for love too

on the fallen tree
morning glory's
triumphant climb

this scarlet night
and the full moon
moses on mount senai

dimly lit room
the repelling
cold wind

telling son
knowledge is useless
unless he learns how to use it
blue bottle
a bee lost in

a dance
stretching its petals
the lily

floral dance
learning it
from the lily

in a frantic span
to measure the sky

holding up
the sky for us

rain shows sun
its innate shine

temple bell
children more raucuous
than the chime

new outfit
the buddha

Haiku Collection

where's the wind
to cheer us up?

early spring
the trees politely
spread their buds

blurred print
a fish swims
in my mind

criss crossing
the sky
words of men

dawn sea
waves and light
dance with breeze

dawn sea
waves, light and breeze
dance in unison

amusement park
the children doing voiceover
for the animals

the child neighs for
his horse

spring of life
the nectare
the butterfly seeks

night city ruin
my goosebumps rise
like forts

amusement park
remembering late dad's
mickey mouse pose

mom's grapes
the sweetness
in her

Haiku Collection

the covered woman
longs to uncover the world
of the scantily clad

between the leaves
fate plays a game
pleasure, pain

dilapidated door
the sun yet never
misses its entrance

late into spring
bluebells still straining
to look their best

the right crispness
her bread to start
each new day

house's little corner
the presents mom taught us
to give loved ones

after the rain
droplets on leaves
our first encounter

scaling the hill with son
the pleasure to have him
hit the summit first

Haiku Collection

all this towering pride
tell me a place with no
male chauvinism

waving goodbye
to the day too
our shadows

is there anywhere
God does not show
his artistic talent?

different worlds
the world
many many worlds

in the field
a lone tree bidding goodbye
to the day

spring buds
the earth bursts forth
with fresh greetings

the bright red rose
after the rain
a collection of wet dreams

a ballet dancer's envy
fresh soft lily
swirling out of itself

lighting up winter morn
snow sprinkled
frosted berries

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Haiku Collection

identity zone
each stone, each blade of grass
plucks at the heartstrings

the eyes sweeping
all the corridors
secret love

kept out of the
soccer field
a lost dream

spring morn
sakuras coax me
to dance away

myriad bells
on temple floor
ring our hearts

fruits of success

a mind game

a fortress
ancient war

feelers, antenna ....
all my fanciful gadgets
thirst for love

violets sighs
"Roses are smarter
but we need fun too".

letting lose
in my own steps

the shattering rain
a consolation
after, a suicide

graces, colours
and scents
enchanting walk

hidden forces
the light, wind, earth
the world goes on

numbing my mind
the noises here since
ancient times

dewdrops on petals
his first kiss
so soft on the lips

ungrateful friends
the sand drops off as soon as
it clings to us

Haiku Collection

in the shoes'
wear and tear
my memory of papa

between the beauty of the shell
and a torn leaf
a ravaging snail

on the abandoned field

first light
enjoying each step
to the summit

first light
tracking the way
to the summit

saffron bloom
a bee dispenses a lesson
in meditation

alone in the mountain
he calls out to let his echo
warm him up

standing in line
with the windmills
I blow towards the wind

carousal horses
children's laughters
carry me back to childhood

wild berries
sweetness on life's

no more friendly bark
the ledge empty
my pet dog gone - forever

Cleopatra's necklace
Mark Anthony's
Heartshaped rubies

marriages are made
in the heaven
fate binds

warm opportunities
the ice melts to quench
my thirst

the tree
where we said goodbye
it has died too

Haiku Collections

late grandmom's favourite
bowl now carries her stories
for my children

all these neons
a million shadows
accompany my loneliness

the energies
of the year pour forth
in step to the summer heat

pet horse
the swish of its hair
eggs me on

in my garden
all my plants
fighting for attention

after his
the room so empty

my heart caught
by the leaps of waves
and children on jungle gym

our seats
in the garden
so vacant without you

a stroll by
the bamboo grove
a lesson in walking tall

bathed in
autumn dusk
shadowed by giant cypresses

Haiku Collection

the real and imagined
seeks each others out

beauty in the eyes of beholder
crawlies join their
own kinds

special liking
in the empty chapel
the whispers of prayers

a monster fungus
a jungle walk
made unforgettable

bright and gay
summer's heat fuels
our dance beats

bright spring
my koi fish
kisses the sky

Haiku Collection

art speaks
through our

the consolation
after the typhoon

our childhood tryst
- the little boat
still there

sleepless night
my tired face
needs a coverup

Haiku Collection

two berries
so close to each other

the zig zag lines
the mind works patterns
into a pattern

abandon house
eerie echo accompanies
every of my words

gracefully giving
the wood its other face
carved crane

being who
we are for your sake
no strings attached

in my own world
putting a part of the world
onto a canvas

Haiku Collection

in a hurry to own zero thought
it eats up every cell, vein

light green cherries
fight with leaves
- for attention

always betraying it
- shell of
the snail

gently uncovering
his sweetness
the carress

our physique
so close there are parts
we wont ever see

Haiku collection

Swan Song
they wait for turn
to strut their stuff

at the gate
a rustling yellow carpet

white plum blossom
the leaves make exit
to showcase its radiance

riveting like his moustache
his jazz inches

spring blazing bloom
the scarecrows too
have come alive

elixir of life
the bee bends over
with no reservation

tea leaves
in the cup
an autumn lake

our morning walk
the clouds change its costume
from white to grey

autumn leaves
butterflies flit
in the winds

Saturday, April 11, 2009

A Collection of Haikus

chinese new year
a spread of red in
the sitting room

spring mountains
ballet dancer
and spiralling lace

on my finger

dusk dance
shadows in
the light

a seat in the blankness
of the mind

my skin and mother earth
there are patches
we wont want to show

Monday, March 16, 2009

Emily Dickinson

her mind is her husband and her heart, his wife
between them, she daily thinks about how
to to keep each other entertained
verses, rhymes her answers to her society's
foibles and beliefs beyond her time
the husband sings, and the wife dances
the children run in all the hidden pages
till one day they accidentally find themselves
in the gardens of everybody's thoughts

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Poem about Poetry - Layers of Consciousness

the trees, the mountains and rivers
transmit layers of consciousness
songs of incarnated states
now nature looks me back in the eyes
to unravel the things beyond them;
the moon, the sun and the stars
each of which carries symbols
and tales, rainbows that span
the horizon of my consciousness

the layers of thoughts nature parlays
in front of me carress this river of consciousness
i look at the sun and feel breathless
of the hope it still inspires and understand
how much tears it had helped to wipe
the round fiery sphere that now evokes
water and flame over the corridors of my mind

Jahan and Mumtaz, are you walking
the lane of love again, hand in hand
eyes glued to the pinnacle of love the Taj Mahal?

i look at the moon and realise the countless
nights it had helped illuminate for love wishes
to be made and prayers to be recited

i look at the river and see a quiet and
collected monk journeying in quest for nirvana
i see the vapour of the river rises to form rain
then beat down to reprise another tale of
the pain of growth physical and spiritual

in between all this, a young man looks back
and is fascinated by how everything has added
up to make this consciousness a bearer to all
that has gone beyond; mountain beyond
mountain, horizon over horizon

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Early Spring Song

i am from a tropical land
anything above 10 degree C
i can take, anything below
i would be running for cover
lend me your hands
lend me your bossom
give me your love better still
so that i can feel the warmth
of spring again, the spring of life

sakuras have finally bloomed
abundant as the stars in the sky
waving to us all over
luscious white and pink
feverishly pirouetting to the
celebratory laughters and songs
below the grand looking trees

each a fairest belle, a keen
eager cheerleader out to inspire
each and everyone to embrace
the new season before time could
rob them of their perfect gifts

look into my eyes, lead me into
those mersmerising dilating windows
centrum of love, where the warmth of
spring hangs over as if it will never go away

john tiong chunghoo

Friday, February 27, 2009

Travel Vietnam Haiku

Hoan Kiem Lake
chinese influence runs
so deep

Ba Din Square
in the quietness, a nation's
reverberating dream

Temple of Literature
on the myriad stelai, the crumbling
essence of confucius

Temple of Literature
children crowd to ancient sages
for good results

cold and stiller than a corpse
guards around Uncle Ho's
embalmed body

Considered the cultural center and former capital of North Vietnam, Hanoi's French influence shows in the charming tree-lined streets, lakes throughout the city, and abundant French colonial architecture, seen in buildings like the Opera House and the Presidential Palace. Romantic Hoan Kiem Lake is home to a variety of picturesque temples and bridges. Walk to the Temple of Literature, site of the country's oldest university, and then on to Ba Dinh Square, where communist revolutionary Ho Chi Minh ceremoniously declared Vietnam's independence in 1945. You can catch a glimpse of Ho's embalmed body at his mausoleum in the middle of the square.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Starbucks Cafe

starbucks cafe
the boy looks into
the eyes of the man
as he looks into his
cups of coffee from which
both draw their passion
their fingers stir a storm
both prefer to weather
by themselves

the girl looks into
the straining eyes of mom
limpid, brown, a shared
centrum they can hide
and blend their feelings
so that they do not spill over

both understand why
the bitter side of a beverage
is sometimes the most tempting
and fulfilling

a woman with crisp english
works hard to impress a
young british manager
in an engaging interview
their conversation often
hitting a pleasant high note
with short bitter sweet intervals
both intelligently hold off
with bursts of laughter

the conversant woman
recalls every place she had
worked from Hong Kong to
New York, and London, taking
the world around him to show
him how she could he his
piping hot tea or coffee
which ever he prefers

the waitor and a regular
guest eye and give each other
a cryptic smile as a new jazz
fusion tune trails the air
a cup of fresh brewed brazilian
without much waiting
comes onto the table
the aroma wafts through his senses
the innert looking male
quickly goes on to add
milk and sugar to draw the
best out of his day

the interviewed woman
fueled with enthusiasm
goes on and on
the manager listens carefully
in an effort to size her up - a
cup of coffee he wonders
he should be having year round

Monday, February 16, 2009

Alma Mater Blues

feels like lonely chilly autumn
leaves thrown asunder
ruffling the calm of lake
falling, scattering
all over your feet
each pace you take

grasses dance feverishly
while sparing birds' songs
work an echo in a soul
still looking for a place
in his alma mater

the old brass bell
that long ago held our hearts
and fervently accompanied
us through every minute
of school still hangs -
a solid air of authority -
a no nonsense master
recognising nothing
except the hourly call
to each new lesson,
new knowledge

the rows of
crimson classes
still stand with
quiet open doors

there, shadows of chairs
and tables gently cast
their geometric lines
all the way from the sun

the only element
at constant with my heart
then and now
a filamen i could cross
to take a close peak at those
obscure school years

the blackboards beckon
though - holding gently
at an attitude that stamp of infinity
when it comes to learning

fiery glow of setting sun
on the window panes
reflects those waves
of alma mater sentiments
and affections tugging
at my heartstrings

dedicated teachers,
strict teachers
straight As geniuses,
smart sport lads
the pretensious
the overambitious,
lonely hearts, libido driven
dreamy eyed boys, bullies, sissies -
all but now a cool reflective evening
for an unknown still trying to find
his footing in his old old school
shadow among shadows

Hafiz Muzaffar Mohsin Date : 10/2/2006
Its a nice poem

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Memoirs of a Geisha

between tokyo skyscrapers
her brilliant white powdered face dazzles
fancy of a thousand samurais
charming dainty seductive
unobstrusive sakura
first snow in summer
all year spring song

Sayuri Nitta (8/15/2008 6:05:00 AM)
this is a wonderful way to describe a geisha.
you can proberly tell i am a fan of the book, and film from my name.
sayuri nitta, its not my real name, its the geisha name from memoirs of a geisha.

Ana Monnar (7/30/2007 8:52:00 AM)
John, this is a beautiful poem. Thank you very much for sharing. I enjoyed it very much. The words are soooooooooo rich.

Raynette Eitel (11/21/2005 8:19:00 AM)
This is lovely, John. The image of the tiny geisha with dainty feet juxtaposed with the skyscrapers of Tokyo is memorable. Good poem. Raynette

Max Reif (11/21/2005 7:40:00 AM)
I know very little about Japanese traditions, but this is quite beautiful.

The Stair

the quietness of the
setting sun is haunting
the hurried chirp of
the returning swallows
echoing round the school
evokes a forlorness this
evening chill works to thicken
those flighty years have
come back like swallows
to roost, each echoing
a pain, a joy, a tear, a
smile, a hug, a kiss, a loss

each step of this stair
spins a tale, walks me up
a time warp of yearnings
and disillusions
the stair where a thousand
dreams were spun and another
thousand trailed the wind

Friday, February 13, 2009

A Poem for Valentine's Day

the girls they feel like flowers today
touched, fresh and loved
something to keep each leaf
of memory textured like roses
forever an 18 year old who could
dig into their garden of recollections
for a robust bloom of romance

fhe flower sellers too grin like love wishes
on the bright bouquets sent out to paint up
the life of blessed girls who have been
praying for a rainbow to love paradise

how they wish everyday can be a Valentine
when eager boys would help pile up
the cash boxes with their months' savings
when bouquet of roses can be sold
at five times their price right up
to three in the early morning

every sidewalk cafe and restaurant too
are a roaring scene as love spreads
from mouth to mouth, heart to heart
when love is in the air everybody
shares it with somebody over the dinner table
lighted like a candle, coloured like a cezane,
flows like a piece of swirling waltz
our feet cant keep up with and melts
like little blocks of ice in our glass of wine
so that we can warm up and reach
out to each other for a time to remember

Monday, February 9, 2009

1.4 million years in a Second

a mood swing? an interval?
a pause in the mind? of the mind?
a single entity that plays out its evolution game
1.4 million years in all within a second of this
body of 48 giving another dimension to a face

10,000 years for each earth citizen

the earth has enough years
to give every of its citizens
10,000 years or more
to live alone on the planet

and as many more years
left over for every animal to enjoy
the whole planet on its own

the earth is a kind old man
lost in arithmetics
with too many of its citizens
lost in impatience

they squeeze the earth
into a little time box
suffocate it with inventions
and willingly lead it
down the road of destructions

the earth has enough years
to give every of its citizens
10,000 years or more
to live alone on the planet

Raveendran . (4/1/2008 11:07:00 AM)
Fantastic imagination, equitable style

Vidyadhar ... (3/1/2008 6:44:00 AM)
10000 years to live alone in the planet...I like it

Lime and Tequila with a Splash of Pineapple (2/5/2008 10:55:00 AM)
I liked this. I liked the thought behind it. And on some days, I really wouldn't mind a small portion of my 10,000 years.

Fred Babbin (12/7/2007 10:58:00 AM)
Just a litle bit crude, but I read your biography and loved it. It is so poetic.

Penny Hemans (10/27/2007 3:41:00 PM)
and each micro-second is a time of joy... and our planet one to be nurtured... I love the roses too, thanks so much John xxPenny

Hema Kadir (6/1/2007 4:38:00 AM)
we all have all the time on earth......if we would but realise it! John I loved this work ```hema

Melvina Germain (4/9/2007 8:32:00 PM)
Thought provoking to say the least, we should all slow down a bit and as Linda says smell the roses. Wonderful poem John---Melvina---

Raghavan Warrier (1/9/2007 1:46:00 PM)
Nice piece John. But me too is in a mad rush. I don't know why?

Ivan Donn Carswell (12/28/2006 1:45:00 PM)
Is living alone a 'choice' - perhaps of necessity, or a rational decision? Interesting arithmetic, my guess is we have less than 10,000 years left. Sadly intropective John, and very thought provoking.

Linda Ori (12/28/2006 10:50:00 AM)
So take time to smell the roses! It seems everything is going faster and faster with each passing year. Maybe the earth has time, but man is on a tight schedule, and anxious to cram it all into a few years of existence, just in case our time is shorter than we think. Thought-provoking write, John.

1914 IV: The Dead

the years did to him
like they had to wines
a calmness, mellowness

-submissions to the divine
tempests, victory and loss-

they poured a shade onto him
like amber - leaves that return
a million years to shine like miracles

the halo round the buddha
circled the realms for answers
to every breath, every consciousness
before crowning him with triumph

every year of study of the sutras
brings new understanding,
new awakenings, a clearer sky
the manner vintage wine surprises (greets)
the tongue every new spring

David Desantis (4/29/2008 2:07:00 PM)
wow...beautiful. I love the equation of year to wine, calm mellowness in age....very good man

Fred Babbin (12/7/2007 11:02:00 AM)
A coincidence - I am a Buddhist.

Riquetta Elliott (12/5/2007 10:28:00 AM)
John your poem made me feel so calm and mellow. I have to crown you for writing your poem so well written and enthused. Outstanding work please persist to write more.

Penny Hemans (10/21/2007 2:19:00 AM)
Rupert Brooke has been an inspiration in our family for a lifetime: John, your poem is an inspiration and an insight into the poet; makes one feel cool, calm, mellow; so good to read...xxxPenny

Ivor Hogg (10/3/2007 11:12:00 AM)
If only the human race matured as a whole race instead of as seperate individuals the world would be a better place
Yet each life contributes something to the overall tapestry

Lee Degnan (10/8/2006 5:35:00 PM)
Awesome write, John, I enjoyed reading this one....

Debbie Kean (8/11/2006 7:10:00 AM)
Oh, awesome! Your poem is so evocative, wonderful... I love the idea of wine and people mellowing...

Meredith Creek (12/4/2005 6:35:00 PM)
WOW! Great work. Meredith

Steve Armstrong (11/22/2005 1:26:00 PM)
Hi John,
Loved this, very good wording! A 10 from me

Mary Nagy (10/24/2005 6:28:00 AM)
John, This is very lovely. Great poem. Sincerely, Mary

Sunday, February 8, 2009

One most beautiful Song

a bird in the tree sings
one most beautiful song
is it his ode to the world?
or is it a symphony the world
plays through one brilliant piano
it has fashioned and held close
to its fingers and heart?

David Desantis (5/21/2008 8:13:00 AM)
very nice, a pretty poem...singing birds make me happy in the morning haha

Two candles burn through the night

chinese wedding
two red candles burn
though the night

wax sizzles,
drips, drips
with our red hot
passion for each other

drips, drips
fluidly down the bars
the whole night

drips, drips, with
each pause of
our desire
each hug of our
affirmation for
each other

drips, drips
with our thirst
for each other

drips, drips
and clings to
the bars, warm
as our bossoms

drips, drips
the night into our
for each other

drips drips till
the morning
turning the night
into an ecstatic
tour de tour, a union
crystallising in
a mass of bliss
resting in the quiet
of two exhaust candles

Shelley L Baxter-Stanley (5/29/2007 8:59:00 PM)
Very original and different thinking to comment on such a thing...Great imagery and beauty in your words! I love how it overlaaps with other feelings and thoughts as you consider and think about two red candles.
A thought provoking piece that is well written and interesting......Great JOb John.

Jamal Ludin (4/8/2007 12:05:00 PM)
what a structure -i want to imitate one -beautiful

A Cradle Song

over the cradle
over the sarong
so many lullabies
were sung for us
lullabies that swung
us into a sweet
wonderland, our own
paradise of Oz,
land of love, warm
kisses and pleasant dreams

first brother sang
to third sister,
third sister to sixth sister

and also mom, aunties
and uncles were so
creative and lively
I could not help
chuckle along to
their spontaneous
self styled songs
that praised me, assured me
swung me into a
halcyon wonderland

the Speech Spirit
himself too
could not wait
to come acalling
with his ribtickling
zesty bassy lullabies
and captivating
children's poetry to
help us remember words
so that we can one day
too swing the world - like
the cradle we were in

little wonder seventh
brother all alone had
titter the world away
shrouded in a sarung

the Speech Spirit that
slowly helped him build up
his future world

Raghavan Warrier (12/25/2006 6:01:00 PM)
Nice poem. First time I heard of speech spirit.

Suzan Gumush (12/10/2006 6:29:00 AM)
Great verse. Best wishes suzan

Nimal Dunuhinga (8/17/2006 3:43:00 AM)
From cradle to the grave the lullaby travels..................a melancholy song?

Linda Hepner (8/5/2005 10:44:00 AM)
I do like the way you reach into the cradle and into the past... and future!

Kimberly Strothman Anderson (7/22/2005 7:08:00 PM)
I find this very touching

Friday, January 16, 2009

World famous Painting Haiku - Christina's World

Christina's World
love is worth
crawling for

Christina's world
still crawling to find
a footing in America

Christina's World
home is where
the warmth of love is

below courtesy of New York Times:
Andrew Wyeth who died Jan 16,2009 (Friday) gave America a prim and flinty view of Puritan rectitude, starchily sentimental, through parched gray and brown pictures of spooky frame houses, desiccated fields, deserted beaches, circling buzzards and craggy-faced New Englanders.
A virtual Rorschach test for American culture during the better part of the last century, Wyeth split public opinion as vigorously as, and probably even more so than, any other American painter including the other modern Andy, Warhol, whose milieu was as urban as Wyeth’s was rural.

Because of his popularity, a bad sign to many art world insiders, Wyeth came to represent middle-class values and ideals that modernism claimed to reject, so that arguments about his work extended beyond painting to societal splits along class, geographical and educational lines.
One art historian, in response to a 1977 survey in Art News magazine about the most underrated and overrated artists of the century, nominated Wyeth for both categories.

One picture encapsulated his fame. “Christina’s World” became an American icon like Grant Wood’s “American Gothic, ” or Whistler’s portrait of his mother or Emmanuel Leutze’s “Washington Crossing the Delaware.” Wyeth said he thought the work was “a complete flat tire” when he originally sent it off to the Macbeth Gallery in Manhattan in 1948. The Museum of Modern Art bought it for $1,800.

Wyeth had seen Christina Olson, crippled from the waist down, dragging herself across a Maine field, “like a crab on a New England shore, ” he recalled. To him she was a model of dignity who refused to use a wheelchair and preferred to live in squalor rather than be beholden to anyone.

It was dignity of a particularly dour, hardened, misanthropic sort, to which Wyeth throughout his career seemed to gravitate. Olson is shown in the picture from the back. She was 55 at the time. (She died 20 years later, having become a frequent subject in his art; her death made the national news thanks to Wyeth’s popularity.)

It is impossible to tell her age in the painting or what she looks like, the ambiguity adding to the overall mystery. So does the house, which Wyeth called a dry-bone skeleton of a building, a symbol during the Depression of the American pastoral dream in a minor key, the house’s whitewash of paint long gone, its shingles warped, the place isolated against a blank sky.

As popular paintings go, “Christina’s World” is remarkable for being so dark and humorless, yet the public seemed to focus less on its gothic and morose quality and more on the way Wyeth painted each blade of grass, a mechanical and unremarkable kind of realism that was distinctive if only for going against the rising tide of abstraction in America in the late 1940’s.

ButterflyWings Haiku published in Mainichi Daily News

Daily Haiku Selection
Jan. 14, 2009
trailing us from the boulder
two eyes on
the butterfly wings
john tiong chunghoo (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
(Mainichi Japan) January 14, 2009

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Remembering Dylan Thomas' Do not Go Gentle into That Good Night

the flickering light ignites a fear
the menacing billowing dimness
evokes a fear that the light would
join the darkness to obliterate a dream
there as it flickers - a little yellow lady
kneeling in ferocious prayers -
almost to its last, another set of fire
bursts into action and rages in a towering
inferno against the dying of the light
against the dying of a wish, against
the dying of a torch of courage that
has kept this poetic path alighted
in the worst of storms

by john tiong chunghoo
inspired by Dylan Thomas'
Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

Gemini Featherstone (1/12/2009 8:27:00 PM) Oh my God. I love the Dylan Thomas poem, but your poem was AMAZING! ! ! The metaphor, the imagery, the feeling... everything about it was perfect. I love the 'little yellow lady' line! Words elude me. Great job!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

My external Body

my physical body -
when it lacks water
talks to me through
a thirst in the tongue
when it is not well,
envelopes me in a fever

my external body
when it is sick -
too let me feel its
rising temperature,
that if it is not taken
care of would not be able
to sustain my survival

john tiong chunghoo

Kay Bressner (1/11/2009 10:39:00 AM) I think that this is an excellent poem!