Chen-ou Liu's Translation Project: First English-Chinese Haiku and Tanka Blog

Monday, August 21, 2017

Selected Tanka: Storm Clouds Tanka

a man and his dogs 
stand by the gated entrance:
Niggerhead
under a coat of white paint
as storm clouds approach

Special Feature: Unspeakable Body, Atlas Poetica, 2012

Note: Niggerhead is the name of a secluded West Texas hunting camp.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Ten Years After

Bathed in winter sunlight, Father sits on the front porch stairs. A wooden cane between his knees, hand over hand, resting on the handle.

white streaks
in my hair and beard
first homecoming

I ask Father, "How have you been these years?" I immediately regret my stupid question. Without answering, Father looks deep into my eyes ... a smile emerges at the corners of his mouth.

Contemporary Haibun Online, 13:2, July 2017

Friday, August 18, 2017

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Aftermath

first confession
after the election:
Father, I've sinned;
I did not choose
the lesser of two evils

the sugary bust
of Donald Trump
was stolen ...
a Mexican migrant
smiling to himself


Kokako, 26, April 2017

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Selected Tanka: Pin-Drop Silence Tanka

I used to be...
from an immigrant's mouth
stretches his story --
the pin-drop silence
fills an ESL classroom
(Note: ESL stands for English as a Second Language)

Gusts, 16, Fall/Winter 2012


This tanka really spoke to me as it reminded me of when I taught ESL to adults.

I used to be…
This is one of the saddest things you hear immigrants or refugees say. Their identity is often based in the past, left behind in their country of origin....

Sometimes when students start to share personal details it is like the opening of a flood gate of thoughts and emotions. The use of the verb stretches is very apt here....

The other students listen in silence. There is no need for a teacher to impose silence on the class. They listen out of respect for their classmate. Perhaps they have had a similar experience. The silence is absolute, captured by the poet...

At the end of the tanka we are left in our dreaming room. What was his story? What is his future? ...

The language in this tanka is simple and concise.
The punctuation when it is used is very effective.
The ellipsis at the end of the first line suggests that the student pauses before he tells his story. It also invites the reader to focus on the student. The em dash at the end of the third line shifts the perspective from the speaker to the rest of the class.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Selected Tanka: Woman in Black Tanka

I look sideways
at a woman in black
mentally
undressing her...
she undresses me back

Gusts, 16, Fall/Winter 2012

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Selected Haibun: A Transplanted Life

Since I opened the pages of Being and Time, his words, "Death is a way to be, which Dasein takes over as soon as it is," have lingered in the back of my mind for a week, like a silent check on my immigration dream: being a poet who can write in an adopted tongue and find his own way by moonlight.

At twilight, while walking on a wooden path around Lake Ontario, I hear the sound of the grass growing beneath my feet, and the air is filled with the scent of wild flowers. Just a stone's throw away, two seagulls take flight for the lake.

dewdrops on a leaf
the notes of an erhu
come from afar

Haibun Today, 6:4, December 2012

Friday, August 11, 2017

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Fireplace and Dog Haiku

first snowy night
writing paper, my dog
and the fireplace

Wordless: Haiku Canada 40 Years of Haiku, 2017

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Selected Tanka Sequence: The Same Old Story

first sunlight
after Valentine's Day
her heart
beating against mine
in a cheap motel room

her departing words
each star has its own journey
linger with me...
the mouth of darkness swallows
our summer stars and her

in twilight
rustling maple leaves
have a voice
that answers the storm
I murmur, what am I?

returned mail
from my ex-girlfriend
piles up...
flakes of thought drifting
in a world of one color

New Year's cleanup...
finding her wadded-up bra
under the bed
at last I breathe in
the smell of her betrayal

Red Lights, 9:1, January 2013

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Selected Haibun: A New Beginning, and Yet …

first sunrise …
to wear or not to wear
my father’s face

On the night before I left for Canada, Father said to me in a matter-of-fact tone, “The most valuable thing I’ve given you is your life. From now on, it solely belongs to you, and you’re on your own journey. My final words to you are that the life of your own should be spent this way: when looking back at it, you'll not have regrets of any wasted time or the failure to accomplish something significant."

deepening twilight …
once again I read
Basho’s death poem

Note: Historically speaking, Basho didn’t write the formal death poem on his deathbed, but the following haiku, being his last poem recorded, is generally viewed as his poem of farewell.

sick on my journey,
only my dreams will wander
these desolate moors

Chrysanthemum, 12, October 2012