Editor: Ray Rasmussen
Guest Editor: Anita Virgil
Introduction (if this text is too small click on -> enlarge)
This website contains a collection of images and poems by some of the well-known poets in the contemporary haiku, senryu, tanka and haibun genres. Also included are poems from Asian poetry masters – voices from the past sharing the same sensibilities as we, who think of ourselves as modern, have. Indeed, the title of this website is taken from a poem by Tu Fu1, who lived in the eighth century.
The collection may give the impression that during this later period of life, one dwells mostly on aging. But for the most part, the living contributors enjoy creative lives and they do write about other subjects and even on the subject of aging with humour.2
There is an important irony in the presentation – while some may see the subject of aging as dour, this website is more about the beauty of age shown through images and the enjoyment and sharing of experience through poetry.
The poetry, in particular, has the feeling of wabi-sabi, a term that represents a Japanese aesthetic centered on the acceptance of transience – an acknowledgment of three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.3 Because many of the writers are living the last quarter of their lives and write in these genres, which originated in Japan, it's natural that some of their writing focuses on aging and has a wabi-sabi ambience.
I hope you enjoy this collection, but I suspect it will make for somewhat melancholy reading. If so, perhaps a glass of whiskey or a cup of hot chocolate by the fireside will help as the season of winter approaches.
Contents and Selections
The term editor comes from the Latin phrase editus which means "to put forward.” The poems and images are put forward for your viewing by Ray Rasmussen with the assistance of Anita Virgil, who provided many of image-poem combinations along with some input on the design of this website. The editor ludorum in Ancient Rome was the person who put on the games and who chose which gladiators were to be presented to the public. I regret that we are providing but a small sampling of the writing on this topic. Nonetheless, the game must go on. However, if you have a poem that you think is suitable for the website, contact the editor4 and it will be considered.
This website provides a mix of images and poetry – a contemporary version of an ancient Japanese practice called haiga, in which a brushwork painting was combined with calligraphic haiku. Contemporary haiga is practiced as any type of image accompanied by a haiku, senryu or tanka poem.5
The images and poems have been paired in two ways: illustrative and oblique. In an illustrative pairing, the subject of the image is directly related to the content of the poem. If the poem references a meadow, for example, the image might show a meadow. When the pairing is oblique (not directly illustrative), you may have to stretch your mind a bit to see the relationship – or perhaps your personal connection of image with poem won't be the intended one. Former US Poet Laureate Billy Collins, for one, would not have you worry about it.6
The poems on this website have their roots in the ancient Japanese traditions of haiku, senryu, tanka and haibun. In their contemporary English-language incarnation, haiku and senryu are typically presented in three lines and consist of two distinct phrases totaling seventeen or fewer syllables.7 Tanka is usually a five-line poem.8 Haibun, which also enjoys a long history in Japanese literature, is a mix of prose plus one or more haiku, senryu or tanka poems. The poems bring an added dimension to the prose.9
Navigating this Website
Depending on your computer screen's resolution, the poem-images may look too big (e.g., the poem or image don't fit fully on your screen) or too small (e.g., the text is difficult to read). In the left-had navigation column, "index-small" will lead you to smaller images and "Index-large" to larger ones. At any time you can switch to the size that best suits you.
1. Tu Fu (2004). Wabi Sabi Simple. Adams Media. ISBN 1-59337-178-0. -> Tu Fu's Poem
2. As examples of humour see Issa's or Jim Kacian's poems.
3. Powell, Richard R. (2004). Wabi Sabi Simple. Adams Media. ISBN 1-59337-178-0.
4. Information and website design contact: R.V. Rasmussen
5. Readers who wish to learn more about haiga might start with the Haigaonline website for definitions and examples of traditional, experimental and contemporary haiga.
6. Billy Collins, "Introduction to Poetry," The Apple that Astonished Paris, 1996, University of Arkansas Press, Fayetteville, Ark.
7. Readers who wish to learn more about haiku and senryu will find the following websites to be helpful:
Haiku Society of America: Definitions Page
Haiku Chronicles #9: The Definition (A voice recording)
8. Readers who wish to learn more about tanka will find the following website to be helpful:
Tanka Society of America: What is tanka?
9. Readers who wish to learn more about haibun will find the Contemporary Haibun Online and Haibun Today websites helpful.
Copyright © 2010. All images and poetry are the property of the cited photographers and poets. Nothing from this website may be copied or used in any way without the written permission of the cited poet or photographer.