". . . little shall I grace my cause

In speaking for myself. Yet, by your gracious patience,

I will a round unvarnish'd tale deliver . . ."

(William Shakespeare's Othello, I.iii.88-90)

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

National Poetry Month, Day 6

One of the most famous uses of imagery in poetry is this poem by William Carlos Williams:

Farm Girl Feeding Chickens, Julien Dupre*

"The Red Wheelbarrow"

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

The poem paints a vivid but simple scene. People have been studying it for years, wondering what exactly depends on the red wheel barrow. What do you think the answer is? Why do you think the poem has no capital letters and no punctuation?

One popular poetic form that greatly depends on imagery is the haiku.** Maybe you have written one before. A haiku is a three-line poem about nature. It is Japanese in origin. It is simple but presents a powerful image. The first and third lines have five syllables each; the second line has seven syllables. Here is an example of a haiku in the original Japanese:

Furuike ya 
kawazu tobikomu 
mizu no oto

by Matsuo Basho***

There are various English translations of this poem. Some translators don't try to maintain the syllables but just focus on trying to translate as closely as possible. For example, here is a translation by Robert Hass:

The old pond--
a frog jumps in,
sound of water.

Other translators attempt to maintain both the content and the syllables. Here is a translation by Dion O'Donnol.

The silent old pond
a mirror of ancient calm,
a frog-leaps-in splash.

Which translation do you like better?

Today, try writing your own haiku. If you would like to write about something besides nature you can do so, but then it is called a senryu. Have fun!

*I couldn't find a public domain image of a red wheel barrow but if you look for one you will find zillions because so many artists have been inspired to create one!
**"The Red Wheelbarrow" is not a haiku but is similar in presenting a simple but vivid picture.
***Thank you to Famous Poets and Poems for the original version and translations of "The Old Pond." 

1 comment:

Phillip said...

Midwestern Autumn

the crispness of sky
revealing eternal blue
above the prairie