to the small poem and the quiet voice within

ed markowski | basho’s road

BASHŌ’S ROAD / Ed Markowski | 6.3.08

Too often, reading and writing haiku is wading in shallow water. It feels good. It’s safe. You can see everything beneath the surface. No surprises. This is especially true in the beginning, testing the waters, getting one’s feet wet. Words float to the surface understandably and sometimes even reflect a little light.

Traditional, non-traditional: oh, it all comes together so simply. I can write these 5-7-5 lines with my eyes closed–or just say anything and make it a short poem.

But the true haiku (and/or the way to the small poem) lives and breathes in somewhat deeper waters. You may see it but you can’t quite catch it. And even when you may think you have it, something to show for your efforts, it keeps slipping away from you—as it should. That is its nature. That’s the true poem. At best, you catch the reflection. An then it’s gone. To live again in another moment of awareness.

Which brings to mind the work and words of Ed Markowski.

Unlike so many of the poets I admire, I have never read Ed’s poems on printed paper. Only the web. And primarily, one of my favorite sites Tinywords, which I have recommended to others in my writings before and I do so again. Part of my mission on Basho’s Road will include the periodic mention of exceptional poets writing ‘small’ and publications, websites, books devoted to this subject. So stay with me. And continue to spread the word up and down the road.

This may be the first poem by Ed Markowski I ever read—back in 2006:

dad’s grave…
all the flowers
he wouldn’t let mother plant

–Ed Markowski

And that’s it. Right there. He ‘nailed it’, so to speak. That’s what I’m after. That’s what we’re after. That’s what Basho’s Road is all about.

I continued to watch for Ed Markowski’s poems pop up on Tinywords. And I continued to admire everything he wrote. He’s got it, I said to myself. The scene. The eye to see inside. To simply lay the words on the line and let you see/feel for yourself.

In my humble estimation, my own small world of small poetry, he’s on his way to haiku master—if not already there.

After reading him for over two years, I thought I’d try to find him. Seek him out. Talk with him a little about his own journey inside the small poem. “Basho’s Road” in mind, he seemed a perfect stranger/poet to meet along the way and share with others.

I thought I’d begin with that old cliché “the haiku moment”—and so, here is Ed Markowski on this and that on other things to take to heart.– Norbert Blei

  • as for haiku moments…well… this is going to sound strange, but i’m in the process of dialing back my output.
  • i judged a book contest for the haiku society of america last year and that just burned me out completely.
  • i’m still convinced that the last thing the world needs is another collection of haiku.
  • i don’t look for haiku moments. i think it’s more a matter of learning the craft, and placing things within that framework…
  • one morning it was real foggy & i went out to rake the leaves. the leaves were ankle deep & covered everything. i thought, “well, i gotta begin somewhere.”
  • that turned into…

i’ve got to begin

  • which was subsequently included in an anthology of the best haiku of 2006. three days ago i found a review of that anthology in modern haiku. the guy who wrote the review praised this poem up and down. he read a lot of things into it, & i was happy that it meant so much to him, but really the piece is about raking leaves & nothing else.
  • i wrote my first minimalist poem in 1976. wrote my first haiku in 1989. it was a matter of tiring of writing screeds. i had to learn a different approach to the line for my fiction & figured haiku and senryu were a good place to start.
  • good haiku for me feature a fresh approach in terms of craft & subject matter & they contain the thread that ties the fragment and phrase together.
  • great haiku transcend genre & can stand with any poem regardless of length.
  • west meets east? i don’t really think about it much. the whole thing for me is a matter of entertainment, it doesn’t have anything to do with philosophy or anything like that. but, you know it is true that in so many instances, less is more.

mother’s day
a groundskeeper rests against
her headstone

  • i think the “haiku moment” is basically a mirage perpetrated by people who like to think they see the world in some special sort of way, or that they’re tuned into some higher frequency.
  • well, here’s another of my “haiku moments… i was sitting in my garage reading the paper on a 95 degree day. there was an artist’s sketch of a rapist on the front page. so,

june heat
the artist’s sketch
of the rapist’s face

  • came about. i thought the whole thing fit together somehow. it really is a matter of learning the form & then placing things within it.
  • “june heat” was subsequently published. so, i think the haiku moment is all about smoke & mirrors. you know, it’s an illusion.

house of mirrors
i promise my wife
i’ll change

tunnel of love
our eyes adjust
to the darkness

  • i noticed i failed to mention anything about the baseball haiku anthology
  • i just wanted to say that cor van den heuvel found a way to introduce haiku to a much larger audience.
  • i have 21 poems in the book.

teams chosen
the boy not chosen
lends me his glove

summer loneliness
dropping the pop-up
I toss to myself

  • last may 22nd, cor, al pizzarelli, brenda gannam, billy collins & i did a reading at the national arts club in manhattan. packed house, beautiful venue, etc. it really was remarkable. billy collins was very humble, a genuine nice guy. & this poem…

poet laureate
he slursh hish worsh
the shame ash i

  • has nothing to do with billy, it’s a self deprecating piece that harkens back to a life i led long ago.

Editor’s note: Ed Markowski’s poetry & short fiction have appeared in electronic & print journals both nationally & internationally.

He will be reading at the Chautauqua Institution on June 26th with Cor Van Den Heuvel & Al Pizzarelli from Baseball Haiku, The Best Haiku Ever Written About The Game, as part of Chautauqua’s Sport In America Week. Ed lives with his wife Laurie in Auburn Hills, Michigan.

1 Comment

  1. david giacalone

    Many thanks for bringing Ed’s work to a broader audience. If this posting makes you want more Markowski haiku and senryu, please go to f/k/a, where you will find hundreds of Ed’s one-breath poems (usually interspersed with commentary on many topics). Go to the Ed Markowski archive page as a place to start, and enjoy.

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