Ryokan – Part 3

It’s been a while, but I thought I would finish my period of reading Ryokan with my own little poem about him. This owes something to haiku of various kinds, and perhaps also to Robert Pinsky’s Impossible to Tell


leaves the summer moon at the window
to watch over the cool grass
he sits
rocking back and forth
like falling maple leaves
in the ever-changing revolving autumn
his thoughts curl and loop
as characters in his writing
the brush swooping across paper
the old fool
drunkenly dances
dreams rush like blown snow
the sound of pines
is no different in the dew-clean colours of spring
seasons change
a delicate haiku
his life has come and gone
like a dream

A poetic experiment…

Or should I say an experiment in poetry. Whether or not it’s poetic is up to you to decide. Anyway, I recently started re-reading a lovely book on writing poetry called The Ode Less Travelled, by the stupendous Stephen Fry. This book contains a number of exercises on writing poetry, which I’ve been working through lately. The latest one was on syllabic poetry, which we’re all familiar with in the form of the haiku. Whether or not haiku work in English language poetry (they don’t), syllabic poetry can be interesting as an exercise in form.

Anyway, the last time I read this book was in 2006. So take a look at two things I wrote, about six years apart, with the same exact structure and the same topic, cleaning. The syllable pattern in this case is 361484163. Which do you prefer?


It comes off

With dust like white soap flakes


Washed right away

Bleached and clean as the Lethe’s flow

The naked rinse


Letting you breathe again

Through closed eyes.


Your hairs lie,

Trapped in between the sheets


As negatives,

Dirty as the trace of a sore,

The bleach will


This thread of memory,

Cold water.



Scrub, scrub, scrub

Out out damned spot, she says


He is slumped, out

Of commission on the couch

Slumped like daydreams


As the spray of Lysol

On windows


And he is

Circular argument


Prosaic tilt

And run of slackness, undone string

And lacking lilt


Out life like squeezing, hard,

A tiny sponge