Pax Americana

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Called up by Mr. Sheply, who is going into the country to-day to Hinchingbroke, I sent my service to my Lady, and in general for newes: that the world do think well of my Lord, and do wish he were here again, but that the publique matters of the State as to the war are in the worst condition that is possible. By and by Sir W. Warren, and with him half an hour discoursing of several businesses, and some I hope will bring me a little profit. He gone, and Sheply, I to the office a little, and then to church, it being thanksgiving-day for the cessation of the plague; but, Lord! how the towne do say that it is hastened before the plague is quite over, there dying some people still,1 but only to get ground for plays to be publickly acted, which the Bishops would not suffer till the plague was over; and one would thinke so, by the suddenness of the notice given of the day, which was last Sunday, and the little ceremony. The sermon being dull of Mr. Minnes, and people with great indifferency come to hear him.
After church home, where I met Mr. Gregory, who I did then agree with to come to teach my wife to play on the Viall, and he being an able and sober man, I am mightily glad of it. He had dined, therefore went away, and I to dinner, and after dinner by coach to Barkeshire-house, and there did get a very great meeting; the Duke of York being there, and much business done, though not in proportion to the greatness of the business, and my Lord Chancellor sleeping and snoring the greater part of the time. Among other things I declared the state of our credit as to tallys to raise money by, and there was an order for payment of 5000l. to Mr. Gawden, out of which I hope to get something against Christmas. Here we sat late, and here I did hear that there are some troubles like to be in Scotland, there being a discontented party already risen, that have seized on the Governor of Dumfreeze and imprisoned him, but the story is yet very uncertain, and therefore I set no great weight on it.
I home by Mr. Gawden in his coach, and so with great pleasure to spend the evening at home upon my Lyra Viall, and then to supper and to bed. With mighty peace of mind and a hearty desire that I had but what I have quietly in the country, but, I fear, I do at this day see the best that either I or the rest of our nation will ever see.

who is the new world order for
which hope-thin Christ

like free prison the weight
of quiet in our nation


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 20 November 1666.

injunction

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
what does one do               with ruin 

who is ordained to bring

order to the land & seasons

to flowering i am no king

languishing at the border of life &

death waiting for

an elixir of bird-song or magic

no bottomless wellspring am i

gladness ready to pay off

tithe collectors in the morning

what does one feed the furnace

always eager to devour to shreds

leashed dogs no less heartsick

than those without

Return of the native

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Lay pretty long in bed talking with pleasure with my wife, and then up and all the morning at my own chamber fitting some Tangier matters against the afternoon for a meeting. This morning also came Mr. Caesar, and I heard him on the lute very finely, and my boy begins to play well. After dinner I carried and set my wife down at her brother’s, and then to Barkeshire-house, where my Lord Chancellor hath been ever since the fire, but he is not come home yet, so I to Westminster Hall, where the Lords newly up and the Commons still sitting. Here I met with Mr. Robinson, who did give me a printed paper wherein he states his pretence to the post office, and intends to petition the Parliament in it. Thence I to the Bull-head tavern, where I have not been since Mr. Chetwind and the time of our club, and here had six bottles of claret filled, and I sent them to Mrs. Martin, whom I had promised some of my owne, and, having none of my owne, sent her this. Thence to my Lord Chancellor’s, and there Mr. Creed and Gawden, Cholmley, and Sir G. Carteret walking in the Park over against the house. I walked with Sir G. Carteret, who I find displeased with the letter I have drawn and sent in yesterday, finding fault with the account we give of the ill state of the Navy, but I said little, only will justify the truth of it. Here we walked to and again till one dropped away after another, and so I took coach to White Hall, and there visited my Lady Jemimah, at Sir G. Carteret’s lodgings. Here was Sir Thomas Crew, and he told me how hot words grew again to-day in the House of Lords between my Lord Ossory and Ashly, the former saying that something said by the other was said like one of Oliver’s Council. Ashly said that he must give him reparation, or he would take it his owne way. The House therefore did bring my Lord Ossory to confess his fault, and ask pardon for it, as he was also to my Lord Buckingham, for saying that something was not truth that my Lord Buckingham had said. This will render my Lord Ossory very little in a little time. By and by away, and calling my wife went home, and then a little at Sir W. Batten’s to hear news, but nothing, and then home to supper, whither Captain Cocke, half foxed, come and sat with us, and so away, and then we to bed.

sitting I have no wind
and six bottles

walking I have all
my old words again

saying something its own way
calling up a fox


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 19 November 1666.

Autumn Metropolis (videohaiku sequence)

If you experience playback issues with the Vimeo link above, try the YouTube playlist version instead.

This 17-video sequence of videos based mostly in London, with one from the outskirts of Swindon, concludes my year-long series of haiku videos, which began with Winter Trees and continued in Pennsylvania Spring and Summer in the UK: 80 videos in all. As with the other three collections, the canonical link is at davebonta.com.

Let me paste in the text, with the first line of each haiku linking to the original post here at Via Negativa where I wrote about where it was shot and what might’ve prompted it. I’ll post some concluding thoughts below.

Autumn Metropolis

peace garden
the nonresistance
of leaves

*

back alleys
it’s not whether but how
we go to seed

*

building site
the four-square mounds
of unearthed earth

*

poetry festival
someone says the lake
isn’t a lake

*

in wild
flower beds now
only the cosmos

*

200 years
after Keats’ ode
autumn persists

*

churchyard labyrinth
zeroing in
on the X

*

where the dead
are said to sleep
my autumn face

*

skyline
the immensity
of our loss

*

wet sidewalk
beneath the fallen leaves
another sky

*

London after Blake
bearded hipsters open
a pop-up brothel

*

in this human city
an ash tree sings
possessed by starlings

*

hunting mushrooms
I find
a small circus

*

November rain
a mouse forages under
the garden table

*

this slower autumn
from which there’s no return
cold to my bones

*

guard dog
wagging your tail
I’m leaving now

*

moon at the station
imagine belonging
to just one place

*

Today I watched the whole sequence together for the first time, three weeks after finishing the last video and returning to the U.S., and I have to admit I’m kind of pleased with it — which isn’t my usual reaction to things I’ve made. I think I can detect a gradual improvement in both my haiku writing and my video editing over the course of the year, though I think there’s more continuity than not. I still think single-shot videos work best for haiku, freeing the viewer to give these super-brief texts their full (if not undivided) attention. For that reason, out of this sequence I think “poetry festival”, “skyline” and “moon at the station” are the most successful, though with a video like “peace garden”, I wouldn’t not want the extra shots at the beginning, which help establish context and also introduce additional found text. “Guard dog” does this perhaps even better. Other videos where I took advantage of additional text in the shots include “London after Blake”, “hunting mushrooms”, “churchyard labyrinth” (that cross read as an X, as in Xmas). In “back alleys” and “this slower autumn”, graffiti lend a calligraphic touch, and could be seen as tongue-in-cheek allusions to traditional haiga.

The plethora of texts within the environment is one interesting aspect of making videohaiku, or any sort of videopoetry, in urban locations. Then there’s the ability to connect to great artists or writers who may have lived or worked nearby — not generally as easy a thing to do in the backwoods. So for example the Keats and Blake references set in parts of London where they’d actually spent time.

But most of all, what I have enjoyed about walking around towns and cities this year is not knowing what I might discover around the next bend — which is actually very similar to the way I experience forests. The rich cultural and historical diversity compensates to some extent for the radically impoverished biodiversity. “Hunting mushrooms” is my attempt to suggest something of that sleight-of-hand here. Though it could’ve used a better shot focusing on the mushroom-cap shape of that circus tent… which points up one of the pitfalls of working in this ekphrastic manner. The spontaneity of haphazard shooting on a cellphone is a great fit with the modern haiku ethos, but it does mean that you often have to settle for less-than-ideal footage. The shot in “building site” is really rather sub-par, for example, due in part to poor light and in part to constant vibrations of the road surface I was shooting from as huge trucks rumbled past behind me. But it ended up sparking a fairly interesting text, I thought, even if as a haiku it’s perhaps a bit too clever, too lacking in lightness.

Where do I go from here? It’s tempting to go back and re-do some of my videos from last winter and spring, applying new techniques I learned in the course of the project. I thought about putting all the videos into one humongous Vimeo collection and YouTube sequence, but I don’t know that anyone would ever actually watch it. A better idea might be to select the best half or two-thirds of them and roll them into a single film with a run-time of under one hour, presuming I can figure out how to do this with the video editing tools at my disposal, and call it something like Crossing the Pond: A Transatlantic Haiku Year. Then I’d have something I could, I don’t know, put on a DVD? With an accompanying book? I’d appreciate feedback from anyone who’s been following this project. What would you like to see? Or are the four online sequences sufficient?

Light verses

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

(Lord’s day). Up by candle-light and on foote to White Hall, where by appointment I met Lord Bruncker at Sir W. Coventry’s chamber, and there I read over my great letter, and they approved it: and as I do do our business in defence of the Board, so I think it is as good a letter in the manner, and believe it is the worst in the matter of it, as ever come from any office to a Prince.
Back home in my Lord Bruncker’s coach, and there W. Hewer and I to write it over fair; dined at noon, and Mercer with us, and mighty merry, and then to finish my letter; and it being three o’clock ere we had done, when I come to Sir W. Batten; he was in a huffe, which I made light of, but he signed the letter, though he would not go, and liked the letter well. Sir W. Pen, it seems, he would not stay for it: so, making slight of Sir W. Pen’s putting so much weight upon his hand to Sir W. Batten, I down to the Tower Wharf, and there got a sculler, and to White Hall, and there met Lord Bruncker, and he signed it, and so I delivered it to Mr. Cheving, and he to Sir W. Coventry, in the cabinet, the King and councill being sitting, where I leave it to its fortune, and I by water home again, and to my chamber, to even my Journall; and then comes Captain Cocke to me, and he and I a great deal of melancholy discourse of the times, giving all over for gone, though now the Parliament will soon finish the Bill for money. But we fear, if we had it, as matters are now managed, we shall never make the best of it, but consume it all to no purpose or a bad one. He being gone, I again to my Journall and finished it, and so to supper and to bed.

light on a fence
I believe in the clock

light on the wharf
we consume to no purpose


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 18 November 1666.

Compendium

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
The mind is large: an auditorium
that could shelter whole neighborhoods
unhomed by a natural disaster. Or maybe it is
some kind of ancient labyrinth
whose blueprint could only be memorized
by touching each object along the way
and reciting their names in order. Then,
weeks or months afterwards, one
finally steps into the center and comes
face-to-face with the creature
that sat so long in the dark waiting
for your arrival. It asks you
what you've brought besides that filthy
ball of string which used to be red
but now looks caked with mud. Wouldn't you
like to know, you say, handing it to him
and taking his place in the center as it moves
toward the opening in the hedge.


Cloistered

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Up, and to the office, where all the morning. At noon home to dinner, and in the afternoon shut myself in my chamber, and there till twelve at night finishing my great letter to the Duke of York, which do lay the ill condition of the Navy so open to him, that it is impossible if the King and he minds any thing of their business, but it will operate upon them to set all matters right, and get money to carry on the war, before it be too late, or else lay out for a peace upon any termes. It was a great convenience to-night that what I had writ foule in short hand, I could read to W. Hewer, and he take it fair in short hand, so as I can read it to-morrow to Sir W. Coventry, and then come home, and Hewer read it to me while I take it in long-hand to present, which saves me much time. So to bed.

where I shut myself in
the night lay open
that impossible hand

I read and read and read


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 17 November 1666.

Ambiguous Loss, Uncertain Grief

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
Among the many varieties of grief, I come
across ambiguous loss, also sometimes known

as uncertain grief: hanging about in a doorway,
unsure of whether to come in or stay outside,

just on the porch. When I ask what he
wants, he says I'm not sure or I don't

really know. So tell me the news
you've brought, I say. And he clears

his throat half a dozen times
and tries to begin, but can't seem

to form the words. In the half-light
he looks like a child who might have lost

his way but is too embarrassed or scared
to admit it. Then he turns, and he looks

much older— a five o'clock shadow
on his chin and around his mouth.

He reminds me of the cousin who came
knocking one night, crazed with the grief

of not knowing if any of his family
had made it out of their house in a land-

slide, after an earthquake. In such
a situation, it's natural to think

of the very worst possible thing that could
happen. And even if it proves not to be true,

the terrible swing from one moment's hope
to the next moment's stomach-churning panic

is the only thing that registers. Tell me,
I say again; I'd rather know. Wouldn't you

prefer the clarity of such a loss, such a grief,
rather than being kept in the limbo preceding it?



Turkey day

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Up again betimes to attend the examination of Mr. Gawden’s accounts, where we all met, but I did little but fit myself for the drawing my great letter to the Duke of York of the state of the Navy for want of money. At noon to the ‘Change, and thence back to the new taverne come by us; the Three Tuns, where D. Gawden did feast us all with a chine of beef and other good things, and an infinite dish of fowl, but all spoiled in the dressing.
This noon I met with Mr. Hooke, and he tells me the dog which was filled with another dog’s blood, at the College the other day, is very well, and like to be so as ever, and doubts not its being found of great use to men; and so do Dr. Whistler, who dined with us at the taverne. Thence home in the evening, and I to my preparing my letter, and did go a pretty way in it, staying late upon it, and then home to supper and to bed, the weather being on a sudden set in to be very cold.

I fit myself
for the wing of want

an infinite fowl
filled with blood and whistle

who dined with us at home
ate to be eaten


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 16 November 1666.