Monthly Archives: May 2012

for Kai

This is unmistakably a love poem.
There are the two bodies almost tidally locked
with an invisible center of mass
at the heart of the dance, perfectly still.
Jupiter has a stripe the color of your hair.
It moves Io as it does me
and keeps the plates surrounding her heart
loose and yielding,
the untempered emotion of her core
always leaking out.
Europa has some sway, too.

I am in love with it all:
the curlicued gases cavorting with rocks
and the icy driftwood flowing
into and around and through the frenzied tarantella,
some caught,
some just passing through
on the way to other partners
in the orrery.  We are certainly
the main couple on the dance floor.
Out of the corner of my eye,
I see Ganymede with us
completing the circle:

This collaborative haiku is slightly different from others I’ve initiated on this blog.  Like the other haikus, this is a renga.  A renga is a collaborative haiku with a two stanza (5-7-5 and 7-7) structure.  This renga will be longer with many stanzas rather than just two, and submissions will be accepted on a “first come, first serve” basis rather than judged.  In other words, the first person to submit a stanza will win the spot provided they meet the very basic guidelines below. In essence, we’ll be growing a haiku together stanza by stanza, a process that renga master Matsuo Basho (1644–1694) thought led to “newness.”

To submit stanzas, please provide your lines using the “leave a comment” option with this post.  Please indicate which stanza you are submitting (e.g., lines 4,5 or lines 6,7,8) to limit confusion.   You will be submitting stanzas (either the next 5-7-5 or next 7-7) not single lines.  Soon as I see the next stanza has been submitted, I’ll post it.  Keep an eye on the comments to see if a stanza is already spoken for.  Some commonsense guidelines:  1)  Profanity has its place though probably not in a brief haiku where syllables are precious.  Any profanity will be scrutinized.  2)  Please stay with the general subject matter (our solar system); that said, don’t be afraid to introduce a surprising new twist to the poem.  All contributors will be acknowledged with initials in parentheses after their lines and with credit in the by-line of the final poem.

I thought a poem about wandering the solar system suited this type of meandering, surprising poetry best.  Looking forward to traveling around the planets, moons, asteroids, dwarf planets, planetoids, and trans-Neptunian objects with you all.

Here is the 5-7-5 to start us off.

Voyager 1's approach of Jupiter (NASA)

Voyager 1 approaches Jupiter (Credit: NASA)

Line 1 (5 syllables):  I wander lonely
Line 2 (7 syllables):  around the moon, gazing on
Line 3 (5 syllables):  shadow-pooled craters.  (TG)
Line 4 (7 syllables):  I follow Voyager’s path
Line 5 (7 syllables):  momentum taking me to  (LH)

Line 6 (5 syllables):  Jupiter: first glance
Line 7 (7 syllables):  at the volatile, swirling
Line 8 (5 syllables):  face of a giant.  (TG)
Line 9 (7 syllables):  Lo behold Galilean moons
Line 10 (7 syllables):  Ganymede, a small marble

Line 11 (5 syllables):  Next to Jupiter’s
Line 12 (7 syllables):  Massive celestial body
Line 13 (5 syllables):  Slips away from view.  (LH)
Line 14 (7 syllables):  Io rings her path in dust
Line 15 (7 syllables):  with each volcanic facelift.

Line 16 (5 syllables):  Her surface is a
Line 17 (7 syllables):  baby, no old history,
Line 18 (5 syllables):  like Ganymede’s lines.  (JAG)
Line 19 (7 syllables):  Yet a pair in age they could
Line 20 (7 syllables):  Sure and absolutely be.  (IB)

Line 21 (5 syllables):  The voyage on to
Line 22 (7 syllables):  Saturn is long and coldish
Line 23 (5 syllables):  Closer with each mile.  (IB)
Line 24 (7 syllables):
Line 25 (7 syllables):

Line 26 (5 syllables):
Line 27 (7 syllables):
Line 28 (5 syllables):
Line 29 (7 syllables):
Line 30 (7 syllables):

Line 31 (5 syllables):
Line 32 (7 syllables):
Line 33 (5 syllables):
Line 34 (7 syllables):
Line 35 (7 syllables):

Line 36 (5 syllables):
Line 37 (7 syllables):
Line 38 (5 syllables):
Line 39 (7 syllables):
Line 40 (7 syllables):

Quadrantids, 2012

Quadrantids, 2012
(Credit: NASA/MEO/B. Cooke)

This poem is hard to write.

It must contain an audience–
a woman and a dog–
in the hushed theater
beneath the beech tree.

It must contain actors
just off-stage
waiting for their cues.
In this cycle drama,
there is no villain or victor,
only a dust trail in the ether
we pass through.

It must contain the eager actor
who leaps onto the stage
and delivers his one line
not with a booming voice
but a whisper and a grand gesture
through the scrim
and ignites the funereal gloom overhead
as the audience leans in
and gasps.

It must contain the last trace
of the brilliantly-delivered line
through words
as fleeting as frost.

Congrats, Markus ★ Hammonds!  Your 7-7 lines were picked by the judges from the many wonderful submissions.  So here it is: the final haiku!

by Christine Rueter and Markus ★ Hammonds

Transit of Venus:
brief vision of our sister
against roiling sun.
Her bright veil in silhouette
She hides her face from the light.


The contest rules (retained for posterity):

Renga is a form of collaborative haiku with a 5-7-5-7-7 syllable structure. A single writer initiates the poem with the first 5-7-5 stanza and welcomes other writers to provide the 7-7 stanza.

Anyone can submit the 7-7 lines! For the sake of all renga participants, please include your lines as comments to this post so that others can see what has been submitted. I will “close” the renga to submissions on Wed., May 23 at 5 pm EDT. I will have two independent judges pick their favorite from the submissions. The final renga will be published on this blog before the Transit of Venus on June 5, 2012 and the submitter given co-credit with me in the by-line.

The Transit of Venus is an extremely rare event.  The last transit was in 2004.  The next transit–after the June 5, 2012 transit–will be in 2117.  I’ll be observing the transit with the lovely folks at the University of Maryland Observatory.  If you don’t have a transit-viewing “home” or the transit won’t be visible from your location, the Keck Telescope in Mauna Kea, Hawaii will be doing a live webcast here:

Some resources to inspire you as you write your 7-7:

Oliver Wendel Holmes, Sr., “The Flaneur” (Boston Common, December 6, 1882, During the Transit of Venus):

Photographic plate of the Pleiades, 1972

Photographic plate of the Pleiades, 1972

Something about the sisters
drives Orion to madness

in love with all seven at once

a cluster of sweetness
he tastes on his lips
as raspberries.

He leaps rivers
for just a glimpse of
Electra’s wet ringlets
Alcyone’s neck
imagines a sweep
of his arms
netting them.

The sisters will have none of it.

They run on cut feet
through the fields
their trailing hair teasing him on

run miles without glancing back

until they collapse
breathless and pleading
on a rock, the hunter
in sight and gaining.

Even Zeus is watching.
He chuckles
as he folds the girls together
and tosses them up
to the sky, last refuge

flings them so fast
the softness strips from
Sterope’s lips
Maia’s shoulder
even Celaeno’s delicate arms

even the honeysuckle
scent of their hair

Orion unmoved
lusts for what remains:
their winking blue eyes.