Talk about a cornucopia of poetry! For this bonus post, people took me up on my offer of multiple forms. I received not only haiku, but also tanka and tan-renga, and submissions came from three different continents!
It was a delight to put this post together over the course of a cold winter afternoon, drinking multiple cups of tea. I hope you enjoy the creative bounty as much as I did.
In Deb Koen’s first haiku, the second and third lines display a masterful example of double meaning, reinforcing the sense of abundance that comes from a harvest. The produce features an array of colors; each of these colors was produced by, and harvested from, the planet itself. The second sense of meaning comes from the range of colors available at a produce market. The color range among the harvested crops is expansive; every shade of the planet is represented here. We have not just an abundance of physical nourishment, but a feast of delights for the eyes as well.
farmstandDeb Koen, USA. This haiku originally appeared in Haiku Canad Review, Winter 2020.
In the second haiku, Koen associates the comfort that both food and music can provide. For most people, comfort foods are rich and hearty. What makes them comforting is not just their heartiness. but also their familiarity. Just as delicious food prepared with care gets passed around a holiday table, an LP of comforting music rotates not just in physical space, but in and out of the listener’s consciousness. In this haiku I see abundance (hearty comfort food) and celebration (food being passed around the table), but I also wonder if this poem is about a meal taking place after a funeral: the food comforts the grieving, and the music brings back good memories of the departed loved one.
comfort foodDeb Koen, USA. This haiku originally appeared in Frogpond 44:2.
circling the table
a Beatles LP
Hassane Zemmouri’s first tanka gives us an image of a child’s joy at harvesting berries. There are two bounties: the fruit off the vine, and the experience of watching a child’s face light up. This poem reinforces the concept that food is not just physical nourishment. The connections we make to the land, and to each other, through the processes of harvesting, cooking, and eating, shine through in this brief work.
the full basket doesn’t accommodate
the girl’s joy
her smile more delicious
than the expected jam
Arabic translation:Hassane Zemmouri, Algeria. This tanka originally appeared in Take5, Issue 3.
Hassane’s second tanka reminds me of picking apples with my nephew this fall. Our neighbors have an apple tree, but weren’t interested in harvesting the fruit. My nephew and I went out with an apple picker and got as many as we could. When he was concerned about bruised or spotted apples, I reminded him of what his great-grandmother believed: that the ugly apples make the best applesauce. After harvesting the apples, my partner turned them into applesauce, and saved the peels to make jelly. I appreciate Hassane’s tanka because it illustrates so well how a short poem can awaken a beloved memory in a stranger half a world away.
end of picking-
the mother chooses the bruised apples
of candy apples
fin de cueillette-
la mère choisit les pommes meurtries
pour la confiture
les enfants rêvent
de pommes d’amour
Arabic translation:Hassane Zemmouri, Algeria
In their first tan-renga, Christina Chin and Uchechukwu Onyedikam magnify the sense of celebration that often comes at harvest time. Glass Gem corn originates in Oklahoma, and was developed by a farmer named Carl Barnes. It took him many years to collect the seeds and cross-breed the corn he found to create the vivid, translucent kernels we see today. It’s a rare breed of corn, and in this tanka, I see a celebration of the ingenuity and patience required to cultivate heirloom stock. Because rainbows are also associated with the queer community, I think that this tanka implies the marriage of queer farmers, a portion of the population that often gets overlooked. (You can read more about that at NPR.)
stripping husksChristina Chin, Malaysia, and Uchechukwu Onyedikam, Nigeria
from glass gem corn
of rainbow colours
farmer kisses farmer
The New Yam Festival is a celebration that takes place in Kogi state, Nigeria. It celebrates the farming season, as well as community and culture of of the Igbo people. It typically falls at the end of August or beginning of September, depending on when the first new yams appear. This tan-renga reminds me that while many holidays and festivals have set dates, the Earth does not follow the human-made calendar to the exact day. The world releases its bounty on its own time.
New Yam FestivalUchechukwu Onyedikam, Nigeria and Christina Chin, Malaysia
the Igbo people dig
into the ridges
end of rainy
In their first tan-renga, Christina Chin and Linda Ludwig present a wintry scene warmed by delicious food and intimacy. While crabbing season varies by region, in much of the world, it starts in late autumn and ends in mid to late winter. While moonless nights happen all year long, there’s something about the darkness of winter that makes the lack of moon in this poem feel more potent. Yet the crabs, being in season, are juicy and delicious. I interpret a sensuality in this poem not just from the word “succulent,” but also because in some parts of the world, shellfish are considered an aphrodisiac. Regardless of whether or not I’m correct, there is still a delightful coziness in this tan-renga.
the trapsChristina Chin, Malaysia, and Linda Ludwig, USA
heavy with crabs
river with no moon
This final tan-renga contains historical allusions, illustrating the ways in which food is bound up in culture both past and present. The Silk Road existed as a network for traders exchanging goods between Asia and Europe, between 130 B.C.E. and 1453 C.E. Commodities included textiles, animals, and of course, foods and spices. The gogi berry comes from a shrub native to China, and long been used in both Chinese and Korean cooking and medicine. Today, people in the western world can find gogi berry tea sold as an alternative health product. What started as an indigenous ingredient is now a decontextualized commodity. Nonetheless, we can connect to the image of gogi berry and ginger blended into a simple tea, and imagine the connection the drinker might feel to generations past.
the silk roadLinda Ludwig, USA and Christina Chin, Malaysia
old world treasures
a hot concoction
of goji berry ginger
Thanks to everyone who contributed poems to this special post. I look forward to blogging again in 2023! For now, may you have a peaceful close of the year.