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  • DougReilly 6:50 pm on April 26, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , pop culture, seoul, street art   

    Lost in Translation: street art 

    I found this street art in Sinchon, the busy student quarter of Seoul. It was old and preserved under plexiglass. Other parts of the panel seemed to be about a restaurant. But I’m not sure what this part is about: You sit down with your family for some nice barbeque at your favorite restaurant and then a dragon incinerates one of your children? Maybe the food is randomly spicy? Although, it kind of looks like the kids are actually some kind of birds. It was next to a modern restaurant called (in English) Chicken and Beer.

  • DougReilly 6:44 pm on April 26, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: bicycles, color, hanoi, , , ,   

    Vietnam Photos: Yellow 

    My first morning in Hanoi, I stepped onto the sidewalk to admire the light on this yellow wall. When I had my camera up, I saw the cyclist out of the corner of my eye. I couldn’t have arranged for a more perfect composition and color palette. Sometime life gives you gifts. It was the start of a great experience in Hanoi. 

    Nguyen is the program assistant in Hanoi. I first noticed the yellow bag and Vespa, and then Nguyen turned and smiled. The students have a great guide for their time in Hanoi!

    • Kristin Brænne 7:41 pm on April 26, 2011 Permalink | Reply


  • DougReilly 6:30 pm on April 26, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , poetry, translation   


    Haiku is a very short poem form invented in Japan. They are snapshots in poetry, and the goal of the haiku writer is to communicate the essence of a specific moment in time.

    Study abroad is a constant barrage of sensory experiences…so many that it becomes very difficult to pick any of them out. Haiku makes this easy because you simply don’t have room to pack everything you want to say in them. You have to say as much as you can with what you have. One photograph. One poem.

    In Japanesese, Haiku are written in three lines, with a syllabic pattern of 5 syllables, 7 syllables, and 5 syllables. Though Japanese in origin, haiku has become a global form of poetry. Writers of haiku in other languages don’t always follow the 5-7-5 meter, but they all try to stay true to the aesthetic.

    Haiku are very condensed, keenly observed poems about a specific instant of time observed by the writer. They are often are about little details rather than grand themes.

    Around 700AD, the famous Japanese poet Basho announced “The old poetry can be about willows; Haiku requires crows picking snails in a rice paddy.” The imagery he is suggesting is brutally direct and totally specific. Yet the specificity allows the writer to make powerful associations. Here’s Basho:

    Summer grasses 
    all that remains 
    of soldiers dreams.

    Basho’s training in Buddhism had taught him that suffering (and ugliness) was a central part of existence, and that happiness cannot exist without sadness. So haiku draws on all sorts of observation, whether they are “beautiful” or not. Basho wrote this haiku:

    Come, see the real
    of this painful world

    Deep, huh? But Haiku can also be light (a sense called karumi). Here’s a haiku by Issa.

    Don’t worry, spiders,
    I keep house

    And by Basho:

    Year after year
    On the monkey face
    A monkey face.

    Haiku often have a turn in them when the initial meaning is subverted. Here’s a good example from Issa:

     The snow is melting
    and the village is flooded
    with children.

    See how the ending subverts where you think the first two lines are going? Pretty wild for a short, three line poem. Even complicated emotional states can be represented by haiku. Here’s Basho:

    Even in Kyoto 
    hearing the cuckoo’s cry
    I long for Kyoto.

    Writing haiku is fun and addictive. Start by watching the world around you, pick out a little detail, and try to write a haiku about it. It’s sometimes good to write your three lines, and then count out the syllables. Then you can tweak them to fit the form. Or forget the syllables, and concentrate instead on sharpening your eye for detail. Here’s one I wrote this morning on the walk to work, while I was thinking about this haiku project

    Earthworms on sidewalks
    move like fish out of water
    in the water


    The road forks two ways
    Zora turns toward the school
    Thinking of haiku

    Go out and…watch. Look for details. Take notes. Make a snapshot of a moment in time. Haiku are a great little record of a single moment that will never come again.

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