The poetry of radishes.

So, what’s my all-time favourite poem?

I have many favourite poets. Garry Snyder, Mary Oliver, Rumi. Many more.

I like poets who abandon the rules of poetry.

Here is the performance poet (or spoken word artist as he calls himself) Buddy Wakefield in action. He shows us the electric power of poetry brought to life:

The gift of my hate.

Lately, I have really been enjoying those eclectic poets who with the concision of only just enough words, and without excessive verbiage, circumlocution, or smarty-pants cleverness, manage to wipe clear the misted-over largeness and deepness of things.

An example of this style might be Haiku, but for me, the best poems do not conform to boundaries of style.

Take this short poem by Issa (his name means cup of tea), a Buddhist priest who lived in the 18th century. He wrote this after the death of his daughter:

This dewdrop world—
Is a dewdrop world,
And yet, and yet . . .
(Kobayashi Issa)

Three simple lines. But a lifetime of unpacking.

Then there is this, by the great poet Muhammad Ali:

Me.
We.

Taken from Muhammad Ali’s 1975 Harvard University Commencement Speech. During his speech, the restless graduates suddenly called for a poem, to which he replied “Me,” pointing to himself, and “We,” pointing to himself and the entire assembly.
What a perfect poem.

But I digress. The question was: what is my favourite all-time poem?
Right now, it would be this one, again from Issa:

The man pulling radishes
pointed my way
with a radish.
(Kobayashi Issa)

Just the simple picture of a man (perhaps an old man, hunched over) pulling radishes in a field. It is a hot, cloudless day I feel.
He stands up to give me directions by pointing with a radish root. And I am on my way.

So that’s one thing.
But the poem is about something entirely different if you care to sit with it until it becomes clear.


Featured image by Angele Kamp

Ian Miller

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