My haiku response to Billy Collins’ poem, Japan

I love the poetry of Billy Collins and have a few favorite poems, readings, and interviews posted on my blog. They’re so accessible and humorous.

His poem, Japan, is about a favorite haiku. He wrote each of the 12 stanzas to look like a 3-line haiku. The imagery in the last half of the poem unravels in the most mind-bending of ways as he interchanges perspectives! You can hear Billy Collins read Japan on YouTube.

I remember first reading it in his collection, Sailing Alone Around the Room, I bought over 15 years ago. Today, I found my two-haiku response written on a napkin among scraps of paper. It was also on the back of the receipt, bookmarking that poem! It inspired me to post both.

Today I pass the time reading
a favorite haiku,
saying the few words over and over.

It feels like eating
the same small, perfect grape
again and again.

I walk through the house reciting it
and leave its letters falling
through the air of every room.

I stand by the big silence of the piano and say it.
I say it in front of a painting of the sea.
I tap out its rhythm on an empty shelf.

I listen to myself saying it,
then I say it without listening,
then I hear it without saying it.

And when the dog looks up at me,
I kneel down on the floor
and whisper it into each of his long white ears.

It’s the one about the one-ton
temple bell
with the moth sleeping on its surface,

and every time I say it, I feel the excruciating
pressure of the moth
on the surface of the iron bell.

When I say it at the window,
the bell is the world
and I am the moth resting there.

When I say it into the mirror,
I am the heavy bell
and the moth is life with its papery wings.

And later, when I say it to you in the dark,
you are the bell,
and I am the tongue of the bell, ringing you,

and the moth has flown
from its line
and moves like a hinge in the air above our bed.

###

My humorous response to the moth and temple bell in the poem.

Haiku for Billy Collins’ poem, Japan, by Ken Chawkin

The weight of a moth
on a one-ton temple bell
excruciating

The sound of the bell
all hinges on the moth’s tongue
tapping the surface

###

On a more serious note, using the imagery of a tower bell, read a profound poem by Rainer Maria Rilke posted in my Response below: Sonnets to Orpheus, Part Two, XXIX.

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2 Responses to “My haiku response to Billy Collins’ poem, Japan”

  1. moorezart Says:

    Reblogged this on From 1 Blogger 2 Another.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ken Chawkin Says:

    On a more serious note, using the imagery of a tower bell, here is a profound poem by Rainer Maria Rilke:

    Sonnets to Orpheus, Part Two, XXIX

    Quiet friend who has come so far,
    feel how your breathing makes more space around you.
    Let this darkness be a bell tower
    and you the bell. As you ring,

    what batters you becomes your strength.
    Move back and forth into the change.
    What is it like, such intensity of pain?
    If the drink is bitter, turn yourself to wine.

    In this uncontainable night,
    be the mystery at the crossroads of your senses,
    the meaning discovered there.

    And if the world has ceased to hear you,
    say to the silent earth: I flow.
    To the rushing water, speak: I am.

    (In Praise of Mortality: Selections from Rainer Maria Rilke’s Duino Elegies and Sonnets to Orpheus, translated and edited by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy) https://www.amazon.com/Praise-Mortality-Selections-Elegies-Sonnets/dp/162654476X

    Liked by 1 person

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