“Just enough snow to make you look carefully at familiar streets”: the Haiku of Richard Wright

ZP_El Círculo de Amigos…bajo la nieve

ZP_El Círculo de Amigos…bajo la nieve


Just enough snow

To make you look carefully

At familiar streets.


On winter mornings

The candle shows faint markings

Of the teeth of rats.


In the falling snow

A laughing boy holds out his palms

Until they are white.


The snowball I threw

Was caught in a net of flakes

And wafted away.


Snow Poems 2


A freezing morning:

I left a bit of my skin

On the broomstick handle.


The Christmas season:

A whore is painting her lips

Larger than they are.


Snow Poems 3


Standing patiently

The horse grants the snowflakes

A home on his back.


In the falling snow

the thick wool of the sheep

gives off a faint vapour.


Entering my town

In a fall of heavy snow

I feel a stranger.


In this rented room

One more winter stands outside

My dirty windowpane.


Snow Poems 5

Snow Poems 6

Snow Poems 4


The call of a bird

sends a solid cake of snow

sliding off the roof.


I slept so long and sound,

but I did not know why until

I saw the snow outside.


The smell of sunny snow

is swelling the icy air –

the world grows bigger.


The cold is so sharp

that the shadow of the house

bites into the snow.


What do they tell you

each night, O winter moon,

before they roll you out?


Burning out its time

And timing its own burning,

One lovely candle.

.     .     .

Richard Nathaniel Wright (born Roxie, Mississippi,1908, died Paris, 1960) was a rigorous Black-American short-story writer, novelist, essayist, and lecturer. He joined the Communist Party USA in 1933 and was Harlem editor for the newspaper “Daily Worker”.  Intensely racial themes were pervasive in his work and famous books such as Uncle Tom’s Children (1938), Native Son (1940) and Black Boy (1945) were sometimes criticized for their portrayal of violence – yet, as the 1960s’ voices of Black Power would phrase it – a generation later – he was just “telling it like it is.”


Wright discovered Haiku around 1958 and began to write obsessively in this Japanese form using what was becoming the standard “shape” in English:  5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables, in three separate lines, and with the final line adding an element of surprise – delicate or otherwise.  One of Haiku’s objectives is, to paraphrase Matsuo Bashō, a 17th-century Japanese poet:  In a haiku poem, if you reveal 70 to 80 percent of the subject – that’s good – but if you show only 50 to 60 percent, then the reader or listener will never tire of that particular poem.

What do you think – does Wright succeed?


The 4 Seasons are themes in Haiku;  here we have presented a palmful of Wright’s Winter haiku. Wright was frequently bedridden during the last year of his life and his daughter Julia has said that her father’s haiku were “self-developed antidotes against illness, and that breaking down words into syllables matched the shortness of his breath.”  She also added:  her father was striving “to spin these poems of light out of the gathering darkness.”

We are grateful to poet Ty Hadman for these quotations from Wright’s daughter, Julia.

.     .     .

The above haiku were selected from the volume  Richard Wright:  Haiku, This Other World, published posthumously, in 1998, after a collection of several thousand Haiku composed by Wright was ‘ found ‘ in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library of Yale University.

.     .     .     .     .

Poemas de Navidad: Mary Elizabeth Coleridge y G. K. Chesterton

ZP_ᐅᓴᐘᐱᑯᐱᓀᓯ  Norval Morrisseau_Virgin Mary with Christ Child and St. John the Baptist, 1973

ZP_ᐅᓴᐘᐱᑯᐱᓀᓯ Norval Morrisseau_Virgin Mary with Christ Child and St. John the Baptist, 1973

Mary Elizabeth Coleridge (1861-1907)

“Vi un establo”


Vi un estable, tan bajo, desnudo,

Con un niño diminuto al heno.

Le conocieron los bueyes y cuidaron de Él

– al hombre fue un desconocido.

La seguridad del mundo estaba tendido

Allá en el jacal

– el peligro del mundo, también.


.     .     .


“I saw a stable”


I saw a stable, low and very bare,

A little child in a manger.

The oxen knew Him, had Him in their care,

To men He was a stranger.

The safety of the world was lying there,

And the world’s danger.


.     .     .


G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936)

“The House of Christmas”


There fared a mother driven forth

Out of an inn to roam;

In the place where she was homeless

All men are at home.

The crazy stable close at hand,

With shaking timber and shifting sand,

Grew a stronger thing to abide and stand

Than the square stones of Rome.


For men are homesick in their homes,

And strangers under the sun,

And they lay their heads in a foreign land

Whenever the day is done.

Here we have battle and blazing eyes,

And chance and honour and high surprise;

But our homes are under miraculous skies

Where the Yule tale was begun.


A child in a foul stable,

Where the beasts feed and foam;

Only where He was homeless

Are you and I at home;

We have hands that fashion and heads that know,

Bur our hearts we lost – how long ago! –

In a place no chart nor ship can show

Under the sky’s dome.


This world is wild as an old wives’ tale,

And strange the plain things are,

The earth is enough and the air is enough

For our wonder and our war;

But our rest is as far as the fire-drake swings

Where clashed and thundered unthinkable wings

Round an incredible star.


To an open house in the evening

Home shall men come,

To an older place than Eden

And a taller town than Rome;

To the end of the way of the wandering star,

To the things that cannot be and that are,

To the place where God was homeless

And all men are at home.

.     .     .     .     .

Un breve poema – “antes del Fin” / A brief poem – “before The End”

ZP_Dicen Nostradamus y los Mayas que Nos Acerca El Fin. Sal con un gran pum. Disfrútate con un baile erótico del regazo, antes de que esté demasiado tarde…Sunset, December 20th 2012_Marquee of a Striptease Tavern in Toronto, Canada_A light touch concerning the gravitas of 21.12.2012 !

ZP_Dicen Nostradamus y los Mayas que Nos Acerca El Fin. Sal con un gran pum. Disfrútate con un baile erótico del regazo, antes de que esté demasiado tarde…Sunset, December 20th 2012_Marquee of a Striptease Tavern in Toronto, Canada_A light touch concerning the gravitas of 21.12.2012 !

A veces es el trabajo del Poeta impartirnos una lección para la Vida. Y quizás no nos queden bastante Tiempo hoy día para comprender esa lección – si tengan razón los comentarios recientes de unos intérpretes históricos- histéricos sobre la “profecía” maya – que es, en realidad, unas inscripciones en piedra –“ la cuenta larga”– que se tratan del fin de una época en el sistema-calendario de los mayas – y no del fin del mundo.  Pero…SI mañana, el 21 de diciembre, aun sea El Fin – o si sea el primer día de un nuevo ciclo – todavía es agradable cuando nos aconseja El Poeta…Presentamos un breve poema por Langston Hughes…




Mi gente, les digo a ustedes:

Son hechos puros y duros

el nacimiento y la muerte –

Pues, tomen el Amor

¡y tómenlo fuerte!

.     .     .

We present our readers with One Brief Poem – in case tomorrow is The End-Time and not just the start of the next epoch inscribed in the magnificent old Mayan stone calendar that has been much in the news of late…


Langston Hughes (1902-1967)



Folks, I’m telling you,

Birthing is hard

And dying is mean –

So get yourself

A little loving

In between.

.     .     .     .     .

金子 みすゞ Kaneko Misuzu: We’re all different, but we’re all good… / Tutti diversi, tutti ugualmente giusti…

ZP_Five Egrets Descending in Snow_Japanese woodblock print by Ohara Koson,1878-1945

ZP_Five Egrets Descending in Snow_Japanese woodblock print by Ohara Koson,1878-1945

Kaneko Misuzu (Japanese poetess, 1903-1930)

“Me, the little bird, and the bell”


私が両手をひろげても、(watashi ga ryōte wo hirogete mo)

お空はちっとも飛べないが、(osora wa chitto mo tobenai ga)

飛べる小鳥は私のように、 (toberu kotori ha watashi yō ni)

地面を速く走れない。 (jimen wo hayaku hashirenai)


私が体をゆすっても、 (watashi ga karada wo yusutte mo)

きれいな音はでないけど、 (kirei na oto wa denai kedo)

あの鳴る鈴は私のように、 (anonaru suzu wa watashi no yō ni)

たくさんな唄は知らないよ。 (takusan na uta wa shiranai yo)


鈴と、小鳥と、それから私、 (suzu to kotori to sorekara watashi)

みんなちがって、みんないい。 (minna chigatte, minna ii)

.     .     .

Even if I stretch out my arms

I can’t fly up into the sky,

But the little bird who can fly

Cannot run fast along the ground like me.


Even if I shake my body,

No beautiful sound comes out,

But the ringing bell does not

Know many songs like me.


The bell, the little bird and, finally, me:

We’re all different, but we’re all good.



A big Thank-You to Doug for his translation from Japanese to English!

.     .     .


Kaneko Misuzu (Poetessa giapponese, 1903-1930)

“Io, l’uccellino e la campanella”


Per quanto io allarghi le braccia,

non potrò mai volare in cielo, ma

l’uccellino che può, come me

non saprà correre veloce sulla terra.


Per quanto io scuota il corpo,

non ne uscirà un bel suono, ma

quella campanella  che risuona, come me

non saprà mai tante canzoni.


La campanella, l’uccellino ed io,

Tutti diversi, tutti ugualmente giusti.



Traduzione di Radicchio – Grazie!

.     .     .


Kaneko Misuzu

“Piled-Up Snow”

Two markedly-different translations from Japanese into English:

Special Thanks to Henry Stokeley and Cha




上の雪 寒かろな


下の雪 重かろな


中の雪 さみしかろうな


.     .     .

Above the snow it’s cold,

the icy moon shines from it.

Below the snow it’s heavy,

not a hundred men could lift it.

In the snow it’s so lonely,

neither the sky nor the bare earth are seen.

.     .     .

Top layer of snow – you must be shivering

under the frosty light of the moon.

Bottom layer – you must feel so heavy

under the weight of hundreds of human beings.

Middle layer – you must be lonely;

you can see neither sky nor earth.


.     .     .


Kaneko Misuzu

“To Love Everything”

(translated from Japanese by Alex Fyffe)


I wish I could love them,

Anything and everything.


Onions, tomatoes, fish,

I wish I could love them all.


Side dishes, and everything.

Because Mother made them.


I wish I could love them,

Anyone and everyone.


Doctors, and crows,

I wish I could love them all.


Everyone in the whole world

– Because God made them.

















世界のものはみイ んな、


.     .     .     .     .

Lolo at ang magandang Parol: tula ni Pepito/Huseng Batute

ZP_Parol Painting by Rafael Luna

ZP_Parol Painting by Rafael Luna

José Corazón de Jesús (Huseng Batute) 1896-1932

“Ang Magandang Parol” (1928)


Isang papel itong ginawa ng lolo

may pula, may asul, may buntot sa dulo;

sa tuwing darating ang masayang Pasko

ang parol na ito’y makikita ninyo.


Sa aming bintana doon nakasabit

kung hipan ng hangi’y tatagi-tagilid,

at parang tao ring bago na ang bihis

at sinasalubong ang Paskong malamig.


Kung kami’y tutungo doon sa simbahan

ang parol ang aming siyang tagatanglaw,

at kung gabi namang malabo ang buwan

sa tapat ng parol doon ang laruan.


Kung aking hudyatin tanang kalaguyo,

mga kapwa bata ng pahat kong kuro,

ang aming hudyatan ay mapaghuhulo:

“Sa tapat ng lolo tayo maglalaro.”


Kaya nang mamatay ang lolo kong yaon,

sa bawat paghihip ng amihang simoy,

iyang nakasabit na naiwang parol

nariyan ang diwa noong aming ingkong.


Nasa kanyang kulay ang magandang nasa,

nasa kanyang ilaw ang dakilang diwa,

parang sinasabi ng isang matanda:

“Kung wala man ako’y tanglawan ang bata.”


ZP_José Corazón de Jesús_Huseng Batute_1896-1932

ZP_José Corazón de Jesús_Huseng Batute_1896-1932


“The Beautiful Parol (Christmas Lantern)”:

a translation/interpretation by Carmelo Gorospe, with Alexander Best


There was this one special kind of paper that Grandpa used,

and the Parol could be red or blue, and sometimes with a tail, too.

And now, every time Pasko (Christmas) comes around,

the Parol lantern can be found.

In every other window you’ll see one hanging,

and the wind blows it this way and that,

and each Parol is like a person with a new look that welcomes chilly Christmas!

On our way to church the Parol’s light was our guide in the darkness,

and when the moon might go behind a cloud, well,

the kids played beneath the Parol’s glow.

Whenever I give the sign to my friends, they remember, like all the kids did,

playing in front of Grandpa’s lantern light.

And, ever since he passed away…of course, each time a cool wind blows,

and the Parol sways,

it reminds me of him.

In Grandpa’s colours – such beautiful wishes.

In Grandpa’s light – such beautiful memories, as if saying:

“Though I’m no longer here, my Light will guide you, little ones!”

.     .     .     .     .

שירי חנוכה‎ A Freilichin Chanukah: Songs and a Paley poem for Hanukkah

A Hanukkah candle for Us

שירי חנוכה‎

אוי חנוכה אוי חנוכה

א יום טוב א שיינע

א ליכטיגע א פרייליכע

נישט דא נאך א זיינע

אלע נאכט מיט דריידלעך ,שפילן מיר

פרישע הייסע לאטקעס ,עסן אן א שיעור

קומט קינדער געשווינדער

די חנוכה ליכט ,וועלן מיר אנצונדען

זאגט על הניסים

לובט ג-ט פאר די נסים

לאמיר אלע טאנצען צוזאמען


.     .     .


Suki and Ding’s Chanukah Song


Chanukah, oh Chanukah,

A holiday, a lovely one,

A happy and a joyful one,

There really is none like it!

Each night at ‘dreidl’ we do play,

fresh hot ‘latkes’ we eat all the day!

Come children, hurry,

the Chanukah candles we shall light!

Let us sing “al hanisim”*,

Let us thank G-d for his miracles,

And we’ll all dance together!




*“Al hanisim” is a phrase often uttered at the start of a daily prayer or after meals as a grace.  Literally, it means “and for the miracles” – a reminder to thankfully acknowledge G-d for the miracles he has wrought…


Chanukah, oh Chanukah song © Suki and Ding

.     .     .


Daria Marmaluk-Hajioannou

A song for Hanukkah:

“Eight Candles” (an excerpt)


The holiday of lights is here,

Good friends and happiness to share,

Sweets with honey for us to eat,

Candles to light and friends to greet!

One little candle, One little candle!

Two little candles, three!

Four, five, six little candles, seven and eight for me!



The original of “Eight Candles” follows below…

It is written in the language of mediaeval Spanish Judaism – Ladino or Judeoespañol – which is spoken by about 100,000 people worldwide, including the composer of the song and its lyrics, Daria Marmaluk-Hajioannou.


Canción para Janucá por Daria Marmaluk-Hajioannou

(en el idioma ladino/judeoespañol):

“Ochu kandelas” (un extracto)


Hanukka lindo sta aki,

ochu candelas para mi!

Una kandelika, dos kandelikas,

tres kandelikas, kuatro kandelikas,

sintju kandelikas, sysh kandelikas,

sieto kandelikas, ocho kandelikas para mi!

Muchas fiestas vo fazar,

con alegrias i plazar!

Una kandelika (etcetera…)

Los pastelikas vo kumer,

con almendrikas i la miel!

Una kandelika (etcetera…)


.     .     .


“People in my Family”  by  Grace Paley:

Paley was a Jewish-American short-story writer, poet and political activist.  Born in 1922 in The Bronx, New York City, USA, she grew up hearing Russian and Yiddish at home – and the cadences of Yiddish influenced her poems written in English.  A pacifist who spoke out against nuclear proliferation, the Vietnam War and the gargantuan American military, Paley was a passionate person in every way.  She died in 2007.


Grace Paley

“People in my Family”


In my family

people who were eighty-two were very different

from people who were ninety-two.


The eighty-two-year-old people grew up,

it was 1914 –

this is what they knew:



That’s why when they speak to the child

they say

poor little one…


The ninety-two-year-old people remember

– it was the year 1905 –

they went to prison,

they went into exile,

they said ah soon…


When they speak to the grandchild

they say

yes there will be revolution,

then there will be revolution, then

once more, then the earth itself

will turn and turn and cry out

oh I have been made sick…


Then you my little bud

must flower and save it.


.     .     .     .     .

Nua-bhàrdachd: Gàidhlig / Contemporary Gaelic poetry from Scotland: Meg Bateman

ZP_A nineteenth-century illustration, Spear-plume thistle or Cirsium vulgare, which was the original native Scotch Thistle until the arrival in the middle ages of the tougher, spinier and more impressive Onopordum acanthium.

ZP_A nineteenth-century illustration, Spear-plume thistle or Cirsium vulgare, which was the original native Scotch Thistle until the arrival in the middle ages of the tougher, spinier and more impressive Onopordum acanthium.


Meg Bateman (born 1959, Edinburgh, Scotland)



We looked at the stars for a while

Before we turned in with the dogs,

And you said it was high time

You learnt their names properly.


But soon you will be among them yourself

And I will be the one trying to name you;

You whose nature I have seen

Only as their faint points of light –


As you labour behind duty,

Behind house-work, farm-work, books,

And who knows if you have your reward

For your care and effort and exhaustion.


I wish I could kindle a joy in you

That would let me see you whole

Or you won’t be further when you go

Than you were tonight at my side.


.     .     .




Bha sinn a’coimhead nan rionnag

mus do thionndaidh sinn a-steach leis na coin,

is thuirt thu gum bu mhithich dhut

na h-ainmean aca ionnsachadh gu ceart.


Ach chan fhada gus am bi thu fhèin nam measg

’s is mise a bhios a’feuchainn ri d’ainmeachadh,

thusa aig nach fhaca mi do nàdar

ach mar phriobadh fann an cuid solais –


Is tu riamh an ceann do dhleastanais,

mu chòcaireachd, caoraich, leabhraichean;

a bheil fios an d’fhuair thu do dhìol

airson do dheataim is spàirn is sgìths?


O gun lasainn de dh’aighear annad

na leigeadh leam d’fhaicinn gu slàn,

no chan fhaide thu bhuam nuair a shiùbhlas tu

nab ha thu rim thaobh a-nochd.


.     .     .




It was your lightness that drew me,

The lightness of your talk and your laughter,

The lightness of your cheek in my hands,

Your sweet gentle modest lightness;

And it is the lightness of your kiss

That is starving my mouth,

And the lightness of your embrace

That will let me go adrift.


.     .     .




B’ e d’ aotromachd a rinn mo thaladh,

Aotromachd do chainnte’s do ghaire,

Aotromachd do lethchinn nam lamhan,

D’ aotromachd lurach ur mhalda;

Agus ‘s e aotromachd do phoige

A tha a’ cur trasg air mo bheoil-sa,

Is ‘s e aotromachd do ghlaic mum chuairt-sa

A leigeas seachad leis an t-sruth mi.


.     .     .


“O Bonnie Man, Lovely Man”


O bonnie man, lovely man,

You’ve brought a song to my lips,


A spring of clear gushing water

Spilling over the rocks,


Soft grasses and bracken

Covering my slopes with green;


Your bed is in cotton-grass

With curlews calling in flight,


Maytime’s sweet drizzle

is settling about me,


Giving mirth and voice

to my soils long barren,


O bonnie man, lovely man,

You’ve brought a song to my lips.


.     .     .


“Fhir luraich ’s fhir àlainn”


Fhir luraich ’s fhir àlainn,

thug thu dàn gu mo bhilean,


Tobar uisge ghil chraobhaich

a’ taomadh thar nan creagan,


Feur caoin agus raineach

a’ glasadh mo shliosan;


Tha do leabaidh sa chanach,

gairm ghuilbneach air iteig.


Tha ceòban cùbhraidh na Màighe

a’ teàrnadh mu mo thimcheall,


’S e a’ toirt suilt agus gutha

dham fhuinn fada dìomhain,


Fhir luraich ’s fhir àlainn,

thug thu dàn gu mo bhilean.



.     .     .     .     .

All poems © Meg Bateman


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 112 other followers