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I knew that this project would be rewarding, but I had no idea it would include the unexpected benefit of communicating with and learning from a world-class poet.

If you watch the slideshow above, you’ll see how my original haiku morphed through a series of alterations until Wally finally felt it was “good.” In fact, when I tried to push it one step further, he promptly called my attention back to the last iteration, suggesting that we had best leave well enough alone!

  1. ** *

Visit TWO: WINTER. December 17-18.2012shapeimage_6_link_0

Keynote Presentation - The Art of Haiku.”

(Click on the frame above to move through the slides, one at a time.)

Original Bell Sound.

Modified Bells.

Hand shaking branches.

Sliding through snow.

Scraping snow.

Our visits out to Vermont are evenly broken up into three parts - morning, afternoon and evening.

In December, our AM sessions at Brattleboro Union High School once again went very smoothly thanks to the seemingly effortless organizational skills of our collaborator, Band Director Steven Rice. The band is starting to make “Vou-me embora” sound good and the choir also seems to be enthusiastic enough to agree to memorize the texts for our performance in April.

* * *

Our two days at PCS were structured, busy and incredibly productive. We began on the first day in the class room of our PCS Creative Writing colleague, Mary Anne Deer. She had originally asked that our poet, Wally Swist, come and speak to the students and work with them. Wally had just recently secured employment, however, and prudently asked to take leave of our project for this visit. Due East filled in, offering a Keynote presentation entitled, “The Art of Haiku.”




In the months between our September and December visits, I had the good fortune to enjoy some very instructive email correspondence with Wally Swist, our incredibly talented poet collaborator on this project. It began by simply asking Wally if he would be willing to offer a critique of my original haiku…

Not only was he willing, he mentioned having to hold himself back from writing a formal “exegesis” on my first effort! He was amazing. He took the time to explain the inner workings and subtle rules of haiku writing. When I analyzed his response, I sent him back a list of no fewer than eleven teaching points, as follows:

Haiku vocal track.

1. Refrain from overly repetitive use of simple articles (and perhaps any word, for that matter?)

2. 5/7/5 is a challenge to be dealt with carefully, and not a default setting. Rather, it could be considered a starting block, lest it become a block of the stumbling variety.

3. Haiku form is a "breath form" and begs concision. every word counts - is percussive, as you say. (I can certainly understand that metaphor!)

4. Punctuation choice counts. Consider it carefully. (I LOVE your ellipsis: a visual fading that reinforces your word choice (in your revision).

5. Perhaps one needn't even try to make the haiku "fit" the 5/7/5 structure?

6. Haiku do not use capitalization.

7. Haiku consists of a juxtaposition of images meant to capture the "ah-ha" moment of finding beauty/meaning in the commonplace.

8. Wabi - Japanese for "longing"

9. Yugen - Japanese for "mystery"

10. It is problematic to speak for others/many, as haiku is an epiphany discovered by an individual. Start with self-expression…something more modest and personal.

11. The yin/yang imagery found in the sounding and subsequent silencing of the bell's voice, is again a metaphor with substantial power. Consider it carefully.       

Greg working with the PCS students

and their music teacher, Dan Seiden.

The PCS Campus in Wintertime.

Photo taken with iPad on December 17, 2012.

The students and we went out exploring in teams. Erin took Aleesia and Angelika quite far into the field! At one point, they gathered sounds at the bridge over the stream. (right photo)

Greg took Havah and Analynn around the campus. Eventually they headed to the swing set and recorded their feet swishing through the snow at various speeds! (left photo)

By the end of the afternoon, everyone had recorded plenty of material for their winter soundscapes!

Lucia presents her fall haiku.

A single bird trills,

cold fluffy puffed up feathers,

greeting morning sun

Dakotah presents his project.

Aleesia explains her project and reads her haiku out loud:

Falling leaves scatter

Wind blows them away from their homes

Why do such a thing?

Greg works on details with Aleesia.

Elainie sits with Dakotah, helping him to work

on his piece.

That evening, at the Library, each of the students had the opportunity to stand before their parents, teachers and other members of the Putney community and present their electroacoustic projects. The result was a resounding success. Emotions were lifted that evening, and the mood was calm, thoughtful and joyfully positive.

Ari Essunfeld’s mother, Paulina Essunger, commented, “I just wanted to reëmphasize that this project is such a wonderful exercise in mindfulness. I’m so grateful the children get to have this experience.”

Well, I must say that we are equally grateful to Yellow Barn for allowing us to offer the experience. For us it has also been transformative and beautiful to watch unfold.

Winter Project.

Within just a few weeks after our visit, I made a concerted effort to get my winter soundscape and haiku into shape. Inspired by the wonderful energy of our evening at the Library with the Putney students and their families, it was a pleasure to do.

After the creative writing class, we headed off to the music room. On our first day, we sat in a small circle and began with a review session to establish certain parameters on our iPads in GarageBand to facilitate minute-length recordings.

Our goal in this first day’s visit was to go out again into the field to collect sounds for our winter projects. And what a field they have behind the PCS building!

As a percussionist, I cannot help but be captivated by the red iron bell that is suspended from the gateway to the Japanese Garden at the Putney Central School, just outside the music room.

It played a prominent roll in my fall scape, and so I’ve decided to make it central to my winter scape, as well. As it is a winter theme, I decided that a collection of these  “bells” could easily be distant sleigh bells if I made them deliberately quiet. Note how the audio levels for the bell tracks below is quite low.

Imagined conversation, pulled together from snippets of accidentally recorded voices: mine, Havah and Analynn’s.

Bell volume set low.

The PCS Japanese Garden Bell

In my haiku, I tried to simply capture for myself the spirit of our day out in the snow making the recordings. I describe the actions we made that produced the sounds caught with the iPad. For me, these words bring happy memories:

Feet glide through fresh snow

Hands shake branches - ice spills low

Swinging, sleigh bells sound.

The next day, we spent the afternoon inside the music room, prepping the students with their fall projects to get them into presentable shape for the evening presentation at the Putney Public Library.