Myths and the Creative Imagination
Edited by Sonam Chhoki
Twenty-five poets from around the world attest to the power of myths to open up the world of imagination. Some delve into the rich symbolism, others draw out the resonance that particular myths have for them, and still others interpret the theme of this special feature to explore their own personal myths.
My sincere thanks to M. Kei for this wonderful opportunity and to all the poets who sent their poems.
1. Jenny Ward Angyal, Gibsonville, North Carolina, USA
with cold lips
she tastes the snow
on frozen pomegranates—
of meadowsweet and rue
2. an’ya, Oregon, USA
in a shell-scarred grove
inhabiting old tree trunks
between shouts of violence
the sound of brown creepers
I basically wrote this about sites where battles had occurred in the past, and felt as if the sounds of birds between imaginary shouts of violence were haunting the battlegrounds.
3. Marjorie Buettner, Chisago City, Minnesota, USA
can never love
so too I fear this wanting
thief of time I have become
“Tales in the mythology of mermaids stem from Homer’s epic “The Odyssey”, where some mythologists believe the Sirens to have been in mermaid form. . . .
In these myths, mermaids would sing to men on ships or shores nearby, practically hypnotizing them with their beauty and song. Those affected would rush out to sea only to be either drowned, eaten, or otherwise sent to their doom.” (from http://www.gods-and-monsters.com/mermaid-mythology.html)
4. Margaret Chula, Portland, Oregon, USA
how can I fault
the curious Pandora
for opening the jar—
I thought my face cream too
promised eternal youth
5. Tish Davis, Concord Twp, Ohio, USA
the girl who fell
from the Sky World
saved by the soft
feathered backs of two swans . . .
I was never that lucky
In a Native American (Wyandot, Iroquois) Creation Myth long ago, animals lived in the lower part of the world, which was completely covered in water. The Sky People lived in the beautiful world above. One day, a girl from the Sky World and an apple tree slid through a hole in the sky. Two swans caught the girl before she hit the water. The swans consulted Big Turtle because they knew the girl could not survive. Big Turtle had the swimmers collect soil from deep under the water and spread it across his back. This island became North America and the girl’s descendants, the Earth’s people.
6. Sanford Goldstein, Shibata, Japan
I am my own
Sisyphus with endless
I spill my tanka
and they go down and down
In Greek mythology Sisyphus, king of Corinth, was punished for his deceitfulness by being compelled to roll a boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll down again, and to repeat this forever.
7. Autumn Noelle Hall, Green Mountain Falls, Colorado, USA
as Baba Yaga, as apt
to bless or curse
any day now, my cabin
might arise on chicken legs
A mythical Wild Witch of dark magic, Baba Yaga plays a key role in Slavic folklore and Russian fairy tales. Equally capable of kindness or cruelty, the soothsaying Baba Yaga represents the Old Wise Woman as well as Fate. When not zooming about the forest in a pestle-ruddered mortar, Baba Yaga dwells in a free-roving chicken-legged hut.
8. Carole Harrison, Jamberoo, Australia
on this pilgrim path . . .
oh teach me, Santiago
the size of today
the strength of now
Legend suggests the remains of the apostle James are buried beneath the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela (Galicia, Spain). This city became a leading Catholic pilgrimage route about 9th century and today the Way of Saint James is one of the busiest pilgrim routes in the world.
9. Elizabeth Howard, Crossville, Tennessee, USA
suckled Romulus and Remus . . .
a toddler, I bonded
with a fox in a grain field
red hair our totem
10. Marilyn Humbert, Australia
in frosty light
around the billabong
to the moon, dancing
with lost children
billabong is an isolated pond/waterhole left after a river changes course
bunyip is an aboriginal evil mythical creature/spirit who lurks around billabongs.
Both billabong and bunyip have their roots in aboriginal mythology/language but now well known in broader Australia having been made popular by the Bush poet Banjo Paterson and the children’s author, Michael Salmon. Patterson’s poem ‘Waltzing Matilda’ refers to billabong and Salmon writes his Alexander Bunyip children stories.
11. Gerry Jacobson, Canberra, Australia
I kiss her hand
in the dance
I am blessed
by my power to bless
*In the Jewish mystical tradition, that aspect of God that is close and accessible. The Divine presence, often personified as a woman.
12. Chen-ou Liu, Ajax, Canada
this winter mist . . .
like Penelope I weave
a shroud of words
to ward off loneliness
13. Gregory Longenecker, Pasadena, California, USA
on the face of the lion
by a bridge
overlooking the waters
In Venice, Italy, there are many lions depicted throughout the city. St. Mark, the Evangelist, is the patron saint of Venice, Italy. He is symbolized by the lion which represents courage.
14. Vasile Maldovan, Bucharest, Romania
in the Garden of Eden
in the Cherry Orchard*
only broken branches
and no scarecrows
* The Cherry Orchard is a play by Anton Chekhov in which an aristocratic family sells their property, including the cherry orchard, which is cut down.
15. Joy McCall, Norwich, England
his darkness sheds
behind my eyes
in my blood, in my bones
Ever since I was a small child I have been haunted by the sense of a ‘dark man’ walking with me. I often dreamed him. Over the years I have written many poems about him and most of a book of longer poems called ‘the Animus Thief’, after I realised that the man was part of my own self, my male and hidden part which time and again I gave away to a man I loved and made him some kind of hero. Now that I have learned to let my loved ones be themselves and not some kind of mirror image of myself, I think I love more deeply and honestly. The dark man has gone back to live in the shadows inside me where he is at home.
16. Mike Montreuil, Ottawa, Canada
his chance to converse
knows the silence
of the mountain
I met this particular raven while on vacation in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. We had stopped at a scenic lookout along Highway 93, between Banff and the Columbia Icefield. There he was walking around the perimeter of the parking lot. In some articles, the raven has been described as slightly larger than a crow. Not this raven. He was twice as large as a crow. I learned about the Raven myths when I researched my ancestry a few years ago. While the myths concerning the Raven are common throughout Canada, the Raven is mostly known in the Haida Indian myths.
17. Pravat Kumar Padhy, Odisha, India
from a ball of flesh
Queen Gandhari brings forth
her Kaurava clan . . .
science celebrates Louise Brown,
the first test-tube baby
In the Mahabharata, Queen Gandhari sprinkled water on a ball of flesh, which was divided into a hundred-and-one parts about the size of a thumb. These were then placed in pots with clarified butter and kept at a concealed spot under guard. In due course, a hundred brothers and one sister were born, known as the Kauravas.
18. Patricia Prime, New Zealand
showed him how to make
a female from the red earth,
then Tāne breathed life into her
and mated with her
In Māori mythology, Tāne is god of forests and of birds.
19. Aruna Rao, India
beckons me to its cold heights
as I wander snow-blind
Aruna, Surya’s charioteer,
flares the peak a blazing red
In Hindu mythology, Aruna (God of Dawn) was forcibly hatched from an egg by his impatient mother. He was only partially developed and had a reddish glow. He could not be as bright as the noon sun as he had been promised. He was assigned to be the charioteer of Surya (the Sun God) when after a dispute Surya decided to burn the gods and the world with his heat. Aruna, with his strong and vast upper body, was the only one who could be the shield for Surya’s wrath.
20. Miriam Sagan, Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA
the princess leaps
from an earthen wall,
white grasses wave
all the way to the frontier—
how can I long for home?
The imagery is drawn from the novel of the Chinese frontier, Tun-Huang by the Japanese novelist Yasushi Inoue. Yasushi Inoue tells the story of Chao Hsing-te, a young Chinese whose accidental failure to take the all-important exam that will qualify him as a high government official leads to a chance encounter that draws him far into the wild and contested lands west of the Chinese Empire. Here he finds love, distinguishes himself in battle, and ultimately devotes himself to the task of depositing the scrolls in the caves where, many centuries later, they will be rediscovered (New York Review Books).
21. Debbie Strange, Manitoba, Canada
the bride’s spirit entered
a white horse
roaming an eternity of plains
in search of her Cree warrior
22. John Tehan, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA
the humming of the clock
fading now to silence
by your bedside
half a world away
a banshee prepares to sing
A banshee is a female spirit from Irish mythology. An omen of impending death, she begins to sing or wail when someone is about to die.
23. Laura Williams, Southern California, USA
a moon divided
by the ancient oak’s limbs . . .
from the seven sisters
24. Kath Abela Wilson, California, USA
I’ll stand on the moon
wise and kind like Diana
or an astronaut
25. Ali Znaidi, Tunisia
cut an oxhide into strips . . .
the glorious city
of Carthage bloomed
in the Mediterranean Sea
Jenny Ward Angyal lives with her husband and one Abyssinian cat on a small organic farm in Gibsonville, NC, USA. She has written poetry since the age of five and tanka since 2008. She is Reviews and Features Editor of Skylark: A Tanka Journal. Her tanka and other poems have appeared widely in print and online journals and may also be found on her tanka blog, The Grass Minstrel http://grassminstrel.blogspot.com/
an’ya is formerly a haiku poet, and presently writes only tanka. She has won and judged many competitions; her works have been translated into over 60 different languages and she has been published worldwide. Currently she is the principal editor for cattails, the collected works of the United Haiku and Tanka Society. anya’s extended oeuvre and monthly publication midnightmoon is up at her website: http://anyaonline.us
Marjorie Buettner lives and writes in Minnesota. Her most recent journal publication credits are: Modern English Tanka, American Tanka, Simply Haiku, Ribbons and Gusts. Her work has appeared in the following anthologies: Landfall, Ash Moon Anthology, Fire Pearls, Short Masterpieces of the Human Heart, County Roads, and The Tanka Prose Anthology. She is an award winning haiku and tanka poet who has published widely throughout the U.S. and U.K. She has taught haiku and tanka at the Loft in Minneapolis and has a collection of haiku and tanka published by Red Dragonfly Press: Seeing It Now, 2008. Currently she is a Resident Columnist for cattails, the journal for UHTS (United Haiku and Tanka Society).
Margaret Chula lived in Japan for twelve years. Her seven books of poetry include two tanka collections: Always Filling, Always Full and, most recently, Just This. She has promoted tanka through readings, workshops, and lectures in the U.S. and abroad and currently serves as President of the Tanka Society of America.
Tish Davis lives in Concord Twp, Ohio, USA. Her work has appeared in numerous journals including Modern Haibun and Tanka Prose, Atlas Poetica, Haibun Today, red lights, Modern Haiku, Frogpond, Presence, bottle rockets, Contemporary Haibun Online, and Simply Haiku.
Sanford Goldstein has been writing tanka for more than fifty years. In addition, he has co-translated many Japanese Writers—those in poetry, to cite a few, are Akiko Yosano, Mokichi Saito, and Takuboku Ishikawa. It is to Takuboku that Goldstein feels most indebted. Takuboku believed that tanka is a poem involving the emotional life of the poet. Sad Toys really affected Goldstein. Takuboku stressed his sad life in his three-line tanka. Goldstein’s poems focus on what he has experienced, suddenly seen, suddenly reflected on—they are not imagined.
Since reading the Iliad and the Odyssey as a teenager, Autumn Noelle Hall’s interest in myth has expanded to include figures as far-ranging as Russia’s Baba Yaga, West Africa’s Anansi, and the Crow Nation’s Coyote. A member of the Colorado Springs Jung Society, Autumn believes all such mythological archetypes are alive and well in the collective unconscious, where they wait for tanka doors to open to them in welcome.
Carole Harrison combines photography, short form poetry and long distance walking, exploring the connections between landscape and character. She is inspired by the poets she meets online and in the flesh.
Elizabeth Howard lives in Crossville, Tennessee. Her tanka have been published in American Tanka, Lynx, Eucalypt, red lights, Mariposa, Ribbons, Gusts, and other journals.
Marilyn Humbert lives in the Northern suburbs of Sydney NSW surrounded by bush. Her pastime includes writing free verse, tanka, haiku and related genre. Her tanka and haiku appear in International and Australian Journals. Some of her free verse poems have won awards and some have been published.
Gerry Jacobson journals and writes tanka in the cafes of three cities. Canberra where he lives and gardens, Sydney where he hangs out with grandchildren, and Stockholm, on an annual visit to the Viking princess, his granddaughter. ‘Tanka prose’ is his delight.
Chen-ou Liu is currently the editor and translator of NeverEnding Story, http://neverendingstoryhaikutanka.blogspot.ca/, and the author of five books, including Following the Moon to the Maple Land (First Prize, 2011 Haiku Pix Chapbook Contest) and A Life in Transition and Translation ( Honorable Mention, 2014 Turtle Light Press Biennial Haiku Chapbook Competition). His tanka and haiku have been honored with many awards. Read more of his poems at Poetry in the Moment, http://chenouliu.blogspot.ca/
Gregory Longenecker has, for the past 3 years, been the editor of the Southern California Haiku Study Group’ s annual anthology. His haiku, haibun and tanka have been widely published.
Vasile Moldovan was co-founder (1991) and the president (2001-2009) of the Romanian Society of Haiku. He published six books of haiku, renku and tanka and has won several awards at the Romanian Society of Haiku. He resides in Bucharest, Romania where he works as a journalist and writer.
Joy McCall was born in Norwich, England and spent much of her life in Canada before coming back to Norwich. She loves the little hedge-bordered fields of Norfolk which were not so long ago under the sea, and so are full of flint stones and shells and bones. Joy has written tanka for 50 years or more. M.Kei has recently beautifully edited/published her first book, circling smoke, scattered bones.
Mike Montreuil lives in the coldest capital city in the world, Ottawa, Canada. His English and French haiku, tanka, and haibun have been published online or in print. You may also find him observing the wildlife in one of Ottawa’s many coffee shops.
A scientist and poet, Pravat Kumar Padhy loves to blend science and literature. His poems are widely published and anthologized. His tanka appeared in Lynx, The Notes from the Gean, Sketchbook, Atlas Poetica, Simply Haiku, red lights, Chrysanthemum, A Hundred Gourds, Magnapoets, Ribbons, Skylark, The BambooHut and the anthology, Fire Pearls 2 edited by M Kei.
Patricia Prime is a retired early childhood teacher. She is the co-editor of Kokako, reviews/interviews editor of Haibun Today, reviewer for Atlas Poetica, Takahe, Metverse Muse and other journals. Patricia recently published with Australia poets, Amelia Fielden and Beverley George, the tanka anthology, One Hundred Tanka by One Hundred Poets, and is publishing with French poet, Giselle Maya, a collection of collaborative tanka sequences, haibun and tanka prose, to be called Shizuka. She is one of the editors, with Dr. Bruce Ross, of the world haiku anthology, A Vast Sky, which is to be published shortly.
Aruna Rao is primarily trained in the Visual Arts. Her love for anime led her to haiku and tanka. They have now become her little sketches that give shape to ideas and moments.
Miriam Sagan is the author of Tanka from the Edge (MET Publishing) and a haiku collection All My Beautiful Failures (Miriam’s Well) as well as twenty-five other books of fiction, poetry, and memoir. She won the 2014 Poetry Gratitude Award from New Mexico Literary Arts, and curates a variety of text installations including haiku on metal traffic signs on Santa Fe’s west side.
Debbie Strange is a member of The Writers’ Collective of Manitoba, The Manitoba Writers’ Guild, and several tanka and haiku organizations. Her writing has received awards and has appeared in numerous journals. She is also an avid photographer whose images have been published and exhibited. You are invited to see more of her work on Twitter @Debbie_Strange.
John Tehan lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where he reads some, writes some and ponders. His tanka and other poetry have appeared in Atlas Poetica, Bright Stars, Reflections, and PrimeTime Cape Cod. In his spare time, John enjoys nurturing and communing with his eternity plant, Zamioculcas Zamiifolia, which is happily proving true to its name.
Laura “Lolly” Williams is a poet and mixed-media artist living in Southern California. She has been studying and writing tanka since 2013. Her work is beginning to appear in a variety of journals both online and in print.
Kath Abela Wilson read and wrote myths and fairytales herself as a child, imagining herself in them. Later she read them to her own children. She was especially inspired by her daughter’s childhood drawings and paintings of Diana standing on a golden crescent. Both her children wrote tales and enacted their own creative scenarios, using spoons, and date pits for characters. Her twitter motto @kathabela is “feeding poets to the moon”.
Ali Znaidi (b.1977) lives in Redeyef, Tunisia. He is the author of several chapbooks, including Experimental Ruminations (Fowlpox Press, 2012), Moon’s Cloth Embroidered with Poems (Origami Poems Project, 2012), Bye, Donna Summer! (Fowlpox Press, 2014), and Taste of the Edge (Kind of a Hurricane Press, 2014).