Sunday, September 30, 2007

Heron Sea Reviewed in Loch Raven Review

It's very hard to find places to review tanka books, so I'm very pleased that one of our regional journals, the Loch Raven Review has reviewed Heron Sea, Short Poems of the Chesapeake Bay. The really nice thing about a regional review is that they know the subject matter and appreciate its authenticity.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Asking Passage

The new issue of Lynx is up. It contains a long sequence of mine, 'Asking Passage.' Print journals are chary of their space, so an online journal is an ideal venue for a long work like this.

The sequence is distilled from about 80 poems written on a hike through a vacant lot and field behind my apartment. All the poems were written on the spot -- even the dead deer poems. Is it morbid to crouch over the bones of a fawn writing poetry?

Above and beyond that, today was a banner day. I attended the meeting of the Haiku Poets of Central Maryland. The meeting was well attended with 10-12 people. Cathy Drinkwater Better gave us each a copy of the chapbook she printed up with the poems we had sent her. I got copies of Dreaming Room and Five Lines Down from Denis Garrison, and when I arrived home, Landfall was sitting on my doorstep! A couple of days ago, Yellow Moon 17-20 arrived. I have a stack of reading!

I am thoroughly enjoying Landfall. A sign of good poetry is that it sparks creativity in others. Landfall does. I have written a number of poems, which is slowing down my reading! Every few pages I stop and write some poems of my own.

As usual, I forgot to bring a poem to read and a poem to workshop at HPCM. I swiftly penned a poem to use:

ginger ale
autumn sparkling
in the glass

It was well received. A few people noticed me looking at my bottle of ginger ale and realized I wrote it on the spot. Apparently that is strange. I do that quite normally though. I learned to write poetry by speaking it as part of a conversation. Thus a person had to create an apt expression instantly or else the tide of conversation would pass him by.


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Native American Shoes -- Let Me Buy Shoes That Fit, Please!

Open Letter to Nike

Dear Nike,

In the world of blogs mine is a very small and unimportant one, but I hope that you will notice. I'm writing about the recent article on announcing that you have made a shoe specifically for Native Americans and will be providing them to tribal organizations, but that they will not be available to the general public.

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE let me buy a shoe that fits!

I am one of about nine million Americans of mixed blood, meaning we have Native American and other ancestry. As a person of Native ancestry, I have various genetic traits common to my Native ancestors -- dark hair and big noses may be the stereotype, but as we have known in my family for generations, it's diabetes, feet, and teeth that really make the difference.

Just like your article describes, I have a wide ball of the foot and high arch. All my life I have been obliged to wear shoes that don't fit properly. I will never forget the odyssey I undertook once when I was a teenager -- My mother and sister and I visited 22 shoe stores before we finally found a shoe that fit me. What was it? A lady's platform shoe. No, this gentleman cannot wear that to work...

To get a shoe wide enough that it doesn't pinch the ball of my foot gives me a shoe that is too long and too large in the heel. The heel slops and chafes. I have a tendency to trip over the long toe. Even though it's a larger shoe, it's not tall enough for the arch of my foot so the top of my foot hurts all the time. I hate wearing shoes -- I am barefoot as I write this -- because I will only wear shoes when forced to by law, meaning at work, in stores, etc. I even go barefoot to take the trash out in the middle of winter, and I don't live in Florida. Given a choice between wading barefoot through six inches of snow to take the trash out, or wearing shoes, snow wins.

I can't buy shoes for looks. Fashion is irrelevant. Simply put, it is so hard to fit my feet that I buy the first pair that sort-of fits -- because once you've tried on a dozen or more pairs where you can't even get your foot in, or make your feet hurt before you've even laced them up, you take what you can get.

So Nike, your Air Native shoe sounds wonderful. But I don't live on a reservation and I don't have access to Indian Health Service or any other Native American agency. Please please let me buy your shoe anyhow. Please make your Native American shoe publically available. Millions of Americans of Native descent will thank you.


(Mixed blood of Scotch Irish, Cherokee, and Yamacraw descent.)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Autumn Water

I will have my first solo exhibit of poetry at the 3Lights Gallery from October - December of this year. Entitled 'Autumn Water,' the title is the theme. Included with the poetry are photographs from the Skipjack Martha Lewis. The exhibit isn't done yet and won't be ready for a public unveiling until October 1, but what I've seen so far is absolutely beautiful. I really love the way curator Liam Wilkinson is making my vision come together in a gorgeous exhibit.

The 3Lights Gallery is set up to present haiku and tanka as if they were art, and so the visitor tours a virtual gallery to study the poetry, much the way one contemplates art objects in a gallery. The presentation is effective, and more visceral than the usual literary journal presentation. Utilizing the web to include color and image really enhances the experience in a way that cannot be done in a purely textual medium.

Art and haiku and tanka have been combined before in the form known as haiga, but this 'art gallery' conceit is different. In haiga a single image and single poem are combined in a gestalt, but with the gallery concept, the photographs are important works of art in themselves. They complement but are not subsumed in the poetry. The intergration is not as tight, space is left between image and poem for the reader to breathe and think. The combination really works and I can't wait to see the finished product!


Grapes and Hawkwatch

Today I helped load 4000 pounds of grapes on the Martha Lewis. She was transporting grapes from the local Mount Felix vinyard to the St. Michael's Winery on the Eastern Shore. In the warm months when skipjacks couldn't oyster, their captains shipped whatever they could get, typically produce and lumber. Skipjacks were just like semi-truck owners today -- whatever load they could get that would pay, they would take. Back before the Bay Bridge and the excellent highway system, it was cheaper, easier, and faster to move freight by boat.

It happened that the Mount Felix winery has its first harvest this year. They sold them to the winery, and the winery owner stipulated that they be shipped by boat, was traditional. The Martha Lewis was going that way to the Cambridge skipjack races this weekend, so a deal was struck. Martha will deliver the cargo on her way down.

There are only three skipjack races and they're popular with the volunteers, so I couldn't go this trip since I went to the Deal Island skipjack races over Labor Day.

watching the boat
sail away without me,
somebody else
going to adventure
this autumn morning

After Martha sailed away I reminded people on the dock, "Don't watch her out of sight. If you do, they won't come back." It's an old Irish superstition handed down in my family.

I drove to the other side and joined a friend and fellow crew member for the Hawkwatch on Turkey Point at Elk Neck State Park. We didn't see very many birds, but did spot a couple of vultures, an osprey, and a sharp-shinned hawk. She helped me identify some other birds. Leaving Elk Neck, a kestrel was sitting on a powerline crossing the road, counting cars I presume.

We hiked an alternate route back and found a pocket beach with plenty of clamshells and sea wrack washed up on it. It was paved almost as much with shell as with sand and pebbles. I wrote poetry and she took photographs. It was a rather long hike back to the carpark :)


Monday, September 17, 2007

Tanka Bestsellers at is home to a thriving community of tanka and haiku poets, especially tanka poets. The print on demand service provides an economical way to get books into print, and many fine books are being publishing through its services. Using sales rank figures listed on the market pages of tanka books, I compiled this list of the top twenty bestselling tanka books at

1) Fire Pearls : Short Masterpieces of the Human Heart
2) Modern English Tanka, 1:1
3) Ribbons, 3:3
4) Modern English Tanka, 1:3
5) Modern English Tanka, 1:2
6) Five Hole Flute
7) Modern English Tanka, 1:4
8) River Transformed
9) Amaze: The Cinquain Journal Annual 2006
10) Sixty Sunflowers
11) Dreaming Room
12) The Salesman's Shoes
13) Haiku Harvest
14) Call of the Inland Sea
15) Landfall : Poetry of Place in Modern English Tanka (Hardcover)
16) Five Lines Down
17) Heron Sea, Short Poems of the Chesapeake Bay
18) Tiny Droppings
19) blue night & the inadequacy of long-stemmed roses
20) Landfall : Poetry of Place in Modern English Tanka (Softcover)

Friday, September 14, 2007


I have received the letter from Biken International confirming me as the grand prize winner. They also send copies of their magazine, which includes the following announcement:

Announcement of the Results of the Second World Poetry Contest

In December 2006, the Second World Poetry Contest was held in New York. This contest saw many works of a high quality, represented by the contributions from the Society of America. Among their poets, the work produced by M. Kei was awarded the highest award. The highly emotional sensitivity of the author caught the heart of the readers.

The Major Award-Winning Works

M. Kei

my mother
planted a plum tree
to have blooms
when her heart
was winter weary

~from Poetry Renaissance Magazine, Vol. 02, 15 June 2007, Tokyo, Japan

Thursday, September 06, 2007

2nd World Poetry Contest

I apparently took first place for the 2nd World Poetry Contest, but I haven't been notified by the organization. Their Japanese website lists my tanka as what Google translates as 'most best winner'. If you can read Japanese, please tell me what it says!

my mother
planted a plum tree
to have blooms
when her heart
was winter weary

I apparently have two honorable mentions as well:

tawny lilies
growing wild
in the ditches;
once I had a
heart like that

a harpsichord
plays an allemande
in a minor key;
all this grey day winds
rove through leafless trees


2nd Place for Skipjack Martha Lewis

As regular readers of my blog know, I have a bigger obsession than tanka poetry, and that is the Chesapeake Bay, and skipjacks in particular. Over Labor Day(s), I spent five days crewing aboard Martha as she took two days to get down the Bay to Deal Island (I wonder if the name was originally 'Ordeal'), one day to race, and one day back. I did get showers which made life bearable because it was sunny and hot on shore. On the Bay it was sunny and very pleasant, and I have intensified my tan with only minor sunburn to report.

Martha took second, outsailed by the spry Captain Art on the City of Crisfield, who at 86 is the last of the old time skipjack captains. He still drudges, too. Art is a Deal Islander and knows his waters, and he's been winning skipjack races since before our captain was born. It was a duel up until the final stretch. We made the first mark but he cut inside us and got ahead, then we caught up to him. We parted ways when he ran up the bay and we took our turn for the next mark early, way ahead of everybody else.

Turned out we turned too early and had to tack back to make the second mark, thereby losing ground that we had gained. City of Crisfield was waaaaay out there, and came screaming into the next mark on a broad reach - her best point of sail. Captain Art trusted his boat's ability to reach to give him the speed he needed in spite of us taking a shorter course, and he was right. We crossed her bow and tried to steal her wind, but he pulled away from us. He was just ahead of us going around the last mark, and then the wind died.

He got the City of Crisfield wung out, and though we tried, we couldn't get Martha to run wing and wing. Skipjacks are hard to wing out because of their club-footed jibs. Only one other skipjack got her sails wung out, which I do believe was the Rebecca Ruark. She'd had a block break earlier that cost her time and she wound up coming in fifth. There were three skipjack's fighting it out for third and a piece of the money. But as it was, the wind went nearly dead and we dawdled toward the finish line. City of Crisfield sails well in light airs, and we couldn't catch her, although we tried. We came in a quarter of a mile behind her (7 mile course). It took about an hour and a half.

Looking back, a flock of skipjacks was rounding the mark behind is, crossing each other and coming about, fighting it out for third. The fight was among Rebecca Ruark, Thomas Clyde, H. M. Krentz, and Fannie Daughtery. The third place spot went to Fannie Daugherty.

Finals were:
1st City of Crisfield
2nd Martha Lewis
3rd Fannie Daugherty
4th H. M. Krentz
5th Rebecca T. Ruark
6th Thomas Clyde
7th Helen Virginia
8th Somerset
9th Wilma Lee

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Deal Island Skipjack Races

Today, in about half an hour, I leave to spend five days without showering while crewing aboard the Skipjack Martha Lewis for the Deal Island Skipjack Races! Two days down, one day to race, two days back. If we get lucky, some kind soul will offer us showers along the way. If we get lucky, a fancy schmancy place in Annapolis will let us overnight with them, if not, we'll be docking in Dogwood Cove on Tilghman's Island. Personally, I'd rather dock at Dogwood Cove -- a skipjack belongs there. The rest of the crew is agitating for options with facilities, though :)

To learn more about the skipjack Martha Lewis, visit her website at: