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Poetry

Stones by John Murray

Genesis of a Sculpture by Brian Clark

On a Raised Beach by Hugh MacDiarmid

Selection of Japanese Haiku

Stones by George Quasha


Stones

Basalt
grand hexagons 
make a geometry of six, 
Fingal astray

Chalk & Flint
dried blood
as black as lacquer, 
the geisha’s face

Conglomerate
yesterday’s porridge
gone hard in the drawer,
an empty house

Lewisian Gneiss
birth lines winding
in an endless galaxy,
the old man’s face

Limestone
pavements
dissolve in the rain, 
those empty questions

Mica
white crystals
encrypted in granite,
heart broken

Sand
quickly through time
even as glass,
window on God

Sandstone
infinite floor plans
forgotten,
many beds unmade

Schist
silver half seen,
half grasped in the streambed,
that secret wish

Slate
split leaves
paper the rafters,
pages turn

John Murray
Within the ‘stony limits’ of haiku form, texts try to contextualise rock types in ten spontaneous responses to aspects of culture. Often this is attempted through references to time, geological or human. Marks made by absent form is a prevailing theme. The puff of breath, an attribute of haikus, as a vehicle for materiality, is ironic.



Genesis of a Sculpture
 
Etched with sagas from some cataclysmic age
when grains of sand re-formed and turned to stone
whose hieroglyphs hide core secrets
of a mountain’s power entombed
and made ready for an after-life.

Kiss, kiss, kiss awake this rock 
with each tap of your chisel unwrap,
take away to reveal
that which was always there.

Brian Clark
 
This poem was inspired by Swiss artist Sybille Pasche’s ‘Genesis’ displayed at Yorkshire Sculpture Park and I wrote it at the STONE project writing workshop there in April 2010.  Leading international sculptors were invited to create work which then became part of a major touring exhibition (STONE touring Exhibition, 2010).


On a Raised Beach
 
All is lithogenesis—or lochia, 
Carpolite fruit of the forbidden tree, 
Stones blacker than any in the Caaba, 
Cream-coloured caen-stone, chatoyant pieces,   
Celadon and corbeau, bistre and beige,   
Glaucous, hoar, enfouldered, cyathiform,   
Making mere faculae of the sun and moon,   
I study you glout and gloss, but have 
No cadrans to adjust you with, and turn again   
From optik to haptik and like a blind man run   
My fingers over you, arris by arris, burr by burr,   
Slickensides, truité, rugas, foveoles, 
Bringing my aesthesis in vain to bear, 
An angle-titch to all your corrugations and coigns,   
Hatched foraminous cavo-rilievo of the world,   
Deictic, fiducial stones. Chiliad by chiliad   
What bricole piled you here, stupendous cairn?   
What artist poses the Earth écorché thus,   
Pillar of creation engouled in me? 
What eburnation augments you with men’s bones,   
Every energumen an Endymion yet? 
All the other stones are in this haecceity it seems,   
But where is the Christophanic rock that moved?   
What Cabirian song from this catasta comes? 

Deep conviction or preference can seldom   
Find direct terms in which to express itself.   
Today on this shingle shelf 
I understand this pensive reluctance so well,   
This not discommendable obstinacy, 
These contrivances of an inexpressive critical feeling,   
These stones with their resolve that Creation shall not be   
Injured by iconoclasts and quacks. Nothing has stirred 
Since I lay down this morning an eternity ago 
But one bird. The widest open door is the least liable to intrusion,   
Ubiquitous as the sunlight, unfrequented as the sun.   
The inward gates of a bird are always open.   
It does not know how to shut them. That is the secret of its song, 
But whether any man’s are ajar is doubtful. 
I look at these stones and know little about them,   
But I know their gates are open too, 
Always open, far longer open, than any bird’s can be, 
That every one of them has had its gates wide open far longer   
Than all birds put together, let alone humanity,   
Though through them no man can see, 
No man nor anything more recently born than themselves   
And that is everything else on the Earth. 
I too lying here have dismissed all else. 
Bread from stones is my sole and desperate dearth,   
From stones, which are to the Earth as to the sunlight   
Is the naked sun which is for no man’s sight.   
I would scorn to cry to any easier audience 
Or, having cried, to lack patience to await the response. 
I am no more indifferent or ill-disposed to life than death is;   
I would fain accept it all completely as the soil does;   
Already I feel all that can perish perishing in me   
As so much has perished and all will yet perish in these stones.   
I must begin with these stones as the world began.

Shall I come to a bird quicker than the world’s course ran?
To a bird, and to myself, a man?       
And what if I do, and further? I shall only have gone a little way to go back again   
And be like a fleeting deceit of development, 
Iconoclasts, quacks. So these stones have dismissed   
All but all of evolution, unmoved by it, 
(Is there anything to come they will not likewise dismiss?)   
As the essential life of mankind in the mass 
Is the same as their earliest ancestors yet.
Hugh MacDiarmid



Selection of Japanese Haiku Poetry

In the Utter silence of a temple,
A cicada’s voice alone
Penetrates the rocks
Matsuo Basho

It is said that he made this poem at the Risshakuji Temple in Yamagata City during his travel to the northern part of Japan.  The phrase “a cicada’s voice penetrates the rock” visualises the sound.  “Everlasting time” the rocks have and the voice blend into one.

There is a Noh song titled “Sessyouseki” meaning a stone killing every creature.  The stone is made by the gush of volcanic sulferising gas.  Basho saw the stone in the Nasu Height during his travel.  He said the stone was in the shade of a mountain where a hot spring gushed out, and its poisonous character remained, killing heaps of insects such as bees and butterflies.

The smell of a stone
The summer grass is red
Dew is hot
Matsuo Basho

Over a stone
What is flying
Is only clouds
By Basho’s best pupil

How pitiful
Summer insects are dead on a stone
Using the stone as a pillow
Amono Torin

In the first frost of the year
Even a stone killing every creature
Become a part of the view
Kobayashi Issa

The autumn wind 
Is more white
Than stones in a stony mountain
Matsuo Basho
 
Basho made this poem at the Nata Temple in Komatsu City, Ishikawa Prefecture during his travel.  The autumn wind is traditionally called “transparent wind” or “white wind”, and the whiteness of the wind and the whiteness of the stone blend with each other.

In the night of the winter moon
Small stones
Touch the bottom of my shoes
Yosano Buson
 
The feeling that “small stones touch the bottom of my shoes” is so delicate that this poem cannot be made in the noisy society today.  It expresses the world where the winter moon is shining quietly and not a sound is heard.  Only the feeling of small stones under the shoes is emphasised.  We know from the classic poem that people today lose this feeling.

The summer mountains and lava
Their colours are different
Togo Sayu (1908-91)

Under the blazing sky
Going and coming back on the way of lava
Togo Sayu

On the marble stairs
I have dots’ reflection by the autumn sun
Nakamura Takako (contemporary poet made during her travel in USA)

Stepping stones 
Are women’s stride
Winter camellia
Nakamura Takako
 
In this poem, Takako seems to be going to attend the tea ceremony in winter.  She might usually walk in long strides like a man, but space between the stepping stones in a garden made her walk with short steps as a woman wearing kimono does.
(notes by Tetsuzo Yamamoto)

Stones

Stones are only visiting us

here in the realm ofperception.

They have a time

deeper than time.

They sing

quiet. They hold

space open

for shadows

and tilt the continuity

of the empty view.

They point

in the direction of around

and about

but not for

anyone. They long

for their unborn selves —and lean

against thought.

No feeling is at home amongthem.

No touch touches

except itself.

The stone is sleeping

as wide

as awake

and takes away the need tostay

too long.
George Quasha


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