#Poetryfriday: Haibun “Hip-Stir”

A haibun is a poetic form that  originated during 17th Century in Japan as a combination of two poems: a prose poem and haiku. The form was popularized by poet Matsuo Basho. In the haibun, the prose paper of the poem and haiku typically communicate with each other, though poets employ different strategies for this communication.

The prose part of the poem  usually describes a scene or moment in an objective manner. Meanwhile, the haiku portion follows the typical rules for haiku.

Here is my attempt at a haibun poem:


The hip bone is a large flat bone, constricted in the center and expanded above and below. The two hip bones are part of the pelvic girdle that attach the axial skeleton to the lower limbs.

imageOsteoarthritis can occur in the hips. The warning  signs of osteoarthritis are:

  • Stiffness in a joint after getting out of bed or sitting for a long time
  • Swelling or tenderness in one or more joints
  • A crunching feeling or the sound of bone rubbing on bone.


Arthritis in hips

Has been fixed with a “stand-in”

Such  a hip-stir!


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#Shakespeare400: 2X as Much Love Over Hate

Of the two most often used words in Shakespeare’s plays, the word love appears almost twice as often as the word hate. Love appears 63,162 times, according to the data on the OpenSourceShakespeare site, while hate is seen 37,971. In addition, the past tense of the verb to love – or loved– appears 13,425 times.shakespeare love quotes

Love is one of the earliest words in the English language, coming from the Old English lufu means”love, affection, friendliness.”

Yet there was little love and affection in Shakespeare’s most produced plays: Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth. If anything, many of the characters would have to sit on the hate side of the aisle.

Shakespeare portrayed all different forms of love in relationships. He captured each of the Greek ideas of love, and provided examples of each in his plays and sonnets:

  • Eros, or sexual passion of Romeo for Juliet,
  • Philia, or deep friendship of Horatio to Hamlet,
  • Ludus, or playful love of Bottom and Titania,
  • Agape, or love for everyone of King Lear’s daughter Cordelia, and
  • Pragma, or longstanding love of Calpurnia for Julius Caesar.


There are a number of conclusions to draw, but the immediate take-away is that the evidence suggests that Shakespeare was a “not a hater…”



#Shakespeare400: Quilting Shakespeare in the Park

Some of my favorite Shakespeare memories have included the Shakespeare productions at the Delacourt Theatre in Central Park.

I have been fortunate to secure tickets to see Shakespeare plays produced by the Public Theatre during the seasonable summer months either by waiting in line or through the new digital lottery system.

Of the two, my preference is for the digital lottery…enter your name in the morning, find out if you won by 1:00. Then, make a mad dash into the city to retrieve tickets by 6pm.

The waiting on line is by far the more difficult commitment. Depending on the day of the week and the play being performed, the line can begin snaking back to Central Park’s Great Lawn as early as 4 A.M.

Remaining on line for several hours means being prepared-hauling in chairs, blankets- to protect your bottom from the cold ground. Which is maybe where the genius idea of creating a quilt titled “Shakespeare in the Park”  found its genesis.


“Shakespeare in the Park” design.

The quilt designed by Judy Martin captures the magic of spending an evening under the stars. The design mimics the complex connections of characters and the whirl of action in each of Shakespeare’s plays.

Making this quilt could be an activity that could be done while waiting on a line in Central Park for a Shakespeare show …a productive activity that could be done waiting on line between the wee hours of dawn and 1pm.

The finished quilt could be used as a cushion while waiting, however, I think it is too beautiful to sit on. The complex mix of stars and swirls would need protection using a tarp or blanket beneath.

“Shakespeare in the Park” quilt design has a beauty that complements the beauty in Shakespeare’s language.




#Shakespeare400: “How Sharper…”

Last week, my sisters and I placed my 84-year-old mother in a nursing care facility. We represented our other six brothers and sisters in this decision. We were a united front.

My mother has dementia, and even though we know that this is the safest place for her care, I know she will believe that she has lost her independence.

Nothing could be further from truth.
We had hired help 24/7 in the home for the past two years.
We had taken precautions. We refitted the bathroom. She was not allowed to drive.

The illusion of independence was maintained by my sister who kept coins and small bills in her purse during outings. Laundry was done in advance. Food was brought in. Cooking was done while she slept.

My mother operated as though she was in charge.

But the time had come. There were too many hazards, and she could no longer stay in her home.

We are fortunate to have the  financial resources to place her in a lovely apartment in a memory care facility. We had done research, and we were lucky that an apartment was even available in the place we selected.

The night we brought her to the apartment, it was decorated with all things familiar-photos, furniture, lamps.

Her initial reaction was surprise.

“That’s my husband’s picture!”
We had removed it from the dining room wall while she sat softly humming at the dining table the day before.

We had also taken the photos that hung over her bed.  They now hung in the same order over a smaller twin sized bed. For two days, she had not noticed that we were removing these things from her home.

“Those are my children…,” she explained pointing to the wall.
She listed off names…an embedded list of her children in an order that has so far survived the ravages of the disease.

She did not understand for several minutes…but our repeated comments, “This is your apartment, Mom,” set off some alarms.

Then, suddenly, she knew.
Panic set in.

O, let me not be mad, not mad, sweet heaven
Keep me in temper: I would not be mad! (King Lear I.v.45-46)

She began to plead. She did not want this.
Her roars were quiet, but they were fierce.lear

” Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drench’d our steeples, drown’d the cocks!” (King Lear III.ii.1-3)


“You are cruel,” she told me.

“Let it stamp wrinkles in her brow of youth,
With cadent tears fret channels in her cheeks,
Turn all her mother’s pains and benefits
To laughter and contempt, that she may feel
How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is
To have a thankless child!” (King Lear I.iv. 281–289)

These lines from Shakespeare’s King Lear surfaced in my brain all week.

This deeply personal experience of caring for a parent who is ill -like so many of Shakespeare’s themes-is a universal experience.

I am not the first to hear him so perfectly express the language of loss and frustration because of age.
His language transcends time, place, and gender.
His words captured my mother’s rage.

My mother’s view of her “thankless child” will hopefully disappear.
The only good part of dementia is the forgetting.

I hope she forgets every time.


#Shakespeare400: Taxes

While I may have missed the official date for a blog post on taxes (April 15th), there has been an extension granted for Emancipation Day (set aside to commemorate the signing of the Emancipation Act by President Abraham Lincoln), moving the tax deadline to April 18.

Shakespeare understood the need for extensions for taxes, because among the the paltry collection of documents that bear his name are two tax delinquencies. The first is for 5 shillings, the second for 12 shillings:


1597-11-15: Tax record. Shakspere is named in the King’s Remembrancer Subsidy Roll as a tax defaulter in Bishopgate ward who failed to pay an assessed 5s (E. 179/146/354).

1598-10-1: Tax record. In the King’s Remembrancer Subsidy Roll, Shakspere is listed as a tax defaulter who failed to pay an assessed 13s.4d (E. 179/146/369).

In a paper titled Shakespeare’s Guide to Tax Policy: ‘Know You of This Taxation?’,  former chief counsel to the Senate Finance Committee, Michael Evans, provides a wonderful explanation of Shakespeare’s delinquencies coupled with analysis of his attitudes towards taxes as written in his plays. ShakespeareMoney

He explains that Shakespeare was one step of the tax collectors, or maybe several steps, when he moved his theater across the Thames River and hence outside London’s city limits. Shakespeare’s debts were left to be collected by a  bishop in the district where Shakespeare was then thought to reside.

“There the trail ends.” writes Evans, “with Shakespeare two years delinquent paying his taxes for 1598 and with the English tax authorities in slow but diligent pursuit.” In summarizing Shakespeare’s tax problems, Evans suggests:

One assumes that Shakespeare paid the debt and thereby got himself off the tax delinquency list, and there is no evidence, in the records of either the London area or Stratford, to indicate that Shakespeare had further trouble with the tax authorities.

Shakespeare is not alone in tangling with tax authorities.  Considering the delinquency rate for the general public in the US has been historically between 8 percent and 9 percent, Shakespeare shares a special tax delinquency status today  (2016) with roughly 256 million Americans.


#Shakespeare400: Birthday Bards Haggard and Shakespeare

Merle Haggard and William Shakespeare both died on their birthdays, but that is not the only thing they have in common.

One was the Bard of Avon; the other, the Bard of the Working Man.

Screenshot 2016-04-07 11.27.59

In medieval British culture, a bard was a professional story teller, a verse-maker and a music composer, usually employed to celebrate a paying patron’s ancestors or activities.

The Bard of Avon (Shakespeare) wrote 154 sonnets, and many of these 14 line poems centered thematically on life’s loves and losses. Sonnet 63 directly addresses how he feels about aging:

Against my love shall be as I am now,
With Time’s injurious hand crushed and o’erworn;
When hours have drained his blood and filled his brow
With lines and wrinkles; when his youthful morn
Hath travelled on to age’s steepy night;
And all those beauties whereof now he’s king
Are vanishing, or vanished out of sight,
Stealing away the treasure of his spring;
For such a time do I now fortify
Against confounding age’s cruel knife,
That he shall never cut from memory
My sweet love’s beauty, though my lover’s life:
His beauty shall in these black lines be seen,
And they shall live, and he in them still green.

In a similar vein, The Bard of the Working Man (Haggard) wrote songs also spoke about life’s love’s and losses. In this last refrain from the song Live this Long, which he sang with Willie Nelson (yet, another bard), he echoes Shakespeare’s theme of aging.
In fact, I’d even like to imagine him including the other “Will” in this verse, Will Shakespeare:

But we’re in pretty good shape, Will, for the shape we’re in
We’ll keep rocking along until we’re gone
But we’d have taking much better care of ourselves
If we’d have known we’s gonna live this long
Yeah, we’d have taking much better care of ourselves
If we’d have known we’s gonna live this long.

They may be gone, but their words endure.


#Shakespeare400: Six Sloppy Signatures

Penmanship or the art of handwriting, is not being taught in most schools today. As a result, when the students do have to sign their names to documents (like the SAT or ACT), they scribble, they scrawl, or they scratch. Their longhand is illegible, a quality they may not know that they share with famed poet William Shakespeare.

Just how bad was Shakespeare’s signature? There are only six surviving signatures of Shakespeare that have been authenticated, all of them on legal documents: a deposition, a house purchase, mortgage, and his Last Will and Testament (3 times).

What is interesting about these signatures is that each one is spelled differently:Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 7.27.04 PM

  • Willm Shakp
  • William Shakspēr
  • Wm Shakspē
  • William Shakspere
  • Willm Shakspere
  • By me William Shakspeare

Bad handwriting? Bad spelling? Looks like Shakespeare has more in common with today’s high school student than simply being the topic of an assigned essay.