The Winking Stars

by John Martell
brush painting by an’ya and Hieke Sackmann

The Winking Stars thumbnail
The Winking Stars - frontispiece thumbnail
The Winking Stars
The Winking Stars - frontispiece

The Winking Stars

The Winking Stars - frontispiece by Heike Sackmann

With a scholar’s mind and a lover’s heart, John Martell observes “the Floating World.”

“In poems that take the form of haiku and tanka, the writer must attempt to … keep clear … the limits of humans to crystallize temporal experience (what ukiyo-e printmakers called “the Floating World”)

… ‘We cannot know, as a matter of principle, the present in all its details.’ Though we never succeed in understanding or holding the moment, like Dr. Faustus, we always find ourselves trying.”
(from the preface)

With an introduction by Dave Bacharach, editor of Ribbons: Tanka Society of America Journal,
this rich collection of 118 haiku, senryu and tanka is deeply observed and expressed:

a stray cat
howling at me
as if
i don’t know
what it means to be lost

and sometimes humorously poignant —

three old guys
killing time at the bus stop —
exhaust fumes

from the Introduction by Dave Bacharach

Tanka is a very old and enduring Japanese form of five-line poetry, and though not as well known in the West as its younger three-line cousin, haiku, it is becoming increasingly popular. John Martell is an adept practitioner of both forms, as well as a devotee of ukiyo-e woodblock prints so popular in Japan since the late 17th century.

… written by a man who has learned, in the most direct way, that nothing is permanent, that meaning is difficult to grasp, and that the only thing we can ever truly experience is the reality of the moment. And so, whether he is writing about … about an isolated courtesan depicted in a painting, whom the poet places into the present moment within his imagination … or about a jogger who trots past an old man who is “lost in the marvel/of the floating world,” the reader is kept centered in the ineffable suchness of now.

The Winking Stars — Standard Edition — 9x6 in. hand bound softcover — 15.95
English Somerset & Echizen Washi cover, archival, 2008.

About the Author

Dr. John E. Martell, Assistant Dean Emeritus of the Lee Honors College at Western Michigan University, received his Ph.D and M.A. in Medieval Studies from the university. He has been an academic advisor in the College of Arts and Sciences and taught social science and Russian culture in the College of General Studies.

Also of Interest

A Tanka Companion

by an’ya

Seasons of
a Hermitess

101 haiku by an’ya

A Sprinkle of Glitter

by Alexis Rotella

In the Night Shallows

by Rebecca Ball Rust


Ask! again

rotellagrams by Alexis Rotella

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