Spring Night (After Wang Wei via Robert Okaji)

10 May

Well, it seems I’ve been inspired by one of my favorite poets, Robert Okaji.


Spring Night

(after Wang Wei via Robert Okaji)


Dogwood petals sigh in spirals, blessing my recline.

Spring darkness rests on hollow muted hills

while moonlight strikes the owls awake,

their hoots slipstreaming through ravines.


Unlike Robert, I named the birds and took liberties with the tree petals. I’m writing a new rhyming picture book right now, so this detour was a welcome respite. Feeling a little spring-feverish. Ahhh—ahhh—Cheers!


35 Responses to “Spring Night (After Wang Wei via Robert Okaji)”

  1. Carrie Rubin May 10, 2016 at 3:00 pm #

    That’s lovely. So is the photo. Is it yours?

    • Jilanne Hoffmann May 10, 2016 at 3:33 pm #

      Thank you! No, the photo is not mine, sorry to say. It’s from a stock photo place where I get many of the images I use on the blog.

  2. robert okaji May 10, 2016 at 3:07 pm #

    Love this! And am pleased to have sparked a welcome distraction. 🙂

    • Jilanne Hoffmann May 10, 2016 at 3:34 pm #

      Thank you, Robert! Sometimes distractions become more than wasting time.

      • robert okaji May 10, 2016 at 3:50 pm #

        For years poetry was the prime distraction in my life. Now it’s become a focus. Funny how that is…

        • Jilanne Hoffmann May 10, 2016 at 3:53 pm #

          Evolution. Survival of the most insistent.

  3. Lady Fancifull May 11, 2016 at 1:26 am #

    That is lovely, Jilanne. I guess the restraint nd compaction the haiku imposes means every word has earned its place. I particularly liked the feel of the verbs in each line, they felt like the striking of a gong, reverberating through the line

    • Jilanne Hoffmann May 11, 2016 at 9:28 am #

      Thank you, LF. I think I was missing the woods I used to hide in when I was a child. I’m trying to get better at saying more with less. 😀

  4. Ste J May 11, 2016 at 2:33 am #

    Very atmospheric, I enjoyed it, nothing beats a bit of twilight hooting.

    • Jilanne Hoffmann May 11, 2016 at 9:31 am #

      On the island in Maine, we have Barred Owls. Their call is distinctive. It sounds like “who cooks for you?” Love hearing it at night. It can go on for hours.

  5. heylookawriterfellow May 11, 2016 at 7:35 am #

    Ooh, a rhyming PB. Lemme know if you want a beta reader.

  6. dkatiepowellart May 11, 2016 at 9:37 am #

    hmmmm, dogwoods, grandma, forest, scent….

  7. FictionFan May 11, 2016 at 10:18 am #

    Great stuff Jilanne – I think your liberties caught the feel of the original even if you played a tiny bit with the words, and created something lovely. And I don’t see how a literal translation could ever work for poetry…

    • Jilanne Hoffmann May 11, 2016 at 10:26 am #

      Thank you, FF! Yes, poetry was never meant to be ingested literally, was it?

  8. Letizia May 12, 2016 at 1:53 pm #

    Oh how lovely indeed. And I read this with my own dogwood in bloom, watching me from outside the window.

    • Jilanne Hoffmann May 12, 2016 at 1:59 pm #

      Thank you! I wish I had a dogwood blooming outside my window right now. Or maybe lying on the hillside of a ravine in the woods, listening. And breathing. 😀

  9. Marsha May 23, 2016 at 8:15 pm #

    Your poem brought a lot of memories to the surface, all of them pleasant. I love the dogwood petals sighing in spirals. Actually, it’s all savory. Thanks for sharing!

    • Jilanne Hoffmann May 23, 2016 at 9:42 pm #

      Thanks, Marsha. It’s just something that happened when I read Robert’s poem. Couldn’t help it.

      • Marsha May 23, 2016 at 9:45 pm #

        That’s cool, now I’ll have to go read his poem! 🙂

        • Jilanne Hoffmann May 23, 2016 at 9:51 pm #

          He’s a wonderful poet. You may find yourself wandering around his site, enjoying poem after poem. 😀

        • Marsha May 23, 2016 at 10:02 pm #

          I did like his site, so I will go back. I was working on an article about using photos to inspire poetry, but you used him, and he used a similar poem translated from Chinese, I think. Have you ever used a photo as an inspiration for poetry, or how do you get inspired most often?

        • Jilanne Hoffmann May 23, 2016 at 10:12 pm #

          I don’t use photos or images, usually. There’s a marvelous artist by the name of Marcy Erb who has a regular image-inspired-by-poem site. You should take a look at her work. I get inspired by reading poetry, news articles, nonfiction artifacts, trivia, etc. So many ways to get inspired, I can’t attribute my inspiration to any one thing. There’s also so much going on inside my head, things often just bubble to the surface.

        • Marsha May 23, 2016 at 10:24 pm #

          Love it. I read several of Robert’s poems. They are very esoteric. I think I need a degree in English to understand many of the nuances. Maybe history and science as well. There is a lot of depth to the ones I read. 🙂

        • Jilanne Hoffmann May 23, 2016 at 10:42 pm #

          Yes, he’s really quite wonderful. I think poems can be “understood” on many levels. Sometimes people think there’s a “right” way to understand a poem, but they’re really floating out there to be “understood” in whatever way the reader understands them. If they evoke a response, you don’t really need to understand where the response is coming from. He wrote the origami crane poem for me without knowing that it was for my mother-in-law’s memorial. And it was perfect! It’s in my post about her memorial last year. But not every poet or poem speaks to everyone. Just like not every work of fiction speaks to everyone. I love cultures that understand how powerful poetry or the written world in general can be, how vital it is to the lifeblood of a society. Perhaps it springs forth most strongly from cultures that are oppressed. I am struck by how many writers have been jailed or killed for speaking out against regimes, via poetry or allegory or other forms of art. In the U.S., it seems that this aspect of art has been subsumed largely by pop culture.

        • Marsha May 24, 2016 at 5:45 am #

          Yes, and that has not always been the case in the United States. It’s only been in our lifetimes, I think. Your observation is so true about cultures, and even extends to pop culture. I remember a documentary of Paul McCartney’s visit to Russia, and the discussion of the profound effect he had on their culture, and on ours, really. And I remember the anti war songs during the 60s, and what emotions they aroused. But we have protection of free speech here, and even though it is not perfect, we can’t underestimate its effect on art.

  10. Margarita June 2, 2016 at 10:40 am #

    Ah, yes, detours. I’ve grown rather fond of them! 😉 xoM

    • Jilanne Hoffmann June 2, 2016 at 10:49 am #

      There’s always something to be gained from taking one, isn’t there? You don’t always know what’s gained at the beginning, but it’s there, waiting for you to figure it out. Welcome back!

      • Margarita June 2, 2016 at 10:53 am #

        Thanks, Jilanne! Feels good to be back! xoM

  11. Mrs. P June 5, 2016 at 6:39 am #

    I love it! You mentioned Maine, are you there currently or are these reflections from an earlier time?

    • Jilanne Hoffmann June 5, 2016 at 10:59 am #

      No, these are reflections brought on by Robert’s poem. Am currently in SF. Not going anywhere until mid-summer, although I really feel like heading to the woods and vegging right now.

      • Mrs. P June 5, 2016 at 5:06 pm #

        Woods… and west coast oceans…I miss them both already! 😀

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