Song

For week #66 of Haiku Horizons, the word prompt was ‘song’. I immediately thought of nature, birds and birdsong. 🙂

Butterfly in the cherry blossom tree
Butterfly in the cherry blossom tree

Song

A trilling birdsong
Misty morning’s sweet greeting
Nature’s herald’s song

Khor Hui Min
29 May 2015

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A terrible shame

For week #65 of Haiku Horizons, the word prompt was ‘shame’. I thought of the destruction of nature for personal and economic gains. Haiku Horizons will provide a haiku prompt each Sunday.

Sunset at Morib Beach. Photo taken on 31 August 2012.
Sunset at Morib Beach. Photo taken on 31 August 2012.

A terrible shame

A terrible shame
The destruction of nature
Wanton greed to blame

Khor Hui Min
21 May 2015

Charge & lovers

For this week’s Ronovan’s Weekly Haiku Challenge #44, the word prompts are ‘charge’ and ‘lovers’. It took me quite some time to think about what haiku to write. But at last, I thought of a graceful dance, such as the waltz, salsa or tango. This kind of dance is a form of perfectly synchronised movement between two individuals. It is like a dance of courtship, filled with grace and passion. Too bad I haven’t taken any photos of couples dancing the waltz, salsa or tango before though. 😉

Charge & lovers

Charge & lovers

Sweet lovers’ embrace
Filled with charge of affection
Dance infused with grace

Haiku by
Khor Hui Min
15 May 2015

Fond Memories

Starting this week, Wednesday is poetry writing day in the Malaysian Writers FB page. The word prompt for today is ‘photograph’. So, I wrote a piece on nostalgia and family, since we are celebrating Mother’s Day in May and Father’s Day in June.

Flower Dome, Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

Fond Memories

Collated in faded dusty albums
Countless fond memories of days past
Photographs of us, dad and mum

Thick album pages, made to last
Images of family for years beyond
Hold them safe and fast

Showing kindred spirits; ties and bonds
Yellowing photos in yellowing pages
For gazing, with recollections fond

From thence we grew through the ages
As our parents grew old and grey
The passage of time winds through its pages

Blood flows thicker than water, day by day
Forget not this saying, come what may


Khor Hui Min
13 May 2015

Poetic style

This poem was written in the style of a terza rima – an Italian form of poetry first used by Dante Alighieri.

A terza rima consists of stanzas of three lines (or tercets). It follows an interlocking rhyming scheme, or chain rhyme – the middle of each stanza rhymes with the first and last line of the following stanza. However, there is no set length to this form, as long as it follows the pattern as follows:

ABA
BCB
CDC
DED

The last stanza will be a couplet rhyming with the middle line of the previous stanza. In this case, EE.

So here is my poem again with the rhyming scheme shown:

Fond Memories

(A) Collated in faded dusty albums
(B) Countless fond memories of days past
(A) Photographs of us, dad and mum

(B) Thick album pages, made to last
(C) Images of family for years beyond
(B) Hold them safe and fast

(C) Showing kindred spirits; ties and bonds
(D) Yellowing photos in yellowing pages
(C) For gazing, with recollections fond

(D) From thence we grew through the ages
(E) As our parents grew old and grey
(D) The passage of time winds through its pages

(E) Blood flows thicker than water, day by day
(E) Forget not this saying, come what may

Every Breath You Take

We are coming to the end of Week 6 of the 10 Premodern Poems by Women public online course by Stanford University. The featured poem this week was ‘How do I love thee?’ by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. It is touted as one of the most beautiful poems of the 19th century.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s life story is one of those marvelous stories that surpassed works of fiction and the silver screen in interest and excitement. It had all the makings of an epic, a blockbuster love story with the added element of triumphing against the odds.

When she was 15, Elizabeth developed an ailment and became frail. Some scholars speculated that she might have suffered from a spinal disfigurement. Elizabeth had a very domineering father, who actually encouraged her frailty. She spent her days in a darkened room upstairs, receiving a few visitors every day. It was quite a depressing scene. By early afternoon, she would already be exhausted.

However, at that time, Elizabeth had already become a well-known poet. One of her visitors turned out to be Robert Browning, one of the most popular poets of the time. He came to pay his addresses to her and to tell her that he absolutely loved her poetry. He was four to five years younger than her.

This went on for a few years. All that time, she still considered herself too frail to have a life. Her father was not a help at all. In fact, the man did not even want Elizabeth or any of his other children to marry.

Somewhere along the line, Robert Browning finally persuaded her to leave her house and try for her own life. She was almost 40. They actually did that – they eloped to Italy! Elizabeth and Robert had a son and were very productive poets in Italy. However, her father was so disappointed, he never spoke to her again.

Till this day, ‘How do I love thee?’ remained one of the most compelling poems of the 19th century. It is considered to be one of the best written, and one of the best managed sonnets.

‘How Do I Love Thee?’ (Sonnet 43)

By Elizabeth Barrett Browning

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and Ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise;
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith;
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints,—I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!—and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

Flower Dome, Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

My Poem for Week 6

Since Week 3, one of the three weekly assignment questions would be on poetry writing, and I’d always choose that one. It’s the only one I like (if normal people actually liked to do assignments). 🙂

Question 3 was straightforward enough – write a sonnet! Must be fourteen lines with a rhyme scheme, preferably ten syllables per line.

I chose to write a sonnet using the Italian rhyming scheme: abba abba cdecde (taken from here). The sonnet is 14 lines long, and has 10 syllables in each line.

The inspiration for my poem: (1) Sting’s ‘Every Breath You Take’, and (2) Mother’s Day (May) and Father’s Day (June).

Here’s my poem:

EVERY BREATH YOU TAKE

Every breath that you take, I watch from above
From the depths of my soul, I miss you so
Every breath you take, everywhere you go
A gaze so soft, like the down of a dove
Every hurt you take; cushioned with my glove
From the depths of my heart, I miss you so
Every breath you take, everything you know
I’m looking out for you, from far above
Dear child, hold your head up high; don’t give up
Walk out that door and give it your best shot
Wipe away those tears; don’t give in to fears
So easy to grow weary and fed up
Rise; seize the day; do you believe me not?
Know that you always have my blessings, dear

A sonnet by
Khor Hui Min
11 May 2015

Now, here is the poem again with the rhyming scheme shown:

(A) Every breath that you take, I watch from above
(B) From the depths of my soul, I miss you so
(B) Every breath you take, everywhere you go
(A) A gaze so soft, like the down of a dove
(A) Every hurt you take; cushioned with my glove
(B) From the depths of my heart, I miss you so
(B) Every breath you take, everything you know
(A) I’m looking out for you, from far above
(C) Dear child, hold your head up high; don’t give up
(D) Walk out that door and give it your best shot
(E) Wipe away those tears; don’t give in to fears
(C) So easy to grow weary and fed up
(D) Rise; seize the day; do you believe me not?
(E) Know that you always have my blessings, dear

To visit the Stanford University public online courses page, click here.

Water

In week #63 of Haiku Horizons, I wrote a haiku using the word prompt ‘water’. This haiku talked about water being essential for the sustenance of life, and also touched on the spiritual aspects associated with it.

Geological formations at Yehliu Geopark, Wanli, New Taipei. Photo taken on 12 March 2014.
Geological formations at Yehliu Geopark, Wanli, New Taipei. Photo taken on 12 March 2015.

Water

Elixir that cures
Sustaining delicate life
Washes each being pure

An original haiku by
Khor Hui Min
9 May 2015

Gardens by the Bay: Cloud Forest

Gardens by the Bay is a breathtakingly beautiful, well-planned and excellently designed garden complex full of surprises suitable for the whole family. We only had a few hours to visit this place, so we bought tickets to view the Flower Dome and Cloud Forest. The ticket price is S$28 for both attractions combined. To read up more about Gardens by the Bay, visit their official website.

After exploring the Flower Dome and its Tulipmania display, we went over to the Cloud Forest, which encompasses 0.8 hectares (approx. 1.5 football fields).

Cloud Forest @ Cool-Moist Conservatory
Cloud Forest @ Cool-Moist Conservatory

The Cloud Forest is essentially a 35-metre tall man-made mountain covered in lush vegetation. On its face plunges the world’s tallest indoor waterfall.

Cloud Forest @ Cool-Moist Conservatory
Cloud Forest @ Cool-Moist Conservatory

It showcases flora from tropical highlands or montane habitats, up to 2,000-metres above sea level.

At the top of the mountain
At the top of the mountain

Since we were in Singapore, attractions were safe and hygienic. So, we all lined up to take the elevator to the 6th floor, walked up to the 7th floor, which was the mist-shrouded pinnacle of the mountain, and slowly walked down in a spiral.

Take the lift up to the 6th floor and walk down slowly
Take the lift up to the 6th floor and walk down slowly

Two walkways were artfully constructed to provide the best aerial view of the man-made mountain and the mountainside.

This was my favourite plant in the whole Cloud Forest! The tiny orchid is so cute.
This was my favourite plant in the whole Cloud Forest! The tiny orchid is so cute.

The Cloud Forest, also known as the Cool-Moist Conservatory, offers a learning opportunity – visitors can discover the unique biodiversity and geology of cloud forests. They are also educated about the environmental threats that plague these habitats.

Attractive montane flowers
Attractive montane flowers

The landscape on the mountain top was beautiful. As we walked down, we could see a bird’s eye view of Marina Bay Sands and the Singapore Eye, as well as the surrounding gardens.

Red-topped pitcher plants
Red-topped pitcher plants

There were many beautiful flowers, and pitcher plants, ferns and orchids figured very prominently on the mountain top and mountainside.

White-topped pitcher plants
White-topped pitcher plants
Beautiful orchids
Beautiful orchids
Pink and red highland orchids
Pink and red highland orchids
Stalactites and stalagmites
Stalactite and stalagmite display inside the man-made mountain

Related articles:
Gardens by the Bay: Flower Dome
– Gardens by the Bay: Tulipmania

Preparing a Feast

It is Week 5 of the 10 Premodern Poems by Women public online course by Stanford University. It has been interesting to read poems written by women in the 17th and 18th centuries and learn about the lives of the poets themselves. To visit the Stanford University public online courses page, click here.

Anna Laetitia Barbauld

Anna Laetitia Barbauld’s poem ‘Washing-Day’ was highlighted in Week 5. The poet was born as Anna Laetitia Aikin in 1743 in Leicestershire, England. Her father was a Presbyterian minister and schoolmaster, and her mother was also the daughter of a clergyman. Anna was described as a bright little girl. When her mother wrote about her, she said ‘I once indeed knew a little girl who was as eager to learn as her instructors were to teach her.’

Anna was learned, largely through her own insistence that her father teach her the classics. Her childhood was a happy one, sustained by a strong family life. Through her twenties, she turned down many offers of marriage. She was described as ‘possessed of great beauty, distinct traces of which she retained to the latest of her life’. In her early thirties, she married Rochemont Barbauld, a clergyman. Together, they set up the Palgrave School in Suffolk. However, it was to be an unhappy marriage. Her husband was often unstable. In later years, he became violent towards his wife, even chasing her with a drawn knife on one occasion. In 1808, he drowned himself in New River. Anna mourned him greatly despite their troubled marriage.

In the year before her marriage, Anna published a book of poems which was well received and went into several editions. She became a highly regarded literary figure. It was not easy for a woman to have a literary career in the 18th century, but Anna attained success and went on to write journalism, children’s books, more poems and various polemical tracts.

My poem for Week 5

Since Week 3, one of the three weekly assignment questions would be on poetry writing, and I’d always choose that one. It’s the only one I like (if normal people actually liked to do assignments). 🙂

Week 5’s poem is based on personal childhood experience – the memory of being a child and watching adults do their work. We could focus on just one aspect of this, such as writing a poem about work, about a domestic chore, or about a moment from childhood.

I have chosen to write a poem in the form of an English sonnet, 14 lines long. Each line has 10 syllables. The rhyming pattern is AB AB, CD CD, EF EF, GG. I got the rhyming pattern from How to Write a Sonnet.

Here’s my poem:

PREPARING A FEAST

Kitchen smells; wonderfully delicious
Womenfolk dicing, boiling and stirring
Bustling around, skilful and fastidious
With joyful laughter, festivity bring
Young children, told to stay far, far away
Play in the living room; read in your room
But teens allowed to assist, as they may
Matriarch’s word is law, or face your doom
Everybody has their own role to play
They’ll do their tasks; we’ll stay away safely
No boiling soup be poured on us, we pray
We’ll get by, while they prepare carefully
It’s all good; no tales of sorrowful woe
We’ll help with the eating, that’s what we’ll do!

An original sonnet by
Khor Hui Min
5 May 2015

Charlotte poir - pear mousse cake encircled by homemade lady fingers (biscuit a la cuillere), topped with homemade pear compote (poir au comport) and fresh mulberries from my garden. I made it for Mother's Day 2014.
Charlotte poir – pear mousse cake encircled by homemade lady fingers (biscuit a la cuillere), topped with homemade pear compote (poir au comport) and fresh mulberries from my garden. I made it for Mother’s Day 2014.

Here’s the poem again, with the rhyming pattern indicated:

(A) Kitchen smells; wonderfully delicious
(B) Womenfolk dicing, boiling and stirring
(A) Bustling around, skilful and fastidious
(B) With joyful laughter, festivity bring
(C) Young children, told to stay far, far away
(D) Play in the living room; read in your room
(C) But teens allowed to assist, as they may
(D) Matriarch’s word is law, or face your doom
(E) Everybody has their own role to play
(F) They’ll do their tasks; we’ll stay away safely
(E) No boiling soup be poured on us, we pray
(F) We’ll get by, while they prepare carefully
(G) It’s all good; no tales of sorrowful woe
(G) We’ll help with the eating, that’s what we’ll do!