A Journal for Linking Poets  



John Martone

Jim Wilson aka Tundra Wind



John Martone

shabby clothing
and cool out the one man
walking on
Santoka/ Corman 

Hazel rod in hand, someone is walking. The hazel rod draws him in wider circles until it begins to vibrate. It draws his eyes down to the earth, for whatever he is looking for is here now, right before him. It may be water, or some long buried thing. It is the secret.
Dowsing – its broadest sense – could be the original art from which all the others derive. It is certainly older than the Neolithic cave paintings that depict it, and perhaps it was dowsers who discovered those ice age caves. In China, images of dowsing go back three millennia, and other cultural practices are clearly related to it. The yarrow rods of the Yijingare dowsing rods of a sort, and the oracle bones and oracle bone characters accomplish a similar purpose: they lead us into life. One might even say that the tuning experienced in tai chi is a kind of dowsing. In Japan we have something like the dowsing rod in the Shinto tamagushi, a branch of the sakaki tree placed on the in the Shinto shrine, as a means of connecting the worshipper to the kami. Motohisa Yamakage describes its use:

2 When you receive the tamagushi, our left hand supports the leaf part and the right hand holds the branch stalk. Proceed to the front of the shrine, bow deeply, and then turn the tamagushi three-quarters clockwise. You should offer tamagushi in such a way that the root of the sacred sprig is facing toward the shine. Then you bow two times, clap two times, and then bow again. (198-199)
William Barrett’s researches suggest that dowsing is all-but a cultural universal: he finds dowsers in Calcutta, Malaysia, Melanesia, central Africa – virtually wherever people have lived. Usually, the dowser looks for water, but not always. In fact, one of the earliest European text to deal with dowsing, Agricola’s De re metallica, has the dowser looking for metals. In the mines of the American west, according to Walker Wyman, Cornishmen were renowned mineral dowsers: “These people had long believed in the forked stick for locating minerals, and brought the belief with them. The rod was guided by pixies, “the fairy custodians of the treasures of the earth,” they said.” (47)
One can dowse for anything. Tom Graves wrote:
Once you start serious work in dowsing, you’ll soon find that all the ‘objects’ you deal with appear to have minds of their own. All of them – people, plants, minerals, metals, stones, places on, above and below the ground, even concepts and ideas – in their role as images in dowsing can be awkward, cantankerous, unreliable, even treacherous; as images the all have a sense of mind and purpose. Not necessarily ‘mind’ in the usual sense of the word, in fact, rarely so, but since hey all exist as ideas and images in the mind, they can all act as at least semi-independent entities

3 within it. Since in dowsing you’re operating in the mental world, the world of the mind, you have to observe and be responsive to their reactions and needs if you’re going to get reliable results from them. (107)
Graves probably doesn’t know much about Hua Yen Buddhism, but his belief in the world’s sentience resonates with that faith. That dowsing is such a widespread cultural practice probably has something to do with that belief: we are not alone, we are not cut off from the world around us. That all of us are sensitives by nature is a belief that our hierarchical, anthropocentric outlook has certainly done its best to discredit. St. Francis and Issa Kobayashi may have talked to the creatures, and George Washington Carver to his plants, but for most of us, language is a distinctly human province. Few westerners subscribe to anything like the traditional Japanese notion of kotodama, the power of words to communicate with nature itself.

(Lanoue 23)

Today, it is as hard to find a dowser as it is to find a poet. Society holds both in contempt: they are con-men or fools, wasting their time on an antiquated superstition and for crediting both humans and the environment with greater powers than reasonable people suppose. I don’t know whether dowsers bother any longer to validate their results in a scientific sense. I do know that poets would do well to reinvigorate the connection to

4. their dowsing brothers and sisters. Let sensible people shout all the louder that these arts are antiquated superstitions – in the same breath these folks are saying that art waters our roots! The connections are straightforward – The dowser walks in tune : Dr. Williams drove, but Basho, with the world Santoka and Sakaki walked and walk even now The dowser finds water/ : Poets find poems water reveals itself Poems reveal themselves The dowser is a sensitive in- : The poet is a sensitive instrument… strument who, with the
aid of the dowsing rod makes the earth’s energies visible. The dowsing rod is unpre- : The brush, stylus, or pen traces dictable… a link to the world. What I want to stress first is being in movement – dowsers and poets should both be great walkers, who walk mindfully on the earth, and who do not know in advance where their work will appear. Both are creatures of the outside, of the Dao. You might go so far as to say that poets, like dowsers, follow the water-cycle –

the clouds
in a hurry
no more houses
to beg from now
in the mountains
5 begging while walking
and the sound of water
everywhere yet
raining as it will
getting wet as one will
getting on with it
(Corman 11, 33, 48, 58)

The poet finds the poem. Finding requires innocence, since what one finds is usually quite ordinary, nothing unusual. We do not like to think of ourselves in terms of innocence, as geo-locators of poetry rather that ‘makers.’ Children are the best at finding. But for poets like Tom Clausen, adults go decades without finding anything at all –

bike ride
as fast as I go
the moon on the water
(Clausen 17)

Finding is also (horrors!) unproductive. Finding is not work; it leaves one refreshed rather than exhausted. Finding is not something for which one can take very much credit; since what one has found is what matters. Finding is a matter of luck, of having time to waste, of not being distracted by busyness. As Laozi puts it –

The multitude all have a purpose.
I alone am foolish and uncouth.
(Lau 25)

I think anyone who reads this will know that sense of encounter, of being drawn into the life of some small, ordinary thing and vanishing there. There is water, the dowser

6 would say, but “there is life” is what comes to a poet, and what takes shape, conceived and born at once, is a poem.
on the kasa

dragonfly has settled
for a walk
in the mountains
all day long the ants also
coming along
(Corman 5, 57)

I find the sharpest expression of the dowsing/poetry kinship in the calligrapher’s art. Once I had the privilege of watching Mochizuki Suizan’s render his modern versions of the oracle bone characters. His ink-heavy brush circled and hovered over the paper on the floor until it was seized like a dower’s rod, plunged and made the character for tortoise: 龜. The ‘one-line’ painter Kaz Tanahashi is drawn to the brush instead of the pen because the former is more difficult to use, idiosyncratic, unpredictable. “Aren’t weeds, twigs, and rocks already brushes?” (116) His work reminds us that the Chinese term for ‘nature,’ ziran [自 然 ] is actually best translated as ‘self-so’ or ‘spontaneous.’ In the case of Paul Reps, one is sometimes hard put to tell which comes first, the calligraphic image or the poem that arises with it on the page. In each of these cases, calligraphy renders visible a play of subtle energies. Dowsing as Dao-sing. Words are always – at least potentially -- the most "self important" medium of any art, compared to anything drawn or handmade, where the material stands out on its own, where you have an object, rather than an abstract ‘trace.’ Because the holograph poem, the haiga, makes energy visible (as Frank O’Hara said of Pollock’s painting) it persists and has a new vitality in this electronic age. Poetry is only poetry when the

7 words overcome that potential “self importance” – when the life appears. Walking – the physical act which brings an awareness of breath and time passing; and the brush or pen (dowsing rod) – all of it as sensitive instrument, can only extend the reach of poetry from its roots which must not be forgotten. This can only be health for us. --john martone 2007

 8. Works Cited
Barrett, Sir William and Theodore Besterman. The Divining Rod: An Experimental and Psychological Investigation. New Hyde Park, NY: University Books, 1968.
Clausen, Tom. bike ride. UPSTATE DIM SUM 2005, 1: 17.
Corman, Cid. Walking Into the Wind – A Sweep of Poems by Santoka. San Francisco: Cadmus Editions, 1990.
Graves, Tom. Dowsing: Techniques and Applications. Wellingborough, Northhamptonshire: Turnstone Press, 1976
Lanoue, David. Issa: Cup of Tea Poems. Berkeley: Asian Humanities Press, 1991.
Lau, D.C. Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching. New York: Penguin Books, 1963.
Mochizuki, Suizan. Inochi: Life. Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Printing Services, 2006.
Tanahashi, Kazuaki. Brush Mind. Berkeley: Parallax Press, 1990.
Wyman, Walker D. Witching for Water, Oil, Pipes, and Precious Minerals: A Persistent Folk Belief from Frontier Days Down To the Present. Park Falls, WI: University of Wisconsin-River Falls Press, 1977
Yamakage, Motohisa. The Essence of Shinto. NY: Kodansha, 2006.


Jim Wilson aka Tundra Wind

A number of friends of mine have expressed an interest in the tanka I am writing. Accordingly I have created an email list for the purpose of sharing the tanka with others.

My intention is to send out about one tanka each week. Since this is the first mailing I decided to make it special by including two tanka.

Almost all the tanka I write are also songs. So I will send out both the standard Tanka version as a poem, and also include the song version. The two Tanka included here use the same melody.

I have had difficulty finding a music program that is easy to paste into a document. So I have decided to use a system of musical notation called "Common Character Musical Notation" which uses only the characters commonly available on a regular keyboard that everyone with a computer has. This way I don't have to bother with cutting and pasting and extra fonts, etc. I have tried out this system with several musicians and they have found it easy to access. For the musicians on the list: each note consists of three fields. The first field designates the octave with a number: 4 = Middle C, 5 = the octave above Middle C, 4 = the octave below middle C, etc.  Thus 4A = A 440, 5A = A 880, and 4A =A 220, etc.

The second field, already demonstrated above, designates the specific pitch in the octave by using the 7 standard capital letters. The third field designates duration as a function of the pulse.  Thus 4A1 = A 440 for one beat.  4A4 = A 440 for four beats.  Etc.

If anyone wants a full explanation of Common Character Notation email me and I will send an attachment.


                        On this quiet night,
                        a night of many spirits,
                        hours before the dawn,
                        there are voices in the wind
                        and songs sun among the stars

Tanka Song

(4)        (4A1    4A1     4A1     4G1)    (4A4   )
               On    this      qui -     et           night

            (4A1    4B1      5C1     4B1)     (4A1    4G1     4A2)
               a       night    of         ma -       ny      spir -     its

            (4A1    4A1     4A1     4G1)    (4A4   )
             hours  be -       fore      the       dawn

            (4A1    4B1      4C1     4B1)     (4A1    4G1     4A2  )
              there  are       voi -      ces          in       the       wind

            (4A1    4B1      4C1     4B1)     (4A1    4G1     4A2  )
              and    songs    sung     a -         mong  the       stars



                        The grove of redwoods,
                        silent, an ancient stillness,
                        soothing and serene.
                        I once saw a goddess there,
                        eyes of night and starlight hair.

Tanka Song

(4)        (4A1    4A1     4A1     4G1)    (4A4)
              The    grove   of         red -     woods

            (4A1    4B1      5C1     4B1)     (4A1    4G1     4A2)
              si -      lent,     an        an -      cient    still-      ness

            (4A1    4A1     4A1     4G1)    4A4)
              sooth -     ing           and            se-            rene

            (4A1    4B1      5C1     4B1)     (4A1    4G1     4A2)
                I       once     saw         a          god -   dess      there

            (4A1    4B1      5C1     4B1)     (4A1    4G1     4A2)
              eyes    of         night    and      star -     light     hair.

Mode: A – B – C – E – G – A



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