Song of an Old Cherry Tree – reviewed by Patricia Prime

Song of an Old Cherry Tree, a tanka sequence by Giselle Maya, Koyama Press, 84750 Saint Martin de Castillon, France.  Photos by the author.  (Limited edition 2004). Small format: US$20 plus US$7.00 airmail postage (or 17 Euros, postage 5.50 Euros).  Email: GISELLE.MAYA@wandadoo.fr   Reviewed by Patricia Prime

This is a collection of 64 tanka by Giselle Maya relating to outer and inner seasons, with photos “River of Clay” by the author.  In her Preface Maya states, “The tanka were written from the year 2000 to 2004.  They are about relationships: human, animal and plants and spring from the land that has become my home – La Provence, a cold land with a hot sun, a land of almond, olive and cherry trees.  This is an ode to one particular beautiful old cherry tree.”

The book opens with a beautifully clothed poetess gazing up at the spreading branches of an ancient tree:

 sakura petals
 on her silken kimono
 poetess gazing
 long at the thousand year old
 floating branches of the tree

This is a most inspired approach to tanka, and the contents of this delightful handmade book deserve our attention.  The theme certainly holds our interest as we learn more about the landscape in which the poet lives:

 from fleece of clouds
 silver sheets of rain
 thoughts of my old home
 a teabowl left wrapped
 in its wooden box

 wild boar tracks
 on rainsoaked earth
 hunters’ shots have ceased
 spirit of the silent earth
 shimmers in noon haze

There are places in life which mean more to us than others, and it does bring a feeling of common emotion to discover the fact.  Here you will find doves’ wings, pomegranate blossoms,
Wild boar tracks, a white lily, snowflakes, and all sorts of animals, flowers and birds.  There is much we can find in common on the tanka path, and once we have found it, we can recognize the poet’s journey and her emotional involvement with the landscape that surrounds her:

 the wind has risen
 tossing willow hair
 dark thoughts swept away
 two white doves touch beaks
 in the mountain’s shadow

 winter solstice gone
 frayed feelings
 have not healed
 the pruned cherry tree
 has formed new buds

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