C H E R I T A K N O W H O W
cat and i in a quiet place
the other leaves
falling into time
out of time
the cups and saucers
I received these inspiring words about writing Cherita from Cynthia Anderson [see below] on 2 March 2020 and asked for her permission to post the paragraph on Cherita Knowhow. I can’t thank her enough for taking the time to send it in.
My special thanks to Larry Kimmel and Jackie Chou for responding so quickly to my invitation to participate in this new feature.
A big thank you to Kathabela Wilson for her unique way of saying how and why cherita. A treat!
Special thanks to Pat Geyer with her contribution to this new feature.
My grateful thanks to Patricia Prime for her kind permission for me to post an excerpt from her review of under raintrees which was published in Atlas Poetica 36.
from Cynthia Anderson
I too write to heal. What I find so wonderful about cherita is that the form is a very adaptable container. It can hold every kind of experience. I’m writing about things I’ve never written about before—no holds barred. It’s very liberating!
2 march 2020
I decided to include this excerpt from Patricia Prime’s review of Arvinder Kaur’s book under raintrees [published in Atlas Poetica 36], which comprises of a selection of my cherita translated into Hindi and Punjabi. I felt that this excerpt is relevant because Patricia has this deep understanding of how and why I write my cherita. I hope her words will help those of you venturing into writing cherita for the very first time, and that they will also enhance the work of poets and writers who are already the genre, and take their poems onto another level. You can read the full review on our Articles page.
from Patricia Prime
ai li takes this little song and fashions it in such a way to persuade us of something – of many things, but primarily of how to write “simply” and without artifice. Her cherita are carefully worked out “stories”, presented without artifice. The opening cherita, for example, is in the form of a question the poet asks herself:
finding you this late
the tint of my hair
do i have the years
to give you
love and grace? (2)
Read aloud, it sounds like a prose sentence, but the line-breaks demand that we read it as a poem. ai li is deploying, in the context of a poem, prose’s strength for logical argument.
ai li’s cherita have a social, even convivial aspect to them. There are poems of loss and its consolations, poems of fitful sleep and dreams, of friends and lovers, of the living and the dead, of food, clothing, weather, ghost stories and this one about a family heirloom:
there’s dead skin
in the drawers
if you look closely
family dna that’s
not in the graveyard (10)
A cherita might begin with a well-worn, abstract indulgence – “love strays” – but the cherita opens out like a flower to show that the shadow love casts has its effects long after its first blossoming:
the missing valentine
i open the box
i never received (30)
ai li reflects on loneliness, death and suicide with the same resilience:
using black ink
to make a point
who will read my words
if it isn’t found
this piece of rice paper (42)
ai li’s range of emotions and mastery of this brief form are outstanding and many of these moments will have been lived and felt by readers. Each cherita must be savoured for its poignancy, its experience and its language. The collection is a good example of how well ai li handles emotional material – moving, with palpable, but controlled, grief. It uses the conventional form of the cherita to do unconventional things, in a distinctive way. ai li dislocates the cherita from the lyric tradition, wrings tears from it, brings joy to it, sets it apart from conventional forms, without losing that directness of connection to the reader, that lightness of touch, which, it seems to me, is the essence of cherita.
19 february 2019
from ai li
I am quiet when I write and I am always in an altered state of consciousness.
I allow the words to emerge from the right side of my brain in a random fashion akin to automatic writing.
Always in one breath.
I don’t draft.
It is my belief that this keeps my voice authentic because it comes from an inner room of stillness.
This is how I write all my short form poems, starting with Haiku, Tanka and now with my Cherita.
I have the six required lines of Cherita to bring out the storyteller in me and to tell my short story.
At Cherita’s birth twenty one years ago, I started writing the poems in their original three stanza format. My writing has since evolved with me writing Cherita as one continuous poem in longhand. Once the words are on paper, I then place three dashes on the left of the poem to mark the stanzas to indicate whether they are in its original format or the terbalik format [these formats are now freely available to anyone and everyone writing or about to write Cherita], and close my journal. I only return to my private journals when I am either looking for work for my own books or for possible submissions to journals.
What I discovered to my delight was that when I allowed my pen to go freefall to write Cherita with no stanza boundaries at the onset, I further deepened my ‘semi-trance’ state. The end result was always what I call ‘a gift from the gods’.
on a swing
to the branch
of a tall tree
i’m in and out
of dappled light
The Cherita above appeared just after I wrote the ‘a gift from the gods’ in the paragraph above, all in one breath. I have decided to share this with you with its umbilical Cherita cord still intact.
Finally, as to why I write Cherita, well, Ernest Hemingway allegedly wrote a 6 word story. ‘For sale: baby shoes, never worn’ was this famous short story, flash fiction at its best, and it became a writer’s prompt for decades. This six word short story challenged and tested writers’ ability to create their own minimal masterpieces with as few words as possible.
My challenge to myself of creating and writing a short story in 6 lines with Cherita would seem a doddle to anyone after reading the 6 word short story attributed to Hemingway. Apart from wishing to honour all the storytellers who have come and gone in my life, and who inspired me with their myriad tales, I write Cherita because stories have this magical way of bringing people together. Through Cherita, we can share our stories of Life, Love and Loss and this enables us to feel less alone in our lives and in this fast changing world we all have to live in.
The storyteller within you is your inner child, and this child is impatiently and enthusiastically waiting for a poetic collaboration with you.
Vive la Cherita !
creator of cherita
editor and publisher of the cherita
15 August 2018
from Larry Kimmel
When I first began to write haiku and then tanka I felt constrained. It was as if I wasn’t allowed to color outside the lines and extend myself beyond the most immediate experiences of this 5-sense reality. When cherita came along I felt freer. It gave me freedom to use metaphor, which haiku did not, for example, and it gave me a greater freedom to create, rather than report.
I’m a great believer in limitations and form in the creation of art. It causes one to work harder and better poems result. With the cherita I can do all I want within its six-line, three stanza structure, yet it limits me enough that the work in hand doesn’t sprawl down the page. It is somewhere between the nearly rule bound forms and vers libre.
I believe we stand at the threshold of a burgeoning era of short form poetry (perhaps fueled in part by social media and the universal acceptance of haiku), and that cherita will be a major contributor to that era. Perhaps the queen of the short form poem. I believe it will be read and used a hundred years from now.
It is also my belief that cherita is a bridge between the haikai world and the world of mainstream poetry. Won’t that be wonderful when we are not only cherita-poets, but poets.
I love cherita and am happiest when, at the end of the day, my world shrinks to an infinite place, which is a pool of yellow lamplight and the hush of night around me, my own void of the 10,000 things.
16 August 2018
from Jackie Chou
I was introduced to the cherita form a few years ago and fell in love with it. For me it is one of the most succinct ways I can find to describe thoughts, feelings and images which I feel the urge to capture before they slip away from my consciousness. It is the perfect form to use when my story only requires so many words to tell. I also find it liberating to write without the syllable restrictions of other short forms.
Pico Rivera, California
18 August 2018
from Kath Abela Wilson
once upon a cherita
it is as if
my life begins again
father’s voice mother’s smile
on the golden page a beam of sunlight
another first poem
all the stories
in the great dream of my little life
once upon a…
and then… finally
they fall into place one by one
three tiered six stranded
I wear them as they sparkle
and pass them on
as they disappear and reappear
on the page of your mind
they mix with the calls
you heard to dinner
when the stars came out at playtime
time passes without care
or knowing in slowmotion days
and fantastical nights
tell me a story you say
they are all waiting
the endless queue
as one story is told
it becomes another
Kath Abela Wilson
(and everywhere I have ever been)
19 August 2018
from Pat Geyer
Cherita. Telling stories with limitless possibilities. I know how to write and enjoy cherita from three female poets: ai li (the creator), Kathabela Wilson and Hortensia Anderson.
All these artists have helped me write more and, hopefully, better. Each has taught me a bit of how I should tell a story. My first lesson with this poetry form is as follows:
black clouds disperse
up above a world
that has turned to dusk
in the hard sand
i write haiku, read and erased
only by the sea
Hortensia Anderson USA
Simply Haiku: Winter 2005, vol 3 no 4
After all this time, I find I write cherita often. Probably once a day.
My inspiration most often comes from nature:
white and purple
tells a grand story…
borne in abundance
especially after rain
Cherita Poets on Site: May 2, 2017
East Brunswick, New Jersey
19 August 2018
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