I’ve always thought that the commons, in its attempt to achieve a holistic balance of relationships, is profoundly aesthetic and ethical. It aspires to a certain dynamic but disciplined shapeliness. How wonderful, then, to encounter Harris Webster’s Japanese-style poetry about the commons, inspired by his reading of The Wealth of the Commons: A World Beyond Market and State!
A few years ago, Webster, a retiree living in Montpelier, Vermont, heard a presentation on the commons by University of Vermont professor Gary Flomenhoft. Then he read a number of pieces on the commons in Kosmos journal and discovered The Wealth of the Commons.
Webster has a hobby of writing tanka poems, a genre of classical Japanese poetry akin to haiku. He had developed a taste for Japanese poetry in the course of several exchange visits with the prefecture of Tottori, Japan, as the representative of the Japan-American Society of Vermont. Webster decided that he wanted to capture the essence of some essays in The Wealth of Commons in the succinct, austere style of tanka. (Links to the original essays are embedded in the authors' names and essay titles.)
I hope you enjoy this wonderful poetic experiment as much as I do!
Question: Should earth’s people share
our earth’s seven seas?
Answer: When some Somalians
lost their share of fishing grounds,
they became pirates.
Good church members are stewards
of the church commons,
its resources and culture.
Earth’s people should be stewards
of the earth’s Commons.
Unknown Elinor Ostrom
won a Nobel Prize
for research on the Commons
throughout our wide world.
May it be well known world wide!
The Commons looks at the ‘whole.’
resources, people, and norms,
(oceans, fishermen, and rules,)
Do markets and government?
Do people value
good soil and fresh air?
Of course , but they are not priced,
advertised or for sale.
Is that why they’re uncommon?