Posts Tagged ‘haiku’

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winter solstice
our son reads a fairy tale
to his unborn child

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winter night
I dreamed your garden lights
were fireflies
Reaching for green pears–
the pull
of an old scar

  for her mother
roots and all

hazy moon
the nun begins her journey
with a backward glance


an open window
a woman’s wordless song

sweet peas
tremble on the trellis
the bride’s “I will”

smooth garden bench
a woman embroiders
a unicorn
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dew drops
on the dark rose
our reflections
yellow leaves
a girl plays hopscotch
by herself
on the harp strings
Christmas Eve
clay on the wheel I confess my faith
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winter night
he patiently untangles
her antique silver chain
cathedral garden
cardinals in the birdbath
scatter drops of light
the boy stands still
fingers splayed
above a starfish
through open windows—
he lifts the veil
night flight
a young man fast asleep
beside his cello
dress by dress
the story of her life
day lilies close
soft Gullah
at the graveside…
blue glass shines
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plunged in hot water
the tea-leaf
Becky Zeigler

Chinese tea, fortune cookie and chopsticks on menu, overhead view

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snow-covered sundial


to tell time again

Margaret Green
Rattle 37 (Summer 2012)

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How I long to see

in the blossoms of breaking dawn

the face of a god.


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Haiku by Issa

the willow yields

to let me pass

beyond the hedge


trans. Nobuyuki Yuasa

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… in his poetry collection, SEVEN NOTEBOOKS:

“But here’s one perfect, heart-shaped berry, and half a row later, three more, in the shadows, overlooked. Where has my family gone? Where is everybody? I find myself abandoned in the fields, illumined by shafts of sunlight through lavender clouds, bodiless, unmoored and entirely happy.” Blueberry Notebook (p.13)

“Reading Walt Whitman at Dawn”

Wakened by the sound
of feet on the porch I find
two sparrows, hopping!

What is the dune grass
trying to do — praise the sun
or go back to sleep?

Friendly grasshopper,
tell me the name of that bird
and I’ll sing with you.

Dawn Notebook (p.110)

“Why have these haiku chosen me as their instrument?” from “August 6” (p.134)

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I discovered the Dune series, the most popular and influential ecological science-fiction books ever written, before I was eleven. I read them all, and even as a child, I wanted to meet Frank Herbert. He died in 1986, but I didn’t know until I was a teenager. Meanwhile, I went on admiring the personal psychology of his extraordinary characters — men and women in his invented universe — where memory was pivotal to being not only for invidivuals, but for cultures, for Herbert believed in the Jungian collective unconscious at the cellular level: a powerful idea!

Not only did I read Herbert’s books, I re-read them, literally dozens of times. Whenever I was sick, I would pick them up and read them again. Again and again.

I memorized the Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear, and I would recite it to myself (as many of Herbert’s readers have done): I will not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over and through me. When it has gone, I will turn the inner eye to its path. Where it has been, there will be nothing. Only I will remain. When I was afraid, I would recite these words along with scriptures from the Bible: Do not be afraid because I am with you and He has not given us a spirit of fear but of love and of power and of a sound mind and The Spirt of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him.

In addition to the Litany, Herbert’s universe had other songs and poems in it, too, intriguing ones. I was recently experiencing a relapse of tendonitis, and so, feeling unwell, wanted to re-read the Dune books. When I got to the third book, Children of Dune, I read this poem with a new interest:

Nature’s beauteous form

contains a lovely essence

called by some — decay.

By this lovely presence

new life finds its way.

Tears shed silently

are but water of the soul:

they bring new life

to the pain of being —

a separation from that seeing

which makes death whole.

I wondered why the word “death” in the final line couldn’t be the word “life.” But another poet, Herbert, wrote those words … The young Leto plays this poem as a song for his sister Ghanima on a baliset when they are overlooking the Dune desert when night is falling.

This poem got me thinking about Frank Herbert as a poet as well as a science-fiction writer. I went on GoogleBooks and read the first 150 pages of Frank Herbert’s biography, written by his son, Brian: Dreamer of Dune. I found other poems in those pages that I admired. One was a protest poem that Frank Herbert wrote when murals painted by his friend, Bernard Zakheim, were removed from the University of California Medical Center in San Francisco.

What folly to think there

is no place to receive this.

No empty place for this

painting to be.

Driven into the heart of the thing itself —

we have a relationship, this

artist and myself.

This hand and my eye have just met.

The simple phrases of this poem made me think of my own relationship to Frank Herbert as an artist. For some reason, in this season of my life, I wanted to understand his life better and how his life produced his stories — his extraordinary stories — and his meditations on the way memory works for his characters. Every time I re-read Herbert’s works, it is as if his “hand and my eye have just met.”

Another poem Frank Herbert wrote, and his son Brian published in the biography, meditates on the meaning of a life in a way powerfully relevant to this questing / questioning I’ve been feeling about the author and the man, Frank Herbert:

What is the meaning of your life?
If you live close to nature, is it hidden in—
a towering tree,
busy worker bees,
a flower bloom,
the sun piercing morning’s gloom?

Or do you live in civilization?
Does fancy people your imagination with thoughts of —
laborers, soot and grime,
youths leading lives of crime,
long hours and payday
nightlife in its heyday?

Are you but chaff from the Great Miller’s gleaning?
Or wherever you live does your life have meaning?

It’s an intense sort of metaphor to imagine God as a Great Miller and to wonder if we, ourselves, are chaff or grain in his gleaning. In this metaphor, the poem alludes to Jesus’ Parable of the Wheat and the Tares (Matthew 13). Perhaps, in its questioning, it reflects Frank Herbert’s ambivalent relationship with the Roman Catholicism of his family of origin. It’s concern with place certainly reflects the poet’s ecological concerns. But that drive, to make meaning, is the storyteller’s, the poet’s, and everyman’s motivation.

The problem is that sometimes our bodies can’t keep up with our minds. They fail, but our souls continue. Herbert’s meditations on life, death and memory in his books engages this reality.

Personally, though, I am thinking of my tendons (and the tendonitis, another kind of failure of the imperfect body, stressed by overuse) — as I type this post when I should be resting them — and I recall another of Herbert’s poems, a haiku in honor of his typewriter:

typewriter clacking

in my night-encircled room –

metal insect song

The typewriter! The keyboard! Brian Herbert calls it his father’s mistress. Well, it is at the very least an extremely valuable tool, and it’s interesting to think of it singing “a metal insect song.”

Brian Herbert has published more of his father’s Dune poems in a collection called, Songs of Maud’dib, and I recommend it to those interested.

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TIDEPOOLS is my new book of haiku illustrated with original nature photographs in a lovely, hard-bound volume. Inspired in part by the beautiful landscapes of California and the midwest, in part by visionary prayer experiences, my new poems provide images for spiritual reflection. In the first haiku sequence in the book, “Seasons,” I wrote about summertime:

ordinary time

green-leafed stalks, yellow corn cobs —

then, the tornado

The contrast between the peacefulness of the growing season and the destructiveness of the tornado, nature’s furious wind unleashed, provides a moment for meditation not only about nature but about the spiritual life.

I invite you to explore TIDEPOOLS.

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in the middle of the field
clouds’ shadows prove
they are closer than the trees

Commentary: When I am working on the exquisitely beautiful, 14th century poem, “Pearl,” I always find other beautiful poems and ideas out in the world — all related by the word “pearl.” Today, I found Pearl Pirie’s online chapbook: Page Half-Full Poems. Her haiku, above, struck me because I have been reading haiku every night and writing them ever since I was in Southern California a few weeks ago.

What does it mean not only for our natural life in the world, but our spiritual life within, when the shadows of the clouds are closer than the trees?

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The time it takes —
for snowflakes to whiten
distant pines

Lorraine Ellis Harr
in HAIKU MIND (Shambhala, 2008)

Commentary: About five years ago, my family decided to go to Tahoe, making the trek from our home San Francisco Bay Area up north. My father and I drove up in one car, and he was talking to me about SpongeBob Squarepants, a cartoon I had never seen before. (Imagine hearing that cartoon described without ever having seen it!) But as he spoke, I was looking out at the landscape, which was covered with a new-fallen snow.

It amazed me how instantaneously the snow changed the whole world. One moment, everything was ordinary as far as the eye could see. It was simply the end of autumn. The next moment, everything was extraordinary: sparkling, pure white, heaven come down to earth to make a wonderland more beautiful than imagination or memory could have conjured up.

It occurred to me that just as quickly as God can change the landscape, He can change our lives and our hearts. The snowfall of his beauty and grace can transform everything instantly. This was deeply reassuring to me at the time.

For we often find ourselves waiting a long time for God to intervene in our circumstances. Or, if our circumstances are causing us to suffer, it may feel as if the suffering will never end. But there are surprising bridges over troubled waters in our near future.

Beyond them is not only the snowfall, but the spring.

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first light
everything in this room
was already there
~ Christopher Herold

in the deep fires
I saw the way
a peony crumbles
~ Shuson Kato

after the rain
bomb craters filled
with stars
~ John Brandi

from HAIKU MIND by Patricia Donegan
(Boston & London: Shambhala Press, 2008).

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