Many, many haiku have drawn a long ‘aaah’ from me. Perhaps I should have written each one down in a notebook and the task of choosing my 10 favourite would have been at my fingertips. This not being so, I have chosen a selection read over the past year. They all have a resonance that, as our world gets busier and busier, made me pause and enjoy being in the moment.
The first five are from The Haiku Mind (Shambhala, 2008), 108 poems collected by Patricia Donegan.
no flower can stay
yet humans grieve at dying –
the red peony
– Edith Shiffert
As one gets older, death becomes a reality. Humans, flowers, animals, we all face the inevitable. Read at a time when a very dear friend was suffering from terminal cancer, for me, this poem is particularly poignant.
the guest, the host
the white chrysanthemum
– Ryota Oshina
One of my favourite moments while in Japan this year, was attending a traditional tea ceremony. Silent communication is an essential part of the ritual, and I found the calm, unhurried movements of our gracious hostess fascinating. As I drank my tea, I realised how relaxed and refreshed I was feeling. After an early start from the hotel, a set time in a museum in which I managed to get lost, a fleeting visit to another site, a hurried lunch, all tension had drained away.
In a world where we seem to be constantly surrounded by noise, where the art of communication has become a high-tech non-stop beep of phone calls, texts and emails, stress has become the new disease. Take 10 minutes out now and then to smell the roses, or to sit with a friend over a glass of wine and watch the sun go down, and discover the healing properties of silence.
On a similar theme is this haiku:
a warm full day
learning from this rock
to do nothing
– Paul O Williams
the homeless man
takes off his shoes before
his cardboard house
– Penny Harter
Customs, rituals and good manners are part of what makes us human. I find this haiku is all the more poignant as this man, despite losing all that is material, is not to be viewed with pity. In this simple act of taking off his shoes he has retained the dignity of spirit that makes us truly human.
– Alexis Rotella
In using sound, the poet sums up the overwhelming isolation of loneliness.
I now turn to a New Zealand poet. So much went through my mind when I read this haiku:
great-grandfather’s diary –
his sketch of an iceberg
– Sandra Simpson
Did the writer know her great-grandfather? Perhaps her only contact was as a very young child before she formed any lasting memories. Or had he passed on before she was born, and the diary is the only link? This poem resonated with me as I did not know my grandfather, and certainly greats had long gone. But my grandmother gave me grandad’s pocketknife, which I was so proud to own, and then I lost it. All I had of him, gone. I feel this loss in this poem. The iceberg, probably sketched in pencil or charcoal and as the years pass by it fades, and the item of fascination that was the link to him will soon be lost too.
The next two resonate with me, because I actually wanted to write them. There I was toying with both images of the moon, and I open a haiku journal and these two poets have found the words I wanted. Content, I can move on, enjoy the moon in its variety while reciting these haiku.
the river makes
of the moon
– Jim Kacian
full white moon
touching – not touching
the top of the hill
– Cyril Childs
Bravo, Jim and Cyril!
Then there are those moments in nature when the ordinary becomes extraordinary, and one’s perception changes. Like the time my daughter had her hair and makeup done for the school ball.
until it alights
on a white daisy – just another
– Lorraine Ellis Harr
And this final one, which took a couple of reads for the penny to drop:
with a cheap towel
I change the tide
on a distant planet
– paul m.
In 12 words the poet shows all there is to know about cause and effect.
This is the beauty of haiku; that the skilled poet can reveal great truths in so few words.
Editor’s note: Margaret Beverland lives on the shores of Tauranga Harbour near Katikati in New Zealand. She is treasurer of the Katikati Haiku Pathway Committee, co-editor of Kokako haiku journal and was co-organiser of the Haiku Festival Aotearoa 2012. Read more about Margaret and see some of her haiku in her Showcase entry.