More in haikus

“In this, his final work, American senior Zen Roshi Robert Aitken lovingly ties together two threads, Zen practice and haiku.” —Spirituality & Health
 
Known to many as the study of quiet stillness and introspection, Zen Buddhism distinguishes itself through brilliant flashes of insight and its terseness of expression. In River of Heaven these concepts and pillars lend themselves to an exploration of Haiku, one of the most delicate and interpretive poetic forms in the world. The haiku verse form, with its rigid structure and organic description is a superb means of studying Zen modes of thought because its seventeen syllables impose a limitation that confines the poet to vital experience. In Haiku as in Buddhism, the silences are as expressive as the words.
 
In this volume, American Senior Zen Roshi Robert Aitken gives new insight into Haiku by poetic masters Basho, Issa, Buson, and Shiki. In presenting themes from Haiku and from Zen literature, Aitken illuminates the relationship between the two. Readers are certain to find this an invaluable and enjoyable experience for the remarkable revelation it offers.
 
“I am grateful for Robert Aitken’s enthusiastic sharing of poems in The River of Heaven, together with his rich personal and cultural perspectives. It is a book where the author joyfully calls each of us as readers to share in the transcendent joys of haiku.” —Juxtapositions
 
“Aitken mines the meanings in these brief gems about nature, impermanence, travel, awareness, silence, beauty, being present, the turn of the seasons, and much more.” —Spirituality & Practice
Everything you want to know about haiku written by one of the foremost experts in the field and the “finest translator of contemporary Japanese poetry into American English” (Gary Snyder)

Who doesn’t love haiku? It is not only America’s most popular cultural import from Japan but also our most popular poetic form: instantly recognizable, more mobile than a sonnet, loved for its simplicity and compression, as well as its ease of composition. Haiku is an ancient literary form seemingly made for the Twittersphere—Jack Kerouac and Langston Hughes wrote them, Ezra Pound and the Imagists were inspired by them, Hallmark’s made millions off them, first-grade students across the country still learn to write them. But what really is a haiku? Where does the form originate? Who were the original Japanese poets who wrote them? And how has their work been translated into English over the years? The haiku form comes down to us today as a cliché: a three-line poem of 5-7-5 syllables. And yet its story is actually much more colorful and multifaceted. And of course to write a good one can be as difficult as writing a Homeric epic—or it can materialize in an instant of epic inspiration.

In On Haiku, Hiroaki Sato explores the many styles and genres of haiku on both sides of the Pacific, from the classical haiku of Basho, Issa, and Zen monks, to modern haiku about swimsuits and atomic bombs, to the haiku of famous American writers such as J. D. Salinger and Allen Ginsburg. As if conversing over beers in your favorite pub, Sato explains everything you wanted to know about the haiku in this endearing and pleasurable book, destined to be a classic in the field.

Jodo’s interpretations of the stories and koans of Zen master Ejo Takata

• Offers more than 60 Zen teaching tales, initiatory stories, koans, and haikus for self-realization and spiritual awakening

• Each story or koan is accompanied by the author’s lucid and penetrating commentary, blending the same burlesque slapstick and sublime insight that characterize his films

• Explains how one must see beyond the words of the story to grasp the spiritual insights they contain

Before he became the film maker and graphic novel author known throughout the world today, Alejandro Jodorowsky studied with Zen master Ejo Takata in Mexico City. In The Finger and the Moon, Jodorowsky recounts how he became Takata’s student and offers his interpretations of the teaching tales, initiatory stories, koans, and enigmatic haikus he learned at the feet of his great and humble teacher. Blending the same burlesque slapstick and sublime insight that characterize his films such as El Topo and The Holy Mountain, each story is accompanied by the author’s lucid and penetrating commentary, as well as insights from ancient Zen teachers. Yet their most significant gift to the reader is the sudden shock of realization they impart that can lead to spiritual awakening.

Jodorowsky notes that most people are incapable of self-realization because of their fear of the void within, an emptiness they seek to fill with noise and chatter. He shows that Zen teachings can be compared to a finger pointing at the moon, directing you to awaken to your true nature--the Buddha within. The danger lies in mistaking the pointing finger for the moon, mistaking the words for the essential enlightenment, which can only be grasped once words have been surpassed. Unlike most tales, these stories are intended to evoke silent illumination--as true awakening and self-realization cannot occur until the mind has been stilled.
The problem came to a head one day as I was driving through Tokyo. While waiting for the light to change, I saw the following public service announcement on the side of a bus: Omoiyari hitonikurumani konomachini (Sympathy / toward people, toward cars / toward this town). Seventeen syllables. Five-seven-five format. It must be a haiku, I thought. But when I reached the office and repeated the announcement to my Japanese coworkers, none of them thought it was a haiku. I knew they were thinking to themselves, What kind of a lunatic is she? One tried to break the news to me gently, It’s not a haiku, it’s an advertising jingle. Well, I knew it was an advertising jingle, but still, wasn’t it an advertising jingle haiku?—From The Haiku Apprentice

Abigail Friedman was an American diplomat in Tokyo, not a writer. A chance encounter leads her to a haiku group, where she discovers poetry that anyone can enjoy writing. Her teacher and fellow haiku group members instruct her in seasonal flora and fauna, and gradually she learns to describe the world in plain words, becoming one of the millions in Japan who lead a haiku life. This is the author’s story of her literary and cultural voyage, and more: it is an invitation to readers to form their own neighborhood haiku groups and, like her, learn to see the world anew.

"...A deft and seamless merging of genres: at once memoir, travel literature, and an unpretentious guide onto the terrain of Japanese poetry. It will appeal not just to poetry lovers, but to all readers who are curious about the world beyond their own borders." -- Foreword Magazine

"Friedman is an appealing guide through an alternate Japan where modern people make poems about teacups and temples but also about skyscrapers and kidney surgery." -- East Bay Express

"The book is not designed to make the reader a poet, but it does, perhaps, help us to pay more attention to our poetical eye." -- BiblioBuffet

"The Haiku Apprentice gives the reader an original, thoughtful and personal glimpse of one expat’s productive encounter with Japan." -- Metropolis

"...Notable for its frankness and enthusiasm...Friedman has made a lively narrative out of the things she learned..." -- The Japan Times

 

Favor of Crows is a collection of new and previously published original haiku poems over the past forty years. Gerald Vizenor has earned a wide and devoted audience for his poetry. In the introductory essay the author compares the imagistic poise of haiku with the early dream songs of the Anishinaabe, or Chippewa. Vizenor concentrates on these two artistic traditions, and by intuition he creates a union of vision, perception, and natural motion in concise poems; he creates a sense of presence and at the same time a naturalistic trace of impermanence.

The haiku scenes in Favor of Crows are presented in chapters of the four seasons, the natural metaphors of human experience in the tradition of haiku in Japan. Vizenor honors the traditional practice and clever tease of haiku, and conveys his appreciation of Matsuo Basho and Yosa Buson in these two haiku scenes, “calm in the storm / master basho soaks his feet /water striders,” and “cold rain / field mice rattle the dishes / buson’s koto.”

Vizenor is inspired by the sway of concise poetic images, natural motion, and by the transient nature of the seasons in native dream songs and haiku. “The heart of haiku is a tease of nature, a concise, intuitive, and an original moment of perception,” he declares in the introduction to Favor of Crows. “Haiku is visionary, a timely meditation and an ironic manner of creation. That sense of natural motion in a haiku scene is a wonder, the catch of impermanence in the seasons.” Check for the online reader’s companion at favorofcrows.site.wesleyan.edu.
 From the daily cycling trips in Titan Park, Bucharest, appeared this small volume of poems, illustrated with the most beautiful pictures I made during these walks.  At midnight starts my working day. The computer, a coffee, a discreet jazz music, together with other ingredients. At 5:30, I'm getting ready. At 6:00, I take the bicycle and pedal easily to the nearby park, Titan Park. It's still early in the morning, but in the park, there are already running or walking people I have not known before, but now familiar to me. There she is the beautiful girl who runs like a gazelle; and the 50-year-old man who descends the stairs with his back, climbs them, and then goes down; the woman who gives a few laps in a hurried pace, the young man with walking but problems with a will out of the ordinary, who gives up for a moment at the walking stick; those from the outdoor exercise machines, and those who give food to birds; and others, and others ...
 I am greeting the turtle at the entrance, I pedal carefully not to cycling over the wild ducks that cross the alleys in search of food, I scare the gulls that moan on the edge of the lake. I stop for a moment to photograph the appropriate moment for my idea. The swans, curious, approach the shore and look at me. I get on the bike again, and I take a few laps as I try to put the idea in the lyrics. I stop on a bench, I light a cigarette, and I get the phone off. I connect Instagram and publish there the images and lyrics, which then spread on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. I'll take a few more laps and I am leaving. Arrived at home, drinking a last coffee and at about 09:00 I fall asleep quietly.
 It's been over another day.
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