Tuesday, April 19, 2011

National Poetry Month/The Haiku Apprentice

I just read this wonderful book, The Haiku Apprentice: Memoirs of Writing Poetry in Japan by Abigail Friedman for the second time and I remember why I loved it so much the first time. Abigail is a US diplomat. When she was in Japan, she took up writing poetry after a chance encounter with Traveling Man Tree (his haiku name) and joined a haiku group.

When they first met, Traveling Man Tree described why writing haiku is different from golf. Golf is his hobby, but he does haiku.

Haiku is different. For me, haiku is a question of feeling, of sensibility. I can't just work sixteen-hour days and then say to myself, "Okay, if I concentrate hard, if I work at finding just the right word, I will compose a good haiku." I need to change how I approach the world. I need to look at the flowers and the grass beside the road. I've got to try to write poetry about what I see around me. I believe that the more I approach haiku in this way and the more I understand the essence of haiku, the better my poetry will be.

The spirit of haiku described here is inspiring whether you are or want to be a writer of haiku or not. The people she meets are full of wisdom and humility and I loved being in their presence. I found much to guide me in my work as an artist. The haiku group offered a respectful environment for learning and sharing and as a teacher I found lessons there as well.

At Abigail's first haiku group meeting, the haiku master Kurado Momoko said:

My job is not to judge whether you have written well or poorly, but to help you write a haiku that is true to yourself.

We can each write haiku because we each have a soul. Every soul is equal in a haiku group, and there is room in a haiku group for every soul.

A conversation with Abigail Friedman in Water Bridge Review

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