to order this book
Haiku One Breaths: a voice through a tangle
written and edited by Mankh (Walter E. Harris III)
158 pgs. 4.25 x 6 - pocket size!
This book is a combination of how-to write haiku, plus over 14o poems. It is being used in classrooms at SUNY Stony Brook, Hofstra University, Suffolk Community College, and Nassau Community College.
(as reviewed in The Improper magazine - December 2004)
Mankh (Walter E. Harris III) has compiled, written, edited and included calligraphy for this special compilation that in essence, creates “a community of people and poets.” Each haiku stands alone, but the collective is arranged to have a discernable flow; haikai-no-renga (“long linked-poem”). Altogether, the book offers beginners, intermediates, and advanced readers of poetry and haiku a broader understanding of the form. The book begins with an overview of structure and technique, which includes an aptly named “haiku tool-kit”, artistic perspectives, and other “tips” and information. The subsequent 82 pages include entries from the likes of Tom Stock, “in late winter / garlic tops sprout / green spikes toward spring”, Alan Semerdjian, “in the changing / between day and night / a rainbow exits”, and Oliver Ferrer Fuentes, “underneath my feet / a piece of me is left / after each footstep.” The haiku are interwoven with aphorisms, kanji (“picture writing”), pictographs, and calligraphy. Haiku One Breaths is a source of tidbits of enlightenment, relaxation, and personal settling.
from the introduction
What this little book has to offer is:
for the beginner-- a creative primer along with brief mention of technical aspects of haiku.
for the intermediate-- a refresher, along with specific haiku guidelines geared toward the process of writing and understanding haiku.
for the advanced-- a fuller approach to the haiku process or haiku way of being.
For any level, this book offers (as far as I know) the only transliteration of the actual meaning of haiku as derived (albeit with some interpretation) from the original Chinese and modern Japanese kanji pictographs (“picture-symbols”) or ideograms (ideas expressed with “picture-symbols”).
Even if you don’t write poetry, by reading this book you will connect with the haiku consciousness which is really just another way of observing and experiencing the world.
Remember that, appreciation of the haiku art-form, as well as being able to write quality haiku, requires being in the moment. How does one keep alert and in the moment when doing any task over and over? The title of a book by Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, gives one of the best answers I know of. As a beginner in anything, one pays special attention to learning. And so it is with life and haiku, for although one may have tons of experience, a certain amount of “beginner’s mind” keeps one alert and responsive to the ‘now.’
Along with encouraging the simple enjoyment of haiku.. this book is aimed at providing potential “short-cut” to the understanding and writing of haiku. By short-cuts, I mean that one does not have to read every book on haiku before being able to write them well (though a bit of technical knowledge and insight helps). Although short-cuts can be helpful, one must also be careful not to overlook the essences and techniques that also assist haiku writing. The short-cut (which may take time to get to) is the ‘state of being’ from which most haiku inspirations occur. Editing and polishing ‘the poem’ is typically a second phase.
This book has some technical information yet is primarily focused on the creative process. I try not to memorize specific ‘how-to’ techniques so as to cultivate more of the ‘original voice’ or “beginner’s mind” and so allow the experience to ‘speak through me.’ For example, one can go looking for haiku contrast in nature: the huge cloud / the tiny bug... but I find these attempts to have a bit more forced or intellectual taste, whereas if I were to spontaneously see a huge cloud and tiny bug somehow connected there would be more ‘realism’ in the haiku.
You can memorize techniques and yet not walk around trying too hard to fit the haiku experience and subsequent poem into a category. After the purity of the intitial impulse of the haiku moment occurs, you can apply some of the techniques to see if they help the haiku take shape.
Try various methods and see. Without forcing numerous ‘prescriptions’ you may write fewer haiku at first, but you will be cultivating a haiku-awareness that will change your perceptions and help you to write more and better quality haiku in the long run.
The topic of applying the haiku experience to more imaginative and longer poems is dealt with toward the end of this book.
one breaths of haiku are...
heightened or subtle moments of awareness;
‘nothing special’ moment;
humorous or quirky phrase;
a deep breath of fresh air;
something to Be With and Contemplate
the Experience and ‘Teaching’ of the poem;
an impersonal phrase, sentence, or verse;
‘a way or voice through a tangle’...
expressed through the shortest of poetic forms
a gift from Japan..haiku
“in a haiku moment of one breath-length,
there is only the resolution.”
- Kenneth Yasuda, The Japanese Haiku, p.61
Part 1 - Structure and Technique
Haiku are poetic-literary expressions from a culture that values humility, precision, and a connection with the true nature of being (or Spirit) through daily ritual. Although not limited to Zen, haiku is considered one of many Zen Arts. Others are: Tea ceremonies cha-no-yu “the art of tea,” and chado “the way of tea;” kodo (incense ceremony); Zen rock gardens; feng shui “wind-water” (the art of placement and natural energy flow); ikebana “the art of flower arranging;” shakuhachi, the hollow, Zen flute; sumi-e painting and brush calligraphy; kendo “the way of the sword”; the classic Noh Theater; and the martial arts of which tai chi chuan (Chinese) is the most peaceful -- all forms whose ‘products’ are visibly sparse, yet whose inner workings are quite vast.
Many of these Arts (along with Zen koans or Master- pupil interchanges) are classified by some as belonging to the Rinzai school of Zen which aims toward ‘sudden recognition or enlightenment,’ as compared with the Soto school whose aim is a gradual moving toward such a state of awareness, or more like ‘there is no where to get to’ Buddhist approach. Both of these qualities are apparent with haiku.
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