“I didn’t know it, but I was having a ‘haiku moment’- a moment when the mind stops and the heart moves”. This quote is from Margaret McGee, the author of Haiku: The Sacred Art (A Spiritual Practice in Three Lines), and it marks the beginning of her journey toward a haiku life.
This was a brief moment. A moment that may have just passed her by if she wasn’t in a haiku workshop where she was asked to observe a flower vase. After this moment, she wrote this:
a shift in focus–
the whole rooms reflected
in a flower’s vase
Haiku: The Sacred Art (A Spiritual Practice in Three Lines) is McGee’s investigation into the spiritual aspect of writing haiku. This book starts with her first encounter with haiku at the age of 45, and then continues on a journey into developing a haiku practice. McGee writes in a conversational style and pulls in references from authors like R.H. Blyth, William J. Higginson, and Christopher Herold. She also adds in haiku for Basho, Issa, and various other contemporary poets to help illustrate her points.. Each chapter ends with a haiku exercise for individual practice.
Much like the first quote mentioned, I found many of McGee’s statements about writing haiku thought provoking. I have pulled a few of my favorites and listed them below.
From Chapter One – “The Heart of the Moment”
“We human beings are carriers of meaning. That’s one of the ingredients we add to the mix of the cosmos–a sense of relationship between one thing and another. We love to connect the dots, and we use our brains to do it,figure out how to make fire, navigate the seas, and communicate with each other instantly around the world. Every now and then, the connection comes not from the figuring brain, but straight from the heart. With a shock of recognition, we feel the bond between our deepest place and the world outside.”
From Chapter Two – “A Simple Prayer”
“Become a spectator in the greatest drama ever played–the drama of the opening leaf, the rising bread dough, the drilling woodpecker, the chasing dog, the cloud that crosses the moon.”
From Chapter Three – “A Companionable Form”
“In reading and writing haiku, people who live in deserts and rainforests, coastlands and inlands, all can find a common path to feeling and expressing their inner connections to the natural world. In sharing haiku with others, we discover that we are not alone in our feelings, but that sorrow, joy, and all that comes between are part of the universal human spirit.”
Chapter Four – “A Sense of Time and Place”
“Haiku show how seasons of nature can bring the universal and the personal together in a moment that evokes vivid feeling.”
Chapter Eight – “The Haiku Life”
“In paying attention to small things, the haiku poet honors the sacredness of everyday life.”
This last quote was part of McGee’s section title “Get in the Haiku Habit”. For McGee, the practice of writing haiku is about appreciating the little things in life like the snow and the rain, the moon and the sun, and the people and places that making living so interesting. McGee says we should give them a special place in our writing as a way to honor our relationship with them. To this end, McGee proposes a challenge to the reader: write 100 haiku in 100 days. McGee says these haiku don’t need to be perfect, but it is the practice that is important.
So, I have decided to take McGee up on this challenge and write 100 haiku in 100 days. I started a few days ago, but here is what I have written so far.
(1/100 — In response to Now and Then exercise)
many paths converge
under the apple tree
(2/100 — In response to Just the Facts exercise)
on the river's edge
New Years Eve
New Year's Day
Issa's average remains
in a day dream
4 down and 96 to go!
Not every haiku will be good, and I bet some will even be bad. But I hope through the practice, I can learn something about the world around me and the sacred art of haiku.
- Margaret D. McGee; Haiku–The Sacred Art: A Spiritual Practice in Three Lines. Skylight Paths Publishing
- Margaret D. McGee, a writer, teacher and leader of spiritual workshops and retreats, is author of Sacred Attention: A Spiritual Practice for Finding God in the Moment (SkyLight Paths), and Stumbling Toward God: A Prodigal’s Return. Her haiku have been published in journals such as The Heron’s Nest, bear creek haiku, and Wisteria. Her website, www.IntheCourtyard.com, hosts a forum to write and share haiku in response to the sacred writings of world religions.
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