Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Healing Spirit of Haiku by David Rosen and Joel Weishaus

The Healing Spirit of Haiku by David Rosen and Joel Weishaus is one of those surprising books that was not at all what I expected and yet fulfilled a need I did not recognize was there. For one thing, let’s be clear—these are more like haibun than a collection of haiku. The haiku are not traditional, at least not when translated into English. The book is designed to be an exchange between Rosen and Weishaus, almost a series of letters. This draws on the very deep tradition of haibun and does so quite effectively. Read individually or even as a couple, they invite a sort of meditative patience. A superficial read is easy. But if the reader will pause and reflect, seek a deeper meaning, the content is immediately elevated beyond the immediate impression. My only complaint is that the images, beautiful illustrations by Arthur Okamura, are poorly copied. This is evident when one compares the higher quality of the illustration on the cover with the one that is included within the text. I was left wondering how much more beautiful and subtle they would have been had the publisher bothered to reproduce them in a higher quality. I have no doubt that the artist was even more disappointed than I. In spite of this, the images compliment the text wonderfully, once again resonating with the deeper Japanese tradition of art and “calligraphy.” A surprising treasure, surprising because I opened the text to find one thing and found something completely different. And wonderful.
It is very rare to wake up and continue a poem begun in a dream. Usually, it doesn’t make sense, or is shallow, like how extraordinary insights gained while high on a psychotropic drug may seem mundane in midst of ordinary life. Because it was a “sound sleep,” one that invited sound, the poem wasn’t written, but spoken. If it had been written, where would it be when the dreamer woke up? This is the same question the poet Samuel Coleridge asked, although he had a flower in mind. In both cases, the dream has tapped into a world in which magic is ordinary.
This morning The bird’s song Suddenly makes sense!

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