Posts Tagged ‘haiku’


I read a haiku today.  

“ill-tempered I returned, 

and then in the garden

the willow tree.”

There’s something about a willow tree, the way it extends a caring arm to hold you close. Protected, I read by its trunk as it swayed in the breeze.

It reached for the water, if nothing more but for a simple laugh, dipping its toes in with every sachay of the branches.

I took a garden walk today and that’s what summer is for.

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My book in the grass

The wind

Flipping its pages

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There is a blog I enjoy reading that is a good reminder of why it is good to be young, crafty, organic, and in love, that recently did a post directed at people who, well, I’ll just say for people who describe old bookshops as dangerous.

So here in Paris, there are some essential ex-pat stops.  The first, of Hemingway fame, Sylvia Beach’s Shakespeare and Company, which to this day has been called a socialist utopia masquerading as a bookshop. 

There are couches upstairs and a reference library filled with tattered pages and “To my beloved” inscribings on first pages. 

A working 20s era typewriter can also be found in a small nook and can often be heard in use, though not very effectively as the A key does nothing (makes for very modern writing).  I still do enjoy a peaceful Tuesday afternoon in the shop, reading upstairs, but avoid it on weekends when you will struggle for space, air to breathe, and the cat to pet.

Trumping that though, and I’m dreadfully sorry America, is The Abbey Bookshop, a Canadian haven that often goes unnoticed. 

To my eyes, far more romantic than Shakespeare and Co, often half the price, and literally only a five-minute walk from its British competitor.  The man who owns the shop, Brian, is a polite and zen-like Canadian from whom I get the impression he could both wrestle a Canadian grizzly, and could make you a mean cup of sencha.  That being said, coffee is his drink of choice and he’ll almost always offer you some complete with, of course, maple syrup. 

Though it is the downstairs of the shop that appeals to me.  It has ancient stonewalls and ancient dusty books. 

There are piles and piles of them and you can test your strength and search for one at the bottom, actually quite a fun game that I played last time there while trying to find a book of haiku.


So please, love on your local used bookstore but please don’t invite me as all bookshops take from me hours I don’t have and money I surely don’t either. 


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The American Haiku

“Then I’ll invent

     the American Haiku type:

     The simple rhyming triolet:–

Seventeen syllables?

No, as I say, American Pops:–

Simple 3-line poems”

                         -Jack Kerouac, Reading Notes 1965


…and with that, Kerouac laid out his treatise on the Western Haiku.

Here’s something you might not know: Haiku is both singular and plural.  “I wrote one Haiku.”  “I wrote two Haiku.”  Here’s something you most likely do know: The Haiku was developed over hundreds of years in Japan to be a complete poem in a mere 17 syllables and to compact an entire vision of life into three short lines.  

Arguing that the Japanese language has a syllabic fluidity that western languages do not, Kerouac tossed out the 17 syllable rule and simply kept the three line vision of life.  

So here’s some Kerouac’s grand masterworks:


“The windmills of 

    Oklahoma look

In every direction.”


“One flower

    on the cliffside

Nodding at the canyon.”


“In the medicine cabinet

     the winter fly

Has died of old age.”


I had a friend once  in High School and we wrote notes to one another in English class solely in Haiku.  We had to communicate everything, from how we were feeling, to what yesterday’s homework was, all in three short lines.  Do it enough, and it changes the way you look at things.  

Life becomes distilled.

Here is an often favorited Kerouac quote form before his Haiku days, from the begining of On the Road.

“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!””

… a tad scattered, no?  He is caught up in the action, not the master of his own world.  And here is some prose from after his Haiku satori.  This was a travel piece for Holiday Magazine in 1963:

Oklahoma— in any direction flat, pure, quiet.  Cows rushing like dots as tho they were as far away as Nebraska.  Grain elevators waiting for the farmers to come home from church.  Grain elevators, like tall trucks waiting for the road to approach them.  Radio antennae hard to see somewhere…. Windmills looking in every direction.”

So next time life seems more complicated than it needs to be, try to compress your entire world view into three lines, and read it over, and write it over, and commit to those three lines and then do it again. I mean, despite the e-mails and the phone calls and the bills to pay and the dog to feed, life really just is a few lines.  

And how simple and myseterious those lines are.

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