does the woodpecker

by Kobayashi Issa

English version by Gabriel Rosenstock
Original Language Japanese

does the woodpecker
     stop and listen, too?
          evening temple drum

-- from Haiku Enlightenment: New Expanded Edition, by Gabriel Rosenstock

<<Previous Poem | More Poems by Kobayashi Issa | Next Poem >>

View All Poems by Kobayashi Issa

Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

Book Announcement: Haiku Enlightenment

I am so pleased to announce the Poetry Chaikhana's newest publication: Haiku Enlightenment, by Gabriel Rosenstock, a favorite of Poetry Chaikhana readers for years.

In Haiku Enlightenment Gabriel Rosenstock uses haiku, both classic and modern, to explore perception and creativity, self and ego, the natural world and the wide-open moment. Through Gabriel Rosenstock's eyes, the path of haiku becomes a path of enlightenment.

Rosenstock brings to his writing something of the shaman, the sage, and a bit of the prankster. I think of him as a poet in the ancient sense as someone deeply engaged with the vast mystery, from which poetry, song, and riddles naturally emerge.

True to the haiku spirit, the observations in Haiku Enlightenment are short and without embellishment. Taken together, however, they present us with a master class on the art and insight of haiku by a western master of haiku.

Like you, probably like the author himself, I cringe a bit at the use of the term "master," but in Gabriel's case it is entirely appropriate. Since I have featured Gabriel's poems many times over the years, he feels like a familiar friend to the Poetry Chaikhana, so you may not realize just how accomplished and renowned he is. Gabriel Rosenstock has given readings throughout Europe, India, the Americas, and Japan. His poetry has won multiple awards and been published in World Haiku Review, Poetry (Chicago), Poetry Ireland Review and other prestigious journals. He is a member of Aosdána (the Irish Academy of Arts and Letters), former chairman of Poetry Ireland/Éigse Éireann, on the Board of Advisors to Poetry India, and a Foundation Associate of The Haiku Foundation.

An impressive list of accomplishments. But that is not the Gabriel Rosenstock I have come to know through years of correspondence. I suspect he would consider focusing on such honors to be a hindrance. His secret, I think, is that he is too prolific to pause in self-satisfaction. Every few weeks I receive a flood of new haiku from him in my email in-box, which then gives me permission to halt the rush of my day in order to step quietly into his observed moments and so return in some essential way back to myself.

Where does that endless creativity come from? How does spiritual practice produce the most luminous poetry, and how does poetry become a doorway into our own awakening? Haiku Enlightenment is a rich, poetic meditation on all of those questions.
Using haiku as his medium, Gabriel Rosenstock has given us a visionary artist's guide on how to be present… and how to disappear.


I can't express how pleased I am to be able to offer this book to the Poetry Chaikhana and to the wider community of poetry lovers and spiritual seekers.

It is perfect to read just a page or two at a time to set the tone for the day, when beginning meditation or prayer practice, when facing the blank page, or just before a walk in nature. You don't have to be a poet or even a reader of haiku, you just have to be curious about your own awareness and in love with the magic of small moments. Though, as you read Haiku Enlightenment, who knows what poetry might spontaneously emerge from your pen?

Sending love to everyone during this season of renewal and reawakening light that we variously call Christmas, Hanukkah, Solstice, and the New Year.


Haiku Enlightenment
New Expanded Edition

by Gabriel Rosenstock

£12.99 / €15.25

or ask at your local independent book store
Haiku Enlightenment is a delightful, often playful look at haiku as both a poetic craft and a pathway of awakening — for poets, seekers and creative rebels.

Gabriel Rosenstock has given us a rich collection of insights, distilled from a lifetime dedicated to the art and practice of poetry, on stepping into inspired moments. Using a generous selection of contemporary and classical haiku, he explores ideas of creativity and perception, encouraging us to calm the restless mind, notice what is overlooked, explore the world around us, and fully encounter each glowing moment.

From such moments, haiku — and enlightenment — emerge.

Haiku happens in this world of daily miracles and is a perfect prism through which Nature herself enlightens us.

The dynamic pause... In haiku, we pause for a few concentrated seconds. Not to escape from the helter-skelter — or tedium — of existence but to allow ourselves to seep into the life of things. In a dynamic way. Haiku is a gentle way of coming to a stop. A full stop!

The haiku moment refreshes us, focuses and strengthens us, encouraging us to continue on a pathless path which reveals itself uniquely to us all:

Who goes there?

         midstream halt--
         the horseman looks up
         at the falling stars
            H. F. Noyes

Time has stopped for that horseman. Does he even know who he is anymore? An Indian sage, Papaji, says: ‘Enlightenment does not happen in time. It happens when time stops.'

On the haiku path, you can dissolve and change into your purer self.

Opening the casements of perception... These intimate haiku-pauses ground us in the mystery of being as we open ourselves, time and time again, to new vistas and to keener insights into the living, changing universe we inhabit. They allow us to be attuned to the rhythm, colour, sound, scent, movement and stillness of life, from season to season, whoever, whatever or wherever we are.

Each true haiku momentarily destroys the false self and its illusory sense of self-importance.

bhfuil áit níos fearr ann
ná anseo anois--
corra bána ar eitilt

               is there a better place
               than here and now--
               white herons in flight

   Gabriel Rosenstock

(Mariko Sumikura)

nae brawer place
nor here'n nou --
fite herns in flicht
(John McDonald)

The chances of Reality seizing us, and sweeping away our pre-judgmental mind in the process, are increased by the dutiful practice of haiku.

What is the shape of today? Does that sound like a riddle, a koan? Let's see. So... you think you know what a mountain looks like, what a summer stream sounds like? Or is it merely an idea of a mountain or a stream that you are entertaining? Seishi (1901 —1994) transmits the genuine haiku experience beautifully:

   dunes in a bitter wind--
   the shape they take on,
   the shapes of today . . .

Shapes of emptiness... In our bustling, noise-polluted world, chock-full of garish images, the haiku way of living alludes to the void, the throbbing silence at the heart of it all; deep, inviolable stillness in ourselves. Robert Bebek, the Croatian haijin, gave the title Oblici Praznine/The Shapes of Emptiness to his highly distinguished second book:

   warming even
   an empty room, a
   beam of morning sun
      Robert Bebek

That brief, piercing insight, that moment of haiku enlightenment, strips you of the thousand and one items that are the jigsaw of your ego, the patchwork of your identity.

Invisible heart of the world... Haiku reconnects us with the invisible, beating heart of the world. The Sami have a beautiful legend, as pure as the snow that surrounds them. The creator-god took the living, trembling heart out of a young reindeer and buried it deep in the centre of the earth. In times of tribulation, the Sami nomads have only to put an ear to the ground and listen and know that all will be well — the heart still beats.

Haiku is a way of listening just as much as seeing:

does the woodpecker
      stop and listen, too?
            evening temple drum

Once we are open, who knows what guides may appear:

the moon
has found it for me
a mountain path
Michael McClintock

without a voice
      the heron would disappear--
            morning snow

True haiku probes the nature of reality and our perception of it.

     faint sunlight
         injecting the veins

            of a falling leaf

   Gabriel Rosenstock

By working at haiku and by living haiku -- through reading and composition and through acquiring the haiku instinct, or knack -- effortless attunement is the natural and inevitable result. This ability then becomes the unfailing groundwork for sudden enlightenment.

as ice bursts
the water jar

I am nobody:
A red sinking autumn sun
Took my name away
   Richard Wright
from deep within
the rooster crows--
eye glinting
   Janice M. Bostok

About the Author

Gabriel Rosenstock is a poet, haikuist, tankaist, novelist, author-translator of over 200 books, including books for children. He is also an essayist, short story writer, playwright and ‘champion of forlorn causes' (the phrase is Hugh MacDiarmid's). He is a member of Aosdána (the Irish Academy of Arts and Letters), former chairman of Poetry Ireland/Éigse Éireann, on the Board of Advisors to Poetry India, Irish-language advisor for the poetry journal THE SHOp, and a Foundation Associate of The Haiku Foundation. Gabriel and his wife, Eithne Ní Chléirigh, have four children, Héilean, Saffron, Tristan and Éabha and oodles of haiku-loving grandchildren.

Read More About Gabriel Rosenstock

Haiku Enlightenment
by Gabriel Rosenstock


or ask at your local independent book store

Your purchase supports the Poetry Chaikhana and encourages future publications.

- Thank you! -

Recommended Books: Kobayashi Issa

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) This Dance of Bliss: Ecstatic Poetry from Around the World Zen Poetry: Let the Spring Breeze Enter The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry Haiku Enlightenment: New Expanded Edition
More Books >>

does the woodpecker