Haiku Enlightenment, Gabriel Rosenstock Haiku Enlightenment
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by Gabriel Rosenstock

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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 Glowing Moment
The Gentle Art of Disappearing
The Universal Spirit of Issa
Afterthought: The Art of Emptiness

    Anatomy of a Haiku
    Writing Haiku: Useful Tips
    Glossary of Useful Terms
    Index of Poems
    About the Author
Including haiku by:
    Robert Bebek
    Janice M. Bostok

    Ion Codrescu
    Robert Gibson
    Lee Gurga
    J. W. Hackett
    Séan Mac Mathúna
    Michael McClintock
    H. F. Noyes
    Cathal Ó Searcaigh
    Gabriel Rosenstock
    George Swede
    Richard Wright
    ...and dozens more

Haiku Enlightenment, Gabriel Rosenstock Haiku Enlightenment
by Gabriel Rosenstock


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Haiku is there to enrich our experience of being alive, to unfold the tapestry of living -- in a flash.

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.

Sudden breath of freedom... Confined no more! Each successful haiku is a breath of freedom. The seventeen-syllable, traditional form was adjudged to be a breath span. And, just as Keats said that poetry should come as naturally as foliage to a tree, or not at all, so we say that haiku is an exhalation, a breath of freedom, of exultation, a sigh.

You may polish your haiku, once it has come to you, or come through you. Honing the shape, changing the line order, improving the choice of words, or the rhythm or punctuation – these are the wrapping on the gift. But there need be nothing laborious about the strange appearance of the first draft. ‘Haiku should be written as swiftly as a woodcutter fells a tree or a swordsman leaps at a dangerous enemy.’ So said Basho, born into an impoverished samurai clan. This suddenness, indeed, is what allows for the possibility of enlightenment. No time to think!

There is magic here! Haiku that lack magic and mystery are not really haiku at all.

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

Gabriel Rosenstock 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, Gabriel Rosenstock Haiku Enlightenment
by Gabriel Rosenstock


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