I recently asked one question of haikuists and senryuists worldwide. I contacted the newsletter editors of the Haiku Society of America and Haiku Canada to post a notice about the question; I posted the notice on my blog that has haiku and senryu followers from sixty-one countries; and the notice appeared on my Facebook and Twitter pages.
It’s not really a simple question:
“How does reading and writing haiku or senryu motivate you to live a purposeful life?”
I’d asked the respondents to be brief, writing a maximum of three sentences, and that they be specific using examples, rather than write in generalities.
The question yielded fifty-seven responses (of which I ran fifty-two). Some respondents had difficulty focusing on the question, and ultimately didn’t wish to revise their statements. Responses came from sixteen countries. As expected, while there were many commonalities in the themes of responses, all poets had their unique ways of expressing themselves. I found the responses enjoyable, and I’m sure others will, too.
Among common themes were: enjoying the moment; spiritual journey; seeing miracles– the extraordinary in the ordinary; enjoyment of nature’s beauty and the seasons; respite from the hectic pace of life; being good stewards of the environment; connecting with others; and healing and self-discovery. There were uncommon themes, too.
It’s interesting that many respondents either stated or implied that the practice of haiku and senryu has made them more caring individuals.
Thank you to all who took the time to respond thoughtfully with your personal experience.
I believe this post will help everyone who reads it to be more aware of the benefits of haiku and senryu as a regular practice. Further, it may encourage people who don’t read or write haiku and senryu to consider doing so. Those were my reasons for posing the question. I will share these results with many writers’ groups that have Facebook pages to spread the word about haiku and senryu. Our work is never done in promoting haiku and senryu.
Post of July 21, 2022, www.charlottedigregorio.wordpress.com
Edited by Charlotte Digregorio (USA)
My daily haiku writing discipline is about focus -–a strategy that compels me to see something new, fresh, and interesting as I stumble through what might otherwise be a boring day. It’s a plan to grab one snippet that makes the day zing, like coleus, the colors of fireworks on July 4th.
Tricia Knoll (USA)
A diagnosis of Parkinson’s devastated me. I was lost, but then I stumbled onto the focused power of haiku and it was like being thrown a lifeline braided from meaning, purpose, and motivation. My doctor and I were blown away, because being absorbed in writing haiku gives me more physical movement than other interventions for this condition, by somehow helping my brain create the neuro transmitters that Parkinson’s is short of.
Tim Roberts (New Zealand)
Reading haiku is like going through an encyclopedia of nature and mankind, and writing haiku is going on a spiritual journey inside. It has cultivated a discipline of being in the world of space and silence. I feel I am doing justice to the creation open to us.
Lakshmi Iyer (India)
Senryu, in particular, gives me an outlet for expression regarding how I perceive the world. It provides a bit of levity for subjects that might otherwise be too difficult to express, such as: politics, the environment, family, personal problems, faith, spiritual perspectives, and growing old.
Michael Henry Lee (USA)
Haiku is about capturing the moment before me. Writing haiku is the perfect way to teach us to live in the present moment and not in the past or the future. Be here now.
Marco Fraticelli (Canada)
For me, writing haiku is a spiritual experience. The most articulate expression of what I’ve learned from reading Eastern philosophy and practicing meditation has been through sharing my one breath poetry.
Steve Bahr (USA)
Reading and writing haiku and senryu motivate me to lead a purposeful life by helping me to change my perspective and see the extraordinary in the ordinary. For example, I saw an old corral, once part of a ranch, now as seemingly useless in a field, but on closer inspection, it functioned as a snow fence. I like to transform these ordinary experiences into haiku.
Joanne Morcom (Canada)
Writing haiku in a three-line space is a frequent discipline and art form that improves my contemplation powers, mental and spiritual focus, and patience.
Barth H. Ragatz (USA)
By reading haiku, I experience, empathize, and gain new perspectives. Psychology Today states we are losing empathy, and The United Nations claims it’s the most important skill for us to develop as individuals to make the planet a better place. Further, for me, haiku is a much better way to remember an experience than even a photograph.
Ian Ruitenberg (Canada)
Writing haiku helps me record the cream of frothing thoughts, giving me clarity. As a daily practice, it gives me hope that precious moments are not in vain, not lost.
Haiku and senryu are generally easy to connect with emotionally and are like brief meditations or mantras. They help me feel more secure about myself, knowing other people share similar sentiments about life’s experiences.
Amelia Cotter (USA)
Nature talks to me through haiku and helps me to enjoy life. Each season gives me a reason to live in the present, and I can capture the moment by writing haiku.
Liette Janelle (Canada)
Reading and writing these beautiful forms are keystones to my heart. They are ways for me to marvel and remember what is around me: nature, people, experiences. They are a sense of community and contain a depth far beyond their brevity.
Joanna Ashwell (UK)
Reading and writing haiku gives me an ‘aha’ moment, helping me to stop in my tracks. I can then unwind from a hectic modern day life.
Kamal Parmar (Canada)
Writing haiku heightens my awareness of this moment in time, not dwelling on the past nor fantasizing about the future. Ironically, it offers respite from the busy-ness of daily life by demanding focus on minutiae, rather than the big picture.
Carolyn Coit Dancy (USA)
Reading and writing haiku has helped me gain insights I never thought possible. We are all connected, enjoying, needing, and regretting the same things. So I’ve decided to live more simply, to appreciate and protect nature, to love as much as I can, to be kind, and to enjoy this moment now, before it all ends.
Deborah Karl-Brandt (Germany)
Reading and writing haiku is a leap of faith in a world of chaos. The words of St. Francis of Assisi inspire me to keep to the haiku path: “For it is in giving that we receive.”
Roberta Beary (USA/Ireland)
I’ve been blessed with a life of meaning and purpose during my seven decades. Discovering haiku a few years ago, I found a voice in me that had been buried or that just arrived as a gift. My life has expanded unexpectedly, grounded in the awareness of our connection with nature, humanity, the seasons of our years, our place in the universe – and the joyful affirmation of writing it down in haiku form.
Barrie Levine (USA)
Writing haiku helps me survive the mental anguish of the pandemic, because it helps me focus on daily moments. Composing a haiku every morning, as a way to center myself, helps me appreciate the beauty in everyday life, despite restrictions the pandemic imposes. Haiku reminds me that life has purpose with community.
Daniel Shank Cruz (USA)
Haiku teaches me to see the beauty of everyday life, and also works well when I have a personal challenge like my health. I look outside my window through the seasons and see the beauty there. Although I may not always be able to read or write a haiku, I remember the image, and often write a haiku later.
Ellen Grace Olinger (USA)
Haiku awaken me to images and words. Observing the world at large lends to inner dialogue. When it all comes together, life feels like a poem.
Tom Painting (USA)
Through haiku practice, I observe my world more closely. I reflect on what I see, and I question what I choose to see and why. This leads me to a deeper understanding of my values and helps me stay true to myself.
Matt Snyder (USA)
Haiku offers me a creative outlet, and opportunities to reclaim moments of my life and to connect my inner world with the natural world. Haiku is the lens through which I experience life and the literary art form through which I also attempt to connect with others.
Sari Grandstaff (USA)
Reading and writing haiku and senryu offer me interconnectedness with other people in our shared trials and experiences. These two forms also challenge me to pay attention to creation, to live in the present through sensory experiences, making me aware of the beauty that surrounds me.
Jo Balistreri (USA)
As a physician, my purpose in life is to promote physical and emotional health to my fellow human beings, and I also believe there is a form of consciousness in all elements of creation, including nature, as did Teilhard de Chardin. Writing haiku and senryu allows me to articulate my observations and reflections about nature in a concise, sensitive, and illuminating manner, and this can be healing. It helps me spread joy and knowledge to all who read my poems.
Richard Bailly (USA)
In The Philippines where I grew up, there were no changing seasons, but dawn, sun, moon, and stars seemed magical. Poetry was probably inside of me at that time. Emigrating to Canada, I awakened to the beauty of the seasons, and discovered the language of haiku to write about them, and this beauty has brought meaning to my life.
Alegria Imperial (Canada)
I don’t force myself to write haiku and senryu, rather, I’m open and ready for their arrival by paying a fierce attention to everything around me. They just enter my consciousness with all my senses open, and therefore, my life becomes richer, more densely filled with experience and revelation.
Marsh Muirhead (USA)
I live, breathe, think, dream haiku/senryu almost every hour of the day. My enthusiasm for it is based on its ability to quiet the mind, yet open it to disciplined, forensic introspection. It gives me a great sense of purpose and, just occasionally, achievement, when I know that what I have written feels right.
Ingrid Baluchi (North Macedonia)
Reading haiku and senryu calms my mind. Whilst writing them, I see the world intently around me. For these reasons, the two forms help me live a purposeful life.
Maureen Weldon (Wales)
I love reading and writing haiku and senryu as they enable me to capture those fleeting moments of heightened awareness and joy in my life. Sadly, the mainstream poetry community often undervalues our genre. I promote haiku and senryu by reading my work in public, and feel I’m leading a purposeful life by helping others find fulfilment through these two forms.
Paul Beech (Wales)
Haiku leave me with memories of wisdom to cherish. They roll me through seasons with clearer vision.
Phyllis Sise (Canada)
I re-live the past, I see the present, and I look ahead to the future.
Haiku is the transparent clarifying lens of life.
Donna Bauerly (USA)
Haiku’s first gift when I discovered it in the late 1960s was to pull me into a closer alignment to the world around me. The 5-7-5 rhythm that was integral to haiku in those days became a nearly constant inner response to that world, as if my heartbeat became 5-7-5. It seems obvious to me now that such an alignment quite “naturally” would lead to a desire for a more purposeful life.
Billie Wilson (USA)
To venture into an unexplored facet of a single moment and touch upon its mysterious depth and wonder! And then to share it! Ahh . . . sweet motivation.
Mike Stinson (USA)
Reading and writing haiku and senryu is a humbling experience. My hope is, at least, that in focusing on aspects of nature—including human nature—and my connection to all living things, however small, I’ll become more empathetic and altruistic. With that, comes a heightened sense of awareness of the beauty and fragility of life, and a deeper desire toward the stewardship of our environment.
Terri L. French (USA)
I’m not sure how reading and writing haiku and senryu motivate me to live a more purposeful life, but what they have done, is to make me more observant, more open as a reader, and more aware as a writer. To be honest, I’m still not sure what the purpose of life is. But I’ve got my eye out.
Bob Lucky (Portugal)
Reading and writing haiku gives me permission to stop and be present in my surroundings. It provides clarity into what really matters by decluttering language and life. It points me towards a communal consciousness, as haiku/senryu are not about a specific person, but about each and every one of us.
Ben Gaa (USA)
Reading and writing haiku are practices that help me to become more present to the moments I experience, to offer those moments to others, and to share in the moments that others experience.
Ce Rosenow (USA)
Haiku reminds me of the sheer wonder that exists in our world. True, this wonder is in no way dependent on my awareness and appreciation for its existence. I, however, have increasingly come to depend on it to make my life more endurable.
John J. Dunphy (USA)
My belief is that the more life forms (and nonliving forms, too) that I can be aware of, feel a connection to, and appreciate, the more enriching and fulfilling my life will be. Haiku is the poetic form that celebrates these near infinite relationships and connections. Reading and writing haiku is a wonderful path to attention and communion with the gift of being here now, and my ability to recognize the miracle and magnitude of life in this universe.
Tom Clausen (USA)
Haiku teaches me to stop and look and enjoy every moment of being. It is my therapy. I find light in the darkest periods of my life by reading haiku.
Nikolay Grankin (Russia)
I’ve been actively writing and studying haiku for nearly a year. Where I live in Canada (Ottawa), there have been significant changes, as some of our wildish green spaces have been sacrificed for high-rise developments in the name of housing intensification. Writing haiku helps me to be present in the moment, witnessing these changes and celebrating the natural beauty that remains.
Jessica Allyson (Canada)
Reading haiku and senryu acts as a catalyst for unearthing my memories, giving them breathing space and letting them shine. Writing these forms is a gentle, subtle, disciplined way to attempt finding the essence of what I experience and to share it. It acts as my inner digestive system to process life’s events and challenges.
Elena Calvo (Canada/Spain)
Writing haiku allows me to experience life more fully, because I now see poetry in everyday things, and I capture and savour my moments. As I’m not religious, it brings spirituality to my life and gives me a natural space for contemplation. Reading others’ haiku is a way to include literature in short format in my too-busy life, and it makes my life fuller, more connected to others, enabling me to feel gratitude and happiness for each day I’m given.
Anna Maris (Sweden)
Writing haiku has taken me to a realm of peace, bound by no boundaries, on my hill of old age. Through my haiku, I desire to help others in their chaotic times, just as their haiku has helped me face challenges such as illness. Kind words and encouragement from haikuists around the world keep me motivated to write, and I need to show them their faith in me isn’t misguided, by continuing to write.
Barbara Tate Sayre (USA)
Scrivere haiku mi aiuta a leggere la realtà, a soffermarmi sugli aspetti della natura che sfuggono alla maggior parte delle persone. Mi sorprende sempre poter dire con solo tre linee molte cose che ho nella mente e nel cuore. Posso guardare dentro me stessa attraverso la poesia. Mi piace molto la musicalità e l’armonia di questa lingua.
Writing haiku helps me interpret life around me, in pausing to contemplate aspects of nature that elude most people. It always surprises me how I am able to express many things that are on my mind and in my heart in three lines. I can see inside my soul with haiku, and I love the musicality and harmony of haiku language.
Eufemia Griffo (Italy)
Translated by Charlotte Digregorio
For me, reading and writing haiku daily is an exploration of the human condition. This becomes my purpose with the intent to be present and experience with awareness each moment through my senses, memories, emotions, and connections, which create my world.
by Rick Daddario (USA)
Giving time to haiku and senryu gives me a sense of going against the flow of modern life and the pressure it puts on us to be fast, successful, and seen. Writing and reading these short works of art give me a place to rest, recharge, and contemplate. In so doing, I also feel part of a worldwide community, and in thinking of the heritage and history of the genre, I sense a “grounding” where borders and time dissolve.
Lee Nash (France)
I am motivated by the peer pressure of curating a haiku column that inspires minds and hearts to read and write. My purpose is to nurture like-minded people to share precious moments of life and death. On this path, we can experience the world–whether that’s a radiant setting or tears in the rain.
David McMurray (Japan)
Editor: Asahi Haikuist Network
For me, writing and reading haiku reveal how the small and brief can be large and deep. Haiku can convey tragedy, wonder, irony–all the human emotions that I experience.
Caroline Giles Banks (USA)
Reading and writing haiku and senryu help motivate me to live a purposeful life by prompting me to be more present in my moments, mindful of what my senses are actually experiencing, instead of what I think/assume they are. The practice forces me to be more honest and aware, creating in me a responsibility in the messages I create for others.
Valorie Broadhurst Woerdehoff (USA)
It’s far too easy to move hurriedly through each day, particularly in our fast-paced, technology-driven world, and in so doing, neglect to truly take note of the physical and emotional details that comprise our day-to-day living. For me, the discipline of reading and writing haiku provides an invaluable countermeasure, a deliberate slowing down and sharpening of my perceptions of the world around me. In noticing the progress of a line of ants across the pavement, or the way the stars look from a backyard lawn chair on a summer night, I’m better able to feel a part of the world and, I hope, move through it with more compassion and care.
Susan Antolin (USA)
Copyright 2022 by Charlotte Digregorio.