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Bookstories 32: Don Baird’s Haiku Wisdom

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My desire was to write a haiku book that moved haiku from the limitation of poetry to the larger arena of literature and education. Additionally, I wanted to forge a fresh approach—to bring haiku into mainstream readership by combining short poems with philosophical stories and ponderings—self-help based on martial arts.

My primary focus was to write haiku that would be readily accessible to most readers. Haiku are often written in such a way as to engender disparate relations between reader and poet, and meaning. Haiku Wisdom was written to connect with readers in a self-help environment where no secrets were intended.

 Additionally, the book is an educational tool on how to read haiku—how to seek meaning successfully.



swimming
in a cool river
the moon

. . . is a simple haiku. It has a vertical access of meaning for the reader to grasp. Yet, it is accessible with little effort; there is moderate separation between what is written and what the reader may believe as to meaning.

The first poem of the “Can We” chapter is:



a few huts
near afternoon
chanting

How simple! 

I imagine this little poem says it all! It is open, obliging—somewhat easy for the reader to connect with for meaning without reading it extensively. Compare that haiku to others that I have written for different purposes:

summer’s heat—
the shrapnel of

a human being

and,

unfinished . . .

the winds of his brush

design the sky

yet,

in the bible a leaf never worn

These poems represent more of what I look for in writing haiku as stand-alone poetry. These stand-alone poems have certain impositions on the reader for meaning. They are not readily reader-accessible or facile. And, they may cause readers to “read and re-read for meaning” (Richard Gilbert)—different levels of resistance. Haiku included in Haiku Wisdom are not of the same style as these. It isn’t that one style is more advanced than the other; it is a matter of choice and appropriateness.

“Stay On Course” is a simple, short chapter. Its first poem is:



windblown
a crow drifts across
the rooftop

 . . .

light and slightly humorous under certain conditions and a bit dark in others. It opens the chapter, prepares the reader for what is to come, and allows access to meaning—as it isn’t a stand-alone haiku for a journal or a competition, but one that keenly integrates with the remainder of the chapter with ease. It was a necessary inclusion for the book to have meaning.

Haiku often show up in varying contexts. The context of their appearances in Haiku Wisdom is one of “self-help.” They support my intention of helping readers achieve more insightful, richer lives as a result of reading the book. 


oh sunflower!

is that you reaching
for the sky?

—Don Baird

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Dear haikumonk( Don),

    I am happy to read about this venture and wish you all the luck in the world for the same. I loved these haiku…

    a few huts
    near afternoon
    chanting

    unfinished . . .

    the winds of his brush

    design the sky

    I’m sure with your keen vision and insight, dedication and determination and with the blessings of all the haiku masters who have walked the earth, this book will touch many hearts. Wishing you success in abundance.

    Warm regards,
    Charishma

  2. Dear Don, I appreciate your thoughts and poems. Yesterday, I attempted to write a comment, and realized I had said the same things at THF before. Yet I always think of the new reader, and I know I have missed many good comments and posts these last years.

    *

    Haiku began for me during a time of healing from illness and major losses, in the 1990s. I could read the poems, and I loved the small chapbooks I ordered and kind notes from poets, with whom I am sometimes still in touch. Because I was no longer working full-time, somehow the images from the Midwest could reach my soul more directly. There was also new space in the time of loss, a gift I cherish now. I wrote about some of this in posts for Soundings at THF Forum.

    *

    So I also see haiku as thank you notes, with my goal being to paint a picture of the images that sustained me, and my love of language arts. Blogs grow over time, and the readers of my Wisconsin blog range in age from young to old – a span of about 80 years. My goal is to offer hope, and to share the beauty in hard caregiving situations, for example. Still a teacher, in some ways, and modeling is a gentle teaching method. And with blogs, there is always a context, with surrounding posts and other content. It is a way of creating and publishing that works best for me now, much as I honor other ways.

    *

    With the haiku lessons that Jim Kacian and I wrote, we also wanted to bring haiku “to the larger arena of literature and education,” as you say so well. And I think THF as a whole succeeds in this goal. With Montage as the textbook for these lessons, students and teachers are naturally reading a wide range of poets and poems, which would reflect your kinds of examples as well. They may listen and read haiku, and write when they are ready – traditional and/or contemporary and innovative poems- according to their gifts and voices. While there are goals and standards in formal education, we encourage flexibility in grading, and opportunities for growth and revision, so the new generation of poets can be themselves too. We are simply offering some extra materials, if useful to some people. I also hope young people can discover the self-help aspects of poetry and the arts, as you say, and the wonder and comfort as they grow and learn.

    *
    With many poetry journals there is also a context, with the other poems on a page. If many poems demand a lot of a reader, that is a different issue. I am not an editor, though, and know that many editors consider the conversations among poems as they design books and journals.

    *

    I’ve read your essay several times now, and thanks again. Blessings, Ellen

    1. Thank you, Ellen, for your kind and well stated response. I appreciate our alignment and am pondering your words again today.

      peace and blessings,

      Don

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