Greetings and welcome to all of you reading this installment of Haiku for Parkinson’s.
Today we meet renowned poet and editor Sonam Chhoki, who is offering a free introductory haiku course to people living with Parkinson’s: those living with the disease as well as their care partners, family members, and friends; all the vital network that forms around the person affected.
If you live with Parkinson’s and have been writing haiku, this course might be for you: another poet to encourage your writing and accompany you on your Parkinson’s journey.
On the other hand, if you haven’t even heard of haiku before, don’t be put off: this course might be especially for you. Many people with Parkinson’s say they benefited from starting a new activity after diagnosis. Exercise, whether of the body (dance, walking, table tennis) or the mind (creative writing, poetry, haiku), has been found to help with symptoms and even slow progression in some cases.
Haiku, one of these ‘activities,’ has the potential to enable us to face, process, and come to terms with all sorts of experience: not only the beauty of sunsets but also the pangs of pain and loneliness. Many people have found that haiku, by encapsulating even difficult moments into a few words, helped transform them into livable, manageable experience.
So, what is haiku? This is what Sonam says:
Haiku in essence is being aware of our surroundings and expressing how this feels and relates to you as a unique individual. The everyday and ordinary instances of our surroundings can be a crow on a fence, the cow in the field, a fly on the window pane or the rain drops on a tulip or an old oak thrashing about in the wind. If you’re an urban dweller, such images might include plants pushing through cracks on the sidewalk or pavement, a face at a shop window or an empty can tossing about on the street. You don’t necessarily have to be outdoors to write a haiku. Indoors too, offer a plethora of inspiring images and ideas.
Observing such details and expressing what thought or feeling these images trigger in us, is the fundamental aspect of haiku. Brevity is another important aspect of haiku. Unlike Free Verse or prose, we use the most succinct language to articulate our thoughts and emotions. An example here from an English haiku poet, Stephen H Gill, alias Tito:
Having brought us along
To the sky …
The summer moor ends.
A haiku by another English poet, Martin Lucas (1962 – 2014)
a light rain …
sweeping the moor
the peewit’s cry
To give you some idea of a variety of themes and images, here are a couple of my haiku:
late night bus
the lonely smell
of street rain
writer’s block . . .
a fly takes its time
on my keypad
As you can see, haiku doesn’t happen in a hurry. It takes time, patience and practice to hone our skills as a haiku poet. For this reason, I would like to work by email with any participant in this project for a whole year. We could make some time in a day to connect and work together and write a haiku. It doesn’t have to be a particular day or even every day. Any time that an image or a moment inspires a thought or feeling in you, could be the moment to write a haiku. You’re welcome to write and share it with me whenever it’s possible for you.
Hopefully, we will have some good poems to share and publish.
Sonam will be available to accompany those interested in using the haiku way to express, and so contain, their experience of Parkinson’s. Sonam takes this work to be a two-way endeavor, aiming to better understand herself the experience of Parkinson’s.
If you are interested in this free introductory course, please email us at: haiku4parkinsonsATgmail.com We will put you in touch with Sonam.
Should the course be full, we’ll let you know and add your name to a waiting list, if you wish.
But no stress! If you can’t make up your mind, there will be opportunities to join a course introducing the haiku path for Parkinson’s in the future.
Tito. “Having brought us along”, Littledale Edge, 20.8.00.
Martin Lucas. “a light rain …”, Wing Beats, Snapshot Press, 2008.
Sonam Chhoki. “late night bus”, Editor’s Choice, Cattails, September 2014.
Sonam Chhoki. “writer’s block . . .”, A Hundred Gourds 3:3, June 2014.
Sonam Chhoki finds the Japanese short form poetry resonates with her Tibetan Buddhist upbringing. She is inspired by her father, Sonam Gyamtsho, the architect of Bhutan’s non-monastic modern education, and by her mother, Chhoden Jangmu, who taught her: “Being a girl doesn’t mean you can’t do anything.” She is the principal editor, and editor of haibun for the online journal of Japanese short forms, cattails. Her chapbook of haibun, The Lure of the Threshold was published in May 2021. Mapping Absences, a collaboration of haibun, tan bun and tanka prose with Mike Montreuil was published in 2019. Another collaboration with Geetanjali Rajan: Unexpected Gift was published in November 2021. An ebook of a second collaboration with Geethanjali Rajan, “Fragments of Conversation” is in the process of being published.