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Haiku For Parkinson’s Course Update—Sonam Chhoki

 

h45 Haiku for Parkinson's

 

Greetings and welcome!

Haiku for Parkinson’s is a feature of The Haiku Foundation (THF): introducing haiku to those of us living with Parkinson’s Disease (PD), as well as introducing PD to those ‘living with haiku.’ You will find previous posts from this series here.

As part of this feature, renowned poet and editor Sonam Chhoki is teaching the course introducing haiku as a tool in the Parkinson’s toolbox, helping face and negotiate the challenges of the disease and improve quality of life. In this post, Sonam provides an update, which she illustrates with haiku written by current participants.

Sonam writes:

It’s almost two months since this H4P course by email started. I’m humbled that participants from different parts of the globe have responded with enthusiasm and a moving openness to share their experiences of Parkinson’s, either as individuals diagnosed with the condition or as family members, friends, or other members of the caring team.

Paul Celan (1920 – 1970) said that language is the ultimate hope. Much has been made of haiku as a short form. But its compactness does not preclude the potential to address what Anaïs Nin saw as the role of a writer-poet, “not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say.”

The poems shared here show how haiku-writing can help to articulate the changing and challenging aspects of Parkinson’s. My gratitude to each of the poets, who have given permission to include their haiku in this update.

Jen Pacini, who started with Stella’s course introducing haiku to people with Parkinson’s, says, “When I read haiku that really speak to me it’s as though something magical happens between the lines. A moment when image merges with feeling, and in so few words! I find it quite difficult to create myself.”

Jen sent me this trio of haiku:

heavy rain
the cracks 
are revealed

after the deluge
the haiku wait
for blue sky

the moment passes
another mountain 
presents itself 

After an exchange of ideas, she edited the first haiku as follows:

heavy rain
the cracks in the roof
revealed

Jen has also addressed helping her mother move to assisted living with Alzheimer’s:

at the back of the drawer
a letter, folded in three
the life she never shared

Simon Duncan, a prolific poet, in response to my request: “Do share a few thoughts about what you would like to do in this course,” said, “What a difficult question! Get better I suppose, enter some of the many competitions and get some published for a wider audience.”

His haiku give a distinct sense of place:

Hushed canal fishing
“Hello have you caught anything”
Deep silence endures

Cold sun, rough gritstone
More friction, increase your grade
Bouldering mat shrinks.

Night wind
Foxes shriek like ambushed girls
Traffic hums at dawn

As we discussed haiku techniques, Simon began to send Original and Reworked versions:

Original:

A window opens
Sleeping ladybirds. cascading
Hard red confetti

Reworked:

Window opens
Ladybirds cascading
Hard red confetti

Original:

Mole hill in the path
Tunnels dug furiously
Into the unknown

Reworked:

Mole hill
Tunnels dug furiously
Unknown

A brief hiatus followed and when I sent him this poem:

old pond
splash!
the sound of an iPhone

Simon replied:

Water churns
Frogs grapple obscenely
Spring

For his haiku:

Marking essays
A grey fog of sameness
Make the grade

Simon added, “Maybe this illustrates how haiku work for me – in allowing a pointed commentary. Other types of poetry might be easier to use for humour or description perhaps.”

Tania Haberland first wrote a haiku when she was eight and has returned to it to explore some poignant motifs. She says, “As a daughter having to come to terms with my father’s condition, I find great peace and solace in this course.”

My father sits there
behind locked doors, before trees
stares at falling leaves

Did the wind slice leaves
from trees trying to grow old
like he cut his wrists?

Delicate veins leaf
through a mind lost in sorrow
hands are re-membered

Tania also writes about the season where she is:

dragon’s pearl
drips litchi juice
sticky sweet summer sweat

In her latest haiku, Tania examines how to edit details, and the use of kireji, or “cutting word” (see Notes below).

A father’s wrist
cut, bleeds
A Rorschach butterfly 

Understanding 
falls from the sky 
Icarus had secret wings 

Blood draws 
family secrets
from mind to heart 

His cut wrist
is a landscape 
painted in family secrets 

Blood like Indian ink
draws family secrets 
from a cut wrist 

This is the final version she seems to be happy with:

my father’s cut wrist
blood like Indian ink
draws family secrets

This one-to-one course by email is free and available for a year. The main purpose is to work with the participants at a pace suitable to their particular circumstances and needs. We welcome people from all backgrounds and levels of knowledge, and respect their wish to participate anonymously.

Notes

The Kireji or the “cutting word” is a punctuation marker and there’s no direct translation of it in English. It could be said to represent the following:

1!
2 –
3 Aha!
4 Ellipsis

The kireji signposts the emphasis and juxtaposition in a haiku. Where the poet places kireji is fundamental to how the poem is read.

Sources

Paul Celan: Poet, Survivor, Jew by John Felstiner, Yale University Press 2001

The Early Diary of Anaïs Nin (1914–1931) in four volumes Quartet Books, London 1973

The Diary of Anaïs Nin, in seven volumes, Gunter Stuhlmann (ed.), Mariner Books Classic, 1981

Sonam Chhoki

 

Sonam will be available to accompany those interested in using the haiku way to express, reflect, and contain their unique experience of Parkinson’s, through 2024.

You can register for this free introductory course any time by emailing us at: haiku4parkinsonsATgmail.com. We will put you in touch with Sonam.

 

For readers interested in finding out more about haiku, free resources offered by The Haiku Foundation:

The Haiku Foundation Digital Library consists of several thousand digital copies of books, theses, journals, and articles revolving around ‘all things haiku’.

Haikupedia, a project of The Haiku Foundation, is a comprehensive online encyclopedia about all aspects of haiku everywhere in the world, past and present.

HaikuLife is The Haiku Foundation’s Haiku Film Festival, in celebration of International Haiku Poetry Day, April 17 each year. The place to go for information married to enjoyment and inspiration.

For readers interested in finding out about Parkinson’s:

Signs and symptoms of Parkinson’s on Parkinson’s Europe

Living well with Parkinson’s: Parkinson’s Europe

Rap video “Slim Shaky” looks at the realities of Parkinson’s Disease with style.

Parkinson’s Awareness Month: April is marked as Parkinson’s Awareness Month, honoring the struggles and advancements in dealing with this disease.

World Parkinson’s Day takes place on the 11th of April each year. Patients, families, care workers, research, and support groups use the day to heighten awareness of the disease, as well as provide information about the resources that are needed / available to support those afflicted by it.

 

Biography: Sonam Chhoki

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.

 

Banner credit: Maria Pierides 

 

 

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Stella Pierides is a writer and poet. Her books include "Of This World" (2017) and "In the Garden of Absence" (2012), both HSA Merit Book Award recipients. Her article “Parkinson’s Toolbox: The Case for Haiku” appeared in Juxtapositions: A Journal of Research and Scholarship in Haiku, issue 8, 2022.

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