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Haiku For Parkinson’s: July 2024 Course Update—Sonam Chhoki


h45 Haiku for Parkinson's


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 a free 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, and the course participants, update us on the progress of their haiku journey.

Sonam writes:

Arguing against the pejorative associations of “parochial” with narrowness, insularity and sectarianism, the Irish poet, Patrick Kavanagh (1904 – 67) said, “The parochial mentality … is never in any doubt about the social and artistic validity of his parish.” For Kavanagh, the “parish” or the “parochial” was not a boundary but an opening. An aperture through which the world could be experienced. It was based on the idea that we learn by scrutiny at close-hand. For the poet, it is the depth of experience rather than the width, that counts. He concluded, “Parochialism is universal; it deals with the fundamentals.”

Inspired by Kavanagh’s insight, I would say that the poets in this update are “parochial” in the most wide-ranging sense. Each poet deals with the “fundamentals” of what it is to live with Parkinson’s either personally or through a close family member. Here are their unique and precious experiences and insights, through the lens of haiku.

1. Why haiku? How did your interest in haiku start?

Simon Duncan: As a means of matching emotion and landscape while on mountain walks and later summarising a day’s cross-country skiing as I was losing my ability.

Tania Haberland: That’s what was offered as a service for people going through Parkinson’s personally /in family. But in reality, I love haiku, wrote my first one at 8 at school.

Margaret Ponting: I have always been interested in writing poetry. I wrote longer prose during an extended lockdown of the coronavirus pandemic. I joined a writing group at this time and was impressed how haiku writing was therapeutic for Parkinson’s sufferers. My brother and sister encourage me to write and are enthusiastic in their support.

Haiku appeals to me because I have family connections to Japan and the history and cultural aspects are intriguing. I feel closer to my Japanese daughter-in-law and grandsons as it gives us something to share, discussing the history and philosophical aspects. I like the way haiku has evolved with a variety of styles and topics and how a few simple words can create an emotional impact on the reader.

Jen Pacini: I started writing poetry after receiving my Parkinson’s diagnosis is 2018. Playing around with different kinds of poetry has been a wonderful creative outlet ever since. In 2021, Stella Pierides offered a haiku class through a Parkinson’s site. At first my interest in haiku was to help refine my poetry. Along the way, I fell in love with the style and the way haiku’s simplicity of form conveys meaning in complex ways and on multiple levels. Reading haiku makes me smile

2. Which of your own recent haiku are your favourites? Please share some of your poems.

Simon Duncan:

Cold sun, coarse gritstone
Thin moves
As my bouldering mat shrinks

Botox cackles
Drag Queens strut

A window opens
Ladybirds cascade
Hard red confetti

Cold canal-side fishing
“Hello, have you caught anything?”
Deep silence

Frost warning, potato panic
Upturned buckets, rhubarb leaves, anything
Protect delicate shoots

Tania Haberland:

Rivers run through us
pebbles holding on
to the stillness of love

Written to accompany a video I collaborated on.

Margaret Ponting:

this morning’s delivery
truckload of firewood
and a tiny green frog

king parrots
gorging on rose hips
a palette of green and orange

giant red gums
mirrored in the river
as we reflect

mismatched, shiny, bright
we put the pieces together
a mosaic of love

threading daisy chains
of memories
sepia photos

a present arrives
a silk scarf
from my sister

the night leaves
a pale parting gift
translucent crescent

along the river bank
djiti-djiti, willy wagtail
cries for her drowned mother

Jen Pacini:

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

sunrise yoga
the taste of
sweet candy

midday heat
the hum precedes
the hive

summer solstice
there’s no
going back

3. What do you enjoy about haiku writing?

Simon Duncan: Concise emotional imagery.

Tania Haberland: The focus and stillness haiku creates and the way it declutters my mind, also the challenge is fun.

Margaret Ponting: I enjoy the immediacy of haiku writing and the mindfulness aspect. It makes me more aware of my magnificent natural environment and I feel enriched through expressing my feelings. I appreciate sharing my thoughts with loved ones through this medium and enjoy reading haiku contributions from other people.

Jen Pacini: I enjoy it when I surprise myself after reading a haiku I’ve constructed.

4. What is the most challenging aspect of haiku writing?

Simon Duncan: Writing about Q3 activities is important to me but others know little about – e.g.- climbing.

Tania Haberland: Editing out what is not necessary..

Margaret Ponting: Initially, I thought there were few rules, but found haiku to be very complex, much like all aspects of Japanese culture. I sometimes find it difficult to pare back my writing. I have been encouraged by the support given to me through this program and appreciate the feedback. Looking back, I think I have grown in confidence and am trying to challenge myself more..

Jen Pacini: I find keeping the meaning of the haiku from becoming too identified with my own story or adding too many details challenging at times. Sonam Chhoki, is very helpful, providing useful feedback that helps me continue to learn the craft.

5. Do you make notes or do you write directly?

Simon Duncan: Write directly.

Tania Haberland: Directly and then keep changing..

Margaret Ponting: I write directly and that is another thing I like about haiku. It doesn’t take too much time. I usually refer back and add or change the structure or flip the lines to create a different effect.

Jen Pacini:  I play around with ideas, lines, wording in a notebook. Then set it aside. Later, I return to the process with fresh eyes to create a digital version. Sometimes I merge and edit two original haiku drafts to create a fresh haiku.

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..


Patrick Kavanagh: ‘The Parish and the Universe’, in Collected Pruse, MacGibbon & Kee, London, 1967.


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.

If you are interested in this free introductory course, please email us at: We will put you in touch with Sonam.


Image Credit: Maria Pierides

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. She serves on the Board of Directors of The Haiku Foundation, and she conceived and coordinates the Haiku for Parkinson’s feature.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Lovely Tania!

    We were on the first Bristol Ladyfest Festival Spoken Word committee (2003) together, where I did performance haiku in a street nightclub, and the haiku card game exercise on a floating nightclub! :-)

    I was the only cis male on the committee.

    A lovely haiku, and video.

    warm regards,

  2. Thanks to Sonam for sharing her skill and wisdom. She always seems to ‘get’ what I am trying to say and offers suggestions in a sympathetic manner. Her guidance gives me the opportunity to consider alternative ways of expressing myself and make improvements which meet the guidelines for haiku writing. Congratulations and best wishes to everyone involved in the wonderful Haiku for Parkinson’s program.

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