Is there quality Christian haiku out there?
I guess it seems obvious because of the origins of haiku, but I am surprised at how hard it has been for me to find good haiku written from a Christian perspective. I wanted to find something to share here for Easter. But I’m not having any luck.
So, I figured I would give it a shot…surprise of the sun– upturned wing still climbing
I just tried writing that off the cuff, but if anyone can point me to some better stuff?Gene
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Job listens for the
one by one his
friends begin to speak
I do know that the late Svetlana Marisova (https://www.thehaikufoundation.org/poet-details/?IDclient=897) wrote haiku very much from within Roman Catholic spirituality with strong influences from her Russian roots. A range of her work is being added to regularly on her blog at http://www.marisova.com.
Well, here is a real-life, ‘shasei’ moment I encountered on the sidewalk recently in my New York City neighborhood:
a woman prays to St. Francis
over a dead rat
Is this a Christian haiku?
I’ll post here the haiga made by two friends of mine, on the occasion of Easter, this year: http://haikuind.wordpress.com/2012/04/08/paste-catolic-si-florii-happy-easter-joyeuses-paques-frohe-ostern/
The thought comes to me that Christian Haiku is often lost on others unless it’s used to “tell” instead of “show” since the ultimate Christian experience is based on faith. This often creates a situation where it automatically draws a rejection. I guess I’d rather not call my haiku/poetry “Christian” but let it just be what it is. Those that know me know that all my springs come from the place from which the river flows.
Many of top japanese poets were Christian, such as modern classic Yamaguchi Seishi, then Kato Shuson etc. I think we need to know more about Japanese haiku. Unfortunatelly we are lovers of Ego-centrism and Western-centrism and finally Nationl-centrism. Question like that are ignorant and speak nicely where we are as a people and poets: on the cultural bottom
Dear Merrill, I always find so much poetry in your prose too. “There are prayers too deep for words…There are connections that heal hearts that don’t fit nicely into hewn stones…”
Your Good Friday poem also has Easter in the first line for me. Poetry reaches the places beyond words, beyond the intellect…for me it is so much about healing, and yet words help us find these places. How beautiful the Mystery.
Charlie, Ellen, Carlos, Kathe, Lee, Allegria, Carol, Sheila, John, thank you all so much! You have offered me a lot!
Wonderful, Merrill, thank you!
There are prayers too deep for words… There are connections that heal hearts that don’t fit nicely into hewn stones… The Old Testament talks of making your altars of unhewn stones… and that opened up whole worlds of understanding to me about just what was holy…
the redbud blooms
the silence in my room
death rattles cease
It seems to me that that is every bit a Good Friday poem … if you understand anything about the Incarnation.
I can cite two of what’s to me haiku with a Christian theme from the latest volume of The Heron’s Nest (2011). Because I wouldn’t have time ask permission to quote them here, I’ll give the title, author and month published; I voted these as first and second for Reader’s Choice: Jim Kacian’s “feeble light”, March and Ted van Zutphen’s “ant”, September.
Born a Catholic, living my faith and religion, it’s a challenge for me to write a haiku on what’s greatly wrought in mystery. Christianity, indeed, is much more complex than imagined or understood. I’ve tried to respond to prompts but with the least satisfaction of what I wish I could express as in the following:
his unshod feet
of her tears
(NaHaiWriMo 02/19/12 prompt:sandals)
i kiss a ruby stain
on the martyr’s relic
(Sketchbook haiku thread ‘precious stones’, February 2012)
After reading your comments I think there are at least three ways to write Christian haiku. First, use an image that has a religious connection.
the white tulip opens
to a crimson heart
Second, use wording that echoes the Bible or other sacred literature.
a table of welcome
all the days of my life
Third, reflect the complex realities of this glorious yet broken world.
Watching sparrows feed
at the feeder
– a sparrowhawk
blowing past the window
a runaway kite
ready for easter
st. theresa’s nose
good as new
easter sunday daffodils past the door to sky
carwheels the new priest turns away
Gene, I’ve written many religious haiku/senryu, although I’m not sure how many are of the quality you seek. This is one of my favorites, which was the hokku to a one-line renku Dr. Jim McMillan and I had published in LYNX XIV:2 (1999):
walking on water the shadow of a lost sheep
Charlie, So very kind of you to mention me in your comment! Lora Zill is the editor of Time of Singing (TOS). I’ve had the privilege of serving as a Contributing Editor and a Contest Judge.
Here is an early haiku of mine that you may well remember:
Coming out of
anesthesia . . .
the cross on the wall
Time Of Singing, 1997
TOS also publishes nature poetry. For example this haiku inspired by the fields I so love:
Feeling new poems
Time Of Singing, 2000
(I didn’t try to type the poems exactly as printed in the journal.)
This is getting long, but as you know, I’m all in favor of supporting the collaboration between print journals like Modern Haiku, TOS, etc. and blogs, this website, and many others.
Thanks again, Ellen
The URLs in my last comment got swallowed. They should be:
Interesting question. At Haiku North America 1999 in Chicago, we featured a fascinating discussion between Zen specialist Lucien Stryk and Christian haikuist Gary Warner, well known in the haiku community for having started the first Internet haiku journal, Dogwood Blossoms. He’s online at . Another poet who writes Christian-oriented haiku is Ellen Olinger, editor of the journal Time for Singing. She blogs at . Many poets have written haiku about Thomas Merton and other Christian thinkers. I know of three books of psalms in haiku:
Gwyn, Richard. Psalms in Haiku Form: A Simplified Psalter. Leominster UK / Harrisburg, Pa.: Gracewing /distributed by Morehouse Publications, 1997. 176 pages. ISBN 0-852443-53-6.
Gwyn, Richard. Psalms in Haiku: Meditative Songs of Prayer. Berkeley, Calif.: Seastone Press, 1998. 346 pages. ISBN 1-569750-96-3.
Cooper, Allan. The Deer Is Thirsty for the Mountain Stream: Versions from the Chinese, Japanese and the Book of Psalms. Alma, N.B.: Owl’s Head Press, 1992. 52 pages. ISBN 0-920635-07-5.
good friday a scarecrow sags in the church garden
Could it be that the difficulty in finding good haiku written from an overt Christian perspective is that it’s a bit harder to get that work published? I don’t know. Just posing the question. As a poet who also works in longer forms, I do think it is a little harder to publish poetry with overt Christian spiritual content in mainstream journals. Poetry with a faithful/religious perspective of any background isn’t as welcome as more secular work in many venues.
I haven’t often tried to write Christian themed poetry in Japanese forms, but have pasted in below an Easter haiku of mine published a few years back. But I like Elliot’s “copper streaked cheeks” better. ( Lovely haiku Elliot.)
Easter Monday —
throughout the graveyard
scent of hyacinth
Kathe L. Palka
(Published in Time of Singing, 2005)
in the priest’s garden
of white hawthorn
I am checking it out now. Thank you!
I have read and enjoyed Raymond Roseliep, but I didn’t know he was a priest! Thank you for pointing that out!
Wow! 17 comments so far! Thank you very much everyone! I am going through all of these!
As far as I’m concened, Christian Writing fits exactly with the concept that all things are part of life and valuable to explore. I doubt that it should be any different than haiku writing, as it calls us to write from the heart. To me, according the John’s gospel, Christ+ is the “Word”… so to any good Christian a word has value…and how it is used has value. Any writing that sheds “Light” is doing the work of Christ+. It is in the love and respect we have for each other that fills our writing with deepest meanings. I know many people find it hard to deal with the fact that Christianity has sort of adopted many customs and points of view from all over the world. But to a Christian, we take truth were we find it. “Truth” can’t be labeled. It just is. What is, is, is, is, is… God, after all is a God of history… when we write things that hold that in their words… it is holy writing.
Gene, Time of Singing is a literary Christian print journal. Lora Zill is the editor and publishes many forms of poetry, including haiku and tanka. The journal is illustrated by different artists. May be of interest to you and several others here. I began with this journal over 20 years ago, and it has a special place in my heart. http://www.timeofsinging.com
Thanks for another good question! Ellen
Thanks for another good question!
This one about a conversation I had with an old man during the Semana Santa celebrations during Holy Week in Southern Spain was selected as one of the editor’s choice from a ‘precious stones’ theme http://poetrywriting.org/Sketchbook7-1JanFeb2012/Sketchbook_7-1_JanFeb_2012_Choice_Haiku_John_Daleiden.htm
holy week procession—
the Madonna’s tears
are real diamonds
I know you’re looking for Christian-themed haiku but here is a link to a Jewish-themed haiku which I wrote about the holiday of Passover which is also coming up. This is in the Poetry column of the April 2012 issue of The Chronogram: http://www.chronogram.com/issue/2012/4/Poetry/Poem-Untitled-Sari-Grandstaff
before the bird whistles
gillena cox, Trinidad and Tobago 2007 (first published at Wordchimes.com)
at first . . .
a star carved out
robert d. wilson
who has a degree in Bible
from California Baptist University
*Just one of several degrees, Olga.
* Genesis Chapter One
copper streaked cheeks
The Blessed Virgin
– Elliot Nicely
a homeless man asleep
among the lilies
the winter landscape
I whisper the Psalms
staying in the light
I read in different
corners of the house
THN Jan. 2004, vol. 6:1
exchange rose hips
am not exctly sure that I would call this a Christian poem, although, it was true.
Look up Raymond Roseliep. As a Catholic priest, he wrote a lot of wonderful spiritual haiku. A few years back, in bottle rockets, Randy Brooks wrote an essay about it.
I’ll dig out a few of my own tomorrow.
Gene, That’s exactly what I’m preparing for next year’s Per Diem.
Let me share a few:
the Mass priest
holds up bread
the still point
The Still Point (Uzzano Press, 1979)
at the priest’s waist
so many keys
Einstein’s Century (translations by Emiko Miyashita & Lee Gurga) 2000
after a three-day absence
the beloved returns
sunlit jar 2002, Haiku Harvest 2003
old wooden cross –
in its shadow
The World Kigo Database features Christian kigo and haiku.
the birds spin a song
for the lilies
swirls around beyond
a rolled stone
Hi Gene —
Not sure if mine are better, but I published a couple in Pond Ripples Magazine. One of mine I like (edited slightly):
Of His Song
His glorious song ~
my life is but an echo
notes from the refrain
Absolutely! There is a lot of Christian-themed haiku.
His build the build
of the local peasants
(Modern Haiku, Vol. XXX, No. 1, 1999)
at the nails
(Frogpond, XXI:1, 1998)
in my open hand—
the fragrance of lilies
–Cherie Hunter Day
(Northwest Literary Forum # 20, 1996)
the new-born turtles
race to the sea
(Frogpond, Vol. XXI:1, 1998)
rolling up his sleeves,
the monk prepares
to read the gospel
–susan delaney mech
(Modern Haiku XXVIII:1)
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