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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?


This Post Has 40 Comments

  1. Well, here is a real-life, ‘shasei’ moment I encountered on the sidewalk recently in my New York City neighborhood:

    spring rain
    a woman prays to St. Francis
    over a dead rat

    Is this a Christian haiku?


  2. 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.

  3. 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

  4. 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.


  5. 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.

  6. 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
    the redolence
    of her tears

    (NaHaiWriMo 02/19/12 prompt:sandals)

    bishop’s ring
    i kiss a ruby stain
    on the martyr’s relic

    (Sketchbook haiku thread ‘precious stones’, February 2012)

  7. 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.

    Holy Week
    the white tulip opens
    to a crimson heart

    Second, use wording that echoes the Bible or other sacred literature.

    early breakfast
    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

    Spring desire
    blowing past the window
    a runaway kite

  8. ready for easter
    st. theresa’s nose
    good as new

    easter sunday daffodils past the door to sky

    carwheels the new priest turns away

  9. 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

  10. 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
    fallow fields
    waking up

    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

  11. Hi, Gene,

    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.


  12. Hi Gene,

    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)

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

    Thanks for another good question! Ellen

    Thanks for another good question!

  15. at first . . . 
    a star carved out
    of darkness

    robert d. wilson
    who has a degree in Bible
    from California Baptist University
    Riverside, CA

    *Just one of several degrees, Olga.

    * Genesis Chapter One

  16. copper streaked cheeks
    The Blessed Virgin
    cupping rain

    – Elliot Nicely
    (Mayfly #41)

  17. THN Jan. 2004, vol. 6:1

    exchange rose hips
    Christmas morning

    am not exctly sure that I would call this a Christian poem, although, it was true.

  18. 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.

  19. 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

    Raymond Roseliep
    The Still Point (Uzzano Press, 1979)

    at the priest’s waist
    so many keys

    Akito Arima
    Einstein’s Century (translations by Emiko Miyashita & Lee Gurga) 2000

    spring roads
    after a three-day absence
    the beloved returns

    Carmen Sterba
    sunlit jar 2002, Haiku Harvest 2003

  20. Easter morning
    the birds spin a song
    for the lilies

    fragrant myrrh
    swirls around beyond
    a rolled stone

  21. 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

  22. Absolutely! There is a lot of Christian-themed haiku.

    wooden crucifix:
    His build the build
    of the local peasants

    –Mike Dillon
    (Modern Haiku, Vol. XXX, No. 1, 1999)

    ocean air—
    Jesus rusting
    at the nails

    –Mike Allen
    (Frogpond, XXI:1, 1998)

    communion wafer
    in my open hand—
    the fragrance of lilies

    –Cherie Hunter Day
    (Northwest Literary Forum # 20, 1996)

    Easter morning
    the new-born turtles
    race to the sea

    –Tony Virgilio
    (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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