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The Kindness of Strangers 2: On Everyday Magic

bowlWriting a good haiku has many different components. Excellent haiku often come from simplicity and in finding profound meanings in very modest things. One of the masters of finding that magic in everyday life was the beggar monk Santoka Taneda’s favorite poet, Taigu Ryokan. He pushed the form of haiku to its limits and did not care much for any of the rules. His poems still feels modern, although Ryokan was born in 1758, over 100 years before Santoka.

Taigu means great fool, a name which Ryokan chose for himself. His poems are full of the wonders and joy of small things, even though he chose to live his life in the face of adversity. A haiku poet will do well to let him or herself to occasionally be a great fool and laugh both at ourselves and the world around us.

In order to find the magic in our everyday lives we need to be playful. To view things with fresh eyes as though they are completely new to us and allow ourselves to be amazed. It is a gift to see our world through the eyes of a child in haiku and re-discover the magic of our own surroundings.

I forgot my bowl again

my lonely little bowl

please nobody pick it up

last year a foolish monk

this year no different

My life is like an old run-down hermitage

poor, simple, quiet.

Not much to offer you

just a lotus flower floating

in a small jar of water

there is a bamboo grove in front of my hut

every day I see it a thousand times

yet never tire of it

Palestinian haiku poet Rita Odeh has that same playfulness in her haiku. Like Ryokan, she also depicts adverse conditions of the destitute and sees both beauty and humor where it occurs.

That full moon

a coin falls into

the beggars palm

Winter solitude

only a sparrow

to share my meal

A rainy night

even without sandals

the clouds jog

—Anna Maris


The Kindness of Strangers is a six-part series by Swedish poet Anna Maris of haiku written in consideration of poverty, homelessness, begging and our responses to these issues.

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This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Dear Anna,

    I thought of your post again and remembered 1 Corinthians One, in the New Testament of the Bible. Paul speaks about “the foolishness of God” being “wiser than men.” (King James Version).

    In 2 Corinthians, as I recall, there’s a lovely verse about people being like “jars of clay” so the glory is not ours.

    I enjoy the conversation from many perspectives, all we have in common. So much to learn about the haiku literature. Thanks again, Ellen

  2. Thank you very much for another wonderfully inspiring post.

    I am reminded of Picasso’s words: “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”

    Reading and writing haiku are indeed wonderful ways to keep the child within alive and well.

    With gratitude,

  3. Anna Maris said:
    “To view things with fresh eyes as though they are completely new to us and allow ourselves to be amazed. It is a gift to see our world through the eyes of a child in haiku and re-discover the magic of our own surroundings.”

    This is what brought me to haiku when I became tired of the cynical that bombarded me.

    When I lived in Queensland, I marvelled at the lack of light pollution, when I worked on land care. This is part imagination, but also from my experiences as a Mall Santa:

    northern lights
    a boy makes a ladder
    out of his telescope

    Alan Summers
    Publication Credit: Blithe Spirit 24.3 (August 2014)

    Last night British people were able to have a chance to watch the Northern Lights in their own country. I can imagine those children with telescopes, and with my own experience in the famous Lacock area for stargazing, I too would want to climb into the night sky.

    warm regards,

  4. Dear Anna, Thank you for your new post. My father taught me this love of everyday life – learning anew all the time.

    I’m reading Jan Karon’s new novel, Somewhere Safe With Somebody Good. I don’t read many novels and I love her art. Many of the same qualities you describe here.

    I still remember my Swedish Nanna’s kitchen in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Coffee, her bakery, the smell of cauliflower. Poppa Ernie worked on the railroad.

    A wonderful post. Thanks again.

    Best wishes, Ellen

  5. Would a haiku sequence be appropriate?
    The Squirrels

    morning coffee
    four squirrel feet
    cling to the window screen

    backyard jungle
    fox, gray and black squirrels romp
    one hawk

    the squirrel
    sipping from the birdbath
    the hawk eye peeled

    high in the oak tree
    a chattering scold
    the fox squirrel

    below the stump
    among crisp leaves
    a tuft of fur

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