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Lions Roar : January 2007
PATRICIA DONEGAN is poetry editor of the Kyoto Journal and on the faculty of Naropa University’s East-West poetics department. Her works include Without Warning; Chiyo-ni: Woman Haiku Master (co-authored with Yoshie Ishibashi); and Haiku: Asian Arts and Crafts for Creative Kids. These haiku are selected from co-translations by Patricia Donegan and Yoshie Ishibashi. About a Poem: Patricia Donegan on Chiyo-ni’s “Way of Haiku” rouged lips forgotten— clear spring water green grass— between, between the blades the color of the water when dropped it is only water— rouge flower dew squatting the frog observes the clouds at her sewing the needle drops— the quail’s cry moonflowers— when a woman’s skin is revealed clear water— no front no back green leaves or fallen leaves become one— in the fallen snow clear water is cool fireflies vanish— there’s nothing more [Chiyo-ni’s death haiku] CONCERNED ECOLOGISTS and visionaries are calling the present fragile period of our planet “The Great Turning”— an ecological revolution hopefully turning toward a higher state of awareness that recognizes the interdependency of all things. To do this, suggestions have been made as to “deep ecology,” “deep time,” and “deep play”—and now I am sug- gesting “deep haiku.” Could the world’s tiniest form of Japanese poetry figure into this Great Turning? Most people know that haiku po- etry is about nature, but it is not just about seeing nature as “pretty mountains and flowers”; it is really about raising our consciousness, that all of life—animals, plants, insects, rocks, as well as human beings—are deeply connected and breath- ing together each and every moment. Recognition of this is living haikai no michi, or the Way of Haiku, as some of the great Japanese poet ancestors have shown us. I was especially drawn to Chiyo-ni (1703-1775), the great woman haiku master of the Edo period of Japan, and spent ten years of my life co-translating her haiku. I was drawn to Chiyo-ni’s vision because, like the famous haiku master Basho, she devoted her life as nun and artist to “the haiku path,” simi- lar to what Trungpa Rinpoche called “dharma poetics”—that any poetry can be a vehicle of awakening if done with open- ness, clear-seeing, and mindfulness. Haiku is especially usable in this regard; the awareness is actually built into the haiku form itself, because to write a good haiku one must include a kigo (season reference word) and so must get outside of oneself to see “today’s wind/ today’s flower”—a tiny moment of forgetting the self and seeing what is truly here in this moment, this time, this place, by connecting to Nature, to Other. And so in order to aid in “the Great Turning,” much more important than recording the haiku moment in writing is to use haiku as an “awareness practice,” to be attentive to one’s daily life as Chiyo-ni did, as witnessed in her haiku, which are known to have the clarity of “pure jade” or “pure water.” Left: woodblock print of Chiyo-ni