Simply Haiku: An E-Journal of Haiku and Related Forms
November-December 2004, Volume 2, Number 6

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BOOK REVIEW: David Rosen & Joel Weishaus, The Healing Spirit of Haiku
Reviewed by Robert D. Wilson

The Healing Spirit of Haiku by David Rosen and Joel Weishaus is different from any book of or about haiku that I have read. It ventures down a path seldom discussed or explored. I contacted Rosen and Weishaus individually about their book. They and their publisher, North Atlantic Books, have allowed Simply Haiku to print the following excerpts.

Excerpt from the Preface:

Haiku fits well with Carl Jung's psychotherapeutic technique of active imagination in which meditation leads to setting ego aside so the unconscious can emerge and be integrated with the conscious in a transcendent function resulting in an artistic product. Creative haiku represents a healing union of intuition and sensation, past and present, self and other, ordinary and extraordinary, as well as current and ancient memories. Haiku also produces an archetypal and affective image out of a few words.

This volume is a haibun of the psyche, that is, a journey into spirit and nature. There is prose about periods of melancholy that I've suffered and the healing haiku that resulted. In addition, it records moments of joy and peace that I have experienced. Joel reacts and responds to what I've written with his own healing prose and haiku. Hence, we model for the reader how to use this book and illustrate the dialogical or interactive qualities of haiku that are so healing. While it concerns what Haruo Shirane calls "the difficulty of the spiritual journey 'within,'" it likewise involves sharing and "the expectation of a poetic reply." We follow Basho's poetics of "awakening to the high, returning to the low" as well as the spirit of "going and returning."

This is not a book about the history of haiku or how to write them. This is not a self help book in the usual sense, but rather a non-self (beyond the ego) healing volume that ideally helps one to realize that we are alone, yet inter-connected. This book values haiku moments [and] following the Creative. It also underscores the philosophy: "Moments, moments, that is life."

~ David Rosen, College Station, Texas

Excerpt from Chapter 1: Being Alone

David:

After trudging through a harsh early mid-life crisis and a winter of much darkness and despair, in the Spring if 1978 I wrote my first haiku as an adult. I was alone on a rock and overlooking Georgian Bay in Ontario, Canada. I'd been on a personal retreat in a remote place following an academic conference in Toronto. I'd awakened too soon, when the birds started to sing. I threw on some clothes and ventured out on a path I knew well. I arrived at the stone precipice thirty minutes before the sun came up above the distant line separating the blue-black water from the peach-rose sky. I sat down and meditated, then got out a small tablet to make a sketch. To my surprise, I wrote the words below, creating another kind of image. I'm not sure why this happened. It may have been, in part, the fertile soil of my depression and the sense of emptiness I felt. Regardless as to why a haiku emerged at that moment, I'm grateful that this creative process has never ceased. For a moment the emptiness became enlightenment; like drawing and painting, haiku is an activity that heals my soul.


Dawn on a spring sea---
Then a glittering
From a thousand jumping fish

Joel:

With the ending of a relationship, I had to reacquaint myself with the notion of once again living alone. I was feeling lonely, something unthinkable when I was younger, when the desire to be alone with myself was almost a way of life. But with age, loneliness makes its presence palpable. I suspect this is because one's psyche becomes aware of the Void over which someday it will either leap or be pushed, with no hand to hold, just myths and theories that there is an "other side." As it must be faced alone, one seeks the warmth of companionship, before that fateful moment arrives.

.......................................In the dark bedroom,
.......................................I close my eyes
.......................................and wonder why

 

Excerpt from Chapter 53.Turtle Wisdom:

David:

I love turtles. In Native American teachings, turtles are symbolic of Mother Earth or Nature. My psyche and home are filled with turtles and slow going is the only Way for me. The old fable of the tortoise and the hare is my story! When you embrace the turtle symbol, "You are being asked to honor the creative source within you, to be grounded to the Earth, and to observe your situation with motherly compassion. . . . Turtle buries its thoughts, like its eggs, in the sand, and allows the sun to hatch little ones. This teaches you to develop your ideas before bringing them out in the light."

.......................................Kame calls
.......................................Listen to the ancient
.......................................Voice of Mother Earth

Joel:

The Shang Oracle of china, recently unearthed, used turtle shells to divine everything from the weather to success in hunting and war. This shell would be heated until cracks appeared, the shapes of which would be interpreted. The shell was also honored for its longevity, which was said to have to do with its slow breathing. It has been compared to a mendicant sage, for carrying its shelter with it, and the wisdom of its pace.

Legend has it that one day the English physicist Sir Arthur Eddington was giving a lecture on cosmological mythologies, one of which is the Indian belief that the universe rests on the back of a giant turtle. However, Eddington opined, if this is true, on what does the turtle stand? After the lecture, Eddington was approached by an elderly woman who told him that he didn't understand Indian cosmology. "You are very clever, young man, very clever, but it's turtles all the way down."

.......................................Older than I thought I'd ever be---
.......................................Across the path,
.......................................Acorns are scattered


The book's illustrations by Arthur Okamura with accompanying haiku are featured in the "Haiga: New Forms" section.

Photo credits: Faye Powell

Book details: The Healing Spirit of Haiku by David Rosen and Joel Weishaus with illustrations by Arthur Okamura, North Atlantic Books; (October 12, 2004), ISBN: 1556435304