28 February, 2011

Is This My Zen Robe?


darkness before dawn
is this my Zen robe?
wife's red ballgown


Hobbes said...

It has been said that the spirit of Zen is knowing how you left your shoes when you kicked them off upon entering the house.

It is this that turns my little poem from a senryu to a haiku.

Bryan said...

I love it. :)

Hobbes said...

One of my favourite things about haiku is their sense of "placedness" - they have the sense of being somewhere real, and take you there. Give you a little hint of it. Ideally, give you a little involvement, and draw you in - you "get" a haiku, there has to be that "haiku" moment, which some books call the "a-hah!" moment.

I used to agree with my little brother's immortal words on the subject of haiku: "They're just pretentious twaddle, aren't they?"

The more you spend time with them, the more you begin to appreciate them. Much like everything, I guess.

Haiku definitely require some effort on the part of the reader, but they're rewarding - unless you're my little brother. :)



Leaf Dharma said...


Unknown said...

Hmm I'm really into poetry and I want to start haikus so I'm trying to understand your haiku. Let me share my thought process with you. At first I assumed you must be a cross dresser, no offence, but you are saying your Zen robe is your wife's clothes. Then I started to read into the first line, darkness before dawn, which means you must be in bed or something. So I think my "a-hah!" moment was when I thought that your most Zen moments are when you wake up beside your wife just before dawn and those are truly your happiest moments. Am I reading too deep now?

Elliot Knapp said...

Funny! Like this one.

Hobbes said...

Thanks for the comments and gassho, all.

Mr. Wong: what a fascinating take you have on my simple haiku. Cross-dressing and laying in the darkness aside, a haiku is more or less what you make of it. I wouldn't like to tell you that you're wrong - but your take of my haiku is a different one to that which I'd written.

The thing about haiku is that they are literal. This is very important. In the spirit of Zen, they are directly pointing towards a moment that is happening Right Now, and they try to accord with that moment. They are not similes, or analogies.

This is what makes a haiku clean, honest, and sincere. Just like Zen. There is no messing around, no pretension (despite my little brother's words!), no show of learning, no images or constructions other than that which the author sees right here and now.

So, my haiku is simply pointing towards that time before dawn when it is dark. I cannot see, because it is dark, and I am fumbling around trying to find my Zen robe. That I find something else (a ballgown!) is like the stick of the head monk impacting my shoulders.

I should have remembered where I left my robe. I am a bad student. To misplace one's gown is a similar level of crime to not knowing where one put one's shoes when kicking them off to enter the house.

The "ahah!" moment, for me anyway, is that moment when the actor in the haiku comes across an entirely suitable garment in which he thought to do his morning zazen. Not just any garment - one of his wife's most formal garments. The prospect of using it to do zazen is senryu. The reader's knowledge of Zen reminds us of its haiku nature, and the darkness before dawn places us sometime in the winter months.

Just like Zen, haiku cannot really be explained. I like your cross-dressing explanation.

Unknown said...

A Hah! I really like your explanation as well, I think both of ours almost fit together because you came pretty close to being a cross dresser :P

Thanks for the tips on writing haikus, I've already started to think of some with "A Hah!" moments. I posted one of my poems on my blog and would be honored if you checked it out.