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Posts Tagged ‘death haiku’

Insomnia, Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 2009, photo © 2009 by
QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

every waking moment
fitful bursts of sleeplessness
posing as dreams

 
 
 
 
 
 

Couldn’t sleep last night; so many scattered thoughts rolling around in my head. They say you wake up at 3 a.m. for anxiety, 4 a.m. for depression. I must be feeling anxious. At a few minutes before 3 a.m. (Dead Time), I was wide awake. So wide awake, I even broke the 5-7-5 structure on the Sleeplessness senryu (not typical of my haiku).

I did keep the 17 syllables. After a few years of haiku, they must be hardwired into me. Sometimes I’ll dream about writing and counting haiku in my sleep. I once read about a Japanese poet, Shuson Kato (born Takeo Kato but referred to by his pen-name, Shuson), who counted syllables on his fingers while he lay unconscious a few weeks before his death.

 
Here is an excerpt from his 1993 obituary in the Independent — Shuson Kato, poet and scholar: born Tokyo 26 May 1905; died Tokyo 3 July 1993:

In April this year, he fell sick, but again recovered and started the arduous task of choosing the weekly poems for the Asahi. Alas, on 20 June he lost consciousness: the 11 July issue of the Asahi poetry page was his last. It was said that even while he lay unconscious he was moving his fingers in the typical syllable-counting fashion of every haiku poet, bending the fingers inwards towards the palm, then releasing them again one by one.

Shuson believed in the healing powers of poetry. Again from his obituary:

In 1957, Kadokawa Shoten issued a first collected edition of Shuson’s works. But the poet fell ill in 1960 and underwent chest operations, presumably for tuberculosis. Yet he continued writing haiku. As he said: ‘Without my haiku I am nothing. It is only haiku I live for, and only haiku that keep me alive.’

His faith in the healing power of poetry was such that he gradually recovered. It was in the Sixties that Shuson became identified in the popular mind as a poet who wrote in order to explore ‘how human beings should live’.

Powerful testament to the value of poetry, an art form whose readership is dropping. I find the ancient haiku poets inspiring. It is customary for haiku poets to compose a death haiku just before dying, an epitaph that lives on. Perhaps you’d like to leave your own haiku or senryu in the Comments to honor the recent July 3rd anniversary of Shuson’s death.

 

Blue (If I Knew Then, What I Know Now),
Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 2009, photo ©
2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 

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Epilogue: At 6 a.m. when Liz’s alarm was about to go off, I was heading to bed and a Version 2 of the Sleeplessness haiku popped into my head. I don’t know if Versions 1 and 2 are opposites, or complements like red/green or orange/blue.

 

every sleeping moment
fitful bursts of wakefulness
posing as dreams

 

Below are a few other Night Owl posts from over the years. I am most creative in the middle of the night or very early in the morning in that space between dark and light. I wonder if there are other Night Owls out there who write poetry in their sleep. Or if the Early Bird still catches the worm. 
 

 

-posted on red Ravine in the space between Tuesday morning, July 14th, 2009 and Monday night, July 13th

-related to these obituary posts on red Ravine: The Uses of Sorrow – What Is It About Obituaries?, Reading The Obits, Halloween Short List: (#2) Build Your Own Casket

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