Images, Haiku and the Spirit workshop 5 February 2023

The Images, Haiku and the Spirit Zoom workshop presented a slideshow of nature photographs as sources of inspiration and/or jumping off points for haiku writing and sharing. The session opened with 28 people and a participatory sacred song and dance called, “Tis a Gift to be Simple.” The song arose out of the Shaker tradition, which like haiku, values the depth offered by simplicity. The corresponding dance was choreographed by the Sufis as an in~person, sacred circle dance and was adapted to Zoom so as to be offered individually in place or from sitting. The intention was for the sacred singing and dancing to invigorate the wisdom and exhilaration of the spirit. I was delighted that the animation and joy of the dancing came through even on the screen. This was followed by a contemplative slideshow of photographs from Mother Nature and stirring haiku responses. The session closed with the Sufi dance to the song by Joseph and Nathan from the Jewish tradition, “From you I receive, to you I give.” The gratitude for each other’s company on the haiku journey was palpable. 

As William J. Higginson wrote, “The primary purpose of reading and writing haiku is sharing moments of our lives that have moved us, pieces of experience and perception that we offer or receive as gifts.” If I were to choose one word to describe the essence of the day, it would be the word gift, the gift of offering and receiving haiku. “Tis a Gift to be Simple” served as a prelude to this experience by awakening the ancient knowing of the body, ‘to bow and to bend, we shan’t be ashamed, to turn and turn it will be our delight, till by turning and turning we come round right.’ As haiku poets we bow and bend to shed everything but the heartbeat of the moment, turning the words over and over until they come round right. “Tis a Gift to be Simple” was haiku in movement.

From singing and dancing, we moved to contemplating images from nature in a slideshow of my husband Akiba’s photographs. The pictures were gone through twice, first in a meditative way and then in reverse order naming the subjects for identification purposes. The workshop invited requests to spend more time with the images people were most drawn to for a deeper exploration and to discover connections. It was here that the session took on a life of its own with participants contributing, often multiple haiku via Chat. Each person read one haiku twice and the community was asked to respond to what touched, struck, or surprised them. Seeing the gift in each haiku generated exciting, meaningful, humorous, and far~reaching conversations such as the protests for women’s rights in Iran and diverse haiku responses to the same image i.e., to some the snowy egret suggested a bride and to others Marilyn Monroe.

We closed with these words and gestures:

“From you I receive,
To you I give,
Together we share,
From this we live.”

Each haiku was a source of soul~nourishment and has inspired me to look at these familiar images in fresh ways. One haiku response is shared below to each of the six most requested photographs. The article concludes with the Bluebird image as a representative of one of nature’s many teachers. Every haiku, haiku poet and those who were present were gifts for which I’m truly grateful. Heartfelt thanks to Iliyana Stoyanova and Andrew Shimield for their guidance, support and making this event possible.  

pure as a bride
the egret
takes off
   — Andrew Shimield

cool closeness
scruffy teenager
smoking sage grass
   — Ian Paternoster

hawk glides home
peace for its prey
   — Derek Hopkins

radiating seedsbluebird
the sunflower’s future
tightly packed
   — Erica Ison

amid stillness
the steady eye
of the roe deer
   — Karen Harvey

morning light
is that a blue Buddha
perched on a branch
   — Iliyana Stoyanova

Write-up by Maryam Mermey 




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