the virtue that produces peace

Big Sur surf

a haiku a day until midwinter

I woke up today knowing this exercise I assigned myself of a haiku a day until Midwinter (December 21) is going to be only about snow and ice without introducing some new variable. They aren’t all going to be gems either. I’m using the form as a piano student would use etudes: develop poetic muscle memory for long form workings. But, back to the problem of winter haiku. I remembered it’s not snow and ice everywhere.

off-road haiku: Jack Kerouac

Near this time last year, I was in Big Sur gazing at tide pools: cold, rock-bound baths surging with tiny, undulating marine lifeforms in cold, transparent Pacific blue water. I was a stone’s throw from the shack near Bixby Bridge where Kerouac wrote his novel Big Sur. It was poet and City Lights bookstore founder, Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s cabin. He was trying to do Jack a favor.  Kerouac was living a nightmare at the time and attempted to dry out from his alcoholic haze (after On the Road). But if you read this novella, you’ll find that Kerouac just about jumps out of his skin with every unfamiliar sound from nature. He’s terrified of the extreme dark skies.  It wasn’t successful therapy for poor Jack.  Nothing was in the long term unfortunately. What may have brought him some peace was his move to a dharmic investigation of his own essential character in relation to the cosmos. His work with haiku and Buddhist principles suggests he was doing that work. He went “off-road,” in my assesment, from the pure constraints (5-7-5). Some call it “western haiku.” But he was well disciplined, often using three simple stanzas with all the delight, rhythm and swing he always maintained in his most sprawling, nearly punctuation free work.

Anne Waldman on the “Transcendent Friend”

In his haiku, he wrote generously (he’s said to have written at least 1000) and he wrote of generosity. He thanked the natural world that seemed to repel him in Big Sur.  Anne Waldman, the prolific and profoundly talented poet, captured the notion in her “Vow to Poetry,” calling generosity the “Transcendent Friend.” She would know. Her generous work in her school and the community of writers is well established.   

The writing school she co-founded at Naropa Institute in Boulder takes Kerouac’s name. Denverites are fortunate to attend her readings and curated performances just 30 miles up the highway and turnpike from Capitol Hill. With these lines in “Vow to Poetry” she was paraphrasing a Buddhist read made at meal times that goes on to say: “Generosity is the virtue that produces peace.” This is a unifying principle to Jack’s presumed quest for inner-peace, Waldman’s work in the world, the purpose of poetry in genral, haiku in specific, and just being human. I’ll endeavor to hold true to the principle when posting here. Carefully walking to observe life in the tide pool, like a parent bathing an infant, and discovering the companion forms of things that are shaped by nature–these are the subjects of the haiku posted here. Starfish are echoes of hands. Tide pools are the twins of the ocean. Generosity is our Transcendent Friend.

today’s haiku from the blog’s author

 haiku pair:  tidepool, big sur + the bath 

rock bound sea traces
afloat with five-armed sea stars
dancing in the wash

tub of bathwater
my daughter’s infant palms splash
rising as starfish

Published by Vincent Hostak

Vincent Hostak, vmh, is a writer, podcaster and filmmaker. His poetry has appeared in Sonder Midwest, Tejascovido and the Langdon Review of the Arts. Vince is Executive Producer of Crossings-the Refugee Experience in America Podcast.

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