The Healing Power of Haiku: Maureen Sexton

Bee on flowerI met the late WA haiku poet, Nicholas Barwell, in 2005 and there began years of discussions about haiku and my first attempts at writing haiku. Following this, I was fortunate to be offered, and to complete, an intense mentorship (writing, researching, critiquing and workshopping of haiku for publication) with mentor, John Bird, in 2007. I am so grateful to both of these people for the excellent grounding they gave me in haiku and the development of my love for haiku.

Since then, and after much research and experience, I have learned that haiku can be so much more than a form of poetry. It can also be a lifestyle, a healing tool, and a tool for environmental activism.

Poetry has long been used in hospitals to help patients in their healing, but haiku can take the healing work to another level. I have illnesses that cause me to suffer from chronic pain and fatigue. I also suffer from depression and anxiety. Haiku is one of the few things that takes me away from my pain and helps me to shift my focus. Being ‘in the moment’ and appreciating the beauty of nature, of which I am part, helps enormously. Noticing the connections in nature highlights for me my own connectedness and gives me a sense of belonging. It brings a peacefulness to my life.

Carl Sagan said “The beauty of a living thing is not the atoms that go into it, but the way those atoms are put together”. This, for me, is the essence of that connectedness.

The universe is a living thing; the destruction of the environment is a sickness. Perhaps haiku can be a way to raise awareness, to bring the importance of a healthy environment into our consciousness and, therefore, be a tool of activism for those who can’t be physically active.

“There is no better way to help readers to lift their eyes from the page, than in describing the ordinary, everyday plants and animals that they are bound to come across in their everyday lives. Haiku offer a new way of seeing what we have always seen. They encourage us to take time, to notice the ordinary nazuna or clover flowers, that we would have just passed by. This is not all, though — haiku offer a particular way of approaching everything in nature, including other humans, a way of empathy, congruency and unconditional positive regard which can nurture rather than destroy. It encourages learning from the ways of nature rather than violating them, which are essential for sustainability”.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxEven with insects –
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxsome can sing,
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxsome can’t.

I believe that what some people call the ‘aha’ moment or ‘ah’ moment of haiku is a very powerful thing and it’s the conciseness of haiku that assists that power. The moment doesn’t get lost in words. Haiga also adds another level of connection to haiku and is another form I love.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxschool tuck-shop —
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxa drone of bees
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxby the bubblers

Maureen Sexton, 2018

Sagan, Carl, Cosmos (Random House, 1980)
‘Even with insects—‘ , Kobayashi Issa, (translated by Robert Hass)
Stibbe, Aaron, Rethinking eco-literacy: from micro-economics to haiku
“school tuckshop” – Maureen Sexton, published Haiku Dreaming



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