Patricia Donegan taught East-West poetry for a decade at Naropa University and for the past 10 years has taught creative writing at a university in Tokyo. A member of the Haiku Society of America and the Association for International Renku, she currently is the poetry editor for Kyoto Journal. As both a writer and a senior meditation teacher, she writes essays, gives talks, and leads workshops internationally to promote haiku as an awareness practice for inner and outer peace.
This wonderful collection consists of 108 haiku (an auspicious number and the amount of beads on a Buddhist mala). She sees these poems as providing a springboard for the contemplation of nowness, honesty, adversity, sorrow, acceptance of death, harmony, healing, and much more. The poets included in this are traditional and modern, Japanese and non-Japanese, male and female. She hopes that her reflections on each poem will help to cultivate within the reader a sense of awareness, living in the present moment, compassion, wonder, peace and beauty.
Through haiku, Donegan challenges us to slow down and focus on the present moment of what is right in front of us, to appreciate the poignant transience of life, to switch our attention from the self to the other, to see humor as a saving grace, to honor the emotion of loneliness, to respect the sacredness of nature, to ponder the contraries of holding and letting go, and to acknowledge the dignity and beauty of little things. The author is a well-read and wise woman. We were impressed with her knowledge of eye-communication in Korea which is called "eye-street," the term "skin-ship" which is used in Japan to signify the closeness of someone you have shared time with at a public bath, and the precious and fleeting moment encapsulated in the "one time, one meeting" ritual of the tea ceremony. Here is an example of the format used throughout the book:
halfway up the stair
Elizabeth Searle Lamb
"Pausing is the doorway to awakening. This haiku epitomizes a moment that occurs naturally in our lives, but that we often hurry or gloss over. Haiku awareness is a simple way to slow down and tune in to this fleeting moment, to appreciate what is right in front of us. We pause not only with our body but also with our mind. And sometimes we can be attentive and sometimes we cannot, but that is all right, for the next moment always brings us the fresh possibility to pause and be present again. There are no steps to follow, there is no enlightenment to work toward there is only the simplicity of relaxing into this very moment that is complete in itself. This naked moment is the only guide we need to relax our mind. We need to trust this: in the midst of our daily life activities, the possibility to slow down, to stop, and then to appreciate naturally unfolds. For a fleeting moment we pause and note the sunlight on the sheets as we make the bed, note the warm sun on our cup as we sip tea, or note the fading light on the curtain as we enter the room. And we let out a breath or sigh. Pausing."