Haiku is a poetic form that traditionally consists of three lines of seventeen syllables (five-seven-five) and presents one image, usually from common life, happening in a specific place during a particular season. Haiku is always about being present.

  • The Essential Haiku, edited by Robert Hass, presents treasures from the Japanese haiku masters Basho, Buson, and Issa. Some of them are reprinted in Spiritual Literacy on pages 142, 202-204, 263, and 375.
  • Seeds from a Birch Tree: Writing Haiku and the Spiritual Journey by Clark Strand contains contemporary examples, many written by students. The author, who has been writing and teaching haiku for 20 years, suggests ways to "find" haiku by taking haiku walks, keeping a diary of your poems, and sharing them in a small group. He offers this method of reading haiku: Repeat the poem until you can recite it without looking at the page. As you say it silently to yourself, imagine the scene it describes. Watch what is happening, according to the haiku. Try this with a haiku from Hass' or Strand's collections or with this one by Strand: "back from the mountains/a yellow handrail guides me/down the subway stairs."
  • The River of Heaven: Robert Aitken shares a Zen master's collection of his favorite haiku by four gifted poets.