I was a little unsure what to talk about this week, Japanese aesthetics was my first choice, but I knew I wouldn’t have time to read enough to even scratch the surface of that topic given the time available to me last week. Pondering this dilemma, something popped up on a search I was making. It was “The healing power of haiku: Maureen Sexton” on the Australian haiku society website. She says “Poetry has long been used in hospitals to help patients in their healing, but haiku can take the healing work to another level.” (1) She gives an example from her own experience. As a sufferer of chronic pain she finds that “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.” (1)
Well that intrigued me. I had been aware that poetry has been used by health services as a therapeutic tool, but had not heard of any study especially utilising haiku.
I set out to find out more.
In “Haiku and Healing: An Empirical Study of Poetry Writing as Therapeutic and Creative Intervention” written by Kittredge Stephenson, and David H. Rosen (2), they intimate that “A large body of research has suggested that both direct and indirect exposure to nature provide physical and mental health benefits” and of course, as we know, traditionally haiku has been written about nature.
This study made for interesting reading. In it they compared haiku writing with narrative writing and sub comparisons within the haiku group. What I found interesting was that “when participants composed in narrative, anxiety and depression were more likely to decrease, but creativity did not increase; when they composed haiku, creativity was more likely to increase, but anxiety and depression were not reliably decreased.” (2) I wasn’t expecting that result.
To parrot Stephenson and Rosen “what method of writing would best take advantage of this dynamic?” (2) Haibun perhaps?
As I mentioned, the study did find that writing haiku increased creativity and this “correlated significantly with subjective happiness”. Perhaps we could all have told them this?
When I was researching this topic, I was reminded of the story of honku. One man’s attempt to overcome road rage. Rather than spend his life throwing eggs out of his window at cars that honked their horns outside his apartment (which may impact his longevity), he came up with a scheme to write honku and put them up around his neighbourhood. His honku led to others taking up honku writing, my favourite of which is:
oh, Jeezus Chrysler
what’s all the damned honking Ford?
please shut the truck up!
I love the clever use of language.
He put them in a book which you can get on amazon. (3) I think I’ll buy one and leave it in the car.
Ok so what have I been up to this week, haiku wise?
What I would like to share with you is a haiku, probably better described as senryu which was inspired by the most exciting event that happened in the village since the hay wagon overturned; last weekend the milk lorry overturned! That’s what passes for entertainment round here, overturned vehicles, police and firemen, what a combo. Our excitement knew no bounds. You’ll be pleased to know that in both cases the only thing hurt was the pride of the driver.
Here we go then:
paddle in the milky way—
upturned milk truck
Hope you like it?
I hope you have a lovely week and enjoy some of the beautiful weather we are having here in Switzerland, whether you are in the middle of Spring or Autumn.
Submissions are still open for the topic memories. You can submit until the 23rd May. I’m looking forward to reading all your work.
Next week we will be travelling to Australia together. See you next Monday.