Poetry That Heals

The following poems all appeared in Poetry That Heals (Gabriola, British Columbia: Pacific-Rim Publishers, 2014, and Brunswick, Maine: Shanti Arts, 2018, in a revised edition, with new white cover), by Naomi Beth Wakan. Also included here are Naomi’s comments about the poems as they appear in the book. All poems were previously published elsewhere before appearing in Naomi’s book.

the street corner preacher

points the way

with his Bible

“This is one of Michael’s ‘urban’ haiku—no image of nature, or possible implication of a season as in traditional haiku, yet still the haiku is very fine. This haiku uses an allusion to another haiku, which was often a traditional thing to do in haiku writing, that is, a reference to an earlier famous haiku. In this case the haiku resembles Issa’s ‘the man pulling radish / points the way / with a radish’.”

visiting mother—

again she finds

my first grey hair

“The use of the word ‘again’ seems purposeful, as if to say that this mother can’t remember that she repeats this action at each visit from her son. The parental concern that one’s children don’t age rapidly, don’t show any sign of decay; that at each visit they should always seem improved in some way . . . maybe such thoughts are built into mothers’ genes.”

one shopping day before Christmas . . .

a squirrel runs

from tree to tree

“Two not very similar images and yet how they reflect each other as the squirrel runs wildly around storing for the winter and the Christmas shopper equally runs wild. This is a fine example of two juxtaposed images that reinforce each other.”

Christmas concert—

in unison

the whole chorus inhales

“That’s how haiku/senryu get written . . . you note a small moment as somehow interesting. Only later do you see how profound that was as (in this case) it speaks of community and what can be done when a group of people are all of one voice. The pivot line ‘in unison’ implies it is because the choir is all in tune, but then comes the nice turning that they are more than just in tune, they are breathing as one animated being.”

aging rock star—

a hearing aid

In each ear

“‘Aging’ and ‘hearing aid’ go together and present no great depth. That the aging person is a rock star brings up the question of cause and effect. The singer has paid for his raucous stardom down the line. Perhaps it was worthwhile.”

I miss you in this evening rain

and knowing that I have no idea

if you miss me too

makes me miss you

even more

“This lovely tanka illustrates deeply the uncertainty that is in all relationships. Such tanka encouraged me to learn to not take my husband for granted, because although we have been together nearly forty years, often I seem to know so little about him.”

spring flowers

seem the brightest

along the prison wall—

my bus today

happily late

“A seeming disconnect between the two images—the prison wall and the bus stop—yet the vision of the spring flowers cleverly joins the rest of the lines together and explains the poet’s happiness at the bus’ delay.”

neighbourhood wi-fi

down again—

the trains that pass

no longer end

with a red caboose

“Here Michael muses on technological advancements that may truly be amazing and yet stagger along in their complexity. He compares them with the good old-fashioned, reliable, technically simple things we used to take for granted, such as a red caboose at the end of a string of carriages and rail-cars. As Jung said, ‘Reforms by advances, that is by new methods or gadgets, are of course impressive at first, but in the long run they are dubious and in any case dearly paid for.’ A hint here of nostalgia for times past, times that our memory has elaborated in desirability.”