The ZenTao Haiku


Last year I did what I called the #joyproject – a daily message on Facebook and Twitter about something I experienced that brought me joy. I didn’t start out to write a daily haiku, but somehow that format took over as I went along.

This year I decided to continue the concept, but to slightly change the focus from joy to what I decided to call “ZenTao,” based on the riff that goes “That was Zen; this is Tao.” Since I’m working to finish a project this week, I thought I’d share a few of them for this week’s blog post.

The first one goes with the picture illustrating this post.

Big hole in the street
Exposes what lies beneath:
Leaves, trash, and … pumpkins?

I did a double take when I walked by that hole in Webster Street and saw the pumpkin. I don’t know how it got there, but it was in place for a couple of weeks. The hole is fixed now.

This next one is a reminder that anything – including spam – can be fodder for the writer’s work:

“Serial killer”
Sends out spam. Is this a plot
Or just their day job?

Since I am a writer and someone who worries about the people living on the street, the experience that led to this next one gave me hope:

Woman scavenging
For cans in trash finds a book,
Reads a page, takes it.

There were others inspired by reading:

Reading Marge Piercy
Sets off my feminism.
Feeling militant.

Now: Ruth Ozeki’s
A Tale for the Time Being:
Zen Quantum SF.

At times I waxed philosophical:

What I really want
Is not the same as those things
I think I should want.

I’m more productive
When good things happen in life.
Not sure that’s useful.

There were some writerly laments:

Up at one a.m.
To write. I wish my brain kept
More regular hours.

New story idea
Is now pounding in my head.
Must find time to write.

And more ordinary ones:

A bureaucracy
Always assumes that your time
Is not important.

Cats, of course:

A woman wiggles
Her keys from across the street
And her cat responds.

The cat is purring.
Lies beside me; wants skritches.
How can I get up?

I think haiku are supposed to be about nature, so here are some that cover that:

Alone on a trail
Snow, trees, a running river.
Nature does restore.

Winding road, few cars.
Even driving through nature
Makes me feel alive.

Hard rain before dawn.
Cats hid, and I wanted to.
Birds sang to the sun.

A little social commentary shows up in the mix:

In a Portland park
The skateboarders mix it up:
Black, white, women, men.

Ways to rebuild Earth:
Healthy soil, food, work, people.
Is there enough time?

And, of course, I was also science fictional from time to time:

Robot caretakers
Sound good, but what if they are
Robot overlords?

I paid homage to Walt Kelly:

Friday the Thirteenth
Actually falls on Friday.
Hide? No, embrace it!

And also to Joss Whedon:

Long sunny walk at
Mountain View Cemetery.
Didn’t see Buffy.

One from earlier this week was a throwback to last year’s joy project:

A boy on a bike
Jumped the curb off the sidewalk.
The joy on his face!

And to end with, one that represents the writing project I’m working on:

My mind and body
Come together to make me.
I like who I am.



The ZenTao Haiku — 4 Comments

  1. I love these. I just finished Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon this week, and one of the things I enjoyed about it was one of the characters composing haiku poems like yours. I was sad, later in the book, when he stopped doing that.

    (I might crib this idea for my own non-writerly blog. I haven’t been posting, and little daily haikus seem like a good way to fill in the gaps, in addition to being a good writing exercise!)

    • Please do “crib” the idea. It’s there for the taking. I was inspired to do last year’s project by Kelly Eskridge, who did a daily gratitude project on Facebook. I just fell into the haiku.

      Lately I’ve been reading prose poems by Anne Boyer and thinking about other kinds of structures I could use. There are ideas I haven’t been able to fit into haiku form.

      (And I’d forgotten about the haiku in Cryptonomicon.)

  2. I am still #joyproject-ing along. Some days I don’t feel like I have anything to write about and then the next I have four haikus. Since I can get long-winded, I figure the discipline is good for me. Even if the work is not elegant enough for a true master.

    • When I have extra inspiration, I write those down for future use. I agree the discipline is good, and since I don’t advertise myself as a poet, I figure I can get away with ones that are not as good as they ought to be. And also, I was surprised at how many of them I really liked when I read back over them to pick out a few for this blog post.

      BTW, I’ve been enjoying yours, Cat. You seem to be doing a lot of nature-related ones, which I think is traditional and also very good for us all. (If we can’t get out in nature all the time, we can at least see other people’s ideas about it.)