Advice on Writing Haiku by Gary Gach

Here are the last two questions on the interview:

4 Any advice on writing haiku?

All the adages you’ve already heard, apply. Please study what the masters studied but do not imitate. Show, don’t tell. Over the tongue, 1,000 times (meaning, edit). And so on.

One night, I was talking with Shu-Un Mitsuzen Lou Hartman, a venerable Zen priest who practiced at Tassajara, and Green Gulch, and City Center. (Full disclosure: he knew I’ve offered haiku workshops at Green Gulch and City Center.)

Haiku can’t be taught, he said.

After long silence, I asked him to please continue.

Smiling faintly, he continued.

Haiku can’t even be written. That is, the moment you put into words on paper what had somehow become an experience in your heart, haiku gets one, razor-thin slice away from that. Then, when you read it, another razor-thin slice away. If you try to teach it, still further away.

Silence. That’s all he said.

And he’s written quite a few haiku – a couple of which I consider immortal.

 Pissing out of doors on a summer night
Look up! Meteor shower.

5 Anything else you’d like to add?

In Zen, nothing’s left out and nothing’s extra.

In every slice of consciousness, the entire universe is present.

Why should haiku be any different?

All the rest is commentary.

[ Commentary: CHILD MIND: Teaching the Way of Haiku ]

Gary Gach hopes to write a couple really great haiku. Meanwhile, he’s published 9 books, including an anthology, What Book!? – Buddha Poems from Beat to Hiphop; The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Buddhism; and, most recently, PAUSE, BREATHE, SMILE – Awakening Mindfulness When Meditation Is Not Enough. He hosts a free weekly Zen mindfulness group in San Francisco, at Aquatic Park, where he also swims in the Bay. For more info:

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About Miriam Sagan

I'm blogging about poetry, land art, haiku, women artists, road trips, and Baba Yaga at Miriam's Well ( The well is ALWAYS looking to publish poetry on our themes, sudden fiction, and guest bloggers and musers.

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