The Stone Lantern

Friday, September 15, 2006

Illness Haiku

One of the most amazing experiences as a writer is when someone I’ve never met goes to the trouble of contacting me to let me know how much they enjoyed reading my book. The section of my book that seems to have inspired readers most is Chapter 13, Withered Fields. That’s the chapter in which Mr. Furuhata talks about writing haiku when he is getting a kidney operation, and where I talk about the tradition of sickness haiku and deathbed haiku in Japan.

First, there was the person with pancreatic cancer who I learned found solace in reading my book. I found that overwhelming. Then, last week, I received an email from a ninety-year-old man (!) who told me about writing haiku when he was in the hospital for heart surgery, about three years ago. Mr. R. Dean Tribble is a poet, and he had expected his long days in the hospital would be the perfect time to write poetry. (“One would think that lying in the hospital bed with all your wants attended too, the muse would pour ideas into one’s head for sonnets, villanelles, and reams of free spirited verse. Not so. I wasted half a tablet of paper before giving up and I felt very grumpy about it.”)

Then, one morning while still in the hospital, out of the blue, he started writing haiku:


The nurse, an angel
in robe of white, brings a pill
filled with summer days

the leg stripped of veins
mourns loss of mobility
bounce of July grass

faces filled with love
shine down like April showers
nourish aching heart

His grumpiness went away, he wrote me, but once out of the hospital haiku dropped off his radar. He still writes haiku from time to time, and he tells me that this usually happens while he's waiting for a doctor “which happens often at my age.”

N.B. - Poems reprinted with permission of the author.


  • A heartwarming experience !

    Thanks for sharing !

    GABI from Japan

     Death and Haiku

    World Kigo Database


    By Blogger Gabi Greve, at 11:41 PM  

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