Thursday, December 31, 2015


by Ray Jason        

            It was a most unusual voyage.  I was sailing South in search of a world free of screens.  Still reeling from a month in El Norte, witnessing the tyranny of technology, I needed serenity.  I sought a peaceful lagoon, where people were not submissives - dominated by their TV screens, computer screens and Smart phone screens.
            When the anchor was down in one of my favorite hideaway coves, it felt like a great emancipation – a return to solitude and stillness.  Within a few hours I was absorbing the tranquility of the tiny bay.  I knew that I was truly being cured of the frenzy when the haiku began to flow.

This ancient form of Japanese poetry has appealed to me since my early days in college, when I was introduced to the great master of the form - Basho.  Basically, the poems are tiny snapshots of Nature.  But in their most exalted moments they speak to the sublime interface of the Human with the Natural.  They amplify the often uncelebrated aspects of the world around us that are elemental, commonplace and eternal.  And they do so with austere elegance.
The most standard form is three lines with the first and last comprised of five syllables and the middle line having seven syllables.  They should be immediate impressions of a real-time encounter with Nature.  They should not be abstract and intellectual.  They also require simplicity rather than ornamentation.  An old adage that expresses this perfectly is: “If the finger that is pointing towards the moon is bejeweled, that to which it is pointing will not be noticed.”


When I was in Vietnam on a U.S. Navy ammunition ship, my spirit was deeply wounded.  One of the great comforts that helped me make it through that chapter of my life was the solace that I received from haiku.  I had with me four slender volumes of the work of the great American haiku poet - J.W. Hackett.  These poetic gems were a vital bridge over troubled waters for me.  I wrote an entire essay on that topic which you can find with this link.    
I still love composing haiku, and when out in the islands I spend most twilight hours observing the waters and wilds around me.  Seated with my back against the mast, I am poised with my clipboard on my lap, hoping for a spontaneous revelation.                
       During my Voyage Away from Screens, the haiku gods blessed me repeatedly.  I thought I would share some of these with you.  It seems like a particularly good time to do so since the essays have been fairly heavy of late.  May my little haiku poems bring you some comfort and insights.  

            The wood-fire smoke –
   as ancient and primal as
   this jungle lagoon.
            Beneath a half moon
            children are fishing – but they
            only catch laughter

            Sleeping on my deck –
            on a night full of moonlight
            and honeysuckle.

            Thousand year jungle
            next to a chain-sawed hillside –
            sad Humanity.

            Coconut water,
            and a fish from my spear gun –
            a sea gypsy feast!

            Even far from shore
            a skunk’s defense overwhelms
            my sailboat’s cabin!

            A brilliant full moon
            and the night dew on the deck –
            my shadow glistens.

            True simplicity –
            a sailing boat, my freedom,
            and the Wide Waters.

            Indio children
            laughing on the twilight shore –
            gift me Happiness.

            A cup of sake
            to toast the full moon rising
            from this tropic sea.

            A Christmas full moon –
            it’s the perfect gift for this
            happy sea gypsy!

 P.S.  If there is anyone out there who has contact information for J.W. Hackett please let me know so that I can tell him how much I admire his artistry.