BOOK REVIEW: Three Simple Lines: A Writer’s Pilgrimage into the Heart and Homeland of Haiku by Natalie Goldberg

The Blurb (from Goodreads):

A haiku is three simple lines. But it is also, as Allen Ginsberg put it, three lines that "make the mind leap." A good one, he said, lets the mind experience "a small sensation of space which is nothing less than God." As many spiritual practices seek to do, the haiku's spare yet acute noticing of the immediate and often ordinary grounds the reader in the pure awareness of now. Natalie Goldberg is a de-lightfully companionable tour guide into this world. She highlights the history of the form, dating back to the seventeenth century; shows why masters such as Basho and Issa are so revered; discovers Chiyo-ni, an important woman haiku master; and provides insight into writing and reading haiku.

My Thoughts:

This slim little hardback is a gentle and delicate exploration of the writing of haiku, a form of short poetry that originated in Japan and has now taken the world of Instagram and Twitter by storm. I love it, and try my hand at writing it whenever the mood takes me. I also follow quite a few other poets online, some of whom write a #haikuaday – along with other forms of #micropoetry. 

Natalie Goldberg is best known for her classic book Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, which I have not yet read. She writes with great elegance and gentle touches of humour about her own personal journey into learning about haiku, and her journey to Japan to walk in the footsteps of the ancient masters. It’s a lovely introduction to both her, and the deceptively simple seventeen syllable poem. I would have liked more about the women writers of haiku, and modern masters of the form, but somehow the austerity of the book suits the artform it describes. 

You might also like to read my review of A History of the World through the eye of a Needle by Clare Hunter

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Kate Forsyth
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