a way of seeing the world that is at the heart of Japanese culture. It finds beauty and harmony in what is simple, imperfect, natural, modest, and mysterious....
Wabi Sabi, the book (Little, Brown, 2008), is the story of a little cat whose name is Wabi Sabi. At the beginning, a visitor asks the meaning of the cat's name. The cat, who had never thought about her name having a meaning, seeks an answer for herself. She asks the animals around her--a cat and a dog. Both provide Wabi Sabi with portions of a answer that she does not understand, so she leaves her familiar surroundings to go in search of the answer.
In her travels both the cat, and the reader, come to a gradual realization of the meaning of Wabi Sabi.
The book is in haibun form, that is, it is a prose description of a travel adventure accented with haiku. Author's notes at the end explain haiku, haibun, and the history of wabi sabi. Scattered throughout the book are haiku written in Japanese characters. The poems, by the haiku masters Basho and Shiki, are translated into English at the end.
With all its parts, Wabi Sabi is quite a complex book despite its being about simplicity!
I think it is well done, except that all the haiku by Reibstein are in the 5-7-5 syllable format taught in elementary school. I've been reading English language haiku for a number of years, and find that it is mostly written in less than 17 syllables. I'm a great proponent of using only as many words as is needed to get to the "essence" of the moment, not to inflate the essence to make it fit into a 5-7-5 format.
I had the good fortune to speak with the editor of Sabi Wabi recently, and I told her how I was disappointed that all the poems are in the 5-7-5 form. She told me that the author had submitted the poems in their essential form and that she had requested that they be rewritten to conform to the way they are taught in school. Aaaaah!
Learning that made me feel better about the author, but it also made me feel that we're doing a disservice to our kids by teaching them form is of the upmost importance! It may be true in teaching the sonnet or pantoum, but it goes against what I think is the very nature of haiku. Ah, well! I was happy to note that the traditional Japanese haiku throughout Wabi Sabi were translated into non-5-7-5 English poems at the end.
The mixed media illustrations by Ed Young complement the text, and I found the spread with "the damp autumn leaves" particularly pleasing.
Overall, I declare Wabi Sabi a success! And I look forward to the publication of more haiku books for kids.
Here's a haiku of mine that was inspired by a little cat who mostly tolerates my presence in her house:
the cat finally
catches her tail
Go to Wild Rose Reader for today's Poetry Friday Round-Up.