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Haiku Alive: Senses Awaken

This marks the eighth school year that the Garden has presented its school outreach program, Haiku Alive, for underrepresented students in East Portland – and now a newly-published book celebrates the program’s achievements. Just as Japanese gardens have become an art form loved, interpreted, and adapted around the world, writers in languages from Estonian to Arabic to Gujarati have found resonance in haiku.

Richard Wright, author of Native Son, wrote 4,000 haiku during the last two years of his life while in France – 800 of them are in the book Haiku: The Last Poems of an American Icon. Haiku gives poignant and powerful voice to moments – and not always just about the quiet, evanescent beauty of nature. After the 2011 tsunami and earthquake, a Japanese newspaper published haiku poems expressing grief and sympathy that poured in from across the world. Writer Derrick Weston Brown composed haiku to capture a snapshot of the anguish and rage of Hurricane Katrina victims abandoned to fate by federal authorities. Belgrade-born filmmaker Dimitar Anakiev compiled an anthology of haiku by writers from 48 countries responding to war and other forms of violence.

In haiku, each of the three lines allows a fresh view of emotions and sensations felt in a moment in time. This simple yet complex poetic form that evolved centuries ago in Japan speaks clearly and profoundly to people around the world today. It’s hard to imagine a more perfect learning tool to inspire and help students dig deep into nature and learn to express and articulate their own thoughts, feelings, and visions. If you’d like to experience for yourself the transcendent images and poems the program has inspired, you can download the newly-published Haiku Alive book for free here. We encourage you to share it with a child in your life and experience the Garden through new eyes.

The 2018-19 school year’s Haiku Alive program is supported by the PGE Foundation and FAO Schwarz Family Fund.