5/10/2017, noon | Updated on 5/10/2017, noon
Chicago Public Library (CPL) celebrated Poetry Month in April, with events at branch locations throughout the city and culminated in ...
Violinists AidenSinclair and Ari, have been playing the violin since they were five years old. The two brothers played various musical selections at the Chicago Public Library’s Poetry Month at Harold Washington Library on April 29, 2017. Photo by Christopher Shuttlesworth


By Christopher Shuttlesworth

Chicago Public Library (CPL) celebrated Poetry Month in April, with events at branch locations throughout the city and culminated in the free, day-long Poetry Fest of poetry readings, workshops and exhibitors on April 29, 2017 at Harold Washington Library Center, located on 400 South State Street.

The 13th Annual Haiku Festival Awards program featured poetry readings from 8-14 year olds, Tsukasa Taiko Japanese hand drummers, musical selections and a keynote reading by noted Poet Li-Young Lee.

Lee, who has dedicated his work to children, compared the simplicity of Haiku to

that of a child’s mind and said he’s strived for that kind of simplicity and clarity his whole life as a writer, but with age, things become complicated, he said. When you get older, life gets more complicated, more adult, more shallow and at the same time deeper, he said, which makes it very difficult to maintain the purity of a Haiku mind, he said. “It’s unfortunate to me and I see it as a failure on my part that it’s mostly adults that read my work,” Lee added.

The practice of a Haiku mind is the practice of a very, very deep self, he continued. Haiku is a condition of mind that is aware of four things, he stated. Elaborating on the four aspects of Haiku, Lee discussed the first aspect called, “Wabi,” which refers to a sense of isolation, solitariness and aloneness, he said.

“The child knows this. The child knows deep down how alone she or he is. But this will be socialized out of the child,” he added.

Lee further explained socialization occurs when children can play with others, but

added, he believes great human work is done in solitude.

“The greatest musical compositions are written in solitude. The greatest paintings are made in solitude. The greatest works of art are made in solitude. The greatest scientific formulas arrive in solitude. So, we forget how important solitude really is.”

Lee continued to explain that “Sabi” is another important aspect of Haiku, adding, our culture tends to run away from common things, but this is one of the ways of Haiku, he said.

“It’s a feeling or mood of poverty or common things, Lee said. “It’s not good

to write a Haiku about shopping at the mall as it is to write about old things.

But we live in a culture that doesn’t like poverty and doesn’t like solitude, he

said, while children can be “completely vulnerable, poor and alone,” he said.

Haiku also embraces an understanding that all things fade away,” he added. It’s a reminder that even the earth has a half-life...even the stars have a half-life; even the mountains have a half-life. Everything is impermanent,” he said. The fourth element of Haiku Lee discussed involved realizing there is a mysterious depth to things.

“Each of us is born alone and dies alone. Each of us is impermanent and each of us is ultimately poor,” he said.