Three Simple Lines: A Writer's Pilgrimage into the Heart and Homeland of Haiku

Each book Natalie Goldberg writes builds on the one before. Writing Down the Bones, her first, gave amateurs--those writing for the love of it--ample leeway to doodle, explore and dream on the page. In that book's chapter "A Sensation of Space," Goldberg cites haiku from Shiki, Issa, Buson and Basho. Those four send her on the title pilgrimage of Three Simple Lines.

While each of her books stands alone, Goldberg's fans will be astonished at how Three Simple Lines brings her body of work full circle--her Zen practice, her writing practice and the ways in which each enhances the other. It's a tribute to her teachers, her students and to Allen Ginsberg, who introduced her to these four Japanese haiku masters. Some chapters are only four pages long; all leave readers with big ideas to digest. "Basho, Buson, and Issa deepened haiku, and it was used as an expression of an awake experience, like a Zen koan and a Way of practice.... Shiki practiced haiku in new ways," she writes, "to express the poet's inner life simply and sincerely as an object of poetry."

In 2014, Goldberg (The True Secret of Writing) set out to find Buson's grave; she called her 2016 trip to Japan her "Basho trek." In between, she decided to "make a concerted effort to write haiku" with a local monthly haiku study group. She demonstrates the fluidity between teacher and student, the desire to share knowledge and the willingness to learn. She closes the book with six rules of haiku penned by one of her students, and sends readers on their way. --Jennifer M. Brown, senior editor

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