inch by inch

by Gabriel Rosenstock

Original Language Irish & English

inch by inch
through the trees
-- the rising moon

orlach ar orlach
trí na crainn
-- an ghealach ag éirí

-- from Haiku Enlightenment: New Expanded Edition, by Gabriel Rosenstock

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/ Image by Gautam & Chitrabhanu Chakrabarti /

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

A haiku today in honor of the recent full moon.

Notice the way this poem unfolds, each short line shifting the frame of our mind's perception...

inch by inch...

Something is moving oh so slowly, we might even say that it is creeping up. And the phrase, "inch by inch" is so minute that the initial frame of our mental image is minuscule.

But with the next line...

through the trees...

...we suddenly have trees in our mind's eye. Our inner vision has widened. It is as if we went from a peering crouch to having to stand back in order to take in the picture.

Then we get that unexpected shift -- what we call the kireii or cutting word in a haiku -- where the focus of the haiku leaps in an unanticipated direction:

-- the rising moon

We're not really looking at trees at all, but the rising moon behind them.

The frame in our mind's eye has just slammed wide open to include the moon and the entire night sky. We went from our crouch to standing back to being knocked flat on our backs.

Now that's a rising moon!

Are you wondering which language the second version is in? This poem is by the great Irish haikuist Gabriel Rosenstock, and he usually writes his haiku in both English and Irish. I'm assuming that most of you, like myself, don't speak Irish, but try to sound it out anyway. What does the shape and rhythm of the language say to you? Perhaps you will witness a second rising moon in its lines.


New Book on Haiku - Coming Soon

There is another reason I selected this poem today. This is a sort of pre-announcement to the Poetry Chaikhana community that I am currently preparing a new book for publication. The new book -- yet to be titled -- is an exploration of haiku by Gabriel Rosenstock, a master of the art meditating on his art.

Unlike other similar books that might tend to be scholarly or focused on the technicalities of craft, this is a delightful, often playful look at haiku as a personal practice and a spiritual path -- for both the reader and the writer of haiku. Through the eyes of Gabriel Rosenstock, haiku becomes a practice of attention and awareness. It is a way of stepping out of ordinary mind and encountering each moment with openness. Noticing what is overlooked. Walking in the natural world. Recognizing how the minute and the mundane reveals immensities. Ultimately, haiku is the art of presence.

From the book...

What will be the next haiku moment? Anticipation is foolish. Each moment is as unique as your fingerprints, your iris, each second as fleeting as your breath. And a haiku moment can happen at any time. But it will not happen without you. You must be there for it to happen. You must be there, before you disappear. It takes two to haiku, you and the witnessed phenomenon in a unifying embrace.

It can occur in such an intense, pure form that it appears to have happened without you. That brief, piercing insight, that moment of haiku enlightenment, strips you of the thousand and one items that are the jigsaw of your ego, the patchwork of your identity. Then we're simply jumbled back again into the duality of the world, its conflicts, routines and distractions. But we know that another pure surprise waits around the corner, whatever it may be. The wellsprings of the haiku moment are infinite, bottomless, inexhaustible.


Haiku can be pursued by atheist, sceptic and believer alike. It can adapt to any language, any culture. Someone once asked the former Zen teacher, Toni Packer, ‘Can a leaf swirling to the ground be my teacher?' Her answer is what every haikuist should know. ‘Yes! Of course! This instant of seeing is the timeless teacher, the leaves are just what they are …'

summer drought --
the dazzling stars
all become pale
~ Marijan Cekolj

I am so pleased that I will soon be able to make this book available. As you can see, its pages are filled with illuminated moments of creativity and awareness. This is a book that should be read in classrooms and meditation halls and prayer circles, as well as all of you wise, wild folks within the Poetry Chaikhana community.

Look for it in late summer or early autumn. I will let you know more as we get closer to the publication date.

Recommended Books: Gabriel Rosenstock

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Haiku Enlightenment: New Expanded Edition Bliain an Bhandé - Year of the Goddess Uttering Her Name Where Light Begins: Haiku
More Books >>

inch by inch