I blow the shakuhachi, a traditional Japanese musical flute made from the root and stalk of a bamboo plant. Because of the time and effort needed to properly craft one, bamboo ones tend to be expensive; that’s why mine is made of maple. The word shakuhachi is an archaic form of measurement and literally means isshaku hassun— a measure of approximately 1.8 feet, a standard shakuhachi length. It has five holes and a bevel-cut mouth piece and is usually coated with red lacquer on the the inside. With it, I practice suizen (blowing meditation) focusing on the honkyoku or traditional zen shakuhachi music, along with daily zazen (sitting meditation),. In both suisen and zazen, attention to breathing is of vital importance.
The poet, Kenneth Rexroth, acknowledged the importance of breath in poetry: ”The basic line of good verse is cadence built around the natural breath structures of speech.” ( Written on the Fly: Poems from the Japanese).
Along with breathing, I find the actual meditative state essential when composing poems. To meditate, to ponder, to muse on is to be in a receptive state where the mind is quiet and free from the myriads of distractions that clamor for our attention at any given moment. It is only when we deeply meditate on something is it possible to gain knowledge and insight or see the connections which would otherwise remain obscured. That’s why solitude is important to any poet because it allows us to be alone with our selves and with our thoughts.
Today, switch off the cell phone, laptop and whatever else keeps you wired to this distracting world, go find a quiet place where you can be by yourself and your thoughts, and write a poem or two.Under the full moon blowing the shakuhachi tones ephemeral © 2010 All rights reserved