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Unexpected Haiku

“Are you interested in tarot?” she asked? “No, actually. I’m interested in haiku.” “Oh! I always thought haiku was so hard. You know when I read it as a kid. I just didn’t get it. And it’s hard…” There it was. Certainly everyone engaging with this exhibit must be interested in tarot because haiku is too difficult and enigmatic. “Well, I don’t get hung up on the hard part. I write what comes. I’m not concerned with writing an amazingly fabulously brilliantly profound haiku. Those are rare. So there’s no need to stress about it. I just see what happens.” Our conversation went on a bit, taking my thoughts back to the idea that as adults we tend not to do creative things unless we are amazingly gifted at them. And her confusion stemmed from the fact that here I was using a “difficult” form of poetry to simply express something mostly practical and not all that profound. I’m not trying to be a poet laureate. I’m writing poetry that few people will ever read and I’m writing it entirely for the creative outlet and practice as a tool with which to seek the simplicity in the complexity of the human experience. And, in this case, to share with whoever wanders by because a sign on a wall asked me to.

It had been a rather normal day as I strolled into the Bangkok Art and Culture Center for an afternoon meeting. I was early, and an exhibition immediately caught my eye - Haiku Tarot. Haiku? It seems a tarot master and an artist had collaborated on a series of paintings interpreting tarot cards. Those paintings, all mounted on wood slats, were now a public exhibition and the creators were seeking reactions in the form of haiku from whoever happened by. Each display panel contained four paintings, one in each corner, with blank paper hung in the middle where people could write haiku as inspired or prompted by the paintings.

Once I read the concept for the exhibition, I cracked a small smile thinking the idea was neat and strolled casually and a bit briskly along the gallery, just idly passing by. And then it grabbed me. The image of one painting and its title combined to pop a question into my head, which became a haiku. The length of the gallery and roughly seven haiku later, I checked my watch and beat it up to the next floor for my meeting, ready and holding on to the creative flow. Not surprisingly, the meeting went well.

As I reflected on the shift in my mind, attitude, and approach to the meeting that happened because of the haiku, several questions kept circling in my mind. Transit often offers unique space for mindfulness and reflection, so how can we encourage creativity using well trafficked public spaces and transit avenues? What would happen if, as a general rule, we took a moment for something mindful and creative before meetings? How might we do that in our often pressured contexts?

And I must thank Master Thaworn Boonyawan & Artist Chumpol Akpantanon of Haiku Tarot, along with the several folks I interacted with at the exhibition, for infusing some mindfulness and creativity into my day. I thoroughly enjoyed and am better for it!

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