do I need to know . . .
pine trees growing from stone
© Kay F. Anderson (1934-2007) (USA)
Before I discuss this haiku, let’s take a look into the life of the author of the poem. Kay F. Anderson was a freelance writer, a painter, counselor, motivational speaker, educator, and a certified Transactional Analyst. Kay’s attention shifted to haiku in 1990. Her work, which included haiku, haiga, and tanka, was published in all the major English-language haiku journals. She was featured twice in the HPNC Two Autumns Reading Series (in 1993 and 2002), and served as an editor for the 1997 Two Autumns anthology, Beneath Cherry Blossoms. She was a long-time member of the Haiku Poets of Northern California and served as its President in 1996. Kay served as a judge for the 1994 Gerald M. Brady Memorial Senryu Awards (by the Haiku Society of America) and for the 2001 International Haiku Contest (by the Palomar Branch of the National League of American Pen Women).
Kay’s use of haiku in working with other cancer patients was featured, along with her haiku, in Emiko Miyashita’s The New Pond. Although weakened by metastatic malignant melanoma and the effects of treatment, Kay continued to write, paint, and participate in haiku activities. After a seven-year battle, she is survived by her husband, two daughters, four grandchildren, one great grandchild, and countless haiku friends.
Awards and Other Honors:
Many of Kay’s poems were honored in national contests and published in major anthologies, including William J. Higginson’s Haiku World. Some of her awards include:
First Place, Haiku Poets of Northern California (HPNC) International Tanka Contest (1995); Second Place, Harold G. Henderson Haiku Awards (1996); Second Place, National League of American Pen Women contest (1996).
Her tanka awards include three Tanka Splendor Awards (1993), First Place, HPNC San Francisco International Tanka Contest (1995), and Editor’s Choice Award, Brussels Sprout (1995). A tanka was included in the anthology Wind Five Folded (1995) and in the Acorn Tanka Supplement (2001). Three of her tanka were selected for The Tanka Anthology. Her work also appeared in the premier edition of Reeds, published by Jeanne Emrich.
The First Book of Philosophy (for gifted 6th grade students) and I and thou in the here and now (named Word Books, Inc. Book of the Month). She edited the 1997 Two Autumns anthology, Beneath Cherry Blossoms, and was working on a book to help a new generation find and travel the Haiku Path to Joy. [Adapted from The Living Haiku Anthology]
This is one of those haiku you immediately agree with, but you don’t know exactly why. Searching for that “why” can take a few minutes, or maybe a lifetime.
I get a Zen feeling from this haiku, as it seems a bit like a koan, or spiritual riddle. Though the first two lines are not followed by a question mark, I see them as a question. But they could also be phrased as a searching statement, as if the poet wants to know how she can improve herself or gain a new level of consciousness.
Pine trees are definitely sturdy, growing in mountainous areas. I have seen many times how pine trees can be surrounded by stone and they grow like nothing is blocking them. In this sense, they seem almost supernatural. But the determination of nature is so strong that it can grow against all odds. Also, the pine tree does not have any negative thoughts about the rocks. It simply grows.
Maybe the poet is reflecting on this and feels like, “Hey, why can’t I just be myself, and not think so much.” And it is not just one pine tree, but many pine trees in the haiku. The poet has got all the proof she needs to be strong-willed and confident in herself. Also, the pine trees growing from stone could be proof of the mystical power of the universe.
But pine trees do not try to be inspiring to others, nor they do something for praise. The haiku could also be indicating that we should expect nothing from our actions, no matter how saintly or inspiring they could be perceived. In reality, everything is as we perceive them, and nothing more. Beyond perception, everything is the same, anyways.
Lines in haiku, especially in English, do not need to follow a restrained form, but are mostly arbitrary in length. In this haiku, Anderson lays out the lines in succession, almost like reaching a moment of enlightenment or coming to a point of discovery.
The diction in this haiku is casual and natural. But from this earthy tone comes a starkness that a reader feels immediately. Like a Zen koan, this haiku turns our consciousness to the center and allows us to focus on a truth beyond thoughts.
– Nicholas Klacsanzky