birth - death
this stretch of beach
Death Poems, Death Haiku
(Quoted in part from an article by Nicole
Silverman, Millikin University Spring 2005)
"in every culture there is deep ceremony surrounding death. Every religion is entrenched with its own set of beliefs regarding death and the after-life. The Japanese are no exception. As in many cultures, it has become customary in Japan to write a will outlining how things are to be settled after your death; however, a more unique custom has taken root as well. With a final will it has become popular to also write a jisei, or a 'farewell poem to life'.
"To some, this death poem is seen as a sort of final salutation, continuing the tradition of social propriety that is heald so highly in Japan. However, as Yoel Hoffman asserts in his book Japanese Death Poems, it seems that these poignant glimpses into a person'as last moments or days seem to break the restraints of everyday politeness, allowing a raw view into the private, spiritual environment of the poet.
Despite the highly personal nature of these haiku, the Japanese culture remains rich in these final poems. There are many recurring images, themes, and ideas that relate directly to Japanese religious beliefs regarding death and the after-life. Through these recurring images and themes the haiku are able to provide insight into, not only the poets mind and spirituality, but also views into the feelings a philosophy surrounding death that are particular to the Japanese as a culture."--NIcole Silverman