Cycling brings the rider close to the road. Absent the fumes and roar of motor transport, the cyclist is in close touch with the pulse of the natural world, from weather to flora and fauna to scents. All the senses are involved, with the possible exception of taste (save for the occasional gnat or the misguided trickle of sweat). Immersed in the environment, and able to reflect and speculate for minutes at a time riding the bike trail on a weekday, a cyclist can experience something very much like meditation.
And that’s where the verse comes in. The physical rhythms of the body and the sensory responses to the landscape weave together a fabric of language in the mind. Language, according to James Joyce, is the verbal vesture of emotion, in this case those emotions aroused by the sensory richness of the ride. Haiku is a great verse form for this–it’s short enough to work on mentally during the ride; it’s image-oriented and season-sensitive. Japanese Zen poets wrote haiku, often in saki-drenched group sessions running well into the night. But Zen poet/priests like Basho also wrote them on their travels. In those days travel was largely on foot, and Basho, being a writer, recorded his. The Narrow Road to the Deep North is one of my favorite books; its spare, clean narrative is laced with verse, mostly haiku. When you’ve read this book, you’ve made the trip.
Hence my new Bike Haiku page. They’ve been collecting over the last few years, and occasionally a new one comes along. I’ll announce them on the blog as I add them to the page. As always, comments and criticisms are much appreciated, but in any case enjoy them.
©Arnold J. Bradford, 2010