Inspiration: Issa

Poetry is one of my favorite things to write. Not that I’ve got big dreams to be a poet or anything, but it’s a form of writing I’ve always admired. I’ll be the first to admit that a lot of “modern poets” are just free writing and calling it a work of art. True poetry takes so much more than that (in my humble opinion) and takes hard work and multiple rewrites to tell a story, to capture a moment, to make a reader feel. I love when I read one that not only flows beautifully and uses simple, vivid imagery but also strikes a chord in my heart.

That said, you’re going to roll your eyes when you read this one, because it’s absolutely nothing like the poetry that I normally fall in love with. But I’m a huge fan of poems about impermanence, circumspection, and simple joy, and when you love something, you don’t question how you love it. You just do.

I shared this with my favorite poetry group recently, and I was prompted by a friend to share it on my blog as well. It was a great idea, because I am in love with this poem and I want you all to see it, too. More than that, I want you to understand the way I view it and how I connect with it, because then you can better understand me. This is a very old poem and one of my all-time favorites, by Kobayashi Issa. He was a Buddhist poet and considered one of Japan’s “Great Four” haiku masters.

I’m going to roll over,
so please move, cricket.

That’s it. Nine words. It’s not even a real poem, really—not in any traditional or modern sense. But I love it because these two lines speak more to me than a poem of fifty. It so fully captured what we should strive for as souls that I could reflect on it for hours.

And the reason this inspires me is because it teaches me that a poem doesn’t have to try super hard. It doesn’t have to rhyme. It doesn’t have to use big words or be metaphoric or intentionally deep. It can be simple, short, and easy. A little bit goes a long way, and you can speak volumes with a simple sentence.

To me, this speaks of life and self-love. “I’m going to roll over.” This is what I’m going to do, because I want to and because I need to. I am confident in my choices and I will not change my ways for anyone else, because this is my life. I have to focus on myself first and foremost, because I only get the one life I’m living. I have to love myself and do what it takes to take care of myself.

However, he continues with “so please move.” Just because I’m confident in myself and my choices doesn’t mean I have to be selfish or inconsiderate. I’m telling those around me what I’m planning so they are informed, just as I would like them to do for me. I make my choices based on what I know. And I should use my manners, say my pleases and thank-yous, because even acting in my own interests, I can be kind and considerate. My path might head in a direction of my choosing, but I don’t have to be so unmoving that I don’t step to the side to avoid a tree root, or climb over a rock, or wait for a passing cricket.

Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, this is all said to a “cricket.” My place in this world, as a human, is not always at the top, and we are not the only creatures in it. Being kind is not limited to just humanity. Even down to the basest life forms, I should strive to be aware of those around me. As denoted by the first line, I don’t have to cater to others to be happy, but I should take them into consideration. Even those that I might automatically write off as “less important” than me (in whatever the situation is, at least) I should step back and think about where they are and how my actions might affect them. I don’t have to change my decisions, but I should alter their execution to be mindful of others. If I want to eat a piece of cake, I should—but it doesn’t hurt to offer a slice to the other people in the room, either.

And that is the power of Issa and his poetry. As simple and almost laughable as it might be, I hope you understand now why it is one of my favorites and how poetry, in all its forms, can both surprise you and humble you. I hope, at the very least, it’s inspired you.

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