A haiku is three simple lines. But it is also, as Allen Ginsberg put it, three lines that “make the mind leap.” A good one, he said, lets the mind experience “a small sensation of space which is nothing less than God.” As many spiritual practices seek to do, the haiku’s spare yet acute noticing of the immediate and often ordinary grounds the reader in the pure awareness of now.
Natalie Goldberg is a delightfully companionable tour guide into this world. She highlights the history of the form, dating back to the seventeenth century; shows why masters such as Basho and Issa are so revered; discovers Chiyo-ni, an important woman haiku master; and provides insight into writing and reading haiku. A fellow seeker who travels to Japan to explore the birthplace of haiku, Goldberg revels in everything she encounters, including food and family, painting and fashion, frogs and ponds. She also experiences and allows readers to share in the spontaneous and profound moments of enlightenment and awakening that haiku promises.
“This jewel of a book represents a dream meeting between subject and author. Natalie Goldberg’s trademark prose — wonderfully clear, simple, and deep — takes us into her profound understanding of haiku and makes this story of her search for haiku’s origins among beautiful gardens, mountains, modern cities, and ancient temples compelling and gripping. It’s also the ideal meeting of verse and prose: The haiku are embedded in a limpid narrative, free-flowing and irresistible as a mountain stream. When they appear now and then as beautiful stepping-stones in a journey of discovery, they come alive in ways that still the mind, expand time, and open the heart. A classic narrative of discovery and homage — and a simple, humble book to fall in love with.” — Henry Shukman, author of One Blade of Grass: Finding the Old Road of the Heart
“Like haiku itself, Natalie Goldberg’s Three Simple Lines is spare, keenly observed, and blessedly light on its feet. This wise and spirited travelogue acquaints us with some of the form’s legendary practitioners — and reminds us just how much of life’s magic can be packed into a few inspired words.” — Hampton Sides, New York Times–bestselling author of Ghost Soldiers and On Desperate Ground
“Natalie Goldberg’s writing always offers a respite from the world, which it achieves by diving right into the madness of the moment. Like the haiku she reads, writes, and treasures, Three Simple Lines is a refuge in a chaotic world. Through her travels in Japan to seek the origins of haiku, she reveals the honest struggle of being a writer and, just beneath that, the honest struggle of being human.” — Jenn Shapland, author of the National Book Award finalist My Autobiography of Carson McCullers
“Natalie Goldberg takes haiku, a subject few of us in Western culture richly understand, and unearths the themes of human life we all yearn for and recognize: connection, loss, wandering, arrival. She shows us how to pay great attention to what really matters. This book is the salve our chaotic world needs right now.” — Bill Addison, food critic, Los Angeles Times
“In Three Simple Lines, Natalie Goldberg blends memoir with the lyrical history of a poetic form. The result is an unclassifiable book that is utterly poignant, riveting, and hypnotic. It is a book that, in the truest sense, achieves transcendence.” — Chigozie Obioma, author of the Booker Prize finalists The Fishermen and An Orchestra of Minorities
“This exquisite book takes you into the heart of the mystery of haiku and into Natalie Goldberg’s remarkable and intimate discoveries about Japan and herself, by walking in the footsteps of great haiku writers of former times. Laced with threads of sorrow, humor, and wisdom, Three Simple Lines will be cherished by all of us for its humanness, bravery, and brilliance.” — Rev. Joan Jiko Halifax, abbot at Upaya Zen Center
“The wide-open, engaged mind and pen of Natalie Goldberg, a pilgrimage to Japan, and haiku — what could be better? Three Simple Lines is a sweet and moving read about the mysterious connections, across cultures and time, that exquisite writing can make. As Goldberg walks the trails and visits the graves of Basho, Buson, and others, she brings us home to the shattering feeling of being alive — the feeling of haiku.” — Norman Fischer, Zen priest, poet, and author of Training in Compassion
“This is a wonderful immersion into haiku and, thankfully, more than three lines.” — Red Pine / Bill Porter, author of Finding Them Gone: Visiting China’s Poets of the Past “Rooted in Zen and willing to break open tradition, in Three Simple Lines Natalie Goldberg penetrates the vast heartland of haiku with her vivid, original language.” — Wendy Johnson, author of Gardening at the Dragon’s Gate
“Centuries after Basho abandoned a life of fame and comfort to seek the wisdom of the sages in the wilds of northern Japan, centuries after Chiyo-ni, Buson, and Issa sought the truths that Basho sought, we can add Natalie Goldberg’s name to the list. Three Simple Lines guides readers on a straight path up the narrow road to the very heart of haiku. Basho must be smiling.” — Clark Strand, author of Seeds from a Birch Tree: Writing Haiku and the Spiritual Journey and coauthor of The Way of the Rose
“What Basho did with haiku, Natalie Goldberg does with prose. Both are lush and evocative. Both startle us awake with joy and remembering.” — Geneen Roth, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Women Food and God and This Messy Magnificent Life
“Natalie Goldberg’s writing embodies the essence of haiku itself, and this new work is like bathing in an exquisite poem. Her prose is like the sound of the temple bell, resonating with wisdom and clarity. Her personal journey to Japan takes you into the heart of the early haiku masters’ lives and is simultaneously a rich exploration of this poetic tradition. This book is a pure joy to read!” — Mark Coleman, author of From Suffering to Peace
“Faded poems, endlessly renewed, like your smile.” — Jack Kornfield, author of A Path with Heart