J. D. Nelson (Masters of Wabi)

Masters of Wabi

starry sky tonight
after graupel earlier…
smell of dryer sheets

J. D. Nelson


snow on the couch on the front lawn

J. D. Nelson

J. D. Nelson’s haiku have appeared in many publications, including tinywords, Presence, Bones, Asahi Haikuist Network, Scarlet Dragonfly Journal, Cold Moon Journal, the zen space, Haiku Corner, Heterodox Haiku Journal, and Shadow Pond Journal. One of his haiku was selected for the Best of 2014 collection in the Haiku in English section of Mainichi Daily News (Now The Mainichi). Two of his haiku have been nominated for The Haiku Foundation’s Touchstone Award for Individual Poems. His first full-length collection of poetry is in ghostly onehead (Post-Asemic Press, 2022). Visit MadVerse.com for more information and links to his published work. His haiku blog is at JDNelson.net. Nelson lives in Boulder, Colorado, USA.




One of the most productive and widely published poets of our age, most well known for his experimental work in the spheres of dada and surrealism—overlapping with short forms at cutting edge gendai and tanshi markets like Bamboo Hut, Bones, dadakuku, Ubu—with over a decade (indeed, he appeared in the annual best of Mainichi almost exactly ten years ago today, besides avant-garde proficiency at freeform, ‘jiyuritsu’ patterns is also an enthusiastic adept and proponent of classical approaches to haikai prized by places like Japan Society, and 17 syllable fixed form ‘teikei’ structure rigorously championed, presented in venues such as Haiku Avenue) of meaningful practice under his belt, J. D. Nelson has also established himself as a force of nature, ecological and human, in evidencing the observances of wabi. These two pieces, the first formulated with line breaks (and ellipsis) explicitly corresponding to where a kire or cut occurs most predominantly in prototypical haiku, the second of the monoku mode matching how Japanese poetry was originally delivered in an unbroken vertical line with punctuation relayed via 18 intermediary suffixes or emphases counted as part of the phonetic ‘on’ units, superbly demonstrate how seasonality augments mood and ambiance, and wabi-sabi may heighten objective correlatives—espoused by T.S. Eliot, the New Critics as primary building blocks of lyrical systems—in Eastern poesy. With a refined vocabulary (and a descriptor in the first piece fit for the Modern Kigo Project, defined by NOAA as ‘soft, small pellets formed when supercooled water droplets freeze onto a snow crystal’) and admirable sensitivity, Nelson locates the melancholic beauty in sights, scents, and impressions, subtly communicates an acute sense of gratitude for shelter and warmth against the menace of inclement weather and pecuniary vulnerability, in our predatory and unpredictable civilization. The opaque abyss of outer space, in relation to those widely dispersed heavenly bodies which accent it, makes for a stellar example of wabi’s concrete portents. Laundering garments, taking the air (commemorated by ‘weathered skeletons’ carrying ‘travel-worn satchels’) , disposing of rubbish, worn and tattered furniture: all these rudiments, too, well enunciate the spartan humility, eremite genuineness which make up a central quality to the foundations of Chinese and Japanese literary and artistic procedure.

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