Mike Rehling (Masters of Wabi)

Masters of Wabi




wabi sabi
comes naturally to me
crows feet

MIKE REHLING

 

a metaphor
for my life
gluing the broken bowl

MIKE REHLING

Mike Rehling is a quiet vegan haiku poet living in the north woods of Michigan with his wife and cat.

 

Commentary

 

Impermanence is a fundamental feature of the Buddhist worldview, encompassing truths which may be noticed coursing in various ways throughout our daily lives. In Japanese inspired micropoetry and related prosimetric forms (I hope you’ve read his incredible collections of haibun, tercets and monostich, ‘running from yesterday‘ and ‘Living in Seventeen Syllables or Less‘, generously made available to download digitally at no cost) Michael Rehling is a recognizable giant in the spirit of senryu, and is esteemed for an overlapping penchant at wabi and sabi which so frequently galvanize its permutations, induce wry smirks in the hilarious and tug heartstrings of pathos about more somber explorations of human nature, trials and tribulation. In conventional haiku, too, these paradigms and tenors (from which, it is believed by many, that karumi or lightness – where present – emerges as a higher form of, almost paradoxically) are also key drivers for shaping reception, defining feelings and evoking responses, whether laughter or weeping, and indeed sometimes in the tragicomic jesting of gallows, deathbeds, battlefields, they are not necessarily mutually exclusive. These two poems by Rehling are wonderful examples of that liminal region of ambiguity and complexity too, where the readers’ completion of the piece in their minds presents captivating flexibility for coloration and determining tone, intent. Does rust and emptiness come naturally to Rehling personally (the fragment is even more provocative, in that it could as feasibly describe one or numerous actual carrion birds’ fulcrum/s) or is that an unavoidable, pivotal characteristic of each mortal’s finite odyssey? Are the wrinkles around our eyes, like smile lines, testaments to wisdom gleaned, remembrances of joyful, busy years of accomplishments, or grim telltale emblems of destruction’s inexorable approach, harbingers of a conclusion as inescapable as taxation? Similarly, the relatable shattered bowl brusquely repaired, functional if not superficially optimum (invariably conjuring thoughts, for many acquainted, about the fine art of kintsugi, that storied golden joinery which holds fascinating metaphoric significance, though the poet chooses a more realistic, humble cousin in our era’s reliable, more banal and commonplace adhesive patching material, derived from over the hill, knackered horses), can be interpreted either direction, may imply the celebratory or regretful, or both simultaneously at once. That he leaves takeaways and conclusions unsaid, ‘shows’ rather than tells us how he feels or we should, makes these terrific examples of Eastern poetry, and Western literature, of the highest order. The negative space in cracks, creases or crevices, that void a container houses, in anticipation of waiting to get filled or after being used to serve soup or salad, are both remarkable models of the hollow, barren aspect of wabi. A modest, stoic elder, reusing, economizing, exercising thrift is also appropriate for illustrating the plebian, unostentatious facets of this tenet.


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