Patricia Donegan, the great poet, translator, and promoter of haiku, died on Tuesday, January 24th at 6:20pm CST. Her friend Elaine Martin shared the following:

"During a recent visit with her brother she stated, 'I go willingly into the sound of the crickets.' Amazing that she uttered such words while moving between confusion, anxiety, and limited lucidity. She never stopped writing her poetry.

Anyone who has the Vajradhatu 1980 Vajrayana Seminary Transcripts can enjoy the exchange of poetry between Patricia and Vidyadhara Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche that follows many of those talks. "

You can also hear her in conversation about poetry with Trungpa Rinpoche on the Chogyam Trungpa Digital Library here. 

Patricia was a faculty member of East-West poetics at Naropa University under Allen Ginsberg and Chögyam Trungpa; a student of Japanese haiku master Seishi Yamaguchi; and a Fulbright scholar to Japan. She is a meditation teacher, the poetry editor for Kyoto Journal, and a member of the Haiku Society of America. Her haiku works include Haiku Mind: 108 Poems to Cultivate Awareness and Open Your Heart, Chiyo-ni: Woman Haiku Master (co-translated with Yoshie Ishibashi), and Haiku: Asian Arts for Creative Kids. Her poetry collections include Without Warning, Bone Poems, and Hot Haiku.

A new book of hers, an extraordinary collection of haiku and her elucidations,  will be released in 2024 by Shambhala Publications.

The following haiku and Patricia's accompanying discussion are from Haiku Mind: 108 Poems to Cultivate Awareness and Open Your Heart

Particia Donegan

I pass as all things
the dew on grass

This simple haiku echoes the memorable Native American quote of the Lakota tribe, "Today is a good day to die, hoka-hey (all is completed)." It is indeed a courageous way to live and to die. It is quite a different approach than Welsh poet Dylan Thomas’s equally memorable quote, "Do not go gentle into that good night / . . . Rage, rage against the dying of the light."

For most of us, one of these views or a melding of these two views are embraced at different times of our lives. Few of us can face old age, sickness, and death easily. However, a reflection to guide this process is to take a few minutes a day to think of each breath as if it were the last—each conversation, each taste of bread, as if it were the last one. And then see what arises, how we feel. Sometimes we might feel fear, sometimes sadness, or sometimes enjoyment or gratitude—or perhaps even a succession or mixing of these feelings. These moment to moment changes that once seemed unsettling, can become a way of seeing the fragility of it all, which just might then give rise to greater appreciation. For this exercise is not intended to be morbid, but a joyful one that invariably encourages us to live our lives more fully—to live a full life and a full death; to be able to say each and every day, "Today is a good day to die," for it just might be the last day. Hoka-hey!


*Banzan (1661–1730). A haiku poet of Basho’s time. This haiku was written on the brink of his death, in the tradition of jisei, or “death haiku.”

Haiku Mind

$14.95 - Paperback

By: Patricia Donegan

in dreams
and in awakening—
the color of the iris

The dreamlike quality of life. The blue iris glinting in the sun in my grandmother’s garden when I was eight; me in the photograph pointing to the flower as if yesterday—a moment beyond time and space, like a dream. As we get older the past and present seem more intertwined and dreamlike. Some cultures, as in traditional Japan, believed one could meet a lover in a dream; in traditional Balinese culture night dreams were another plane of reality shared with the family in the morning; in aborigine Australian culture “dreamtime” exists alongside everyday reality. Most cultures hold dreams as something mysterious: a portent of things to come, an interpretation of things past. Throughout history, dreams remain an enigma, though we have the psychology of Jungian archetypes and Freudian innuendos of modern culture; and though modern science finds a physical and emotional necessity for dreams, it doesn’t fully understand them. Buddhism suggests that “life be regarded as a dream”—that this state of so-called “awake reality” is no different from the “dream reality.” To this point, Chuang Tzu, the ancient Chinese Taoist philosopher, questioned whether he was a man dreaming he was a butterfly or a butterfly dreaming he was a man. This is not to deny our awake state, but to see the fleeting, ephemeral quality of it and thus be less attached to our personal desires and more open and appreciative of our life. This jisei (death haiku), written right before she died, reflects an enlightened view: that the vividness of the iris’s blueness remains, just as it is, beyond awake, beyond dreaming, beyond our understanding, that there is but one color, one reality.

*Shushiki (1668–1725); her family name was Ome. One of the foremost Japanese women haiku poets of her time. From an early age the
student of Kikaku Takarai, Basho’s favorite disciple; her husband, Kangyoku, was also a teacher of haiku. Shushiki was best known for this haiku at the age of thirteen: “watch out / drunk with sake— / that cherry tree by the well.”