Haiku: Writing to Liberate the Soul!

Haiku Poetry is the basis of much of my work including workshops with youth, training for mentors/teachers and my newest addition has been teaching as part of the Options for Living and Learning Program offered for inmates in the DeKalb County Jail (DeKalb County, GA).   Haiku is an ancient form of Japanese poetry that uses 17 syllables to tell a big story with few words usually configured as 5 syllables on the first line, 7 on the second line and 5 on the third line.

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(The above picture depics HHW training with mentors in Georgia)

I named it Healthy Haiku to symbolize the organic flow between health and wellness, poetry and other creative arts.  I started this work with children in 2006 and over time realized that adults can benefit from the same information and process – especially parents, teachers and mentors. Three publications and 11 years later,  I find myself loving the work with the inmates – many of whom are parents and others that want to become parents and mentors.  The time spent with them has me at my creative best, helping them to see the infinite possibilities for their lives created anew! The Healthy Haiku process guides them through lessons about nutrition, self-esteem, forgiveness, creations of vision boards and so much more.   A typical lesson (not that any of them are typical per se!) starts with meditation, power cards, followed by the main lesson which always involves some type of creativity on their parts, and we close with evaluations and Namaste (the Divine in Me – Greets the Divine in You!).

I am there to challenge them to “Step into their Power” to stop being mediocre (which it way overrated anyway) and to be about the business of being on their Divine soul journey. Enough with the distractions and playing small. Marianne Williamson reminded us in her famous poem Our Deepest Fear – that ” Your playing small doesn’t serve the world!” Sometimes they get mad at me and it is during those times that I know that I am pushing some buttons and taking them to the edge – heading to a breakthrough. It is uncomfortable there – and there is nowhere to hide and nowhere to go but up!

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(Random picture of female inmates in class – Not taken at Dekalb Jail)

Recently I asked them read a play that I co-created with my teen theater group (Y.E.S. 4 Health, Inc.) some years ago entitled Drive-Thru Justice.  The play highlights health disparities regarding diabetes in the African-American and Hispanic communities. Some of them didn’t quite get the play which the youth loved. Based on science, facts, very dramatic – filled with humor and excitement.  One woman said it was racist. Not – it was based on facts and was meant to educate primarily African-American and Hispanic audiences about diabetes – how you get it, how it is prevented and one community’s struggle to make a difference in health outcomes in their community by highlighting the negative consequences of fast food consumption. One woman who refused to read any of the characters for two weeks straight, was singing under her breath as we wrapped up the class.  I told her that I forgot that she was a singer and asked if she knew “His Eye is on the Sparrow?” and if she would sing it next week in the funeral scene.  Her face lit up with a smile as she proudly proclaimed that she knew it and would be happy to sing it next week! It’s so on!!!Yes! I accept the challenge of making this work relevant to their lives!

Several classes focused on Powerful Words and Thoughts v. Words and Thoughts that Zap your Power!  The writing and reciting of poetry is the last phase of the exercise that starts with brainstorming about the issues for each class. Both Men and Women’s classes this week produced phenomenal poetry summing up their thoughts. Again, haiku is brief but some of them are so powerful that they can leave you breathless. Here they are.  You be the judge.  I am already biased…(in a good sort of way!)

I am so open

To strive for a better life.

Only I can change!

I have the power 

To Encourage the young Kids

Don’t do what I did!

We will go home soon.

They can’t hold me here forever.

God has forgiven Us.

Life is not my Enemy.

Turn negativity into

Positive Energy!

(Not haiku but great words) 

I am a Spiritual Being.

I control my own destiny in Life.

Love is the Greatest Power of All!

(Not haiku but great words)

I am somebody

Who’s talented and gifted.

There is always Hope!

We can do good work

Help a community [thrive]

And see kids achieve!

I am a Black Queen

Who will prosper and Succeed-

Accomplish and Live!

Worthy on this day

Smiles became joyful women

Survivors old Souls!

Seven children born.

Six boys and 1 girl are mine.

Throughout this life time!

Women of soul gets

Tired, mean, weak sometimes.

But as one we all Survive!

I have a big heart.

Anything can be Wonderful!

Always positive!

I am very gifted ~

Blessed by the one who strengthens

With love and giving!

I’m my obstacle.

I’ll rise like dirty birds.

Keep your faith alive!

Stepped up and took control.

No one else will ever know

The road I took here. 

I’m just somebody

Who will let everybody

see I’m no Victim

of my circumstances

in the world!

(Not haiku but great words)

I can do anything

Through God who strengthens me.

A woman I am proud to be,

Gifted and talented, 

No limit on my Destiny!

(Not haiku but great words)

Grew up in Brooklyn

Had to fight my wrongs.

Loved money, women and cars.

Then my eyes opened to the universe

My God and the stars!

(Not haiku but great words)

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Dr. Imani Ma’at is a Health Educator and Behavioral Scientist, Author and Speaker with 22 years of service at the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Her education includes a Master in Education from Harvard and a Doctorate in Health Education from Teacher’s College of Columbia University. Her most recent book in the Healthy Haiku Series is Healthy Haiku 3: How to Fight Childhood Obesity One Poem at a Time. This book is a great resource for teachers, parents, mentors and others. It includes science, fun and creative strategies to address  nutrition and lifestyle to prevent obesity in youth and all family members. For more information and to book her for speaking engagements and workshops please fill out the information below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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