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David McFadden introduced me to the Japanese poetic tradition in my first creative writing course in 1983. Basho, Issa, and other itinerant poets footing it across a rugged landscape appealed to my youthful imagination. The wandering mendicants reminded me of my own rambles down Kootenay back roads visiting with rural artists and potters. I belonged to those mountain towns, pastoral valleys, and overgrown orchards, and I exposed rolls of film to capture the qualities I loved there. Years later a description of wabi sabi in the book Washi: World of Japanese Paper by Sukey Hughes finally provided words for those qualities.
When I wrote Wabi Sabi Simple the only dedicated book on the market at the time was Leonard Koren's Wabi-Sabi: for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers which is still a standard on the subject today. My research continued for my second book, Wabi Sabi for Writers, which is a deeper exploration of the relationship between wabi sabi, poetry, and a quality of writing that Basho arrived at late in his life.
Karumi, as he called it, is the result of following "the way of elegance," a literary path towards lightness, acceptance, and beauty. I'm following the "way of elegance" now as I continue to write from my home on Vancouver Island. I hope you will visit stillinthestream.com for more information and updates on my latest projects.
In this book, the author looks at the everyday and finds the magic in it. His prose quickly engages and literally sets a mood that helps readers appreciate the ideas he is writing about. In other words, the book itself is an example of what makes Wabi Sabi consciousness special. Although, let me quickly say that Wabi Sabi is like Zen--as soon as you think you have a grip on it, it slips away. With chapters like Wabi Sabi at Home, Wabi Sabi Friends, Wabi Sabi at Work, and Wabi Sabi in the Garden, the author gives us methods and perspectives for more fully appreciating what has always been right in front of our eyes. I have seldom read a book that puts you more in the mood its subject. I highly recommend this book.
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I found this book a bit of a challenge initially because my left, analytical, logical brain was searching for a step-by-step description of what wabi sabi is. Having never heard of wabi sabi, at times I wondered if someone had pulled a fast one me with a spoof of Eastern beliefs and the way Westerners embrace them. As I continued to read I realized that Powell was teaching wabi sabi by writing, shall we say, in a wabi sabi style. He never provides a clear definition, yet his beautiful prose conveys the sense of what wabi sabi is. Powell is a very talented writer, and the book is worth the price just for the prose - elegant, tight, beautiful imagery with sometimes powerful and sometimes subtle metaphors. I would recommend this book as an initial dip into the waters of wabi sabi, with further exploration the responsibility of the reader.
This book is masquerading as a book about wabi sabi, but it actually is a collection of rambling, disorganized, incoherent personal journal entries. The topics include some of the most random and inconsequential subjects I have ever encountered. I have many books on wabi sabi and even the how-to books on things such as the wabi sabi house or the wabi sabi garden cover a deeper level of the philosophy in 4-5 pages than this entire book achieves. This is one of those books that you start reading, and within the first sentences you see, immediately start thinking of how to dispose of it. I would feel guilty selling this book to anyone else because it would not only be a waste of the buyer's money but the buyer's time and shelf space. This is, quite seriously, the worst book I currently own.
I bought this book while on a business trip and I planned to read it on the plane home. I could not put it down. In fact, I deliberately read it slowly to understand it better and also to have more to read after I got home. In the process I learned many things wabi sabi like naikan, Quaker plain living, mimetic theory, haiku, the way of tea, etc. So I, too, don't understand the one star reviews.
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