Our Islands, Our Future

Maui resident Rinko Jeffers, a recipient of the Nihon Bunka Award in 2019, is a gifted haiku master poet. The Award recognizes individuals for their excellence and contributions to the Japanese arts and culture and for their unselfish willingness to share their talents with the community Jeffers aloha and knowledge have been key to her success in bringing the joy of haiku to so many poets writing in Japanese and English alike. In 1996, following her 14-year employment with the United Nations in Japan and Africa, Jeffers co-established the Maui Hototogisu Haiku-kai Club, which she continues to lead. In 2009, she started the Maui Haiku Poetry in English Club. Chancellor of UH, Emeritus, Dr. Clyde Sakamoto, is the honorable resident of both haiku groups.

To Jeffers, enjoying life with haiku is to consciously appreciate the energy in our natural environment. Haiku poetry, a type of short-form poetry originally from Japan, consists of three lines, with five syllables in the first line, seven in the second, and five in the third. It is a unique form of art between the author and the readers.

“A haiku verse must be written about something that caught the author’s attention for a flash of a second, something that nature presents,” Jeffers explained. “The moon, the flowers, the birds, the wind, and mundane human activities are all there, all the time, around us. But at odd moments, something may hit us unexpectedly, leading us to an aha! moment, a re-recognition of self. To evoke such deep feelings is the essence of haiku writing, and we share that moment. It is a condensed form of a conversation between human souls, between the author and the readers, similar to the effect of emoji.”

Jeffers, a volunteer at the Maui Friends of the Library, also provides introductory haiku classes to third and fourth grade students at Paia, Waihee and Lihikai Elementary Schools. She reflected, “Sometimes, by invitation of the teachers, I introduce haiku to the children in their class as a community service. The students seem to enjoy trying to write haiku. They realize they too are great poets. I have received many thank-you letters from them.”

To write haiku, we just keep on trying to catch the moment and keep practicing, writing with our own language in this short and poetic form.

Rinko Jeffers, Maui Haiku Master Poet