By Deborah Burke Henderson, Contributing Writer
Arlington – A gifted teacher, poet, social worker and Reiki healer, Jeannie Martin of Arlington can be a woman of few words. She thrives as an educator and loves introducing aspiring and existing poets of any age to the fine Japanese art of writing haiku, a three-line poem of the present moment written in a simple, yet complex form, which is considered the most popular form of poetry today.
Trained as a geriatric social worker, Martin worked for years with The Mount Auburn Hospital Prevention Center teaching stress management and positive aging with area seniors. Currently, she is with a small nonprofit, Friendship Works, focused on ending senior isolation in Boston, Brookline, and Newton. She has a doctorate in adult education from UMASS/Amherst and frequently works freelance teaching haiku to seniors with memory loss, due to dementia or Alzheimer’s.
“Individuals with memory loss live in the present moment,” Martin stated. “That’s a gift, something we all strive for, and haiku poetry is all about recording an experience of the present moment using one or more of the five senses. It’s a perfect fit.”
inside the conch shell
of a wave
Martin began writing haiku poetry more than two decades ago. She is a member of the Haiku Society of America and the Boston Haiku Society and is co-organizer of “The Haiku Circle,” a gathering that meets once annually in Turner Falls, Mass., and offers devotees readings, workshops and fellowship.
Much of Martin’s inspiration comes from the natural world, especially on walks with her devoted Harpo, the third senior Chihuahua she has rescued.
it’s a big world
at the window
“These dogs are funny and quirky,” Martin confessed, “and you must ask yourself if you can handle a dog with a long past, health issues s/he cannot tell you about and that s/he may not live long. This breed may be tiny, but they have a big personality,” she said with a smile, adding, “Black Labs want to love you; Chihuahuas boldly say ‘This is me. Take it or leave it.’”
She adopted Harpo two years ago when he was seven. A victim of neglect, he’d never even worn a collar.
“Now he’s a regular snuggle bunny,” Martin admits.
At just five pounds, Harpo travels everywhere with Martin in a special carrier bag. He joins her on a bus ride to a memory café in Brookline where she teaches seniors haiku or on the train to her monthly haiku group with care partners and elders with memory loss.
She’ll tell you each senior Chihuahua she has rescued has provided lessons in optimism, love and moving forward.
“These little dogs offer a lot of hope. They are wonderful gifts. I think of them as angels in fur,” she added brightly.
As a Reiki healer, Martin understands the importance of touch.
“Animals, like people, enjoy the soothing benefits of being touched because it offers a great deal of healing energy.”
Martin sees the world as a magical place and looks at it with humor and grace. With a profound reverence for life and all living things, she delights in gardening, hiking, and walking. During mid-summer, when day lilies were in full bloom, she was caught up in the rapture of their color and brilliance. Her haiku explodes with feeling.
without a sound
a day lily opens
A gifted teacher, Martin prides herself in being a learner-focused educator. She admits to thinking quickly on her feet and strives to understand what each student needs, adjusting her teaching style or content accordingly. This fall, she will teach a one-session, three-hour class about writing haiku at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education where she has taught since 2008. She’ll also offer a two-session class, “Writing Your Autobiography in Nine Words,” in person or on Zoom, if in-person teaching is still on hold.
Martin has nine published books of haiku and most recently, teamed up with fellow poet, Vincent Tripi, on touch of light published by Red Moon Press. During the stay-at-home quarantine, she dedicated a small chapbook of 12 haiku, entitled … this fly which was published by buddha baby press and paid tribute to these winged companions she came to know so well.