Seeking ‘Ma’

Despite spammers hijacking my blog last night and filling the comment threads with gibberish and despite the current threat of the global cyber attack I am still utterly addicted to online research.   When  the artist and haiku poet, Belinda Broughton commented on my last post – ‘Ma’, the Japanese aesthetic of space, is similar to the ‘Buddhist emptiness’ that you’re referring to, isn’t it? I call it ‘dreaming room’ – I was off on another binge.

In an article in the online magazine Rice Paper by Colleen Lanki I read –

Ma is a Japanese aesthetic principle meaning “emptiness” or “absence.”  It is the space between objects, the silence between sounds, or the stillness between movements.  The term describes both time and space, and is much more than a “lack” of something.  The emptiness is, in fact, a palpable entity.

Simply put, ma is the aesthetic of space-time.’

In a Kyoto Journal article by Gunter Nitschke  I read –

‘Many waka and haiku poems begin with a phrase that employs ma to paint the atmosphere of energy of the setting.   For example –

木の間 (ko-no-ma) Among trees (literally: place/time/mood of trees)’  Kyoto Journal – ma

Tracking down what Belinda meant by ‘dreaming room’ I discovered an essay on writing haiku by Denis Garrison   He writes – ‘By “dreaming room,” I mean some empty space inside the poem which the reader can fill with his personal experience, from his unique social context.’

Reading these articles I had my own ‘aha ‘ moment  –


prompt –


6 thoughts on “Seeking ‘Ma’

  1. Suzanne this is great information 🙂 I will definitely give these articles a read. I particularly loved Garrisons definition of ‘dreaming room’. So relatable. And I love your haiku. Felt like I just read a power- packed haibun:)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much for your comment. I am really glad you liked what I wrote. I felt like I was tentatively probing into the dark and wasn’t sure if I got it ‘right’. I really appreciate your response. I agree about Denis Garrison’s writing n- it is very both readable and relatable.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I have equated ma and dreaming room but, more specifically, dreaming room refers to the rhetoric of silence and related techniques which are, I believe, a subset of the broader ma aesthetic. I find this a fascinating study. BTW, you can read or download for free an anthology centered on dreaming room on my blog at It is one of several anthologies co-edited, variously, with Michael McClintock and Alexis Rotella.
    best wishes, Denis M. Garrison


    1. Thank you very much. I appreciate you visiting my blog and leaving such an insightful comment. I realise I have only just began to explore the concept of Ma in this post. Finding the words was difficult. I will download your PDF and read it eagerly. Thank you very much for the link.


  3. I agree with Pat, your post is most informative and usually I steer away with too complicated…and your haiku says so much…I love it when I need to read and reread a haiku…I pause in different places each time I reread it and it is amazing the interpretations that are revealed. Thank you for sharing with us.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Cheryl Lynn. Your comment is wonderful. The idea of pausing and reflecting with the haiku is what ma is about. 🙂


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