Naked With A Book.

Naked with a book

Primitive and enlightened

Disciplined and wild.

That’s it. The last one.

I’ve been writing a haiku a day during the entire month of April because April is National Poetry Month, and that haiku up there is the last one. It’s a dedication to the book that inspired my  haiku-a-day art project (more on that in a bit).

It's also an ode to my  naked-outdoor-haiku-reading-to-the-redwoods art project.

You didn’t know about the naked-outdoor-haiku-reading-to-the-redwoods art project, did you? That’s the thing with me. I’m full of surprises.

Let me explain.

Recently, I became interested in the rise of groups promoting social justice through nudity. Their strategy is to turn the human desire to objectify one another towards noble ends, and I began wondering if this strategy would likewise be effective in encouraging people to read and be thoughtful.

But the genesis of my naked-outdoor-haiku-reading-to-the-redwoods art project actually came to me much earlier. It came when I moved from Los Angeles to my hippie cabin in the redwoods, and soon realized that the neighbors couldn’t see me if I ran around outside naked. I went from living in an apartment where I could reach out my bathroom window and touch the wall of the apartment building next door, to living in a place where I couldn’t see anyone from my yard - and no one could see me.

Transitioning from an urban landscape to the wilderness of Northern California in such an abrupt way was intentional. I wanted to “pull a Thoreau.” I wanted to see how transferring my ape mind from the over-stimulation of the city to an environment structured by natural rhythms would impact my thinking.

I have a theory that humans share a primal urge to see the stars and feel a wood fire and touch water as it runs in a creek. We feel these actions deeply and profoundly because evolution has wired our brain to have an abiding love for such “pleasures” - precisely because they enhance our ability to survive.

I’ve written about these theories on occasion here - in both poetry and prose - in order to challenge my own perceptions and to hone my abilities as a writer. With this in mind, as April rolled around, I made the decision to write a haiku a day in celebration of National Poetry Month - and as a simple exercise in self-discipline.

I thought that writing seventeen syllables a day would be a piece of cake. However, I ran into problems almost immediately.

For starters, on April 1, I hiked for the first time to the Russian Gulch waterfall. By the time I got home, I was exhausted and high on nature, and writing a haiku was the last thing I wanted to do.

But I did, and the haiku was kind of crappy, and I felt discouraged starting the month out on such a disappointing note.

Until I got to day two, and the haiku was even crappier.

Day three wasn’t much better, nor was day four. I couldn’t believe it. Here I was, less than a week in, and about to fail at my self-imposed exercise of writing seventeen measly syllables a day.

But the Russian Gulch hike reminded me of something else. While at the waterfall, I sat there soaking in the beauty of a gorgeous veil of water tumbling into a magical green pool, and I tried to remember last time I had gone skinny dipping. I’m ashamed to admit it, but it took me a minute or two to come up with the memory.

And I can’t tell you how sad that made me.

Because being in the buff in the wilds of nature should be something we all do eagerly and often. It ranks right up there with the bit I said earlier about the stars and fire and creeks and stuff.

We are meant to be naked, so it makes us happy to be naked. If you don’t believe me, look at any naked baby. I rest my case.

So, in addition to WRITING a haiku a day, it seemed perfectly normal to add on the task of READING a page of haiku a day to the redwoods in the forest out back.


You heard me.

To celebrate National Poetry Month, I decided to read outside, naked, daily, from one of the most beautiful books I own - a 1969 first-edition of Australian author Harold Stewart’s A Chime of Windbells.

(All of the book photos here are of this volume - Stewart translates Japanese haiku by famous authors like Basho and Buson into rhyming couplets, which he then pairs with beautiful illustrations modeled on traditional Japanese silk paintings.)

So starting at mid-month, every day, I stripped down to the buff, stepped out onto my deck with my book, and read haiku out loud to the redwood trees.

I felt like a complete idiot.

At least, at first. It’s not that I didn’t think the redwoods were listening - because they TOTALLY were - it’s that being in the all-natural in nature felt completely...  Unnatural.

But, as with the daily haiku writing, I stuck with it, and two things happened. First, I started allowing myself to enjoy the outside naked time. I relaxed, I laughed, and I gave those redwoods the best naked haiku slam they’ve ever seen. And that’s saying something, too, because those trees have been around a very, very long time.

And second…

My own haiku writing got better.

There was no denying it. Once I had embraced the outdoor naked poetry reading, the haiku writing improved.



Just because I had already gotten into the swing of haiku writing based on the previous two weeks of failure, and just because reading haiku aloud will invariably improve one’s own writing, that doesn’t mean that the outside naked time didn’t play a big part in the overall improvement of my haikus.

Anyway, that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

As a result of my April project, I’m thinking of making it my mission to remove the stigma associated with naked reading. After all, whether it’s in bed or in the tub, we’ve all done it. It’s completely natural. Nothing to be ashamed of. Heh.

In fact, maybe I’ll start a nude reading trend. It can be like planking, only naked and with a book.

Happy National Poetry Month.

I hope yours was as naked as mine.


  1. I just discovered your blog through the book porn page on Facebook. Absolutely love it! You are inspiring and thought provoking.

    I will definitely be making an effort to read naked more often.

    1. Aw! Thanks for the kind words! I'm glad you enjoy the blog. And that you're inspired to read naked more! After all, the world needs more naked readers! =]

  2. Replies
    1. As are you, my friend. Screaming love heart.

  3. If I lived in the middle of nowhere, I'd wander around naked, too. Why not?

    1. Glad to hear it! Although if you DID wander in to your local grocery store to do your weekly shopping naked, it might do a lot to advance the cause... Think about it!

  4. You're doing some serious work -- &, naked or not, it's much appreciated. Naked, though, probably is better. I know it's not in the spirit with which you launched the Naked Reading movement to say, "Better you than me," but I'm afraid it'll be best for everyone if I linger there a while before moving on & up. That aside, your good work is making a difference. Thank you. I know I'm not alone in loving blue-haired women.

    1. Aw. Such a nice thing to say. Thank you, my friend! And you should consider making some private naked reading time for yourself. Your books won't judge you, and neither will I!

  5. There's no freedom like nudity. My wife and I have been nudists since the early 70s. Back then there were some great sun-lover spots along the coast in northern Humboldt (like College Cove for example).

    Sadly, over the years the park service put trails down to the beach (which opened it up to the masses)and now you only park there at your own risk as thieves are so common there are signs posted warning you!Plus creeps hiding and staring at the naked people.

    We've gone to some nice nude resorts like Glen Helen down in Southern California, but it's always nicer to go to national forests and other outdoor places where only dedicated naturists go.

    Kudos to Stargazer - that's a great picture of you telling your story...

    1. Having lived in Los Angeles for quite a number of years, I've only recently re-discovered the freedom that comes with being naked outdoors. It sounds silly to some people, I'm sure, but it really DOES impact your psyche in a profound way. Although many naked-friendly places have gone by the wayside as of late, there's indications that the trend might be making a comeback - I've read a lot recently about naked hiking groups and diving groups all using the national parks for events and gatherings, without incident. So pack up the wife and car, Dave! It sounds like a nude vacation is in your future! And thank you for the compliment on the pic. The person who usually does these nicer photos of me is very talented indeed!