Posted in Haiku

Anna Cates’ Walking Stick

at the muddy end
of a walking stick
wild oats

Hedgerow No. 42 August 14, 2015

© Anna Cates (USA)

It seems like a simple image, but it has a significant sense of white space and resonance. What is the significance of the wild oats? What is the significance of the walking stick and it being muddy?

To me as a reader, the importance of “wild oats” is natural beauty and natural existence. The walking stick hints at the author, or someone being observed, needing support to walk—either because of feebleness or by the rough character of nature. Also, the walking stick, though natural, has now been rendered as a tool for a person. The wild oats, though humble in their appearance, can be seen as vibrant and pure. The word “wild” also contrasts the constrained life of the person who needs a walking stick.

The mud further reflects the idea of impurity or a soiled existence, in comparison with the simple purity of wild oats. But even though this mud may be a representation of impurity, it also may have wild oats attached to it. It is almost as if the wild oats are trying to tell something to the author: the separation between the human and natural world, the way to be pure in an impure world, and so on.

It is a moment that seems continuous at first (walking), but the poet takes a break to peer at the wild oats and to contemplate beauty, existence, and maybe more. Writing haiku and reading haiku usually allows us to take a break to feel what is around us more keenly.

In looking at the sense of sound, the most prominent sounds in the haiku come from the letter “d” and “i.” In my reading, the letter gives more weight to the haiku (and maybe its subject matter), and the letter “i” makes the reading of it more stark.

Also, I think the lack of punctuation was a good choice, as it reflects the idea of naturalness and purity.

Understated, grounded in its style, and having an open nature for interpretation, this haiku gets at the heart of a moment with a humble aesthetic.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky

Posted in Tanka

Elliot Nicely’s Sunset

the way
she says goodbye
this time
the sunset refills
her wine glass

Eucalypt #20, 2016

© Elliot Nicely (USA)

The two things I enjoyed the most about this tanka was the pivot from line 3 to line 4, and the ending image.

“this time” can be seen as part of lines 1-2 and part of lines 4-5. This is one of the great tools of tanka that can make reading them diverse and intriguing within only 5 lines. The pivot makes us read a bit slower and to consider what reading we should take.

The ending image is not only startling, but also brings up several references. Firstly, I see it referencing an overall solemn mood and the finality of the relationship. It is also interesting in its aesthetic in that the sunset, which marks the end of something, fills something up. In addition to these observations, I see a more mystical interpretation: wine in many poetic traditions is a reference for spiritual intoxication. In this way, the author could be telling us that his beloved has now left this earthly world, and has once again been reunited with the divine. Another way to look at it is that the poet’s beloved is still alive but has ended her spiritual seeking, and she has now found the truth, her self-realization.

The image of the sunset in the wine glass also has a grounding, earthly tone. It’s as if things have gone back to their original, non-abased self, and marks a return (or refill, if you will) to the naturalness of life.

And overall, as I mentioned before, there is a strong tone of finality to the tanka that lends to sadness, but also to acceptance.

If we look at the sound of the tanka, in the first two lines, most prominent is the “-ay” sound with “way,” “say,” and “goodbye.” Not only does it make it more musical, but it gives a stress to the moment at hand. In the second half of the tanka, the letter “i” features most, which to me as a reader gives a sense of awe.

A tanka with a range of possible interpretations and an engaging tone, all with simple language and no more than three words per line.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky

Posted in Haiku

Jennifer Hambrick’s Leaves

deployment—
that tree had leaves
this morning

Modern Haiku 47.3 (Autumn 2016)

© Jennifer Hambrick (USA)

This haiku has a lot of energy to it. It has an immediacy and freshness that most haiku do not have. There are a few reasons for this.

With the word “deployment” and the em dash following it, there is a gravity to the situation. The circumstance is probably someone being deployed off to war as a soldier, to face possible death, and seeing others die.

To reflect the dramatic change of pace from being a soldier in training to being on the way to witness death firsthand, the writer used the tree losing its leaves rapidly as a metaphor. Not naming the tree also gives an immediacy to it.

The season is probably late autumn, and this season commonly presents death and decay in colorful displays. It is similar to how soldiers die in war: their lives may have been taken away, but the beauty of valor and honor is kept with them and their families.

In terms of sound, this haiku works great as well. Look at the “o” sound in “deployment” and “morning” giving a sense of melancholy, and the “i” and “e” sounds running through the haiku to make the reading of it more stark.

The pacing of the haiku is powerful, especially with how the last line comes. Not only is the punctuation used for a significant emotional end, but also the last line (without tricks) is palpable and alarming.

In my opinion, the writer captured the mood of the moment perfectly, and used the literary tools necessary to illicit emotion from readers—which is turn allows us to experience this moment as if we were there.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky

Posted in Haiku

Christina Sng’s Wish

the meows
I wish I understand
winter sun

Failed Haiku, December 2016

© Christina Sng

Though this senryu is cute at first glance (and many more glances) it has something deeper to it.

Cats are often good friends, and the writer wants to know more of the inner world of one of her best friends. Also, cats are often associated with mysticism and otherworldliness. By being able to understand the language of cats, maybe we can have a greater comprehension of what is readily unknown to humans and maybe glimpse divinity, or the magic behind mundane existence.

This is juxtaposed with the sun in winter. Though it burns, it hardly gives warmth, and almost teases us with its appearance. Though the cat meows we cannot understand may appear cute or “warm,” there is the coldness of being left out of their world, and maybe out of a secret dimension to the human experience.

Now let’s get a bit more technical. Though this senryu was published in a senryu journal, some poets might say this poem fits into the haiku genre as well… and they would not be exactly wrong. We got a kigo (seasonal reference) and a juxtaposition, but does it have a haiku aesthetic?  What the great poet and teacher Michael Dylan Welch wrote in his essay Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Haiku and Senryu But Were Too Busy Writing to Ask applies to this poem:

“Senryu aims more at the head than the heart, more at the intellect than the soul (and in this sense, many so-called avant-garde gendai haiku may be more akin to senryu than haiku). Where haiku are subtle, senryu are blunt. Where haiku are shaded, senryu are lurid.”

By using “understand,” you can say that the poem aims at the mind rather than the heart; but on the other hand, if the reader focuses on “wish,” you can say the poem leans more to haiku. And to give more emphasis to this, Mr. Welch wrote a comment below this post:

“When the poem says “I wish I understand,” to me the emphasis is on wishing, thus an emotion of longing. Consequently, that points to feeling rather than the intellect, which I think makes the poem lean more towards haiku than senryu. The fact that there’s more to the poem than just a cute veneer also points to it being a haiku rather than a senryu. Nor does the poem have a victim or make fun of anything, which is common with senryu. Definitely a haiku!”

In terms of sound, the letter “w” features strongly, giving an impression of yearning. Also, the letter “s” makes a prominent showing. This sound gives it a more musical reading.

This senryu is at once serious and lighthearted, which supplies it with more dimension. The reader does not know if the poet is serious or playful about what she wrote, but this adds to the white space of the senryu and makes it all that more enjoyable to read.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky

 

 

 

Posted in Haiku

Lucia Fontana’s Fog

winter fog
the root of the sky
so invisible

© Lucia Fontana
Akitsu Quarterly, winter issue, 2016

What I enjoy most about this haiku is its connection to spirituality, or abstract thinking even though it is not directly stated. “Root of the sky” makes sense intuitively, though we have to think, as a reader, what that is exactly. The reader figuring that out, or searching for the meaning of it provides white space. White space is essential in haiku to supply depth and a larger quantity of interpretations.

White space also provides more chances for resonance. By having the two parts interact—the first line, and the last two lines—resonance is made in this haiku. Though the connection between “fog” and “so invisible” is clear, what is foggy is the meaning of “root” and how the two parts emotionally connect.

For me, when I read this haiku, I feel the writer is reflecting on the invisibility of a divine force or God. The emotional phrasing of this haiku gives me a reason to perceive it that way. If “so” was left out, the reading of the haiku would have been drastically different. Equally, “winter” has a mood of bitterness and suffering, and adds emotional content to the haiku. If it was taken away from the haiku, the reading of it would also change considerably.

But then again, the poet could be pondering the formation of the sky in physical terms, from the beginning of Earth’s existence. We are still not clear, scientifically, how Earth formed life.

In terms of sound, the letter “o” features most prominently: “fog,” “root,” and “so.” Sometimes as haiku writers, we forget how sound can carry or add meaning, like in other styles of poetry. In this haiku, the letter “o” gives a sense of pining for knowledge, in my view.

Also, the last line is five syllables, the same as the second line. Though the last line looks shorter, it carries as much content syllable-wise, and is in a sense, elongated. This gives readers the impression of a weighty line despite being short.

A great combination of resonance, white space, sound, and syllables, this haiku delivers much more than is seen.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky

Posted in Haiku

Janice M. Bostok’s Day Lily

Background

This is what A Hundred Gourds editor Lorin Ford wrote about this pivotal poet:

Janice M. Bostok will go down in history as the haiku pioneer of Australia. Though there was a general interest in all things Eastern in Australian poetry from the 1960’s and a few Australian poets included haiku or haiku-like poems in their published collections, as far as a haiku movement goes Australia was terra nullius. Any sense of a haiku movement in Australia begins with the extraordinary story of the young Janice Bostok, a countrywoman with a flair for correspondence.

As a result of the chance mention of haiku by a pen-pal in the USA and Jan’s query in return, “What is haiku?” a small volume of translated Japanese haiku arrived in the mail and Jan began writing haiku. For over forty years, Jan worked to encourage the writing of haiku and related poetry. She edited and published Australia’s first haiku journal, Tweed, was haiku editor at various times for the journals Hobo, Paper Wasp, Yellow Moon and Stylus and for five years she was South Pacific Editor for the annual Red Moon Anthology of English-Language Haiku. She taught haiku whenever and wherever she could, taking pride in being known as ‘the haiku missionary’ and she judged many haiku competitions. She joined John Bird in his project of the First Australian Haiku Anthology and the creation of HaikuOz.

Jan’s haiku were first published in America, in 1971. Her collection, Walking Into The Sun, was a runner-up in the 1974 Haiku Society of America Merit Book Awards. Her haiku were included in Cor van den Heuvel’s 1986 edition of The Haiku Anthology and her work featured in numerous Australian and overseas journals and anthologies. Jan’s poems have been translated into seven languages.

[Source: http://ahundredgourds.com/ahg11/bostok.html%5D

Haiku Commentary

summer dusk
day lily petals fold
into night

Janice’s biographer, Sharon Dean, wrote this about this haiku:

…I was fascinated with the intimate connection between her life and haiku, a connection that would become movingly apparent to me following a 2008 trip to Japan, where I occasionally bought bottles of chilled green tea from vending machines. One day in Kyoto, I was surprised when a machine dispensed to me a bottle featuring one of Jan’s haiku. The poem was printed in Japanese characters, and the accompanying translation read:

summer dusk
day lily petals fold
into night

Aware that the flowers of most day lily species have a relatively brief lifespan – in that they open at sunrise and wither at sunset – I admired the ephemeral quality of the image. Months later, however, on hearing Jan explain that she’d written the haiku in memory of her first child, a son who had died at birth, I gained a greater appreciation for the poignancy of her art. People often told Jan they adored her work because she wrote of experiences they themselves had had, but hadn’t been able to put into words – especially words that spoke so concisely and resonantly, and also with such lingering depth, warmth … and often, humour. [Source: http://ahundredgourds.com/ahg11/bostok.html%5D

To add to Sharon Dean’s commentary, I believe this haiku also allows the reader to put their attention on what is unknown to us, and to consider its suffering. Many times, authors have written that the essence of haiku is compassion, and this haiku is a fine example.

Summer indicates a relaxed, fun time. But like all seasons, summer has its misfortunes as well: the heat often withers plants, causes animals and people to die of heat exhaustion, summer love is often fickle, and unsuspected deaths happen.

The word “dusk” paints the mood of the poem, along with “fold.” Also, the pacing of the lines leaves a solemn mood behind when read out loud. Though the atmosphere of the haiku can easily be said to be of sadness, it can also be said to be of acceptance. The day lily only does what it does—no more, no less. The loss of her son is shown through this lens in this haiku.

In regard to sound, one immediately picks up on the “d” sound in “dusk,” “day, ” and “fold.” The solemness of its sound reflects the mood of the haiku well.

In both a technical and intuitive sense, this haiku calls us to join the poet in her feelings of loss and acceptance of loss.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky

Posted in Haiku

Francesco Palladino’s Footsteps

autumn forest
lost in the sound
of footsteps

© Francesco Palladino

What I enjoy most about this haiku is that it has multiple interpretations, in multiple ways. You can read it as the autumn forest that is lost in the sound of footsteps, or the narrator lost in the sound of his or her own footsteps. Also, the word “lost” has many overtones. It could mean physically lost, emotionally lost, or being in an ecstatic spiritual state, i.e. lost in the music. This kind of openness in haiku is highly valued, as it gives readers more to ponder and to feel.

But with the word “autumn,” we can infer that the word “lost” is used more in a melancholic vein. And in this sense, I think the author is saying that with each step, the crunch of leaves and fallen material in the forest is being crushed under his feet—that sound brings up a sense of compassion. Not only has the dead or dying material fallen, it is now being crushed.

Though this is something that happens in our everyday life in autumn, we often do not consider the preciousness of life and how we treat it. Ancient cultures thought of animals and plants as brothers and sisters—and most of us, as modern people, have lost touch with this feeling and kinship. This haiku, in my mind, is a subtle calling for us to remember and reinstate that collective consciousness.

This haiku can also be simply about portraying that sadness that prevails during autumn. With dead and dying material being crushed under the foot of living beings, the sadness of the atmosphere increases. Sometimes a haiku is about delving into a feeling strongly, and experiencing it to its full extent. There is a saying that if you want to conquer pain, become one with it.

In terms of sound, the letter “o” plays a pivotal role. I believe it enhances the melancholy mood of the haiku and allows us to read the haiku at a slower pace, which in turn makes us more aware of the feeling behind the poem.

A display of compassion and pensive feelings, this haiku is effective in its simplicity and reference to autumn.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky

Posted in Haiku

Rajna Begović’s Yellow Leaf

Background on the Poet

Rajna Begović was born in Skopje, Macedonia on the 4th of October, 1939. She worked as a physician. Rajna was a member of the Haiku Society of Serbia and Montenegro, and her work has been included in a number of haiku collections, journals, and anthologies. She was the recipient of many national and international awards for haiku, waka, and haibun. Rajna proved to be a very talented and sensitive poet, choosing words carefully to express her feelings, her opinions, and the ever-present connection with nature in our daily life. She also wrote aphorisms, short stories, and classical poems. She lived in Belgrade, Serbia. Sadly, Rajna died on the 15th of August, 2011.

[Adapted from The Living Haiku Anthology]

Commentary

A yellow leaf flies in
through the open door
of an ambulance

Žuti list ulete
kroz otvorena vrata
bolničkih kola

(Second Place, Ito en, 2006)

This is one of those haiku that you feel and figure out immediately, but can have a lasting impact on you. As if begging to be cured from its maladies, the yellow leaf “seeks” help from humans by flying into an ambulance’s open door. However, the leaf got there from the wind, not by its personal intentions.

But this trick of the mind is important in haiku. By personifying the leaf, without stating it directly, we as readers open our hearts to the leaf, and in consequence to nature in autumn.

Although the leaf does not have personal will and consciousness to help itself, we should not be blind to the suffering of it. I believe this haiku calls for readers to keep their hearts open—even to something we may sweep up as a chore.

Also, the yellow leaf is in a sense a metaphor for the ambulance: usually yellow, contains suffering, and is being whisked away (in the leaf’s case, by the wind).

Sonically, the strongest sound running through the haiku is the “o” sound. I believe this sound provides the sense of motion of the leaf as if goes into the ambulance.

And like many fine haiku, there is a surprise ending, or something to catch us off guard to bring us into a different state of consciousness.

A great example of compassion in haiku, the physician Rajna Begović showed her work environment through a special lens.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky

 

Posted in Tanka

Billy Antonio’s Hills

the verdant hills
of his childhood
he scratches
his growing
bald spot
© Billy Antonio (Philippines)
Second Place, Annual Tanka Contest at Mandy’s Pages

Before I provide commentary, let us see what the judge of the contest, Christine L. Villa, said about this tanka:

The poet’s perfect choice of metaphor proves that humor can be used effectively in tanka. The verdant hills implies lushness which is in contrast to his growing bald spot. To emphasize the decreasing loss of hair, words are placed in descending order. A hint of annoyance about the poet’s aging is implied with the word “scratch”, but using humor in this tanka shows us his/her acceptance of this human condition. I enjoyed the surprise ending. Brilliant tanka!

[Source: http://www.mandys-pages.com/contests/annual-tanka-contest/192-atc2016-results%5D

To add, I would like to say how relatable this is. Men all over the world must feel this way, but don’t express it. To have poetry that is instantly relatable is always a plus for readers.

Also, note how fresh this tanka sounds compared to the court tanka of old. With the exception of the word “verdant,” the tanka is direct, rather than dependent on flashy lyricism. This makes for a much more communicable tanka and one that connects to the masses easily.

I also enjoy how the two last lines interact. It is expressing a paradox: emptiness is growing. But as we know, there is no space that is completely empty, and maybe he is reflecting that in older age, he has gained something within to compensate for that physical emptiness.

In terms of sound, the letter “l” in the first two lines give a sense of dignity to his childhood, and the letters “t” and “o” make the bald spot stand out more.

Combining humor with reminiscence and optimism, this tanka showcases a feeling that many have, but often do not put into words, helping readers come to terms with their own aging.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky