Posted in Haiku

Eufemia Griffo’s Frozen Leaves

frozen leaves
a deep silence
within

© Eufemia Griffo (Italy)

(Hedgerow #122, 2017)

For me, this haiku indicates that if we become able to see things from positive a perspective, evil will not remain in our inner self. The “frozen leaves” here stand for a thought process, “silence” stands for the state of tranquility, and “within” is infinity. A portrait of realisation in short.

– Manoj Sharma (Nepal)

There is a beautiful comparison in this haiku. Frozen leaves, where molecular activity has ceased. I can imagine such a deep state of meditation, a state of peace, where not a single thought passes through. Nice assonance in the words too.

– Martha Magenta (UK)

Frozen leaves indicate the lack of movement, motivation, and enthusiasm that makes them less active but not dead. It may be hibernation time where physically there is no activity, but spiritually and mentally, life is fully active. So, it is a transformation period of maturity, where thought processes goes on to the advanced level through meditation, and incubation. The word “within” indicates the process of knowing oneself more.

– Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

I felt a sense of alienation from it. So, I can sympathize with this poem. “frozen leaves” reminds me of long patience. “a deep silence within” shows that it has no voice. The “a” emphasizes “deep silence.” It magnifies “deep silence.”
But “within” … so it is completely divided from the reader.

– Norie Umeda (Japan)

I think the poet sees this moment, leaves being frozen, with a positive spin. The silence can indicate several things: a meditation, a respect for the state of the leaves, or a peace in light of death or frailty.

Usually, we don’t like to have one word for the last line of a haiku, but occasionally we can use this technique to express various feelings. Not only is the last line surprising, and common at the same time (which is often a mark of a fine haiku), but it makes us focus on ourselves as well. What deep silence do we have within ourselves, especially during difficult times? I feel this haiku gives the reader an opportunity to introspect about the peace we have inherently within.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)

Did you enjoy this haiku and/or the commentary? Let us know in the comment section.

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Posted in Haiku

Leatrice H. Lifshitz’s River

the river—
coming to it with nothing
in my hands

© Leatrice H. Lifshitz (1933-2003) (USA)

Profound and well constructed. I can feel the author’s spiritual sense on approaching the river to receive its blessings rather than to act upon it. Easy to relate to this poem.

– Eric Lohman (USA)

Rivers nurture the earth, creating and sustaining life. They symbolize the flow of nature, growth, a journey or life itself. In this haiku, the river is approached with empty hands. This suggests a deeper meaning of the river i.e. the journey towards enlightenment. A very relatable haiku.

– Martha Magenta (UK)

A river is known for its particular direction that flows with a great rhythm persistently. Maybe, the author wants these qualities, more focused, more organised, more optimistic, and more persistence/balance. Overall, I see the author is looking for a well-disciplined life.

I see another aspect (just relating it to my personal experience). In Pakistan, the monsoon season brings devastating results, like heavy floods, where rivers engulf many villages in remote areas, and also bring a lot of mud with them. I can see a man going to the river with nothing in his hands, maybe a victim of that flood that has left nothing in his hands.

– Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

My tai chi teacher has said: “The best things in life you cannot hold in your hands.” This haiku reminds us of this. It also reminds us that in the river of life, it is universal. Some seem to cling to what is “me” and “mine.” This belongs to “me.” This is “mine.” The focus of attention is on the “me,” which is, ultimately, just a thought. And, in the end, nothing belongs to you. Everything you own—your house, your objects, your car, your money—will, one day, be completely out of your hands. So, it is a humbling reminder. More importantly, this haiku seems to remind us that life itself, and living is not about “me” but about something much greater that includes everyone and everything. So, from the personal, we reach the universal. This haiku also brings to mind: giving can only happen with open hands. When the hand of anger is in a closed fist, a person cannot give or receive. So, the haiku reminds us to take it easy, keep our anger at bay and embrace a big-picture perspective. The haiku is ultimately liberating because we arrive at the river of life with nothing, and trust in the great mystery that somehow, someway, serves all things.

– Jacob Salzer (USA)

One cannot step into the same river twice, someone once said. And here, the speaker is heading to the river with no expectations, open to whatever the river has to offer, hands empty, probably a clear mind, ready to receive what the river is about to give. Perhaps the speaker is an ascetic and has nothing, no possessions that he/she can hold, or, merely someone who is just open to new discoveries from a new river that can never be stepped into more than once.

– Dana Grover (USA)

The last two lines leave a mystery for the reader. We wonder what the poet is doing by the river. Bringing something to the river could imply offering something to perform a ritual. Also, the “nothing” could be an abstract or metaphysical “nothing.” So, in a sense, the poet could be bringing something that is “nothing.”

A river flows and keeps going. Maybe the poet wanted to respect this nature of the river by not giving it something that would impede it. Also, by coming without any expectation, the poet is able to observe the river in its “isness” and become one with the experience of perceiving it.

I enjoy the usage of the dash, as it provides the reader with an opportunity to pause and imagine a river. I also appreciate the simple turn in the last line. Too often haiku try to surprise and shock in the third line. A subtle last line often works better.

The most important sense of sound in this haiku is present in the second line with a string of “o”s. They make the reader feel the void with which the writer comes to the river more starkly.

Lifshitz has written a haiku that is easy to gravitate towards and to feel.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)

What do you think or feel about this haiku? Let us know in the comments.

Posted in Senryu

Mark Gilbert’s Ceiling

chemotherapy
those tiny imperfections
in the ceiling

© Mark Gilbert (UK)
Prune Juice, #22, July, 2017

I enjoy the distance between the two parts of the poem: the chemotherapy, and the imperfections in the ceiling. It is just enough separation to create a spark in the reader’s mind. One mistake haiku and senryu writers can make is having the connection between parts be too near or too far apart. This senryu illustrates a fine balance between the two.

Chemotherapy, as you probably know, targets cancerous cells throughout the whole body, unlike radiation and other therapies. This drastic approach is sharply contrasted with the tiny imperfections the poet sees in the ceiling, probably in a hospital waiting room.

The act of noticing these marks in the ceiling has several concepts behind it: it can be an act of thoughtless awareness, it can be the feeling that a small issue can turn into a big problem later, and it can be envy for the minuscule problems of the inanimate compared to human beings. Perhaps, there are other interpretations as well.

The metaphor of a ceiling is stark to me, as cancer patients may feel that their world, or “ceiling,” is crumbling on them. The barrier between Earth and the heavens (sky) becomes less and less definite.

In terms of sounds, the “p” and “i” letters in this senryu seem to be the most prominent. The “p”s in “chemotherapy” and “imperfections” add a punch to the reading. On the other hand, the “i”s in the last two lines make my attention more acute towards the stated image.

Directly from real life, and from a difficult situation, the poet has expressed much in a understated tone, befitting a fine senryu.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky

Posted in Haiku, Senryu

Nicholas Klacsanzky’s New Year’s Eve

New Year’s Eve
and also father’s death anniversary—
I have forgotten both

© Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)

Failed Haiku, April, 2017
(from the book: How Many Become One)

Today, we have a special edition, as we have a father and son commentary team—Mark Salzer being the father, and Jacob Salzer being the son.

1. Obviously, he has not totally forgotten both, else he could not find the words to capture the moment, so I like the irony.

2. “Holidays” like New Year’s Eve, so insignificant in the big picture…dates are so arbitrary.

3. Father’s can be significant people in our lives, but dwelling on the date of death detracts from his entire life and all the entailed moments and meaningful memories.

4. It is good to forget those things that are not so important—live and enjoy the here and now. We all die eventually…embrace that as a part of life, but there is no need to celebrate it per se.

5. Also, it speaks to not concerning ourselves with things outside our control…dates come and go, people live and die….

– Mark Salzer

One of the great things we have as humans is the ability to forget. This haiku reminds us of this. Dwelling in the past seems to separate us from the “now.” It is always now. It is never not this moment. But the mind cannot understand this, as thoughts are only about the past and future. But we want to act now. Then, we can truly live moment by moment.

The past has its place, and can be referred to at times. It is a part of life, and, like my father has said, it’s important to remember meaningful memories. But it is not a substitute for the here and now. A reasonable resolution may be: remember yesterday, plan for tomorrow, but live for today, for the miracle of this moment is all that we truly have.

– Jacob Salzer

Posted in Haiku

Jacob Salzer’s Checkmate

checkmate
shadows become still
on the marble steps

© Jacob Salzer (USA)

Chrysanthemum, No. 19, April, 2016
(from the book: How Many Become One)

Today, we have a special edition, as we have a father and son commentary team—Mark Salzer being the father, and Jacob Salzer being the son.

I would say this is a metaphor for mindfulness.  Our days are filled with many steps—there is a need to pause and be still between the steps.

In dealing with some over-reactive people in my life, I’ve learned to become still, even in the midst of apparent chaos.  I say apparent, because the “emergency” is in their own mind—not real for me, but to empathize, I have to pause and try to understand where they are coming from, their inner “why,”  not react myself with anger or defensiveness…become still on the marble steps before taking the next step, which needs to be a step of compassion most of the time!

– Mark Salzer

This haiku was inspired by Nicholas Klacsanzky. Playing chess is a meditative activity that involves both movement and pauses. Similarly, there seems to be a natural rhythm to living that revolves around a central point, much like the calm eye of a storm. With the growing demands of daily living, I feel it’s important to remind ourselves to pause sometimes, to simply be, watch, and reflect. On one hand, I feel it’s important to be completely immersed in something at times. On the other hand, I also feel it’s wise to sometimes take a step back and observe. The mind appears to be busy producing ripples on the pond, so to speak, but even those ripples are one with the depth of the pond beneath the surface. So, it seems our daily lives are not separate from the mystery. What are “shadows” in this haiku? For me, the shadows are the great mystery itself: something that is permanently beyond the mind or comprehension, beyond the “me.” It is the unknown breathing life into empty spaces.

– Jacob Salzer

Posted in Haiku

Susan Marie LaVallée’s Power Outage

power outage:
everything goes out
but the wind chimes

© Susan Marie LaVallée (1950 – 2011) (USA)
(HSA Newsletter, Volume 27, Number 1 — March 2012)

This is a fine example of focus within haiku. Often, haiku allow the reader to zero in on a specific sense or observation. When something is concentrated on, its full nature seems to unfold. A simplicity of mind, or getting rid of distractions, can be a meditative experience as well. Too often, modern people multi-task. Sometimes we forget to simply experience what is happening to us. And sometimes, nature practically forces us to be present.

In the case of this haiku, a storm took down power lines, and the strumming of wind chimes can be heard. No television, no radio, no other noise, except for the melody the stormy wind is making. In poetry, we mention the song of wind, the whistle of wind, and so on. However, in this haiku, we get a highly illustrative scene where the wind is putting on a show, allowing us to feel the power behind nature.  The writer does not say what the wind chimes sound like, but that is the beauty of it: as readers, we can impose our own imagination into the sound. Strong haiku commonly leave room for readers to internally interact with the imagery and meaning.

I think the use of the colon is interesting. It seems an ellipsis could have been used as well, but the colon brings a unique sense of focus to the second part. The lines are also arranged in a way to make the third line impact the reader more. If the lines were reversed, the effect would not have been as significant. The sound should also be mentioned. In the first two lines, the “o” sounds gives the impression of the flow of the wind, and in the last line, the “i” sounds provides a sense of the sharpness of the wind chimes’ music.

A masterful haiku in its simplicity, economy, and availability for interpretation.

If you want to learn more about Susan Marie LaVallée and read more of her work, please visit: https://livinghaikuanthology.com/index-of-poets/livinglegacies/2686-susan-marie-lavall%C3%A9e.html

– Nicholas Klacsanzky

Do you enjoy this haiku? If so, please write a comment below.

Posted in Haiku

Francesco Palladino’s Flat Sea

flat sea
the sail swollen
with light

© Francesco Palladino (Italy)

What I enjoy most about this haiku is the mixture of serenity and awe one feels while reading it.  With the first line, we have a calm sea (emphasized by the dash). Seeing a calm sea, or a flat sea, is one of the most tranquil things to witness. It puts us into an instant state of meditation.

With the second line, we get a contrast with a sail of a ship being swollen. It is a great use of the word “swollen” and provides alliteration, making the haiku more musical (having a sense of karumi or lightness as well). In addition, the “l” sounds coursing through the haiku make this poem cadenced, much like how a ship goes through the sea. In terms of sound and construction, the poem could be said to illustrate the principle of karumi in its simplicity, grace, and immediacy.

In the third line, we get a surprise that the sail is swollen with light, which gives a fine, awe-inspiring image. The contrast between the calm sea and the epicness of a sail swollen with light gives us a sense of human endeavors among nature’s balance and the ambition of people. Many interpretations can be made, but this is what I feel. Interpretations need not be made in haiku, as well. It also can be seen as a wondrous image that puts us in the moment of the author, thereby providing us with a sense of presence. Often, we forget about the simple joys of perception.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky

Do you enjoy this haiku? If so, please leave a comment.

Posted in Haiku

Elizabeth Searle Lamb’s White Chrysanthemums

pausing
halfway up the stair—
white chrysanthemums

© Elizabeth Searle Lamb (1917-2005) (USA)

The first thing that caught my eye about this haiku is how the juxtaposition between the two parts of the poem can create different meanings. For instance, we don’t know if the white chrysanthemums are pausing, or the narrator pausing. In any case, the dash is used to make the reader feel the pause. It is also interesting to note that the word “pausing” is a single line to allow for more of an interval for the reader.

Another aspect of this haiku that drew me in is the state of meditation it could be possibly pointing to. The narrator could be so entranced with the white chrysanthemums that she has got into a state of meditation where no thought is disturbing her mind. She is simply admiring the beauty of the flowers. Though the chrysanthemum is sometimes referred to as a seasonal reference for autumn, I don’t feel it has any significance for this haiku in particular. However, I can say that the white chrysanthemum could be a representation of the state the author is in: a blank mind, peaceful in its emptiness.

The “a” and “s” sounds in this haiku create further serenity and starkness. The long “a” sounds make for slower, meditative reading. The “s” sounds pop to make this haiku more stark. Also, looking at this poem technically, there is the right amount of words to convey the moment and mood, especially with the formatting of the lines. As I mentioned earlier, even the punctuation helps to express the meaning and atmosphere of the poem.

An entrancing haiku from the “First Lady of American Haiku.” To learn more about Elizabeth Searle Lamb and to read more of her work, visit: https://livinghaikuanthology.com/index-of-poets/livinglegacies/5938-lamb,-elizabeth-searle.html

– Nicholas Klacsanzky

What do you think or feel about this haiku? Let us know in the comments.

Posted in Senryu

Tia Haynes’ Hands

support group
I never know
where to put my hands

© Tia Haynes (USA)
Failed Haiku, Vol. 2, Issue 20, 2017

This senryu has a significant breadth of meaning. On one hand, it brings about a feeling of mystery, where one does not know where the narrator’s hands will go. This type of mystery can put the reader in a state of pure consciousness, as thought cannot comprehend it. Another interpretation is that it is expressing the nervousness we feel in group environments, even groups that are aimed at support (we have all felt this nervousness within groups, and therefore this makes this senryu highly relatable). Lastly, it could be about how people need support equally, and to know who to give aid to is difficult to determine. This could also relate to self-help and collective help. Sometimes, it is hard to decide if we should give support to ourselves or others first.

I think the lack of punctuation works well, as a clear separation between the parts are made between line 1 and line 2 (though traditionally, senryu didn’t use kireji). Also, intuitively, the structure works better with “support group” as line 1 rather than as line 3. Making “support group” line 3 would have made the lines more normal in the short/long/short structure; however, this senryu has more impact and sounds better in the form it is now. At times, you have to use your gut when formatting a senryu or haiku.

Looking at the sound of this senryu, the most prominent sonic features are the letter “o” and “p.” The letter “o” gives an emphasis on the emotion behind the senryu, and perhaps the letter “p” adds importance to the action within the poem. Whatever the interpretation, the author has made this an aesthetic senryu through the use of sound.

A poignant, introspective senryu.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky

Do you enjoy this senryu? You can tell us why in the comment section.

Posted in Haiku

Zdravko Kurnik’s Clear Night

In the clear night
a fisherman pulls in a net
filled with stars.

© Zdravko Kurnik (Croatia) (1937 – 2010)

This haiku showcases the precept “as above, so below” which was first laid out in the Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus. The stars not only rest in the sky, but also in lakes, oceans, and other bodies of water by way of reflection. The fisherman pulls up an empty net, but to his surprise, he catches stars. There are many possible interpretations of this occurrence: there is always good in bad situations, we can achieve celestial awareness if we empty ourselves, sometimes we wish for something mundane but receive something spiritual instead, and numerous other meanings.

However, the word “clear” leads me think about the connection between humanity and nature. This haiku could be implying that when we have a mind and heart devoid of impurity, we get connected to the cosmos, or heaven.

At first I questioned if the first line was needed, as the second and third line imply it. However, the first line sets the scene, and adding the word “clear” into the mix gives more resonance.

You might have noticed that the haiku is written in a more old-fashioned style of English-language haiku, with a capital letter in the beginning and a period at the end. Kurnik wrote during a time when haiku in the West was forming and ideas about what exactly is the West supposed to do with the form was less certain (though we, of course, are still trying to discover and learn more about what English-language haiku is supposed to be). In my opinion, this style does not take away from the wonderful image and its implications.

Also, this haiku could be said to be a one-image haiku, as it not clearly separated into parts. However, sometimes one-image haiku work well, as they carry a strong significance and resonance, like in this poem.

Turning to sound, the letter “n” caught my eye the most, having an almost “pulling” sound. The second letter that seems most important is “l” which also provides the feeling of something being pulled, and also the fullness of which the stars fill the net. This is, at least, my projection. Sounds can mean different things to different people.

Learn about Zdravko Kurnik and read more of his haiku at: https://livinghaikuanthology.com/index-of-poets/livinglegacies/2667-zdravko-kurnik.html

– Nicholas Klacsanzky

Do you enjoy this haiku? Please let us know in the comments.