Deborah A. Bennett’s Linden Trees

cars passing all day 
in between 
the silence of linden trees 

Deborah A. Bennett (USA)
(published previously in Wales Haiku Journal, Spring 2022)

Commentary

The stark comparison between cars and the linden trees in this haiku is a humble reminder of just how loud and fast-paced human life can be. Without notice, trees quietly and efficiently provide oxygen, store carbon, clean the air, and cool down city temperatures with their shade. I see trees as spiritual giants and their resilience is well-portrayed in this haiku. Trees were here long before humans and they do their work, regardless of human beings polluting the Earth on a daily basis. Ultimately, all human beings come and go, but the regenerative power of trees and forests can stand the test of time and has proven to regenerate, even after nuclear power plant disasters and cataclysmic events. This is partly due to the vast mycelium networks underground. Mycelium are master decomposers; they create more depth and nutrient-rich soil, but they also communicate and connect trees and plants in infinitely complex ways that we as humans cannot fathom. 

On the note of interconnectedness, perhaps this haiku can also inspire more people to use alternative ways of transportation that result in less pollution. We are physically made of elements from the Earth. If we see ourselves as not separate from the Earth as isolated individuals, but rather as spiritual beings who are intimately and deeply connected with the Earth and the Great Mystery, then I think more of us will naturally choose to be more mindful and lead better, more meaningful lives.

In short, this is an important haiku that juxtaposes fast-paced human life with the resilient power of Mother Earth and trees. A powerful haiku.

Jacob D. Salzer

Cars passing all day may be symbolic of the rush in our daily lives that revolves around materialism where one is involved in earning money, making a career, and living up to the expectations of the modern fast-paced life. I also see how these cars passing can be linked with pollution. With more carbon emissions and polluted air, we are running after a materialistic life. I can also see how vehicles are defining our social statuses and our routines. This mechanic life where distances become shorter to destinations creates vacuums internally in terms of health, lifestyles, and relationships.

The second line ‘in between’ demonstrates how miserable this life can be. The silence of linden trees might symbolize how we have muted nature, birdsong, and wind, and brought a pause to the natural cycle which is destructive in many ways. The linden tree is a remedial tree that is good for coughs and colds. We have not only destroyed the growth of trees but also ruined the healing process that usually comes from nature. Noise and air pollution have clogged our minds. Sometimes we cannot enjoy the nature around us or see how deeply it has affected us. The destructive aspects of nature can surprise us, as we are not fully attuned to it. So, our real success or progress is not our fast-paced life or technology that facilitates us, but the nature that keeps us moving on naturally and simply. It inspires us to focus more on our genuineness and real potential.

To me, this haiku is about the balance between nature and nurture, which is significant for a healthy and peaceful life.

Hifsa Ashraf

I like how this haiku can be read in various ways due to the pivot in the second line. It can be read as one flowing phrase, or as “cars passing all day” (full stop) and then “in between” (pause) “the silence of linden trees.” Additionally, it can be read as “cars passing all day in between” and then “the silence of linden trees” as a juxtaposition. This allows for multiple interpretations.

With the “silence of linden trees,” I believe this haiku might be placed in autumn. Without leaves, the trees don’t make a sound. The poet could also be speaking of the internal quiet of a tree or that it never speaks.

With a lack of punctuation, the pivot line can work its magic. A lot of haiku use punctuation in place of a kireji, or “cutting word.” However, in this haiku, the lack of punctuation seems to be a benefit.

The length of the lines is not standard for English-language haiku. Usually, it is a short first line, a longer second line, and a short third line. The poet could have placed the current first line as the third line, but that would do away with the power of the pivot in the original version:

in between 
the silence of linden trees 
cars passing all day 

It seems the poet is not so interested in following the standard format and writes haiku organically. This is commonly a sign of expertise.

Sonically, the L sounds carried throughout create a sense of softness. This reflects the silence well. The assonance of the A and E sounds also makes for a mellow reading.

With a combination of a meditative and melancholic feeling, this haiku brings us into a new state of mind that is once relatable and unfamiliar.

Nicholas Klacsanzky

Painting by Philipp Franck, Avenue of Linden Trees

Cristina Rascón’s pueblo remains

peregrine falcons
rising into the blue . . .
pueblo remains



in Spanish:

halcones peregrinos
se elevan hacia el azul . . .
restos de pueblo

Cristina Rascón (Mexico)
(first published in Spanish in the Mexican journal Taller Igitur as a part of a rengay with Michael Dylan Welch called Bandelier)

Commentary

One of the main reasons I am attracted to this haiku is the focus on the term “pueblo.” The term can refer to both “a North American Indian settlement of the southwestern US, especially one consisting of multistoried adobe houses built by the Pueblo people” and “a member of any of various North American peoples, including the Hopi, occupying pueblo settlements chiefly in New Mexico and Arizona. Their prehistoric period is known as the Anasazi culture” (Oxford dictionary). So, this haiku may be speaking of recent remains or ancient ones.

In the context of the rengay the haiku is in, the content could be directly about the Bandelier National Monument. As Wikipedia says, “The monument preserves the homes and territory of the Ancestral Puebloans of a later era in the Southwest. Most of the pueblo structures date to two eras, dating between 1150 and 1600 AD.” Also, this haiku is the last link in the rengay, giving it a poignant finality. In each of the links, birds are mentioned. It is a fine choice to end with such a majestic and grand bird as a peregrine falcon. The preceding link by Michael Dylan Welch is:

a canyon wren
in the pinyon pine

The sound of “pine” from Welch’s link and “remains” from Rascón’s link matches well. The “o” sounds in each link also connect superbly. I also like the lift from the ground (pinyon pine) to the sky (into the blue).

This haiku might also be speaking to remains not only of buildings but also of human bones. According to the Kansas Historical Society’s Migration Magazine, “Many Pueblo peoples were forced to become servants in Spanish homes. Sometimes the Spaniards would cut off one foot of young adult males as a way to control them. The Spanish priests tried to convert the Pueblo peoples to Christianity. They pressured the Pueblo Indians by hanging, whipping, or putting them in prison.” I believe this haiku is speaking about the bleak past of these peoples and the rise of peregrine falcons into the blue sky is a symbol of nature reclaiming the lands. There might be an element of forgiveness or acceptance in this imagery.

I imagine the falcons rising from the remains themselves, akin to a lotus rising from the mud. Europeans have stained the history of these peoples, yet they endure. This haiku bravely provides optimism and beauty in the face of tragedy.

Nicholas Klacsanzky

A peregrine falcon is one of the fastest birds in the world. They hunt small mammals, reptiles, and insects. Symbolically, it has connotations with religion and prestige. I can see how this particular bird could be used to highlight dire situations in countries where there is starvation, war, or some kind of destruction.

I see it more from the perspective of war as peregrine falcons might allude to wrongdoings or a societal crisis due to conflicts and rage. “Rising into the blue” gives me a feeling of danger for people who believe in symbolism or have faith in archaic symbolic meanings and may prepare for the worst. But in this situation, it seems nothing has happened as such. The peregrine falcons rising into the blue may indicate the blue sky or a depressive situation where damage has been done. It shows how we as a society don’t give importance to nature’s sentiments.

In addition, I see the historic element in this haiku as the poet may be referring to something that happened in the past or maybe, a kind of folklore or a fable that revolves around the power and influence of falcons. These falcons could metaphorically depict the power of a clan, a tribe, a political party, or activists who use to influence or rein over the village with autocratic power. “Pueblo remains” is used perhaps to show how historical remains provide lessons to focus on what went wrong in the past and learn something from them—especially in the current era where every country is ready to begin a war without considering the destructive aftermath that may linger for many years and affects many generations.

In terms of punctuation, the ellipsis in the second line lets us imagine the tyranny of the political or societal powers that bring depression and destruction.

Hifsa Ashraf

The peregrine falcons rising into the blue could represent the spirits of the Pueblo people who have passed away and have escaped this world. Thus, this haiku could speak of a spiritual transition into the afterlife.

The rhythm of this haiku has a natural pace that is easy to read or say out loud. The “p” sounds start the first and third lines, which seems to add an echo and more gravity in the poem. Visually, the last line is buried beneath the first two lines, which also is a kind of portal into the remains of Pueblo ancestors whose generations span thousands of years. 

According to one website: “The Pueblo Indians, situated in the Southwestern United States, are one of the oldest cultures in the nation. Their name is Spanish for “stone masonry village dweller.” They are believed to be the descendants of three major cultures, including the MogollonHohokam, and Ancient Puebloans (Anasazi), with their history tracing back for some 7,000 years” (Pueblo Indians – Oldest Culture in the U.S. – Legends of America).

The word peregrine has Latin roots, which adds yet another dimension to the historical meaning of this haiku. 
According to nps.gov: “The peregrine falcon is one of nature’s swiftest and most beautiful birds of prey. Its name comes from the Latin word peregrinus, meaning “foreigner” or “traveler.” This impressive bird has long been noted for its speed, grace, and aerial skills. Now, it is also a symbol of America’s recovering threatened and endangered species” (Peregrine Falcon (U.S. National Park Service)).

Thankfully, this symbolism of hope is based on efficient action that was taken to remove the peregrine falcon from the endangered species list in 1999: “Many people are aware of the population declines of this species due to problems with egg-shell thinning caused by persistent organic pollutants such as DDT. Populations of this species were driven to the brink of extinction and the peregrine falcon was federally listed as an endangered species in 1973. Reducing DDT in our environment provided peregrine falcons with a chance to recover and the population in Alaska has grown rapidly from 1980 to the present. The American peregrine falcon was removed from the endangered species list in 1999” (Peregrine Falcon (U.S. National Park Service)).

The ellipsis in this haiku acts as the break or kireji and provides a pause before the third line. For me, the ellipsis adds mystery as to where the peregrine falcons go and where our spirits go after death into the Great Mystery. 

The poet chose to write pueblo in lowercase. Perhaps this signifies how the pueblo people are deeply unified with their environment versus seeing themselves as ‘above’ the Earth or as conquerors. 

An important haiku with deep historical and spiritual meaning. 

Jacob D. Salzer

“Peregrine Falcon I,” painting, watercolor on paper, by Anisha Heble

Kala Ramesh’s notes

notes trickle
down a riverbed of sand …
the memory of water

Kala Ramesh (India)
 (Highly Commended, Santoka International Haiku and Haiga Contest)

Commentary

This is one of my favourite haiku. It is well crafted with all the necessary flavours of a great haiku that touches all the senses. I loved the way Kala used personification or a hint of surrealism, which lets our minds wander through this imagery and dig deeper into the theme of this haiku.

‘Notes trickle’ is rhythmic and musical to my ears. While reading, I paused for a moment and enjoyed the subtle and soothing sound of water. We all hear the sound of water daily but only a few of us truly listen to it and enjoy the sense of here and now where nothing else matters. It takes us further to the unseen part of this haiku where ‘trickle down’ allows the sound, message, or piece of music to be absorbed into the memory of a riverbed. This is how a haiku connects us to what is ‘beyond seeing’.

A riverbed of sand is the abode of many tiny creatures. It seems its water sings a song or a lullaby for the dwellers of the riverbed. It’s the sound of water that subtly captures the pulse of wind, rain, sunlight, moonlight, or the environment and transforms it into something that only active listeners can feel and hear.

The memory of water could mean a sort of live recording of the true essence of life, where even harsh weather or climate change can’t stop water from singing its songs. There is a lesson here for all of us to see how powerful the language of music is, which nature speaks every day to inspire us to sing along or at least appreciate. It’s a true blessing. Nature never ceases to connect with us through the language of its sound. With memories, we have sound, and it is important to recall the most positive of memories to transform our lives.

I can’t ignore the mystical or meditative side of this haiku. To me, it’s about mindfully focusing and observing every single moment of nature. This helps us to be crystal clear in our thoughts and soothe our minds with music—the most powerful language. If I were there, I would be like a whirling dervish who enjoys every single beat of water and synchronizes my feelings and thoughts with it to show the wholeness of the universe.

Hifsa Ashraf

I appreciate how the first line of the haiku focuses on the sound of water, without saying water outright. The water could be rain, or it could be the slow resurgence of a river that was dried up during a drought. This haiku may be depicting challenges due to climate change or perhaps depict a scene in a desert. If this is a drought and/or in a desert, I feel a sense of desolation and a stark sadness at the sheer lack of water. However, the verb “trickle” has a gentle and natural quality that brings me hope and eases the mind. The first line also leaves room to imagine notes from a musical instrument or perhaps we can hear notes from a bird singing. Even though this is a more abstract interpretation, I appreciate how the musical notes can synchronize with the water’s sound in my mind’s eye.

The second line focuses on the bottom of a river, which we often don’t see, either because of the river’s depth or, unfortunately, due to water pollution. In this haiku, the sand made me visualize a riverbed by the ocean. The riverbed provides a channel for the rain to flow into the sea. As a river loses its shape and merges into the sea, similarly, it seems the individual soul (Jiva) is ultimately on a quest to reunite with universal Divinity (Shiva). 

If this riverbed of sand is in a tropical forest by the ocean, I appreciate how the water in this haiku merges and dissolves into the sand and the unseen depths of the Earth, into unseen roots and fungi networks. There is an infinitely complex matrix that unites a forest and life underground that is nourished and powered by water. Here are two excellent interviews on this subject published in The Sun magazine: Hidden Worlds | By Mark Leviton | Issue 545 | The Sun Magazine and Going Underground | By Derrick Jensen | Issue 386 | The Sun Magazine.

The last line of this haiku has profound depth and universal power. All of life on Earth depends on water. Through the lens of biochemistry, our human bodies are 60-75% water. A person can survive one month without food but wouldn’t survive three days without water (Biological Roles of Water: Why is water necessary for life? – Science in the News). Unfortunately, over 600+ million people on this Earth don’t have access to clean water (Clean Water – Our World in Data). Focusing on the memory of water seems to relate to how water can change forms and disappear throughout eons of time, whether that’s mist evaporating or rain soaking into the Earth. Approximately 71% of the Earth is covered in water. According to one article, “Research funding partly by NASA has confirmed the existence of liquid water on the Earth’s surface more than 4 billion years ago” (NASA – NASA Scientist Confirm Liquid Water on Early Earth). With this in mind, the memory of water reaches far into the ancient past, into the history and birth of this Earth. At the same time, the memory of water in this haiku expresses just how precious and vital it is for our future. 

A powerful haiku with musical overtones that revers and honors the miracle of water.

— Jacob D. Salzer

When I read this haiku, I saw two interpretations: the wind running through a dry riverbed and creating sounds similar to the trickling of water. The second interpretation was that the poet saw the riverbed of sand and projected the music of water onto the scene. This is quite interesting because it illustrates that through our memories, what we perceive is often filtered by our past. It brings a sense of sadness that the only music we hear from the riverbed is from our minds. But on the other hand, it can be positive because it means we can hear beauty through memory even when nature is desolate.

In looking at the pacing of the haiku, we have the standard English-language haiku format of a short first line, a longer second line, and a short last line. This pacing approximately matches the traditional rhythm of Japanese haiku.

The kigo or seasonal reference for this haiku is probably summer due to the dryness of the river. However, the poet resides in India, which has six seasons. It may be in summer (Grishma Ritu), but I am not so knowledgeable about India’s seasons. This haiku might be telling us that even in harsh conditions, our memories can sustain us.

The kire or cut in the haiku happens in the second line with a grammatical shift made in the third line. The poet employed an ellipsis as an approximation of kireji or “cutting word.” The ellipsis seems to show the music being played in the poet’s mind or through the wind. It also symbolizes the continuation of the water’s music being heard despite the dry riverbed.

Since this haiku is about music, it can be expected that the poet has weaved sonic elements into it. The Os, Ts, and Ds stand out the most to me. This creates an interplay of soft and hard sounds, and perhaps this lends to the feeling of the poem being both melancholy and optimistic. When I read the haiku aloud, I hear the softness of the water’s trickle.

Overall, this haiku is a fine example of layered moods and imagery, with musicality in its content and its reading.

Nicholas Klacsanzky

Since Kala Ramesh is also a Hindustani classical singer, instead of artwork, here is a video of Hindustani classical music in Raag Puriya Dhanashree sung by Begum Parveen Sultana. I believe it encapsulates the mood of her haiku:

Kashiana Singh’s iris

regal iris
the purple scar
on my breast

Kashiana Singh (USA)

Commentary

This is a moving haiku that I feel is a portal into many challenges we face as a community. 

The juxtaposition between the regal iris and the purple scar speaks volumes about sensitivity, hope, and healing. Like most flowers, the regal iris is delicate with a beautiful yellow/white design on the petals when it blooms. The delicate connection between the iris flower and the poet brings me hope and a feeling of unity between the poet, the flower, and the Earth. 

The purple scar in this haiku could be from many things. It could be from past physical/domestic abuse, breast cancer surgery, or an accident. My first impression is the poet had breast cancer surgery or a biopsy and is now recovering from the procedure. In this interpretation, I feel the regal iris provides hope and comfort while the poet is faced with a cancer diagnosis (or a potential cancer diagnosis if a biopsy was done). Unfortunately, according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States (source: FastStats – Leading Causes of Death (cdc.gov)) and according to the WHO (the World Health Organization), “In 2020, there were 2.3 million women diagnosed with breast cancer and 685 000 deaths globally. As of the end of 2020, there were 7.8 million women alive who were diagnosed with breast cancer in the past 5 years, making it the world’s most prevalent cancer” (source: Breast cancer (who.int)). In my own family, my mother has friends who are breast cancer survivors. A combination of chemotherapy, surgery, and a positive attitude got them through the treatment until they were cancer-free. I truly believe their positive attitudes and support from family and friends made a real difference in their treatment and recovery. The scars remain but they are like the markings of a true warrior. 

When looking up the color purple in relation to cancer, I discovered: “What color is used for cancer awareness? A light purple or lavender ribbon often is used to represent all cancers as a whole.” Furthermore, “The purple ribbon is most commonly used to raise awareness for animal abuse, Alzheimer’s disease, domestic violence, epilepsy, lupus, sarcoidosis, Crohn’s disease and pancreatic cancer” (source: What color is used for cancer awareness? – Know Breast Cancer). This adds another layer of meaning in regard to the color purple in this haiku. I discovered The Mayo Clinic has a good article on breast cancer prevention and lowering the risks: Breast cancer prevention: How to reduce your risk – Mayo Clinic.

Unfortunately, I also learned domestic abuse is surprisingly common in the U.S., according to an article in The Sun magazine: The Most Dangerous Place | By Tracy Frisch & Finn Cohen | Issue 537 | The Sun Magazine.

All this being said, this is a very touching haiku that speaks volumes about physical abuse, breast cancer, breast cancer recovery, sensitivity, hope, and healing. I greatly appreciate the poet’s vulnerability and hope her purple scar will bloom into much better days ahead. 

Jacob Salzer

Breast cancer is one topic that always remains sensitive and delicate like the disease itself. I have seen people sharing their personal experiences through poetry with some hope, light, and resilience and it is much needed to talk about this issue. In my country Pakistan, this issue recently got some attention as awareness programmes have been initiated by the government, which is a ray of hope for many people—especially women who avoid talking about this issue due to shaming, taboos, myths, or cultural barriers that ends up in a point of no return.

The regal iris is juxtaposed with a purple scar on the breast, which may be used in this poem for two reasons: firstly, the colour, structure, and delicacy that can be linked with breast cancer; secondly, the flower is a symbol of faith and courage. I can see more in it like the word ‘iris’ that is cleverly used in this haiku—maybe keeping in mind that it’s also a ring-shaped membrane behind the cornea and responsible for vision and sight. So, it may be how we perceive, interpret, and deal with breast cancer before and after treatment. Like I said earlier, there are many myths or taboos associated with breast cancer in my country. So, it depends on the perceptions of both the patient and the people in their surroundings.

The purple scar may indicate many perspectives but I will focus on three. First, it may indicate the initial or later stage of breast cancer where the breast gets purple due to the spread of the cancer virus. Second, it may indicate the treatment where the purple scar shows some healing—the slow one in this case. Third, it indicates the socio-cultural perspectives that bruise the life of a patient even if they survive it. Whatever the reason, I see hope and faith in this haiku due to the use of a regal iris that persuades us not to focus on other reasons and allows the life of the person to bloom again fully.

Hifsa Ashraf

I feel the poet used “regal” as both an adjective and as a possible term in taxonomy. Sometimes irises are referred to as regal flowers and even have names such as “prince iris, “queen iris,” and “his royal highness iris.” This may also vary across languages. These types of irises are most likely to be seen in the late spring gardens. So, you could place this haiku in late spring. This seems appropriate for the subject matter, where there is a sense of melancholy with the passing of spring.

For this haiku, there is no punctuation to emulate the kireji or cutting letter. However, the cut between the two parts of the haiku is clear. The fragment of the first line and the phrase of the last two lines are obviously delineated.

The comparison between the color of the iris and the poet’s scar has many implications, as Jacob and Hifsa have elucidated. The power of these two images side by side is that they interact, with beauty and tragedy interweaving. The result is a sort of unison.

This haiku is quite economical, being only eight words and 11 syllables. The lengths of the lines follow the standard for English-language haiku of a sort first line, a longer second line, and a short third line to model traditional Japanese haiku rhythm.

Looking at its sound, the Rs, Ss, and Ls stand out. There is a slant rhyme with “iris” and “breast” which brings a musical quality to the reading. The mood from the sound is somber but highly digestible.

With its color, imagery, sound, and societal relevance, this haiku has potent resonance.

Nicholas Klacsanzky

Irises, 1889, by Vincent van Gogh

Alan Summers’ nightfall

nightfall the key turns into a blackbird

Alan Summers (England, UK)

Publication credit:

First published: Blithe Spirit 31.4 (November 2021)

Article: 

The Unseen Go-Between in Haiku by Alan Summers
Haiku Society of America Haiku Spotlight (January 2022)

Award Credit

Runner up: Museum of Haiku Literature
Blithe Spirit vol. 32 no. 1 (February 2022)

Commentary

I appreciate the mystery (yugen) in this haiku and the possible interpretations. I initially felt a kind of fantasy-surrealism in this monoku. “The key” could be to a door, and if so, a door to what? Is the key a door that leads inside a physical building or room? Is it a key to a door that leads outside a building? Or, is this a key to a psychological door in the poet’s mind or within someone else’s psyche? In one interpretation, I get the feeling the key is turning and opening a locked door in the poet’s house leading outside. I like how the door does not need to be said in the monoku for me to imagine it.

I think “nightfall” effectively sets the tone and a mysterious atmosphere. I also think the double meaning of “turns” adds more depth to the monoku. Did the key physically turn into a blackbird? Or, did the poet open the locked door and simply saw a blackbird at night? Is the poet dreaming or daydreaming? Is this a monoku about the poet reading a fantasy novel? Did the door release a blackbird from a confined physical and/or mental space? Perhaps a limited physical room could symbolize a confined, limited mind or mental concept. When I see the key turn, I feel a door opening and the blackbird is released and disappears into the night. In that sense, perhaps the spirit of the blackbird is a key that opens the door to the Great Mystery/unseen dimensions of life and simultaneously opens the poet’s mind to a different way of seeing. 

If taken literally, I see the key transforming into a blackbird could symbolize how something that appears to be a concrete image (in this case, the key and the blackbird) is actually full of depth and mystery. It’s interesting how a single key can unlock possibilities and also lock a door and protect us from danger. I also get a sense that the blackbird is being honored and respected in this monoku, especially in relation to the night and the Great Mystery. I appreciate how this interpretation resonates with Indigenous spirituality. There are many Indigenous myths and legends about various birds. I also appreciate how this monoku expresses the beauty and importance of having an open mind. The poem encourages us to have the courage to see the world from different perspectives versus staying in our comfort zone and familiar ways of seeing and labeling. An intriguing and powerful monoku. 

 — Jacob Salzer

Nightfall is a shift in the day which brings mysteries with it. Symbolically, it unfolds a different world that manifests our true state of mind and heart. A time when we rarely see things through the lens of others and try to unfold our own stories. A time when we can fully concentrate on what matters the most in our lives. A time when certain realities are revealed to us through introspection or pondering.

Nightfall in this one-line haiku shows the vastness and significance of time, which motivates us to pause and imagine the scene that may look more inspirational and persuasive in this particular poem. The shift in the poem is the ‘key’ which reveals the mystery or unfolds the story; it can be the cognitive process that productively grasps the whole situation and gives flashbacks; it can be the meditative state of mind that unwinds the day’s fatigue by opening the doors of imagination or mysticism and brings some peace; it can be the solution to a problem when a person finds a creative solution and is able to find a way through critical thinking; or, it can be simply daydreaming when a person seeks solace in imagination and manifests their imagination in the most creative and surprising way, which looks magical in the end.

A blackbird symbolizes mystery, death, and magic but it is also significantly considered a sign of spiritualism or transformation. In this poem, nightfall transforms a person’s life where they can turn the key into something that looks more blissful and peaceful.

Overall, the poet challenges our senses to imagine and capture the vivid image of this poem and lets our creative faculties run wild and find how nightfall can spellbound us to see what we want to see or to see beyond seeing.

Hifsa Ashraf

The blackbird in England can be seen year-round. However, their mating season stretches from March up until July. So, perhaps this is a spring haiku. This relates well to the key possibly turning into a blackbird, as spring is a time of transformation. 

There is no kireji or cutting word in this monoku, which is common in English-language haiku that run as one line. There is a clear grammatical break after “nightfall,” though. 

However, you could say the haiku could be read as one flowing phrase, with “nightfall” being a verb that acts upon “the key.” Then, “turns” would be the second part of the haiku. 

“nightfall” also goes well with transformation as many things change during the night. Because of the darkness, things can be perceived differently. A person might imagine a key turning into a blackbird. A person might also imagine turning a key and going into an apartment or house and seeing a blackbird in the darkness. In this respect, the haiku might be speaking about human perception and its possible manipulation or trickery. I feel that the night, the key, and the blackbird are ultimately the same. 

This haiku is succinct with no word out of place. Also, the lovely soft sounds of the letter L contrasting with the sharp tick of the letter T make this haiku musical and layered.

A haiku that begs to be read over and over, it presents an abstract idea in a concrete sense.

Nicholas Klacsanzky

Copyright: © Arte Ivanna

Adrian Bouter’s lakeside mist

lakeside mist
takes the shape of a heron
morning news                 

Adrian Bouter (the Netherlands)
(previously published in Wales Haiku Journal, spring 2022)

Commentary:

The heron is frequently used in haiku for its features, colour, style, and voice in association with people’s realities. The heron can symbolize stability, knowledge, wisdom, and tact, which can be observed in its natural habitat which is usually a lake. Lakeside views are scenic and vivid, and give an overall perspective that is often mesmerizing and mysterious.

Being a nature observer, the poet shows the comparison between lakeside mist with what’s going on with their life, where new and creative perspectives help to filter and understand information such as news. It’s quite meditative, where a person gets relief through living close to nature by not trying to overthink about their situation. It’s obvious to me that the lakeside mist is more symbolic in this situation, where it acts as a canvas where a person paints their feelings—or circumstances are not clear to them.

The shape of a heron shows the delicacy of the situation, which might demonstrate how a person seeks solace in escapism through imagination, assuming the situation is in their control. This also shows how creatively we can solve our problems by merely seeing different but interesting perspectives. Morning news may vary from person to person. In this situation, it looks more like unpleasant or mundane morning news that the poet was not expecting. 

Hifsa Ashraf

I appreciate the mystery (yugen) in this haiku. The lakeside mist evaporating and revealing the heron could mean the news is revealing things that were once hidden from view. On the other hand, I could also see the morning news is the mist evaporating. What is revealed is something as ancient as Mother Earth and the heron. 

I’ve noticed every time I see a heron, he/she is alone. It seems they spend much of their time in solitude looking for fish. I equated this with the poet who also spends much of their time alone with Nature in solitude. 

It seems the morning news on TV or in a newspaper is often filled with negative events. I wonder if this haiku is expressing the poet’s struggle to find a resolution to all the noise of the morning news. This haiku for me shows how Mother Earth and the heron provide peace and solace. The morning news seems to be telling the story of human civilization while Mother Earth tells Her stories without words or thoughts. However, I also like how morning news could be the news of something personal going on in the poet’s life. In that interpretation, it could be good news.

The evaporating mist is a beautiful image that depicts impermanence. I get the stark reminder that our lives and the morning news are, ultimately, as transient as lakeside mist. However, the most beautiful part about this haiku (for me) is the peace and solitude found in both the poet and the heron. I think this is a haiku that encourages us to find peace in the chaos—to discover the calm eye of the storm.

Regardless of our interpretations, this haiku uses sharp images, yet also gives space for us to experience the moment. A strong haiku with meditative, philosophical, and psychological undertones.

 —Jacob D. Salzer

Upon research, herons are quite common in the Netherlands and are often sighted in Amsterdam. It is hard to tell which seasonal reference or kigo this haiku provides, but I would place this perhaps in spring. I can imagine a spring mist on a lake and herons being ubiquitous in this season. This lends power to the phrase “takes the shape of a heron” as spring is a time of new things coming and forming.

There is strictly no kireji or cutting word in this haiku, but the line break in the second line does it enough justice. There is an apparent syntactical break from line two to line three.

The association between morning news and the lakeside mist taking the shape of a heron is intriguing, creating a strong sense of toriawase, or layered juxtaposition. The poet has done well not to make the association too far or too close in connection, which is the essence of the art of haiku.

The length of the lines or pacing of the haiku is standard for English-language haiku, where the first line is short, the second line is longer, and the third line is short. This format emulates the traditional rhythm of Japanese haiku.

In terms of sound, my attention gets pulled toward the “i” and “o” sounds. The sharpness of the “i” contrasts well with the softness of the “o.”

Finally, this haiku follows the principles of brevity and simplicity in language. The feeling or mood of the haiku is easily accessible due to its language and flow. A wonderful haiku overall.

Nicholas Klacsanzky

Mist Over the Lake by Shufu Miyamoto

R.C. Thomas’ silver lining

silver lining—
what the storm takes
from the magpie’s fable

R.C. Thomas (UK)
(Joint First Place, Sharpening the Green Pencil Haiku Contest, 2022) 

Commentary:

Magpies in various fables symbolize being prudent, wise, and cunning. A magpie in a fable, no matter who wrote it, is interesting and has a central place in the story. The bird itself is known for its self-centered nature that it uses to protect itself from threats. This haiku has cleverly placed the nature of a magpie by referring to a fable that centers on it. I may consider the fable as an allusion to empower the rest of this haiku. Irrespective of the discussion about the magpie being considered a good or a bad omen based on natural history, old literature has used this bird significantly in stories, poems, anecdotes, and fables, which shows how frequently it is connected with the daily lives of many people as a social bird.

Silver lining” is symbolically used to represent how easily we can get lessons from the birds around us, perhaps. The magpie, being a prudent and cunning bird, knows how to get something beneficial out of a difficult time, which is no less than a storm. I see a problem-solving aspect here where the poet tries to justify the nature of a magpie by giving it a central position and trying to convince us to see how things work when we use our minds actively and wisely no matter how hard the situation is. It also gives us a sense of realization that we as people are provided with many examples in our surroundings that can help us learn something positive. Just like in old times, people used to write fables inspired by nature and the creatures in their surroundings.

Now coming to the imagery of this haiku, I see it as black and white where the silver lining (light colour) blends with storm clouds (dark colour), and both are linked with the colours of the magpie. This can show how deeply our thoughts are linked with the shades of life and how they can reshape our approach to life.

Hifsa Ashraf

The personification of the storm in this haiku is interesting. I feel the storm is animated and full of Spirit. 
It seems the main message in this haiku is that words have power and have been affecting both humans and non-humans over thousands of years. It seems it is not only the words themselves but the energy, principles, and intentions behind the words that have significance and power. Along these lines, there are many interesting Indigenous myths and stories involving various birds, floods and storms born out of a deep reverence and respect for the Earth. I suspect there are fables about birds and storms in every culture. 

In regards to the storm in this haiku, in the book Black Elk Speaks, the Indigenous Medicine Man named Black Elk talks about his experience being in a colonized city for the first time. He says: “I was surprised at the big houses and so many people, and there were bright lights at night, so that you could not see the stars, and some of these lights, I heard, were made with the power of thunder” (Neihardt, page 135). In the notes, it says: “The Lakota word for electricity is wakhágli ‘lightning,’ hence “the power of thunder” (Neihardt, page 323). In other words, Black Elk had only seen electricity before in the form of lightning and he called storms and lightning Thunder Beings as a form of spiritual energy to be respected with reverence. 

In another interpretation, the storm in this haiku could possibly be a mental storm, perhaps caused and/or partly influenced by the fable itself. Along these lines, I think about the mistranslations and misinterpretations in some fables, and how words can be misused and abused. Unfortunately, as one example, some of the fables and metaphors found in certain religious texts are severely mistranslated and include stories of violence and dominance with a heavy emphasis on sin, fear, punishment and “my way or the highway” thinking. Furthermore, Divine Power is expressed in certain religious texts using only male “He” and “His” pronouns, consequently degrading the beauty and power of women. 

This is a consequence we all pay the price for and has clearly done a great deal of harm. In my view, if both men and women embrace the spirit of sensitivity and compassion within themselves, then we have a chance to make significant progress. 

Despite the negative consequences of certain fables, the silver lining in this haiku tells me the poet sees the bigger picture, and that the fable itself likely includes very challenging circumstances we can learn from. In short, depending on the fable, I see a potential mix of both negative and positive outcomes. Reading the fable itself could also perhaps inspire us to (pun intended) brainstorm better ones. If we look at the definitions of fable, we have: 

1) a short tale to teach a moral lesson, often with animals or inanimate objects as characters; apologue

2) a story not founded on fact

3) a story about supernatural or extraordinary persons or incidents; legend: the fables of gods and heroes.

4) legends or myths collectively: the heroes of a Greek fable

5) an untruth; falsehood: this boast of a cure is a medical fable

6) the plot of an epic, a dramatic poem, or a play

7) idle talk
Source: Fable Definition & Meaning | Dictionary.com

These definitions give us a better idea of what a fable is. In short, I see the word fable as a psychological portal into the human psyche.

The good news is, if the mind is conditioned, it can also be unconditioned. There are, indeed, many ways of seeing the world and many different ways of life. Even if someone has a specific philosophy or spiritual path, my sincere hope is they are also open-minded to other respectful, meaningful philosophies. 
I also strongly feel Mother Earth has many gifts we can all learn from. One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned from Mother Earth is the power of silence. It seems there is great wisdom in being quiet in Nature. This reminds me of a quote by Bashō: “Follow Nature and return to Nature.” Along these lines, when I read “magpie’s fable,” I initially heard stories of the bird’s life through his or her songs vs. human-made fables about the magpie. 

As a final interpretation, if taken literally, I can see light-hearted humor in this haiku as the storm has no ears to hear our human-made stories, nor does the magpie have English words to form the fable. The storm continues, and it will eventually pass, with or without humans and our stories.


Regardless of our interpretation(s), this haiku explores the deep psychological space between the human mind and Mother Earth. I think it also reminds us to be careful with our words and to be mindful of their effects and possible interpretations. An interesting and important haiku. 

 — Jacob D. Salzer

Hifsa and Jacob have explored this haiku in great depth. I’ll briefly comment on the kigo, kireji, toriawase, pacing, and sound of this poem.

The kigo, or seasonal reference, of this haiku could be between August and October since magpies are most active during this time. This makes this an autumnal haiku. The storm adds to this assumption.

The kireji, or “cutting word,” in this haiku is shown as the em dash in the first line. It successfully separates the two parts of the haiku while also giving us time to pause to imagine a silver lining.

The toriawase, or juxtaposition, is the association between the natural and fictional world. The wisdom and ingenuity of the magpie in fables are compared to a silver lining during a storm. A wonderful thought.

In terms of pacing, the length of the lines is a bit different than the standard in English-language haiku because the third line is long while it is usually short. However, the poet wrote the haiku organically and well-framed, because if the first line was placed as the third line, it would not be read as well. Also, the word “takes” is a fine place to cut the line to create suspense.

Finally, looking at the sound of the haiku, the many “i”s and “l”s create a combination of sharp and soft notes. This relates well to the rumble of a storm and the lesson of a fable.

A unique and fresh haiku with significant overtones.

Nicholas Klacsanzky

“Fantasy Magpie Fable.” Acrylic on deep wooden support by John Penney.

Arvinder Kaur’s margosa blossoms

shafts of sunlight
margosa showers blossoms
on the hopscotch

Arvinder Kaur (India)
From her book Fireflies in the Rubble

Commentary

I am honoured to have read Arvinder’s book Fireflies in the Rubble. I also got many opportunities to work with her on various poetry collaborations. Out of many favourite poems, I selected this one for writing a commentary on. Like Arvinder, I feel nostalgic when I read this poem. There are many hidden feelings in this haiku that create yugen but still one can easily connect deeply with the overall imagery therein.

Shafts of sunlight are perhaps glimpses of the past—especially of childhood—that follow and bind us with sweet bitter memories. I also see this line as a reflection of one’s childhood status that put her in the spotlight as the center of her family. It also depicts subtlety about the particular place or venue, which is probably in the poet’s house. We have been given a full margin to let our imagination run wild and think of the place where sunlight highlights the significance of certain places that may stick to our minds and pull us towards them whenever we reminisce about them.

The margosa or neem tree is connected with healing and health as various parts of this tree are used in many home remedies and for herbal treatment. A margosa showering blossoms can look like the rain of flowers or an abundance of flowers that bring healing to unseen wounds or pain. I see it more as a sign of blessings where one enjoys one’s childhood without any worries and lives a carefree life.

The hopscotch is not simply child’s play but may also be a puzzle that takes us back and forth (memories) to solve them. It involves both physical and mental faculties when one plays it. I can imagine it as one of the most significant times of life where margosa blossoms may metaphorically be related to the laughter of children who are enjoying the early part of life with their friends and family. So, from sunlight to margosa and from margosa to hopscotch, I see the involvement of the key elements of nature, sky, wind, and earth, which shows the vastness of this haiku and the way our thoughts and feelings play around with them through either memories or imagination. 

In terms of the sound, the letter ‘s’ provides the tone of mystery and subtlety of this haiku, which is gracefully written about and allows us to explore more about this childhood story. 

Hifsa Ashraf

I appreciate the contrasts in this haiku: the formless light and the heavy, dense sidewalk; the dark clouds and shafts of light; the grey clouds and the vibrant rainbow of chalk colors; the soft blossoms and the hard concrete. When I read “shafts of sunlight,” I see the light breaking through holes in a cloud or in the spaces between clouds. I appreciate how the dark clouds could be implied in this interpretation. 

While hopscotch is normally found on sidewalks or city streets, I could also visualize the hopscotch in a narrow alleyway in a city, and the shafts of light could be formed by the steep buildings. In this interpretation, somewhere in the city, the wind has blown these beautiful flowers into what was once a dark alley that may often go unnoticed. 

When I looked up images of “neem tree flowers” online, the flowers remind me of stars. They are white and each flower has five petals. As the flower petals fall in abundance, I get feelings of hope, joy, and optimism that better days are yet to come. 

The descent of the flowers reminds me of how brief our human lives are. Our bodies will eventually dissolve back into the earth, just like these beautiful flowers. This is juxtaposed with the youthful energy that hopscotch brings to mind, along with childlike innocence and imagination. In this sense, I see life cycles in this haiku. To echo what Hifsa has said, perhaps this haiku could speak of returning to our childlike imagination, to dream like we did when we were children, and to find beauty in simple things. Perhaps this haiku could also be a metaphor for nonattachment and letting go, as the flowers are released from the neem tree, taken by the wind. 

In short, a poignant haiku that speaks to impermanence, hope, and finding beauty—even in dark times. 

Jacob D. Salzer

The seasonal reference, or kigo, is most likely spring due to blossoms being mentioned. Hopscotch is also representative of fun and play that is common in spring and possibly summer.

I admire the “as above, so below” aesthetic with shafts of sunlight (above) being compared to showering blossoms landing on the hopscotch (below). The sunlight gives energy and life to the margosa tree in streams of light and the tree later “streams” down in the form of blossoms. The ending image is wonderful with nature playing a human game, even though it is done inadvertently.

There is no kireji or punctuation to represent a “cutting word” to separate the two parts of the haiku. However, the line break after the first line creates a separation between the fragment and phrase. If it were me writing the haiku, I might have added an ellipsis to illustrate the motion of the showering blossoms. But, this is a stylistic choice rather than a necessary one.

The length of the lines is common for English-language haiku, with a short first line, a longer second line, and a short third line to represent the traditional rhythm of Japanese haiku approximately.

What I find intriguing is a lack of an article in the second line before “margosa” because, in my head, I add “a margosa.” However, with three (possible) nouns in a row, it could be read as “margosa, showers, blossoms” or “margosa showers, blossoms.” I believe the poet wrote it in a way with an intuitive article, though.

This haiku is teeming with positivity within its layers and imagery. I wish Kaur the best with her new book, Fireflies in the Rubble, and I hope her good energy spreads far and wide.

Nicholas Klacsanzky

You can purchase Kaur’s book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Fireflies-Rubble-Arvinder-Kaur-ebook/dp/B09THDGWC4

Front and back cover of Kaur’s “Fireflies in the Rubble”

Mona Bedi’s pottery class

pottery class
i embrace the broken
pieces of me

 — Mona Bedi (India)
First Place, Indian Kukai, #38, 2022

Commentary

The overall imagery of this haiku is apparent as there is little mystery involved here. But, it gives us deep feelings about the self, often known as the inner self. It’s an introspection where the poet has created an analogy between her feelings about herself with pottery. Clay is the element that binds us to this haiku in many ways. If it is introspection, the poet may try to share her broken self, flaws, past experiences, hardship, etc. Taking a pottery class can be taken as catharsis where the focus is not only giving venting feelings and emotions but also reshaping or remoulding the self that is still suffering or dissatisfied and trying to find peace. There is a glimpse of wabi-sabi in this haiku where you accept yourself the way you are as the word ‘embrace’ indicates and focuses on self-healing by practicing optimism and positivity.

The mystic element in this haiku is also obvious in this haiku where the words ‘pottery’ (clay), ‘broken pieces’, ‘I’, and ‘me’ depict how silently one passes through the process of transformation and goes beyond nothingness gracefully. According to Sufism, the connection between the self and clay is quite subtle and deep. It shows the humility and modesty of being, where deep understanding takes us on the journey of ‘knowing thyself’.

The sounds of ‘p’ and ‘m’ in this haiku may depict the rhythm of the thoughts and feelings that are still not on the surface. The letter ‘i’ may show how humbly and keenly a person makes themselves ready to pass through the journey within, which can take them from unknown to known. 

Hifsa Ashraf

This is a powerful haiku that expresses psychological healing and recovery. I feel acceptance and self-love in the phrase “i embrace the broken pieces of me.” In this haiku, “broken pieces” seem to be symbols for past psychological trauma that carry a heavy connotation. However, the word “embrace” gives me a vision of all the broken pieces coming together, while still honoring each piece as a unique place in our being. Furthermore, in a pottery class, there is a sense of community with the students and teacher. It seems this inclusiveness brings psychological cohesion and unity where the poet is no longer alone on her path of healing.

Along these lines, this haiku immediately brings to mind the ancient Japanese art of kintsugi. Here are some quotes that demonstrate how powerfully kintsugi relates to this haiku: 

Kintsugi (golden joinery) is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum, a method similar to the maki-e technique. As a philosophy, it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.” “Kintsugi became closely associated with ceramic vessels used for chanoyu (Japanese tea ceremony). As a philosophy, kintsugi can be seen to have similarities to the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, an embracing of the flawed or imperfect. Japanese aesthetics values marks of wear by the use of an object. This can be seen as a rationale for keeping an object around even after it has broken and as a justification of kintsugi itself, highlighting the cracks and repairs as simply an event in the life of an object rather than allowing its service to end at the time of its damage or breakage. Kintsugi can relate to the Japanese philosophy of “no mind” (mushin), which encompasses the concepts of non-attachment, acceptance of change and fate as aspects of human life.” “Not only is there no attempt to hide the damage, but the repair is literally illuminated… a kind of physical expression of the spirit of mushin….Mushin is often literally translated as “no mind,” but carries connotations of fully existing within the moment, of non-attachment, of equanimity amid changing conditions. …The vicissitudes of existence over time, to which all humans are susceptible, could not be clearer than in the breaks, the knocks, and the shattering to which ceramic ware too is subject. This poignancy or aesthetic of existence has been known in Japan as mono no aware, a compassionate sensitivity, or perhaps identification with, [things] outside oneself.

— Christy Bartlett, Flickwerk: The Aesthetics of Mended Japanese Ceramics”
Source: Kintsugi – Art of Repair | Traditional Kyoto

With kintsugi in mind, it seems traces of past trauma may never be fully erased from our individual and collective memory. However, by joining the fragmented parts of our self, I feel the broken pieces can become transformed or transmuted into a larger sense of purpose and unity. In this haiku, it seems the sharp edges that once defined each piece have now blended into a deeper compassion. Perhaps by mending the pieces together, we can also recognize the lessons our past has given us to help protect ourselves and prevent future harm. Interestingly, while this haiku is personal, I think the healing theme of this haiku could apply to families and larger communities that appear to be fragmented or broken. As one example, in some areas of life, I see the United States of America as a divided nation because so many subjects seem to divide people. With this in mind, if we consider thinking of this haiku with the phrase: “i embrace the broken pieces of my family,” “i embrace the broken pieces of my community,” or “i embrace the broken pieces of my country,” perhaps these could be healing phrases for a larger community context because it seems the first step to healing is acceptance—recognizing the broken pieces as they are. 

Along these lines, it seems fragmented communities start with fragmented individuals. If peace and unity are felt within individuals (if their broken pieces are mended together within their own self), then it seems that fragmented unity will be reflected in the world. In short, it seems larger community healing starts from within each individual. Fortunately, according to quantum mechanics and several philosophies, we are not alone and the sense of being an isolated, separate person or individual is not as concrete as it appears to be. Rather than supporting rigid individuality, science and several philosophies—including indigenous ways of life—tell us that all of life is connected.
 
In regard to quantum mechanics, here is a powerful quote that resonates with this haiku: “When quantum systems interact, the result can be the creation of quantum entanglement: their properties become so intertwined that a description of the whole solely in terms of the individual parts is no longer possible.” Source: Quantum mechanics – Wikipedia 

Along these lines, it seems by embracing the broken pieces within us, eventually, even the very sense of “me and mine” as a mental concept may ultimately dissolve into a spiritual energy that is universal. 

In short, this is a powerful haiku that speaks of acceptance, compassion, and healing. I feel it also symbolizes the gifts of our individuality in the context of a universal consciousness. 

Jacob Salzer 

I have little to add after such excellent and deep commentary from Hifsa and Jacob. I would like to comment on how this haiku is kigoless, or without a seasonal reference. This is definitely fine, since haiku written without kigo goes back all the way to Matsuo Basho and more specifically with the free verse movement of haiku in Japan. I would not say this is a senryu because it is not irreverent or cynical in nature.

Though there is kireji or punctuation acting as a “cutting word,” it is implied by the line break in line one. As Hifsa noted, there is no juxtaposition here but rather an association between the clay and our bodies or self. The length of the lines follow the standard for English-language haiku with a short first line, a longer second line, and short third line to match the traditional rhythm of Japanese haiku.

As Jacob discussed, I think it is important the poet decapitalized the “i.” It is a way to step away from the ego and to distance oneself from egoic thought.

The enjambment, or break in thought, on the second line is unique. In haiku, we don’t usually use enjambment, but I believe it works well here. The word “broken” is appropriately broken off from the rest of the phrase. Perhaps it lends to separate readings for the last two lines, respectively.

A clear haiku that strikes deep emotional and philosophical tones.

Nicholas Klacsanzky

Image from Wikipedia Commons

John Pappas’ fossil galaxy

fossil galaxy
headlights speed 
from dark to dark

John Pappas (USA)

Commentary

A common understanding of a fossil galaxy is that it’s a remnant of an older galaxy that existed within a current galaxy. It’s something left behind after many years for us to think over, get some lessons from, and see how things are temporary and worthless over time.

When I see a fossil, my thoughts go back to a time when that fossil had a life—maybe even an integral part of life or the environment at that time. A question comes to my mind: “why does nature preserve fossils for us?” There is a simple logical answer: “so that we can remember our history or past.” A fossil galaxy shows us the marvel and perhaps the waste of this universe that discards many elements with time but doesn’t abandon them—estrange its parts but allow them to be present.

Life is like that for us: we discard many things that were once the most valuable part of our lives but they keep circling our minds. Certain things get preserved in our memories like a fossil. We may not give attention to them, but they may elate or haunt us in the later part of life. So, I take ‘headlights speed’ as flashback memories that come to remind us of what’s in our past and how we reach this point after passing through, dark to dark. The word ‘dark’ may depict dreams (particularly nightmares) that remind us of the remnants of difficult times we try to push back in our heads.

However, the connection between our mind and space is so deep as can be observed in this haiku, where we try to connect with the galaxies outside and the galaxies within through our thoughts, memories, reasoning, logic, and analysis being an integral part of this universe. The dark is a background, whether it is our life or space that brings our history to light.

Hifsa Ashraf

It seems there are galaxies within galaxies—both inside of us and beyond us. This idea is poignantly brought down to earth, quite literally, in this haiku but also (pun intended) leaves space for our imagination and dreams. 

The fragment of this haiku “fossil galaxy” is intriguing, as it marks traces of an ancient galaxy. I also interpret “fossil galaxy” as the Milky Way Galaxy when the dinosaurs roamed Earth. In both interpretations, I appreciate the time-warp perspective in this haiku. 

The phrase “headlights speed from dark to dark” brings to mind a time-lapse of a highway, with cars moving at night and I see stars rotating above. “from dark to dark” could relate to the pollution caused by cars and other motor vehicles, unfortunately contributing to carbon in Earth’s atmosphere and climate change. If we look at the lifetime of a car, it originates from the darkness of Earth via raw materials; then factories produce pollution under the hum of electricity; then some parts of the motor vehicle are buried back into Earth. The good news is most parts of cars are recycled.

According to popularmechanics.com: “Fed by annual new-car sales that hover around 17 million, the U.S. automotive recycling industry reclaims some 750 million pounds of scrap each and every month…The automobile is the most recycled consumer product in the world — 95 percent of all vehicles are reclaimed. The rate far exceeds the numbers for recycling giants such as newspaper (74 percent), aluminum cans (51 percent) and glass (22 percent). And much of the reclaimed material winds up back in new cars: Coffee-stained carpeting becomes air-cleaner assemblies and chewed-up tires morph into brake pedals and floor mats…Still, as much as 25 percent of each car ends up in landfills. That’s largely because landfill space is still relatively cheap and the technologies to recover nonferrous material are still expensive.” Source: Where Your Car Goes to Die (popularmechanics.com)

“from dark to dark” could also be interpreted as returning to The Great Mystery or the Unknown. It shows just how brief our human lives truly are in the grand scheme of things. From one perspective, even a billion years is equivalent to a microsecond. For some, there could perhaps be a divine comedy in this view. 

In terms of “headlights speed,” I thought of all the devices we use that operate at close to the speed of light, such as sending text messages with our phones or sending an email. “It’s the electromagnetic wave rippling through the electrons that propagates at close to the speed of light…This makes the observable speed of electricity about the same as the speed of light: 186,000 miles per second.” Source: Quick Answer: Does Electricity Travel At The Speed Of Light – BikeHike (cyclinghikes.com)

It’s interesting to note that some stars have actually burnt out, but because they are so far away, their light still travels and appears to our human eyes on Mother Earth.
 
Interestingly, it seems galaxies are not just “out there” but also internal in our subconscious and our dreams. Just as a single seed gives birth to an entire forest with innumerable trees, it’s been said that the subtle samskaras or mental impressions give birth to innumerable worlds. This offers a different perspective because instead of the world and galaxies solely being seen as “out there,” they could also be seen as an internal/eternal phenomenon. 

Regardless of our interpretation(s), this is a haiku with depth, modern implications, and mystery. 

Jacob D. Salzer

With the desolation shown in this haiku, I would place the kigo or seasonal reference in either winter or fall. That being said, I’m not sure the implied kigo is that important to the quality of this haiku. In Japan and around the world, many haiku have been composed as kigoless.

Though there is no punctuation used, the line break in the first line could be said to represent a kireji or cutting word (though more accurately stated as a cutting character or sound) that shows the delineation between the two parts of the poem.

The two sections of this haiku are not too closely or too loosely connected, which illustrates the art of toriawase. The dark of the night connects with the dark of the universe. “Speed” can fit well with the idea of the speed of light. It is up to the reader, though, to see these connections and to see how they resonate with them. Well-written haiku like this one allow the reader to fill in their own gaps, though the poet leads them on certain paths of discovery.

Pacing in this haiku is pretty much standard for English-language haiku: a short first line, a longer second line, and a short third line. However, as we can see, the third line is a tiny bit longer than the second in this haiku. That’s fine because the traditional rhythm is kept with the elongated syllables in the second line.

In terms of sound, the most prominent letters are “l” and “d.” The “l” sounds provide a lightness to the reading as if to illustrate the ephemeral nature of the universe. On the flip side, the “d” sounds give a punch that brings about a sense of seriousness.

This is a unique and relevant haiku with potent imagery that drills deep into our imagination and search for meaning.

Nicholas Klacsanzky

Image credit: Alan Dyer /VW PICS/Universal Images Group via Getty Images