Michael Morell’s Winter Solstice

winter solstice
i walk the labyrinth
of my mind

Michael Morell (USA)

This poignant and deep haiku reflects the melancholic feelings of a person who is reminiscing about his past and/or battling circumstances where he is indecisive. The opening line ‘winter solstice’ gives strong feelings of the darkness or shortness of life, where a person is having gloomy experiences. Winter solstice also may indicate the colorless life or annihilation.

The poet who walks through the labyrinth of the mind could be passing through deeper-self-oriented experiences, trying to analyze every aspect of his life by getting involved in his thought process. The mind here may indicate memories that sound traumatic and that create obscure feelings. The labyrinth could be a curiosity, guilt, or conscience that persuades the person to go deeper into the core of those thoughts and memories that take him to the verge of nowhere.

The walk during the winter solstice reflects the fog around him, where he, both within and outside, wants to see the other side of the fog. This may also be a therapeutic and introspective experience that brings the person close to his essence by critically analyzing his thoughts and feelings.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

I enjoy that the connection between the two parts of the haiku is multifaceted. Since a winter solstice occurs in mid-winter, it can easily be correlated to the feeling of someone traversing the labyrinth of one’s mind. In this condition, you can feel stuck and lonely, and maybe lost. A winter solstice also points to the shortest day of the year. Though the mind is more of an abstract, microscopic universe, it can easily become a contorted maze. Also, it is great how the mood of the poem is greatly enhanced by the juxtaposition.

In terms of sound, I noticed the “w” letters quick. They give a sense of strength and slow down the pace a bit, which is fitting for the imagery. Also running through the haiku is the letter “i,” which makes the reading sharp and possibly cold (reflecting the season). Also, the lack of punctuation works well and the lowercase “i” fits in just fine. It diminishes the attention on the poet himself and more on the experience being written about. Lastly, I just want to say how wonderful it is to have the word “labyrinth” in a haiku. It is a rare word in this genre and hard to use. The poet has employed it in a great way, in my opinion.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)

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The Light Returns by Karen Whitworth


Sandip Chauhan’s Moonbow

moonbow . . .
in a grain of wheat
a farmer’s song

© Sandip Chauhan (USA)

2nd Place, 2014 International Matsuo Basho Award for Haiku Poetry

This haiku starts with subtle feelings. The writer takes us to the world where serenity tickles all the elements of nature. Watching a moonbow itself brings delightful feelings with the deepest effects. The arc of the moonbow reflects the mesmerizing impact of beautiful things around us that bring blessings in our lives. It also is a kind of celebration and/or reward for the hard work one has done in the field.

In a farmer’s life, the only thing that can bring true blessings and happiness is a golden crop that manifests his or her wishes to fulfill his or her desires. A grain of wheat symbolizes prosperity and wealth, where every grain is full of life. No one else can understand this better than a farmer who has given his or her days and nights to bring golden grains to their final stage, when they are called a treasure of life. The farmer’s song on the harvest day indicates that harmony and genuineness of things that complement each other. The moonbow in the sky, the grains in the field, the song a farmer sings as a whole, displaying a perfect picture of the ideal harvest day.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

A moonbow is reminiscent of the moonlight on a sickle when, in my country, the wheat is harvested in the light of the full moon so as not to face the June sun. During the night, from the valleys behind the last houses of the village, come the songs of the peasants. In the morning, someone gives us an ear of wheat to wish us luck and that calloused hand slips a little grain and shows it to us with satisfaction.

I found everything in this beautiful haiku. I found the sowing, the harvest, the hope, and also the fear of a farmer who lives a life tied to the seasons and the whims of time. I found our life connected to the seasons and the harmony of a world that follows the cyclic repetition of natural events—a world intimately linked to zoka. A large-scale haiku, in which it is possible to dive in-depth and that transmits calm and serenity with a few simple words.

Margherita Petriccione (Italy)

To me, this reads as a hokku because, in the fragment, there’s a beautiful image followed by a phrase that speaks to me about the sense of time, perhaps fleeting, followed by the ma (thinking space) which are known techniques used for this style of poetry that predates haiku.

I couldn’t find “moonbow” as a kigo reference but this rainbow phenomena happens with moonlight instead of the sun and often appears near waterfalls on a near-to-full moon. So, in a sense, it could be considered a micro kigo which is associated with certain parts during the day e.g. dawn, mid-noon, sunset, etc. But in this case, it’s monthly via the phase of the moon.

What also interested me about this poem is the lack of juxtaposition between the fragment or phrase or in the fragment itself, which further solidifies my thoughts that this is a hokku where there’s “no trickery” in terms of zoka. That is another aspect to this style of writing which Basho is known for. I think his “old pond” hokku did not have juxtaposition either but instead utilized a great use of space and sense switching which led to many scholarly debates.

One can easily argue that this is a haiku as well from a Shiki point of view, who also didn’t use any tricks. Then again, she didn’t use much or any space in much of her work as well.

The phrase is open to interpretation. Perhaps it’s the end of a bountiful harvest or the opposite. It could be a song of jubilation or a somber one with or without the view of a moonbow. Whether this is a haiku or a hokku, the author wrote something very interesting with a beautiful opening line and an intriguing phrase to dive in and ponder on.

Fractled (USA)

I think this haiku is reflective of William Blake’s poem “Auguries of Innocence.” Here is a famous excerpt:

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.

However, Chauhan’s haiku provides a less direct approach and aesthetic, which is common in finely written haiku. She is comparing the subtle, magical, and mystical event of a moonbow with a farmer’s song in a grain of wheat. One might ask how it is possible for a song to be in a grain of wheat. It does seem a bit fanciful but really it isn’t. The vibration of the farmer’s voice can easily physically enter into the wheat. But I think we don’t want a science lesson, so it is better to talk about what this image implies.

Not only does it reflect an interconnection between humanity and nature but also the cause and effect relationship there is between all things. This haiku can call attention to our actions, whether they are positive or negative. In the case of this poem, the (assumed) joy of the farmer is transferred to the grain of wheat and vibrates with positive energy, so to say. A moonbow, with its subtle stream of colors, is also representative of a synthesis of things.

Overall, the mood is cheerful and mystic. The last line surprises the reader and this astonishment brings a sense of wonder. This is a common goal for many haiku poets: to induce wonder in our readers.

Lastly, it works great technically. The ellipsis in the first line allows the reader to pause to imagine the wonderful sight of a moonbow. In terms of sound, the “o”s work fantastically to create a sense of the length of the moonbow and the song of the farmer. Also, the three “r”s give it a twang that is reminiscent of the language of a farmer.

A delightful haiku that is at once spiritual, joyful, and a celebration of the ordinary.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)

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– Art by © Hiroshi Yamamoto

Elliot Nicely’s New Love

new love . . .
offering the firefly
cupped in my hands

(first appeared in the 2018 Holden Arboretum Haiku Path)

© Elliot Nicely (USA)

We start off with a romantic theme. The use of the ellipsis gives way to thinking about feeling the joy of being in love and bathing in it. It also allows the reader to remember his or her first love and what that felt like.

Then we get into contact with nature. I like the use of “offering” as it is poetic and fits the mood of the first line. I also enjoy the “f” and “i” sounds in this line.

But let’s get into the subject of the firefly. New love is transient, much like the lifespan of a firefly and the light it emits. Offering it to his new lover is poignant. It can symbolize the beauty of something so fleeting yet so enrapturing.

The third line adds to the reverence with which the firefly is offered. “cupped” shows care and also could be a comparison with the “bulb” of the firefly. In addition, the solid “d” sounds in this line add more weight to the last line.

It’s a haiku with a distinct mood and atmosphere. I think Nicely captured the feeling of a new love well with his choice of words, sounds, and imagery.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)

“new love” could be the first, could be the last, it could be a fragile bud after a disappointment, delicate and perhaps ephemeral, like a firefly.

The hieratic gesture of offering the firefly in cupped hands seems to be a part of a pagan ritual. The heart burns to be consumed on the altar of feeling, just as the light of the firefly is consumed in the ritual of mating.

A very simple haiku without sentimentality and, within the limits of the subject treated, with the right amount of detachment.

Margherita Petriccione (Italy)

This haiku to me can be seen in two ways. Without the ellipsis, it reads like a run-on sentence and where there are possibly two people enjoying the presence of a (ホタル) firefly, which is a kigo word for mid-summer to early autumn in Japan. It’s a lovely image if read as an ichibutsujitate haiku (single image with a run-on sentence).

What intrigues me about this haiku is that the ellipses somewhat forces me to pause where I see another interpretation that perhaps the person is alone and finds compassion for the firefly cupped in their hands. The juxtaposition in this haiku is in the phrase, which contrasts and then harmonizes with the first line because the word “firefly” in Japan is also a metaphor for passionate love which contradicts my thoughts of this person being alone. Since there’s a juxtaposition, it now reads as an ichimonojitate haiku, which is still a single-image run-on sentence poem if the ellipses are ignored (there is an ichibutsujitate and an ichimonojitate, which sounds the same, but the latter has a juxtaposition).

Lastly, I like the sound of the haiku between the vowel “o” and “i,” and between that, the words “firefly” and “my.”

Fractled (USA)

If we consider Japanese culture, there are two symbolisms of fireflies. First is love and the second is the souls of dead soldiers who died in the war (“war” here indicates World War II).

If we stick to the first meaning, the fragment evokes an image of first love. The innocence and freshness of first love, along with fireflies, works very well as a spring kigo. The writer knows that adolescent innocence is transient and so is the magic of first love—still she surrenders to the beauty of love by offering fireflies to her beloved. The act of offering fireflies is a poignant metaphor of the fragile courage in giving your heart to someone for the first time.

But if we keep the second interpretation of fireflies in Japan in mind, the meaning of the haiku changes entirely. Now, we know that “new love” is not first love. It is most probable that someone dear has died in the war and the act of offering fireflies to the “new love” is a metaphor for offering memories of ceased love to move forward. The haiku thus becomes a bittersweet expression of human resilience.

Pragya Vishnoi (India)

The feelings of being associated with a new person, along with expectations and hopes, are obvious in this haiku. The word ‘new’ reflects the beginning of a new life that may or may not be associated with the past. Love is an endless journey where a person passes through an evolution process of knowing what is best and that makes him or her move from one relationship to another.

The firefly symbolizes moving through darkness with the light of hope and the rejuvenating emotions that silently seep into one’s heart during the night. It may also reflect the dreams of love that a person yearns for throughout his or her life. Cupped hands, in this case, may reflect capturing a moment of love—holding fast to beliefs and prayers for the fulfillment of desires and longings.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

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“Lightning Bugs” by Tomas Philips


Michael Dylan Welch’s Frisbee

a floating Frisbee—
the river widens
as it nears the sea

© Michael Dylan Welch (USA)

(Published in “Nesting Dolls,” the 2018 Yuki Teikei Haiku Society annual members’ anthology)

A floating Frisbee… in water or in the air? The image of this Frisbee remains mysteriously suspended, as the power of the river appears suspended when reaching the limit of its course, it spreads beyond the banks dividing into a thousand rivulets, almost reluctantly…. The river and the sea are made of the same substance at the bottom, even though each has its own identity—yet in the culminating moment of total unification, it seems the river draws back.

I can’t penetrate the emotion that pushed the haijin to write this verse, but I have had the same feeling when, during a form of meditation, I feel that something is blocking the overcoming of my mental conditioning and hindering my awareness. The poem engaged me with its melodious rhythm and aroused feelings from heart to heart as with the best haiku.

Margherita Petriccione (Italy)

While some may scoff at the double article word “the,” how this rhymes, the use of two verbs, and what reads as “matter of fact” in the phrase of this ku, one must combine the three lines and loosen their grip on the rules to see that content matters more, which this haiku has plenty of.

Starting with the first line, note that the word “Frisbee” is capitalized, which to me instantly conjures an image of a concave disk that’s used as a pastime or for sport (ultimate) with an emphasis especially with the em dash after the word.

In combination with the phrase where the magic begins, I wonder if the frisbee as defined exists at all in the haiku. The frisbee could also be a whirlpool, hurricane, or a tornado where all have concave disk shapes that spin as a frisbee does, widening the river as it floats to the sea. Perhaps the frisbee does exist but I asked myself, “can it widen a river or is it the writer’s intention to juxtapose an object with the unsaid images not written in the haiku for the reader to fill in?” If so, it’s a masterful technique the author used very well.

Lastly, I believe the technique of “narrowing focus” was used in this haiku but in reverse. Rather viewing it from the top down, in this case, the sea is the wide lens, the river is the normal one, and the frisbee’s focal point is the narrow one, which makes this write all the more interesting.

Fractled (USA)

It takes a lot of time to understand the depth of a haiku that is written by a haiku master.

This well-constructed haiku reflects the depth of creativity and imagination.
One aspect of it gives me the image of a gliding frisbee that floats freely like our happy feelings and cheers us up both by our recreational and aesthetic senses. When someone is carefree, calm, and relaxed, he or she loves to enjoy the bounties of life and imagine life as free as a flying frisbee.

The other two lines of this haiku show the depth of our feelings that may initiate with a small action but it has a ripple effect. The river may look like a wide smiling face with profound effects that can bring great inner satisfaction.
The other side of this haiku could be a kind of cyclone that may look like a frisbee and bring turbulence in the river’s waters before it ends up in the sea.

Also, the capital letter ‘F’ in frisbee is intriguing, which may reflect the association of the writer with a particular type of frisbee.

Overall, this haiku is a combination of our cheerful feelings or childhood memories that bring its deep effects on our mind and heart.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

Although I am an editor, I did not know before reading this haiku that “Frisbee” is sometimes capitalized. Since it is a registered trademark of the Wham-O company, it is indeed capitalized. Knowing that Welch is an editor, I admire him for sticking to the original.

Anyway, the first line is meditative. The reader takes in the movement and floating of the Frisbee more with the em dash, acting as a pause marker. The musicality of two “f”s in succession makes me think about the sound of the Frisbee tearing through the air.

The second line opens up with the juxtaposition. We come from a Frisbee perhaps in a park to a river. The river could be next to the park, but it could also be miles away. Regardless, I like the image. The intuitive feeling between a Frisbee floating and a river widening is definite. The shape and spin of the Frisbee give rise to the connection. Note also the musicality of the “i” sounds which bring a sense of sharpness.

The third line changes the scene and resolves the second line. When a Frisbee reaches the catcher, it starts to slow down and drag more. This is akin to the widening of the river before it reaches the sea. However, there is more to this image than the facts. I think this is a metaphor about how we act and feel when meeting our death or a goal. We open our hearts and minds more. Luckily, when coming to our end or when obtaining a goal, we approach it with open arms. On a side note, I enjoy the “ea” sounds in “nears” and “sea,” which to my mind brings a calming effect.

This haiku looks simple at first glance, but with its underlying metaphors, meditativeness, and musicality, it is an excellently crafted poem.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)

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Art by © Naomi Tydeman

Srinivasa Rao Sambangi’s Thread

the thread slips from
granny’s needle

© Srinivasa Rao Sambangi (India)
Modern Haiku, Issue 49:3, 2018

This haiku is very intelligently crafted. “Chrysanthemum” is a late autumn kigo, hence the fragment itself sets a mood of decay and destruction. The slipping of the thread is poignant in the sensitive portrayal of the loss of abilities which we take for granted in our youth.

The fragment and phrase nicely use the technique of association. There is a struggle against the natural course of things, and in between the lines, we find a glimpse of grace.

One of the deepest haiku I’ve read.

Pragya Vishnoi (India)

I have an old sewing machine from my mother in my possession, and every time I use the needle for sewing work, I can think of her presbyopic goggles and that thread that avoided the eye of the needle as if it were equipped with its own life…

In this way, this haiku of Srinivasa Rao becomes something that belongs to me, generating correspondence and the widening of perception—the qualities of a good haiku.

Melancholy, impermanence, and the sense of loss are linked to chrysanthemums. Fleeting humor is a classic element that enriches this very touching text. The rhythm of the verses leads from the slow murmur of line 1 to the fluidity of line 2, then almost pausing to savor a memory on line 3.

Margherita Petriccione (Italy)

The overall theme of this haiku is based on ageing with loneliness and melancholic feelings. I can see a very deep connection between the chrysanthemums and the sewing. The chrysanthemums symbolises grief, sadness, or pain in some parts of the world, but it is also considered as a symbol of joy and optimism. That is why in certain countries, women used to embroider chrysanthemums on skirts, shirts, and tablecloths.

In this case, maybe the granny needs to embroider a chrysanthemum not just to kill time but also to bring back memories of her past. The thread slipping may show the ‘cultural annihilation’ or ‘change of time’ where no one follows old traditions. Being nostalgic, she wants to revive that tradition to overcome her loneliness and melancholy but ageing drains her energy to do so.

It also shows the transformation of time, culture, and traditions where different phases of life are replaced with something new with a little or more acceptance. In granny’s case, she still misses her past life that was full of festivity and traditional activities that are now fading away with time.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

In this haiku, I wondered if it could be a one-liner. But to me, line 1 has a stronger break in three lines even without the use of kireji, which is important because as a reader, it makes me contemplate the kigo word (how it is a fragment in this particular haiku and how it ties to the phrase in the two last lines), which is an all autumn/winter seasonal word in Japan and also its imperial seal.

Chrysanthemums are used as a health benefit for various ailments in its tea form, especially in Asia. To me, the juxtaposition between the words harmonizes rather than contrasts between the words “chrysanthemums” and “granny” because in China the plant represents longevity. What’s interesting to me is that the phrase “the thread slips from granny’s needle” to me can be interpreted in two ways, which can be tragic but if combined with the fragment and the history of the word “chrysanthemum,” there’s also the possibility that there’s nothing wrong with granny and the thread slipped from the needle from daily distractions of life.

In conclusion, this haiku is highly dependent on readers to create context from their own personal experiences, which I believe the author does a great job expressing by telling little.

Fractled (USA)

The poets above have done a great job discussing the content and technical aspects of this haiku. However, I want to point out how the shape of chrysanthemum petals are akin to a sewing thread. In a way, the chrysanthemums take over the scene as the thread slips from the needle. This creates a continual sense of completeness.

In terms of sound, the “th” sounds in the first and second line make a sound similar to manual sewing. Also, I appreciate the musicality of “slips” and “needle.”

A strong image and powerful juxtaposition that takes a keen look to fully appreciate its beauty.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)

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– Art by Nishimura Hodo

Agus Maulana Sunjaya’s Sunset

dragging my shadow
back home

© Agus Maulana Sunjaya (Indonesia)

Akitsu Quarterly, Fall issue, 2018

A very melancholic haiku that immediately suggests the image of a homecoming in which the shadow, particularly long in the sunset, seems to weigh down the steps of the poet. But the shadow, understood as the double and sometimes as the denied part of oneself, can weigh on the spirit in a more subtle and devastating way.

I don’t want to be a psychologist, but this haiku makes me think about the fact that by not facing the hidden parts of us, which we often fear strongly, we sometimes expose ourselves to inconveniences of which we do not understand the nature of and of which condition. These are not minor choices, as they affect our lives. Even in this haiku, I feel the sensation of an unfulfilled dualism that results in frustration, all expressed with elegance and with a second line that expresses also in the sounds (double “g”) a sense of oppression.

Margherita Petriccione (Italy)

This haiku reflects both the mental and physical fatigue of life where we spend most of the time facing and fighting different issues that test our cognitive and emotional abilities. It depicts the limited capacities of a person who, besides dealing with various matters of life, finally gets tired. It could be due to aging, where the sunset of life takes a person to the stage where he or she feels lonely and manages to live with great difficulty.

The shadow shows all the regrets, guilt, and bad memories that keep on following a person until the last breath of his or her life. Overall, a person who spends his or her days developing good relationships with people may end up being lonely, which also shows the insensitivity of recent human civilization.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

I like how the first line can be interpreted as flowing into the second line or as standing alone. Also, the simplicity of the language and the surprise in the last line is pleasing. Though the third line is unexpected, it is also expected. This is a common aesthetic in haiku, where the ordinary can be extraordinary.

Like Margherita, I also enjoy the sound of the poem. With “s” in the first line and the second line, you can almost hear the shadow being dragged through the grass. With “o” in “shadow” and “home,” I feel the melancholy is illustrated. A fine haiku from a technical point of view, and also from an aesthetical perspective as well.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)

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© Callum Russel

Thaís Fernandes’ October

October morning—
falling one by one
my illusions

© Thaís Fernandes (Brazil)

This haiku reflects enriched experiences that are embedded in an October morning. October is a time of transition where summer almost surrenders to the colours of autumn. This is also the transitional period of our thoughts, feelings, and mood that are blended well with autumn shades. In turn, falling illusions is a process of getting into meditative thoughts that reveal the far side of realities. It also lets us jump into the autumn hush that brings forth deep, real meanings of life, and the person starts reflecting on his/her thoughts and filters them through the sieve of mindfulness. Mentioning the sound, the letter ‘o’ may allude to the recycling process of our thoughts and feelings early in the morning that redefines our current state of mind.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

In the first line, we get grounded in the scene. In Brazil, where the poet resides, October is an interesting month. According to holiday-weather.com, “October is considered to be a month of transition—a month that is characterised by increasing temperatures and rainfall levels, as the weather moves from the mild winter season toward the hot, humid and wet summer season.” In this sense, with this inference to a transformation, the juxtaposition with the next two lines works well. As the weather heats up and the rain starts to fall, the poet perceives that her illusions are also “falling.” She perhaps saw her inner state reflected in the nature that surrounded her. This brings a sense of oneness, that perhaps humanity and the natural world are one organism.

Getting more technical, I like the use of the em dash. It presents the idea that the poet has now begun afresh, without her illusions. An ellipsis could have worked as well. In terms of the structure, the format is standard, but the syntax is reversed in lines 2 and 3. However, I think “my illusions/falling one by one” or “my illusions falling/one by one” would not have had as much impact on the reader. Though Hifsa has already mentioned the sense of sound, I would add that with the “o”s and “l”s, this haiku sings.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)

This haiku, although kigoless, does refer to a specific time. Even so, one might consider it a modern haiku. Then again, even if it did contain a kigo word eg. ‘autumn morning’ that does not necessarily make it a haiku either in a traditional sense (observation through nature.)

I do like this ku and its use of the em dash on line one, which gives the reader a sense of urgency or surprise, where I picture the poet finally seeing things as they truly are perhaps while meditating or under the use or entheogens, being half asleep, half awake, or what usually happens with children where one simply wakes up and see the world as it is for the first time.

There also seems to be an element of zoka in this write, which is:

‘The poet’s real enlightenment is his or her ability to open up to it, tap into it, and translate the zoka at hand into haiku. The poet recognizes what’s going on before his eyes and begins the journey of placing it into a haiku that relays what the poet has been vitalized with.’

Excerpt from Don Baird’s essay “Zoka”


Fractled (USA)

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I’ll be back soon | Volto Já - 80 x 60 cm
© Totonho