Posted in Haiku, Senryu

Maya Lyubenova’s Wishing Well

wishing well —
the words I whisper
back in my face

© Maya Lyubenova (Bulgaria) (1956 – 2016)

This is a powerful haiku. It reminds us to be careful of what we wish for, and also implies how attaching to even a single thought can significantly impact someone’s life. The act of whispering amplifies the silence surrounding the wish, creating more depth, which is also signified by the depth of the wishing well. The “w” sounds in the first two lines seem to create a calming effect. By contrast, the third line hits the reader in their own face, allowing him or her to reevaluate their own wishes/desires or perhaps discard them.

– Jacob Salzer (USA)

Did she drop the words in the well? This haiku has a strong kire at the end of the first line, but the middle of the second line has a kire with “the words.”

I feel words fell in the well like a coin. So, in the second line “I” …this viewpoint starts inside the “well,” and this “I” whispers back in my face. Its viewpoint is turned upside down again. It looks like the wishing well keeps whispering endlessly.

In our country, a well is a sacred place. We think that there is a god in the well. It seems that it is a common understanding among people in the world. Often, folktales are told as a moral story involving a well.

But this haiku is lovely and mysterious. Maybe the repetition of the “w” sounds make us proceed to the third line.

The first line’s kire and the middle of the second line’s kire creates a strong separation. The enjambment of the second line creates discomfort, but becomes a gentle slope by the “w” sounds.

– Norie Umeda (Japan)

Bulgaria is such a beautiful country with a rich culture. Line one is very strong in this haiku. It sets the perfect scene. Very mysterious, and also feminine, because it is more likely for a woman to follow the gypsy teaching to visit a wishing well at night during a full moon to bring a silver or gold coin to make a wish. In line 2 and line 3, the rest of the story is built. I believe this girl wished for something very special and even she had a doubt if her wish would ever come true. I enjoy this haiku very much. Here is an inspired haiku:

two silver coins
spin in night air—
first golden leaves

– Laughing Waters (USA)

A simple ku with deep layers of meaning… for one, in a wishing well, we normally toss a coin or two and whisper a wish. But a wish could just be a wish. It is an inkling of what we want to become a reality, whether it is about love, attention we want from another person, a windfall, or what have you. But we know that a wish just comprises words that needs more than an act of wishing… it will only go “back in my face.” Perhaps more actions are needed for the wish to come true… this brings us to the sweat that we apply in order to achieve the wish. As they say: “action speaks louder than words.” This is how I interpret and see this ku.

– Willie Bongcaron (Philippines)

If you enjoy this poem and the commentary, please let us know in the comment section.

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Posted in Senryu

Gabriel Bates’ Dead End Street

dead end street
I walk away
from my mind

Otata 27, March, 2018

© Gabriel Bates (USA)

For me, this is quite a dark haiku.

dead end street I am thinking of a tall wall standing in front of me, then I can’t go further. Anybody might have experienced a problem he or she thought couldn’t be solved.

I walk away Walking away is like giving up on something. I think the writer walked away from his problems, or from some realities, or anything else….

from my mind I guess this is what he chose. To be drunk at the corner bar, or somewhere else, to find some temporary peaceful state from his bad memories or his unsolved problems….

– Fei Zhan (Indonesia)

The first line, dead end street, indicates no solution to a problem or nothing out of the box. I could see the disappointment and demotivation that the poet expressed here cleverly. Sometimes, if we don’t get solutions to certain problems, we leave them, stop thinking about them, deny them, or buy time to find out the best solution. This is a strategy to deal with certain problems. I can feel the burnout the situation creates as well where a person simply finds an escape from bitter realities that keep on engaging his or her mind and thoughts. Walking away may be a temporary break that gives us space to do certain other things in life and to get some ideas. Sometimes, people give up and completely forget about a situation; sometimes, they come back with a peace of mind that gives them more insights and maybe effective problem-solving ideas.

– Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

This haiku has a Zen quality to me. The mind itself can be likened to a dead end street due to its limitations. We are restricted and contained within the boundaries of our ego. To free ourselves of these limitations, to be in a state of mindlessness is to become much more conscious and present—a state which is conducive to becoming aware of haiku moments, and a state of enlightenment. In meditation, one can visualize walking away from the ego-mind which traps us in behaviours and prevents us from being who we really are. We turn away from thoughts, because they are only the mind chattering to itself.

– Martha Magenta (UK)

I see escapism in this ku. When we are faced with a “dead end road,” we sometimes panic and forget what is the best thing to do given the circumstances. But the will to survive soon takes over and in time we are back to where we were—our old, sane world with all the dramas therein.

– Willie Bongcaron (Philippines)

Sometimes my phone’s map shows me the past of streets and houses. This “existence” has completely disappeared. However, not much of a difference can be seen, so it is not much of problem for others. Maybe the poet bumped into a dead end street in a virtual town. A “dead end” reminds of a closed mind or a closed society.

In the third line, maybe the poet finds a metaphorical key, and he walks away from his “mind.” This mind is his “preconception” or “imprint.” We are thinking a large amount of information every day. This process looks like fog. While walking in fog, our clothes get wet without us noticing. In essence, the poet walks away from his environment.

– Norie Umeda (Japan)

For me, the main message of this senryu (I believe it leans more towards senryu than haiku) is about how we can get into a meditative state, despite physical obstacles, and that surrendering to the moment is more valuable than frustration. But, I want to focus on sound since people have commented enough on the content of the poem.

The hard “d” sounds in the first and last line indicate the wall, and the soft “w” sounds in the second line show the peace of surrender. This is only my interpretation, so other readers can feel differently about what the sound in the poem represents. However, the musicality of this senryu can be easily felt.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)

Did you like this poem and commentary? Let us know in the comment section.

Posted in Haiku

Peggy Willis Lyles’ Shimmering Pines

shimmering pines
a taste of the mountain
from your cupped hands

(Mayfly #31, 2001)
© Peggy Willis Lyles (1939 – 2010) (USA)

shimmering pines It is probably in the morning or after a rainfall, or a site with water, because we can see the reflecting lights from the dew on the leaves.

a taste of the mountain Maybe this could resemble water that comes out from a mountain, or fruits, or something else edible from a mountain.

from your cupped hands Aha, the writer is not alone. Somebody is with her to take water, maybe a creek with some waterfalls, to give water to the writer to be tasted. Or maybe there is a statue of some Goddess with water flowing through her cupped hands, and the writer tastes it. It is a beautiful scene.

– Fei Zhan (Indonesia)

The image this haiku shows to me is of two people drinking from a mountain spring. The spring swells into a pool and one person offers the other a drink of spring water from cupped hands. The surrounding pines are reflected on the surface of the water, shimmering.

The cupped hands are a powerful universal symbol. I am reminded of the Burmese struggle for freedom and the poem, by San Suu Kyi:

As water in cupped hands
But of that we might be
As splinters of glass
In cupped hands.

Cupped hands are universally symbolic—of friendship and the act of giving, of making an offering at a temple altar, of an openness and willingness to receive, or sometimes in asking for help.

A mountain spring always has something powerful, a force of nature, of life, of giving and nurturing. It is also magical how this delicious and refreshing substance can come out of a mountain in a state of purity. It is something to be shared and revered.

A beautiful and memorable haiku.

– Martha Magenta (UK)

It reminds me of a childhood experience when my part of the world was a lot cleaner. On a scouting trip to a place north of the city, we filled our water containers from a flowing spring water source up from the mountain. The water was a lot cooler and all natural. The experience was definitely a communion with Mother Nature. This is what comes to mind with this beautiful haiku.

– Willie Bongcaron (Philippines)

There is a sense of what it is like to give yourself to another person, and the beauty of that action. The image of the shimmering pines illustrates the magic of moments when one gets to share in someone else’s life or gift.

I thought the sound of the haiku was powerful. With “s” sounds strewn through the poem, the sharpness of shimmering is presented well. Also, the haiku is additionally musical through “m” sounds, and the “p” sounds could be reflective of the noise water makes when being dropped from a small mountain waterfall or downward stream.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)

Did you enjoy this haiku and the commentary. Let us know in the comments section.

Posted in Haiku

Nicholas Klacsanzky’s Ant

the ant
wanders across the floor . . .
meditation room

Akitsu Quarterly, Summer issue, 2017

© Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)

We have a father-son team this time with Mark Salzer (father) and Jacob Salzer (son):

Shenzhen has over 14 million people, and from a high rise building, appear as ants moving around in the hustle and bustle of daily life. It reminds me how easy it is to get sucked up in duties and chores, the mechanics of our lives. We are above the level of ants, of course, can pause and appreciate our world and existence, but are also part ant…. The universe is doing its thing, without regard to anything I think, do, or want, so a sobering haiku in the sense that despite our willful efforts to pause and meditate, life moves on all around us, the universe waits for no one…the ants keep wandering. There’s a time to pause, but also a time for us to wander, do what we do.

I also see the wandering ant as a symbol of simplicity, a reminder to want little, appreciate what we have.

Ants also have a social sense, social duties and responsibilities, another reminder….

– Mark Salzer (USA)

This is a powerful haiku that reminds us to embrace a different perspective. In the end, it seems the ego is not as big as it thinks itself to be. The other thing I get out of this haiku is solitude. There is only one ant in this haiku, which is interesting, as I usually see a trail of ants or a bunch of them gathering together. This makes for a bit of mystery, as we don’t know where the ant came from. It also leaves us with a paradoxical feeling: is the ant lost? Or is it on an adventure discovering things to bring back to his or her colony?

It seems the ant could be equated to a thought. Thoughts appear to wander in and out of our consciousness, but the empty floor of the meditation room remains silent, and allows all thoughts (and ants) to wander. The ant is small, but an inherent part of life as a whole. In this way, the haiku reminds us to appreciate the small things that often go unnoticed. The haiku also provides a humbling reminder: it seems some things are beyond us and will remain a mystery.

– Jacob Salzer (USA)

Did you enjoy this poem and commentary? Let us know in the comment section.

Posted in Haiku

Pravat Kumar Padhy’s Thick Clouds

thick clouds—
a gap takes me
to the ocean

Modern Haiku, Issue 46:2, 2015
© Pravat Kumar Padhy (India)

Since the first reading of this ku, I’ve felt it carries an extraordinary sense of liberation. I can read it again and again and feel each time the movement, as if I’m being pulled by an invisible wind, not mentioned, but there for sure, to the blue of the ocean, breaking through the blue gap of the sky…!

It seams it creates in the mind of the reader a virtual flight, surfing on air currents and seeking the sun. Also, at a deeper level of reading it, the kireji lets us imagine and clearly perceive the recovery of the soul of the author, as if he could have turned his wounds into blessings….

The first line contains bitter sounds — ck, cl, ds — which suggest an imminent storm, or a difficult life-moment. But soon, in the second line, the rhythm of consonants separated by the sounds of long-short-long vowels empowers the dynamic in the ku and brings the openness of the long and open vowels in the last line, of the word ocean, as a natural mantra for all.

This ku has a strong Zen feeling, showing a meditative journey from full to empty (thick clouds/gap) and it is a reminder to us to not be afraid of emptiness, since we ourselves are nothing else but little fluctuations of matter around this vacuum.

– Lucia Fontana (Italy)

thick clouds: clouds resemble something that prevents us to see through or think clearly. At first, I didn’t connect with this verse, so I read it a couple times. In my imagination, the writer was lost in a deep forest at night. Why I said at night? I’ll explain later.

a gap takes me: This gave me bright scenery in my mind. The writer was lost in the forest at night, he looked upward and saw only thick clouds. But fortunately, there was an opening to let the writer see the stars. Since long ago, people have used stars for navigation.

to the ocean: by the guidance of the stars, the writer finally reached the shore. Thank goodness.

– Fei Zhan (Indonesia)

I’m living next to the ocean, so I can really relate to this haiku. In this haiku, line one sets the entire mood. Thick clouds so often can be seen on the horizon. They are also very symbolic. It seems that even the weather feels the mood of the poet. Something is about to come—good or bad, we don’t know. The future is hidden from us.

Next we move to line two. It is very clever. It brings hope for the better. Its not just clouds, but we see an opening, and line three gives us more. Now we know we are on the beach and we see an ocean. Overall, I really enjoyed this haiku. Its inspiring. Here’s a tanka written in inspiration:

a dark horizon—
heavy clouds
chasing each other
we fall in warm sand
and laugh

– Laughing Waters (Italy)

This is really simple to interpret, as it is all about the thought process. Thick clouds may indicate a lack of awareness or oblivion or unconsciousness. A gap is a sort of reflection of those thoughts that go through the filtration process. Awareness of our own thoughts (mindfulness), in other words, crystallized thoughts. I see the meditative element here as well where the person is having some deep experiences that facilitate him to think deeply and have concrete thinking. It may also be related to problem solving by reaching the truth after passing through some trial and error process.

The ocean may also indicate the imagination-an escape from reality that doesn’t look pleasant in this situation.

– Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

What I see here is the subject taking a different perspective. Perhaps, the subject could be a bird soaring up high above a field of clouds; and seeing a gap in the vast realm of thick clouds suddenly saw a glimpse of yet another vast realm, this time of blue waters.

Here, again, we see the impermanence of moments we experience, but we also see the continuity of events as we see them unfold.

– Willie Bongcaron (Philippines)

For the second line and third line ”a gap takes me / to the ocean” I feel that it suggests that a river goes down to its source. In the first line “thick clouds” bounces off the reader’s view. Besides, the first line’s ending has cutting by “-.” I felt the “distance” from its cutting. I imagine about this distant place, and it looks like the Himalayan Mountains. Maybe sometimes it is covered by “thick clouds.” And it separates the realm of gods from where human beings live. From this mountain’s gap, there is the source. The river goes down to the ocean. I feel that it is like a human being’s life.

– Norie Umeda (Japan)

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

Posted in Haiku, Senryu

Nathan Hassall’s Pivoting Jackboots

pivoting jackboots
more than the snap
of tulips

(First Place, My Haiku Pond Academy, Quickie Writing Challenge, May, 2018)
© Nathan Hassall (UK)

An evocative piece of work, where the juxtaposition between human and natural elements (the military boots and the tulips) produces a vibrant scene and a captivating sense of surprise. The “snap” of the flowers represents the pivot element in the scene, a twist that leaves the reader in a state of suspension and dismay.

– Luca Cenisi (Italy)

There is a very strong contrast between the soldier’s boots and the fragile tulips. The soldier’s boots, a symbol of oppression, and the tulip, an obvious symbol of The Netherlands. This senryu is clearly taking us back to World War II. The Netherlands – a barely armed country at the time Germany invaded Poland in 1939. – The Netherlands (my homeland) expected to remain neutral like it had been during The Great War. – I see the all-destructive war machine disregarding a defenseless civilian population. The Netherlands was just one of the countries where so many suffered so much during WWII, and where countless souls never lived to see freedom again, including a large part of my own family. It is for this reason that this poem touches me deeply.

The poem shows me a scene, similar to the march of the hammers from the movie “The Wall” (Pink Floyd). Militarism and suppression! Finally, I realize I haven’t even mentioned that the ku is skillfully written. So much to see, so much to say! By the way, great work on revising from your original version! I shall remember this poem for a long time, Nathan! My choice for First Place, without a doubt!

– Michael Smeer (The Netherlands)

I enjoy the use of the word “more,” which brings in a sense of mystery and openness that the best haiku and senryu exhibit. It brings my imagination into force, with all the possibilities of war.

The sense of sound adds greatly to the scene described. The most prominent letter in this poem is “o,” which accentuates the loss of life that is hinted at. Also, the “p” sounds imitate the “snap” of a tulip and even gunfire.

In looking at the pacing of the lines, the way line three comes causes emotion in the reader. With the suspense of the second line, and the surprise in the third line, the reader is left stunned and emotionally stirred.

A poem that can be read in at least two ways, that is poignant, that uses sound to enhance its expression, and that employs pacing to create the optimal effect in the reader—I can easily see why this was chosen for First Place.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)

Posted in Haiku

Martin Lucas’ Ice

a moment before sunrise –
ice singing
beneath the swans’ feet

(Winner of the Katikati Haiku Contest, 2010)

© Martin Lucas (1962 – 2014) (UK)

I feel this haiku is so amazing.

a moment before sunrise I think the poet is waiting for the sunrise. Catching the first orange ray from the edge of the sun is so boosting for our spirit.

ice singing I didn’t know ice could sing. In curiosity, listening to a YouTube video about the crackling sounds of ice, I felt so good, the sounds were like songbirds, but no, different… They are like quantum plasma gun-shooting in movies… Zap…! Zap!

beneath the swans’ feet Maybe I could relate this line to love, because swans are a symbol of love. I think the poet is sending messages of love to all readers, and it is a sweet moment having a chance to read this haiku.

– Fei Zhan (Indonesia)

Generally, a sunrise indicates warm feelings, energy, hope, optimism, and life. Ice indicates cold feelings, passivity, and death.

Besides this, there is another aspect contrary to my above comments, which is the hidden beauty and grace of every season, whether it is winter, autumn, spring, or summer. The ice singing indicates that the season is at its peak and there are certain elements of nature that enjoy the cold season because it boosts their energies, creativity, and imagination. It is my personal experience that my creative energy is at its peak in autumn and winter as compared to summer.

A swan symbolizes beauty, love, and grace that is again the manifestation of the beauty of the winter season, especially ice. Another word here makes me curious about this haiku, which is the swan’s webbed feet that helps it with swimming. Here, even the swan cannot disturb the creatures below the ice who are enjoying the season and being protected due to a thick layer of ice before the sunrise.

– Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

This is an amazingly interesting haiku, as it introduces something new to many readers. I have never heard of “ice singing” before. I found video recordings of singing ice on YouTube. Changes in temperature can cause ice on a lake to make “otherworldly” sounds.

I wonder whether there is an allusion to the myth about swans dying when they sing. The comparison is fitting because swans sing quite strangely in a wide range of notes. I can just imagine the ice and the swan singing together as the sun is about to rise. I wonder if the swan is coming in to land on the ice, perhaps skating then walking on the ice, and this stimulates the ice’s singing.

– Martha Magenta (UK)

Although I no longer live where ponds, lakes, or rivers freeze over, I used to live in such a place, and I have relived that experience in this haiku. I picture the speaker of this verse on a cold winter morning just before the sun rises, a moment before it does. It is cold, and is probably early in the winter season, or perhaps late in it. Whatever, the ice is not thick, probably not thick enough to hold the weight of a human, but just thick enough to hold the weight of a swan stepping onto the frozen icy surface, walking across it, and the ice gives a bit, there is a cracking/snapping sound, a singing sound, if you will, as the swan steps away from the shore making its way to the open pool that is not frozen over. Except for the sound of the ice giving under the swan’s weight, there is silence. So nice to have relived this experience in my mind (and without having to suffer the icy cold morning to do so).

– Dana Grover (USA)

In Japanese haiku, ”ice” and “swan” are seasonal references or ”kigo.” So, there are many “swan” haiku in Japan. The kigo of “swan” is understood as a winter migratory bird in Japan. Japanese haijin know “swan” is a metaphor of “love.”
But, not really as a metaphor of “love” in Japanese haiku.

The swan’s graceful beauty and luxuriousness give readers a strong impression. So, I felt it is too much if I would add the metaphor of a luxurious swan to my impression.

The second line “ice singing” attracts the interest of readers. If I interpret this “swan” as a metaphor of love, this haiku will include two strong main subjects of “love” and “ice singing.” I would like to read this work simply as haiku. This haiku is really beautiful and a quiet sight.

– Norie Umeda (Japan)

Did you enjoy this haiku and the commentary? Leave a comment for us.

Learn more about Martin Lucas: https://livinghaikuanthology.com/index-of-poets/livinglegacies/5387-lucas,-martin.html

Posted in Haiku

Agus Maulana Sunjaya’s Wintry Night

wintry night
only the echo
from the hospice

© Agus Maulana Sunjaya (Indonesia)

The first line gives us a cold, fearsome situation while waiting for something probably outside our comfort zone. Who could stand the winter temperature without doing anything?

“Only the echo”… this is a gruesome feeling. Of course I don’t want some echoing whispers attacking my ears or mind while there is a wintry night.

In reference to the last line, I know the cause of his or her fear… I hope his or her spirit will be at peace.

– Fei Zhan (Indonesia)

The poet is from Indonesia, and I do not know about Indonesian winters. It may not be in winter, so the poet used “wintry.” But, I can feel it’s a chilly night from the second and third line.

– Norie Umeda (Japan)

This haiku is very chilly. The first line sets the scene, tone and atmosphere: cold, dark, and quiet. The last two lines indicate a lingering memory or reminiscence of the hospice—perhaps the emptiness felt by the loss of a loved one is reflected in this cold, dark winter night. I feel it effectively conveys a sense of loneliness and loss.

The repetition of ‘o’ sounds reinforce the idea of a haunting echo.

– Martha Magenta (UK)

Line 1: “wintry night”
Makes me feel cold and lonely. I become nervous—it’s ominous and scary.
Line 2: “only the echo”
Brings a feeling of silence, you’re alone with only the beating of your heart for company.
Line 3: “from the hospice”
So, we know we wait for our loved one. Will they wake and say goodbye or pass silently away? This one night is your last time with them.

– Marilyn Ward (UK)

The overall theme of this haiku revolves around loss, death, and grief because of the three words “night,” “echo,” and “hospice.” Besides the loss of someone that takes the writer in a state of mourning, I see another aspect of delusions and hallucinations. Usually, traumatic experiences in life resonate at the later part of life where a person may experience certain mental health issues, so maybe the writer is passing through the time where he can hear sounds from the past, maybe certain flashbacks that haunt him more in this wintry night that is mostly silent.

Another aspect may be related to hospice life where people usually get detached from the rest of the world and/or normality, so their voices usually bounce back because of not having active listeners around.

– Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

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

Posted in Haiku

Wim Lofvers’ November Mist

November mist
written in the field
a mole’s message

(Woodpecker 1997:2; Modern Haiku 38:2, 2007)

© Wim Lofvers (1930 – 2007) (The Netherlands)

I read this haiku as a nature-sketching haiku. I think that in the third line, “mole” means the kind of animal or the mist’s “mole.” If it is the mist’s mole, it refers to a very small part of nature. So, I can say this nature-sketching haiku is highly up to date.

– Norie Umeda (Japan)

The first line opens as a curtain on an autumn whitened landscape faded into a light fog that makes everything have no edge. This verse prepares the reader for a dreamlike journey in a mysterious world where, at a first sight, writing is the poignant reference to the second line. But in the third line, we discover that there’s a secret code drawn in the earth. The underground job of a mole makes me think of our unconscious thoughts, instinctual pushes which dig into the depths of one’s soul.

We are invited to think to whom the message could be conveyed. Since the mole’s message comes to the surface from the underground, it can be read as a kind of suggestion that the Es-part (still not conscious) of the author wishes to become the Ego—so visible, no more hidden as before.

Also, it seems to me we have a movement of a search towards awareness and the sound of “m” repeated in the first and third lines creates a mesmerizing effect as if the meditative “om” is the key to reach it…

– Lucia Fontana (Italy)

Did you enjoy this haiku and commentary? Please let us know what you feel in the comments.