Posted in Tanka

Lori Ann Minor’s Bland Tea

finding myself
as gray
as the sky
sips of bland tea
in the city winter

© Lori Ann Minor (USA)
Prune Juice, Issue 22, 2017

Ennui. I think at one time or another, we have all felt this way. Not depressed, not euphoric, just kind of blah. As we get older, become physically gray, are in a gray sky environment, those feelings do tend to come upon us. Ironically, as I began to respond to this, my wife asked if I would like some tea—she brought some to me, Earl Grey (decaffeinated). I like this tanka—it captures a human, most likely universal experience.

– Dana Grover (USA)

There’s a state called anhedonia that accompanies major depression and is indicative of that condition; sensations are muted and one can’t find pleasure in music, food, sex, or even the little things like a cup of tea. This tanka captures that muted, empty feeling quite well. In climates with long, dark winters, seasonal-affective disorder can be quite common. Here, the gray winter sky is an effective parallel to the ennui the speaker is confessing and the bland tea gives a vivid feeling of those January blues.

– Clayton Beach (USA)

To me, this feels a bit melancholic. “finding myself” plus “city winter” makes me feel that someone used to country life has to spend winter time in the city, perhaps due to an illness. Some people do develop ash-gray skin. Overall, I find this tanka a bit sad, but not overwhelming.

– Laughing Waters (Italy)

The content of this tanka has been sufficiently elaborated on, so I wanted to discuss the sound and pacing of the poem.

The most striking sound in this tanka to me is the use of “y” in “myself,” “gray,” “sky,” and “city.” The employment of “y” seems to point to the severity of the poet’s bland existence. There is also a heavy use of “i,” which slows the pace down, capturing the melancholic mood.

I feel lines 2-4, from the pacing, is the moment of “finding myself.” The last line appears to be an afterthought, as the poet introspects on her connection to her surroundings.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)

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

Posted in Haiku, Senryu

Eva Limbach’s Evacuation

evacuation —
a little boy waves
into the camera

© Eva Limbach (Germany)
Chrysanthemum, issue 22, 2017

From the onset, line 1 sets the scene.
Eva has left it open as to what the evacuation is about, but immediately the current plight of refugees and other displaced families come to mind.
A harsh, direct, concrete statement.

Then, line 2 is a little boy waving—how resilient children are in adversity!
Here we are shown how the camera creates more excitement for the child on his big adventure…how most children would react!

Now think beyond that…do you see the far-to-near method being used to attain focus?

Consider a big hill of flowers in the distance, then bring yourself closer to a group of flowers in front of you and then a single flower beside you…you have focused in, you can also focus out (this applies to any poetry). So, let’s look at Eva’s haiku again.

evacuation —
a little boy waves
into the camera

A broad scene, “evacuation” then draws you forward to a little boy waving and ending in the eye of a camera…far-to-near focus.
This gives the haiku movement and, when done well, can be very effective. (Remember, this is about evacuation, movement!)

Now the reader can wonder who the camera person is…is it media news? Perhaps it’s the family’s last photo together…many possibilities and lateral interpretations.

This is a powerful haiku/senryu that should evoke emotion in any reader who takes the time to consider its poignant words.

This is why it was accepted and published by Chrysanthemum journal…a wonderful haiku!

– Brendon Kent (UK)

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

Posted in Haiku

Jack Kerouac’s Birdbath

in the birdbath
a leaf

© Jack Kerouac (1922-1969) (USA)

I have always had mixed feelings about Jack Kerouac. One the one hand, his novels are almost unparalleled in their ability to create a sense of excitement. On the other, his writing is frequently sloppy and rushed. Perhaps the two work together: a push of madness that propels the reader forward?

Likewise, I do not consistently enjoy his haiku and senryu. He certainly has moments of brilliance such as:

missed a kick
at the icebox door
it closed anyway

However, many of his short poems fall flat for me and, unfortunately, this ku falls into that category. It reads less like a haiku and more like a statement. There is only one image, no juxtaposition, and nothing really for the reader to contemplate or bring her experiences too. Kerouac called his haiku “pops.” There is little in this particular poem that pops for me.

– Dave Read (Canada)

Bitter realities that come one after another. This ku revolves around “a leaf” that may have different colors. The writer would have specified this as well just to make this ku more clear.

The birthbath may indicate a survival place, so it may give an idea of refugees/vagrant/abandoned people, or children besides migratory birds in terms of their shelter, food, security, and protection.

– Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

This haiku seems to have several dimensions to it. A birdbath, where birds usually play around, now is frozen. To highlight the sadness of this happening, a fallen leaf is stuck in there, displaying death and the consequence of seasons—and of simply living.

Yet, there is a sort of beauty in the frozen leaf. The possible colors of the leaf and sign of spring is encapsulated for all to see. It is a mix of melancholy and a sweet reminder.

In terms of sound, the most striking is “f” in “frozen” and “leaf.” It is interesting to note that the haiku begins and ends with the letter “f.” The starkness of the situation seems to be illuminated through this sound.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)

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

Posted in Haiku

Sergiy Kurbatov’s Swallows

so easy to say
farewell to the past —
the swallows in the sky

© Sergiy Kurbatov (Ukraine)

Like it a lot. Maybe without “so” and “the” in line three. Or, a two-liner: saying farewell / those swallows ?

– Steve Woodall (USA)

The article “the” intrigues a little bit. It has two aspects: one is about lingering memories that an individual cannot forget easily. The other may be loneliness that is due to the past.

So, the poet is actually passing through an intense experience where he wants to get rid of his past, but it is not very easy. “The swallows” may indicate their murmuration in the sky that takes many shapes and may trigger some painful memories in this context.

– Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

I imagine this haiku taking place at sunset, when the day is coming to a close, and many things have happened. This would put the implied forgiveness of the swallows in context.

It seems the poet is looking at the swallows, and is viewing their happy glidings as if nothing bad happened during the day. From this observation, the poet introspects about how easy it can be to let go of one’s mistakes and others’ transgressions. With the swallows being a spring kigo, or seasonal reference, the poem could be speaking of renewal and refreshment in the face of hard circumstances (the winter that has possibly just passed).

I enjoy the sound of the poem on a musical level. “S” sounds inhabit the lines, and give it a wispy resonance, which are similar to the sounds of a swallow’s feathers going through the air.

In addition, I believe the use of the dash is judicious. It marks the “farewell” appropriately. The pacing of the poem also works well with its mood of introspection.

A strong haiku in terms of meaning, sound, punctuation, and pacing. The poet has written about something local, yet universal.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)

What are your thoughts or feelings about this haiku? Let us know in the comments.

Posted in Haiku

Nobuko Katsura’s Wind

the first day in spring –
a wind from the ocean
but no ocean in sight

Tr. Makoto Ueda

original Japanese:


© Nobuko Katsura (1914 – 2004) (Japan)

Reminds me of hurricane season… before the storm reaches land, and seagulls flying inland to avoid the storm.

– Robert Gillette (USA)

For me, this translation by Makoto Ueda of this haiku by Nobuko Katsura illustrates the dichotomy between the Japanese and English (or non Japanese) haiku branches and the problems of trying to unify them. The crossing of language, culture, and time.

Ueda is undoubtedly one of the leading translators of Japanese haiku, his English is natural, but I find this translation clunky. As a non-Japanese, I am dependent on the translator for my initial evaluation of the piece. This translation will affect my willingness to reread the haiku, my understanding and my interpretation of it.

I suspect that this translation was done in the early 2000s. It has the feel of a more traditional Japanese haiku rather than a contemporary English one. This raises the question, for me, when translating from a Japanese haiku, do you stay with the cultural style, or adapt to the market for which you are translating, in this case, English Haiku readers?

To illustrate:
“the first day in spring –”
a contemporary English version would possibly pare this down to:
“first day of spring” without the article or the punctuation.

May I recommend a book edited by David Cobb “The British Museum Haiku” in which he has used original translations from the Japanese by renowned translators like R.H. Blyth. He has also collaborated with more contemporary translators to give some of the haiku a more contemporary feel. See what you think?

– Patricia (Switzerland)

In the first line with “立春” the first day in spring”…
It is the season word.

“立春” is still cold in the capital of Japan.

So “the wind from the ocean” is chilly wind.

I imagine that it’s wind that carries the smell of the sea, and the foreign cargo ship’s whistling sound.

– Norie Umeda (Japan)

The first thing I noticed was the clear juxtaposition between the first day of spring, and the “taste” of something to come, or something far away—in this case, the ocean. It shows a dichotomy of being and not-being, and maybe the enigmatic between.

On further introspection, we can understand that whatever we perceive may represent what is to come, or a potential. This is closely aligned with the feeling on the first day of spring. It is a warm and exciting emotion of suspense for what beauty is to appear.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)

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

Posted in Haiku

John Stevenson’s Deep Gorge

a deep gorge . . .
some of the silence
is me

© John Stevenson (USA)
Editor of The Heron’s Nest and the author of Quiet Enough

Lovely visual of standing in awe. This is my first impression.

– Robert Gillette (USA)

Excellent juxtaposition… the implication is immediate!

– Gabri Rigotti (South Africa)

The first impression may be some unspoken words and some untold stories. The person still couldn’t find the right words to express his personal feelings, so it is representative of what he longs for or dreams of.

– Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

This haiku lets me be right in the center of it. I feel it and I think we can feel “silence.”

Also, it lets me look at it from another direction: there is a gorge of silence within me. So, the two images resonate. This one is special!

– Edwin Lomere (USA)

Mmm…deep gorge i.e. deep cut or crevasse in one’s heart or soul…or one’s faith in something or somebody… the silence as in no perceivable response to such pain… or the “silence is me” suggesting such a chasm of disappointment or pain or loss that one cannot imagine how to respond… just going with the flow here….

– Steve Woodall (USA)

Silence is zero and zero is silence—all creations are possible only in silence!

– Manoj Sharma (Nepal)

Much about the content has been pointed out, so I would like to add some ideas about the sound of the haiku. It seems that letters “o” and “e” are the most important sounds in this poem. With the “o” sounds, you can feel the depth of the gorge more. Furthermore, with the “e” sounds, I believe it lends also to sensing the depth of the gorge, and also to the act of introspection that the haiku details and that the reader acts upon in interpreting/feeling this haiku. What is also interesting is the consonance of “sound” and “silence,” making the third line have a more intuitive meaning through the music of the poem.

In addition, I want to mention the usage of the ellipsis. I believe this haiku is much stronger with punctuation added after the first line, especially with an ellipsis to make the reader linger in the feeling of being in a deep gorge.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)

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

Posted in Haiku

Anna Vakar’s Squash Vine

still climbing,
a squash vine in full blossom
this cold day

© Anna Vakar (Canada) (1929 – 2017)
From the book Sisyphus

A very interesting haiku. We all have a purpose in life: plants reach out for the sun, people seek knowledge…. Line one shows a continued movement, so when the next line says “in full blossom” it means that even if the squash vine has reached a high point, it is still seeking for more. And line three makes me think about struggling or the time when life comes to its ending point. This haiku makes me think about being devoted to a constant search, progress. I really enjoyed it. Here’s an inspired haiku:

weathered sunflower
still follows the sun
my shadow

– Laughing Waters (Italy)

So many aspects I love about this haiku. Like a part of a movie scene, this piece contains ‘drama’ by contrasting the cold day and the climbing vine.
The use of the comma enhances the fact that the climbing process hasn’t stopped yet.

To me, the imagery shows perseverance. A piece that lifts up the spirit. It makes me feel good just by reading it.

P. S.
Oops…what have I done? I just found out that a squash vine is a moth! I was imagining a plant…hehehe…aish, me!

– Lucky Triana (Indonesia)

Another perspective can be any type of insect who is waiting for the squash vine to bloom fully. The cold day indicates hibernation, the storage of food, and/or a difficult time for survival. On the contrary, still climbing is a sign of hope, energy, and the will to survive. The squash vine is a symbol of life, as it provides energy one is waiting for.

– Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

This haiku has nothing to do with insects, except there are still a few hopeful bees around. These vines are big green Hubbard or winter squashes with gorgeous yellow insides. I grew mine on an arch, and these strong growers still produce beautiful yellow flowers even after the first October chill, despite there being no chance of developing into squashes.

This haiku suggests that even when past child-bearing age, we women are still beautiful!

– Martha Magenta (England)

It reminds me of people with courage. Even if it’s a dark time in their lives, they continue walking towards the light.

– Lovette Carter (traveler)

This ku reminds me of how we can be flexible and adaptable in the face of adversity. Normally, a squash climbs and shows its full bloom in summer. But then, not all the time in summer… and here we learn that a squash variety can also blossom during the cold months.

Hence, we are shown a special adaptation by a plant to a less favorable climate. And aren’t we all, we as human beings, because of our survival instincts, adapting to changes in our environment; and more, sometimes we really rise to the occasion and shine.

– Willie Bongcaron (Philippines)

I will add some of my perspective on the sound of the haiku. It seems the most powerful sounds in this poem come from the letters “s” and “l,” and they enhance the mood of the haiku in a variety of ways. The “s” sounds bring more emphasis the action of the climbing squash vine and its persistence in cold weather. For me, the “l” sounds lend hope as a reader that the vine will prevail against its odds. In addition, the usage of these letters seems intentional to bring a musicality and charm to the haiku.

Sounds in poetry can mean different things to varying readers. However, this is what my intuition told me while reading this poem.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)

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

Posted in Haiku

Scott Mason’s Moonlight

no escaping
this moonlight—

© Scott Mason (USA)
Author of The Wonder Code

Captures the unavoidable … we too could be Pompeii if we do not get our global act together—North Korean nukes, global warming, the inevitable asteroid sooner or later … the beauty of the moonlight, the beauty of everything around us is not enough to save us unless we save ourselves … my first impressions off the cuff …

– Gabri Rigotti (South Africa)

Perhaps a reference to the recent supermoon which was so bright, there was no more chance of escaping it than the Pompeii disaster. I think this is an odd comparison however, because I love strong moonlight, while being smothered by volcanic ash is not really a comparable sensation.

– Martha Magenta (England)

It is a place I have never been, physically, but I have wandered through Pompeii so many times in my mind, but only in daylight. Yet I can imagine the impact of being there in the still night of a full silvery moon, overcome with awe and the silence. And imagining, in my imagination, the horror of helplessness and hopelessness of the inevitable death quickly approaching the city where you, your family, and loved ones reside. This particular haiku hits rather close to home for me—the recent firestorms that destroyed thousands of homes and businesses in the wine country just north of where I live, and the dozens of people missing and dead who had no escape from the horror of it.

– Dana Grover (USA)

“No escaping this moonlight” would have been a romantic and satisfying experience, as in gazing at the bright moonlight, with your partner perhaps. A positive, lovely experience.

However, the opposite is true when we juxtapose the phrase with “Pompeii”— knowing in history how horrific the end of this place was when Mount Vesuvius erupted. The scene becomes immediately foreboding of so much pain and anguish the citizens of Pompeii experienced.

– Willie Bongcaron (Philippines)

The interpretation of this haiku may not be very easy. “This moonlight” is a bit elusive here. Moonlight of which moon?! That matters a lot. The word ‘this’ indicates a particular type of moon/moonlight! My guess is he may be talking about a hunter’s moon, or a supermoon, or a frost moon based on the horrific history of Pompeii.

In any case, something is ruling here that is moonlight and something is ruined, which is this ancient city. More likely what is dominant and what is dormant in terms of power, time, and significance.

– Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

I have varied responses each time I read this haiku. I feel the poignancy of pain, but yet, I feel a blessing as well. Not only is the moonlight shining its light on the destruction, but is also imbuing it with a sense of the mystical, and the acceptance to move onto its next phase. Moonlight is not only indicative of melancholy, but also enlightenment.

The most prominent sound in this haiku comes with the letter “o.” Coursing through the haiku, it gives the scene described an added starkness.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA/Ukraine)

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

Posted in Haiku

Betty Kaplan’s Chorus

all city school chorus
I hear
my daughter’s voice

© Betty Kaplan (1919-2011) (USA)

It entails a lovely visual.

– Robert Gillette (USA)

Fantastic! This haiku reminds me of when I was first informed of how wild and farm animals can single out their offspring’s cry among a field of several other young ones. Only one voice is heard when a mother “fine-tunes” her ears.

– Lovette Carter (traveler)

Of course. As parents, grandparents, we only see/hear our own children/grandchildren in the ensemble. Next month, we will see “only” our granddaughter as a soldier and as an angel in her ballet school’s annual production of Nutcracker. I’m sure, if she was in a chorus, we would hear only her.

– Dana Grover (USA)

I see two aspects here; one is rebirth—the cry of a little child during a chorus of happiness, which could be celebration time for a family—a daughter that brings endless blessings for a family.
The second aspect may be annihilation that is quite painful. The loss of the child due to any reason (violence, immigration, war, poor health, miscarriage etc.). The school chorus may bring flashbacks of those traumatic memories and only the daughter’s voice echoing in the parents’ ears.

– Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

Amazing and true. When my granddaughter plays on the playground, I can always discern her voice among others. I love this haiku.

– Marilyn Ward (England)

For a young, developing mind, taking part in school activities develops camaraderie and respect in the child for team play. Each one has a role to play in the team effort so that the totality of each endeavor would truly be successful. This idea comes to mind easily in this ku.

But, the author, I believe has another thing to point out. Although each and every team member has a role to play in order to make the endeavor one and whole, one is also reminded that there would always be primary and secondary players in a group, i.e., others may take primary, solo and/or specialized assignments and others might just have to simply support the solo/lead role that one or two members of the group take.

Or, another interpretation could have a touch of humor to it, as in the child could have gone out of tune and falter, making the error quite distinct and thus embarrassing.

This is how I see this ku.

– Willie Bongcaron (Philippines)

There are many ways to look at this haiku, and one of them is a state of meditation. The mother of the girl who is singing has her attention so attuned to the chorus that she can pick out her daughter’s voice amid the strains of many other voices. Also, this haiku could reference that each of our voices are intertwined, and that the daughter’s voice is the chorus itself, and vice versa. In a sense, one voice can speak for a community, and a community can be representative of one person as well.

In terms of sound, the most prominent letter is “o.” The “o” sounds like singing, especially choral singing, with wide-mouthed voices.

A delightful and meditative haiku with a great deal of underlying meaning.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)

What do you think or feel about this haiku? Tell us in the comments section.

Posted in Haiku

Elliot Nicely’s Pines

where words fail pines along the cliff’s edge

Kokako #22
© Elliot Nicely (USA)

If I were writing, I’d say “pine” instead of ‘pines’ and ‘fall’ instead of “fail.”

– Edwin Lomere (USA)

Wow! that’s the first word come to mind when reading this. “Fail” and “pines” work fine to me.

I don’t know if it’s meant to have metaphorical meaning, but I just love how it brings me straight to the scene. I would be speechless too if I experienced it myself.

Love the smooth flow between the two parts too.

– Lucky Triana (Indonesia)

The pines along the cliff edge seem to be marking a boundary against falling over, and each pine, in my mind, marks each of the one-syllable words in this monoku. Pines are pointed, so each one is perhaps making a point?

– Martha Magenta (England)

For me, this monoku is talking about a picture that leaves the author speechless. He isn’t able—although he does in a manner—to find words to describe the feelings of the given scenery. “pines along the cliff’s edge” evokes a common experience in him shown by an explicit example. And so, he simply writes “where words fail.”

– Hannes Froehlich (Germany)

This is a beautiful monoku with multiple interpretations. With the first read, “the cliff’s edge” could be the edge of the ‘mind’.

From a physical standpoint, we are all on the edge, between life and death, whether we like to believe it or not. But the real meaning of the death of words seems to be the death of the ego—”where words fail”—and this would inherently include the “I” thought or the “me” thought that we seem to cling to out of habit, and is constantly reinforced through language through many years of mental conditioning.

But if the mind is conditioned, it seems it can also be deconditioned. If we can add layers to the mind, it seems we can also discover those layers, and maybe, even for a moment, experience the great joy of losing ALL thoughts as they evaporate into the transiency of their origins.

How do we break through the mold of the mind? Why do we identify with the mind in the first place? Indeed, the mind can be a useful tool, and it has its place, but those moments when ALL words fail seems to brings us back to something much deeper, to something that is not personal at all, but rather universal, just beyond the edge of the mind.

And yet, it seems even after this experience, the sense of being a person continues, out of compassion, to better serve life and its various forms.

Maybe this is one reason why haiku has this mysterious ability to bring people together? It seems haiku poets are all on the edge of the mind, and we have this inherent ability to tap into something just beyond it.

Despite our seemingly endless use of words, it seems many of us (secretly or not) yearn for what is wordless and, lucky for us, the beauty of haiku contains both words and what is wordless. So, it seems haiku serves as a very grounding activity to appreciate the ordinary and perhaps see things in a new light, yet simultaneously points to what is wordless and unfathomable.

Our haiku seem to be like small waves on the infinite ocean, appearing and disappearing as creative expressions of the universal source. The innumerable waves are inseparable from the great ocean and its depths, so the illusion of separation is not as concrete as it may seem… Sometimes there is turbulence in those waves, but often, there is music in their movement, rising in and out of silence…. so may we find peace within our words, and our haiku…

– Jacob Salzer (USA)

The content of the haiku has been explored well, so I will add some notes about the sound and rhythm of the haiku.

The alliteration in the beginning with “where words” gives off an aura of seriousness. The “i” sounds in “fail,” “pines,” and cliff’s” supplies readers with a dramatic effect, and the usage of “f” sounds adds to the sharpness of the “i” sounds–this can connect to the sharpness of the pines.

Though it is a one-liner, the elongated syllables in the haiku make readers slow down and take in the words and their feeling.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)

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