Posted in Haiku

Maria Laura Valente’s First Snowflakes

road to home—
first snowflakes fall
on my memories

Italian original:

strada di casa
sui ricordi d’infanzia
la prima neve

© Maria Laura Valente

(previously appeared in “My mandala – Haiku Anthology”, Cascina Macondo, 2015.; also appeared in “Inchiostri d’Autore”, Accademia Barbanera Edizioni, 2016; “La couleur d’un poème”, Milan, 9 July 2016 (1st prize))

I am not conversant in Italian, but I enjoy the sound of the English translation of this haiku. The “o” sound in “road,” “to,” “home,” “snowflakes,” “on,” and “memories” gives a sense of something drawn out, as in a journey home. Also, the alliteration of “first” and “fall” works well to give emphasis.

Though this haiku seems nostalgic, it mixes with the present moment with “first snowflakes.” I think this mixture gives a sense of introspection or a sense of an ever-changing life.

Though the first line indicates a road home and then a personal reference is made in the third line, the “road” could be the journey of the snowflakes as well. There is also a connection with memories of home and first snowflakes, in that memories of home are usually childhood memories. The first snowflakes one sees or the first snowflakes of the year can be a symbol of our childhood: beautiful but extremely transient.

Another side of this haiku is that the snowflakes is in a sense burying the memories of the poet by covering what she can see from the train window. All of her familiar sights are clothed in the ubiquitous form of snowflakes.

This blankness connects well to spiritual philosophies. At the end of our spiritual journey, as expounded by many spiritual teachings, we will be blank—simply a vessel for a higher power to work through us. It is an elimination of the ego and a passing into collective consciousness. I do not know if the author wanted to imply this meaning or reference it, but as a reader of spiritual books and follower of spiritual traditions, it seems this spiritual meaning could be within this haiku.

The snowflakes cannot talk, but in a sense, it seems nature is telling the author: forget the past, and be in the present. Is the author’s home still her real home? Where is our home in actuality? Home is often an abstract concept, though we may live in one place all of our lives.

Getting back to the technical side of the haiku, the use of a kireji, or cutting word (punctuation for English) works well to separate the two parts of the haiku. It is interesting that she did not use an ellipsis (…) to show the continuous motion of the journey. I believe she used an em dash to show the “isness” of the present moment being portrayed.

There is also a certain rhythm to having three words per line that lends itself to showing a journey, which is also reflected in the original Italian version.

There are several pathways of reading this haiku, but it can be said clearly that this haiku gives a sense of awe of the moment, especially in relation to our most poignant memories.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky

 

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Posted in Haiku

Christina Sng’s Summer Rain

 

summer rain
finally I am all
cried out

©
Christina Sng
(previously published in hedgerow, issue #86, 2016)

I think this haiku is a fine example of Matsuo Basho’s karumi or “lightness.” Basho did not enjoy pretentiousness or elaboration. He told his disciples, “in my view, a good poem is one in which the form of the verse, and the joining of its two parts, seem light as a shallow river flowing over its sandy bed.”

Why is this important in haiku? Well, haiku now is about mostly everyday life and the small things that happen to us that are actually quite big in a subtle way. I believe Basho also wanted haiku to be like reality: simple at first sight, but with so much irony, contradiction, joy, and melancholy.

We start with a seasonal reference, or a kigo. When rain comes in summer, it is much needed and much appreciated, as people want some respite from the heat and plants want nourishment.

The second line has a spiritual overtone. It implies a oneness, or a reaching of potential. The use of enjambment is interesting, as in haiku, we rarely use enjambment. Enjambment is more of a western poetic device, but in haiku it can be used occasionally to imply more meaning.

The third line seems naturally a carry through of the second line, as “finally I am all cried out.” Yet, what if the author is saying instead that she has become “all,” and that “all” is cried out? It is quite imaginative, but one can see a pure nothingness from “all” being cried out.

It is also intriguing to note that haiku are usually written in the present tense, yet we have the past tense “cried.” Well, writing in the present tense is only a guideline, as some experiences just seem to have be written in past tense:

in the shade of a willow tree
i paused for what i thought
would be just a moment

– Saigyo

a whole field of
rice seedlings planted—I part
from the willow
– Basho

and many more.

But let’s get back to the interpretations. Another way to look at the last two lines is that even though she has finally cried herself out, the summer rain is still there or comes after she has finished crying. This presents an aesthetic of continuity, which is a classic haiku theme.

Another way to see the lines is that the author is talking to the summer rain, and telling that she has cried herself out. It is not easy to know how to read the lines exactly without the punctuation, but that is one of the benefits of leaving out punctuation. In haiku, you can imply much more, usually, by having less or no punctuation.

The late Jane Reichhold noted that if a haiku feels like it needs punctuation, it probably is not phrased properly. While there are definite exceptions to this principle, it is a good thing to keep in mind while writing haiku and trying to form your lines.

Yet another take at the lines is that the summer rain is speaking “finally I am all cried out.” The personification is not explicit, but it is there with enough imagination and stretching of the mind.

To close, I would like to pay attention to the sound of the haiku. The “i” in “rain,” “finally,””I,” and “cried” seem to lend to the intensity of the haiku’s tone. The “r” in “rain” and “cried” bring more power to the juxtaposition.

Christina has written a multi-faceted and memorable haiku. It is an example we can remember when we want to write in a light way, use enjambment, or use the past tense.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky

Posted in Haiku

Andrea Cecon’s Summer Evening

rise and fall
of my navel —
summer evening

© Andrea Cecon
(appeared previously in Paper Wasp, spring, 2010)

This is a fine example of a haiku that goes from details to generalities. In the first two lines, we have an extremely focused subject: the navel of the author, and its rise and fall (maybe from running). Then we move onto “summer evening,” which shows us the kigo, or seasonal reference.

Though the first two lines can be taken literally, and is an interesting image on its own, we can ponder the symbolic consequences of the image as well. A navel can be a symbol for innocence, for beginnings, or something cut away and what remains of it.

“Summer evening” can be either a contrast or a comparison of the first two lines, depending on how you take the symbolism. Also, if you take the first part only as the observation of the author’s navel rising and falling, it might be suggesting that summer is coming to a close or that despite it being summer, the seasons always continue to change and are fleeting.

As a side interpretation, it could be said that the haiku shows that despite it being an evening in summer, the up and down motion of the navel matches the motion of a heatwave. Thus, it demonstrates an aesthetic of continuation.

As you can see, there can be many interpretations of this haiku, and almost any haiku, if it is written well. But let’s take the mood into consideration. By reading it out loud, we can feel a sense of melancholy and introspection. Haiku do not need to present intellectual ideas. Instead, they usually aim to show a feeling or atmosphere. In the attentiveness of the author to such an essential and even mysterious thing as his navel and in viewing a summer evening, there is a sense of looking back and reflecting on what he has become.

The use of the ellipsis works well to separate the two parts and give a pause for the reader to consider the moment presented. It may be a moment without exact meaning, but in the now, we can find peace and deep introspection, even in the most trivial of happenings.

It seems the stress in each line is at the end of each line. This creates a rhythm of something pressing or demanding, or at least something we should take seriously. The sound of “e” in “navel” and “evening” make it clear that the author is putting these side by side.

I can see this haiku as a one-liner, or monoku:

rise and fall of my navel summer evening

However, even though this version might have more interpretations possible for readers, the rhythm and somber mood of the original might be lost.

I think the power behind this haiku is not only the focused topic, but the juxtaposition as well. It seems simple and classical, yet it has its own originality and implications that make this haiku multi-layered and subtly introspective.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky

Posted in Haiga

Brendon Kent’s Clouds

2016 - 1

Words and image © Brendon Kent

For the context of this haiga, or haiku and art combined, I should tell who Jane Reichhold was.

Jane Reichhold was a popular and key member of the haiku community. She was the editor of Lynx journal of haiku, tanka, and renga, and the owner of the site Aha Poetry, where a great amount of reading materials on haiku and related forms are held online. She wrote many famous books on haiku, such as Basho: The Complete Haiku, Writing and Enjoying Haiku: A Hands-on Guide, A Dictionary of Haiku, and many more influential books. She also was the recipient of the Museum of Haiku Literature Award [Tokyo] twice and the Merit Book Award twice.

It was announced that she passed away on August 5th, 2016. Many tribute haiku and articles were written for her, as she trained and influenced so many people through her essays and poetry. This haiku by Brendon Kent is a fine example of a tribute haiku for Jane.

This haiku has a clear juxtaposition and is written in a more traditional style, which I think is a prudent choice for the tone of a tribute. The poet is comparing drifting clouds to traveling from one dream to another. This juxtaposition is complemented by the image of the slightly blurred dragonfly in flight. In haiga, the image and text usually are not directly connected, but hint at each other. Brendon has done a superb job making this connection indirectly, creating a defined mood.

The use of the ellipsis shows a carrying on and delineates the two parts clearly. I think without the ellipsis, the meaning could change, and maybe Brendon wanted a more focused reading of his haiku.

I don’t know why exactly, but I feel emotional reading this haiku. It looks straightforward, but there is a definite emotion behind the words. Maybe it is the context or the solemnity with which the pacing of lines are written, but it charges me with emotion and maybe a sense of awe.

Let’s great back to the clouds. Clouds are high in the heavens, as you can say, and are an apt metaphor for Jane. She was a selfless person and committed to write poetry that uplifted people. The drifting, I believe, is a metaphor for passing into another life. The wind making the clouds drift could be a symbol for the universal spirit that is often expressed as wind in spiritual doctrines. Maybe the cloud is a symbol for Jane in the afterlife, soon to rain and bring about a new life of her own in a distant place.

The dream could be the illusion of life. Most spiritual traditions agree that we are not this body, emotions, or mind, but a pure spirit. It seems these lines are a kind of reassurance and a kind of detachment as well. This process of life and death are only transitions of the mundane, and maybe we all wake up to our spirit in between (though some say it is better to realize the spirit while living).

Or, the poet could be simply stating what happened to him. Maybe he took a nap on a forest walk, or on his backyard, and woke up to seeing drifting clouds after experiencing transitions to and from different dreams.

Haiku are usually objective reporting of what is happening, but can be seen as metaphors and symbols for much more. And knowing Brendon Kent’s work, he enjoys creating layers of meaning in his work, so it is probable that he wanted to portray both the spiritual and mundane.

On the level of sound, the “o” sound in “clouds,” “from,” “one,” “to,” and “another” create a wispy feeling for the reader, akin to clouds. It is great when the reading of a poem accurately reflects its content. The words without”o” are “drifting” and “dream,” which have alliteration and are both key words in the context of this haiku. Leaving these words as the only ones without an “o” sound makes them stand out more, which draws our attention to them more.

Though many fine tributes for Jane Reichhold have been written since her passing, this is one of the finest I have read. Wherever Jane may be now, I hope she is reading this tribute, and many others.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky

 

 

 

 

Posted in Haiga, Haiku

Eva Limbach’s Gods

all those Gods
I lost and found
dandelion fluff

© Eva Limbach 2016, Sonic Boom Journal

The first thing that struck me about this haiku was the capitalization of “Gods” instead of “gods.” Grammatically, “gods” is preferred in most cases, but in this haiku, I believe the author is giving respect to each god she has encountered, loved, and may have freed herself of.

What also made me turn my head was the striking juxtaposition between gods and dandelion fluff. So much can be implied:

1) All gods are same, essentially.

2) All gods share the same purpose.

3) Which god we choose to worship may not be that important after all.

4) Like dandelion fluff, gods drift in and out favor.

… and maybe much more.

Another part of the haiku that got me interested in it is the use of “I’ instead of just keeping it as “all those gods/lost and found.” Bringing in a personal side to the issue adds weight, and allows readers to identify with the experience of the haiku, rather than see it purely as something philosophical or historical.

A strong part of this haiku is its sound. The “o” sound flows through “those,” “Gods,” “lost,” “found,” and “dandelion.” I believe this sound aims for euphony, or a harmonious and beautiful connection of sound. This could be another way the haiku shows how gods are one.

Maybe in our modern times, gods have become like dandelion fluff: revered and memorable, but somehow not worth much in these times of technological and scientific progress. Or maybe gods are numerous but one, and in these times of fast-paced developments in human progress, we have so many resources and chances to get connected with one of them. There is no right answer, but this haiku for sure makes us introspect on the state of religion and what we ourselves have experienced on our own spiritual journeys.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky

Posted in Haiga

Heike Gewi’s Children

04.08.16 - 1

Words and art © Heike Gewi

With four words, one can find at least four interpretations within the poem. That is one of the magical things about poetry: the line acts as a device for delivering additional meaning.

Interpretation 1: The author is missing her children 24/7.

Interpretation 2: The author’s kids have been missing 24/7.

Interpretation 3: 24/7, the kids are missing something.

Interpretation 4: Time (24/7) is absent, and that is juxtaposed with the kids.

Which interpretation should we take? What is the tone of the haiku with so many interpretations? Those are questions that can’t be answered, but shine a light on how haiku operates.

Through simplicity and implication, authors make readers dive into their own imagination to make up a third part out of the two parts of the haiku that juxtapose each other.

The art accompanying the words show the times of the day in two different locations. The emptiness in each section and the somber lines suggest melancholy.

The “i” sound in “missing” and “kids” gives a sharpness to the reading of it, which makes the apparent emergency more alarming.

The last two lines are of equal length and appear to be stacked on top of each other, which gives the impression to the reader that the poem has more fullness to it than stated in terms of length and exudes a sense of power when you see it.

Though there is no season specifically referenced, autumn comes to mind with “missing” and the mood of the art. But haiku do not need to have seasonal references to be haiku. As long as haiku aesthetics are on display, haiku are haiku. This haiku showcases an aesthetic of loneliness, but maybe not the element of sabi, which is a Japanese aesthetic of loneliness that gives solace to a sorrowful life. However, the potency of the inherent aesthetic is felt poignantly, no matter what interpretation you take.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky

 

 

Posted in Haiku

Jacob Salzer’s Hook

forgetting my name
the hook disappears
beneath the water

 
A Hundred Gourds 9/20/15
 
© Jacob Salzer 
 
This haiku is about being immersed in something so completely, that the mind becomes quiet. In this haiku, it was an experience I had fishing with a family friend and my sister. As I fished with him and my sister, my own name disappeared, along with the hook beneath the water.
 
Sometimes, it seems our analytical minds get in the way of experiencing life itself. Analysis and describing things has its place, but it seems we can also get paralysis by analysis. This haiku is about letting go of describing life sometimes, and allowing ourselves to simply be and to experience something completely, without any words, judgments, or concepts. 
 
It seems we are mentally conditioned to continuously think and act in certain ways. But is our true identity limited to a transient mental concept? Is our own name as permanent as it seems? Who are we without our names? To experience the continuous now without thought (even for a moment) allows us to experience the beauty of being, and thereby allows us to dis-identify with all thoughts. 
 
Perhaps this is why some people enjoy extreme sports like rock climbing; the activity is so intense that it requires your complete attention. You can’t be thinking about other things, otherwise, one wrong move could result in serious injury or even death. 
 
Fortunately, we don’t have to be rock climbers to quiet the mind. Any activity, when done fully, is a key to unlock moments of silence, and the great doorways of the unknown.
 
– Jacob Salzer 
Posted in Haiku

Irene Riz’s Flood

blooming hibiscus
the morning after the flood
excuse accepted

© Irene Riz

It is not common to write in 5-7-5 syllables in modern English haiku, as we have gone to the short line-longer line-short line format that lends more to the English language. However, this haiku works great as a 5-7-5 syllable haiku.

(If you want to read more about why we don’t write in 5-7-5 syllables in English haiku often, please read this essay by Michael Dylan Welch: http://www.graceguts.com/essays/go-shichi-go-how-japanese-and-english-syllables-differ)

We start with a classical topic: a flower. A blooming hibiscus is especially beautiful. It has rich colors, a striking anther, and elegant overlapping petals.

Then, with line two, we go onto something striking: a tragedy. Making turns like this in haiku is normal if you want to surprise and engage readers.

In the third line, we have a consequence of the flood: through the circumstances, the main person in focus accepts someone’s excuse in light of the danger and maybe a change of mind.

I like how the flood relates to the blossoming hibiscus. You can say that hibiscuses “flood” our eyes with color and beauty, and through them, we can become more soft-hearted, and maybe change our minds about someone’s flaws or our own.

The sound of “o” courses through the first two lines with “blooming,” “morning,” and “flood.” I think this sound creates the effect of the flood water continuing and slows us down as readers to take in the weight of the situation.

At the heart of haiku is compassion, I believe, and seeing each living thing as a blessing in disguise. This haiku reveals the interweaving of nature and humanity, where nature makes us see the heart of each other, past our mistakes. We might say that in the end, forgiveness can save us from inhumanity.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky