Posted in Haiku

Angiola Inglese’s Persimmon

Italian original:

cachi maturo—
una luna è una luna
anche stasera

English translation:

ripe persimmon—
moon’s a moon
too tonight

© Angiola Inglese (Italy)

Persimmons are the favorite fruit of many people (including my wife) for their sweetness and honey flavor. They are also quite bulbous and charming to look it.

To compare a persimmon to the moon is apt. Not only are they both round, they both are well admired. Persimmons are often referred to as “the fruit of the gods” and their trees can reach up to 70 feet. The moon is also epic in its nature: a variety of cultures have moon-viewing traditions to glimpse at its beauty, but it is also associated with many spiritual and even religious traditions.

But to get to the essence of this haiku, I believe the author is saying, “Yes, the ripe persimmon is grand, but don’t forget about the moon, which is quite similar to this persimmon.”

We can look at this essence at different angles. One could be that we should not get lost in the mundane, and keep our attention rather on the spiritual. Another interpretation could be: don’t give heed to what is ephemeral, but rather to what is eternal. Yet another way to interpret it is that while we enjoy one thing, don’t forget about everything else that exists—have care and compassion for all life at all times. It is a sense of balance in a world of allure—kind of like the idea of the “floating world” in historical Japanese literature.

And with the reference to the ripe permission, we can probably guess the moon in the haiku is a full moon. Also, we can take a gander at the season: persimmons are in season from October through February. So much is said in this haiku through so few words. This is one sign that a haiku has done its job.

Looking at the sound, at least in the English translation, the most distinct sounds are in the letters “i” and “o.” In my opinion, the “i” sound adds to the mood of observation of the moon and persimmon, and the “o” sound gives a hypnotic feel to the haiku, allowing to feel the union of the moon and persimmon a bit more.

With many interpretations available through its simplicity, this haiku is a fine example of how to say a lot with just a few words.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky

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Posted in Haiku

Anna Cates’ Walking Stick

at the muddy end
of a walking stick
wild oats

Hedgerow No. 42 August 14, 2015

© Anna Cates (USA)

(side note: check out the comments below this post for more insights into this haiku)

It seems like a simple image, but it has a significant sense of white space and resonance. What is the significance of the wild oats? What is the significance of the walking stick and it being muddy?

To me as a reader, the importance of “wild oats” is natural beauty and natural existence. The walking stick hints at the author, or someone being observed, needing support to walk—either because of feebleness or by the rough character of nature. Also, the walking stick, though natural, has now been rendered as a tool for a person. The wild oats, though humble in their appearance, can be seen as vibrant and pure. The word “wild” also contrasts the constrained life of the person who needs a walking stick.

The mud further reflects the idea of impurity or a soiled existence, in comparison with the simple purity of wild oats. But even though this mud may be a representation of impurity, it also may have wild oats attached to it. It is almost as if the wild oats are trying to tell something to the author: the separation between the human and natural world, the way to be pure in an impure world, and so on.

It is a moment that seems continuous at first (walking), but the poet takes a break to peer at the wild oats and to contemplate beauty, existence, and maybe more. Writing haiku and reading haiku usually allows us to take a break to feel what is around us more keenly.

In looking at the sense of sound, the most prominent sounds in the haiku come from the letter “d” and “i.” In my reading, the letter gives more weight to the haiku (and maybe its subject matter), and the letter “i” makes the reading of it more stark.

Also, I think the lack of punctuation was a good choice, as it reflects the idea of naturalness and purity.

Understated, grounded in its style, and having an open nature for interpretation, this haiku gets at the heart of a moment with a humble aesthetic.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky

Posted in Tanka

Elliot Nicely’s Sunset

the way
she says goodbye
this time
the sunset refills
her wine glass

Eucalypt #20, 2016

© Elliot Nicely (USA)

The two things I enjoyed the most about this tanka was the pivot from line 3 to line 4, and the ending image.

“this time” can be seen as part of lines 1-2 and part of lines 4-5. This is one of the great tools of tanka that can make reading them diverse and intriguing within only 5 lines. The pivot makes us read a bit slower and to consider what reading we should take.

The ending image is not only startling, but also brings up several references. Firstly, I see it referencing an overall solemn mood and the finality of the relationship. It is also interesting in its aesthetic in that the sunset, which marks the end of something, fills something up. In addition to these observations, I see a more mystical interpretation: wine in many poetic traditions is a reference for spiritual intoxication. In this way, the author could be telling us that his beloved has now left this earthly world, and has once again been reunited with the divine. Another way to look at it is that the poet’s beloved is still alive but has ended her spiritual seeking, and she has now found the truth, her self-realization.

The image of the sunset in the wine glass also has a grounding, earthly tone. It’s as if things have gone back to their original, non-abased self, and marks a return (or refill, if you will) to the naturalness of life.

And overall, as I mentioned before, there is a strong tone of finality to the tanka that lends to sadness, but also to acceptance.

If we look at the sound of the tanka, in the first two lines, most prominent is the “-ay” sound with “way,” “say,” and “goodbye.” Not only does it make it more musical, but it gives a stress to the moment at hand. In the second half of the tanka, the letter “i” features most, which to me as a reader gives a sense of awe.

A tanka with a range of possible interpretations and an engaging tone, all with simple language and no more than three words per line.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky

Posted in Haiku

Jennifer Hambrick’s Leaves

deployment—
that tree had leaves
this morning

Modern Haiku 47.3 (Autumn 2016)

© Jennifer Hambrick (USA)

This haiku has a lot of energy to it. It has an immediacy and freshness that most haiku do not have. There are a few reasons for this.

With the word “deployment” and the em dash following it, there is a gravity to the situation. The circumstance is probably someone being deployed off to war as a soldier, to face possible death, and seeing others die.

To reflect the dramatic change of pace from being a soldier in training to being on the way to witness death firsthand, the writer used the tree losing its leaves rapidly as a metaphor. Not naming the tree also gives an immediacy to it.

The season is probably late autumn, and this season commonly presents death and decay in colorful displays. It is similar to how soldiers die in war: their lives may have been taken away, but the beauty of valor and honor is kept with them and their families.

In terms of sound, this haiku works great as well. Look at the “o” sound in “deployment” and “morning” giving a sense of melancholy, and the “i” and “e” sounds running through the haiku to make the reading of it more stark.

The pacing of the haiku is powerful, especially with how the last line comes. Not only is the punctuation used for a significant emotional end, but also the last line (without tricks) is palpable and alarming.

In my opinion, the writer captured the mood of the moment perfectly, and used the literary tools necessary to illicit emotion from readers—which is turn allows us to experience this moment as if we were there.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky