Posted in Haiku

L. A. Davidson’s Winter Storm

in winter storm
his own deep footprints
closing behind him

© L. A. Davidson (1917-2007)

Sometimes, what we do seems to make little difference, even though we push hard to be of significance. I think this is one of the main messages of this haiku. The “winter storm” could be our modern life, or it could be the harsh environment of our family life or personal life.

Though this haiku could be seen as cynical, I believe there is a sense of acceptance in it as well. It is an acceptance that our lives are insignificant compared to the vastness of the universe. This acceptance is freeing, as we often put too much weight on our actions and our inactions, and do not see the play of existence for what it is.

This haiku could also be pointing to the fact that human existence is not as powerful as nature itself. Though we like to think we own land, that we can master nature, our actions are unlikely to be more powerful than nature itself. We can change and mold nature to our benefit, but we cannot create something entirely new without its help and substance.

Another take on this haiku is that when there is too much happening at one time, our memory will not be clear. Instead, if we live life simply, we will remember the moments of our lives with more clarity.

There are many more things that this haiku implies, but I will leave that to the imagination of the reader.

Sonically, the letter “o” is the most important sound in the haiku, and brings a sense of elongation of the journey of life, and the dragging feeling that no matter what we do, our actions are not that important.

A poignant image, a beautiful moment, or a cynical look at our existence–all can be correct. This haiku brings a lot to the reader’s mind, and allows for an introspective mood.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky

About the Poet

L. A. (Laura Agnes) Davidson was one of the most honoured and respected American haiku poets of her time. She was born on 31 July, 1917, and grew up in the wide open spaces of Montana. She enjoyed learning and reciting poetry and ballads from a very early age. She gained scholarships towards higher education and college and later graduated with a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Minnesota.

Agnes enjoyed writing short stories and poetry, and during her extensive travels through Europe and Africa, she proved to be an excellent correspondent communicating with other poets from far and wide who wished to learn more about the ancient poetry of haiku. Agnes was first acquainted with haiku in 1966, when a friend gave her a copy of Harold G. Henderson’s Haiku in English and shortly thereafter, Agnes began experimenting with the form. Three years later, she had her first haiku published in Haiku Headlights. She considered her haiku to be “a personal journal” written from observations and specific moments of her life.

Agnes was an active member of the Haiku Society of America since its founding in 1968 and she had promoted haiku for many years. She served as a vice president in 1976, a Membership/Subscription Secretary in 1979 and 1981-82, a treasurer for 1989-90, and was also a long-time unofficial historian for the society. Agnes died just two weeks before her 90th birthday on 18 July, 2007, from a massive stroke and heart attack.

L. A. Davidson’s publications include hundreds of haiku in magazines, journals, and anthologies, and she is the author of three books:

The Shape of the Tree: a first collection of haiku and senryu moments of New York City life, New York (Wind Chimes, Glen Burnie MD, 1982; rpt DLT Assoc. 1992, 1996)

Jamaica Moments (DLT Associates, Miami FL, 2002)

Bird song more and more (Swamp Press, Northfield MA, 2003, rpt 2007)

[From The Living Haiku Anthology, with edits]

Posted in Senryu

Antonietta Losito’s Childhood Home

childhood home
I straighten my back
before entering

© Antonietta Losito (Italy)

This is something we do that is inexplicable, and often unconsciously. But the poet, through her observation, noticed this familiar, but intriguing action. What is the meaning of straightening one’s back before coming to one’s childhood home? A multitude of interpretations come to mind: you remember the words of your parents to keep your back straight, you want to return to your childhood days somehow by making your back straight as it was when you were a child, you become more alert when you enter your childhood home, it could reference the purity you had as a child and now you are trying to pretend you have that purity still, or it could be that you await your parents inside the house and you want to show you are a good child of theirs by keeping your back straight.

A straight back shows confidence, healthiness, and is often associated with youth. It is almost as if the poet wants to become who she once was when she enters her childhood home, though it is not possible.

This tension, this situation of limbo, is a common theme in senryu and haiku, but it is subtly referenced in this poem. The poet is an adult, but may feel as if she is a child at home—essentially feeling like an adult and a child at the same time. This uncertainty is spiritual, in a way, as when we are certain of something, that means we have come to a dead end in our awareness. Not fixing ourselves on specific ideas allows us to grow and to advance in our spiritual awareness.

The sound of the senryu lends to its meaning. With the “o” sounds, you can feel the longing for being a child once again. The senryu’s language is straightforward, but has many implications. It is a real “sketch of life” senryu.

I think in a sense, each of us yearn to enjoy our childhood self again, for its innocence, wonder, and fresh awareness. This senryu brings this pining to the fore of the reader’s mind in a casual but intimate way.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky

Posted in Haiku

Kat Creighton’s Beachcomber

morning fog
no hint of the beachcomber
but for his whistle

(A Hundred Gourds, December, 2011)

© Kat Creighton (1955 – 2014)

This captures a moment of isness where the senses only show a single sound, at least in the reader’s mind. The wind is probably not strong or heard, since there is fog. So, in hearing only the beachcomber’s whistle, and concentrating on it, the beauty of that whistle is exposed, and in turn, it is a universe in itself. Each thing in its pure perceived form is a wonder and one can gain a sense of enlightenment from being engrossed in a single sound, diving into the moment and being absolutely present.

The mood of the haiku seethes with positivity. Despite the fog, the beachcomber whistles. This brings about an atmosphere of everything being okay, even though obstacles cloud our lives. It is shows an acceptance for what is, and not a grumbling over particulars.

I enjoy the sound of the haiku as well. The “o” sound floats through the haiku like a fog, and the “i” in “hint” and “whistle” brings greater emphasis to the experience of the haiku.

The pacing of the lines brings peace to the reader’s mind, especially with the cadence of the last line. All around, it is a serene and positive haiku that brings us into an attentive state.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky

About Kat Creighton

In January 2014, the haiku community was shocked and saddened to hear that fellow writer Kat Creighton had passed away.

Kat Creighton was born into a large Irish Catholic family in 1955. Throughout high school, she was writing for the school newspaper. Later, she earned a BA in English from Kean University, specializing in Creative Writing, where she had her first poem published in their literary journal “Grubstreet Writer.”

Although she loved writing, nothing seemed quite right until in her adulthood, she rediscovered haiku while reading a novel relating to Japanese culture. She studied short forms of poetry ever since then. In the 1990s, through the internet, she came along the World Haiku Club and authors like Basho, Issa, and Masajo Suzuki. She admired Masajo Suzuki’s sensitive haiku and relied on them as sources of education and constant inspiration. To Kat, the connection between nature and human nature was spiritual as well as physical. And being a photographer as well as a poet, Kat combined words and images to create haiga. As her home was on the New Jersey coast, she often focused her work on the maritime landscape that she knew and loved. She featured it in online journals and in her blog called “My Ninth Life.”

Kat Creighton’s haiku was published in several electronic journals, including World Haiku Review, Short Stuff, Moments, Visual Haiku, Pegasus Dreaming, and temps libres. Creighton’s haiku and haiga have appeared in A Hundred Gourds, Haiga Online, Sketchbook, and Simply Haiku.

Kat’s advice for haiku writers: “What speaks to you personally – that will make for your best writing.”

[From The Living Haiku Anthology, with edits: http://livinghaikuanthology.com/index-of-poets/livinglegacies/2556-kat-creighton.html%5D

Posted in Haiku

Eufemia Griffo’s Snow

alzheimer’s
white white white
snow falls

(Otata 16, April 2017)

© Eufemia Griffo (Italy)

The poet noted that this haiku was written in memory of her mother. My first reaction was the feeling that nature connects intricately with human existence— and in this haiku, with the poet’s mother’s passing. A supernatural sense of nature should not be given up, as it is a part of our childhood wisdom. As we become adults, it is easy to forget the magic of nature and how we are connected to it on a spiritual level.

The snow’s whiteness, like the blankness of Alzheimer’s, connects mother and nature. Happenings in nature might seem like fate, or might seem coincidental. In reality, nature is presenting connections between us and itself each moment—we only need to witness nature with a clear mind to be able to see it. 

The repetition of white reaffirms this connection and also the sadness of loss. It could also be reflective of the pain Alzheimer’s causes to individuals and their families. But in this melancholy mood, there is a touch of hope. The purity of snow as it falls shows the poet that her mother is now at peace, and has now began anew—either in the afterlife, or as part of the natural world. 

The act of the snow falling is like a eulogy from the sky. It is as if the natural world recognizes her passing, and pays tribute to her. And in viewing that whiteness, the poet may feel the sting of loss, but also feel the beauty of who her mother was.

If we look at this haiku from the standpoint of sound, we can see that the “l” sounds in the first line and the last line gives emphasis to the tragedy, and so does the repetition of the “w” sounds.

There is no need for punctuation in this haiku with such strong words being used, and the conciseness of the poem also gives it more power.

A touching haiku, it also illustrates the cause and effect relationship between humanity and nature.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky

Posted in Haiku

Nicholas Klacsanzky’s Whale Vertebrae

My haiku “whale vertebrae” won a Touchstone Award for Individual Poems in 2016, from the Haiku Foundation.

whale vertebrae
drifting from one god
to another

(first printed in A Hundred Gourds 5.3)

Here is commentary on this haiku from the panelists from the Haiku Foundation:

“This haiku brings the sense of a timelessness of all things in our own great human journey between birth and death. A lot to imply in eight carefully crafted words but what an impact they have. They evoke something greater in our understanding and the search for the true self. Every time I read this haiku I find more places to travel and discover the subtleties that tantalize me as a reader. Nothing is explained, only suggested, and the reader can find what it means to them by going deeper.”

“The magnificence of the life force expressed in a whale, and the universal and critical message that from one god to another, no matter who we worship or where we’re from, there is only one Truth. And just as the dead whale has drifted across the sea, so too might we at times feel lost, drifting from one religious or spiritual path to another, hoping to find healing. With racism and refugees much on our minds today, this poem offers the hope of healing. And in the echo of the repetitive r’s and o’s, the power of this spare haiku reverberates with sound.”

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For more information, and to look at other winners, please visit: https://www.thehaikufoundation.org/2017/04/30/commentaries-for-the-2016-touchstone-awards/