Posted in Haiku

Adjei Agyei-Baah’s Stars

calm water…
the urge to walk these stars
as stepping stones

WHR Jan 2017, Shintai Haiku, 7 Honorable Mention

© Adjei Agyei-Baah (Ghana)

The first thing I noticed was the contrast between “calm” and “urge.” In the context of this haiku, I believe “calm” relates to a clarity of vision.

People sometimes have abstract desires to do something.  In regard to this haiku, this abstract idea is celestial and engages the reader’s imagination greatly. To me, stars being thought of as stepping stones can mean multiple things: 1) that we should use outer space as a vehicle to further the human race 2) the poet is disillusioned with mundane life and wants to be guided to a more heavenly/divine/transcendent place 3) that since the stars are being reflected in the calm water (an assumption of mine), it shows that stepping stones can seem grand through one’s perspective, even if they are simply a tool to reach the other side. I am sure readers can find more interpretations as well.

The calmness of the water, in my mind, gives rise to the poet’s imagination. In the stillness of the moment, the poet sees the stars reflected in the water, and is in tune with his desires. In the clarity of mental stillness, the world opens up with new possibilities. Thoughts usually hold us back from imagining and feeling the moment. The border between what is programmed into our minds and what is spontaneous is broken if we attain mental stillness. Like a Zen state, the stars could have easily been stepping stones, and anything else reflected in the water. The beginner’s mind brings life back to a sense of wonder, and I believe that is one facet of this haiku’s message.

In terms of sound, this is a musical haiku. Not only is there an alliteration of “s” soundswhich could be equated to the chime of waterbut also there is “a” sounds in “calm,” “water,” “walk,” and “stars.” The “a” sound makes the words seem longer, and gives the effect of something being pulled, like an urge, as is stated in the haiku. In addition, the pacing of the lines works phenomenally in conveying the haiku’s somber yet energetic mood.

Imaginative and evocative, this haiku engages readers and allows them to derive many ideas and feelings from its imagery. A highly enjoyable haiku.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky

Some more commentary was written from the Haiku Nook, a haiku community online:

I’m satisfied with the first two lines alone, leaving out the simile and creating a 2-line haiku.

calm water…
the urge to walk these stars

– Edwin Lomere

Totally agree with you here Ed. That’s an excellent edit. I would probably go one step further and split the second line in two with “these stars” as the third line. However, I may be splitting hairs. Great stuff. 🙂

– Dave Read

I don’t disagree with Edwin, except to say that the way Adjei has used “as stepping stones” this is not a simile. Here “as” is used in the same way as “as if” which is more of a conjunction than a simile. (The urge to walk these stars as if they were stepping stones) and this changes the intended sense, I would imagine.

– Martha Magenta

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

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Posted in Haiku

Laryalee (Lary) Fraser’s Year

planting the beans …
this year it takes longer
to unbend myself

Ambrosia, #4, 2009

© Laryalee (Lary) Fraser (1940 – 2013)

Several poets from Haiku Nook, a community of haiku poets on Google Plus, wrote what they thought and felt about this haiku written by one of the most important Canadian haiku poets.

This haiku brings me way back to my childhood. I got some Russian blood in my veins. They have a saying: “Sitting on the beans.” It usually means that an action of someone puts another person in struggle, that the year wasn’t very good, that the family will struggle through the winter, and that they will have nothing to eat but beans. Even in the worst year, this plant will survive and produce more beans. High in protein, it will be a good addition to the meal.

Back to this haiku, I see a person who is taking care of his/her future by “planting the beans.” Line two works here as a perfect hinge and line three brings something more to explore “to unbend myself.” To me, it brings more to this haiku, and shows more struggle.

– Laughing Waters

To me, this brilliant write by Laryalee (Lary) Fraser shows the passing of time and how it affects the present, where the minute to the grandest of changes occurs ever constantly, for nothing is truly stagnant in this ever evolving/de-evolving reality which in this case was the gardener’s posture.

An inspired haiku:

thorny bush
the weed whacker
loses its edge

– Fractled

It makes me think of age. I find it takes me longer to straighten up after a gardening session now. If we want those homegrown beans, it has to be done. I can feel that creak reading this haiku. Ouch.

– Marilyn Ward

It’s very pleasant. I like gardening, so I connect to that. Squatting down and weeding or planting can get rough on the knees, so I take it as a very simple lament on aging and the passing of time. It has a touch of melancholy, but is still light enough. It’s a solid, no-frills haiku. I can feel the stiffness in the speaker’s bones.

– Clayton Beach

Greatit makes me think of how much my back aches these days when I am gardening, ouch!

– Martha Magenta

I like thisit takes you along a path where you expect it to lead you, and all of a sudden, you end up somewhere else. This is clever, takes a matter-of-fact doing and turns it into something bigger than itself. It says one can no longer easily do the things one used to easily do, without coming right out and saying that.

– Dana Grover

Time takes its toll on everyone and in everything we do; as we grow older (and wiser I suppose), chores become more physically demanding… gone are the days when we could do our daily chores with ease, no matter how long it would take us to do these.

Moreover, this ku reminds me of a poem by Archibald MacLeish “The Wild Old Wicked Man” with its first stanza that goes:

“Too old for love and still to love!
Yeat’s predicament and mine – all men’s:
the agind Adam who must strut and shove
and caper his obscene pretense…”

– Willie Bongcaron

I get a lot from this haiku.

Four major interpretations come to mind:

1. To echo the comments made, I see an old farmer or a gardener. I can see the wrinkles of time in his/her face.

2. I also see a young farmer who is slowly recovering from a major surgery or injury, and physically has to move slower in order to heal from it. The first line brings me a sense of youth via planting the new beans. When we bend a bone to such an extent that it breaks and becomes a fracture, the physician makes the repair, and he/she does so so that the body part can remain unbent and be stabilized/immobile, so it can fully heal.

3. I also get the feeling of a person becoming mentally rigid by clinging to narrow and rigid belief systems. As we get older, it seems some people tend to become less flexible in their worldviews (political or otherwise), while others remain more flexible and open-minded. It has been said that what is rigid is bound to break. On the other hand, I’ve read quotes about the strength of flexibility, and it’s vital importance as we learn and grow, like the bean plants. : )

It’s as if planting the new beans is symbolic for a new beginning, as we appear to struggle with the weight of old karma, and the mental conditioning that was forced on us from day one.

4. This haiku reminds us to save our backs and lift from our legs. I’ve read about many job-related injuries at work, where the patient will bend over, and lift heavy objects resulting in lumbar strains/sprains, and chronic low back pain. Even sciatica. All it takes is one sudden movement, and you are in for a long recovery. It has been said, when your back goes, you don’t get it back. Fortunately, we have surgeons that can do remarkable things for people with spinal cord injuries. But, I won’t get into the heavy topics of health insurance or narcotic pain management.

Great haiku!

– Jacob Salzer

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

 

Posted in Senryu

Elisa Allo’s Drawer

after Memorial Day
Anne’s Diary
back in a drawer

© Elisa Allo (Switzerland)

(first appeared in The Mainichi May 31, 2017 and Otata, May 17, 2017)

I would say this is a senryu rather than a haiku, as it does not have any seasonal reference (though sometimes haiku does not contain a seasonal reference), and it takes a jab at human behavior.

This is most likely a senryu about The Diary of Anne Frank, and how we forget its meaning, and the victims of war in general, the day after Memorial Day. One famous quote from the book that may slip our mind is, “In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”

This senryu to me points to a fact of human nature: though we know what is true and essential, we relegate it to something insubstantial, because we would rather concern ourselves with the easier thoughts and actions to digest, such as mindless entertainment, and the routine of life. To be concerned and sympathetic each day is difficult, as we mostly put our attention on the mundane. This senryu is a reminder that we should keep compassion and higher thinking integrated in our lives.

On a more technical note, the sound of the poem is populated with strong “d” sounds in “Day,” “Diary,” and “drawer.” It is akin to the sounding of the drums of war.

The phrasing is succinct, and the lack of punctuation works well to let the words come as they are, without adding over-emphasis.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky

Here is additional commentary from members of Haiku Nook, a group of haiku poets on Google Plus:

After reading it, in a broad sense, I’m sorry that the victims might be forgotten on Memorial Day and in the writer’s personal meaning, she might be touched by Anne’s Diary after Memorial Day. So, I think of Anne’s Diary as a symbol for victims.

– Rika Inami

This evokes a few scenarios. Is Anne a relative (wife, mother, sister, daughter?), an old lover, could it be Anne Frank? Could be any of these, and more. I’m thinking it is the The Diary of Anne Frank, and how we tend to put our memories away for awhile, take them out now and then, peruse them, put them away.

– Dana Grover

Anne Frank was the instant go-to for me, she being the only person named Anne whose diary I have ever read. It is difficult to imagine other readings of this piece, except for the possibility of highly personal ones.

Philosophically, I think Anne Frank barely breaks the surface of the modern consciousness. It might be more accurate to revise it:

Memorial Day –
Anne’s diary unmoved
from its drawer

– Eric Lohman

I thought of Anne Frank also. I guess it’s just an automatic connection?

– Edwin Lomere

Yes, how we tend to forget important people and events as time passes. This haiku creates a feeling of being human—that we forget bigger things, because at times we are so engrossed with our own personal affairs. So sad because those bigger things are also important, if not, more important to us as thinking human beings.

– Willie Bongcaron

What do you think or feel about this haiku?

Posted in Haiku

Charles B. Dickson’s Cabin

cajun cabin …
the aroma of hot gumbo
floats on the bayou

© Charles B. Dickson (1915-1991)

I sent out messages on social media to learn what poets thought or felt about this haiku. Here are some of their responses from different social media platforms:

Haiku Nook on Google Plus

At first look, I thought about why the word “hot” is used in line 2? Cold gumbo wouldn’t have a strong smell, but in English “hot” isn’t just temperature, it also can mean “spicy.” Cajun meals are famous for their heat and spice. Overall, thanks to line 1, and the word “bayou,” it creates a good visual. Here is my simple attempt at a revision:

the bayou
wraps around the Cajun cabin
spicy aroma of gumbo

– Laughing Waters

There’s definitely a mysterious element to this haiku. What I can’t tell is whether this is a day or night event, but I’m leaning towards night. While there’s no juxtaposition, it’s quite a vivid capture that definitely lets the mind of the reader explore. Going back to the mystery, the “technique of mystery” was used to write this haiku, and is one of 59 techniques from Jane Reichhold’s teachings from AHA Poetry.

– Fractled

Pretty sure gumbo is a dinner dish, so I get an image of the quiet bayou with a spicy scent in the air. I agree with the use of the word “hot” seeming offspicy would be better. “Floats on” is awkward too. I would have liked to see it say:

Cajun cabin 
spicy aroma(s) of gumbo
floats across the bayou

– Clayton Beach

re:

cajun cabin …
the aroma of hot gumbo
floats on the bayou

A good point was made that you might not require ‘hot’ as gumbo aroma would happen as the dish is being prepared and hence it’s both hot in temperature, and also the spices would be strong across a breeze.

I wonder about just:

cajun cabin…
the aroma of gumbo
on the bayou

or

cajun cabin…
an aroma of gumbo
on the bayou

or
cajun cabin…
a gumbo dish cooking
across the bayou

Gumbo: en.wikipedia.org – Gumbo – Wikipedia

– Alan Summers

Facebook

Well, its images certainly transport me. I love Cajun food! Haiku wise, I’d say it’s a little obvious. Perhaps if I was made to think at first of something else floating on the bayou.

– Eric Lohman

Poets on Google Plus

Makes me want some gumbo! 😉 Very nice!

– Danielle Kennedy

I have no idea what gumbo is . . . and yet “Cajun” tells me it is hot with reds and oranges, maybe. It feels like yesteryear memories, warm and inviting, calm and peaceful. . . 🙂

– Karen Hayward

Food is always related to nostalgia and memories, 😊 especially comfort foods. I love how it mentions the aroma floating around the bayou. I love this haiku.

– Meekha

Frankly, I needed to google cajun and gumbo first to get the feel of this haiku better 🙂

Using the words cabin, gumbo, and bayou, the writer effectively packed the typical scene in the Cajun’s life.

Combining multiple sense observations–sight, smell, and taste–I think he succeeded in brining the scene to life.

Love the repetition of the ‘o’ sound too. It gives a dreamy atmosphere to me. I can almost see myself standing there, by the bayou 🙂

– Lucky Triana

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

Posted in Haiku

Andrea Cecon’s Carrots

the sound of a knife
cutting carrots . . .
cold morning

Acorn, Issue #38, Spring 2017

© Andrea Cecon (Italy)

This is a great instance when a haiku says something without saying it. Instead of writing, “A cold morning is like the sound of cutting a carrot,” the two parts are put side by side to suggest it. This opacity is the biggest difference between lyrical poetry and haiku, in my opinion.

Is there a meaning behind this comparison? Well, it shows several things to me: 1) that death or mutilation (of the carrot) happens even the morning, when everything is supposed to be peaceful 2) that our present actions have a direct correlation to our surroundings 3) and that possibly nature feels compassion for the carrot. I am sure readers can come up with other ideas as well.

But beyond seeing interpretations, there is also tone. While reading the poem out loud, you can feel the melancholy, especially associated with winter (“cold morning” suggests it). The poet has succeeded in giving us the same emotion he felt while writing the haiku, which is no small feat. That is one of the main goals of poetry: to hand off one’s experience to others.

In line with tone is the sound of the haiku. In the first line, the letter “n” gives the impression of cutting, and then in the last two lines, the letter “c” supplies the sound of chopping the carrots. The ellipsis shows that the chopping goes on for a while and that the cold morning is dragging on.

This haiku captures a moment and feeling distinctly, without any barriers for the reader. It reminds me of what Basho said: “The style I have in mind these days is a light one, one that gives the impression of looking at a shallow river with a sandy bed.”

– Nicholas Klacsanzky