Sydell Rosenberg’s Feather

in a toyless cage
the parakeet discovers
a feather to twirl


Haiku by Sydell Rosenberg (USA) (1929-1996), art by Mary E. Rodning (USA), and translation into Japanese and calligraphy by Hiromi Inoue (Japan).

A nice collaboration (I do not know or read Japanese, so I don’t know about it, other than the looks of the writing is aesthetically pleasing). The crueltyI suppose it is unintentionalof a captive spirit is stated matter of factly. It is a powerful piece. The three elements work well together, but the haiku easily stands alone.

– Dana Grover (USA)

This is powerfully sad and shows how pathetic it is to capture a free spirit (wild bird) and keep it prisoner in a cage. I find that objectionable. The feather seems to symbolise the loneliness of the bird.

– Martha Magenta (UK)

To me, it shows desperation with ingenuity and intelligence of a captured being, but do animals have emotions such as being bored? This is a debate that’s been going on for a long time. I noticed that this was written in the 5-7-5 format and I can imagine the difficulty of writing the first line without telling too much, which to me it does.

Since the image already shows a cage why not emphasize it and not repeat what’s already shown?


toyless prisoner
the parakeet discovers
a feather to twirl

Just thinking of the possibilities, where I could be wrong as well. My 2 cents disclaimer.

– Fractled (USA)

Wow. I think it’s very potent. To me, it speaks clear of how horribly sad and senseless it is to confine another being created to be wild and free. I can only hope it conveys the message to others on how very wrong and inhumane imprisoning a fellow earthling is, along with the selfishness and cruelty of it.

– Michelle Hyatt (Canada)

L1 might work better without “in a” since “parakeet” and
“cage” suggest being within.

– Edwin Lomere (USA)

I think the poem is quite strong. It oscillates nicely between a theme of making the most of what you’ve got (“a feather to twirl”), and one of being trapped with little available to you (“a toyless cage”).

– Dave Read (Canada)

Wow… I have mixed feelings regarding this particular haiku, but the intention to convey loneliness is stark and well-taken. First, it saddens me that the little fellow doesn’t have any material/objects to keep itself occupied and happy while being confined.

You see, I have an African Grey that never knew of being in the wild, (I spoon-fed her during infancy) but she escaped twiceonce in Maryland and another time in Georgia. One of her phrases is, ‘Help me.” In her last escape, she stayed away for about a week (I forgot the exact time frame).

She ( Lilo) ended up flying onto a gentleman’s lap as he and his brother were chatting in an open garage. Because of posting Lilo’s description/markings and behaviour patterns in a nearby pet store, I was blessed to have her returned to me. She has a 6-foot cage, several toys, eats fresh fruit and seeds daily (she growls at vegetables) and is rarely confined. At this time in my life, I can’t imagine not having her as my companion (she can live up to 60 years+).

I have spoken with many people, including friends, who believe birds should be free. Well, I must say horses should be free too. 🙂

Many animals can be domesticated. More importantly, to me, they should be treated with as much kindness as the next person. I have to admit most of my friends have 4-legged pets. It just so happened a little bird who truly talks to me became my best friend. That is not to say I’m not fond of felines & canines as well.

– Lovette Carter (traveler)

Since the haiku portion of the haiga has been commented on at length, I will do my best to discuss the art.

The white between the words and the cage, to me, portrays the loneliness the parakeet is feeling.

Most of the color is used on the bird itself, while the cage and the cage’s stand is painted lightly. This allows the viewer to focus on the bird as the main subject and see that with the play with the feather, the bird is perhaps drawn away from its loneliness. Even the poet’s name is written in green, which could point to the parakeet being a metaphor for the poet’s life.

At the bottom right, there is what appears to be a dark blue chair, which is an appropriate color for sadness.

Though simple, the emotions of the haiku runs through the art, and perhaps gives a glimpse into the true feelings of the poet.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)

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

9 thoughts on “Sydell Rosenberg’s Feather

  1. Thanks to everyone for their thoughtful and kind commentary. A trio of my mom’s haiku was featured here … I think this was produced in 2015 — Sydell Rosenberg (1929-1996) was a charter member of the Haiku Society of America in 1968 and Secretary of HSA in 1975. This haiku was written decades ago — I believe it may go back to the 1970’s (maybe the 1980’s … regardless, it is old). Sydell wrote in the traditional 5-7-5 style more prevalent in English-language haiku then … later, some of her work became more spare. Early on, as a New Yorker, Syd’s work was pegged as senryu; she referred to them as “city haiku” in the 1974 text, The Haiku Anthology. Yes, we had two parakeets at separate times when I was a child, and she took good care of these birds (and I loved them). But I believe this haiku came from her observation of caged parakeets on display at a local “five and dime ” store — Woolworth. Those stores sold parakeets, finches, etc. I see the sadness in this poem now … but I also see spirit and creativity — even fortitude. Syd was a teacher and wanted to publish a kids’ haiku picture book a long time ago. Her manuscript, “H Is For Haiku” (working title), will finally be published in April 2018 by Penny Candy Books ( And thanks to my mom’s example, I am now writing (and publishing), my own haiku and senryu. Thanks again — I am honored by your remarks.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Amy Losak

        Nicholas, thanks so much. I am thrilled. Mom loved birds and wrote often about pigeons, sparrows, blue jays … the common birds of the city — and also birds she saw in zoos, such as flamingos. She once wrote a poignant one about a canary … probably also based on a dime-store sight.I appreciate your showcasing a poem of hers on your lovely site! The Cornell ornithology site features some of her kids’ haiku about birds (called “Celebrate Urban Birds”). Thanks again!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. The Japanese translation is skillfully done and very close to the English original. There are only slight differences in nuance and form. The second line in the Japanese is only 6 syllables. The first line is literally the “empty cage”, and the last suggests that the parakeet is looking at or regarding the feather rather than just having discovered it.


  3. Pingback: Sydell Rosenberg’s Feather – Haiku Commentary | word pond

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s