William J. Higginson’s Tick, Tick

the tick, tick
of snow on the reeds . . .
sparrow tracks

© William J. Higginson (USA)

As I see it, the scene conjures a time of early winter, when the snow falls, yet perhaps lightly. And adding to the scene, sparrow tracks (line three) which construes that once, a sparrow was exploring the marshy portion of this location. I take the whole image as another manifestation or celebration of the transitoriness of things and events in our lives.

The persona here could be a tracker or a hunter out to satiate his or her eagerness to score a game. And, finding the place devoid of life, contemplates what to do next… or retreated in the appreciation of the quietness of his or her surrounding.

– Willie Bongcaron (Philippines)

Here a sparrow has left its tracks in snow. Perhaps the sun has risen and the snow on the reeds begins to thaw. The tick tick of the thawing snow seems to reflect the sound of the sparrow hopping. A lovely atmospheric haiku.

– Martha Magenta (UK)

I want to point out how potent this haiku is sonically. The first line begins with an onomatopoeia with “tick, tick.” The next sound that is important is the “s” that is present in “snow,” “reeds,” “sparrow,” and “tracks.” There is also a strong presence of “o” sounds and “t” sounds. All in all, this is one of the most musical haiku I have ever read. I believe the sounds reflect the noise of the sparrow and the snow falling on the reeds lightly. Just from its sound, it is a wonderful haiku, and brings us fully into the moment portrayed through the images.

The similarity between the “tick” of snow falling on the reeds, and sound of the sparrow making its tracks is interesting to ponder. In my perspective, it reflects the contrasts of life, and how if one thing is degenerating, something new is being made at the same time to balance it out. The reeds are being covered by the snow gradually, while fresh tracks are created by the sparrow. Essentially, in death there is life, and in life there is death.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)

Ken Sawitri’s Plastic Bag

with the plastic bag
a stork wraps the moon
on its head

© Ken Sawitri (Indonesia)

Published originally in: Robert Epstein and Miriam Wald (Eds.), 2016 (1st ed.), Every Chicken, Cow, Fish and Frog: Animal Rights Haiku, Middle Island Press.

Below are various reactions to this haiku by four poets:

My first reaction is one of horror—an image of a wild bird with its head stuck in a plastic bag. I can’t see where the moon comes in though.

– Martha Magenta (UK)

I too, find this to be an upsetting image—the horror of a defenseless bird entrapped in a human-made object intended for a legitimate use that has resulted in a devastating (to the stork) consequence. Yet, the author does not come right out and state the horror, he merely reports it, and, “oh, by the way” (he seems to say), the plastic bag reflects the image of the moon, a natural element caught with an unnatural object.

– Dana Grover (USA)

To echo Dana and Martha, this haiku brings a feeling of a natural life form trying to adapt to an unnatural object. When I read this, the stork is making a nest out of the plastic bag by wrapping it on top of its head. Under the moonlight, the plastic bag is illuminated in darkness. The word “wraps” seems to reflect the act of creating circles, and this is why a nest came to mind. It brings an unsettling image and reminds us of just how much trash humans have created.

At grocery stores where I live, plastic bags are recycled, and good people know to recycle them versus filling a landfill or discarding them off the side of the road. If anything, I hope this haiku reminds people to recycle and reuse plastic bags. In a world where everything is connected, each action we take, no matter how small, makes a difference.

– Jacob Salzer (USA)

I think this haiku contains an opportunity for a mix of interpretations. In fact, I believe the author intended for us to get a visceral reaction out of it: one that is at once shocking by the image, and awed by the beauty of the moon. To me, these qualities make it a strong haiku, as it reflects life: life is mixed, with good in bad, and bad in good.

The plastic bag is flimsy, unnatural, and a thing eventually meant to be thrown away. Yet, here in the haiku, it has the dignified duty of carrying the light of the moon on the stork’s head. This act can have many interpretations, but the spiritual meaning could be that the stork feels a sense of enlightenment and it has gone beyond its mind or individual self. It seems like a representation of a loss of ego and becoming one with the spiritual self.

This haiku does carry overtones of death, but that could be the death of the ego, and the “attainment” of enlightenment. The haiku portrays a disturbing moment, however the heron could theoretically shake the plastic bag off its head in an instant. But we are kept in suspense, and this marks one of the qualities of haiku: since it is a fragment of a sentence, the poet can create mystery quite easily.

Even the sound of the haiku demonstrates a mixed feeling. The “o” sound in “stork,” “moon,” and “on” brings a soothing resonance. However, with the hard sounds of “plastic,” “bag,” and “wraps”, the haiku delivers a harsh feeling.

The open and striking nature of this haiku allows one to ponder its image for a while. I think like a good haiku, it cannot be pinned down in meaning and mood.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)

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

Anto Gardaš’ Buzzing

plum blossoms—
every crown buzzing
the same tune

original Croatian:

Procvale šljive.
Svaka krošnja zuji
istu melodiju.

© Anto Gardaš (Croatia) (1938-2004)

There is this happy feeling when you look at plum blossoms in their different shades of pink. True to their form, plum blossoms, for the Chinese and Japanese people, “symbolize perseverance and hope, as well as beauty, purity, and the transitoriness of life.”

Therefore, I see this ku as some form of celebration of life. That, after the cold harsh winter and the barrenness of the surroundings, trees begin to awaken and show their inner beauty to the appreciating and thankful world.

“Every crown buzzing the same tune” for me shows this celebration… when spring comes to life starting with the awakening of plum blossoms.

– Willie Bongcaron (Philippines)

A kind of celebration that is truly in sync with every type or colour of the flower. Crown may indicate a tiara, if I am not wrong!

– Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

I paused on the word “crown” for some time. I looked through translation machines to see if the translation matched up, and it does. My initial reaction was that of flower crowns, where you tie flowers together to create a crown. It is a playful and sweet act. The buzzing could be from bees trying to collect pollen while the crowns lie on the ground.

Plum blossoms are elegant and charming, and they come in early spring. The oneness of the buzzing could be indicative of the joy people feel in unison when spring starts to sprout.

In another sense, with the idea of a crown, each person is given the dignity of nature to use for their benefit and decoration. The buzzing of the same tune shows that maybe, we are all the same in the eyes of nature. We only make distinctions in our minds and create divisions through our own projections.

The joy and message of unity of humankind made me select this poem. When we imagine this haiku’s scene in all its beauty and meaning, we are transported to a glance of heaven.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)

What do you think or feel about this haiku? Tell us below in the comments.

Lorin Ford’s Slow Dancing

slow dancing
to Satie
the pears ripen

© Lorin Ford (Australia)

Modern Haiku, 44:1, 2013

The subtlety, sly haikai humor, and ekphrastic nature of this haiku all unfold gradually and as imperceptibly as the ripening fruit it ends with, perhaps leaving many readers perplexed. Even without deeper understanding, the surface meaning is pleasant and intriguing, with the connection to the ripening pears and the dance left open to interpretationand while this is not a haiku that will speak universally, for some it will have a delicious, piquant charm, providing a refreshing change of pace from the ordinarily somber tone of much of English-language haiku with its hidden element of absurdist humor.

The first line brings to mind an intimate setting. A couple slow dancing in their home perhaps, or in a private garden, we are brought into a quiet, intimate moment. The music is the first clue that something is amiss—famous for being a precursor of minimalist music, writing “wallpaper music,” and amassing a laundry list of bizarre eccentricities, Erik Satie was a Fin de siècle French composer who dabbled in Dada and surrealism, peppered his music with strange commands like from the tip of the thought, and be clairvoyant, and is most famously remembered as the composer of the Gymnopédiesslow, undanceable tunes whose melodies evoke an ancient, sensual melancholy, and whose unusual portmanteu name brings to mind Greek youths dancing nude through fantastical neoclassical settings à la Maxfield Parrish. This is not typical dance music, even for a quiet, slow moment of romance, the pulse being almost painfully lugubrious and the mood somber—music more suitable for ruminations on a rainy day.

The third line brings in a kigo, placing the ku in late summer or early fall, the pears ripening on the trees, or perhaps in a bowl in the dimly lit-house—our setting is still uncertain. The pear’s shape echoes the curves of the woman or women dancing, hinting at fecundity and sensuality, perhaps even a sexual awakening as ripeness is attained. But is it truly a kigo, a shift to nature and a seasonal reference? Here, the riddle is solved, and those who are familiar with the composer’s ouvre will realise the clever twist and reference to one of Satie’s many vexing works, worthy of Magritte in the wordplay and absurdity inherent to its name: “Three Pieces in the Form of a Pear.”

It is rare to have such obscure literary, musical, or art references in contemporary English-language haiku. In Japanese haiku, such literary excess or eccentricity has a long history, but the over-dependence on kyakkan shasei (objective life sketching) and Bashō‘s Zen infused sabi aesthetics that lingers from the early days of ELH often robs us of such moments of subtle recognition and wry humor that is so distinctly haiku, rather than a dabbling with the senryu range of caricature and satire. Ford’s bringing a touch of Satie’s own Dadaist humor into the world of the Japanese forms shows the composer to be a surprisingly appropriate choice; the ku echoes the wordplay and eccentric humor of the Danrin school of haikai or the quirky surrealism of post-war Japanese haiku. This is one of those verses that I wish I had written myself, for it is utterly charming and perfect in a quiet, subtle way—a unique and thoroughly modern masterpiece.

Erik Satie ~1903~ Trois Morceaux en Forme de Poire:


– Clayton Beach (USA)