Ken Jones’ Freezing Wind

Freezing wind
the dancing clothes
stiffen into people

Frogpond, 31:1, 2008

© Ken Jones (1930 – 2015) (UK)

When love and kindness is not returned, it takes the joy away from people.

– Malintha Perera (Sri Lanka)

This reminds me of when I was a youth living in a really cold part of the world. Mom would do the washing, hang the clothes outdoors (in winter), they would freeze stiff, and when they were brought in, she would stand them by the stove to unfreeze. Seems perfectly normal to me.

– Dana Grover (USA)

If I was writing it, I’d put “stiffen” at the end of line two.

– Eric Lohman (USA)

Straight away, you are transported into a bleak picture… freezing wind, yet the next line ‘the dancing clothes’ seems almost joyous, a festive celebration. Then the reality strikes… ‘stiffen into people’.

This haiku has joy and sadness, a mixture of emotions.

On first reading, we have a happy yet harsh scene… that moment when even the festivities become too cold to enjoy fully.

Maybe the author has seen this ‘dancing clothes’ from a distance yet through the ‘freezing wind’ and as the author nears the scene, it becomes apparent they are only actually people… a far-to-near focus that feels quite disappointing.
Most of us have experienced extreme cold at some point and can relate to the ‘stiff clothes’ syndrome!… but also, as we get older, our bones feel like they are doing the same!

Is it just the clothes stiffening? Possibly attitudes are ‘stiffening’ too as the occasion becomes lost in a freezing wind!

I believe this haiku is showing us that while dancing and fun is being had by all with everyone joining in and interacting, once it is too cold (possibly metaphorically) everyone becomes how they were before… no interactions, everyone going about their separate lives oblivious to each other.

– Brendon Kent (UK)

I can relate to this happening to clothes on a line and to people as they get older. I remember my grandma hanging washing on the line, and how the clothes would freeze and become stiff as boards. People also become stiff with age, both physically and mentally, losing the joy and flexibility of youth.

– Martha Magenta (UK)

Well, a really nice idea—if I wrote it, I would have made it shorter:

freezy wind
dancing clothes
stiffen people

– Hannes Froehlich (Germany)

The content and its message has been sufficiently touched upon, so I would like to mention the sound and rhythm of the haiku. To me, the strongest sound in the haiku comes from the letter “i” in “freezing,” “wind,” “dancing,” “stiffen,” and “into.” It seems to give the sense of cold that the haiku portrays. Also, the significant sound of “z” of “ff” makes a palpable impact on the reader. The word “stiffen” hits the reader hard, and makes for a solemn rhythm in the last line, which adds to the mood of the haiku.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)

Ken Jones was not only a haiku poet, contributing regularly to UK haiku magazines and represented in British and American anthologies. He also played an important part in pioneering the western development to the haibun—an ancient Japanese prose poetry genre.

Ken Jones was until 2013 one of three editors of the print journal, Contemporary Haibun, and the online journal Contemporary Haibun Online. For his contribution to Pilgrim Foxes: Haiku and Haiku Prose, co-authored with Jim Norton and Sean O’Connor, Ken was awarded the Sasakawa Prize for Original Contributions in the Field of Haikai. He resided in Ceredigion, Wales with his Irish wife, Noragh. (The Living Haiku Anthology)

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

Lee Nash’s Mystery

my late night
mystery caller
Northern Lights

Joint winner, tinywords challenge, N° 17.1, March 2017

© Lee Nash (France)

This haiku is very pleasing. I wonder why the word “my” is used in line one. The Northern Lights are beautiful to look at. For me, it’s hard to determine the season, because the area where you can see the Northern lights are closer to the North Pole and you can have the pleasure to see them during six months of the year. Line two is strong—it is my favorite line in this haiku. I wonder if this would work better:

late night
my mystery caller—
Northern Lights

– Laughing Waters (Italy)

The Northern Lights may indicate the “aurora” that has many patterns and colors. The narrator could be a lonely person who is having a sleepless night or maybe he is an introvert who wants to explore more of her own self.

There could be a spiritual meaning behind this haiku, where the aurora can be related to aura, a sort of feeling that we have during meditation. The colors, sounds, and lights all can be experienced during meditation.

There can be a religious aspect as well, implying that the narrator prayed late at night and asked for forgiveness, peace, and serenity in her life.

– Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

I like the twist. You think the mystery caller is a person, but it turns out to be the Northern Lights. He’s probably up late, unable to sleep, and catches the sight of her caller.

– Marilyn Ward (UK)

I agree with Marilyn—this is a very interesting juxtaposition. The poet has a late night mystery caller (line one and line two) which turns out to be the aurora borealis or Northern Lights. Here the poet might have stumbled upon, late at night, the spectacle that unfolds between April and September in a few selected places on Earth. Here, the poet sees a natural phenomenon that happens rarely—and immediately her attention becomes focused on one of the wonders of nature. Truly, if we just learn to be observant, nature has a lot to offer that would always keep us in awe.

– Willie Bongcaron (Philippines)

When we are in “love” with someone or with life, we see and hear every message in its finest moments on a daily basis. This senryu is quite romantic to me! This evening, “my late night” is very personal. It seems, my “mystery caller” is not one whom I do not know. I know him very well. It is what he will say once I pick up the telephone. That will be the surprise! Everything that occurs in our relationship or those who find love in a person or something is surreal! This is the beauty of finding what is worth living for. Those divine Northern Lights are breathtaking, magical, and it’s a delight to read.

– Cartier Luvit (traveler)

“Northern Lights ” is a very dramatic phrase. First, I was absorbed by this word. In the first line, the word “my” falls into the reader’s mind.

And this haiku’s structure is divided into three parts. Usually, this structure is avoided, but there are exceptional haiku with this structure in contemporary haiku in Japan. Some of them have no story, as if each line’s juxtaposition is a flash. “Cutting” guides the reader to reading haiku.

There are also some exceptional hokku with this structure from Basho. Here is my translation of one:

bindweeds have bloomed
I’ll peel a melon

This is a typical three-parts separate hokku.

– Norie Umeda (Japan)

I enjoy the ambiguity of this haiku. It seems to be suggesting two interpretations: that the mystery caller is the Northern Lights, and that her mystery caller brought up feelings within her akin to experiencing the Northern Lights.

In the first interpretation, there is a mystical undertone, as if nature is speaking to her directly. This conversation with nature could have been spontaneous, and therefore he calls it a “mystery.”

In the second interpretation, when someone we love or care for calls unexpectedly, a torrent of emotions and memories usually pulse through us. This experience can be said to be like the Northern Lights in their phenomenal display.

If we look at the sound of the haiku, the most prominent letter used is “l.” To me, the “l” sound gives a sense of awe and excitement, which in turn is closely related to the viewing of the Northern Lights.

I also enjoy the lack of punctuation, which adds more readings to it. The pacing of the haiku is unpretentious for such a grand display as the Northern Lights. I think this works well in its favor, as often poems are dampened when poets overstate and over-express.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)

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

Alan Summers’ Sparrow

dead sparrow haiku Alan Summers Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 08.33.22
Haiku Canada Review, vol. 11, no. 2, (October 2017) ed. LeRoy Gorman

The first line shocks us into the present moment. Sparrows are beloved birds, not only because of their miniature size, but also because of their sweet songs and ubiquitousness. Sparrows as a kigo, or seasonal reference, qualifies for each season, and this adds to their universality perceived in the haiku.

The last two lines depend much on how one reads “light.” Is it light in color, light in weight, or physical light? Summers does not say, but from the feeling we get from reading to the end of the haiku, we might say it is a mixture of both compassion and irony.

The compassion comes from nature giving a spontaneous signal of care or love through a light sky in the evening. This period of the day is lovely and gives off a sense of peace.

The irony could be in the fact that with such a fateful day of a death, the dusk comes lightly (maybe an extended twilight) instead of a definite darkness that would go along with the mood of the day.

This haiku reminds us that nature can be unforgiving and be compassionate simultaneously—and most likely, this is all a matter of spontaneity.

Through the use of sound, Summers makes an even stronger impression on the reader. The use of “l” in “light” and “close” brings about the seriousness of the subject matter, in my opinion. With the alliteration of “comes” and “close” I believe the finality of the event is felt more.

The haiku seems effortlessly written, but the phrasing also appears to have been chosen with intention.

The way I interpreted the photo was that this is the view of the dead sparrow, if it could see. But maybe it is still seeing….

Alan Summers has composed an endearing and contemplative shahai (photo haiku) of feeling and nuance.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)

Dubravko Ivančan’s World

once we are
all dead
the whole world

original Croatian:

Jednom ćemo biti
svi mrtvi;
cćitav svijet.

© Dubravko Ivančan (1931-1982, Croatia)

I see this haiku in three ways. Firstly, when we are together and enjoy our time, that is the best time in our lives, where we enjoy our lives fully. But once we get separated, the whole world looks colourless. I see the word ‘dead’ here as a lack of interest, poor relationships, separation, etc. (especially family relationships).

Then, it could be associated with ‘departure’ as once our close ones are not anymore with us, we feel the whole world is dead or that we have nothing.

Another thought (maybe silly) is related to ‘know thyself’ where people don’t use their best potential and creativity. The concept of ‘being’ can be associated with it, as he used ‘we’ in this haiku, which may point to us being human beings.

– Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

Apocalyptic … !

But ever more relevant as the threat of climate change and nuclear war starts looking less and less like science fiction and more and more like a possible real world scenario …

This haiku leaves a huge question mark hanging over it … what then, if there is a then that has any relevance to humanity?

– Gabri Rigotti (South Africa)

I see two different interpretations depending on where the caesura is placed.

1.) The cut is after the first line:

once we are

all dead
the whole world

I am reminded here of Rene Descartes’ cogito ergo sum. The last two lines reinforce the first. And what I see here is the extinction of humankind. Morbid… and apocalyptic as what the kind Gabri Rigotti has earlier stated. I don’t want for humankind to reach this scenario, but who knows… humankind has become so intelligent (and scheming) that it has already devised ways and means to accidentally or intentionally make its kind extinct. If this happens, then other lower forms of organisms might inherit the earth. But then, who knows.

On the other hand, if we believe what God has said, He would intervene when humankind is about to make itself extinct. Then, there is promise and hope for humankind.

2.) The cut is after the 2nd line:

once we are
all dead

the whole world

I see this as a door that opens a myriad possibilities or eventualities. “Once we are all dead,” then what? Will the world cease to exist because humankind has been eliminated? Apparently, one interpretation of this ku suggests that (once we are all dead, the whole world is dead).

Or, the third line becomes an open-ended anticipation of what would be the final scene.

This is my take of this ku.

– Willie Bongcaron (Philippines)

I think “dead” here means just that—”dead” and if it is about all of us being dead, then I agree with the above, that it is apocalyptic and it relates to the possibility that humanity may wipe itself out.

The third line draws my attention more—”the whole world” means all of humanity, and if we differentiate between “the world” and “the earth” then we can see the earth continuing without humanity and “the world” we have imposed on it.

This haiku wants to be read over and over for the implications to sink in. It says a huge amount in a very few words.

– Martha Magenta (UK)

My instinct, for what it is worth, is to change the tense:

once we were
all dead
the whole world

which gives it a post-apocalyptic feel.

– Francis Franklin (USA)

The poets above have written a great deal of what I wanted to write about this haiku already, however I have one more idea to add. To me, this poem comes instinctively across with the feeling that when each of us perish, we will become the whole world. We are usually confined to our ego and thus to our individuality, but when we die, we once again join the collective consciousness.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)

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

Maria Laura Valente’s Cold Spring

cold spring —
each flower withers

(NHK Haiku Masters, March, 2017)

© Maria Laura Valente (Italy)

According to my understanding, “cold spring” indicates the transformation period from winter to spring. During this period, snow melts from the plants, flowers, and trees that may be a point of withering. “Alone” here indicates the number of a flowers left behind, and that the rest withered during the winter.

The intrinsic side is again the transformation of our life, thoughts, and feelings from one stage to another. “Flowers” may symbolize desires, longings, or wishes of a person that wither, die, or change during this period. “Alone” indicates that each person has his or her own journey to experience transformation, of which is not easily understood by others.

– Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

This strikes me as a chilling reminder that we are all alone in death. The word “alone” on its own in line three emphasizes the aloneness.

– Martha Magenta (UK)

Overall, a very nicely done haiku. Line one brings us the season with “cold spring.” It is the beginning of spring, a symbol of the new cycle of life, new beginnings. In line two, the word “each” indicates more than one, and also shows us that no one is safe—we all will experience the same final result. So, “withering” confirms the ending result of life. Line three is a nice addition. Even with more than one flower present, they are still in solitude—this brings a touch of sadness. I do find this haiku very pleasing. This brings me to an inspired version:

early spring—
cold snap frost flowers
the baker whistles

– Laughing Waters (Italy)

This ku strikes me with a realization that there are events and things in life that we have to do alone. There are points in life when nobody could accompany us; perhaps, even in some decision-making, specially about our individual life, others simply can’t do it for us.

– Willie Bongcaron (Philippines)

Spring is often referred to as a joyous time of blossoming, but often people overlook the withering of flowers in all times of spring. Not all flowers stay beautiful and blossom throughout spring. Some come for a short time with brilliance, and fade away among still blossoming flowers. In this sense, I believe this haiku could be stating that each time period is not just one thing, but convex.

Another feeling I get from this haiku is that pain might have even more pain behind it that we do not perceive. The cold spring is already harsh as it is, but the poet notices how the flowers wither alone, and this amplifies the mood of being in a cold spring. Despite this melancholy perception, it does bring us more into the moment, and allows us to truly experience pain. There is a Buddhist saying that goes something like, “To get rid of pain, become fully immersed in it.”

A look at the sound of the haiku adds to the feeling behind it. The prominent “o” sound in “cold,” “flower,” and “alone” works to bring out the starkness of the moment.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)

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