Elliot Nicely’s Pines

where words fail pines along the cliff’s edge

Kokako #22
© Elliot Nicely (USA)

If I were writing, I’d say “pine” instead of ‘pines’ and ‘fall’ instead of “fail.”

– Edwin Lomere (USA)

Wow! that’s the first word come to mind when reading this. “Fail” and “pines” work fine to me.

I don’t know if it’s meant to have metaphorical meaning, but I just love how it brings me straight to the scene. I would be speechless too if I experienced it myself.

Love the smooth flow between the two parts too.

– Lucky Triana (Indonesia)

The pines along the cliff edge seem to be marking a boundary against falling over, and each pine, in my mind, marks each of the one-syllable words in this monoku. Pines are pointed, so each one is perhaps making a point?

– Martha Magenta (UK)

For me, this monoku is talking about a picture that leaves the author speechless. He isn’t able—although he does in a manner—to find words to describe the feelings of the given scenery. “pines along the cliff’s edge” evokes a common experience in him shown by an explicit example. And so, he simply writes “where words fail.”

– Hannes Froehlich (Germany)

This is a beautiful monoku with multiple interpretations. With the first read, “the cliff’s edge” could be the edge of the ‘mind’.

From a physical standpoint, we are all on the edge, between life and death, whether we like to believe it or not. But the real meaning of the death of words seems to be the death of the ego—”where words fail”—and this would inherently include the “I” thought or the “me” thought that we seem to cling to out of habit, and is constantly reinforced through language through many years of mental conditioning.

But if the mind is conditioned, it seems it can also be deconditioned. If we can add layers to the mind, it seems we can also discover those layers, and maybe, even for a moment, experience the great joy of losing ALL thoughts as they evaporate into the transiency of their origins.

How do we break through the mold of the mind? Why do we identify with the mind in the first place? Indeed, the mind can be a useful tool, and it has its place, but those moments when ALL words fail seems to brings us back to something much deeper, to something that is not personal at all, but rather universal, just beyond the edge of the mind.

And yet, it seems even after this experience, the sense of being a person continues, out of compassion, to better serve life and its various forms.

Maybe this is one reason why haiku has this mysterious ability to bring people together? It seems haiku poets are all on the edge of the mind, and we have this inherent ability to tap into something just beyond it.

Despite our seemingly endless use of words, it seems many of us (secretly or not) yearn for what is wordless and, lucky for us, the beauty of haiku contains both words and what is wordless. So, it seems haiku serves as a very grounding activity to appreciate the ordinary and perhaps see things in a new light, yet simultaneously points to what is wordless and unfathomable.

Our haiku seem to be like small waves on the infinite ocean, appearing and disappearing as creative expressions of the universal source. The innumerable waves are inseparable from the great ocean and its depths, so the illusion of separation is not as concrete as it may seem… Sometimes there is turbulence in those waves, but often, there is music in their movement, rising in and out of silence…. so may we find peace within our words, and our haiku…

– Jacob Salzer (USA)

The content of the haiku has been explored well, so I will add some notes about the sound and rhythm of the haiku.

The alliteration in the beginning with “where words” gives off an aura of seriousness. The “i” sounds in “fail,” “pines,” and cliff’s” supplies readers with a dramatic effect, and the usage of “f” sounds adds to the sharpness of the “i” sounds–this can connect to the sharpness of the pines.

Though it is a one-liner, the elongated syllables in the haiku make readers slow down and take in the words and their feeling.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)

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

Leroy Kanterman’s Scarecrow

Sunset . . .
the scarecrow stretches
across the field

© Leroy Kanterman (USA) (1923-2015)

The day is done, the farmer’s work is finished and he goes home for a well-earned rest! As the sun goes down, it brings with it long shadows and the poet has observed the scarecrow’s shadow lengthening across the field almost like the scarecrow itself is resting after a hard day’s work. “Scarecrow” is an autumn kigo, therefore the field may have been harvested, leaving it flat, which would also extend shadows….

The alliteration of ‘s’ sounds almost say ‘shush’ the scarecrow is resting….
Having the capital “S” on sunset may be a trait of the author to capitalize the first letter or it might be the poet’s way of portraying the influencing ‘power’ within the haiku… sunset itself.

A wonderful haiku.

– Brendon Kent (UK)

Ah, yes. The scarecrow stretches at sunset. When I read this, I see a harvested field, perhaps with stubble of whatever crop was grown on it, and the long shadow of the scarecrow cast upon it. The field is flat, nothing high left on it, save for the scarecrow. And there are at least a couple of ways to view this scene, looking into the sun with the scarecrow in the distance, a black silhouette with its equally-black shadow stretching toward the viewer, or perhaps the viewer is somewhere behind the scarecrow, off to the side a bit, and the scarecrow’s shadow stretches away from him or her, the viewer, the speaker of the piece. I think it must be autumn when shadows are longer throughout the day, but they feel especially long as the sun sets on a clear afternoon/evening, and a chill begins to descend on the scene. But, hey, Leroy Kanterman said all of this, and more, in a mere seven words. A pretty good ‘ku.

– Dana Grover (USA)

I can see the shadow of the scarecrow stretching out over the field as the sun goes down, and perhaps the farmer is also stretching out on the veranda enjoying a cool beer after a hard day’s work.

I like the sibilance of the ‘s’ sounds, like an evening hush. A beautiful haiku

– Martha Magenta (UK)

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

Tiffany Shaw-Diaz’s Hummingbird

my thoughts come
and go

(1st place in the 21st Indian Kukai)

© Tiffany Shaw-Diaz (USA)

The hummingbird symbolizes the enjoyment of life and lightness of being. Thoughts here may indicate changes in mood. The swift movement of this bird can also be related to the thought process. It seems the person is indecisive or restless due to these thoughts.

– Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

This lovely haiku could mean many things to many readers. The hummingbird’s wings move in the pattern of an infinity symbol—suggesting eternity, and continuity. The hummingbird totem indicates the sweet nectar within, and so it has a deep mystical quality. In meditation, our thoughts come and go, in fact, meditation is in part a process of letting go of thoughts that keep coming, not to fight them or hold on to them, simply letting them go. So, there seems to be nothing negative implied here—it’s all positive. It’s about inner growth, transcendence, and finding the heaven within us.

– Martha Magenta (UK)

It’s about finding one’s centre in the midst of impermanence.

– Malintha Perera (Sri Lanka)


– Ronald Kleiman (USA)

I’m sitting here with my eyes closed (not while I am typing this) and can see in my mind’s eye the flitting and diving of the hummingbirds that visit my yard, often flying directly in front of my face and hovering, as if asking “what are you doing here?” Then flying off somewhere so quickly it is hard to see them go. Kind of like my thoughts. I’m hearing something being said which makes me think of something else, and off goes my mind, flitting and diving, missing what else is being said. Thoughts, coming and going, like a hummingbird, are what makes us alive, what makes life worth living.

This is a wonderful haiku.

– Dana Grover (USA)

The interesting thing to me here isn’t that thoughts come and go, but how much they move when they are seemingly in place. A hummingbird, even when hovering, is a very busy, restless, bird. As an unsuccessful meditator, I can relate to this poem. Even in moments of apparent stillness, my mind is unable to rest.

– Dave Read (Canada)

Since the content has been commented on extensively, I will touch upon the sound and rhythm of the haiku.

The most prominent letters in the poem is “m” in “hummingbird” and “my,” and “o” in “thoughts,” “come,” and “go.” The “m” sound mimics the flapping of the hummingbird’s wings, and the “o” sound provides a feeling of leaving or passing, which the last two lines discuss.

The rhythm of the haiku is meditative, especially with the ellipsis. From the rhythm of the haiku, you can feel the state of meditation the writer was in.

This haiku is like a Zen koan without the riddle, in that it puts you in a state of pure awareness without thought.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)

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