Antonietta Losito’s Autumn Walk

autumn walk
trying to exchange my breath
with trees

Antonietta Losito (Italy)

An autumn walk is one of my favourite activities. It’s not simply a walk but a therapeutic process where I feel relieved by being a tiny part of this universe. Autumn is a shifting point where one season transforms into another, leaving profound memories behind.

In this haiku, I can feel the depth of those feelings where a person exchanges their breath with trees in a symbiotic way. It’s a win-win situation–everyone gains benefits from each other. I can see how one can be beneficial for others in order to bring peace and prosperity, as it’s a universal phenomenon that one cannot exist without interacting with others.

So, this beautiful haiku shows the long-term purpose of life or the ultimate goal of life: to bring peace within and around as well.

As a side note, I personally liked the ‘t’ sound that resonates in every line of this haiku.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

Autumn is a time when nature is deterioating. I believe the poet felt for the plight of the trees at this time. She wanted to exchange breath, or life, with the being that brings her fresh oxygen and materials for her home.

You can also see this act as kinship. At a time when things are falling apart, the poet wanted to bring nature and humanity together.

The elongated syllables in the haiku and its pacing reminds of an autumn walk. I think the two verbs work fine, as “trying” creates a stronger scene.

Overall, this haiku displays compassion, communion, and the link between nature and humanity.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)

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AUTUMN_WALK_PAINTING_Thumb_copy_530x@2xPainting by Terry Harrison

Robert Kingston’s Afternoon Sun

afternoon sun
a fly ends the sentence
in the crime book

Robert Kingston (UK)
Bones Journal, 13, 2017

We got an interesting comparison (or contrast?). The fly, so intense and looming on the page of the crime book… and the afternoon sun, blazing and overwhelming. It could be a contrast with the black fly and the bright afternoon sun.

I don’t know if a “crime book” refers to a novel, a non-fiction book about crime, or something that the police use. But that’s part of the fun while reading this poem.

Back to the content: a fly usually comes to dead things, so a fly landing on the page is bringing something tangible to the reading experience of this book. It’s like the fictional and the real world collided at that moment. I think that is the “aha” moment the poet felt. The word “sentence” also has a double meaning: the literal one and the one referring to sentencing in courts.

Breaking down the sound, the long “oo” sounds give a leisurely pace and the “s” letters supply a sharp resonance–a good contrast.

The structure of the haiku/senryu is standard and does fine without any punctuation.

An overall playful and enjoyable haiku/senryu that has a deeper layer if you look close enough.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)

This haiku takes me back to my teenage world where I used to read suspense novels and digests. I liked the way the writer conceived the idea of this haiku about a crime scene but also intrigues me to know more about the whole story.

“afternoon sun” is the time when our thoughts and feelings slow down due to the daytime activities and we want something that can make us relaxed and can rejuvenate our energies. I can feel the sense of getting involved in an activity that engages a person’s mind into something more complex and sophisticated like a crime story.

The fly could be a metaphor for something that bothers us or takes our attention away from what we are trying to focus on. It could be the thoughts of a person or any news or any distraction in the environment that lead us to reveal the mystery on our own or let our experience predict the next part of the story. It may be a point of haste where we don’t indulge in the step-wise process of mystery that is written in the crime book. It is the success of a crime book writer who plotted the story in a way where the curiosity of a person is distracted by the environment or surroundings, and it frequently happens these days.

I miss the reading environment these days where all my senses fully enjoy the book that I am holding in my hands.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

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– painting by Robert Baranet called “Afternoon Sun”

Elaine Wilburt’s Shadow

crescent moon —
enough shadow
to imagine

Elaine Wilburt (USA)
Published originally in Chrysanthemum 26, 2019

A crescent moon or a new moon is the start of a new month, which brings hope and energy with it. I take the crescent moon as a source of yearning for new dreams and plans.

“enough shadow” metaphorically has two meanings here: the dark side of the moon that goes into the light with lunar phases and becomes visible to the eyes, and the shadow of a person, which can be called a persona. In both cases, shadows reflect our desires that need time to get fulfilled. I could see a close connection to life’s stages and lunar phases, where a person grows physically, spiritually, emotionally, and mentally over a period of time. But before that, every aspect of life remains a mystery, like a shadow, and becomes visible once it gets enlightened by time and reflects our true self and/or potential.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

I feel this haiku represents a “glass half full” perspective. It makes me think about how something negative, depressing, or solemn can be seen in a positive light. Also, as Hifsa noted, a crescent moon represents a fresh beginning. With that, I believe the poet is expressing optimism for the path ahead on a new journey.

You can say, in addition, that when we look at a crescent moon, we sometimes to fill in the dark space with light through our imagination. We try to view the moon as full, even though it is crescent. So, the haiku could be speaking to our desire to fill in the holes in our perception.

The word “enough” is strong in this poem. It paints the scene perfectly, as it refers to dusk and the shadows that creep in at that time. It demonstrates the level of awareness the poet had when she wrote this haiku.

There is a potent sense of sound in the poem as well. With strings of “o”s, the pace slows down, reminiscent of dusk. With the ample “n”s it has, a feeling of dignity is given to its reading.

Lovely phrasing, imagery, and sound make this haiku impressive.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)

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Painting by Kotozuka Eiichi(琴塚 英一 Japanese, 1906-1976)


Anna Maria Domburg-Sancristoforo’s Lake Twilight

aviary-image-1517294710424Photograph by Lorena Campiotti, haiku by Anna Maria Domburg-Sancristoforo
Published in Failed Haiku, issue 28, 2018

I enjoy the mystical sense this haiku brings. With the comparison of twilight at a lake and the chasing of clouds’ silence, the reader looks through their mind’s eye to imagine a meditative experience. The poet is perhaps wanting to leave her ego behind and become one with something more primal and foundational: the silence of nature.

Twilight is a time of being between daylight and darkness—something difficult to grasp or pin down. The “chasing” of the silence that clouds contain, either by the narrator or twilight itself, is another thing of abstractness and obscurity. This is akin to the Japanese aesthetic of yugen, which suggests subtle profundity and is associated with mystery.

The structure of the poem fits the rhythm of traditional haiku well and has a clear cut marker (kireji) in the first line to bring about more complexity and a juxtaposition. The strongest sounds in the haiku are the “l”s and “i”s.  Both supply us with a lilting feeling, which in an abstract sense is like the movement of clouds.

The photograph conjures an epic scene to take in and sets the environment well. It compliments the haiku, as it does not go directly into the “chasing” part. It delivers the scene to us so we can dive more into the mind of the poet.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)

The opening line of this haiku takes us to the colourful sky that can be observed at twilight. Mostly, twilight has fading colours i.e. red, purple, yellow, and blue. These fading colours reflect the colours of an aura that we have in the evening, especially at twilight. So, the lake’s twilight complements or blends with the colours of our aura. I can feel the deep silence of the lake at twilight that is due to either the migration of birds or other lake creatures, or due to abandonment. In both cases, the lake reflects the colours of twilight, as well as the mood of the person who was observing it.

Chasing silence may indicate the meditative thoughts that are closely embedded in the silence of the lake and intertwined with the colours of the sky. The narrator may have had profound experiences of seeing clouds, which may also be her ongoing thoughts (maybe chaotic), and she wants to move beyond those thoughts to finally get a peaceful mind.

This haiku beautifully presents the whole image in a subtle way, where we can observe a deep relationship among twilight colours, clouds, silence, and mood. It reveals the mystery of human curiosity to go deeper into one’s thoughts and feel the depth of subtle experiences. Overall, I enjoyed the imagery of this haiku which moved me to vividly experience a lake twilight.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

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Goran Gatalica’s Tadpoles

starlight —
the tadpoles vanish
in a blurry pond

Goran Gatalica (Croatia)

Under the Basho, (modern haiku), March 2019

This haiku resonates with the things that don’t get a lot of importance in our lives. The opening line ‘starlight’ symbolizes two aspects in the context of this poem.

– It glows but remains unnoticed, especially when the stars are far away from the earth.

– A light dot that is mysterious in many ways.

The tadpoles depict the initial stages of life when things remain insignificant and mysterious, like the tiny stars that are in fact huge.

The blurry pond may symbolize our limited vision and perception of not seeing things beyond their looks. We don’t go into the depth of things that look small in shape and size.

The starlight and tadpoles in a blurry pond lose their impact and significance once they lose their reflection.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

This is one of those haiku that takes us by surprise with its juxtaposition. At first, we might be puzzled by the comparison or contrast being made.

Starlight can take many light years to travel into our view. Also, if we look directly at a distant star, due to it being so far and surrounded by darkness, it can escape our vision after a while.

This all might relate to tadpoles vanishing in a blurry pond. Tadpoles are very small and are hard to spot in a body of water, like stars in the sky. We can easily lose track of them. Plus, the next time we see the tadpoles that we saw before, they might have grown up as a frog or toad. This length of time connects to the duration it takes starlight to travel into our perception.

In another way, the haiku could be presenting a contrast. Tadpoles are larvae and new to life, whereas starlight may be luminescence from a star that has already died. Yet, the shape of a tadpole and starlight are very similar. So, the aesthetic of “as above, so below” in Japanese poetry is demonstrated.

There is a lot of sound in this poem to notice, though it is small. Check out how each line has “l” sounds. There is also a prevalence of “r”s and “p”s. Not only does this make the haiku more musical and a joy to read, but these consonants give the reading more weight.

The format works well, which has the standard pacing of English-language haiku. The dash in the first line gives a clear cut between the two parts of the poem, allowing the reader to easily see a juxtaposition is being made.

Overall, this is a subtle haiku that can swing from being a comparison to contrast in imagery, which can bring about the feeling of connection between mundane life and the cosmos.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)

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– “Starlight Night” by Georgia O’Keeffe

Christina Sng’s Hospital

pale against
the hospital pillow
winter snow

Christina Sng (Singapore)

There are times when we are down due to an illness or disease, where everything around us looks dysfunctional and depressing. We try to relate to our feelings with our surroundings, especially the weather. We strive to console ourselves by finding out our shortcomings in the outer world.

This haiku depicts exactly that situation, where the illness of a person can be connected to winter snow as both bringing depressing thoughts and feelings.

The word ‘pale’ indicates dullness and the fragile condition of a person who is seriously ill and depressed due to his or her illness. This colour also indicates autumn, where leaves change their colours and fall down—ultimately looking pale. Here, paleness also suggests a departure or farewell due to a serious illness. A person in this state might feel as if he or she is close to death. So, the feelings of departure itself bring a lot of pain, melancholy, and depression.

Metaphorically, paleness also depicts negative emotions, where a person feels lonely and stressed out, which further suggests the poor mental health of a person.

The hospital pillow could be a metaphor for the cause of depressing and broken thoughts. Paleness against the pillow is the expression of those thoughts that a person has during a time of illness.

Winter snow, especially when someone projects his or her feelings on it, becomes a source of annihilation, a passive mindset, or negativity. It brings life to an end by slowing down the system of both the inner and outer worlds. It gives deep silence and melancholy where a person feels more close to his or her self and cannot avoid all the memories and traumatic events that have happened in his or her life. It brings coldness that turns down positive energies, especially will power.

Overall, it’s all about the deterioration of life’s processes, whether it’s nature or our body.

Hifsa Ashraf  (Pakistan)

The image in this haiku is intriguing. We are not told if the pillow is outside and snow is falling on it, or that the reflection of snow from a window or elsewhere is shown on the pillow. Or, the poet is watching snow tumble down outside from within a hospital room. Leaving that kind of space in haiku is important. In fact, it’s an unspoken rule to try to leave out something when composing haiku.

As Hifsa pointed out, “pale” has many connotations. In a way, it personifies the snow and tricks us into thinking that maybe even the snow is sick. It also gives a sense that the snow is partaking in the experience of the poet or narrator.

There is an idea of purity being implied here as well. Snow is usually bright white, especially winter snow. The haiku could be conveying that the hospital pillow, though artificial, shines in its whiteness more than the snow. This provides the feeling of coldness and of perhaps death. The imagery also suggests that we have made a world where human-made things are now more “pure looking” than nature itself.

In terms of sound, the two “p”s pop out and so do the “l”s and “o”s. Christina’s work is commonly extraordinarily musical. The “p” sounds perhaps emphasize the stark nature of the scene, whereas the “o” sounds slow down the pace and mirror the solemn tone of the poem. The “l”s just make the haiku sound better, in my eyes.

For the format, we have the usual short line/long line/short line form. That tried and true pacing works great for the content.

A haiku with notions of purity, artificiality versus nature, and life and death intermixed. Another strong haiku from a contemporary master of the form.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)

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Photograph by © David Hutchison

Vandana Parashar’s War Zone

war zone…
no one left to decide
who is right

Vandana Parashar (India)
Cattails, May, 2017

I see two ways readers can interpret this haiku.

1) Both sides of a conflict have sustained great casualties, and ideas of morality are left outside the realm of comprehension.

2) War always engages in violence and in that respect, neither side should be able to decide what is right or wrong.

Both interpretations contain a sense of irony. It is ironic that we try to be moralistic when it comes to killing other people for land, resources, domination, and more.

I feel the ellipsis conveys the tragedy of the circumstance and the silence after an intense battle. The structure is standard, but the chilling “o” sounds strung through the haiku provide a strong impact.

I think this haiku, or even senryu, makes for striking but subtle commentary on the irony and tragedy of war.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)

This poignant haiku takes us not only to the actual battlefield but also to the daily grudges and rows that are mostly endless and bring harmful effects to our lives. I have observed such situations many times in my own life where fights based on egos don’t end just because everyone thinks he or she is right and the next person is wrong.

The first line of this haiku is about a war zone: a zone that is a territory full of danger and harmful effects. The war zone indicates our mindsets and our egos with negative thoughts and feelings that disturb us mentally, physically, and spiritually, that bound us to not see out of the box, that steal our positive energies and act as a slow poison.

When one is in that war zone, one is not able to think or act rationally or logically. This is the level where we don’t go beyond our limited perceptions of the world and relationships, which makes us judge our relationships without having set criteria. We hallucinate about our surroundings and defend ourselves, merely giving reasoning to what is delusional and not reality. We feel that we are right and we justify our point of view with arguments without logic. We live with such delusions all the time which takes us to the comfort level of not being rejected, defeated, or surrendered.

Overall, this haiku is all about our negative attitude towards relationships when we are having trouble handling issues and problems. We end our relationships without even reaching any conclusion about who is wrong and who is right. We have a false self-image and we live with it all our lives and get involved in an endless war that we pass on from generation to generation without reaching any finality.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

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“The Battle of Sekigahara” by Kris Knapp

Wiesław Karliński’s Agave Flower

agave flower
in a gardener’s notebook
last entry

Wiesław Karliński (Poland)
Akisame 43:1, 2016

Understanding this haiku takes a bit of know-how about the agave. This extraordinary plant only blooms once, and when it does, it is a sign that it will soon die. It is even nicknamed “century plant,” as it can take 100 years for it to bloom.

So, the gardener, before his or her passing, wrote about an agave in bloom. It is a sign of not only interconnection but also that humans are not so distant from plants. Both the agave and the gardener perhaps both lived for up to 100 years and also had one true shining moment in their lives that could be said to be the pinnacle of beauty or realization.

We can assume that the gardener died around the same time as the agave. However, maybe the gardener was so affected by the passing of the plant that he or she ceased from writing. It could be a testament to how much the gardener felt for the plants he or she cared for.

In a technical sense, the poem is minimalist and lets the imagery and the implied notions do the work. I am always impressed when I see haiku written in such few words that carry enormous weight.

In terms of sound, the “r”s that run through the poem give it a serious tone. The sparse language points to the stark nature of the content.

This haiku is layered: it is intriguing at first read, aesthetically pleasing at second read, and greatly nuanced at third read.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)

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agave-azure-web– “Agave Azure” by Cathy Carey

Lori Ann Minor’s Last Orchid

the last orchid
from its pot
I accept
my infertility

Lori Ann Minor (USA)
First Place Winner, 2019 Mandy’s Pages Tanka Time Contest

The crisp pacing of this tanka brings out the starkness of the imagery. Succinctly, Lori zeroes in on a single act and relates that to her state of being. You can say the poet felt the Japanese aesthetic of “aware,” which relates to an object or thing conjuring emotions when perceiving it.

It seems that the poet finds a moment of connection between an orchid and herself, maybe symbolically. This kind of sentiment is expressed in Japanese poetry often and is a highly effective way of conveying a state of being. Instead of elaborating about oneself or others, poets of Japanese forms allow plants and animals to embody who they are.

Maybe the poet looked at the uprooted orchid, in all its beauty and frailty, and spontaneously had a sense of acceptance about her infertility. Or, maybe this acceptance came well after the fact. It does not matter so much about the time frame. What is significant is that readers can instantly feel the power of the words while reading this tanka. The emotion with which the poem was written is effectively conveyed, and that is the most a poet can wish for. A piece of themselves is passed onto the reader and so, the poet lives on in those who read their work.

I enjoy the humbleness of this poem. It gives the feeling that a plant and a person are not so far apart. In a way, the orchid becomes a conduit through which Lori can find acceptance. In this sense, the orchid is a martyr without even knowing it is.

The main sound I hear in the tanka is the repetition of “t.” It might mimic the “tick” or “thud” of an orchid being uprooted. Also prevalent is the use of “o,” which slows down the pace to allow the reader to take in the tanka to a greater extent.

The first line standing as “uprooting” makes the experience of imagining the poem more intense. From there on, the line breaks are more standard but well done.

A poignant tanka that uses excellent pacing, sound, and imagery to deliver a feeling straight from the poet to the reader.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)

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Helen Buckingham’s Wafer

church bells versus
the ice cream van
a wafer each way

© Helen Buckingham (UK)
(Presence, 54, 2016)

The image at first reading draws an amused smile, thinking of this van whose call is contrasted by church bells and which at the bottom presents its ice creams in wafers similar to the host. But, a reflection immediately arises. The ice cream van is so earthly, a bearer of carnal pleasure, compared to the bells that for centuries have been calling for moments of spirituality. It is, therefore, to be thought that the van is practically reduced to silence. It makes one think of the Middle Ages, of the centuries in which every frivolous pleasure was branded as a mirror of evil… and, in the present moment, to the heavy hand that every religion continues to have, openly or more subtly, towards its believers. This poem leaves a lot of food for thought, that delves deep into reality, and keeps a sense of lightness, which is the merit of a successful haiku.

Margherita Petriccione (Italy)

As I perceive this, there is an element of conflict between divine duty and human desires. The haijin is trying to keep both in balance but keeps humor alive. There are irony and humor in this and I feel this haiku has the Japanese aesthetic of karumi.

Pragya Vishnoi (India)

I can see both the materialistic and spiritual sides of life in this beautiful haiku.

Church bells are a call for prayer to gather the blessings of life and also indicate the awakening of the inner self by focusing on spiritual energy. This aspect takes us closer to the self that we usually ignore due to different activities of life. The bells repeatedly toll to remind us to take a break from worldly chaos and the fast pace of life. On the other hand, we always rush to complete our daily activities and to-do lists so that we can find ways to stay in competition or do work well.

The ice cream van indicates our cravings that build up from different flavours and tastes of life which pull us towards them. But, they melt down fast like ice cream and we strive for the next flavor or taste of life. This endless cycle goes on, where we share mixed feelings and collect precious memories as well.

The word ‘versus’ in the first line shows that we are oscillating between two ends, one that leads us deep inside–a sort of spiritual journey. The other one is worldly desires that pull us daily to enjoy the bounties and blessings of life that surround us. In both ways, there is a wafer that may come as blessings, happiness, joys, or self-fulfillment only if we keep a balance between both ends, which can bring harmony in our lives and give us real satisfaction in life. I love the simplicity and choice of words in this haiku that metaphorically hide the image of the entirety of life and give us a lesson about enjoying every aspect of life by keeping balance.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

A lot is going on here. While an ice cream van can represent the season of summer as a kigo, to me this reads more of a senryu than a haiku.

I like the clash between the sound of church bells and the notorious melody an ice cream van makes at the same time.

I can picture people outside the church being tempted by a passing ice cream truck perhaps because of the outdoor heat while struggling to make it to church on time because that’s the purpose of church bells, which is to gather people of faith together, while an ice cream van gathers people for profit.

The struggle between what’s holy and the worldly is strong in this senryu. What makes it strong to me is the power of God over something trivial as ice cream or vice versa if you’re an atheist.

Then, the poet adds on the last line “a wafer each way” which makes me, the reader, wonder if it is a communion wafer or an ice cream wafer? Perhaps a person who’s taking a communion wafer is thinking of ice cream at the same time or it could be the other way around.

This poem is a great example of ‘show, don’t tell’ through sensory images. Mixing the images lets the reader visualize or interpret what is happening when two things happen at once.

Fractled (USA)

I enjoy the comedic nature of this haiku/senryu. “a wafer each way” instantly makes me chuckle. However, there is a deeper layer behind the comedy. The temptation of eating ice cream, something earthly, is summoned by the ice cream van’s music, while the church bells bring out a sense of faith and duty in us. This mix causes a person to choose between what is most important to him or her. In a way, life is about making choices, and those choices determine who we are.

I like the sound of “van” and “versus,” “wafer” and “way,” “church” and “cream.” It brings out the playful sense in which this poem was written. The lack of punctuation and the pacing of the poem also suggest that it leans more towards a senryu.

An enjoyably deep senryu.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)

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– Saint Andrey’s Church in Kyiv, Ukraine