Srinivas S’s fog

winter night
the fog thickens around
a long lullaby

Srinivas S (India)
(Published in Under the Basho, Modern Haiku Section, 2020)

The silence and darkness of a winter night imply deep feelings on the surface. Also, memories arise that associate with silence and darkness.

In this haiku, the poet is reminiscing about and missing someone—most probably a child who is no more with him. The poet is probably a parent who is sharing his remorseful feelings with the winter night which is reflecting them through silence, fog, and darkness.

The fog thickening is projected mysteriously in this haiku but it shows the depth of loss that one feels deep inside. It can also mean the desire to forget traumatic memories. This can happen when a person sings a long lullaby and gets lost into the past which is getting vague with time and darkness.

The long lullaby also shows the intensity of grief and pain that one bears on a cold night but cannot retain anymore. So, the winter night provides a platform for catharsis and to sing a long lullaby that is heard by no one but the person himself.

I also feel the manifestation of the poet’s childhood in this haiku, where he feels nostalgic and remembers his childhood which had deprivations.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

The first aspect of this haiku that I saw was the association between a winter night and a fog becoming stronger during a lullaby. Nights in winter can be lonely and depressing. The act of a fog thickening while a lullaby is being sung makes it seem like the song itself is being diluted.

Another way to look at it is that the fog becoming thicker is similar to a long lullaby: you get immersed into the melody and get into the “thick” of feeling drowsy. Drowsiness is sometimes referred to as being in a state of fog.

We can also think of the fog coming to listen to the lullaby. In this sense, there is personification in this poem.

The atmosphere of the haiku is at once cozy and melancholic. It is also a bit mysterious, as the phrasing does not give a direct hint about whether the lullaby is being sung outside or inside.

The format of the lines is standard for English-language haiku. A punctuation mark, like a dash or ellipsis, could have been added after the first line to separate the parts of the haiku. However, it is not needed.

The letter “i” is prominent in the first two lines, which illustrates the starkness of the moment. The last line is dominated by “l” sounds, which provide the mood of a lull that a lullaby gives.

This haiku elicits multiple interpretations. This is a sign of a strong haiku. Multi-dimensional poems often create more layers and more resonance.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)

— Painting by Shuncho

Barnabas I. Adeleke’s muezzin’s call

muezzin’s call . . .
Santa Claus steps aside
to make ablutions

Barnabas I. Adeleke (Nigeria)
(previously published in Frogpond, 43.2) 

There are a few haiku that beautifully reflect interfaith harmony and show reverence and respect for every faith. This haiku is one of them.

The muezzin’s call to prayer is not only the call for prayer but also a message of peace for all those who are on the right path. The path that leads to serve humanity and make this world a better place. The writer beautifully blends two faiths based on the common grounds that are reflected in this haiku.

Santa Claus stepping aside is a gesture of reverence and respect not for other faiths but his own. It seems the Santa Claus in this case is a Muslim who took a break for offering a prayer, or it is a metaphor based on the actions a Santa Claus performs that brings happiness to others’ lives during the time of Christmas by distributing presents.

Ablution depicts the purification of the body before one offers a prayer. It is another way to clean one’s self and then serve others. The blend of beliefs and actions are interwoven beautifully in this haiku. It displays religious harmony in a true sense.

The muezzin’s call makes a person purify their body and soul before serving others. It’s an awakening call for all those who believe in peace, prosperity, and happiness.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

Most haiku are based on a season. The mention of Santa Claus sets this haiku firmly in winter and specifically at the time of Christmas. This could be said to be a senryu as well, which usually examines human life and cuts into it with satire, commentary, and societal backlash. 

In the spirit of giving, it seems like the Muslim man who is dressed up as Santa Claus for an event takes a moment out of his work to pray. I feel this is symbolic of how Christmas has turned into less of a Christian tradition and more of a universal holiday that focuses on giving and receiving gifts generously. In the moment described, the man who pretends to be Santa Claus gives a gift to himself: a moment of peace. He also surrenders himself to God, which can be seen as a gift as well. 

There is nothing hypocritical with a Muslim man portraying Santa Claus, by the way. Though Saint Nicholas was a Christian and is the inspiration for the myth of Santa, Islam and Christianity both puts importance on charity. As a side note, Jesus is discussed over 100 times in the Quran. And surprisingly, Mother Mary is mentioned more in the Quran than in both of the Christian testaments.

One way to look at this haiku is that despite acting a part for work, we should never forget who we are and our foundation. The act in the haiku also calls to mind the humbleness and faith one should have as a religious or spiritual person.

In terms of technical aspects, we can see that this was written in the standard format for English-language haiku. In addition, the sound of this poem can be noted in the use of the letters “u,” “s,” and “c.” In each line, “u” is employed, which slows down the reading of this haiku. This allows the reader to imagine the scene better and to feel the calm of prayer.

It is a haiku or senryu that is at once humorous and profound, speaking to interfaith beliefs and the weaving of cultures.

— Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)


Jay Friedenberg’s soap bubble

children’s laughter
the iridescent sheen
of a soap bubble

Jay Friedenberg (USA)

There is a mixture of emotions that can be found in this haiku. You have children’s laughter and brightness, which are associated with happiness and positivity. However, the mention of a soap bubble supplies an added perspective. The ethereal nature of a soap bubble lends to thoughts of sadness and the limits innocence’s longevity.

This relates to the Japanese aesthetic of “fūryū” which can be described as transitory beauty. Bath time for children is usually playful and memorable. But as an adult, when we see our children enjoying this moment, we may view it with a more introspective eye. We might take note of the transitory nature of childhood innocence and become nostalgic for simpler times.

The word “iridescent” is also important in this haiku. It refers to degrees of luminescence from different angles, and this might point to the fact that the poet is seeing this particular moment from a new view.

There is no kigo, or seasonal reference, mentioned in this haiku, but I would place it in spring. The laughter and joy mixed with melancholic introspection seem appropriate with this season.

Getting more into the technical aspects of this haiku, I think the poet did right by not adding punctuation as a “cutting word” or kireji in the first line. It would have made the first line too long, in my opinion. The length of the lines is standard for English-language haiku, which does its best to follow the go-shichi-go rhythm of Japanese haiku. Also, there is a plenitude of “l”s, “i”s, and “s”s in this poem. Not only does it make it musical, but it adds to the happy but stark nature of this haiku.

Friedenberg, through this poem, has given readers a chance to reflect on their childhood years and to cherish the joy they might have lost. Possibly, this haiku might prompt readers to integrate some of their innocent nature back into their lives. Sometimes we need reminders that life doesn’t always have to be serious. It can be fun and silly, and we can derive happiness from the smallest of things.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)

This beautiful and colorful haiku took me back to my childhood. I started reminiscing about this time of joy and happiness. I can relate to the deep and subtle feelings embedded in the imagery of this haiku that echo back, which creates a soothing impact on the reader’s memory.

In terms of the senses, I can divide this haiku into three parts:

– Line 1 is about hearing children’s laughter

– Line 2 is about seeing the iridescent sheen

– Line 3 could be about touching the soap bubble

Children’s laughter—the sound of a carefree life that starts from our childhood when there is little-to-no sense of responsibility or worldly possessions. The sound of children’s laughter is quite soothing as it has a great impact on the psyche of not only children but also the people who surround them. I take it as laughter therapy that we rarely experience these days but still want to be a part of. Our inner child misses these moments and sometimes, we seek solace in reminiscing about those happy moments that still strike our eardrums softly and make us smile.

The iridescent sheen depicts rainbow colors, the colors of life, and happiness, which connects to laughter. This shows the ‘wholeness’ of life where various colors impact our ‘aura’ and make it beautiful and positive. The sheen is the glow that subtly and miraculously brings light to life, especially in the form of elation and utmost joy. The iridescent sheen also presents hope and positivity in life which helps us to focus on small moments of happiness and the blessings we miss or ignore.

A soap bubble here shows how short our childhood bliss lasts. It also indicates the delicacy and subtlety of moments that we enjoy with our loved ones that unfortunately has a short duration.

Looking at the haiku at a more granular level, as Nicholas said, there are no ellipses in the first line. This makes this poem more open for interpretation and more flexible for enjoying the positive energy that the poet beautifully weaved into it.

To me, this haiku is about gathering our childhood memories related to hearing, seeing, and touching. I loved the way the poet magnified the micro-elements of innocence and positivity, which turned it into a life lesson.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

soap bubble painting

— Painting by Vandy Massey