Carmela Marino’s starry avenue

starry avenue
the same thought
after a year

Carmela Marino (Italy)

(published previously in Stardust, January 2021)

I appreciate the atmosphere of this haiku. I see an avenue full of puddles after rain, and each puddle is reflecting the stars. I feel the silence of the evening. I see the poet walking alone, contemplating. Combined with the silence after rain, I feel the poet’s deep meditation and possibly a feeling of déjà vu. 

I like how we don’t know what “the same thought” is. This opens up many interpretations for us as readers. Here are 5 interpretations that come to mind:

1) The poet could have made a New Year’s Resolution (or a birthday wish) and now the poet’s resolution or wish did not come true after one year (possibly because of barriers such as the COVID-19 pandemic or other things) and this could bring a sense of melancholy and struggle. If it’s the poet’s birthday, perhaps the unfulfilled wish brings a real sense of longing. In a more humorous sense, it could communicate how New Year’s Resolutions are sometimes forgotten and get brushed under the rug, only to reappear after a year. 

2) Sometimes, it seems our New Year’s Resolution or birthday wish can take longer to appear than we originally thought. In this light, I can feel the value and wisdom of patience in this haiku. A favorite quote by haiku poet and teacher Alan Summers comes to mind: “The best things in life should rarely be rushed.” 

3) The same thought in this haiku could be a repeated question or problem the poet is contemplating that still doesn’t have an answer after one year. This question/problem could be personal, scientific, or philosophical among many other things. One possibility is the poet could be asking a question such as: “What is the cure for the disease ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis)?” Because there is no known cure for ALS, the poet could be internally asking the same question, digging deeper for answers. 

4) The poet could have a focused thought of recovery from some form of addiction, and each day, after one year has passed, continues to show dedication and perseverance through focused attention on one single thought. This haiku moment could be a celebration of the poet being sober from drugs or alcohol for one year. 

5) Along similar lines, the poet could be focused on a single thought devoted to the Divine and the Great Mystery each day after one year has passed.  

There is a great balance in this haiku between the known and the unknown, between concrete imagery and mystery. Regardless of what thought comes to mind for us in the haiku, I appreciate how this poet opens the door for us to enter a serious, or humorous, contemplative mood. Ultimately, it seems this haiku reminds us of the power of attention. With the one-pointed mind of concentration, we can get a lot more done each day with few distractions to reach our goals. Spiritually, with a focus on the Divine and the Great Mystery, it seems ordinary life and, indeed, even an ordinary street, can become extraordinary and meaningful. In a world where everything is connected, it seems every single thought and action we take makes a difference in ways that are far beyond our ability to comprehend. In light of this interconnectedness, this haiku reminds us to be mindful of what we pay attention to. As I walk with the poet on the quiet, star-filled avenue, I’m immersed in a space of deep meditation, contemplation, and reflection. 

— Jacob Salzer (USA)

A starry avenue is always a source of inspiration, dreaming, and hope. This haiku connects us not only to the ambiance of a starry avenue but also alludes to the big constellations that one makes to redirect their imagination, thoughts, and feelings. I feel a sense of connectivity between the person and that place where they like to explore more and more in their thoughts. A year’s gap may be due to the pandemic year, which has changed nothing about them and this place.

The intangible aspect of this haiku is related to the creative or aesthetic part of life. Irrelevant of the circumstances, a person remains curious about their imaginative world, daydreaming that takes them away from worldly chaos. They feel a connection between the Earth and the sky that can be felt through the strings of imagination, daydreaming, and a curious mind. 

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

Jacob and Hifsa went over the possible interpretations and meanings of this haiku in depth. I’ll now look over the more technical elements.

As Jacob mentioned, this might be a New Year’s haiku. So, the second and third lines could be a kigo for New Year’s Day. This might relate well with “starry avenue as well, as fireworks have a similar look to stars.

The line break in the first line is a sufficient supplement for kireji, or a cutting mark in Japanese haiku. The cut is obvious without punctuation, though an ellipsis would have worked well too.

The connection between the two parts of the haiku, or toriawase, is not too close or too distant in its association. This is a sign of a skillful haiku. The stars being reflected from the sky onto water in an avenue is related to having the same thought after a year. Or, the stars are seen in the sky through the narrow confines of an avenue, and that limitation is felt in having the same thought after a year. The poet tells readers of this echo between humanity and nature without stating it directly.

The poet does well to match the original rhythm of Japanese haiku with a short first line, a longer second line, and short third line. It was also composed with brevity in mind and common language, which is also essential to the art of haiku.

Finally, sound plays a role too, with “s” and “t” letters make readers feel the power of the moment more.

All in all, this is a well-composed haiku that follows the traditional art of this genre and brings about a fresh image for us to take a deep meaning from.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)

A discussion of The Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh
Café Terrace at Night by Van Gogh

Stephen Curro’s fog

just off the plane
humidity fogs
my glasses

Stephen Curro (USA)

I like how this haiku let’s the reader step into another world. It conjures up a memory of visiting family in Alabama years ago. The humidity there was so thick. I would step outside for five or ten minutes and be sweating, just from standing! It seems “humidity fogs my glasses” could also represent the hazy feeling of visiting a foreign country filled with unknowns on the journey. It seems to mark a degree of uncertainty, which can be beautiful, accompanied by unexpected turns and surprises on the adventure. At the same time, the mental haze/foggy glasses could represent stepping onto land that might be intimidating (or at least appear to be). I also interpreted the foggy glasses as the psychological haze from jet lag, adjusting to a new time zone. It seems the physical fog could also represent mental fog. i.e. if we cling and identify with certain thoughts or ideas, they seem to shape how we physically see the world. Another literal interpretation is the author’s own breath could create fog on their glasses. I have experienced this while wearing a COVID-19 mask. My warm breath rises from inside the mask and fogs my glasses.

While we don’t know where the poet has landed, or exactly why they are there, I feel his courage in this haiku and all the emotions (and culture shock) that comes with the adventure. I get a clear sense that he has stepped outside of his comfort zone. If opportunities arise, I think it’s important to experience the diversity of life and embrace different cultures. A deceptively simple and powerful haiku. 

Jacob Salzer (USA)

It’s difficult sometimes to get rid of certain memories that usually jump in during the journey, especially when someone lands in another place. This haiku depicts how memories, departure, separation, and leaving the past behind can dilute one’s thoughts, vision, and future. The expression ‘humidity fogs’ is beautifully used here as it is a phenomenon that rarely catches the attention of poets. Foggy glasses simply show that the person passes from one illusion of life to another with no clarity of his/her vision, and the future as well.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

This haiku caught my attention because of the idea that the poet enters a new environment and cannot enjoy it/perceive it properly. It resonates with me in that, no matter where we go, our biases and individual perceptions cloud our awareness. Even though we go to a new place on our travels, we carry our personal baggage with us everywhere we go. It may not be possible to experience anything without the interruption of our ego and mental conditioning. It seems that only by being in the state of pure awareness can we witness a new environment without hindrance.

In terms of kigo, there may not seem to be a seasonal reference at first glance. However, “humidity” can refer to summer indirectly. I think the relation between summer humidity and not being able to perceive a place properly makes sense to me. With the fogging of the poet’s glasses, the poet could feel overwhelmed, annoyed, or disturbed, like being in intense humidity. For the kireji, the line break in the first line is sufficient.

Looking at the structure of the haiku, we can see it is a bit different than the usual English-language format of three lines short/long/short. For this haiku, I don’t think this variation matters much for the content and reading of it.

Sound plays a big role in this haiku, too. The “o”s seem to bring about the feeling of frustration of having fogged glasses. The “l”s bring a softness to the reading and the “f”s could be said to accentuate the starkness of the moment.

Overall, I believe this haiku at once portrays a mood and also a spiritual fact about perception and ego.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)

Sumi-e by David Moeljadi