Jennifer Hambrick’s budding branches

budding branches
the ellipsis at the end
of his text

Jennifer Hambrick (USA)
(Mayfly 71, Summer 2021)

This is an important social consciousness haiku that speaks to both the limitations and the value of text messaging. On one hand, brief text messages can be useful and save us time. On the other hand, emotions and meanings can often be misinterpreted in text messages. This is partly because experts say over 85% of communication is nonverbal and accomplished by our tone of voice and body language. Along these lines, in my opinion, emojis also don’t do us justice in accurately conveying emotions and meanings. In terms of punctuation, specifically, an ellipsis can convey many different messages. It can be a sign of gentleness, caution/warning, uncertainty, or even a threat or dark sarcasm/humiliation, as if someone is looking down on someone else, conveying a sense that the receiver should have known something or is somehow inferior to the person who sent the text. This wide range of interpretations in an ellipsis can leave us scratching our heads, wondering what was the real intent behind the message. 

Budding branches could be a symbol for the start of a new relationship. It could also simultaneously be a metaphor for a new baby or babies starting their life/lives on Earth. I get a feeling this haiku is an exchange between a girlfriend & boyfriend or between a wife & husband as they are attempting to communicate via text messages due to their busy lives.

This is an important haiku that sparks conversations about how we communicate. While emails, text messaging, and phone calls have their place, I think video calls or in-person meetings are the best ways to have quality conversations. They can also save us from a lot of stress and conflicts down the road.

For more info on nonverbal communication:

 — Jacob D. Salzer (USA)

The poem starts with hope, and a presence of life probably after autumn. Budding branches depict the seasonal transformation that someone is closely observing, maybe while strolling, or through a window, viewing a painting, sketching a tree, or watching it live somewhere, etc. In any case, it shows how keen and resilient a person is who focuses on something that is progressing positively. The first line in this haiku is so engaging that a reader like me starts thinking about the colour, type, ambience, and style of budding branches as it gives a lot of pleasure exploring nature when it retreats after a dry winter.

There is a shift in this haiku in the last two lines that the poet cleverly related to the budding branches: a deeply personal experience where the text of a person with an ellipsis is accepted with possibly a positive interpretation. The ellipsis can allude to subtle emotions and feelings or an incomplete sentence that is left with curiosity and assumptions. I see it as if the seasonal transformation is related to personal transformation where things are in process and a person is not certain about the results.

Budding branches may be a positive sign, beckoning spring to appear, but it’s premature and uncertain whether these budding branches will bloom fully, and whether the birds will perch on them and sing melodious songs. Somehow, it’s daydreaming that runs the imagination of the poet wild from ‘tree to text’ where both thoughts and feelings oscillate between imagination and reality. 

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

Jacob and Hifsa have delved deep into the meanings and interpretations of this haiku. I will now explore more of its technical side.

In the first line, we get a clear indication of the kigo, or seasonal reference. “Budding” shows the haiku refers to spring. As you may know, haiku are primarily poems based on seasons and poets use them as springboards to resonance.

The first line would seem to need punctuation to mark the separation between the two parts of the haiku, called kireji in Japanese. However, the line break is a clear enough break in phrasing to aid readers in knowing that a fresh section has begun.

The second line brings about a sense of suspense, as we await what the third line will display. We can also see a pattern of alliteration with the “b” and “e” sounds in the first two lines. This echoes the repetition of an ellipsis.

In the third line, we discover the conclusion. The end has yugen, or a sense of mystery. We don’t who “his” refers to, but we do feel the significance of it. My best guess is it is about the husband or boyfriend of the poet. As Jacob and Hifsa have mentioned, an ellipsis in a text message can mean many things. Since it is a spring haiku, it could pertain to something exciting and adventurous. However, it could also be introduced as a contrast to spring, with the ellipsis meant to stand for melancholy or something left undone.

In terms of pacing, this poem follows the common line lengths of English-language haiku, with a short first line, a longer second line, and a short third line to approximately match the traditional Japanese rhythm. The pacing works well, especially with how the third line comes.

A masterfully written haiku with strong aesthetics, conciseness, and sound.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)

Painting by Vincent van Gogh

John Hawkhead’s apple tree

in the apple tree
a nest full of snow
the wind’s soft whistle

John Hawkhead (UK)
(Presence magazine, issue 70)

I appreciate how this haiku depicts the cycles of life, and also hints at life after death. I feel the last line could be (or include) the spirits of the birds. The contrast of the warmth that was once present in the nest with the stark cold snow gives me a feeling of impermanence and letting go. I also interpreted this haiku as a metaphor for human families when children go off to college and the parents become “empty nesters.” The children’s bedrooms become empty and are sometimes remodeled for other purposes. It seems emptiness is what allows life to become full. Even if the glass is empty, I see this as a creative space, filled with possibilities vs. an absence devoid of life.

I miss the presence of birds in this haiku and their songs. They may have passed away long ago, or simply migrated to another tree that provides more protection. However, despite the winter season, the main feeling I get from this haiku is gratitude, acceptance, and beauty in the mystery of both life and death. I get a sense that when winter fades to spring, perhaps at least part of this nest will remain for future bird families.

All this being said, I feel a combination of melancholy and abundance in this haiku at the same time. I also appreciate how this haiku engages our senses. I can smell the snow in this haiku. I can even smell the apples from past seasons. I can hear the wind and the memories of birds singing that are also linked with other memories. I can feel the coldness in my bones, and the reassurance that even in death, life goes on. A beautiful haiku.

Jacob D. Salzer (USA)

This haiku starts with a tinge of mystery where the poet takes us to the ambience that is only observed by those who focus on the intricacies of nature. ‘Apple tree’ is often symbolized as a sacred tree or a tree of love, which makes the opening line more significant by pausing our thoughts for a while.

Visualizing a nest full of snow on an apple tree gives an idea of ‘filling the void’ in life where snow as a temporary and the most delicate phase may either project abandonment, emptiness, melancholy, and loneliness or replacement, the yearning of dreams, and hope. In both cases, it shows how fragile and uncertain this life is when one does not remain productive. The wind’s soft whistle gives some hope and positivity besides the melancholic imagery of this haiku. It also indicates the continuity or flow of life even in the most unfavorable circumstances.

From apple tree to soft whistle, this haiku gives a holistic picture of different phases of life and nature that are interconnected and depend on each other for survival. I also see this haiku as an incubation period of creativity where the poet as an observant seeks solace in the delicacies of nature by synchronizing all thoughts and feelings.   

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

Jacob and Hifsa discussed the meaning behind this haiku well. I now want to delve into the more technical aspects of this poem.

The thing I noticed first was the lack of punctuation in the second line. The break between the two parts is defined by the line break, though. If it were me, I might have added an ellipsis. However, nothing is taken away from the haiku due to a lack of a dash or ellipsis to act as kireji.

The kigo is easy to identify with “snow.” The desolation of this season is expressed even more in the third line.

Though there are three articles in this haiku, each one is used appropriately and meaningfully. Concision and brevity play a large part in the success of this poem.

In terms of sound, a lot is going on that helps the haiku read well. The “l” and “o” sounds are the most beautiful, bringing a lilting feeling and a softness if read out loud. In contrast, the “i” sound displays starkness that coincides with the imagery.

The last line for me is the most significant. The whistle can be a chilling reminder of the fragility of life and its harshness. It can also be a tribute, a soothing song, or nature being playful despite the circumstances. The poet leaves the interpretation up to the reader.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)

Painting by Wolfram Diehl

Agus Maulana Sunjaya’s swirling leaves

ten little fingers
of my deaf son …
swirling leaves

Agus Maulana Sunjaya (Indonesia)
(Cattails – April 2021)

The depth of this beautiful haiku is difficult to decipher in a few words, as it has many dark and light shades of life a person may pass through. I don’t see it only from a disability perspective but the far side of certain realities that we may not be able to hear or feel.

‘Ten little fingers’ depict the deep connection that one has with the outer world that doesn’t need to be only heard. The sense of touch is a powerful sense that lets us feel the presence of both tangible and intangible things, which in this case may look more rhythmic where a deaf boy tries to feel the sound wave with his fingers.

I can see three aspects here. One is the sense of enjoyment where the boy feels the pulse of the wind that may be the autumn wind who confided in him and shares the secret of autumn like uplifted dry leaves, making them alive one more time before annihilation. The second aspect can be of mysticism or spiritualism—the third eye that becomes active usually when one has a disability. So, in this sense, the swirl of leaves looks more like a whirling dervish who is selflessly enjoying his life despite having flaws. The third angle is the sense of despair where the connectivity of his sense of touch brings nothing but a deep autumn where everything is scattered around him, and he, out of curiosity or confusion, wants to know what’s happening in his surroundings.

In terms of the kireji, the ellipses after ‘my deaf son’ shows how deeply the father feels and understands the pain of his son but is helpless to help him. It also alludes to the father’s anxiety about his son’s life, especially his future that he may perceive as swirling leaves, not settled well, but moving towards annihilation.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

This is a touching haiku. I directly resonate with nonverbal communication and the wordless space in this haiku. Especially because the word “little” is used, I imagine a baby. This leads me to believe the baby may have been born deaf. This by itself is very interesting. I’ve read that babies hear sounds in the womb as their brains are developing. I wonder if this is the case for babies who are born deaf. More specifically, in the mother’s womb, I wonder when exactly did this baby lose the capacity to hear? 

I’ve also read that people who are deaf see things more vividly as it heightens other senses. The last line gives me a playful, lighthearted feeling and also wonder.

As another interpretation, this haiku could lead me to imagine the poet’s young child is learning ASL and communicating in that way. I took ASL (American Sign Language) in college. One of my assignments was to live one day without speaking, wearing earbuds. At the grocery store, I relied on taking notes and reading body language to communicate. 

This is a beautiful haiku that makes me grateful for the ability to hear, and also makes me grateful for silence, where I feel a lot of love, gentleness, mystery, and compassion. 

— Jacob D. Salzer (USA)

This haiku caught me off guard because of its poignancy. The connection between the two parts of the haiku creates palpable imagery of beauty and a sense of sadness. Swirling leaves relate well to the motion of sign language, and readers can easily imagine the movement for themselves. With the autumn tone of this haiku, I can see wonder and melancholy.

Sonically, the stark sounds of “i” or “ee” in the haiku make me feel that the father is concentrating on his son and reflecting on his condition. It also brings about a sense of awe to my attention.

A touching haiku that can be felt as much as it can be thought about.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)

Painting by Hishida Shunsō