Samo Kreutz’s secret

friend’s secret
the first to know it
me and the wind

Samo Kreutz (Slovenia)

(previously published on the Asahi Haikuist Network, October 2020)

Commentary

This is an interesting haiku that sparks a conversation about trust, interconnection, and friendship.  

I like the mystery of the first line. What is the secret? Why is it a secret in the first place? It seems we sometimes keep secrets out of self-protection or simply because we don’t trust someone enough. Sometimes we might keep a secret out of respect for someone else, as to not emotionally or psychologically burden them. In this haiku, I feel a heavy weight in the secret. Perhaps the friend is revealing their gender identity for the first time. Though, I like how the poet left it open for us as readers. In the first line, I feel the strong bond and trust between two friends.

The second line makes me think this is the poet’s best friend, being the first person to know the secret. Consequently, I feel an even deeper trust and connection, as well as even more significance in the secret.

The third line solidifies the bond between two friends. At the same time, it also maintains mystery in the wind. We don’t know if anyone overheard the secret and the consequences of that. We also don’t know where the secret might travel to over time and who else might hear it. Depending on who hears the secret, it may significantly change one person’s life—and therefore many people’s lives, to some degree—because everything is connected. I feel a deep truth in this even on a subconscious level. In a sense, whether we like it or not, I feel we are all sharing our secrets subconsciously with each other all the time, in every second of life. Indeed, I feel the quality of our silence and presence can sometimes speak much louder than words. Along those lines, it seems our body language can also sometimes be doorways into our secrets and the subconscious. 

The wind in the last line could also signify how fast and how far words can travel. If the friend makes a mistake and shares the secret, and then it spreads like a wildfire, what are the consequences? On the extreme end, it may even break the bonds of that friendship. However, in this haiku, I see the wind as benevolent. I like how the wind is invisible, just as the poet keeps their friend’s secret hidden. I feel this shows the power of trust, respect, and mystery in friendship.

On a personal note: in college, I told a female classmate that once she knows something about me, the entire city will know about it due to the strong social bonds of women. She laughed, but also acknowledged a bit of truth in that statement. In short, words can travel far and fast in this digital age. Especially with social media at our fingertips, I feel this haiku reminds us to be careful with our words.

I think this haiku leaves us with a question: What will you share with your friends (or even your best friend) and what will you decide to keep a secret? 

This is a subtle haiku with social significance, mystery, and psychological power.

— Jacob D. Salzer (USA)

A simple yet deep haiku which revolves around a secret—a friend’s secret. The first line gives us straight information about a friend who confided in another friend without knowing how significant that secret is. The second line implies that the information in this secret is given to the person whom that person trusts the most. But then, there is a twist in the story where the wind is being involved, indicating it is revealed or disclosed, or spread out as news, a rumor, whispers, or by other means. ‘The wind’ may depict the particular time when it is made public.

I see both tangible and intangible sides of a secret that may be perceived differently by the secret-keeper and the wind (others). There is another side to this and that is eavesdropping—someone who overheard it and made it public. 

In other words, a secret cannot remain a secret for life, as this universe holds all information whether we share it with others or keep it with us. It’s time that decides the significance of information and when it will be revealed.   

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

What drew me to this haiku is that the wind is given an important place alongside a dear friend. Or, it could be seen that the wind is possibly an intruder in the conversation, who will carry the secret to other people around. Either way, this haiku is a recognition of the power and place of nature within human society.

In terms of the kigo, it could be any season. It could be a gentle or forceful wind at the scene. Sometimes, haiku can have universal kigo or no kigo at all. That’s fine. Since long, haiku in Japan have at times been kigoless.

For aesthetics, the haiku could be illustrative of both shiori (a delicacy verging on pathos that intends a deep sympathy for both nature and humanity) or kisetsu (awareness of the deep relationship between humanity and the seasons).

The pacing of the lines is reminiscent of the traditional Japanese rhythm in haiku, with a short first part, a longer second part, and short third part. This rhythm is not only there for the feel of it, but it also lends to the content being brief and having a somber tone.

Sonically, there is a rare occurrence of two words beginning with “f.” The letter “f” has a certain strength and starkness that heightens our awareness while reading this haiku. Also, the wispy sound of the two “w”s mirrors the wind’s music.

The language of this haiku matches the tradition in Japan with simple words and casual ways of expression. It express profundity in a laidback way.

An enjoyable and deep haiku that gets us thinking about our connection with nature.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)

Painting by Vincent van Gogh

Daniela Misso’s Moorings

moorings 
creaking on the lake…
deep autumn

Daniela Misso (Italy)

(published in Wales Haiku Journal, Autumn 2020)

Commentary

This is an excellent haiku with depth, a strong atmosphere, and mystery (yugen). It also evokes potent emotions and has metaphorical value as well. 

Starting with the first line, moorings comes from the verb moor. As an intransitive verb, there are three definitions of moor I would like to highlight:

moor

1. To fix in place; secure: synonym: fasten.

2. To provide with an abiding emotional attachment. 

3. To secure a vessel or aircraft with lines or anchors.

Source: https://www.wordnik.com/words/moor

With these definitions in mind, the moorings in this haiku are not only strong cables, ropes, or anchors that are securing a boat or vessel to a dock (or another structure); they are also a metaphor for emotional attachments in a relationship (or within several relationships). In particular, the second definition above “to provide with an abiding emotional attachment” reminds me of a couple providing for their family. More concretely, I can see an emotional attachment to a specific boat as well. In this haiku, I imagine an empty boat overflowing with memories and stories. However, I feel these stories could be not only from one person’s lifetime, but rather span across several generations and even several lifetimes. 

Furthermore, I would like to highlight this definition of moorings: 

moorings

1. the place where a ship is anchored or fastened.

Source: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/es-LA/dictionary/english-portuguese/moorings

With this definition, in this haiku, I feel a very strong emotional attachment to the lake and the surrounding land. Therefore, this haiku is not limited to emotional attachments between people, but also includes our emotional attachments with Mother Earth. I also like that the lake in this haiku is not named, leaving it open for the reader to connect with experiences they’ve had at different lakes. 

Moving to the second line, I am drawn to the sound. Creaking brings an eerie feeling that amplifies the silence of the scene and has a haunting quality to it. I could see this haiku being the start of a mystery novel or movie. In light of the moor definitions, moorings creaking could signify the wear and tear of an emotional attachment between two or more people over time that, despite the challenges, is showing strength, dependability, and longevity. On the other hand, the creaking sound could point to a degree of uncertainty and weakness in a relationship. I like how the creaking sound evokes the emotional complexity of relationships. This interpretation equally and powerfully applies to our relationships with Mother Earth.

In the third line, deep autumn effectively shows us how cold it is, with hints of winter already in the air. I feel it adds to the atmosphere of the scene and brings the universal emotions of grief, loss and letting go, but also expresses a slower pace of life and reflection.

This is a moving haiku that has depth, a strong atmosphere, and significant emotional and metaphorical power.

— Jacob D. Salzer (USA)

What is being moored? This question came to my mind after reading this poem. Perhaps boats, thoughts, fatigue, silence, worries, nostalgia, or anything else that is still hidden from our sight. Moorings indicate that we have to run our imagination wild and think of things that may fit best to the scene, as we have choices. So, the person who is at the seaside is the one who ties up whatever they want. I see it as more personal, intangible, and discreet where it’s not the matter of fastening boats but the things that are related to it—maybe something burdensome as alluded to in the second line by using the word ‘creaking’. But on the other hand, a person may not have control over those choices that are creaking and haunting again and again.

The poet concludes the scene by taking us to the deep autumn which adds more depth and silence in the background, where one can introspect and find out how to run the boat of life without distractions, and shortcomings.

The sound of ‘ing’ in this haiku resonates with the feelings of helplessness and aimlessness that continue without any interruption.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

Jacob and Hifsa have provided thorough commentary that leaves me with a bit to add. I will go over the kigo (seasonal reference), pacing, sound, and language.

Sometimes in haiku, using a direct name of a season works well, and this haiku is a fine example of that. What is interesting is commonly haiku poets put the kigo in the first line if they are naming it directly. But in this haiku, the kigo carves out a more resonant space for the reader to ponder as it is given in the last line. The way the kigo interacts with the creaking brings out the melancholy, introspection, and loneliness of autumn.

The pacing of the lines follows the standard for English-language haiku with a short first line, a longer second line, and a short last line that mimics the traditional Japanese haiku rhythm.

As Hifsa noted, the “ing” sounds carry that somberness that is present in haiku. Also, the “m” sounds bring a sense of eeriness, and “ee”/”ea” slows down the pace. There are many elongated syllables in this haiku, which showcase the slowness of time of the moment described.

The language is simple and concise, with enough poetic phrasing to bring out emotion. Not one word is unnecessary and the poem is not begging for words to be added.

The relation between human-made instruments and nature, combined with the mentioned season, makes this haiku especially resonant.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)

Watercolor painting by Cathy Hillegas

Srinivas S’s footprint

between waves the life of a footprint

Srinivas S (India)

(The Heron’s Nest, March 2021)

This simple monoku manifests all the key perspectives of life, but the most obvious one is the journey of life. It may consist of hardship and difficult trials. A footprint is something that is left behind in life—a past life that may be imprinted in the mind as a memory or depicts the choices a person made, the path they took. A footprint could symbolize the vivid memories of a person of life events where every step carved or reshaped one’s decisions, choices, and thinking.

The concept of waves is cleverly used in this monoku as our senses that are connected with the surrounding through waves, our brain activities, our nervous system, and our body is similar to the rhythmic movement of waves. What matters the most is whether these waves erase the footprint or fill it with water. It may also unfold the path one has chosen, the path that faces the ups and downs of life, or to and fro movement. The concept of our lives is shown in this haiku as a footprint, which is the mark that a person leaves behind as an example or memory.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

This is a beautiful monoku that sparks a conversation about the miracle of life, impermanence, reincarnation, and the afterlife. 

When I read “between waves” I see it as a metaphor for between lifetimes. In a vast scale of time, a human lifetime appears to be like a brief footprint. 

In that sense, I feel the footprint could create a sense of melancholy (from how brief human lives are) and also joy and gratitude (from how precious life is). The footprint could be from a child, an adult, or an elderly person. It could also be the footprint of a seagull or of a dog running on the beach. I like how the poet left this open for us as readers. 

The footprint also shows a single step on a long journey, as part of a larger story. In that sense, this monoku makes me wonder what stories have been passed down and recorded throughout several generations and what stories have been lost? Some stories have been preserved, while other stories have been mistranslated or buried and forgotten. I think this is a critical subject because stories and literature have significant influence and power. Stories contain our ethics, values, and principles of how to live. They create new worlds and different ways of seeing. They record history and document what we learned. They can inspire our imagination. And, they set an example. In particular, I think some of the oldest stories and legends from Indigenous People contain strong values and important lessons for us all, especially involving spirituality, community, and taking care of Mother Earth.

Additionally, I see the footprint as a metaphor for a samskara or mental impression. We could ask ourselves: compared to the sand, how real is the footprint? It seems we all leave several marks in this lifetime and some impressions seem to last longer than others. But, in the end, it seems something universal (in this case, the ocean) washes away all our impressions or footprints. Then, it seems we’re only left with the wordless present moment, without a past or a future. As the Estonian composer Arvo Pärt has said: “Time and timelessness are connected. This moment and eternity are struggling within us.” On the other hand, I wonder if perhaps our impressions and memories are permanently stored in a universal consciousness. In any case, it is the silence itself that carries all words and sounds. Everything appears to rise and fall into silence. Even as the footprint disappears, the sound of the waves is in synch with the rhythm of my heartbeat. 

The footprint also shows engagement and actively participating in the play of life vs. becoming a passive observer. I think there is a time and place for active, compassionate observing, and as haiku poets we do this very well, but I think there’s also a time and place to be actively immersed in life and living without reflection or observation. In fact, sometimes, only when I return home from an adventure does a haiku appear.

This is a monoku that is simultaneously deep and simple at the same time. I think it’s also a moment that many people can relate to and has a universal appeal and power. 

A beautiful monoku. 

Book recommendations on these subjects: Indian Legends of the Pacific Northwest by Ella E. Clark, The Spiritual Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi, and The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle.

— Jacob D. Salzer (USA)

I can’t touch on more about the interpretation and meaning of this haiku that Hifsa and Jacob already expressed. They discussed the many layers of this monoku’s substance deftly.

I’ll now explore the technical points of this poem. First, there is no specific kigo or seasonal reference to be found in this haiku. We know that perhaps it is a low tide but the action of the haiku might be talking about someone walking close to the waves at any kind of tide. There is no issue is not having a kigo. The requirement for haiku to have a kigo has been loose for a century, even in Japan. Perhaps the exclusion of kigo began to be commonplace in Japan in the late 1800s, with masters such as Kawahigashi Hekigotō and Ogiwara Seisensui.

This haiku being written as one line is not experimental or strange, as haiku is originally written as one vertical line in Japanese. The major difference between English monoku and Japanese haiku is that English monoku don’t use punctuation usually. Japanese haiku have kireji, or cutting words that signify a shift in grammar or phrasing to make the two parts of a haiku distinct. Without punctuation, though, English monoku can be read in more ways sometimes:

between / waves the life of a footprint

between waves / the life of a footprint

or as one phrase: between waves the life of a footprint

In terms of sound, we have the unusual consonance of “w” which makes a “whhh” noise when said, imitating the song of waves. The “e” and “i” sounds also bring another layer of softness to the reading.

The haiku is noticeably brief. With only seven words, the poem is quite concise. This is hard to pull off, and if one is a beginner in this art form, I would not recommend writing in such a terse way. By Srinivas has skillfully used the right combination of words, sounds, and phrasing to create a strong visual effect in the reader and potent resonance.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)

Painting by Ken Figurski

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: https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/social-sciences/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

Jay Friedenberg’s fading dream

fading dream
the shape of her curve
in empty sheets

Jay Friedenberg (USA)

Melancholy is the first impression (pun intended) I get from this poem. The impression of this woman’s body on the bedsheets seems to point to a relationship that has ended or is ending. I get the feeling this woman got up early in the morning before the poet did and left without a sound. There is some mystery as to why she left. There is also a mystery as to what the dream entailed. Did the author have a dream of raising a family with this woman? Did the poet have a dream that the woman had no interest in? Or did she leave for other reasons and the poet’s dream is left unsaid? The poet did a good job leaving room for the reader to enter the poem. 

Specifically, the words “fading” and “empty” carry a heavy emotional weight in this poem.

Sometimes it seems someone’s silence (or absence) can speak louder than words. This poem sparks a conversation about what dreams we can have with a partner and perhaps what dreams are best to be avoided. I also think this poem could imply the dream(s) we have can adversely affect our relationships and blur our vision without even knowing it. In other words, it seems if someone is preoccupied with (or attached to) his or her own dream (or a vision of what they want a relationship to be), it could narrow their mind and result in negative outcomes. This dream could also be subconsciously influenced by society and mental programming of what is believed to be “normal” in a relationship. For instance, I think of “the American Dream” and honestly wonder what those words mean from person to person. Regardless of our answer, it seems by being attached to a specific dream, we can close the doors to other possibilities with a partner and it seems this can sometimes lead to the end of a relationship.

In short, this is an emotional poem that sparks an important conversation about our values, and encourages us to explore the complex psychology of our relationships and dreams. 

Jacob Salzer (USA)

The mystery in this haiku makes it a manifold poem that is a bit challenging to interpret. This haiku starts with hopelessness where something is slipping out of a person’s hand—a ‘fading dream’. It seems the person yearned for this dream for a long time, held it dearly, strove for it, and longed for it. To see your dream fading in front of you is more like missing a train that goes away in front of your eyes and you can’t stop it or catch it. ‘Fading’ indicates that the dream is still there but not strong enough to be fulfilled, or the person gave up on it which leads to restlessness, anxiety, and frustration, as it can be observed through ‘the shape of her curve’ where she is sleepless and passing through some deep pain left by the dream. ‘Curve’ shows how complicated the situation is where there is nothing straight or clear, making the situation more ambiguous.

‘Empty sheets’ depict loneliness, detachment, and emptiness that a dreamer faces when they can’t fulfill their dreams. This also indicates that the person is fearful and not ready to sleep again to yearn for another dream. The possible white sheets may also allude to a ‘shroud’ where the person metaphorically is thinking to shroud the dream in white sheets before burying it.

Overall, the depth of this haiku makes the reader pause, and explore various dimensions before reaching a conclusion.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

Jacob and Hifsa went over the substance and word usage well. I want to cover a bit more of the technical areas of the haiku.

There is not a direct kigo expressed but the word “fading” might refer to autumn. The word “empty,” however, might refer to winter.

In terms of kireji, there is no punctuation marking the separation between the two parts of the haiku. But as with many English-language haiku, a line break is commonly sufficient to show this distinction.

For the format, the length of the lines is standard for English-language haiku, with a short first line, a longer second line, and a short third line.

When looking at the haiku sonically, the “i”, “y”, “ea”, and “ee” sounds in the first and last line adds to the melancholy of the scene.

No word used is excessive and overall this haiku is concise. It is written in a simple, natural style that is a hallmark of fine haiku.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)

Painting by Stephanie Serpick

Saumya Bansal’s radish harvest

radish harvest—
a child’s tug of war
with the earth

Saumya Bansal (India)
(Grand prize winner at the 25th International Kusamakura Haiku Competition, 2020)

This haiku speaks to me in several ways. 

The child specifically struggling in a tug-of-war with the radish tells me the child may not be physically strong enough yet and could be very young. In fact, it could be the very first time the child has tugged on a plant before. The tug-of-war could also mean the soil conditions are not ideal. According to my research on https://www.gardeningknowhow.com, it states: “…a good way to tell if the radishes are ready to be harvested is to simply pull one from the soil. If the soil is particularly crusted or hard, use a garden fork or trowel to gently lift the root from the soil.” With this in mind, perhaps the tug-of-war has more to do with dry soil. In that interpretation, climate change could be a part of this haiku, contributing to drought. The tug-of-war could also mean the radishes are not ready to be pulled, yet the child still pulls simply out of curiosity, not knowing if it’s ripe yet. In that sense, I feel this haiku speaks to the importance of patience and timing. The word “harvest” tells me there is an abundance of radishes here, so it seems this child is growing up on a farm.

This haiku, however, goes beyond just pulling radishes and expands to include the child’s long-term relationship with Mother Earth and food. It sparks an important discussion about what we teach our children about food and how we care for each other and the Earth sustainably. On the note of parenting, I wonder where the child’s mother and father are in this haiku? Did the child wander out alone to pull radishes? Is this child lost? Did he/she run away from home for unknown reasons? Is the mother and/or father nearby watching over the child? There is some mystery here. 

There is another connection regarding the nutritional value of radishes that will become an integral part of this child’s life. According to my research on: 

https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/the-benefits-of-radishes#5-health-benefits-of-radishes: “…radishes have been used as a folk remedy for centuries. They are used in Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine to treat many conditions such as fever, sore throat, bile disorders, and inflammation.” Radishes have a wide range of other health benefits as well. They have anti-cancer properties, help prevent cell aging through antioxidants such as Vitamin C, are high in fiber and help with our digestive system, and have antifungal properties. Another site states: “Radishes are rich in antioxidants and minerals like calcium and potassium. Together, these nutrients help lower high blood pressure and reduce your risks for heart disease.”

 (source: https://www.webmd.com/diet/health-benefits-radish

We know sustainable farming methods were well-developed in indigenous communities for thousands of years. They took only what they needed and harvested crops not only to feed themselves but also future generations. I appreciate their strong communities. In this modern age, I think we can learn a lot from indigenous people and their care and reverence for the Earth.

In short, it’s clear to me this child (at a very young age) is developing a deep physical and psychological connection with radishes (and presumably other crops) that will last for the rest of his or her lifetime. It has become an integral part of the roots of the child’s upbringing. This haiku sparks an important conversation about how we relate to food and sustainably care for each other and Mother Earth.

Jacob Salzer (USA)

Radishes are cultivated and harvested normally from October to November—the time when the season is transforming and summer is replaced with autumn. This is also the time for focusing within as our inner energies are at their peak. Since a radish is a root, it can be easily related to one’s deep-rooted feelings and emotions. A child is usually curious about their surroundings and being impatient, they need to reach a conclusion very quickly regardless of whether it will fulfill a purpose or not. The relationship between a child’s curiosity, impatience, and fighting (tug of war) may also point towards needs that are not being fulfilled due to various reasons. The earth metaphorically may be the circumstances that are given to that child, and their survival instinct pushing them to fight for their primary needs. As it is the season of transformation, the child maybe has developed or learned how to fight for their primary needs. 

Overall, this poignant haiku reflects how in the early stages of childhood, life teaches us how to become aware of our primary needs and how they can sometimes even go against nature. 

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

Jacob and Hifsa amply explored this haiku already. However, I can lend a bit more observation.

Radish harvesting could be a kigo for several seasons, depending on the type of radish and the place. For instance, daikon radishes are often pulled out before winter truly sets in. Radishes can be harvested as little as three weeks from their planting, though. So, pinpointing the kigo for this haiku can be difficult.

The em dash in the first line works well to set the mood and to separate the two parts of the haiku. Also, the pacing and the length of the lines match approximately with the rhythm of traditional Japanese haiku, with a short first line, a longer second line, and a longer third line to make the “go-shichi-go” rhythm.

The usage of the article “a” for the child shows that the poet wanted to put more focus on “the earth.” It perhaps speaks to the grandiosity of the earth in comparison to the child.

In terms of sound, I notice that “i” and “r” feature strongly. I feel a sense of starkness from the “i” sounds and a feeling of being grounded by the “r” sounds. Anyway, they both add to the musicality of the poem.

This is a haiku that can mean many things to different people. It’s not easy to achieve that universality when writing haiku.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)

Painting by Qing Ping


Goran Gatalica’s glint

daughter’s wedding —
glinting in moonlight
the first snowflakes

Goran Gatalica (Croatia)
(published in The Mainichi, 1/13/2021)

The haiku starts with one of the most precious and emotional days of a person’s life. The festivity, reunion, laughter, and collectivity at a daughter’s wedding may not surpass the deep feelings that are contrary to the celebrations, as it’s a day of departure as well. The subtlety of a parent’s feelings is well interwoven with the weather outside. The first snowflakes are light in weight but still leave behind heavy hearts due to old or new memories—particularly the memories of loved ones that glint or get highlighted in the moonlight where a person, especially parents, reminisce about those memories near the window or fireplace. The winter hush usually brings to the surface feelings of special days and it seems time slows down like a flurry of snowflakes that takes its time before finally touching the ground.

The em dash in the first line pauses one’s thoughts and feelings to imagine the whole scene of the wedding day. I loved the way the writer linked this special event with the subtlety of moonlight and the silence of snowflakes.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

Written from the perspective of a mother or father, I immediately feel the special connection between the parent and daughter in this haiku. This allows me to step into the parent’s shoes and reflect on the long journey it took to arrive at this moment. 

I think the juxtaposition between the daughter’s presumably white wedding dress and moonlit snowflakes is a stark comparison, showing the fragile, delicate nature of a marriage, yet also its beauty. I see her wedding dress made of delicate patterns that are interwoven, just as so many lives have been interwoven in the daughter’s life that has led her to this significant event.

The connection between women and the moon is well-known with a long history, stretching back to ancient indigenous cultures on this Earth. In that light, it seems the moon in this haiku connects the daughter with past generations of women and her family lineage. I like how the moon in this haiku links to the mysteries of women and the cycles of life. In a more spiritual sense, during a reverential moment, I can see the daughter’s mind becoming quiet and reflecting a kind of hidden inner light, just as the moon reflects sunlight in silence. It’s interesting to note the daughter’s wedding has continued into the evening hours. I normally associate weddings as a daytime event, but I like how it seems the celebration started in the day and has continued into the evening. I feel this depicts a more romantic and mystical atmosphere. 

In the last line, I like how the first snowflakes mark new beginnings, as the newlywed couple starts their journey together. At the same time, I like how snowflakes mark the eventual depth of snow over time, and the depth of the relationship, that ultimately, will seemingly melt and evaporate, “’till death do us part” or perhaps the couple will eventually be reincarnated and meet in another life or in another dimension. Either way, juxtaposing snowflakes with marriage allows me to reflect on the nature of marriage, our human impermanence, and the importance of a spiritual dimension in a partner relationship.  

Finally, I like the implied contrast of warmth and coldness in this haiku, and the contrast of darkness and light. I can feel the warmth of people, the glow of lights, and a hopeful, uplifting atmosphere at this wedding, despite the cold, dark night. A beautiful, touching haiku. 

Jacob Salzer (USA)

Hifsa and Jacob went into great detail about the subject of this haiku and its symbolism. I want to provide a bit more technical insight.

I enjoy and respect that the poet used an em dash in the first dash to make the two parts of the haiku distinct. Without it, the second line would act as a pivot, which might not have made sense in this instance.

The length of the lines is in the common range for English-language haiku. Brevity was employed well. The pace and flow of the haiku are smooth, and mirror the original pace of Japanese haiku appropriately.

We have a definite kigo with “first snowflakes,” placing the haiku in early winter. The comparison between such a jovial time as a daughter’s wedding and the enchantment of seeing the first snowflakes is poignant.

The haiku is quite vivid, with the imagery of moonlight on snowflakes, and them glinting during a wedding. There is a lot to imagine for the reader, and that is always a plus. Moods of mirth, eeriness (moonlight), wonder, and more are here.

In terms of sound, I can say that the letter “t” holds sway. With five appearances, and perhaps a semi-appearance of it in “wedding,” I can feel the classiness and tenderness of the event.

It is a fine haiku that illustrates the power of humanity’s connection with nature and vice versa.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)

Photograph by Wilson Bentley

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