Posted in Haiku

Zvonko Petrović’s Sea

the sea …
a boat below
the boat

The First International Ashiya Haiku Festa Award (2000)
© Zvonko Petrović (1925 – 2009) (Croatia)

Very exciting ku. I like how “a boat” plays with “the boat,” and the word “below” echoes with sea, as there are so many treasures below the sea.

Laughing Waters (USA)

While reading this, the soundtrack for the movie “Titanic” was incidentally playing in the background… and is it sheer coincidence? I see here a big boat (as in the Titanic) with small boats attached to it at the side… I see here a multi-story luxury boat or ship where people are classified according to their status in life, the well-to-do at the upper portion (perhaps the suites) of the boat, and the common individuals in the economy section of it. Each individual has a story (or boat) to tell or share, as they all traverse the challenges of life herein symbolized by “the sea.”

Willie Bongcaron (Philippines)

A ‘deep’ haiku, which not only suggests long-lost sunken ships, but could it also refer to the idea of ‘the sea of humanity’ and the following of one generation on another—we all live on the remains of previous civilizations. We travel in the wake of our ancestors by land and by sea.

Martha Magenta (UK)

I read this quite simply: first the vast expanse of sea, then zooming in on a boat bobbing on it’s own reflection… it reminded me of how small and insignificant we all are in the great scheme of things.

Rachel Sutcliffe (UK)

This haiku is simple yet complicated when we interpret the imagery of it. The sea is a specific kind of sea: it may be calm, still, and transparent in this scene. A sea with these characteristics is not more than a mirror where nature can reflect in a better way. Then, a boat below the boat is used very cleverly in this haiku, where the author is relating the sea with a big boat that helps to store many things on it and rescue them as well. The other boat is very small, which shows the humbleness of the person who admires the vastness and depth of sea. This small boat may be the rescue boat, or one where the person sits and ponders different elements of life.

I can also see the sea as our intellect that helps our tiny self (boat) to flourish more and reflect more after passing through various storms and finally gain inner peace more like this sea. I also see the comparison of the large boat and small boat as inner and outer selves respectively, where our outer self reflects the inner inner self if it is well connected with it. The English articles are really meaningful in this haiku, especially ‘the’ that makes this haiku more mysterious and lets our imagination run wild.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

The author begins with the sea, a vast universe of water, letting us in with a sense of immense. It’s also calm and transparent because the author tells us a boat can be noticed on the bottom …

In the ku, there are just five words, of which two are repeated … relaxing and almost mesmerizing the reader.

But when one gives a look at the poem in a more playful way, we can also notice that in the ku itself ‘the boat’ is below ‘a boat’… The haijin is not telling only but also showing it in a visual structure: ‘a boat’ in the second line and ‘the boat’ below, in the line below …

And this is quite funny, humorously talking, because the boat that is below appears in the upper line, not in the line below … A trick I didn’t expect and that intrigued me a lot …

One could also read it in a deeper way, considering the phenomenon of reflection. And one could give attention to consciousness (‘the’ boat) and unconsciousness (‘a’ boat below the boat: the surface where everything is easy to see, and the bottom that one can see, or interpret only in ‘calm waters’ or in tranquility).

Reading the ku in this way, one can perceive the levels of depth as if the poet wanted to show us a truth behind the truth itself … A pleasure to have meditated on it!

Lucia Fontana (Italy)

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(© Jan Zaremba, with the kind permission of the artist)

Posted in Senryu

Michael Smeer’s Anniversary Dinner

anniversary dinner
i tie together
dad’s shoelaces

AHS Winter Solstice Haiku String 2018
© Michael Smeer (Netherlands)

This week’s poet is the creator of both the “My Haiku Pond” blog and the “My Haiku Pond Academy” group. We recommend these sites as great places of learning and feedback.

Now, let’s get to the commentary:

This heartfelt senryu has two elements due to the choice of words, which provides curiosity to readers.

An anniversary dinner here may be the celebration of a parents’ wedding. So, here I can see this as a matter of deep pain where one spouse is being missed (due to death, separation, or illness). The child may have tried to make this event a special one for the father, who seems to be very old. With a deep emotional state of mind, the son couldn’t figure out how to tie dad’s shoelaces. Shoelaces here symbolize the relationship that is quite messy due to different reasons, and could be a metaphor for the child’s wish to see his parents in a perfect relationship again. Shoelaces tied together indicate confusion, ambiguity, and/or remorseful feelings that may result in a perplexed state of mind and actions.

The other side of this senryu could be full of life, where parents and children are together to enjoy the celebration of an anniversary and play pranks on each other—like shoelaces being tied together in this case.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

In response to Hifsa:

I also interpreted like you, except that I thought (in a lighter vein) that the son tied up both the laces in order to stop his father from running faster.

Arun Sharma (India)

Hifsa nailed this and I can’t seem to add more to what she saidespecially about the possibility of a prank. “I tie together dad’s shoelaces” says it all. If the word “together” was omitted in the phrase, then it would be more open for interpretation. For example, perhaps his dad was too old to tie his own shoelaces and his son did a good deed. Again, it’s still open to the interpretation of a prank as well.

Fractled (USA)

What I see here is the naughtiness of the subject… tying “together dad’s shoelaces” could be construed as tying the laces of the two shoes together.

Perhaps the subject sneaked under the dining table. I see him as specially dressed because of the memorable occasion of an anniversary. And having that devilish grin of a naughty child, proceeded to tie the laces of his father’s two shoes as others enjoyed in partaking in the bounty of an anniversary dinner, perhaps with a huge turkey at the middle of the table and champagne on the side… a special casserole, some cake, and what have you.

Willie Bongcaron (Philippines)

Much has been said about the content, but I would like to touch upon the technical aspects of this senryu.

Senryu commonly don’t have kireji (cutting word), which are represented by punctuation in English. The poet rightly did not insert punctuation due to this.

Also, notice the economy of this poem. It only has seven words, but it has a significant impact on the reader and provides a potent mood.

The format of the lines are not the “traditional” English senryu structure of a short first line, longer second line, and a short third line. However, not only are senryu more free in structure, but it does not matter so much—especially since the economy of the writing is high.

In terms of sound, a musicality is brought into the haiku with a string of “i” letters and may even portray the stress of tying the shoes together. There is a bit of rhyme in the first and second line with “r” sounds, but the strong “r” in the first line and the soft “r” in second line do not make it a heavy rhyme. We generally avoid rhyming in haiku and senryu, but sometimes if it does not push too hard against the reader, it is fine.

An efficient senryu that exudes a strong mood and a keen sense of musicality.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)

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Posted in Haiku

Afrânio Peixoto’s Wind

Original in Portuguese:

Sem pedir, o vento
Derruba as flores do chão . . .
Eu nunca ousei.

English version:

without asking, the wind
sheds the flowers on the ground . . .
I never dared

© Afrânio Peixoto (1876 – 1947) (Brazil)

This poem shares the attitude that nature is bold and unpredictable. The wind may relate to mood swings as well, as sometimes rage may take us to a level where we do mistakes and blunders, shedding what we have earned. I think this also shows a specific type of wind that may be manifested as cold, dust storms, heat waves, and toxic material. I also see the helplessness of human beings when it comes to catastrophes where nature ruins its own beauty. “I never dared” is showing the alternative choice that we have being human beings—empathy, compassion, and kindness that influences certain decisions we make in haste.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

This haiku has an anthropomorphic nature. The wind, as an individual, and—without asking—sheds flowers as if it were an action so strong as to need a sort of permission before “rudely” being done … It is rare but not impossible to find this kind of humanization in a ku. When the author says “I never dared,” he shows us more than a shy temperament. He affirms to be not able to stop a flower’s life in an instant, as the wind can do it. He shows a feeling of humility and kindness for Earth’s creatures …

On the other hand, this compassionate poem could be also read as a romantic one, in which I can imagine him strolling with the woman he would like to express his love to and wishing nature to be like Cupid for him in that moment: we usually spread petals or flowers in romantic moments, in relation to a marriage or when there is a genuine, passionate, and true love to celebrate …

Anyways, it has evoked in me more possibilities and, even if it’s quite a long haiku, I personally would rewrite it as 4 lines:

without asking,
the wind sheds the flowers
on the ground . . .
I’ve never dared

It has a good appeal when we let it enter into our thoughts and emotions… It works at the level of the fourth chakra: love, bravery, and compassion are involved here, and we can see how the author gives the wind the task (hard for him) to make the flowers fall to the ground to talk of love to the lady with him….

Lucia Fontana (Italy)

This was written a long time ago, when haiku was barely known to the West. Nonetheless, this particular haiku is similar to what modern haiku poets are writing now in English and in other languages. The majority of Peixoto‘s work could be said to be more haiku-like than haiku, however.

Anyways, I think this poem does what haiku commonly do best: show a connection between humanity and nature. In this case, the poet expresses the power of mother nature, and also its indifference. It could be about admiring nature for its willingness to go through difficult processes, but also at the same be shocked at its ruthlessness. Since nature does not have a mind or emotions, it acts according to the circumstances provided. Humans may hesitate to perform the inevitable, but the natural world has no such pretension.

I don’t speak Portuguese, but I can see a fine sense of sound in the original. With the numerous “r” and “o” letters, the poem is not only musical, but also sounds like the wind. On the side of punctuation, it seems the poet used more than the usual amount that we employ nowadays. Nonetheless, the poet strove for the modern notion of a short first line, a longer second line, and a short third line.

With this haiku and others, Peixoto introduced haiku to Brazil and the West in an auspicious way.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)

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Art by Silke Lemcke

Posted in Tanka

Jacob Salzer’s Cracked Pillars

cracked pillars
no longer stand
between us . . .
admitting all the times
I’ve been wrong

Ribbons, Spring/Summer, 2018

© Jacob Salzer (USA)

This week, we have a treat, as we have the poet himself giving commentary:

I envisioned cracked pillars from ancient Greece. As you know, a lot of the structures are now in ruins, broken down over time. Some of the pillars that once held heavy tops now stand alone, often cracked—but even those often break down, leaving only a slab of marble or perhaps a pile of stones. The pillars are actually metaphors for the sense of “I” which visually resembles a pillar. The vision was remnants of pillars in a row, and two people standing on each side of them. Basically, all that’s left of the pillars in the tanka are small piles of marble. By admitting my faults, my pillar, or sense of “I,” breaks down and I’m able to fully connect with someone else.

If you enjoyed this poem and commentary, please let us know in the comment section.


Art by Charles Lyell

Posted in Haiku

H. F. Noyes’ Morning Stroll

morning stroll–
unshared thoughts float off
with the withered leaves

(The Heron’s Nest, Volume II, Number 10: October, 2000 – Heron´s Nest Award)

© H. F. Noyes (1918 – 2010) (USA)

I have a soft spot for the word “stroll.” It seems perfect for haiku and the leisurely way we write in this genre. Morning strolls are usually done on the weekend, when we have rested well and are relaxed.

However, with “unshared thoughts,” we get a look into the psychological condition of the poet. It implies, in a way, that the poet has thoughts he would either not want to share, or deems not important enough to communicate. Or, it could be that the poet simply did not share them, without any preconceived notion.

When I read “float off,” I resonated with it, in that I often have something similar happen. A thought comes, and soon appears to drift away. Thoughts sometimes are like satellite signals, beeping in and out of existence.

This state where thoughts are more loose can be entered when viewing nature. Seeing nature in its splendor and grandeur can often still our minds. In this instance, the poet connects his thoughts with the withering leaves that are also floating away. “withered leaves” refers to autumn, and this link may imply that the poet believes his thoughts are as useful or important as autumn leaves. The beauty of autumn is not captured here, but rather its deterioration. Additionally, maybe he is inferring that unless and until we share our thoughts, they are as substantial as withered leaves.

In terms of its technical aspects, the punctuation, sound, and layout can be considered. I think the ellipsis is fine as a way to make the reader pause and imagine a morning stroll, but it seems an ellipsis would have been more suitable to fit the mood and action of floating.  When looking at the sound of the haiku, we can notice the usage of “o” sounds to slow down our reading, reflecting the sense of a stroll. The “r”s also keep the pace of the poem leisurely. Speaking of the layout, we have a typical structure for English-language haiku, with a short first line, a longer second line, and a third line.

I like how casual the first line is, and how it is contrasted by the evocative last two lines. A striking haiku in its simplicity and imagery.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)

This haiku is either about yearning for certain dreams, or things that bother one the most. The opening line indicates that the person seeks solitude that this autumn morning provides fully. But, certain unshared thoughts still annoy in a way, as there is no one to share them with. It shows the introverted personality of a person who tries to live in solitude, and still enjoys it the most.

Withered leaves in this context symbolises death/ irrelevant thoughts that are still unshared and a mystery. I can also see an element of meditation here, as a morning stroll and withered leaves indicate the deep silence of autumn, departure, solitude, and hibernation. So, the person finds it the best ambiance for pondering deeply and filtering those unshared thoughts—eventually, finding those thoughts more like withered leaves: irrational. Mindfulness is the key here, where the poet cleverly related his ongoing thoughts with the season and finally achieved his goal: inner peace and serenity.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

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– Ron Frazier

Posted in Haiku

Stefano d’Andrea’s Word

golden grapes —
if only each word
were so sweet

Ephemerae, volume 1, 2018

© Stefano d’Andrea (Italy)

The protagonist in this haiku probably refers to the type of sweet, small tomato known as “golden grapes.” They are loved as snacks in the summer and spring. The poet is from Italy, and I can imagine these in salads, and various other dishes.

Possibly, while eating one of these delicious tomatoes, the poet had a yearning for our words to be just as sweet. Maybe, recently he was engaged in an argument with friends or loved ones, or he saw the banter of politics in the news. Either way, it is a contemplation on the almost-perfection of nature, with each golden grape being consistently pleasing to the taste in the right season. In a way, it recalls a sense of innocence, when we see the world in a more simple and magical way. It could also be an introspection for us to think about what we can change in our behavior, especially in our current political climate.

Getting into the technical stuff like punctuation, layout, and sound, I like the pause given with the em dash in the first line. It gives reader’s time to imagine the golden grapes. In terms of the layout, we have a standard English-language format of a short first line, a longer second line, and a short last line. The pacing of the lines are natural and it reads easily. When looking at the sounds, one cannot skip over the multiple usage of “o.” It is reflective of the shape of the golden grapes. The haiku becomes musical with the repetition of “g” in the first line, and “s” in the third line.

A charming haiku that makes us introspect about human behavior and its relation to nature.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)

Grapes are golden when it’s the beginning of autumn, after the fructose in them has increased at the height of the summer sun’s exposure.

When the poet says “if only each word were so sweet,” it suggests that maybe somebody has talked in a not-so-kind way to him… There is a sort of subtle sorrow, in which the sadness of a farewell can be perceived… golden grapes, golden times, golden words… Gold has always dealt with the divine, and indeed a divine dimension can be experienced through a sweet dialogue, maybe with a missed love… a regret? A loss? A grief?

Mead, the most ancient alcoholic drink men started to produce, or the nectar of the Gods, is also made from a golden and sweet substance: honey. It was cherished by the Egyptians and ancient Aegean Sea cultures, and something divine is findable in that attribute of grapes too. So, grapes are golden when ready for harvest, ready for making first the must, then to become wine. “In vino veritas” is a Latin phrase that means “in wine there’s the truth.” The poet, an Italian, is probably fond of this extraordinary drink, and maybe he is a sommelier and vine grower. In the haiku, he seems to recall wine and its properties… Maybe words should be always full of truth and sweetness before being pronounced… And probably words should be always chosen after having reached a gentle state of mind before being written or told, especially in a poetic path such as the writer’s.

Anyways, words have a very deep and magical power, and we should prefer silence, which is also golden if words cannot be as golden as Stefano’s grapes in his poem….

A haiku that leads the reader from the sensual dimension (visual, taste) to the comprehension and acceptance of human imperfections through the divine beauty of nature….

Well done,  d’Andrea!

Lucia Fontana (Italy)

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– Vincent van Gogh

Posted in Haiku

H. Gene Murtha’s Dawn

caught in a dew drop —
the empty swing

(The Heron’s Nest vol. 5 #2, 2005)

© H. Gene Murtha (1955 – 2015) (USA)

Every year, the H. Gene Murtha Senryu Contest is held by Michael Rehling (Failed Haiku journal) and Steve Hodge (Prune Juice journal). It was initiated to honor the influential American poet and naturalist, who was a tanka editor of the journal Notes from the Gean, a haiku contest judge, and included in the landmark collection Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years. Read more about Gene at The Living Haiku Anthology and from his collection of selected poems, Biding Time.

Commentary from Michael Rehling and Steve Hodge

Dawn is a time of potential and hope for most of us. Waking up we have a chance to look forward. But the poet has the image of an empty swing in his eye and his mind. Sometimes a dewdrop is just a dewdrop but you can’t fit a swing set into a dewdrop. Although you can if the dewdrop is not really a dewdrop but a tear you are looking through. Gene struggled with ‘loss’ his whole life. He lost a child to a stillbirth and it haunted him. Here, I believe, is the poet looking out at a new day not with hope and anticipation but with a crushing vacant view of the lost potential of a missing child. We all prepare for the birth of a child so the empty swing is not out of the ordinary and glimpsing it created the ‘dewdrop’ in his eye.

I knew Gene and he could be irascible and course, but he never once failed to be able to recover himself and get in touch with his better angels in the end. In this poem he returns from bitter grief to capture a moment of unique tenderness and put it into this fine poem. That, for those of you did not know Gene, is why his poems still touch us so deeply. I am writing this through a dewdrop right this moment…

Michael Rehling (USA)

I remember the first time I read this poem. I was struck by the beautiful image that the first two lines brought to my mind; light from a warm golden dawn sparkling in a clear crystalline drop of dew. I remember getting a chill when I read the third line. The empty chair has been a common metaphor for a recently deceased loved one in English language folk songs from Europe and the U.S. for centuries. As sad as I’ve always found the empty chair to be in those songs, the empty swing suggests something far more heartbreaking; the death of a child. I only knew Gene through online encounters with him and wasn’t aware of the details of his personal life. It wasn’t until I read the following poem by him that I understood the ‘the empty swing.’

spring mist —
a mallard paddles
through our stillborn’s ashes

‘The empty swing’ is an extraordinary poem; a beautiful image juxtaposed against tragic loss. I mentioned to Gene how deeply this poem moved me when we were later in an online conversation. I had the feeling that the experience which inspired the poem was something he didn’t care to discuss. Who could blame him? Never having lost a child, I can’t begin to imagine what it must be like. But ‘the empty swing’ is a beautiful tribute to the child he lost and a beautiful gift to the world of haiku.

Steve Hodge (USA)

Commentary from Our Community

There is something very sad about this haiku. It resonates with something in me, a deep loneliness rooted in the past, in childhood — indicated by the swing. I think it is a deeply sad memory, the whole light of the new day — imagined future perhaps — encapsulated in this one dewdrop, on or near the empty swing. Perhaps there were previous happy times spent on the swing with someone dear, expectations of a happy future that disappeared like that drop of dew? It just makes me want to cry.

Martha Magenta (UK)

This is quite a deep haiku that reflects elements of sadness, stillness, loneliness, and flashbacks. The opening line, ‘dawn’, gives a sense of hope, renewal, energy, and awakening. In this case, it awakens childhood memories, and loneliness as well.
Morning dew drops symbolise here the tears of grief, sadness, and mishaps that have happened in the past of someone’s life. I can also see the misery of that dawn (day) whose image/reflection is encapsulated in a tiny dew drop, which means certain long-lasting memories that haunts every morning, maybe as a result of nightmares of traumatic events.

There is a catch in the last line, as I was thinking about a particular type of swing— maybe a tyre swing in this case where one can see a lot of dew drops settle down in the tyre. But, the stillness of empty swings shows no life, no activity, and no wind to give a chance for the dew drops to stay longer than usual. Besides the structure of swing, this part also shows lingering memories that are not oscillating anymore—maybe a kind of fixation.

Overall, the haiku reflects traumatic events in one’s childhood that haunts an individual every morning, waking to sadness, grief, and stillness.

The letter ‘w’ is prominent in the three lines, which reflects the wavelength of echoes or flashbacks of childhood.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

I feel this poem has a mixture of sadness and hope. The first two lines seem like a revelation of the immensity of the universe, beauty, the interconnectedness between small and large, and more. The last line, however, changes our attitude towards this poem. The first part explores a sense a fullness, and the second part describes a scene of emptiness. To me, I feel the poet is saying in indirect terms: “This is how life is: vast and yet vacant.” With the haiku ending on the note of emptiness, I believe Gene is stressing this element of life over fullness. This poem is a fine example of how a poet can convey deep emotions in a few words through implication.

Besides the words themselves, the sound, punctuation, and layout create a sense of loss. The repetition of “d” sounds bring about an atmosphere of seriousness. The accents of “t” and “w” sounds make the poem more stark, in my opinion. With the use of the ellipsis, the contemplative tone is added upon. I feel, as well, that having “dawn” stand on its own in the first line provides a sense of gravity.

A poem written with precision, understatement, and feeling, we cannot help but connect to what the poet experienced.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)

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Posted in Haiku

Rachel Sutcliffe’s Hollow Winds

hollow winds
my thoughts turn
to firewood

© Rachel Sutcliffe (UK)

Usually, metaphors are not common in haiku, but I enjoy them the most, especially if they are well composed. This haiku reminds me of the phenomenon of action and reaction. Hollow winds reflect the cruelty, rudeness, and impoliteness that is against nature, but not against our nature. We have a lot of delusions, misconceptions, illusions, and assumptions that finally become demons without having any real existence. Paranoid thoughts take us to a level where we not only destroy ourselves, but also those around us. So, these hollow winds make us more like a slave to follow our destructive thinking more than constructive ones.

I can see a kind of submission of the self to those hollow winds—and when this happens, thoughts may turn to firewood: dry, fragile, broken, weak, and easily become ashes. So, two extremes are connected with thoughts here. The thought of nothingness that leads to nothing but nothingness 🙂 Hollowness on one end, and ashes on the other end.

I can also see a lack of rational and critical thinking that acts like a sift to filter these thoughts. Additionally, I sense an expression of the lack of mindfulness that helps us to stay in the current moment and understand our thoughts in a better way. I can also see a negligence of emotional intelligence that helps us manage our emotions in the best way.

The letter ‘o’ in this haiku is quite significant, as it represents the vicious cycle of thoughts that continuously keep us engaged in the same pattern of life that is not real. The ‘o’ also represent the rhythm of ‘hoo’ (Sufism) that is much needed here to release the negative energies for the attainment of inner peace.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

“Hollow winds” is an exceptional image and also a troublesome one. I think of the wind as a lathe that hollows out wood. A lathe turns a chunk of wood into something—a useful object like a bowl or into a piece of art. Certainly firewood is useful. One also thinks of “turning” wood on a lathe. In this haiku, the wind turns the thoughts to firewood, and hence the coming cold. The wind hollows out the warmth to bring on the cold of fall. “Hollow” suggests “howl,” and howling winds suggest fall’s chill. The word “hollow” makes all the difference in this poem.

Jim Krotzman (USA)

I quite agree that when we say “hollow winds,” we equate that with the “howling and bitter cold” kind of wind. The author then proceeded with thoughts of firewood, which to me is a natural association to the bitter cold of wind, because firewood creates fire that in turn creates heat to neutralize the effects of the former.

The moment also brings to mind the feeling of coldness brought about by being alone, and perhaps by being lonely, although the idea of aloneness could be construed in a different light. Here, the author tries to “feel comfortable” despite the odds of her physical world.

Willie Bongcaron (Philippines)

I guess everybody knows about da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man. Leonardo wanted to show how a human being can be harmoniously unscripted into two perfect figures: the cycle of the sky, which represents divine perfection, as well as the square, which symbolizes the earth.

This poem evokes in my mind the cycle of the sky (winds), the human being (thoughts) and earth (firewood). Through the fire that purifies all the material and immaterial processes on Earth, the metamorphosis ends with ashes, again in the wind—so in the sky. This is a never ending enso (a Zen term for “circle”).

I imagine the author’s thoughts burning as a wood fire, in a sacred cleansing flame: ideas can be good or bad, creating issues. Anyway, these ideas can control a person.

But thoughts can heal and warm our impermanent passage on Earth… The author seems to find a healing source in thoughts as a kind of spiritual nourishment, as also Wilfred Bion wrote, thoughts console in grief and give hope… they are a balm for each wound, something only humans can enjoy, since only creatures with grey matter in their brain can….. (a paraphrase)

In this ku, I can perceive two dimensions: one horizontal at the beginning with the first line, then after the turn at the second line, a vertical one, picturing the fire, whose flames go to the sky.

It seems the ku invites us definitely to make the most important life change: to be reborn from a flat, material life, to a spiritual one.

Very well done Rachel. My deepest congratulations for a ku I’d like to have written myself…!

Lucia Fontana (Italy)

What drew me to this haiku was the atmosphere it invoked and also the surprise in the third line. “hollow winds” and the purifying effect of fire have a subtle correlation in that they both present emptiness in different forms. Though the third line can be taken as the poet thinking of firewood, it could also imply that her thoughts have transformed into something like firewood: ready to be burned and let go. Maybe the poet felt that only through surrendering her thoughts, she could be relieved of a certain anguish. A haiku that captures a mood strongly and astonishes the reader in the last line.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)

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(Painting by Félix Édouard Vallotton, 1865 – 1925)

Posted in Haiku

Marlene Mountain’s Pig

pig and i spring rain

(Published in Frogpond, 2:3-4, 1979)

© Marlene Mountain (1939 – 2018) (USA)

Pigs and rain both symbolize abundance, power, and strength. So, I can see a very close connection between the first word (pig) and the last word (rain). Another element that comes to my mind is the food chain. Rain helps to nourish plants and bring fertility to crops. Pig meat is used as food, so it shows the interdependence of different elements of nature that gain strength only if the cycle is not disrupted. Spring symbolizes the abundance of blessings, whether it is in the form of food or rain, that makes a person happy.

Besides that, I can see a friendly relationship between animals, nature, and human beings—key elements of nature. Spring here also indicates harmony and a balanced relationship among all nature’s agents.

Spiritually, I can see a balance between physical (pig) and spiritual (rain) needs.
In addition, I can see the dominance of ‘i’ in this haiku that indicates the individual identity of these three: pig, i, and rain.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

“The transparent, childlike directness of this haiku and the poet’s complete immersion in sensory awareness put it in the category of “much harder to do than it looks”. I look to this poem often when I feel my own poetry is becoming too weighted down with words and thought.”

(From Favourite Haiku on the New Zealand Poetry Society‘s website)

Melissa Allen (USA)

“I think it was de Tocqueville who, after seeing how many roving bands of semi-domesticated pigs ran unattended in the city streets of America in the 18th century, remarked that they were a perfect expression of America’s come-one come-all, democratic spirit. This poem by Marlene Mountain reminded me of him because by using the non-capitalized personal pronoun “i” she puts herself on a plane with the “pig”, and is as free as a pig is to enjoy the rain which falls democratically on all alike. There is something uninhibited in the pig’s appreciation of rain that the poet may well share, even if she does not bask, Moonbeam McSwine-like, in the mud. It is the poet’s joy to participate in the fructifying seasonal rebirth brought on by the change of weather, and take pleasure in the simple companionship of this uncomplicated animal. Reading it is like breaking through barriers to a free place.”

(From re:Virals 109 on The Haiku Foundation blog)

Garry Eaton (Canada)

“American poet, Marlene Mountain, has been experimenting with single line or ‘monostich’ haiku since the late 1960s and this is one of her most anthologised.

From a formal aspect there’s a seasonal reference, what’s known as a kigo in the Japanese classical tradition, with spring rain. There’s a natural caesura, or breath pause, after pig and i: an invitation to consider its juxtaposition with spring rain. From a semantic point of view: pig and i is a more formal choice than ‘me and the pig’. And pig rather than ‘the pig’ creates a kind of archetypal pig, something more than a specific farmyard oink.

Use of the lower case personal pronoun is quite common in contemporary EL haiku: the argument for it is often the dilution of personal ego – but there’s too much of a whiff of Zen in that for me. And it’s an argument that feels contradictory too: a lower case i seems to draw even more attention to itself than the standard upper case, which we’re so familiar with we hardly notice it (as long as it’s not overused). But here I’m actually in favour of the lower case for the parallel it appears to draw between the pig and the narrator, both as equals in the spring rain, on the balanced see-saw-like single line.

pig and i – spring rain

But … is the prettiness/tentativeness of spring rain making me see the pig, probably the least pretty of animals, (and the haiku) through rose-tinted spectacles? Someone else would have to analyse and argue for that case.”

(From haiku: a poetry of absence or an absence of poetry? on the An Open Field blog)

Lynne Rees (UK)

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Posted in Tanka

Elliot Nicely’s Small Worries

these small worries . . .
wave upon wave,
the ocean
beneath itself

(Presence, #58, 2017)

© Elliot Nicely (USA)

A very well-crafted tanka that shows a relationship between our feelings and ocean waves. The opening line “small worries” takes us to our daily activities, where we constantly pass through a lot, and which lets our mind and heart oscillate between logic and feelings.

The ocean here symbolizes the deep feelings and thoughts that are sometimes unfathomable, and we can’t deal with them well. Waves upon waves may be our cognitive process that keeps on filtering our thoughts to find out some solutions based on logic. I can also see an element of ego here where a person’s worries can be related to his/her egoistic approach towards life. Waves upon waves in terms of the heart could be saying that feelings are blindfolded, and we can’t see that logic and thought dominates compassion, kindness, etc. In both cases, the worries or problems are not dealt with effectively, which may lead to destructive thoughts, poor relationships, and in the long run, poor mental and physical health.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

Yes, small worries are but waves in our lives—they come and they go. In a moment, there are worries to think about and that give color to our mundane life. And then in the next moment, these are all gone and we’re back to our own silent and secure existence.

Willie Bongcaron (Philippines)

I like that this tanka points to the fact that we often get so wrapped up in the daily grind, that we often forget that our troubles are usually pretty minor. The ocean in the poem is a kind of reminder that each moment is new, and an issue of just the moment before can be washed away.

The word “collapsing” works well not only as an image, but also in its power. We commonly see ourselves as a linear story of a person. But in fact, we are always changing, and in each moment, we can choose to be a new individual.

Let’s talk about the punctuation a bit. The ellipsis reflects the continuous motion of the waves, and the comma allows the reader to pause a bit to imagine the waves. Also, take notice of the economy of language: no line is longer than three words, but each of them is strong and creates a stark image.

Sound is also important in this tanka. In my mind, the “s” and “o” sounds create the most prominent effects. The “s” letters seem to be making the “sss” of incoming waves, and the “o” letters appear to be mimicking the “ooo” of receding waves.

This tanka is written in a convincingly straightforward manner, but the last line surprises and allows us to introspect about how daily strifes are not so essential in the larger picture.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)

Did you enjoy this tanka and the commentary? Leave us a comment if you did.


© Dawn Hudson