Réka Nyitrai’s pinned butterfly

pinned butterfly –
even in death
beautiful

Réka Nyitrai (Romania)

(published previously in Scryptic issue 2.4 December 2018)

I liked the simplicity of this haiku that straight away touched me deeply. We mostly mention living creatures in our poems as a source of inspiration but this unique haiku took another unique dimension of life which itself is full of life.

‘pinned butterfly’, if I imagine, means the transformation of life into death but still finds its way to get the attention of the masses. When we pin something, we try to highlight it on a wall or board or any other place where it can be seen by many people. It also shows how things become important after death, and especially how death carves their beauty and makes them immortal.

Yes, this happens only through imaginative and creative thoughts that never die. Our thoughts and creativity make things immortal no matter what stage of life they are at and whether they are alive or dead—whether they are dynamic or static. The only thing that matters in the imaginative world is how we make things alive and immortal through our creative thinking. This haiku is the epitome of the imagination that takes us to a static stage of life where butterflies don’t flutter, don’t leave trails, don’t fly high, and don’t spread fragrance. It is a meditative stage of life where one finds existence in stillness and in deep silence. The en dash after ‘butterfly’ means a short pause which also reflects the stillness of life both during the creative and/or meditative process.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

This haiku brings to mind how beautiful endings are at times. Sunsets. Outros in songs. A person’s last words. A pinned butterfly.

The beauty that the poet sees in the pinned butterfly brings it back to life in a symbolic sense. It is alive with color and elegance, albeit in stillness. But by pinning the butterfly, we can relish it’s beauty forever in a certain moment. That moment happens to be its death.

Getting technical, we can say this haiku displays muga (a Japanese aesthetic), or spiritual selflessness. The poet does not discuss herself and focuses solely on the beauty of the butterfly, in its new transformation.

The dash is useful to make a clear split between the parts. Also, it could visually represent a pin. The economy with which the poem is written is admirable. With only six words, it carries a powerful message. The sharp “i” sounds in the haiku also direct one’s attention to the image of a pin.

Simple yet poignant, this haiku allows readers to contemplate the beauty of the afterlife in its physical sense. It also brings about an introspection on what it means to be alive.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)

Sphingid-and-little-known-butterflies-from-Africa-1916-s

Isabel Caves’ setting sun

setting sun
a child learns to say
“imaginary”

Isabel Caves (New Zealand)
(Previously published in Poetry Pea – Haiku Pea Podcast Series 2 Episode 2

The way I see the setting sun in this haiku is more about the transformation from day to night which also means the transformation of one’s focus from the outer world to the inner one. I loved the way the writer cleverly used the word ‘sunset’ positively where all energies converge into darkness but also enlighten the mind.

The second part of this haiku is about the transformation of learning where a child learns in the daylight most probably from nature and dreams or creates through imagination based on that learning. The word ‘imaginary’ here means the abstract thinking of a child which is chiseled by the daily life experiences before that reaches the stage where they start uniquely perceiving the world. It’s about the transformation from one stage of life to another, from light to darkness, or vice-a-versa. I liked the quotation marks around ‘imaginary’ which make it more significant and unique.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

The setting sun in the context of this haiku seems to have two moods:

1) Sad, in that the child learns what imagination is and what it is not. Before, the child had no mental concept of it.

2) The beauty and epicness of a sunset can be compared to one’s imagination.

As a reader, I seem to follow the first interpretation. As soon as we have words for things, we ruin them, in a sense. The mystery, the grandeur, the innocence is lost. Nature is no longer filled with spirits and magic, but are given scientific names and explanations. They become mental concepts rather than something to witness as is. Through mental obstruction, we can lose the child within.

In terms of the sound in the haiku, it seems that the letter “s” is the most prominent. The string of “s” sounds in the first two lines and the absence of it in the last line makes the ending more striking. I’m glad the poet did not add a dash or an ellipsis in the first line as a kireji, or cut word or phrase, which is traditionally seen in haiku. With the quotation marks, it was already enough punctuation, and more punctuation would make it too busy. The format is standard for English-language haiku, although one tries to avoid having one word in the last line in order to not be either too sentimental or pointed. However, it works well here with the quotation marks and as a surprise.

A haiku that touches upon innocence and the loss of it, it’s a powerful tribute to our imagination.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)

1888-vincent-van-gogh-the-sower

Painting by Vincent van Gogh, The Sower, 1888

Carmela Marino’s dream

moon flower…
the rest of a dream
on the windowsill

Carmela Marino (Italy)

This haiku beautifully covers the deep feelings of both day and night. A dream that starts at the night gradually enters into the daylight as a daydream. I loved the analogy of a night dream with a moon flower that reflects the fresh start of a day. The star-shaped structure of this flower brings hope in one’s life that there’s nothing to worry about as this flower blooms at night, so it looks surreal like a dream that also blooms and makes one’s life worth living.

I loved the twist in this haiku where the writer takes us from a moon flower to a morning scene in continuation of the night dream. A windowsill is a place that is used for pondering and daydreaming. So, the night dream is not over yet and the dreamer is still in a state of dreaming that now shifts from darkness to light. This means the follow up of the dream even in the daylight.

I loved the mystery behind this haiku which takes us on an ethereal journey of dreaming which is an essential part of our life in terms of hope and purpose. I loved the way the writer used both ‘moon flower’ and ‘windowsill’ as metaphors where there is no disconnection of dreams and/or a journey that starts from within and then connects us with the outer world. The ellipsis after moon flower gives a beautiful break to stop and enjoy the glory of the night and the gradually blooming process of a dream.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

We got a kigo, or a seasonal reference, for spring with “moon flower.” But more importantly, we are given a flower that only blossoms at night. This connects strongly to dreams, where our imagination and subconscious “blossoms” at night. With the ellipsis, the silence of that time can be felt.

In the next two lines, much can be implied. My initial thought is that the poet wakes up and sees the moon flower on her windowsill. It’s possible that the poet was dreaming of something that related to the flower in question.

The other interpretation is that the content of the dream is a mystery to the reader, and that mystery corresponds to the intriguing flower that blooms at night.

Finally, the dream (either physical or abstract) could be represented by an ornament or an object that rests on the windowsill. This continuation lends to the idea that nature still is active and even blooms at night, as with the moon flower.

I get an ethereal feeling from this haiku. In a way, it brings me into a dream world. We can discuss interpretations of haiku, but I think the feeling we get from haiku is most important.

In terms of its structure, we have a classic format that mirrors traditional Japanese haiku and which is most common in English-language haiku. If we look at the sound, we immediately catch wind of the usage of “o” to slow down the pace and to make the poem more dreamlike.

With the aesthetic of yugen, or deep mystery, this haiku puts readers in a powerful state and makes them see nature with more abstraction and imagination.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)

Moonflower

– Painting by Elaine Haxton(Australian, 1909-1999)Moon, Moths and Moonflowers, 1976

 

Florin Golban’s Storm

after the storm—
playing hopscotch
among the blossoms

Florin Golban (România)
International Honourable mention, Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival 2019

In general, storms cause chaos. There’s no specification of storm in this haiku, which makes it more open for discussion. But, every storm interrupts our daily routine, especially the recreational. The same goes for a difficult time, which puts all activities on halt.

Hopscotch is the resumption of a happy or carefree time that one has after a difficult time, where they enjoy playing it among nature. The blossoms indicate that life is in full bloom where there’s no tension or chaos. It’s more like back to normal where a person enjoys all their favourite activities, especially outdoor ones.

It also depicts resilience that one develops over a period of time.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

The em dash in the first line allows us as readers to take in what happened from the devastation by the storm. In this case, the poet focuses on the blossoms strewn on the street or sidewalk. Fallen blossoms, especially of the cherry variety, are highly beautiful and evocative.

The act of playing hopscotch among the blossoms can represent several things:

1. Playing in the midst of destruction or the loss of something beautiful.
2. That we should not pay attention to the chaos around us and remain positive.
3. We should be connected to nature. Nature is a part of our everyday life.
4. And more…

The feeling this haiku gives me is mixed: happiness and sorrow. Happiness for the play and sorrow for the destruction. But great haiku often have layered and/or complex feelings behind them.

In terms of the sound, the prominent letter is “o.” It slows down the reading and makes the moment being portrayed seem longer. The use of “o” is balanced enough to not be intrusive and gives music to the poem.

The length of each line is relatively the same, which is fine. Usually, the second line is the longest in a haiku, but no harm done. Besides, there are no hard and fast rules for haiku.

I think this spring haiku brings out a sense of joy and melancholy simultaneously with great effectiveness.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)

large

Painting by Fatma Arargi (1954)

Pravat Kumar Padhy’s zero

the zero-shadow moment I am with myself

Pravat Kumar Padhy (India)
Published previously in The Heron’s Nest Vol. XXI, Number 3, 2019

There are many monoku about shadows that pull at my heartstrings but this one is more intriguing in terms of the theme, where one doesn’t have to feel the sense of the moment but rather dig deeper to know how to relate it to one’s own life experiences.

A zero-shadow, in my opinion, indicates the complete absence of the shadow in one’s life. The word ‘zero’ itself reflects the degree of nothingness in this haiku where the writer feels it’s more like the temperature which is cold at zero. A zero-shadow also depicts a lack of connectivity or loneliness due to various reasons.

When you feel that you have a zero-shadow that represents your existence means you’re all alone without having a single ray of hope in your life. It also means the detachment of worldly relationships that act more like shadows and get lost when a person is having trouble or is in the dark.

In terms of sound, the letter ‘m’ in this haiku can relate to the echoes from the heart that are remorseful due to this miserable time.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

As with most fine one-line haiku, this poem can be read in several ways:

the zero-shadow
moment I am with myself

or:

the zero-shadow moment
I am with myself

or:

the zero-shadow moment I am with myself

…which all have different available interpretations. However, as a reader, I’m naturally inclined to read it as the second version. In this version, we have a clear break in subjects.

This poem is like a realization that one is truly alone and with oneself. I don’t get a sense that this haiku is about loneliness, though. It’s more about observing who you are fully without any impediment.

I can’t say that this monoku has a kigo, though it’s indicative of noon. In my imagination, I see this haiku taking place in either summer or spring.

Looking at this haiku technically, I enjoy the originality of “zero-shadow,” the length and rhythm of the line, and the sound, which was aptly mentioned by Hifsa.

Overall, I enjoy this one-line haiku for its ability to put the reader in the state expressed, which is the state of the total observation of the self.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)

farmer at noon

Painting by Imai Kageki (1891 – 1960)

Jane Williams’ low tide

low tide
in the gull’s footprints
echoes of flight

Jane Williams (Australia)

First of all, I would like to discuss my immediate thought about this haiku that struck my senses and that’s the letter ‘o’ which dominates this haiku. This indicates the life cycle where we strive to fulfill our needs or dreams and to move to the next level or phase to do the same.

When there’s low tide, the waves are not as charged as they are during high tide, which means there is a calm situation on the seashore. So, low tide is equivalent to our positive or constructive thinking that helps us to make our life more meaningful by planning and managing our goals.

The gull’s footprints are a subtle expression of things that may not be very strong but can create a huge impact on our lives. The webbed feet of a gull is commonly prominent on seashores and are a sign of life, freedom, free will, mindfulness, and positivity.

To me, “echoes of flight” is about the destiny that is calling someone to take a flight, to strive and achieve the purpose of life. Echoes are the personal experiences that resonate in one’s mind about one’s forthcoming life. In other words, it’s the clarity of purpose that comes with maturity and a peaceful mind.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

The thing that intrigued me initially about this haiku is the pivot line: “in the gull’s footprints.” This allows the poem to be read in at least two ways: “low tide in the gull’s footprints/echoes of flight” or “low tide/in the gull’s footprints echoes of flight.”

In the first reading, you can see water fill the footprint, and this act being said to be echoes of flight. In contrast, in the second reading, we get a juxtaposition of low tide with the echoes of flight in the gull’s footprints.

“echoes of flight” can be seen as metaphorical or physical. It could be about memories of flight, or it could be about the sound of wings reverberating (or even the shadow of wings). This phrase gives this haiku a special touch of originality.

Personally, the way I read it is that within our beginnings, we can see what we can achieve. Though this haiku is mostly objective, it’s probably a metaphor for how our trajectory as a person can be perceived from the very outset.

Hifsa rightly admired the usage of the letter “o” in this poem. I want to point out the letter “l” in this haiku as well. With its prevalence, it gives the reading of the poem a lilting feeling, like the flight of a gull.

The structure of the poem is the standard for English-language haiku that mirrors the traditional Japanese rhythm of haiku. The lack of punctuation is a benefit as it allows the pivot line to work its wonders. In terms of the kigo, or seasonal reference, gulls can be either a kigo for spring or autumn, traditionally. I think in this haiku, it most likely is a seasonal reference to spring.

With its substance, pivot line, musicality, and imagery, this is a must-read haiku.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)

450e90c4d19d0c40c944c316d69ef3b0

Painting by Seitei (Shotei) Watanabe

Muskaan Ahuja’s Robin

winter dusk
the robin’s last chirp
before hiding into a tree

Muskaan Ahuja (India)

Winter dusk is a time of converging all the thoughts of the day where one focuses on the inner state of mind—in other words, the locus of control is one’s own self. The mysterious magic of the forces at dusk creates a great impact on the psyche of a person where they are attracted by the invisible pull of the inner self.

The last chirp of a robin may indicate the departure or annihilation of life that comes before one has possibly enjoyed life fully and then ends up in deep silence.

The hiding into a tree is more like an occultation where there is no more left to say or do. A life full of mysteries and chaos let us go through experiences where we enjoy positivity, happiness, and blessings but when all is over, we have nothing except silence and loneliness.

Another aspect of this haiku can be a deep understanding of life after passing through various experiences that enrich our intellect and bring maturity. This is the stage where people enjoy their solitude and silence more than words.

It’s the focus of life from outside where worldly life builds up a dwelling for our end, which is annihilation and mortality.

From chirp to deep silence, from dawn to dusk, from interaction to solitude, all these stages of life show a momentum towards our ultimate destiny, which is nothingness.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

We have the kigo, or the seasonal reference, right in the first line. As you probably know, haiku are traditionally seasonal poems, and starting a haiku with a kigo is a safe bet and a fine idea.

With “winter dusk,” we can get the picture of cold solitude and maybe melancholy. This tinge of the solitary is continued on the second line with a robin’s last chirp of the day (or perhaps of its life, for any number of circumstances).

Haiku often focus on one thing at a time to allow readers to dive into that moment more readily and to gain a sense of mindfulness. You can say it’s a tradition to focus on one thing at a time in the spirit of Zen, which is popular in Japan (ichigyo-zammai). Haiku is not a Zen art, but its history is intertwined with it. So, having this philosophy on display in the craft of this haiku is well-founded.

In the last line, we see the robin taking refuge within a tree cavity or deep within the labyrinth of its branches. The robin is essentially going through the process of its own dusk. Its chirp is colorful like the sunset and then recedes like the dying colors of the sky. In this way, you can say dusk and the robin are both manifestations of each other.

Looking at the haiku in a technical sense, we might first notice the unusually long last line. It’s common practice to have a shorter last line than the middle line. However, it’s not only difficult to format the lines differently without creating an issue but also it’s not long enough to be of concern. Like most great arts, haiku writing doesn’t have strict rules and allows for plenty of exceptions.

I think the first line could have benefited from a dash to add to the serious mood of the haiku. But, the poem is fine without it and no problem is created with the absence of punctuation in this haiku. For the sound, I felt the letter “r” was particularly important. It gave the haiku more weight.

This haiku captured the mood of winter dusk through a strong visual and sensory sense and brings readers to stillness and introspection.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)

winter dusk

– “Winter Road” by Ian Ramsey

Kat Lehmann’s River

what remains
after the river is gone
this empty bed

Kat Lehmann (USA)
Published in Mayfly 68, 2020

I always wonder how to express my deepest feelings about certain themes of life that are well connected with the most essential element of nature: ‘water’. I love it when someone challenges me to write about topics that really cover annihilation.

In this haiku, Kat beautifully expressed her feelings in a simple but most elegant way without letting go of the flavours of the right metaphor that is the beauty of a well-crafted haiku.

What remains is a question mark that we all need to address at the end of this temporary life for which we spend a lifetime to solve the mystery of what we get in the end. The ‘river’ is well placed in this haiku that reflects our thoughts, feelings, and constant learning and building up of a momentum in our lives. I think the flow of the river may be interpreted in two ways: 1) physical life 2) mental or spiritual life. Both goes on until we stop breathing and/or stop thinking about what is necessary for survival.

The empty bed both of the river and our life indicates nothingness and or annihilation where only a deep silence prevails. This haiku also depicts the process of evolution and revolution that both start and end in nothing. This is the ultimate meaning of life.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

At first glance, this poem might seem like a matter-of-fact statement, which a lot of fine haiku do. But then, we get an “aha” moment. The empty bed is both positive and negative. The empty bed could be a representation of the emptiness and harshness of the dry season, but it could also mean a place where new life can flourish without hindrance. Plus, the author could be referring not to a riverbed but to the bed in her house—thus making it a double entendre.

The empty bed is also a sight to behold. The way the river carved into the earth is now fully visible and we can witness what the river did to the soil and rock. It may be empty, but it’s full of memories etched into the earth.

I think the poet did right by not including punctuation, as it would have made the second line too long, in my opinion. The poet retains the traditional Japanese rhythm of haiku.

In terms of sound, the most striking letter is “r,” which gives the haiku added power and weight. The sound of “e” in the last line with “empty bed” has long syllables, which creates a sense of melancholy and starkness.

A fine haiku that gives many introspective associations to readers.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)

blue-mountains-at-corbett-national-park-landscape-painting-mandar-marathe

– Painting by Mandar Marathe

Robin Anna Smith’s Alchemy

dusk gathers
with the alchemy
of ravens . . .
alone, in a clearing
my heart picked clean

Robin Anna Smith (USA)
UHTS Fleeting Words Tanka Contest 2019, First Place

There are a few short poems that inspire me deeply due to their brevity and brilliance. The beauty and the dimensions of our imagination are endless as one can grasp the attention of anyone through its majestic power and subtlety. This poem is one of them.

I loved the opening line of this wonderful tanka that pauses my thoughts and lets me feel the colours and the hues of dusk that tickle my slumberous senses to fully grasp the overall picture of that dusk.

The second and third lines, ‘with the alchemy/of ravens . . .’, is beautifully embedded in this dynamic poem and this may be the crux of the whole theme of this tanka. The word ‘alchemy’ depicts the magical power of the dark that purifies our thoughts and heart through contemplation and maybe through meditation. Ravens here depict the sign of intellect that pass through the trials of time before getting into proper shape. This is the experience of wholeness where a person walks alone in this journey as it varies from individual to individual. This highest level of personal experience also touches the spiritual boundaries where a person wants peace at heart, which is the ultimate goal of life. This only comes through the self-awareness that is reflecting very clearly in this tanka and brings one’s thoughts and feelings together to enjoy the subtle experience of wholeness.

Looking at the technicalities, the ellipsis placed after the word ‘ravens’ makes it significant to ponder in our day-to-day experiences before we finally get to the path of our ultimate destiny. By uniting the first and the last lines, one can understand the ultimate purpose of life.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

The power behind this tanka lies in its imagery and the connection between its two parts. Also, the poem packs in a lot of substance within five lines, while allowing the reader to imagine and fill in blanks.

I like that Robin embraces the more metaphorical and free approach to tanka that many western poets don’t delve into. Some western adherents of tanka practice it as a longer haiku and don’t utilize its more abstract and imaginative side.

Let’s break this tanka down line by line. “dusk gathers” sets the time and scene. We can feel that this poem will contemplative.

“with the alchemy” is a surprising line and makes the reader excited to see what will happen next in the tanka.

“of ravens . . .” is highly symbolic. In Native American culture, the raven is sacred and in some tribes, was the creator of the world. This could be the connection to alchemy. Also, in many cultures, ravens are seen as mystical creatures that are either seers, magical beings, or harbingers of something to come. The ellipsis makes the clear sign of this part of the tanka ending and shows that this process of alchemy and dusk gathering is gradual.

“alone, in a clearing” is concise but delivers substantial symbolism with the clearing being like the poet’s sense of being alone. The comma puts more emphasis on the word “alone” and allows the reader to feel it more.

With “my heart picked clean”, Robin does not say, but as a reader, I can imagine the ravens picking the poet’s heart clean. Maybe this could be part of the alchemy mentioned earlier. Alchemy is about transformation, and the process of cleaning one’s heart can be said to be a type of metamorphosis.

In terms of the format, this tanka follows the traditional Japanese rhythm faithfully. Looking at its sound, the letter “c” is most prominent. It reminds me of the clicking of beaks. In this case, ravens’ beaks.

A tanka packed with imagery, symbolism, and feeling, it’s clear why this poem won first place in the UHTS Fleeting Words Tanka Contest.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)

Raven painting– Painting by Claudelle Girard

Elancharan Gunasekaran’s Raft

raft anchored
to the full moon…
shadows dive in

Elancharan Gunasekaran (Singapore)
Published in Wales Haiku Journal, summer, 2019

Not only is the imagery striking but the way the poet plays with the senses is highly creative. The full moon, reflected on the water, appears to be anchoring the raft either by a string or a chain. This, of course, isn’t factual, but it looks this is actually taking place. This type of imagery is prevalent in haiku and was used often by the old masters, such as Basho.

In the second part, we have another play on our perception. The shadows diving into the full moon could be from anything around: plants, trees, people, animals, etc. But not everything has to be spelled out in haiku. It’s often key to allow space for the reader to imagine a scene from their own experience and ideas so that they can participate in the poem.

With these two fantastical images, the poet merges the cosmos and the earthly. They interact with each other and the distance between them is bridged. I think this connects well with the Zen concept of non-dualism.

Looking at the technical aspects of this haiku, the ellipsis slows down the pace of the scene and hints at its peacefulness. The length of the lines is in standard fashion, connecting to the rhythm of traditional Japanese haiku. In terms of sound, the most interesting part is the two “f”s in the poem. It’s a heavy letter that seems to correlate well with the weight of an anchor, as noted in the haiku.

Full of intriguing imagery and plays of perception, this haiku makes for an enjoyable and mysterious read.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)

I liked the opening line of this, where there is a sense of proximity and closeness. It puts my ongoing thoughts on a halt and I start exploring my deep connection with the deep water and its mysterious shades. I feel as if my thoughts are anchored for a short while and the sea becomes a subtle ground for anchoring myself to the moon.

It sounds meditative. The full moon is another reason for this mesmerism as the moonlight takes me deep into my profound inner self and I run my imagination wild where strings of the moonlight anchor my thoughts and feelings.

The ellipsis pauses our thoughts to fully absorb the feelings and to enjoy the imagery. The last part of this haiku is a shift from light to dark which seems more like yin-yang where there are comparisons and contrasts in feelings where one can see the moonlight clearly on water due to the shadows that define its boundaries.

The overall imagery of this haiku is subtle and surreal but it’s very well crafted with a fact that there’s a very deep connection between Earth, water, and celestial bodies and one can feel this deep connection with a peaceful mind. It’s definitely beyond seeing.

In terms of sound, the letter “o” creates an uninterrupted rhythm of mystic feelings where there’s no concept of time and space but a continuous cycle of an extraordinary experience.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

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– Painting by Shoda Koho, “Moonlit Sea,” c. 1920