George Klacsanzky’s glasses

my glasses missing
I see impressionistic
paintings all day

George Klacsanzky (1956-2003)  (USA/Hungary)

George Klacsanzky with his typewriter and issues of his journal “Haiku Zasshi Zo”

I appreciate George’s insight into sight itself. How many of us take vision for granted? The saying “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” comes to mind when reading this haiku. I also like his sense of humor in “my glasses missing.” It seems some people have become numb to modern-day conveniences and items we use daily. But when a useful item goes missing, like glasses, then it seems we regain an appreciation for it and no longer take it for granted. In this way, George’s haiku could point to experiencing life without conveniences but also gently reminds us to not take things for granted. A beautiful haiku.

Jacob Salzer (USA)

First of all, it is a great honour for me to write commentary on this brilliant haiku of George Klacsanzky. He is truly a great and inspirational haiku poet.

The opening line gives an impression of a person’s view of the world without any artificial sight. It reflects the genuine connection of a person with nature or their surroundings where they enjoy nature or any imagery without any barrier (glasses) by using their insight or perception. I love the use of the word ‘impressionistic’ which conveys a strong image of what the person is viewing. It may also be a vivid memory that a person is cherishing or reminiscing about. There can be various interpretations of ‘paintings all day’. A person may be seeking solace in nature, their surroundings, a memory, or they are enjoying the deep elements of an image with the help of insight’s lens through daydreaming.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

My father, George Klacsanzky, wore thick glasses. I think if he took them off or lost them, he would be seeing the world as if it was an impressionistic painting. But I think besides the humor in this haiku, I believe my father was expressing the fact that our experience as human beings is based on our subjective sensorial perception. Though our sense organs are tangible, the results they produce are variable and depend on each individual’s facilities. In a way, it seems my father was pointing to the illusion of our so-called reality.

I enjoy how the second line has enjambment. It is a witty line break that sets up a surprise in the last line. In terms of sound, it appears that the letter “s” takes the cake. From this string of “s” sounds, I can hear a paintbrush against a canvas. The letter “l” is also employed well, which gives the reading a more weighted feeling, in my opinion.

Another haiku by my father that on the face seems to be only comical but has deep philosophical undertones.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)

Elliot Nicely’s comb

hospice care
the way she quietly combs
sunlight
into his hair
with her fingers

Elliot Nicely (USA)
(previously published in Eucalypt #25)

This tanka gives me a real sense of peace and acceptance, specifically in: “she quietly combs sunlight into his hair.” I feel a gentleness in the verb “combs,” which reminds me of slow-rolling ocean waves, or a soft breeze in a field of grass. It also brings me a sentiment that the person lived a fulfilling life, regardless of their age. I first envisioned the man is in hospice and his wife is combing his hair, though I like how the tanka leaves this open for interpretation. It could very well be the woman who is in hospice and she’s combing the hair of her husband, her son, or someone else she’s close to. Hospice relates to a person who is physically ill and has 6 months or less to live. Love and compassion don’t always require words and can be expressed through silence, in gentle, wordless action. I feel this tanka expresses one of those moments. A beautiful poem. 

Jacob Salzer (USA)

The opening line of this tanka takes us to hospice care as an expression of a place that everyone knows. The tanka precisely describes the story of a woman who may be a nurse, a mother, a spouse, or a grandmother. In each case, she is caring and may be missing her motherhood memories in the past. The scene describes a carefree moment where she may be sitting in the sunlight with a child/boy/man and enjoying combing his hair with her fingers. It also shows the personal touch of a person with someone who is close to her and where there are no materialistic things needed to enjoy mundane activities.

This also demonstrates how both persons are pondering about life, maybe reminiscing their past. I can see the furrows in the hair resultant from combing with fingers, which depicts how fruitful life becomes when someone sows the seeds of love, care, and sincerity. I loved the imagery of this tanka, which portrays the story of life in hospice care—full of memories, love, compassion, kindness, and personal touch.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

This is a moment of quiet yet powerful symbolic actions—whether intended or not. The person being cared for is ill or dying, and sunlight, the power of the sun, is being combed into the patient’s hair. In a way, it is giving life to a person on the edge of death. It could also be a sign of someone who has lived their life fully and is now returning to the realm of the natural world.

The sense of sound in this tanka is wonderful as well. The soft “o”s in hospice, combs, and into, and stark “i”s in hospice, quietly, sunlight, into, his, hair, with, and fingers make for a sonorous feel that adds emotion to the poem. The tanka is sparse in words, but each word seems carefully selected and paced. It’s a tanka with depth that can be clearly seen.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)

“Endearment” by Asiza.

Jacob Salzer’s dream catcher

dream catcher
a new hole
in the spider’s web 

Jacob Salzer (USA) 
(published previously in Mare Liberum: Haiku & Tanka)

Commentary by the poet:

This haiku came from observation. I saw a spider’s web with a missing spider and a new hole in the web as if a large bug had managed to fly through it (or perhaps the hole was from an insect that the spider had devoured). However, this has been left open for interpretation. Because a spider’s web inherently has many holes in it, “a new hole” could simply mean the spider is creating a larger web and a new hole or an opening has been made through newly connected threads. The spider itself is not explicitly mentioned in this haiku. Therefore, it could be a part of this haiku or it could be missing altogether.

Metaphorically, in this haiku, the spider’s web is the world and the spider is the mind. Just as the spider spins a web out of itself and then lives in it, so it seems the mind spins a web of thoughts out of itself and lives in its own creation. This brings to mind a quote from my favorite movie Waking Life: “They say dreams are real only as long as they last. Couldn’t you say the same thing about life?

Ultimately, the “new hole” in the spider’s web, devoid of a spider, could be a symbol for piercing through the illusion of separation and leaving behind a hole of silence to allow light to shine through clearly, devoid of thoughts. Thus, the mind, even the “I” thought, has seemingly disappeared in the light.

I juxtaposed the spider’s web with a dream catcher (also sometimes spelled dreamcatcher) because they look similar to me.

Here is a note I received from the St. Joseph’s Indian School:

“Native Americans of the Great Plains believe the air is filled with both good and bad dreams. According to legend, the good dreams pass through the center hole to the sleeping person. The bad dreams are trapped in the web, where they perish in the light of dawn. Historically, dreamcatchers were hung in the tipi or lodge and on a baby’s cradleboard. Learn more about the Lakota (Sioux) culture at stjo.org/culture.”

I believe I left room for different interpretations in this haiku. It seems a spider’s web and dream catchers could mean various things to people. Perhaps this haiku could conjure up different dreams you’ve had. Of course, your commentary and interpretations are most welcome.

Commentary by others:

I loved the connection between a ‘dream catcher’ and the ‘spider’s web’ as both yearn to fulfill their dreams. Like the spider’s web, every dream needs consistency, determination, and hard work in order to be achieved. ‘A new hole’ indicates that the spider’s web is already broken or destroyed by both internal or external factors. The hole may be distorted thoughts, distractions, illusions, or delusions that block our view of the world whilst pursuing our dreams. More than one hole indicates drastic life changes that destroy the scheme of a dream or a spider’s web.

On the contrary, the dream may be either unrealistic or abstract, making it impossible to achieve. In that case, a new hole may symbolize the realities or awareness/conscious understanding of the dream that again and again destroy the complicated web of a dream and sensitize the person to live in reality. 

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

Jacob and Hifsa have explored the interpretations and meanings behind this haiku in depth. I want to add that besides the clear association between a spider web and a dream catcher, I see the spiritual significance of the word “dream.” To me, it inspires thoughts of Buddha’s teaching about the end of suffering being the giving up of desires. This haiku could represent that as we seek to fulfill our desires, we cause a disruption in nature. On the flip side, it could mean that to escape being a seeker of fulfillment, we need to pass through the web of this mundane life.

I like the run of “e” sounds in almost every word in this haiku. It gives me a sense of wonder. The pacing and format of the haiku look effortlessly composed. Punctuation and line length are not as important as the feel of the haiku.

A wonderful haiku that bubbles with interpretations and contemplations.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)

Andrea Cecon’s slanting rain

slanting rain
the shift worker whistling
slightly out of tune

Andrea Cecon (Italy)
Modern Haiku, issue 48:2

I enjoy the layers of sound in this haiku. “slanting rain” tells me it’s raining pretty hard. On the first read, “whistling” brings to mind a construction worker, though I like how the occupation is not defined in this haiku and left open for the reader. If we imagine the work is being done outside, I have compassion for the person in the haiku, still devoted and working despite the time of day/night and the weather. Even if the work is being done inside, I have compassion for the person working late into the night and/or early morning. “whistling slightly out of tune” brings to mind how a person can be tired or somewhat fatigued working such odd hours, yet their dedication and focus carries them through. The whistling may also be slightly out of tune against the loud sound of pouring rain. I think whistling in this haiku is also helping the person finish their work-shift. Like walking through mud, it is challenging, but with strength and persistence, it can be done. 

I used to work the graveyard shift at a theater. I always found it interesting to drive home at 1 am after the last movie ended. The quiet neighborhoods were palpable as I drove past silent houses. It was interesting to be awake while almost everyone else was fast asleep.

This is a powerful haiku that conveys compassion for dedicated, hard-working people who work odd hours while most people are sleeping. 

Jacob Salzer (USA)

It happens that when a person spends all day on a task that is tiresome and laborious, then they may not enjoy things in the surroundings or they may not find it soothing when there is bad weather. This haiku represents the life of a shift worker that may sound full of fatigue. ‘slanting rain’ expresses nature’s harsh mood where nothing comes straight and calm. It is a struggle when one cannot escape one’s duty during a slanting rain. But, the word ‘whistle’ gives a twist in the haiku as it shows that either the shift has ended and the person is enjoying their off-time. Maybe they are going back home or daydreaming. Or, it may give a hint of ‘whistleblowing’, calling out those who are not complying with their duties due to the slanting rain. In either situation, it seems that the person in question is enjoying their time.

Overall, slanting rain and whistling both allude to the opposite moods of a person during laborious work or a rough day. It also shows how a person after some hardship needs some relaxation, which may or may not be enough to unwind their fatigue, stress, or frustration.

Finally, the letter ‘s’ in this haiku sounds more like a complex situation where a person is not fully enjoying his life due to a laborious job that may not be paying well.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

Jacob and Hifsa explored a lot of what I wanted to say. But, I wanted to add that in this haiku, I see nature and humanity crossing paths. The slanted rain, with the sound of a possible storm, is akin to whistling off tune. I believe there is not quite a cause and effect relationship. It is more the shift worker feeling nature’s mood and integrating it into their being.

In this world of artificiality and superficiality, we often forget how connected we are to nature. From the food we eat, the materials we use, to our surroundings, nature and humanity is always intertwined. This haiku displays a brief moment where that relationship shows as stark as a whistle.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)

Tsuchiya Koitsu, Morning Rain at Hakone, 1938

Trivarna Hariharan’s comb

wind swept leaves––
the memory of mother
combing my hair

Trivarna Hariharan (India)
(previously published in Isacoustic)

A touching haiku. When I hear and see “wind swept leaves,” I feel the spirit of the author’s deceased mother loving and connecting with the poet from another dimension. It’s as if the wind itself is the mother’s spirit that carries her voice and invisible hands.  

Jacob Salzer (USA)

This heartfelt ku reflects many shades of memories related to the poet’s mother. Windswept leaves here may indicate autumn or dry leaves that have no destination or direction. The leaves have been further scattered due to the strong wind. Same are the thoughts and memories of the loved one that scatters or loses the colour of life when the strong wind of time blows them away. 

The last line, ‘combing my hair’, may either reflect how a person is either contemplating or getting ready for a funeral. Combing hair may also show how things get settled after tragedies or mourning. Also, it may represent the deep remorseful feelings of a person who finds it soothing to untangle hair. 

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

I feel there are two sides to this: one of melancholy and one of warmth. Wind swept leaves in relation to one’s mother combing our hair, especially as a young girl, can bring out emotions of lightness and relaxation. On the other hand, autumn can bring about feelings of loneliness and a sense of emptiness. Having these two interpretations enrich the reading experience.

Finding a comparison between leaves and hair, and the motion of combing and the wind, is a great haiku moment. The poet has seen a common natural occurrence and discovered a link between it and her deepest memories.

Onto the technical sides of things, the format is standard for English-language haiku. The kigo (seasonal reference) is clear, the kireji (cut marker between parts) is given as an em dash, and the sense of reverence to the main subject often displayed in traditional haiku is present. There is also a strong sonic element to the haiku: the letter “m” dominates with “memory,” “mother,” and “combing.” This letter usually conjures a sense of satisfaction in readers. The letter “r” is also featured. It’s almost as if we can hear the roar of the wind.

A naturally written haiku that uses a common experience in nature to find a special connection with a childhood memory.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)

Unknown painting of maple leaves.

Brad Bennett’s skull

cradling
the baby’s skull…
summer clouds

Brad Bennett (USA)
(previously published in Modern Haiku 51:3)

There are two soft spots on a baby’s head where the skull bones have not yet joined together. These soft spots are called fontanels and allow flexibility for the newborn baby to move through the mother’s birth canal. Metaphorically, this softness and flexibility could be the neutral place between two rigid points of view: a bridge between apparent opposites or two sides. I really like how “summer clouds” could be the clothes a mother is wearing, or a blanket, or a pillow. Though I imagined a mother in this haiku, it also could be a father. There is inherent warmth and compassion in “cradling” with its gentle, slow movement. 

There is another interpretation that leads to a contemplation of life and death, and the unsettling, sad stories of very short human lives. However, “baby’s skull” could be another form of life in this haiku. It could be a baby bird’s skull left in a puddle reflecting summer clouds. Summer clouds could also conjure up a feeling of heaven with sunlight coloring or illuminating the clouds, though I feel the real heaven is not seen in the sky but is rather hidden within us. Even in the midst of death, this haiku could imply that the baby’s soul has merged with the universal spirit. 

Brad did a great job using a powerful verb and descriptive imagery, leaving space for the reader’s imagination and engagement.

Jacob Salzer (USA)

Cradling can mean an oscillation between two ends, which indicates something is not yet settled. The baby’s skull and ellipses at the end shows mystery that can be haunting and sad as well. The baby’s skull may point to either a newly born child or a child that is weak due to malnutrition, drought, poverty, or other reasons.

The skull as a hard part of the head may show the significance of what’s in it: wisdom, insight, the intellect, or thoughts that people are gifted to use to overcome issues in order to make this world safe for the next generation. The action of cradling allows readers to think gently and wisely about the issues a newborn must face: the recent pandemic and climate change.

I think summer clouds show a connection between the human intellect and the confusion or obscurity of the global issues that threaten the survival of the current and upcoming generations. It seems cradling/oscillating is more like moving in between the positive and the negative aspects of life.

This insightful haiku is well woven with the threads of mystery and prudence, which makes it unique and thought provoking.  

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

The above commentaries already mentioned the interpretations of this haiku in depth. I want to add that the word “skull” makes all the difference. If the poet had written “head,” a different resonance would have been created. “Skull” brings us to thoughts of mortality and perhaps transformation, as newborns’ skulls are malleable. This flexibility relays the message that as parents and family members, we shape a child’s future.

With summer clouds, I felt the transience of youth but also the magic of it. It’s a great intuitive comparison with a baby’s skull. The poet could be saying that the newborn has passed away, and now summer clouds are cradling the child.

Looking at this haiku more technically, we clearly have a kigo (seasonal reference) and kireji (mark for separating the two parts of the poem). The lengths of the lines are standard for English-language haiku, and this haiku rightly employs brevity and simple language. In terms of sound, the letters “c” and “k” in this haiku present a stark sonic experience.

With powerful word choice, imagery, and sound, this haiku creates a strong resonance that stays with the reader.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)

“Summer Clouds” by Tony D’amico

Patricia Davis’ snowflake

the rest of its life
in my hand…
snowflake 

Patricia Davis (USA)
(Akitsu Quarterly spring 2020)

I like how the first line could not be referring to a snowflake. It could be anything small that fits in your hand. Though, if that’s the case, it seems to invoke melancholy when witnessing the last moments of its life. If the first two lines refer to a snowflake, I like how a snowflake is given special attention as its shape naturally dissolves. Snowflakes have grace and a delicate beauty. Each snowflake is different in design, yet they are all made of the same substance. This brings to mind the Great Seal of the United States: E Pluribus Unum, which is Latin for “Out of Many, One.”

This haiku reminds us of how temporary our human lives are and to make the best use of our limited time here. It also brings to mind a well-known Buddhist saying: “Form is Emptiness. Emptiness is Form.” Snowflakes are made of water and human beings are mostly made of water. In a spiritual sense, it seems this haiku is marking a transformation from form to formless, from ice crystals to water, to mist to sunlight. Yet, when the sun draws up the water again, and the rain and snow comes, will we be reborn? Who am I? A wonderful haiku with personal and universal significance. 

Jacob Salzer (USA)

A temporary life is manifested in each element of nature, like snowflakes, that delicately take beautiful yet complex patterns in the air but are quite light in weight and barely visible. This is how the fragility of life looks when we reach old age.

“The rest of its life” shows an uncertainty that depends on fate and human touch. In other words, this haiku reflects the compassion and kindness that makes this temporary journey better due to care. To me, the hand symbolizes sympathetic behaviour, support, and caring. Ultimately, we should make life lighter like a snowflake and beautiful like its structure.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

I can see a snowflake slowly fading away in the poet’s hand. It feels like it’s a celebration and remembrance of a short-lived life. Time is relative, though. Our lifespan as humans is minuscule compared to the age of the universe, and possibly the universe before this one. I get a sense from this haiku that this poet wanted to express the ethereal nature of our existence (which might relate to the Japanese aesthetic furyu), but also to cherish it. The idea of divinity popped in my head as well while reading this poem. God is said to have us “in the palm of his hands.” The image presented has resonance with this sentiment in relation to us and nature. Through our actions, we will either allow nature to dissipate or to flourish.

Looking at this haiku technically, the ellipsis works well. It shows the gradual duration that the snowflake fades. Even though the length of the lines is not standard for English-language haiku, I believe the poet did right by not having the snowflake come in the first line. This way, it is more surprising and leaves more white space. In terms of sound, the “l” letters to me have the most power. The lightness of the snowflake is expressed through this sound.

A simple yet profound haiku that gives the resonance of concern, spirituality, and introspection.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)

Wilson Bentley’s “Snowflake 332” (ca. 1890). Photograph. 

Małgorzata Formanowska’s winter twilight

winter twilight
one by one
crows

Małgorzata Formanowska (Poland)
(Wild Plum Haiku Contest 2020 – Honorable Mention) 

There is a stark contrast and a mystery in this poem. Twilight in winter is deep and quiet, and crows are expert scavengers. What did they find? “one by one” hints that they found something substantial to eat. Whether it is early morning or evening, against the sunlit horizon, this haiku is a meditation on the cycles of life and death. When I read this haiku, I see stars in the night sky giving signs of an afterlife. 

Jacob Salzer (USA)

Winter twilight is a time when the sky reflects the colours of both sadness and healing. The purple and scarlet sky project the deepest feelings of a person who may be either in solitude or meditating. Also, the sky or horizon portrays the road to departure where a murder of crows covers twilight’s hues and turns it grayish black.

Crows in this case may depict the transformation of day into night or personal thoughts/memories that are lost in the darkness. The crows symbolically show how all the colourful activities of life slow down in the evening and become profound and deep like the dark colours of crows or night. It also connects to the protective nature of crows, who before departing or retiring for the night, give a message of annihilation, silence, and peace. 

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

The image I see when I read this haiku is the sheen of twilight and crows one by one covering that light. It is simultaneously meditative and melancholic. I also noted a harmony of nature, working together to close out a day. In addition, “winter” and “crow” can both be seen as cold words. They are both ominous and a bit dreary.

I enjoy how the writer gives space for the reader to ponder with “one by one.” We are not sure if the writer intended the crows to fly, land, or do another action. But, we intuitively feel the imagery.

In the first line, the usage of “i” lends to the starkness of winter, and the “o” sounds in the second and third lines slow down the pace so that we can easily imagine the crows’ movements. The shape of the poem is also relevant to its content, with each line dwindling in size.

An excellent, sparse haiku that connects different parts of the natural world which creates a potent mood and imagery with just a few words.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)

George Henry Boughton, Winter Twilight Near Albany, 1858


Samo Kreutz’s train station

train station— 
among a pile of luggage 
dawn light

Samo Kreutz (Slovenia)
(translated by Alenka Zorman)

I have a certain affinity for trains. So, this haiku naturally piqued my interest. We have a scene at a train station where luggage is left on the platform and is either going to be loaded on the train soon or has already been unloaded. But, among these belongings is the light of dawn, applying its weight.

We usually think of luggage and possessions as our own. However, the world interacts with everything we acquire. It becomes a part of it, and in turn, becomes a part of us. In the context of this haiku, dawn light integrates with someone’s journey, even for a second.

The format is in the usual short/long/short form of English-language haiku. The poem utilizes a dash to cancel out the confusion of the second line becoming a pivot and allows the reader to pause and imagine a train station. There doesn’t seem to be a word out of place or of no use. It is a simple observation with meaningful consequences.

The drawn-out “a” sounds of “dawn,” “train,” “station,” and “luggage” show the casual pace of the train station. The light “l” sounds display perhaps the faintness and beauty of dawn light.

It’s a universal haiku that speaks to our relationship with nature and how we don’t truly own anything.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)

A train station is no less than a place for yearning for dreams, reminiscing about memories, feeling nostalgic, and having personal experiences, especially when alone. Moreover, a train station can be related to the departure and arrival of mental states a person can go through on their journey.

A pile of luggage is no less than a burden for a person who is already passing through any of the above-mentioned experiences that keep them engaged mentally or psychologically. In that case, luggage is merely a burden that a person holds but does not relate to or feel any association with. In other words, if train stations are life, a pile of luggage may be desires, longings, and wishes that stays with a person throughout life and they cannot fulfill them.

In my opinion, dawn light is a hope that encourages a person to keep yearning for one’s dreams and wishes and move on in life.  

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

“Arrival of the Normandy Train, Saint-Lazare Train Station” (1877) by Claude Monet

Taofeek Ayeyemi’s withered blossoms

withered blossoms —
locals packing the remains
of a bomb blast

(previously published in Creatrix, Issue 49, 2020)
Taofeek Ayeyemi (Nigeria)

This haiku starts with the word ‘withered’ which shows a lack of life or annihilation. If we imagine ‘withered blossoms’, they can look dark, black, dry, and drooping—in other words, like destruction.

Relating ‘withered blossoms’ to a bomb blast site sketches the scene of a bomb blast area that appears more dark, black, and withered. Similarly, packing the remains of the blast is akin to collecting memories

If we relate this to our lives, it means our memories are probably traumatic ones that fade away or wither with time. We keep reminiscing about what is left behind.

This haiku tells me that life goes on even after hopelessness, destruction, and chaos.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

“Remains” is a chilling word in this haiku. It can mean materials but also people. This poem could be either associating packing the remains after a bomb blast with withered blossoms, or locals physically packing the withered blossoms away as a souvenir or for another reason.

The withered blossoms can be acting as a symbol of the bomb blast as well. Our wars make our lives like these degenerated blossoms. It could be alluding to how we are born innocent and later become corrupt.

“withered blossoms” is either an autumn or winter kigo, but I would lean towards autumn. I get a sense that the poet is speaking about human atrocities as humanity’s “autumn.”

The em dash in the first line gives proper weight to the subject and allows us to pause. The format is standard for English-language haiku and just enough words are used to convey the feeling and message of the poem. Note also the string of “o” sounds that may give us an idea of the sound of the bomb.

Overall, this is a haiku that weaves themes of innocence, war, nature versus humanity, and possibly more. Though simple on the surface, it lends to several readings and has a substantial power behind it.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)

Painting by Vincent van Gogh