Panagiotis Kentikelenis’ Kin

closed casket kin gather after a long time

© Panagiotis Kentikelenis (Greece)

A heartfelt senryu that reflects human miseries and departures. “closed casket” may symbolize death, annihilation, and endless miseries where a person exists but does not live life fully. In this case, I can see the departure of a lone person who was abandoned by his family and/or having prolonged illness. The only misery here is that people wait for the death of such relatives, who become a hassle for the family—especially when one has to visit them every day. These days, people rarely visit their relatives because of busy lives. So, only the departure of someone makes an extended family come together in order to attend the funeral, and that visit is just a formality in most cases. So, the closed casket also symbolizes the death of values, sympathy, and the human factor that is missing these days.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

I was impressed by this strong juxtaposition around the topic of accepting death. By reading this poem, i tumbled into one of the myths i most love: Orpheus and Eurydice. Famous is the unforgivable mistake the lover commits by coming back from the realm of the dead, the Persephone’s, the underworld. According to Phaedrus in Plato’s Symposium, the infernal deities only “presented an apparition” of Eurydice to him. Plato’s representation of Orpheus is in fact that of a coward; instead of choosing to die in order to be with his love, he mocked the deities in an attempt to visit Hades, to get her back alive. As his love was not “true”—meaning that he was not willing to die for it—he was punished by the deities, first by giving him only the apparition of his former wife in the underworld and then by having him killed.

Coming back to the words of the poem, “kin gather after a long time” gives the idea of escapement and a sad reason to meet each other. It is the consequence of the increasing loss of family bounds in contemporary society, no more interested in developing emotional ties among blood relatives as in the past….

This poem is a chilling warning to live life generously by sharing our emotions and experiences rather than to be lonely and self centered.

Lucia Fontana (Italy)

Senryu often exhibit a dark irony, and this poem is a fine example of this case. A family comes together to see a loved one at a funeral that has not seen each other for an extended period of time, but they do not even have a chance to see this relative due to the closed casket. It reminds me of when certain relatives at a particular funeral I attended gave many flowers, but they rarely gave flowers to this person during the time she was alive. As Hifsa said, family gatherings, even funerals, are now becoming increasingly detached from emotion and connection. The irony in this senryu points to this societal conundrum well without stating it.

I also enjoyed the economy of this senryu, as in only eight words, it carries a lot of meaning and implications. This is even more evident in the fact that it is a one-liner. By being a monoku, it can be read in several ways: “closed casket/kin gather after a long time,” “closed casket kin/ gather after a long time,” and “closed casket kin gather after a long time.” This allows the reader to find more nuances in this seemingly simple verse.

Sonically, the first three words begin with a “k” sound. This lends to the starkness of the moment. In addition, the long “o”s of “closed” and “long” adds to the melancholy.

A succinct one-line senryu that creates pointed commentary on the nature of our modern familial relationships—especially its disconnection.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)

– Art by Ron Frazier

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Tony Quagliano’s Night

the night nurse
stays to talk
her blue mascara

© Tony Quagliano (USA) (1941–2007)

This haiku has two main aspects: professional and personal. Night duty may be either over a certain time or night shifts themselves. In both cases, it is a tough duty, where a nurse has to be vigilant for any type of emergency.

“The” indicates a specific person who is doing her job. I think she is exhausted and alone. That’s why she is looking for someone who can give her company. It’s a sharing of personal feelings that may be not good in this case. As a nurse, she is supposed to console patients—especially ones who have lost hope or are passing through a critical condition. So in that case, she is more like an active listener who not only consoles patients, but also helps them speak their hearts.

“blue mascara” symbolizes the deep feelings she might be feeling: sadness, loneliness, or frustration. The color blue can also indicate depression or sickness. So, I can see this sequence in it: night – talk – blue, all in one—sharing or listening to painful feelings and relating one’s own feelings to others’ emotions.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

This poem is subtly captivating: the author in three lines sketches the profile of a caregiver, a night nurse. The detail he gives, “her blue mascara,” makes me imagine that he exactly is the one she is staying to talk with, since a person should be very close to notice the colored shadow on one’s eyes…

It seems the night calls off the rules of nurse and patient: for a while they are only two human beings talking together. Again, the detail of the blue mascara causes me to imagine also a quite intimate conversation… A nurse, and maybe more, a “night nurse,” can be set free in the male collective image of sensual feelings. She is probably young, since blue mascara isn’t so commonly used as the black one each woman, at any age, would use. Also, “stays to talk” suggests to me that she became available when she shouldn’t have been … As if her emotions would bring her out of the professional code to keep a certain distance from the patient …

I can also imagine the “blue” among the lashes as tears, symbolized by the color of water, and think the night nurse is sad for some reason, maybe she is so emphatically enthralled that she can’t control her emotions or she is mirroring someone else’s pain: again, for not being trained enough in managing the right distance because of her young age… In any case, I’m intrigued by the reasons, the untold feelings, and the unrevealed wishes that are moving within the conversation between them …

Lucia Fontana (Italy)

Blue mascara is usually dark, it seems. Maybe the mascara could be matching the color of a coming dusk or the night sky. However, I would go with Lucia’s and Hifsa’s interpretation that the color could be a representation of her mood and the atmosphere of the hospital. It is as if she is embodying the hospital itself, and loses her identity in it.

The sense of sound in this senryu makes it melodic. With “night nurse,” “talk and “blue,” “her” and “nurse,” and “stays” and “talks,” there are many sonic connections. Also, with three words per line, the poem is compact and to the point. However, the poem could avoid referring to the protagonist twice by:

blue mascara
the night nurse
stays to talk

But the original is strong as it is without this adjustment, and this change would be more or less arbitrary. It’s a moody senryu that evokes much in its small space.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)

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– art by Suzy Hazelwood

Anna Maria Domburg-Sancristoforo’s Last Snow

last snow –
snowflakes melting
at first sight

Otata, March 2018
© Anna Maria Domburg-Sancristoforo (Netherlands)

This haiku is about the real spirit of winter. The first line may be a reflection of the condition of the narrator, who may be migrating, sick, or reminiscing about past memories in the winter. The images are used very cleverly here by triggering deep feelings and/or passions. The word “melting” also indicates a lot of meaning. In this case, I feel the person has tears in his/her eyes. The person might have an illness, be old, or not have good vision. “Melting” also indicates delusions or illusions that one has in his or her life and the act of slowly revealing the reality.

Overall, I feel the person narrating the poem is in his/her old age and nostalgic about recalling his/her first love that may no longer be with him/her. That’s why he/she is having teary eyes, which creates the illusion of melting snowflakes, or clearing the mind of the loved one. “last” in the first line and “first” in last line is used very wisely, as both indicate stages of life—especially youth and old age.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

This haiku not only points towards the ephemeral nature of existence, but also to the anticlimactic character of expectations. The last snow, in its outpouring, does not even have time to make a showing. It is a state that is not, but somehow it exists. This conundrum is almost Taoist, with its “being non-being” philosophy. Also, commonly what we imagine the conclusion of an event to be is different from what happens. Sometimes, the end of something is so unspectacular that we cannot help but feel a sense of non-closure or emptiness.

In terms of sound, the repetition of “l”, “s,” and “f” letters in the haiku makes it appealing musically, and also poignant. The em dash in the first line shows closure, despite the last two lines contradicting this. This gives more tension to the poem. The format is in the accepted rhythm of short line/longer line/short line, and each word carries weight.

A haiku built on a keen observation with deep poetic significance.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)

It seems this haiku is showing that everything is a circle, and also winter ends and its bitterness has let spring come back again.

This poem carries not only a sense of impermanence, but also of hope. If at the first sight snowflakes melt, then a warm season has surely arrived, but not only as a milder temperature, but also as a new spring for her emotions… Maybe the author, even if she feels all the transience of her life (last snow) has fallen in love (at first sight …. snowflakes melt….), showing there’s no specific age to live in the warm season of the heart, and love…

Lucia Fontana (Italy)

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Francine Porad’s Late Fall

late fall

skeleton of the tree

on each leaf back

Plover, #3 (Japan, Jan/Feb 1991)
© Francine Porad (1929 – 2006)

I am drawn to the fractal nature of Francine Porad’s poem, something we’ve all seen but that Francine puts into words. The shape of the tree finds an echo in the shape of the leaf. Perhaps there are further echoes both larger and smaller as well, yet here we are, now, dwelling in the shape of the decaying leaf — aware too, perhaps, of our own mortality and the repeated cycles of living and dying.

Michael Dylan Welch (USA)

very lovely poem and so true on a practical and philosophical level: i collect and press leaves and this year, i started to use them in making collages, bookmarks, etc. it happens quite often that i paste the leaf the ‘wrong’ (back) side up, precisely for the reason Francine noted in her poem: a sketch and remembrance of the tree and the seasons’ past are well pronounced there, in the leaf’s veins. in late autumn, as the leaves deteriorate, indeed only skeletons are left.

Aleksandra Monk (USA)

This haiku says two things to me: that the melancholy and deterioration of autumn is amplified if one looks closer, and that despite there being decay, the life of an organism (a tree in this case) is still represented clearly throughout its being.

But since we have had a good look at the substance of this haiku by other commentators, I want to discuss the technical stuff as well. I like the indentation to bring more focus to the tree and to supply a pause to imagine a late fall.

The next thing that caught my eye was the use of “l” and “k” sounds. To me, the “l”s bring an added poignancy to the reading and the “k”s conjure starkness.

I also want to note how great the phrasing is. Each word is useful and powerful, and it is structured just right for a potent impact on the reader.

A fine haiku that embodies its chosen season well, from a great pioneer of the American haiku scene.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)

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– Art by Tan Jialin

Lucia Fontana’s Sakura


A beautiful haiga that is well conceived. In Japan, the sakura symbolizes spring or renewal, which means it also brings hope in life when it blooms. In this haiga, the sakura reflects the awakening of meditative thoughts that a person yearns for whilst strolling or walking on a path. It also means the person is contemplating about his/her deep thoughts and is taking some inspiration/motivation from nature.

On the contrary, the feelings may be opposite to what is described above. Maybe fallen or wilted sakura are present, which suggests hopelessness or a change in mood. Maybe a person is oversensitive towards some deep realities of life and relate them to nature.

Overall, the haiga indicates our approach towards different realities of life that can be either positive or negative. However, our deep understanding of those realities makes a lot of difference.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

A very traditional haiga. The image brings us into the spring, when the weather is changing. To me, it brings a change of mood: a beautiful festival, the blooming of  sakura, people finding time in their busy lives to take a breath to admire nature.

I was surprised by the second part of the poem. I would say it brings a more modern feel to it, or a nice twist. It brings us back to the sakura, like a reminder.

Maybe there is a touch of sadness, but the second part says, “Hey, its okay to look at the sakura… it’s still blooming, and it will bloom each spring like many years before.” So, this image keeps us moving forward, and is inspiring.

Laughing Waters (USA)

I like that there are two ways of reading the content of this haiga: “sakura blooming/the silence along the path” or straight through as “sakura blooming the silence along the path.” This is one of the reasons why one-line haiku are ideal for suggesting various interpretations.

In relation to the first interpretation, the silence might be created by the beauty of the sakura, and people viewing them in awe. Also, such elements of nature are often silence-inducing, as they make us witness instead of analyzing. “The path” could pertain to a physical path, or one’s spiritual path. I think the poet is referring to both in this haiku. There is always the harbor of silence along one’s spiritual path that one can tap into through meditation and being one with the present.

If one reads the poem in a straightforward manner, it appears as the sakura are physical manifestations of silence. In fact, most things bloom without us even paying to them. We often take the growth of plants and natural life in general for granted.

I noticed the musicality of the content as well. With prominent “o” and “s” sounds, the reader can feel the relaxing nature of the stroll. And at 7 words, the monoku is quite efficient in conveying its mood and scene.

Yun, the artist, has complemented this haiku with a fine abstract sense. With the surrealistic portrayal of blossoming sakura, the meditative and spiritual haiku is expanded upon. In my opinion, the art might even bring a touch of melancholy to the overall impression.

Lucia is an expert in haiga, and it is no surprise that this haiga works so well. I look forward to see more collections of her haiga online.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)

Let us know what you think about the haiga and commentary below.

Pravat Kumar Padhy’s Wave

wave after wave
on an incessant journey
another sunset
when I long to change the taste
of salt, the colour of the wind

Skylark, 2:2 Winter Issue 2014
© Pravat Kumar Padhy (India)

I feel that this tanka is about a hardship that a person is passing through. “Wave after wave” means shifting from one painful event to another, which seem like trials. But, the writer is persistently going through this journey, no matter how much time it takes.

I can also see that the person is fed up with his monotonous life and wants to change his circumstances, and the conditions that surround him.

Spiritually, it describes the endless journey of hardship where one discovers his or her true potential/abilities to change what he or she does not want to see or wish. Both salt and wind are quite significant in spirituality, as both significantly influence the mood and behavior of a person. I can see the person is still not getting on this path, as sunset indicates hopelessness, but also the awakening of hidden powers that can impact our aura. Overall, the writer beautifully disguised both spiritual and social lives in this tanka.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

The feeling I’m overwhelmed with when reading this poem is a sort of breathlessness, with which the author seems to be trying to deal with. Sometimes life runs faster than us, challenging us to cope, to change, to follow the current of it… to me, it’s a poem about a humble human being, absorbed by the pressing and routine of time (incessant journey…. another sunset….) and the wish to feel free from material perception, which can lead to a more spiritual condition… Impermanence here is the red thread that runs through the tanka: of the beauty of nature, of human perceptions. I do feel all the tension to be more than a soul slave of the perceptions of its body, so a wish to go beyond flesh and bones and find peace of mind, an inner thoughtless shining silence.

Lucia Fontana (Italy)

I think the two most important words in this tanka that trigger poetic symbolism and concepts are “journey” and “sunset.” A journey in this context could be one’s life, or a spiritual ascension. “Sunset” could be referencing an end of a period of time in one’s life.

I like the gradual pace of the tanka, and the astonishing, yet simple last line. The pace is reminiscent of the subject at hand. In terms of the last line, I believe the writer is expressing his dissatisfaction with the way things are in his life—even rudimentary things. In a sense, he seems to want to break out of reality.

The format of the tanka is the traditional idea of having the first three lines as short, long, short, and the last two lines being long. The poet uses this format well, and does not make the tanka heavy.

I like the use of “w” sounds in the first and last lines, which mimics the wind. The “s” sounds throughout the tanka can be said to be like the noise of waves. Other than this subjective impression, it makes the poem more musical and magnetizing.

An engaging, efficient, and deeply expressive tanka.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)


– Painting by Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849)

Darko Plažanin’s Storm

after the storm
a boy wiping the sky
from the tables

original Croatian:

nakon oluje
djecak brise nebo
sa stolova

© Darko Plažanin (1957 – 2009) (Croatia)

This reminds me of Issa’s poem:

hey boatman
no pissing on the moon
in the waves

Both Issa’s and Darko’s poem use a similar angle in looking at simple, common moments—an angle which brings out magic, while at the same time telling it as it is.

I tried using that angle too when writing this:

low tide
a child tiptoeing
across the clouds

Lucky Triana (Indonesia)

This has a very continental feel about it for me. I see a pavement cafe with puddles of rain reflecting the sky on the tables and a young kitchen lad out with his cloth busy wiping the sky away ready for customers… quite some scene to paint in so few words.

Rachel Sutcliffe (USA)

This is very lovely. Many stories can be based on this haiku. Line 1 gives a very strong image of cleanness and freshness. Also, that the storm has passed and now sun is coming out and everything is coming back to normal. Line 2 tells us more, with the clever use of “boy.” Can it be a waiter or a son helping mom to set the table for dinner? The most mystery appears in line 3.

This haiku has many layers. One of them brings me sadness, with the action of the boy erasing the sky, giving me the thought of modern times where there is not much space for nature in our lives.

Laughing Waters (USA)

Perhaps we have here an outdoor table (could be a picnic table?) of an establishment where, after a tempest, a puddle or puddles formed on its top. There could also be other debris, dried leaves, or what have you swept from the sky… and now, a helper trying to clean everything out to start a new business day.

Willie Bongcaron (Philippines)

I can easily relate this haiku with people who pass through a tough time in life, as it reflects child labour. The first line ‘after the storm’ indicates bad circumstances in one’s life—maybe poverty. The next two lines are based on the hardship one is passing through to earn money. I can see the dreams of a poor boy who is looking at the reflection of ‘the sky’ and then, wiping it out because his realities and circumstances do not allow him to dream or progress in life. It shows disappointment as well where he cannot find a way to change his fate.

The tables may symbolize the platform, stage, source of earning, etc. In this case, he is trying to remain in reality by doing what he has to do every day. The sky, storm, wiping may also reflect ‘day dreaming’. The poor child can only see ‘the sky’ in the reflection of water on the tables. Overall, it projects the miseries and hardships that a child is passing through due to his circumstances.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

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