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

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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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)

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

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

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