Posted in Haiku, Senryu

Maya Lyubenova’s Wishing Well

wishing well —
the words I whisper
back in my face

© Maya Lyubenova (Bulgaria) (1956 – 2016)

This is a powerful haiku. It reminds us to be careful of what we wish for, and also implies how attaching to even a single thought can significantly impact someone’s life. The act of whispering amplifies the silence surrounding the wish, creating more depth, which is also signified by the depth of the wishing well. The “w” sounds in the first two lines seem to create a calming effect. By contrast, the third line hits the reader in their own face, allowing him or her to reevaluate their own wishes/desires or perhaps discard them.

– Jacob Salzer (USA)

Did she drop the words in the well? This haiku has a strong kire at the end of the first line, but the middle of the second line has a kire with “the words.”

I feel words fell in the well like a coin. So, in the second line “I” …this viewpoint starts inside the “well,” and this “I” whispers back in my face. Its viewpoint is turned upside down again. It looks like the wishing well keeps whispering endlessly.

In our country, a well is a sacred place. We think that there is a god in the well. It seems that it is a common understanding among people in the world. Often, folktales are told as a moral story involving a well.

But this haiku is lovely and mysterious. Maybe the repetition of the “w” sounds make us proceed to the third line.

The first line’s kire and the middle of the second line’s kire creates a strong separation. The enjambment of the second line creates discomfort, but becomes a gentle slope by the “w” sounds.

– Norie Umeda (Japan)

Bulgaria is such a beautiful country with a rich culture. Line one is very strong in this haiku. It sets the perfect scene. Very mysterious, and also feminine, because it is more likely for a woman to follow the gypsy teaching to visit a wishing well at night during a full moon to bring a silver or gold coin to make a wish. In line 2 and line 3, the rest of the story is built. I believe this girl wished for something very special and even she had a doubt if her wish would ever come true. I enjoy this haiku very much. Here is an inspired haiku:

two silver coins
spin in night air—
first golden leaves

– Laughing Waters (USA)

A simple ku with deep layers of meaning… for one, in a wishing well, we normally toss a coin or two and whisper a wish. But a wish could just be a wish. It is an inkling of what we want to become a reality, whether it is about love, attention we want from another person, a windfall, or what have you. But we know that a wish just comprises words that needs more than an act of wishing… it will only go “back in my face.” Perhaps more actions are needed for the wish to come true… this brings us to the sweat that we apply in order to achieve the wish. As they say: “action speaks louder than words.” This is how I interpret and see this ku.

– Willie Bongcaron (Philippines)

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

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Posted in Senryu

Gabriel Bates’ Dead End Street

dead end street
I walk away
from my mind

Otata 27, March, 2018

© Gabriel Bates (USA)

For me, this is quite a dark haiku.

dead end street I am thinking of a tall wall standing in front of me, then I can’t go further. Anybody might have experienced a problem he or she thought couldn’t be solved.

I walk away Walking away is like giving up on something. I think the writer walked away from his problems, or from some realities, or anything else….

from my mind I guess this is what he chose. To be drunk at the corner bar, or somewhere else, to find some temporary peaceful state from his bad memories or his unsolved problems….

– Fei Zhan (Indonesia)

The first line, dead end street, indicates no solution to a problem or nothing out of the box. I could see the disappointment and demotivation that the poet expressed here cleverly. Sometimes, if we don’t get solutions to certain problems, we leave them, stop thinking about them, deny them, or buy time to find out the best solution. This is a strategy to deal with certain problems. I can feel the burnout the situation creates as well where a person simply finds an escape from bitter realities that keep on engaging his or her mind and thoughts. Walking away may be a temporary break that gives us space to do certain other things in life and to get some ideas. Sometimes, people give up and completely forget about a situation; sometimes, they come back with a peace of mind that gives them more insights and maybe effective problem-solving ideas.

– Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

This haiku has a Zen quality to me. The mind itself can be likened to a dead end street due to its limitations. We are restricted and contained within the boundaries of our ego. To free ourselves of these limitations, to be in a state of mindlessness is to become much more conscious and present—a state which is conducive to becoming aware of haiku moments, and a state of enlightenment. In meditation, one can visualize walking away from the ego-mind which traps us in behaviours and prevents us from being who we really are. We turn away from thoughts, because they are only the mind chattering to itself.

– Martha Magenta (UK)

I see escapism in this ku. When we are faced with a “dead end road,” we sometimes panic and forget what is the best thing to do given the circumstances. But the will to survive soon takes over and in time we are back to where we were—our old, sane world with all the dramas therein.

– Willie Bongcaron (Philippines)

Sometimes my phone’s map shows me the past of streets and houses. This “existence” has completely disappeared. However, not much of a difference can be seen, so it is not much of problem for others. Maybe the poet bumped into a dead end street in a virtual town. A “dead end” reminds of a closed mind or a closed society.

In the third line, maybe the poet finds a metaphorical key, and he walks away from his “mind.” This mind is his “preconception” or “imprint.” We are thinking a large amount of information every day. This process looks like fog. While walking in fog, our clothes get wet without us noticing. In essence, the poet walks away from his environment.

– Norie Umeda (Japan)

For me, the main message of this senryu (I believe it leans more towards senryu than haiku) is about how we can get into a meditative state, despite physical obstacles, and that surrendering to the moment is more valuable than frustration. But, I want to focus on sound since people have commented enough on the content of the poem.

The hard “d” sounds in the first and last line indicate the wall, and the soft “w” sounds in the second line show the peace of surrender. This is only my interpretation, so other readers can feel differently about what the sound in the poem represents. However, the musicality of this senryu can be easily felt.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)

Did you like this poem and commentary? Let us know in the comment section.

Posted in Haiku, Senryu

Nathan Hassall’s Pivoting Jackboots

pivoting jackboots
more than the snap
of tulips

(First Place, My Haiku Pond Academy, Quickie Writing Challenge, May, 2018)
© Nathan Hassall (UK)

An evocative piece of work, where the juxtaposition between human and natural elements (the military boots and the tulips) produces a vibrant scene and a captivating sense of surprise. The “snap” of the flowers represents the pivot element in the scene, a twist that leaves the reader in a state of suspension and dismay.

– Luca Cenisi (Italy)

There is a very strong contrast between the soldier’s boots and the fragile tulips. The soldier’s boots, a symbol of oppression, and the tulip, an obvious symbol of The Netherlands. This senryu is clearly taking us back to World War II. The Netherlands – a barely armed country at the time Germany invaded Poland in 1939. – The Netherlands (my homeland) expected to remain neutral like it had been during The Great War. – I see the all-destructive war machine disregarding a defenseless civilian population. The Netherlands was just one of the countries where so many suffered so much during WWII, and where countless souls never lived to see freedom again, including a large part of my own family. It is for this reason that this poem touches me deeply.

The poem shows me a scene, similar to the march of the hammers from the movie “The Wall” (Pink Floyd). Militarism and suppression! Finally, I realize I haven’t even mentioned that the ku is skillfully written. So much to see, so much to say! By the way, great work on revising from your original version! I shall remember this poem for a long time, Nathan! My choice for First Place, without a doubt!

– Michael Smeer (The Netherlands)

I enjoy the use of the word “more,” which brings in a sense of mystery and openness that the best haiku and senryu exhibit. It brings my imagination into force, with all the possibilities of war.

The sense of sound adds greatly to the scene described. The most prominent letter in this poem is “o,” which accentuates the loss of life that is hinted at. Also, the “p” sounds imitate the “snap” of a tulip and even gunfire.

In looking at the pacing of the lines, the way line three comes causes emotion in the reader. With the suspense of the second line, and the surprise in the third line, the reader is left stunned and emotionally stirred.

A poem that can be read in at least two ways, that is poignant, that uses sound to enhance its expression, and that employs pacing to create the optimal effect in the reader—I can easily see why this was chosen for First Place.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)

Posted in Senryu

Mark Gilbert’s Ceiling

chemotherapy
those tiny imperfections
in the ceiling

© Mark Gilbert (UK)
Prune Juice, #22, July, 2017

I enjoy the distance between the two parts of the poem: the chemotherapy, and the imperfections in the ceiling. It is just enough separation to create a spark in the reader’s mind. One mistake haiku and senryu writers can make is having the connection between parts be too near or too far apart. This senryu illustrates a fine balance between the two.

Chemotherapy, as you probably know, targets cancerous cells throughout the whole body, unlike radiation and other therapies. This drastic approach is sharply contrasted with the tiny imperfections the poet sees in the ceiling, probably in a hospital waiting room.

The act of noticing these marks in the ceiling has several concepts behind it: it can be an act of thoughtless awareness, it can be the feeling that a small issue can turn into a big problem later, and it can be envy for the minuscule problems of the inanimate compared to human beings. Perhaps, there are other interpretations as well.

The metaphor of a ceiling is stark to me, as cancer patients may feel that their world, or “ceiling,” is crumbling on them. The barrier between Earth and the heavens (sky) becomes less and less definite.

In terms of sounds, the “p” and “i” letters in this senryu seem to be the most prominent. The “p”s in “chemotherapy” and “imperfections” add a punch to the reading. On the other hand, the “i”s in the last two lines make my attention more acute towards the stated image.

Directly from real life, and from a difficult situation, the poet has expressed much in a understated tone, befitting a fine senryu.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)

Posted in Haiku, Senryu

Nicholas Klacsanzky’s New Year’s Eve

New Year’s Eve
and also father’s death anniversary—
I have forgotten both

© Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)

Failed Haiku, April, 2017
(from the book: How Many Become One)

Today, we have a special edition, as we have a father and son commentary team—Mark Salzer being the father, and Jacob Salzer being the son.

1. Obviously, he has not totally forgotten both, else he could not find the words to capture the moment, so I like the irony.

2. “Holidays” like New Year’s Eve, so insignificant in the big picture…dates are so arbitrary.

3. Father’s can be significant people in our lives, but dwelling on the date of death detracts from his entire life and all the entailed moments and meaningful memories.

4. It is good to forget those things that are not so important—live and enjoy the here and now. We all die eventually…embrace that as a part of life, but there is no need to celebrate it per se.

5. Also, it speaks to not concerning ourselves with things outside our control…dates come and go, people live and die….

– Mark Salzer (USA)

One of the great things we have as humans is the ability to forget. This haiku reminds us of this. Dwelling in the past seems to separate us from the “now.” It is always now. It is never not this moment. But the mind cannot understand this, as thoughts are only about the past and future. But we want to act now. Then, we can truly live moment by moment.

The past has its place, and can be referred to at times. It is a part of life, and, like my father has said, it’s important to remember meaningful memories. But it is not a substitute for the here and now. A reasonable resolution may be: remember yesterday, plan for tomorrow, but live for today, for the miracle of this moment is all that we truly have.

– Jacob Salzer (USA)

Posted in Senryu

Tia Haynes’ Hands

support group
I never know
where to put my hands

© Tia Haynes (USA)
Failed Haiku, Vol. 2, Issue 20, 2017

This senryu has a significant breadth of meaning. On one hand, it brings about a feeling of mystery, where one does not know where the narrator’s hands will go. This type of mystery can put the reader in a state of pure consciousness, as thought cannot comprehend it. Another interpretation is that it is expressing the nervousness we feel in group environments, even groups that are aimed at support (we have all felt this nervousness within groups, and therefore this makes this senryu highly relatable). Lastly, it could be about how people need support equally, and to know who to give aid to is difficult to determine. This could also relate to self-help and collective help. Sometimes, it is hard to decide if we should give support to ourselves or others first.

I think the lack of punctuation works well, as a clear separation between the parts are made between line 1 and line 2 (though traditionally, senryu didn’t use kireji). Also, intuitively, the structure works better with “support group” as line 1 rather than as line 3. Making “support group” line 3 would have made the lines more normal in the short/long/short structure; however, this senryu has more impact and sounds better in the form it is now. At times, you have to use your gut when formatting a senryu or haiku.

Looking at the sound of this senryu, the most prominent sonic features are the letter “o” and “p.” The letter “o” gives an emphasis on the emotion behind the senryu, and perhaps the letter “p” adds importance to the action within the poem. Whatever the interpretation, the author has made this an aesthetic senryu through the use of sound.

A poignant, introspective senryu.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)

Do you enjoy this senryu? You can tell us why in the comment section.

Posted in Haiku, Senryu

Eva Limbach’s Evacuation

evacuation —
a little boy waves
into the camera

© Eva Limbach (Germany)
Chrysanthemum, issue 22, 2017

From the onset, line 1 sets the scene.
Eva has left it open as to what the evacuation is about, but immediately the current plight of refugees and other displaced families come to mind.
A harsh, direct, concrete statement.

Then, line 2 is a little boy waving—how resilient children are in adversity!
Here we are shown how the camera creates more excitement for the child on his big adventure…how most children would react!

Now think beyond that…do you see the far-to-near method being used to attain focus?

Consider a big hill of flowers in the distance, then bring yourself closer to a group of flowers in front of you and then a single flower beside you…you have focused in, you can also focus out (this applies to any poetry). So, let’s look at Eva’s haiku again.

evacuation —
a little boy waves
into the camera

A broad scene, “evacuation” then draws you forward to a little boy waving and ending in the eye of a camera…far-to-near focus.
This gives the haiku movement and, when done well, can be very effective. (Remember, this is about evacuation, movement!)

Now the reader can wonder who the camera person is…is it media news? Perhaps it’s the family’s last photo together…many possibilities and lateral interpretations.

This is a powerful haiku/senryu that should evoke emotion in any reader who takes the time to consider its poignant words.

This is why it was accepted and published by Chrysanthemum journal…a wonderful haiku!

– Brendon Kent (UK)

What do you think or feel about this poem? Let us know in the comments.

Posted in Senryu

Lucia Fontana’s Lonely Night

lonely night . . .
from myself to myself
a poem in the mail

© Lucia Fontana (Italy)

Poets from the group Haiku Nook wrote commentary on this senryu:

I like it, and can relate to it. Not that I am particularly lonely, but sometimes, who better to like our poems than ourselves?

– Dana Grover (USA)

While we have grown accustomed to the speed of emails, texts, or personal messages, there is still something tangible and heartwarming about receiving a letter in the mail. A handwritten note, especially, can create proximity between sender and recipient. What snail mail lacks in speed, it often makes up for in warmth of touch.

In Fontana’s poem, we encounter a narrator seeking, but failing to receive, that warmth and proximity. Alone at night, when our darkest emotions are strongest, she decides to bridge this gap by mailing a poem to herself. Fontana achieves a delicate balance here. The subtle humour inherent in sending yourself a poem (of which neither the content nor arrival will come as a surprise), works to accentuate the loneliness which prompts that need to begin with. Fontana’s senryu has successfully captured a moment of loneliness which exceeds, in depth of feeling, the brevity of the poem.

– Dave Read (Canada)

lonely night . . .
from myself to myself
a poem in the mail

First, Dave’s comments are brilliant, and spot-on.

When I read this poem, I get a paradoxical feeling of rejection and acceptance.

One one hand, I’m reading a poem that I submitted to a magazine that got rejected (for no good reason), and it was mailed back in my own, self-stamped return envelope. (This has happened to me, numerous times).

On the other hand, I can’t help but see the possibility of acceptance, as the author’s poem got sent back in the return envelope with an ACCEPTED stamp on it, relieving some of the sadness and feelings of isolation.

It seems a lot of writers are brilliant but don’t necessarily feel connected with many people. It seems to send poems out is an attempt to extinguish the sense of isolation. When a writer’s work is accepted, it seems to significantly uplift someone’s mood, and solidifies a connection with another human being. Someone, who I have never seen before has read my poem, and accepted it, but, not only thatit’s now being published to be read by many more people. That is a very good feeling that I think all writers and poets share. It’s a feeling of being accepted in a larger groupa feeling of belonging, of someone else noticing you, and wanting to share a part of you with many more people.

– Jacob Salzer (USA)

First, I thought “from myself to myself” is a Zen feeling, but it seems to be my misreading, because there is the word “lonely” in the first line.

The first line uses “… ” which is for making a cut, clearly. This second line ends with a personal pronoun, which is a second light cut. So, I can read this senryu as three parts.

“lonely night …” is the introduction of this senryu. It feels like “silence.” The second line “from myself to myself ” gives me an image of repetition. Is it deeply into oneself?

The third line is made up of nouns. Often, the Japanese say that haiku and senryu are poems based on nouns. This third line’s ending becomes flat with the noun. First, I thought this poem was a haiku. The first line and second line are moody. But the third line is suddenly flattened by the nouns. So, this writer categorized this poem as a “senryu”? This is a little mysterious as a senryu.

– Norie Umeda (Japan)

The other poets commenting on this senryu wrote a great deal of what I wanted to say, but to add, I will point out that this senryu’s aesthetic could be a way to express the increase in loneliness, despite last-ditch efforts. The poet receiving a poem from herself accentuates the loneliness, and maybe she begins to accept her loneliness with greater depth since this act is so unusual.

It is like Buddhist monks sometimes say: “Become one with pain, and move beyond it.” I think this senryu could be expressing this sentiment.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)

What do you think or feel about this senryu? Let us know in the comments.

Posted in Senryu

Donna Claire Gallagher’s Candle

blowing out
one birthday candle
the whole family

© Donna Claire Gallagher (USA) (1941 – 2009)

Various poets from the Haiku Nook wrote about this haiku:

I like it. I have an image of a family gathered around a birthday cake for a child who has just turned one year old, too young to understand the meaning of birthday celebrations and too young to know about blowing out candles at such celebrations. This is a happy, joyful event, a family, more than one generation, gathered and bound together with the glue of love. And Donna Claire said all that with only eight words. Kudos to her.

– Dana Grover (USA)

Yes, when everyone else forsakes you… the comfort of family is your last bastion of hope in this physical world. Their warmth, their assurance, their comfort in the most trying moments of your life.

Of course there would be happy moments shared with the family, specially with a big one, as in this ku, where a child celebrates his first year. I could imagine the fun… the human drama of it all.

– Willie Bongcaron (Philippines)

Could be a trick candle, the last fragment is the key because it’s pretty much open to all types on interpretations where the haiku never ends because of the structure.

– Fractled (USA)

Yes, there’s an element of humor. It could be a trick candle, but there’s also a connotation of warmth and togetherness that conjures the image of a close-knit family, as was said earlier. I don’t approve of calling verses like this “senryu.” The tone is light and humorous, but also very warm and positive. It is firmly in the haiku range of tone and character, and calling a ku this wholesome and lovely a senryu is an insult in my opinion.

– Clayton Beach (USA)

I think this says a lot about how much a family has invested in the next generation, and how the first birthday is an important milestone. Perhaps we can be reminded that in many parts of the world, the infant mortality rate remains very high.

Another point is that this first birthday is a unifying event for the familyas we all know, families are full of tensions and issues, but on this special day, the whole family are united in one simple task.

– Martha Magenta (UK)

One view that was not mentioned by the other commentators was that maybe this senryu is about the death of a baby, and the family is blowing out a birthday candle in honor of the baby.

Also, in terms of sound, the “b” in “blowing” and “birthday” could connect to the sound of blowing out of a candle. Also, making the senryu more musical is the “l” sounds coursing through the lines.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)

What do you think or feel about this senryu? Let us know in the comments. 

Posted in Senryu

Elisa Allo’s Drawer

after Memorial Day
Anne’s Diary
back in a drawer

© Elisa Allo (Switzerland)

(first appeared in The Mainichi May 31, 2017 and Otata, May 17, 2017)

I would say this is a senryu rather than a haiku, as it does not have any seasonal reference (though sometimes haiku does not contain a seasonal reference), and it takes a jab at human behavior.

This is most likely a senryu about The Diary of Anne Frank, and how we forget its meaning, and the victims of war in general, the day after Memorial Day. One famous quote from the book that may slip our mind is, “In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”

This senryu to me points to a fact of human nature: though we know what is true and essential, we relegate it to something insubstantial, because we would rather concern ourselves with the easier thoughts and actions to digest, such as mindless entertainment, and the routine of life. To be concerned and sympathetic each day is difficult, as we mostly put our attention on the mundane. This senryu is a reminder that we should keep compassion and higher thinking integrated in our lives.

On a more technical note, the sound of the poem is populated with strong “d” sounds in “Day,” “Diary,” and “drawer.” It is akin to the sounding of the drums of war.

The phrasing is succinct, and the lack of punctuation works well to let the words come as they are, without adding over-emphasis.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)

Here is additional commentary from members of Haiku Nook, a group of haiku poets on Google Plus:

After reading it, in a broad sense, I’m sorry that the victims might be forgotten on Memorial Day and in the writer’s personal meaning, she might be touched by Anne’s Diary after Memorial Day. So, I think of Anne’s Diary as a symbol for victims.

– Rika Inami (Japan)

This evokes a few scenarios. Is Anne a relative (wife, mother, sister, daughter?), an old lover, could it be Anne Frank? Could be any of these, and more. I’m thinking it is the The Diary of Anne Frank, and how we tend to put our memories away for awhile, take them out now and then, peruse them, put them away.

– Dana Grover (USA)

Anne Frank was the instant go-to for me, she being the only person named Anne whose diary I have ever read. It is difficult to imagine other readings of this piece, except for the possibility of highly personal ones.

Philosophically, I think Anne Frank barely breaks the surface of the modern consciousness. It might be more accurate to revise it:

Memorial Day –
Anne’s diary unmoved
from its drawer

– Eric Lohman (USA)

I thought of Anne Frank also. I guess it’s just an automatic connection?

– Edwin Lomere (USA)

Yes, how we tend to forget important people and events as time passes. This haiku creates a feeling of being human—that we forget bigger things, because at times we are so engrossed with our own personal affairs. So sad because those bigger things are also important, if not, more important to us as thinking human beings.

– Willie Bongcaron (Philippines)

What do you think or feel about this haiku?