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)

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– Art by Ron Frazier

Did you enjoy this poem and commentary? Let us know in the comments.

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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)

If you enjoy this senryu and commentary, please leave us a comment. 

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– art by Suzy Hazelwood

Michael Smeer’s Anniversary Dinner

anniversary dinner
i tie together
dad’s shoelaces

AHS Winter Solstice Haiku String 2018
© Michael Smeer (Netherlands)

This week’s poet is the creator of both the “My Haiku Pond” blog and the “My Haiku Pond Academy” group. We recommend these sites as great places of learning and feedback.

Now, let’s get to the commentary:

This heartfelt senryu has two elements due to the choice of words, which provides curiosity to readers.

An anniversary dinner here may be the celebration of a parents’ wedding. So, here I can see this as a matter of deep pain where one spouse is being missed (due to death, separation, or illness). The child may have tried to make this event a special one for the father, who seems to be very old. With a deep emotional state of mind, the son couldn’t figure out how to tie dad’s shoelaces. Shoelaces here symbolize the relationship that is quite messy due to different reasons, and could be a metaphor for the child’s wish to see his parents in a perfect relationship again. Shoelaces tied together indicate confusion, ambiguity, and/or remorseful feelings that may result in a perplexed state of mind and actions.

The other side of this senryu could be full of life, where parents and children are together to enjoy the celebration of an anniversary and play pranks on each other—like shoelaces being tied together in this case.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

In response to Hifsa:

I also interpreted like you, except that I thought (in a lighter vein) that the son tied up both the laces in order to stop his father from running faster.

Arun Sharma (India)

Hifsa nailed this and I can’t seem to add more to what she saidespecially about the possibility of a prank. “I tie together dad’s shoelaces” says it all. If the word “together” was omitted in the phrase, then it would be more open for interpretation. For example, perhaps his dad was too old to tie his own shoelaces and his son did a good deed. Again, it’s still open to the interpretation of a prank as well.

Fractled (USA)

What I see here is the naughtiness of the subject… tying “together dad’s shoelaces” could be construed as tying the laces of the two shoes together.

Perhaps the subject sneaked under the dining table. I see him as specially dressed because of the memorable occasion of an anniversary. And having that devilish grin of a naughty child, proceeded to tie the laces of his father’s two shoes as others enjoyed in partaking in the bounty of an anniversary dinner, perhaps with a huge turkey at the middle of the table and champagne on the side… a special casserole, some cake, and what have you.

Willie Bongcaron (Philippines)

Much has been said about the content, but I would like to touch upon the technical aspects of this senryu.

Senryu commonly don’t have kireji (cutting word), which are represented by punctuation in English. The poet rightly did not insert punctuation due to this.

Also, notice the economy of this poem. It only has seven words, but it has a significant impact on the reader and provides a potent mood.

The format of the lines are not the “traditional” English senryu structure of a short first line, longer second line, and a short third line. However, not only are senryu more free in structure, but it does not matter so much—especially since the economy of the writing is high.

In terms of sound, a musicality is brought into the haiku with a string of “i” letters and may even portray the stress of tying the shoes together. There is a bit of rhyme in the first and second line with “r” sounds, but the strong “r” in the first line and the soft “r” in second line do not make it a heavy rhyme. We generally avoid rhyming in haiku and senryu, but sometimes if it does not push too hard against the reader, it is fine.

An efficient senryu that exudes a strong mood and a keen sense of musicality.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)

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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.

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)

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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)

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)