Hemapriya Chellappan’s Monsoon Yoga

monsoon yoga
here and there
a housefly

Hemapriya Chellappan (India)
Failed Haiku, journal of senryu, issue 45, Sept 2019

I’ve been in India during the monsoon season, and I can say how exciting and intense it is to see the rain crash down on the streets. All the commotion is compared to a housefly buzzing around here and there. Something epic and something small in aesthetic unison. Also, it contrasts the calmness of doing yoga. So, you can say we got a strong juxtaposition in this senryu/haiku–and a touch of humor.

Technically, it’s easy to spot the string of “o”s in the poem. It stretches the pace of the reading, slowing us down like yoga. Plus, we got some “r”s and “h”s to make it more musical. In terms of the structure and wording, it’s an efficient senryu/haiku–not wasting a word.

Great imagery, a fine juxtaposition, and a keen sense of sound make this poem an enjoyable read.

Nicholas Klacsanzky  (USA)

The monsoon season is a time of yearning and transformation where many views outside and inside get refreshed and soil absorbs a lot of stories of the mourning sky. The sound of rain, petrichor, and new views bring original perspectives to life–and if we shift our focus from our world to the inner world, as in yoga and meditation, we find it very soothing, as there is a direct and deep connection between a monsoon and yoga. The spirit of this haiku revolves around the aspects that make our lives toxic due to a lot of reasons and activities that affect us mentally, spiritually, physically, and emotionally.

In terms of the housefly, I believe it is a metaphor that describes the dirt and filth around us. So, when it comes to a monsoon, all that filth comes to the surface and makes the environment more chaotic and toxic. A housefly can also represent the disturbing thoughts that keep us restless and dissatisfied daily. So, it is a monsoon that makes things obvious for us so that we can concentrate on our inner world and find out the best possible solutions to the chaos around and inside us.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

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Painting by Iruvan Karunakaran called Charminar Wet

Robert Kingston’s Afternoon Sun

afternoon sun
a fly ends the sentence
in the crime book

Robert Kingston (UK)
Bones Journal, 13, 2017

We got an interesting comparison (or contrast?). The fly, so intense and looming on the page of the crime book… and the afternoon sun, blazing and overwhelming. It could be a contrast with the black fly and the bright afternoon sun.

I don’t know if a “crime book” refers to a novel, a non-fiction book about crime, or something that the police use. But that’s part of the fun while reading this poem.

Back to the content: a fly usually comes to dead things, so a fly landing on the page is bringing something tangible to the reading experience of this book. It’s like the fictional and the real world collided at that moment. I think that is the “aha” moment the poet felt. The word “sentence” also has a double meaning: the literal one and the one referring to sentencing in courts.

Breaking down the sound, the long “oo” sounds give a leisurely pace and the “s” letters supply a sharp resonance–a good contrast.

The structure of the haiku/senryu is standard and does fine without any punctuation.

An overall playful and enjoyable haiku/senryu that has a deeper layer if you look close enough.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)

This haiku takes me back to my teenage world where I used to read suspense novels and digests. I liked the way the writer conceived the idea of this haiku about a crime scene but also intrigues me to know more about the whole story.

“afternoon sun” is the time when our thoughts and feelings slow down due to the daytime activities and we want something that can make us relaxed and can rejuvenate our energies. I can feel the sense of getting involved in an activity that engages a person’s mind into something more complex and sophisticated like a crime story.

The fly could be a metaphor for something that bothers us or takes our attention away from what we are trying to focus on. It could be the thoughts of a person or any news or any distraction in the environment that lead us to reveal the mystery on our own or let our experience predict the next part of the story. It may be a point of haste where we don’t indulge in the step-wise process of mystery that is written in the crime book. It is the success of a crime book writer who plotted the story in a way where the curiosity of a person is distracted by the environment or surroundings, and it frequently happens these days.

I miss the reading environment these days where all my senses fully enjoy the book that I am holding in my hands.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

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– painting by Robert Baranet called “Afternoon Sun”

Vandana Parashar’s War Zone

war zone…
no one left to decide
who is right

Vandana Parashar (India)
Cattails, May, 2017

I see two ways readers can interpret this haiku.

1) Both sides of a conflict have sustained great casualties, and ideas of morality are left outside the realm of comprehension.

2) War always engages in violence and in that respect, neither side should be able to decide what is right or wrong.

Both interpretations contain a sense of irony. It is ironic that we try to be moralistic when it comes to killing other people for land, resources, domination, and more.

I feel the ellipsis conveys the tragedy of the circumstance and the silence after an intense battle. The structure is standard, but the chilling “o” sounds strung through the haiku provide a strong impact.

I think this haiku, or even senryu, makes for striking but subtle commentary on the irony and tragedy of war.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)

This poignant haiku takes us not only to the actual battlefield but also to the daily grudges and rows that are mostly endless and bring harmful effects to our lives. I have observed such situations many times in my own life where fights based on egos don’t end just because everyone thinks he or she is right and the next person is wrong.

The first line of this haiku is about a war zone: a zone that is a territory full of danger and harmful effects. The war zone indicates our mindsets and our egos with negative thoughts and feelings that disturb us mentally, physically, and spiritually, that bound us to not see out of the box, that steal our positive energies and act as a slow poison.

When one is in that war zone, one is not able to think or act rationally or logically. This is the level where we don’t go beyond our limited perceptions of the world and relationships, which makes us judge our relationships without having set criteria. We hallucinate about our surroundings and defend ourselves, merely giving reasoning to what is delusional and not reality. We feel that we are right and we justify our point of view with arguments without logic. We live with such delusions all the time which takes us to the comfort level of not being rejected, defeated, or surrendered.

Overall, this haiku is all about our negative attitude towards relationships when we are having trouble handling issues and problems. We end our relationships without even reaching any conclusion about who is wrong and who is right. We have a false self-image and we live with it all our lives and get involved in an endless war that we pass on from generation to generation without reaching any finality.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

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“The Battle of Sekigahara” by Kris Knapp

Helen Buckingham’s Wafer

church bells versus
the ice cream van
a wafer each way

© Helen Buckingham (UK)
(Presence, 54, 2016)

The image at first reading draws an amused smile, thinking of this van whose call is contrasted by church bells and which at the bottom presents its ice creams in wafers similar to the host. But, a reflection immediately arises. The ice cream van is so earthly, a bearer of carnal pleasure, compared to the bells that for centuries have been calling for moments of spirituality. It is, therefore, to be thought that the van is practically reduced to silence. It makes one think of the Middle Ages, of the centuries in which every frivolous pleasure was branded as a mirror of evil… and, in the present moment, to the heavy hand that every religion continues to have, openly or more subtly, towards its believers. This poem leaves a lot of food for thought, that delves deep into reality, and keeps a sense of lightness, which is the merit of a successful haiku.

Margherita Petriccione (Italy)

As I perceive this, there is an element of conflict between divine duty and human desires. The haijin is trying to keep both in balance but keeps humor alive. There are irony and humor in this and I feel this haiku has the Japanese aesthetic of karumi.

Pragya Vishnoi (India)

I can see both the materialistic and spiritual sides of life in this beautiful haiku.

Church bells are a call for prayer to gather the blessings of life and also indicate the awakening of the inner self by focusing on spiritual energy. This aspect takes us closer to the self that we usually ignore due to different activities of life. The bells repeatedly toll to remind us to take a break from worldly chaos and the fast pace of life. On the other hand, we always rush to complete our daily activities and to-do lists so that we can find ways to stay in competition or do work well.

The ice cream van indicates our cravings that build up from different flavours and tastes of life which pull us towards them. But, they melt down fast like ice cream and we strive for the next flavor or taste of life. This endless cycle goes on, where we share mixed feelings and collect precious memories as well.

The word ‘versus’ in the first line shows that we are oscillating between two ends, one that leads us deep inside–a sort of spiritual journey. The other one is worldly desires that pull us daily to enjoy the bounties and blessings of life that surround us. In both ways, there is a wafer that may come as blessings, happiness, joys, or self-fulfillment only if we keep a balance between both ends, which can bring harmony in our lives and give us real satisfaction in life. I love the simplicity and choice of words in this haiku that metaphorically hide the image of the entirety of life and give us a lesson about enjoying every aspect of life by keeping balance.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

A lot is going on here. While an ice cream van can represent the season of summer as a kigo, to me this reads more of a senryu than a haiku.

I like the clash between the sound of church bells and the notorious melody an ice cream van makes at the same time.

I can picture people outside the church being tempted by a passing ice cream truck perhaps because of the outdoor heat while struggling to make it to church on time because that’s the purpose of church bells, which is to gather people of faith together, while an ice cream van gathers people for profit.

The struggle between what’s holy and the worldly is strong in this senryu. What makes it strong to me is the power of God over something trivial as ice cream or vice versa if you’re an atheist.

Then, the poet adds on the last line “a wafer each way” which makes me, the reader, wonder if it is a communion wafer or an ice cream wafer? Perhaps a person who’s taking a communion wafer is thinking of ice cream at the same time or it could be the other way around.

This poem is a great example of ‘show, don’t tell’ through sensory images. Mixing the images lets the reader visualize or interpret what is happening when two things happen at once.

Fractled (USA)

I enjoy the comedic nature of this haiku/senryu. “a wafer each way” instantly makes me chuckle. However, there is a deeper layer behind the comedy. The temptation of eating ice cream, something earthly, is summoned by the ice cream van’s music, while the church bells bring out a sense of faith and duty in us. This mix causes a person to choose between what is most important to him or her. In a way, life is about making choices, and those choices determine who we are.

I like the sound of “van” and “versus,” “wafer” and “way,” “church” and “cream.” It brings out the playful sense in which this poem was written. The lack of punctuation and the pacing of the poem also suggest that it leans more towards a senryu.

An enjoyably deep senryu.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)

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– Saint Andrey’s Church in Kyiv, Ukraine

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

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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

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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