Posted in Haiku

We have a glossary!

Hello Haiku Commentary readers,

We have just boosted the site with a haikai glossary gathered from various sources: https://haikucommentary.wordpress.com/haiku-glossary/

Feel free to give suggestions.

Wishing you happiness on your haiku journey.

– Nicholas

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Posted in Haiku

Martin Lucas’ Ice

a moment before sunrise –
ice singing
beneath the swans’ feet

(Winner of the Katikati Haiku Contest, 2010)

© Martin Lucas (1962 – 2014) (UK)

I feel this haiku is so amazing.

a moment before sunrise I think the poet is waiting for the sunrise. Catching the first orange ray from the edge of the sun is so boosting for our spirit.

ice singing I didn’t know ice could sing. In curiosity, listening to a YouTube video about the crackling sounds of ice, I felt so good, the sounds were like songbirds, but no, different… They are like quantum plasma gun-shooting in movies… Zap…! Zap!

beneath the swans’ feet Maybe I could relate this line to love, because swans are a symbol of love. I think the poet is sending messages of love to all readers, and it is a sweet moment having a chance to read this haiku.

– Fei Zhan (Indonesia)

Generally, a sunrise indicates warm feelings, energy, hope, optimism, and life. Ice indicates cold feelings, passivity, and death.

Besides this, there is another aspect contrary to my above comments, which is the hidden beauty and grace of every season, whether it is winter, autumn, spring, or summer. The ice singing indicates that the season is at its peak and there are certain elements of nature that enjoy the cold season because it boosts their energies, creativity, and imagination. It is my personal experience that my creative energy is at its peak in autumn and winter as compared to summer.

A swan symbolizes beauty, love, and grace that is again the manifestation of the beauty of the winter season, especially ice. Another word here makes me curious about this haiku, which is the swan’s webbed feet that helps it with swimming. Here, even the swan cannot disturb the creatures below the ice who are enjoying the season and being protected due to a thick layer of ice before the sunrise.

– Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

This is an amazingly interesting haiku, as it introduces something new to many readers. I have never heard of “ice singing” before. I found video recordings of singing ice on YouTube. Changes in temperature can cause ice on a lake to make “otherworldly” sounds.

I wonder whether there is an allusion to the myth about swans dying when they sing. The comparison is fitting because swans sing quite strangely in a wide range of notes. I can just imagine the ice and the swan singing together as the sun is about to rise. I wonder if the swan is coming in to land on the ice, perhaps skating then walking on the ice, and this stimulates the ice’s singing.

– Martha Magenta (UK)

Although I no longer live where ponds, lakes, or rivers freeze over, I used to live in such a place, and I have relived that experience in this haiku. I picture the speaker of this verse on a cold winter morning just before the sun rises, a moment before it does. It is cold, and is probably early in the winter season, or perhaps late in it. Whatever, the ice is not thick, probably not thick enough to hold the weight of a human, but just thick enough to hold the weight of a swan stepping onto the frozen icy surface, walking across it, and the ice gives a bit, there is a cracking/snapping sound, a singing sound, if you will, as the swan steps away from the shore making its way to the open pool that is not frozen over. Except for the sound of the ice giving under the swan’s weight, there is silence. So nice to have relived this experience in my mind (and without having to suffer the icy cold morning to do so).

– Dana Grover (USA)

In Japanese haiku, ”ice” and “swan” are seasonal references or ”kigo.” So, there are many “swan” haiku in Japan. The kigo of “swan” is understood as a winter migratory bird in Japan. Japanese haijin know “swan” is a metaphor of “love.”
But, not really as a metaphor of “love” in Japanese haiku.

The swan’s graceful beauty and luxuriousness give readers a strong impression. So, I felt it is too much if I would add the metaphor of a luxurious swan to my impression.

The second line “ice singing” attracts the interest of readers. If I interpret this “swan” as a metaphor of love, this haiku will include two strong main subjects of “love” and “ice singing.” I would like to read this work simply as haiku. This haiku is really beautiful and a quiet sight.

– Norie Umeda (Japan)

Did you enjoy this haiku and the commentary? Leave a comment for us.

Learn more about Martin Lucas: https://livinghaikuanthology.com/index-of-poets/livinglegacies/5387-lucas,-martin.html

Posted in Haiku

Agus Maulana Sunjaya’s Wintry Night

wintry night
only the echo
from the hospice

© Agus Maulana Sunjaya (Indonesia)

The first line gives us a cold, fearsome situation while waiting for something probably outside our comfort zone. Who could stand the winter temperature without doing anything?

“Only the echo”… this is a gruesome feeling. Of course I don’t want some echoing whispers attacking my ears or mind while there is a wintry night.

In reference to the last line, I know the cause of his or her fear… I hope his or her spirit will be at peace.

– Fei Zhan (Indonesia)

The poet is from Indonesia, and I do not know about Indonesian winters. It may not be in winter, so the poet used “wintry.” But, I can feel it’s a chilly night from the second and third line.

– Norie Umeda (Japan)

This haiku is very chilly. The first line sets the scene, tone and atmosphere: cold, dark, and quiet. The last two lines indicate a lingering memory or reminiscence of the hospice—perhaps the emptiness felt by the loss of a loved one is reflected in this cold, dark winter night. I feel it effectively conveys a sense of loneliness and loss.

The repetition of ‘o’ sounds reinforce the idea of a haunting echo.

– Martha Magenta (UK)

Line 1: “wintry night”
Makes me feel cold and lonely. I become nervous—it’s ominous and scary.
Line 2: “only the echo”
Brings a feeling of silence, you’re alone with only the beating of your heart for company.
Line 3: “from the hospice”
So, we know we wait for our loved one. Will they wake and say goodbye or pass silently away? This one night is your last time with them.

– Marilyn Ward (UK)

The overall theme of this haiku revolves around loss, death, and grief because of the three words “night,” “echo,” and “hospice.” Besides the loss of someone that takes the writer in a state of mourning, I see another aspect of delusions and hallucinations. Usually, traumatic experiences in life resonate at the later part of life where a person may experience certain mental health issues, so maybe the writer is passing through the time where he can hear sounds from the past, maybe certain flashbacks that haunt him more in this wintry night that is mostly silent.

Another aspect may be related to hospice life where people usually get detached from the rest of the world and/or normality, so their voices usually bounce back because of not having active listeners around.

– Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

Did you enjoy this haiku and commentary? Let us know in the comment section.

Posted in Haiku

Wim Lofvers’ November Mist

November mist
written in the field
a mole’s message

(Woodpecker 1997:2; Modern Haiku 38:2, 2007)

© Wim Lofvers (1930 – 2007) (The Netherlands)

I read this haiku as a nature-sketching haiku. I think that in the third line, “mole” means the kind of animal or the mist’s “mole.” If it is the mist’s mole, it refers to a very small part of nature. So, I can say this nature-sketching haiku is highly up to date.

– Norie Umeda (Japan)

The first line opens as a curtain on an autumn whitened landscape faded into a light fog that makes everything have no edge. This verse prepares the reader for a dreamlike journey in a mysterious world where, at a first sight, writing is the poignant reference to the second line. But in the third line, we discover that there’s a secret code drawn in the earth. The underground job of a mole makes me think of our unconscious thoughts, instinctual pushes which dig into the depths of one’s soul.

We are invited to think to whom the message could be conveyed. Since the mole’s message comes to the surface from the underground, it can be read as a kind of suggestion that the Es-part (still not conscious) of the author wishes to become the Ego—so visible, no more hidden as before.

Also, it seems to me we have a movement of a search towards awareness and the sound of “m” repeated in the first and third lines creates a mesmerizing effect as if the meditative “om” is the key to reach it…

– Lucia Fontana (Italy)

Did you enjoy this haiku and commentary? Please let us know what you feel in the comments.

Posted in Haiku

Eufemia Griffo’s Frozen Leaves

frozen leaves
a deep silence
within

© Eufemia Griffo (Italy)

(Hedgerow #122, 2017)

For me, this haiku indicates that if we become able to see things from positive a perspective, evil will not remain in our inner self. The “frozen leaves” here stand for a thought process, “silence” stands for the state of tranquility, and “within” is infinity. A portrait of realisation in short.

– Manoj Sharma (Nepal)

There is a beautiful comparison in this haiku. Frozen leaves, where molecular activity has ceased. I can imagine such a deep state of meditation, a state of peace, where not a single thought passes through. Nice assonance in the words too.

– Martha Magenta (UK)

Frozen leaves indicate the lack of movement, motivation, and enthusiasm that makes them less active but not dead. It may be hibernation time where physically there is no activity, but spiritually and mentally, life is fully active. So, it is a transformation period of maturity, where thought processes goes on to the advanced level through meditation, and incubation. The word “within” indicates the process of knowing oneself more.

– Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

I felt a sense of alienation from it. So, I can sympathize with this poem. “frozen leaves” reminds me of long patience. “a deep silence within” shows that it has no voice. The “a” emphasizes “deep silence.” It magnifies “deep silence.”
But “within” … so it is completely divided from the reader.

– Norie Umeda (Japan)

I think the poet sees this moment, leaves being frozen, with a positive spin. The silence can indicate several things: a meditation, a respect for the state of the leaves, or a peace in light of death or frailty.

Usually, we don’t like to have one word for the last line of a haiku, but occasionally we can use this technique to express various feelings. Not only is the last line surprising, and common at the same time (which is often a mark of a fine haiku), but it makes us focus on ourselves as well. What deep silence do we have within ourselves, especially during difficult times? I feel this haiku gives the reader an opportunity to introspect about the peace we have inherently within.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)

Did you enjoy this haiku and/or the commentary? Let us know in the comment section.

Posted in Haiku

Leatrice H. Lifshitz’s River

the river—
coming to it with nothing
in my hands

© Leatrice H. Lifshitz (1933-2003) (USA)

Profound and well constructed. I can feel the author’s spiritual sense on approaching the river to receive its blessings rather than to act upon it. Easy to relate to this poem.

– Eric Lohman (USA)

Rivers nurture the earth, creating and sustaining life. They symbolize the flow of nature, growth, a journey or life itself. In this haiku, the river is approached with empty hands. This suggests a deeper meaning of the river i.e. the journey towards enlightenment. A very relatable haiku.

– Martha Magenta (UK)

A river is known for its particular direction that flows with a great rhythm persistently. Maybe, the author wants these qualities, more focused, more organised, more optimistic, and more persistence/balance. Overall, I see the author is looking for a well-disciplined life.

I see another aspect (just relating it to my personal experience). In Pakistan, the monsoon season brings devastating results, like heavy floods, where rivers engulf many villages in remote areas, and also bring a lot of mud with them. I can see a man going to the river with nothing in his hands, maybe a victim of that flood that has left nothing in his hands.

– Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

My tai chi teacher has said: “The best things in life you cannot hold in your hands.” This haiku reminds us of this. It also reminds us that in the river of life, it is universal. Some seem to cling to what is “me” and “mine.” This belongs to “me.” This is “mine.” The focus of attention is on the “me,” which is, ultimately, just a thought. And, in the end, nothing belongs to you. Everything you own—your house, your objects, your car, your money—will, one day, be completely out of your hands. So, it is a humbling reminder. More importantly, this haiku seems to remind us that life itself, and living is not about “me” but about something much greater that includes everyone and everything. So, from the personal, we reach the universal. This haiku also brings to mind: giving can only happen with open hands. When the hand of anger is in a closed fist, a person cannot give or receive. So, the haiku reminds us to take it easy, keep our anger at bay and embrace a big-picture perspective. The haiku is ultimately liberating because we arrive at the river of life with nothing, and trust in the great mystery that somehow, someway, serves all things.

– Jacob Salzer (USA)

One cannot step into the same river twice, someone once said. And here, the speaker is heading to the river with no expectations, open to whatever the river has to offer, hands empty, probably a clear mind, ready to receive what the river is about to give. Perhaps the speaker is an ascetic and has nothing, no possessions that he/she can hold, or, merely someone who is just open to new discoveries from a new river that can never be stepped into more than once.

– Dana Grover (USA)

The last two lines leave a mystery for the reader. We wonder what the poet is doing by the river. Bringing something to the river could imply offering something to perform a ritual. Also, the “nothing” could be an abstract or metaphysical “nothing.” So, in a sense, the poet could be bringing something that is “nothing.”

A river flows and keeps going. Maybe the poet wanted to respect this nature of the river by not giving it something that would impede it. Also, by coming without any expectation, the poet is able to observe the river in its “isness” and become one with the experience of perceiving it.

I enjoy the usage of the dash, as it provides the reader with an opportunity to pause and imagine a river. I also appreciate the simple turn in the last line. Too often haiku try to surprise and shock in the third line. A subtle last line often works better.

The most important sense of sound in this haiku is present in the second line with a string of “o”s. They make the reader feel the void with which the writer comes to the river more starkly.

Lifshitz has written a haiku that is easy to gravitate towards and to feel.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)

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

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 Haiku

Jacob Salzer’s Checkmate

checkmate
shadows become still

on the marble steps

© Jacob Salzer (USA)

Chrysanthemum, No. 19, April, 2016
(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.

I would say this is a metaphor for mindfulness.  Our days are filled with many steps—there is a need to pause and be still between the steps.

In dealing with some over-reactive people in my life, I’ve learned to become still, even in the midst of apparent chaos.  I say apparent, because the “emergency” is in their own mind—not real for me, but to empathize, I have to pause and try to understand where they are coming from, their inner “why,”  not react myself with anger or defensiveness…become still on the marble steps before taking the next step, which needs to be a step of compassion most of the time!

– Mark Salzer (USA)

This haiku was inspired by Nicholas Klacsanzky. Playing chess is a meditative activity that involves both movement and pauses. Similarly, there seems to be a natural rhythm to living that revolves around a central point, much like the calm eye of a storm. With the growing demands of daily living, I feel it’s important to remind ourselves to pause sometimes, to simply be, watch, and reflect. On one hand, I feel it’s important to be completely immersed in something at times. On the other hand, I also feel it’s wise to sometimes take a step back and observe. The mind appears to be busy producing ripples on the pond, so to speak, but even those ripples are one with the depth of the pond beneath the surface. So, it seems our daily lives are not separate from the mystery. What are “shadows” in this haiku? For me, the shadows are the great mystery itself: something that is permanently beyond the mind or comprehension, beyond the “me.” It is the unknown breathing life into empty spaces.

– Jacob Salzer (USA)

 

Posted in Haiku

Susan Marie LaVallée’s Power Outage

power outage:
everything goes out
but the wind chimes

© Susan Marie LaVallée (1950 – 2011) (USA)
(HSA Newsletter, Volume 27, Number 1 — March 2012)

This is a fine example of focus within haiku. Often, haiku allow the reader to zero in on a specific sense or observation. When something is concentrated on, its full nature seems to unfold. A simplicity of mind, or getting rid of distractions, can be a meditative experience as well. Too often, modern people multi-task. Sometimes we forget to simply experience what is happening to us. And sometimes, nature practically forces us to be present.

In the case of this haiku, a storm took down power lines, and the strumming of wind chimes can be heard. No television, no radio, no other noise, except for the melody the stormy wind is making. In poetry, we mention the song of wind, the whistle of wind, and so on. However, in this haiku, we get a highly illustrative scene where the wind is putting on a show, allowing us to feel the power behind nature.  The writer does not say what the wind chimes sound like, but that is the beauty of it: as readers, we can impose our own imagination into the sound. Strong haiku commonly leave room for readers to internally interact with the imagery and meaning.

I think the use of the colon is interesting. It seems an ellipsis could have been used as well, but the colon brings a unique sense of focus to the second part. The lines are also arranged in a way to make the third line impact the reader more. If the lines were reversed, the effect would not have been as significant. The sound should also be mentioned. In the first two lines, the “o” sounds gives the impression of the flow of the wind, and in the last line, the “i” sounds provides a sense of the sharpness of the wind chimes’ music.

A masterful haiku in its simplicity, economy, and availability for interpretation.

If you want to learn more about Susan Marie LaVallée and read more of her work, please visit: https://livinghaikuanthology.com/index-of-poets/livinglegacies/2686-susan-marie-lavall%C3%A9e.html

– Nicholas Klacsanzky (Ukraine)

Do you enjoy this haiku? If so, please write a comment below.