Posted in Haiku

William J. Higginson’s Tick, Tick

the tick, tick
of snow on the reeds . . .
sparrow tracks

© William J. Higginson (USA)

As I see it, the scene conjures a time of early winter, when the snow falls, yet perhaps lightly. And adding to the scene, sparrow tracks (line three) which construes that once, a sparrow was exploring the marshy portion of this location. I take the whole image as another manifestation or celebration of the transitoriness of things and events in our lives.

The persona here could be a tracker or a hunter out to satiate his or her eagerness to score a game. And, finding the place devoid of life, contemplates what to do next… or retreated in the appreciation of the quietness of his or her surrounding.

– Willie Bongcaron (Philippines)

Here a sparrow has left its tracks in snow. Perhaps the sun has risen and the snow on the reeds begins to thaw. The tick tick of the thawing snow seems to reflect the sound of the sparrow hopping. A lovely atmospheric haiku.

– Martha Magenta (England)

I want to point out how potent this haiku is sonically. The first line begins with an onomatopoeia with “tick, tick.” The next sound that is important is the “s” that is present in “snow,” “reeds,” “sparrow,” and “tracks.” There is also a strong presence of “o” sounds and “t” sounds. All in all, this is one of the most musical haiku I have ever read. I believe the sounds reflect the noise of the sparrow and the snow falling on the reeds lightly. Just from its sound, it is a wonderful haiku, and brings us fully into the moment portrayed through the images.

The similarity between the “tick” of snow falling on the reeds, and sound of the sparrow making its tracks is interesting to ponder. In my perspective, it reflects the contrasts of life, and how if one thing is degenerating, something new is being made at the same time to balance it out. The reeds are being covered by the snow gradually, while fresh tracks are created by the sparrow. Essentially, in death there is life, and in life there is death.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)

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Posted in Haiku

Ken Sawitri’s Plastic Bag

with the plastic bag
a stork wraps the moon
on its head

© Ken Sawitri (Indonesia)

Published originally in: Robert Epstein and Miriam Wald (Eds.), 2016 (1st ed.), Every Chicken, Cow, Fish and Frog: Animal Rights Haiku, Middle Island Press.

Below are various reactions to this haiku by four poets:

My first reaction is one of horror—an image of a wild bird with its head stuck in a plastic bag. I can’t see where the moon comes in though.

– Martha Magenta

I too, find this to be an upsetting image—the horror of a defenseless bird entrapped in a human-made object intended for a legitimate use that has resulted in a devastating (to the stork) consequence. Yet, the author does not come right out and state the horror, he merely reports it, and, “oh, by the way” (he seems to say), the plastic bag reflects the image of the moon, a natural element caught with an unnatural object.

– Dana Grover

To echo Dana and Martha, this haiku brings a feeling of a natural life form trying to adapt to an unnatural object. When I read this, the stork is making a nest out of the plastic bag by wrapping it on top of its head. Under the moonlight, the plastic bag is illuminated in darkness. The word “wraps” seems to reflect the act of creating circles, and this is why a nest came to mind. It brings an unsettling image and reminds us of just how much trash humans have created.

At grocery stores where I live, plastic bags are recycled, and good people know to recycle them versus filling a landfill or discarding them off the side of the road. If anything, I hope this haiku reminds people to recycle and reuse plastic bags. In a world where everything is connected, each action we take, no matter how small, makes a difference.

– Jacob Salzer

I think this haiku contains an opportunity for a mix of interpretations. In fact, I believe the author intended for us to get a visceral reaction out of it: one that is at once shocking by the image, and awed by the beauty of the moon. To me, these qualities make it a strong haiku, as it reflects life: life is mixed, with good in bad, and bad in good.

The plastic bag is flimsy, unnatural, and a thing eventually meant to be thrown away. Yet, here in the haiku, it has the dignified duty of carrying the light of the moon on the stork’s head. This act can have many interpretations, but the spiritual meaning could be that the stork feels a sense of enlightenment and it has gone beyond its mind or individual self. It seems like a representation of a loss of ego and becoming one with the spiritual self.

This haiku does carry overtones of death, but that could be the death of the ego, and the “attainment” of enlightenment. The haiku portrays a disturbing moment, however the heron could theoretically shake the plastic bag off its head in an instant. But we are kept in suspense, and this marks one of the qualities of haiku: since it is a fragment of a sentence, the poet can create mystery quite easily.

Even the sound of the haiku demonstrates a mixed feeling. The “o” sound in “stork,” “moon,” and “on” brings a soothing resonance. However, with the hard sounds of “plastic,” “bag,” and “wraps”, the haiku delivers a harsh feeling.

The open and striking nature of this haiku allows one to ponder its image for a while. I think like a good haiku, it cannot be pinned down in meaning and mood.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky
 
What do you think or feel about this haiku? Let us know in the comment section.

 

 

 

Posted in Haiku

Anto Gardaš’ Buzzing

plum blossoms—
every crown buzzing
the same tune

original Croatian:

Procvale šljive.
Svaka krošnja zuji
istu melodiju.

© Anto Gardaš (Croatia) (1938-2004)

There is this happy feeling when you look at plum blossoms in their different shades of pink. True to their form, plum blossoms, for the Chinese and Japanese people, “symbolize perseverance and hope, as well as beauty, purity, and the transitoriness of life.”

Therefore, I see this ku as some form of celebration of life. That, after the cold harsh winter and the barrenness of the surroundings, trees begin to awaken and show their inner beauty to the appreciating and thankful world.

“Every crown buzzing the same tune” for me shows this celebration… when spring comes to life starting with the awakening of plum blossoms.

– Willie Bongcaron

A kind of celebration that is truly in sync with every type or colour of the flower. Crown may indicate a tiara, if I am not wrong!

– Hifsa Ashraf

I paused on the word “crown” for some time. I looked through translation machines to see if the translation matched up, and it does. My initial reaction was that of flower crowns, where you tie flowers together to create a crown. It is a playful and sweet act. The buzzing could be from bees trying to collect pollen while the crowns lie on the ground.

Plum blossoms are elegant and charming, and they come in early spring. The oneness of the buzzing could be indicative of the joy people feel in unison when spring starts to sprout.

In another sense, with the idea of a crown, each person is given the dignity of nature to use for their benefit and decoration. The buzzing of the same tune shows that maybe, we are all the same in the eyes of nature. We only make distinctions in our minds and create divisions through our own projections.

The joy and message of unity of humankind made me select this poem. When we imagine this haiku’s scene in all its beauty and meaning, we are transported to a glance of heaven.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky

What do you think or feel about this haiku? Tell us below in the comments.

Posted in Haiku

Lorin Ford’s Slow Dancing

slow dancing
to Satie
the pears ripen

© Lorin Ford

Modern Haiku, 44:1, 2013

The subtlety, sly haikai humor, and ekphrastic nature of this haiku all unfold gradually and as imperceptibly as the ripening fruit it ends with, perhaps leaving many readers perplexed. Even without deeper understanding, the surface meaning is pleasant and intriguing, with the connection to the ripening pears and the dance left open to interpretationand while this is not a haiku that will speak universally, for some it will have a delicious, piquant charm, providing a refreshing change of pace from the ordinarily somber tone of much of English-language haiku with its hidden element of absurdist humor.

The first line brings to mind an intimate setting. A couple slow dancing in their home perhaps, or in a private garden, we are brought into a quiet, intimate moment. The music is the first clue that something is amiss—famous for being a precursor of minimalist music, writing “wallpaper music,” and amassing a laundry list of bizarre eccentricities, Erik Satie was a Fin de siècle French composer who dabbled in Dada and surrealism, peppered his music with strange commands like from the tip of the thought, and be clairvoyant, and is most famously remembered as the composer of the Gymnopédiesslow, undanceable tunes whose melodies evoke an ancient, sensual melancholy, and whose unusual portmanteu name brings to mind Greek youths dancing nude through fantastical neoclassical settings à la Maxfield Parrish. This is not typical dance music, even for a quiet, slow moment of romance, the pulse being almost painfully lugubrious and the mood somber—music more suitable for ruminations on a rainy day.

The third line brings in a kigo, placing the ku in late summer or early fall, the pears ripening on the trees, or perhaps in a bowl in the dimly lit-house—our setting is still uncertain. The pear’s shape echoes the curves of the woman or women dancing, hinting at fecundity and sensuality, perhaps even a sexual awakening as ripeness is attained. But is it truly a kigo, a shift to nature and a seasonal reference? Here, the riddle is solved, and those who are familiar with the composer’s ouvre will realise the clever twist and reference to one of Satie’s many vexing works, worthy of Magritte in the wordplay and absurdity inherent to its name: “Three Pieces in the Form of a Pear.”

It is rare to have such obscure literary, musical, or art references in contemporary English-language haiku. In Japanese haiku, such literary excess or eccentricity has a long history, but the over-dependence on kyakkan shasei (objective life sketching) and Bashō‘s Zen infused sabi aesthetics that lingers from the early days of ELH often robs us of such moments of subtle recognition and wry humor that is so distinctly haiku, rather than a dabbling with the senryu range of caricature and satire. Ford’s bringing a touch of Satie’s own Dadaist humor into the world of the Japanese forms shows the composer to be a surprisingly appropriate choice; the ku echoes the wordplay and eccentric humor of the Danrin school of haikai or the quirky surrealism of post-war Japanese haiku. This is one of those verses that I wish I had written myself, for it is utterly charming and perfect in a quiet, subtle way—a unique and thoroughly modern masterpiece.

Erik Satie ~1903~ Trois Morceaux en Forme de Poire:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zcrslAZ-q0U

– Clayton Beach

Posted in Haiku

Emmanuel Jessie Kalusian’s Power Outage

power outage—
the neighbourhood cicada
bursts into a song

Creatrix, #31, 2015

© Emmanuel Jessie Kalusian (Nigeria)

Interesting and profound haiku. Perhaps the cicada was singing all along and only noticed when the distractions of what’s unnatural was shut down.

– Fractled

Love it! It is funny and profound on at least two levels. One, as a previous comment notes, the cicada was “singing” all along and were only noticed when the humans no longer had electrical distractions, or else the (cicada) was so happy that there were no distractions that it did, indeed, burst into song. This is another one of those that I think, “I wish I had written that.”

– Dana Grover

The haiku shows a moment of “light” to me. It makes me think of the many precious things slipped out of our sight due to this modern life—like the cicada’s song.

I love the use of”—” and bursts. Both give a strong impression of suddenness.

Also, the repeating of r, similar to a cicada’s sound, brings the scene to life to me.

– Lucky Triana

In modern times, a power outage is an inconvenience, an impediment to productivity, or even a cause of dollars lost (I think of food, thawing in the freezer). We are reliant on electricity. Its loss is a major disruption, and generally not welcome, within the structure of our lives.

Kalusian’s haiku, on the other hand, takes the power outage as a celebration. A first reading of the poem implies that the celebration is the cicada’s, that it’s reacted to the power outage by bursting into song. A second, more thoughtful reading, is that the celebration is our’s. As others have mentioned, it is likely that the cicada was singing before the electricity was lost. But its song was missed under the hum of the current, or beneath the sounds of our various devices. The loss of power, therefore, opened up the world around us. There is a beauty to be celebrated in nature when we slow ourselves down, remove our distractions, and listen. Sometimes, an event like a power outage helps bring that beauty to us.

– Dave Read

An appreciation of the more mundane things, as in the song created by cicadas, takes a deeper meaning when technology assumes a back seat. Here, I believe, it is being alluded that the absence of electricity made the writer contemplate about the simpler things around us—and that this may be, to some extent, hard to experience as the former seems to make us take things for granted.

– Willie Bongcaron

Location is so important. Kigo can really become meaningless in the context of global haikai. Looking into cicadas on the African continent, they seem more of the “wall of sound,” very large and abundant species. So, I think the singular here is a bit strange, especially with “neighborhood cicada.” How could a neighborhood only have one?The only context where I could see the singular reading to be consistent and interesting is if the “neighborhood cicada” is a metaphor for a loud and obnoxious neighbor, perhaps one prone to bursting out into song, and generally you can’t hear them over the din of the city, but in this moment of quiet, their voices comes out loud and clear.

However, that’s a stretch. I still think its stronger with the plural noun, but that may just be my inner etymologist getting hung up on scientific realism.

Another way around this would be to have it be a particular cicada one can see or at least realistically single out:

power outage—
from the neighbor’s tree a cicada
bursts into song

Something clarifying like that. However, I think

power outage—
the neighbourhood cicadas
burst into song

Really is succinct and nice and doesn’t bring up any awkward “wait, but…” objections for me. I’m totally fine with surrealism and metaphor, personification, or other literary effects in haiku, but they need to have a purpose and add something in terms of resonance to justify bringing the audience outside of the moment. Here, the singular completely pulls me out of the poetic thought-space into critical mode because it doesn’t make sense, and it doesn’t create a pleasant irony or paradox either.

– Clayton Beach

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

Posted in Haiga

Sydell Rosenberg’s Feather

in a toyless cage
the parakeet discovers
a feather to twirl

02

Haiku by Sydell Rosenberg (1929-1996), art by Mary E. Rodning, and translation into Japanese and calligraphy by Hiromi Inoue.

A nice collaboration (I do not know or read Japanese, so I don’t know about it, other than the looks of the writing is aesthetically pleasing). The crueltyI suppose it is unintentionalof a captive spirit is stated matter of factly. It is a powerful piece. The three elements work well together, but the haiku easily stands alone.

– Dana Grover

This is powerfully sad and shows how pathetic it is to capture a free spirit (wild bird) and keep it prisoner in a cage. I find that objectionable. The feather seems to symbolise the loneliness of the bird.

– Martha Magenta

To me, it shows desperation with ingenuity and intelligence of a captured being, but do animals have emotions such as being bored? This is a debate that’s been going on for a long time. I noticed that this was written in the 5-7-5 format and I can imagine the difficulty of writing the first line without telling too much, which to me it does.

Since the image already shows a cage why not emphasize it and not repeat what’s already shown?

Ex:

toyless prisoner
the parakeet discovers
a feather to twirl

Just thinking of the possibilities, where I could be wrong as well. My 2 cents disclaimer.

– Fractled

Wow. I think it’s very potent. To me, it speaks clear of how horribly sad and senseless it is to confine another being created to be wild and free. I can only hope it conveys the message to others on how very wrong and inhumane imprisoning a fellow earthling is, along with the selfishness and cruelty of it.

– Michelle Hyatt

L1 might work better without “in a” since “parakeet” and
“cage” suggest being within.

– Edwin Lomere

I think the poem is quite strong. It oscillates nicely between a theme of making the most of what you’ve got (“a feather to twirl”), and one of being trapped with little available to you (“a toyless cage”).

– Dave Read

Wow… I have mixed feelings regarding this particular haiku, but the intention to convey loneliness is stark and well-taken. First, it saddens me that the little fellow doesn’t have any material/objects to keep itself occupied and happy while being confined.

You see, I have an African Grey that never knew of being in the wild, (I spoon-fed her during infancy) but she escaped twiceonce in Maryland and another time in Georgia. One of her phrases is, ‘Help me.” In her last escape, she stayed away for about a week (I forgot the exact time frame).

She ( Lilo) ended up flying onto a gentleman’s lap as he and his brother were chatting in an open garage. Because of posting Lilo’s description/markings and behaviour patterns in a nearby pet store, I was blessed to have her returned to me. She has a 6-foot cage, several toys, eats fresh fruit and seeds daily (she growls at vegetables) and is rarely confined. At this time in my life, I can’t imagine not having her as my companion (she can live up to 60 years+).

I have spoken with many people, including friends, who believe birds should be free. Well, I must say horses should be free too. 🙂

Many animals can be domesticated. More importantly, to me, they should be treated with as much kindness as the next person. I have to admit most of my friends have 4-legged pets. It just so happened a little bird who truly talks to me became my best friend. That is not to say I’m not fond of felines & canines as well.

– Lovette Carter

Since the haiku portion of the haiga has been commented on at length, I will do my best to discuss the art.

The white between the words and the cage, to me, portrays the loneliness the parakeet is feeling.

Most of the color is used on the bird itself, while the cage and the cage’s stand is painted lightly. This allows the viewer to focus on the bird as the main subject and see that with the play with the feather, the bird is perhaps drawn away from its loneliness. Even the poet’s name is written in green, which could point to the parakeet being a metaphor for the poet’s life.

At the bottom right, there is what appears to be a dark blue chair, which is an appropriate color for sadness.

Though simple, the emotions of the haiku runs through the art, and perhaps gives a glimpse into the true feelings of the poet.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky

What do you think or feel about this haiga? 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

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

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

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

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

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 (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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Haiku

Adjei Agyei-Baah’s Stars

calm water…
the urge to walk these stars
as stepping stones

WHR Jan 2017, Shintai Haiku, 7 Honorable Mention

© Adjei Agyei-Baah (Ghana)

The first thing I noticed was the contrast between “calm” and “urge.” In the context of this haiku, I believe “calm” relates to a clarity of vision.

People sometimes have abstract desires to do something.  In regard to this haiku, this abstract idea is celestial and engages the reader’s imagination greatly. To me, stars being thought of as stepping stones can mean multiple things: 1) that we should use outer space as a vehicle to further the human race 2) the poet is disillusioned with mundane life and wants to be guided to a more heavenly/divine/transcendent place 3) that since the stars are being reflected in the calm water (an assumption of mine), it shows that stepping stones can seem grand through one’s perspective, even if they are simply a tool to reach the other side. I am sure readers can find more interpretations as well.

The calmness of the water, in my mind, gives rise to the poet’s imagination. In the stillness of the moment, the poet sees the stars reflected in the water, and is in tune with his desires. In the clarity of mental stillness, the world opens up with new possibilities. Thoughts usually hold us back from imagining and feeling the moment. The border between what is programmed into our minds and what is spontaneous is broken if we attain mental stillness. Like a Zen state, the stars could have easily been stepping stones, and anything else reflected in the water. The beginner’s mind brings life back to a sense of wonder, and I believe that is one facet of this haiku’s message.

In terms of sound, this is a musical haiku. Not only is there an alliteration of “s” soundswhich could be equated to the chime of waterbut also there is “a” sounds in “calm,” “water,” “walk,” and “stars.” The “a” sound makes the words seem longer, and gives the effect of something being pulled, like an urge, as is stated in the haiku. In addition, the pacing of the lines works phenomenally in conveying the haiku’s somber yet energetic mood.

Imaginative and evocative, this haiku engages readers and allows them to derive many ideas and feelings from its imagery. A highly enjoyable haiku.

– Nicholas Klacsanzky

Some more commentary was written from the Haiku Nook, a haiku community online:

I’m satisfied with the first two lines alone, leaving out the simile and creating a 2-line haiku.

calm water…
the urge to walk these stars

– Edwin Lomere

Totally agree with you here Ed. That’s an excellent edit. I would probably go one step further and split the second line in two with “these stars” as the third line. However, I may be splitting hairs. Great stuff. 🙂

– Dave Read

I don’t disagree with Edwin, except to say that the way Adjei has used “as stepping stones” this is not a simile. Here “as” is used in the same way as “as if” which is more of a conjunction than a simile. (The urge to walk these stars as if they were stepping stones) and this changes the intended sense, I would imagine.

– Martha Magenta

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

Posted in Haiku

Laryalee (Lary) Fraser’s Year

planting the beans …
this year it takes longer
to unbend myself

Ambrosia, #4, 2009

© Laryalee (Lary) Fraser (1940 – 2013)

Several poets from Haiku Nook, a community of haiku poets on Google Plus, wrote what they thought and felt about this haiku written by one of the most important Canadian haiku poets.

This haiku brings me way back to my childhood. I got some Russian blood in my veins. They have a saying: “Sitting on the beans.” It usually means that an action of someone puts another person in struggle, that the year wasn’t very good, that the family will struggle through the winter, and that they will have nothing to eat but beans. Even in the worst year, this plant will survive and produce more beans. High in protein, it will be a good addition to the meal.

Back to this haiku, I see a person who is taking care of his/her future by “planting the beans.” Line two works here as a perfect hinge and line three brings something more to explore “to unbend myself.” To me, it brings more to this haiku, and shows more struggle.

– Laughing Waters

To me, this brilliant write by Laryalee (Lary) Fraser shows the passing of time and how it affects the present, where the minute to the grandest of changes occurs ever constantly, for nothing is truly stagnant in this ever evolving/de-evolving reality which in this case was the gardener’s posture.

An inspired haiku:

thorny bush
the weed whacker
loses its edge

– Fractled

It makes me think of age. I find it takes me longer to straighten up after a gardening session now. If we want those homegrown beans, it has to be done. I can feel that creak reading this haiku. Ouch.

– Marilyn Ward

It’s very pleasant. I like gardening, so I connect to that. Squatting down and weeding or planting can get rough on the knees, so I take it as a very simple lament on aging and the passing of time. It has a touch of melancholy, but is still light enough. It’s a solid, no-frills haiku. I can feel the stiffness in the speaker’s bones.

– Clayton Beach

Greatit makes me think of how much my back aches these days when I am gardening, ouch!

– Martha Magenta

I like thisit takes you along a path where you expect it to lead you, and all of a sudden, you end up somewhere else. This is clever, takes a matter-of-fact doing and turns it into something bigger than itself. It says one can no longer easily do the things one used to easily do, without coming right out and saying that.

– Dana Grover

Time takes its toll on everyone and in everything we do; as we grow older (and wiser I suppose), chores become more physically demanding… gone are the days when we could do our daily chores with ease, no matter how long it would take us to do these.

Moreover, this ku reminds me of a poem by Archibald MacLeish “The Wild Old Wicked Man” with its first stanza that goes:

“Too old for love and still to love!
Yeat’s predicament and mine – all men’s:
the agind Adam who must strut and shove
and caper his obscene pretense…”

– Willie Bongcaron

I get a lot from this haiku.

Four major interpretations come to mind:

1. To echo the comments made, I see an old farmer or a gardener. I can see the wrinkles of time in his/her face.

2. I also see a young farmer who is slowly recovering from a major surgery or injury, and physically has to move slower in order to heal from it. The first line brings me a sense of youth via planting the new beans. When we bend a bone to such an extent that it breaks and becomes a fracture, the physician makes the repair, and he/she does so so that the body part can remain unbent and be stabilized/immobile, so it can fully heal.

3. I also get the feeling of a person becoming mentally rigid by clinging to narrow and rigid belief systems. As we get older, it seems some people tend to become less flexible in their worldviews (political or otherwise), while others remain more flexible and open-minded. It has been said that what is rigid is bound to break. On the other hand, I’ve read quotes about the strength of flexibility, and it’s vital importance as we learn and grow, like the bean plants. : )

It’s as if planting the new beans is symbolic for a new beginning, as we appear to struggle with the weight of old karma, and the mental conditioning that was forced on us from day one.

4. This haiku reminds us to save our backs and lift from our legs. I’ve read about many job-related injuries at work, where the patient will bend over, and lift heavy objects resulting in lumbar strains/sprains, and chronic low back pain. Even sciatica. All it takes is one sudden movement, and you are in for a long recovery. It has been said, when your back goes, you don’t get it back. Fortunately, we have surgeons that can do remarkable things for people with spinal cord injuries. But, I won’t get into the heavy topics of health insurance or narcotic pain management.

Great haiku!

– Jacob Salzer

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