Cezar-Florin Ciobîcă’s diary

mother’s diary –
between two blank pages
a pressed snowdrop

Cezar-Florin Ciobîcă (Romania)
(previously published in Brass bell: a haiku journal, June, 2014)

What struck me initially about this haiku is the relationship between a personal diary and the life of a snowdrop. The diary is supposed to be about the poet’s mother’s life. However, the pressed snowdrop becomes front and center in this haiku. It transforms into a window in the life of a beautiful flower.

Collecting souvenirs in diaries is common. My father used to do it as well. It is a form of stepping outside of yourself and saying to the reader and the diary writer: look at this. Examine it and discover the world that is this.

In the context of the haiku, I feel the poet looks at the diary of his mother after she has passed away and happens upon the snowdrop pressed between the pages. He then sees the snowdrop as the embodiment of his mother: once delightful but now no more. Their bulbous petals and color also suggest to me that the snowdrop is employed here as a metaphor for motherhood. This is another great example of how haiku bridges the human and natural world.

In each line, the soft sounds of “o” are found. This connects to the subject of motherhood and the passing away of a mother. Punctuation is also employed aptly to make the two parts distinct. Without punctuation, the second line could read as a pivot between lines one and three, which would confuse readers. Lastly, snowdrops appear usually in early spring. This seasonal reference (kigo) works well when we think of it in correlation to a mother: pure, beautiful, and comforting to look at and be around.

Overall, a great snapshot that is charged with background emotion.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)

I feel as if I may have read the whole diary through this one haiku. The nostalgic feelings in this haiku show fond memories of a mother. That itself makes this haiku powerful in many ways.

A diary is a collection of day-to-day memories and events where a person sometimes shares very private feelings, and no one will listen to those feelings. The opening line ‘mother’s diary’ perhaps shows the motherhood experiences of a single mother who wants to be listened to by others but can’t

The blank pages may reflect the hesitation, reluctance, or lack of the right expression. It seems the mother wants to share very deep or private feelings but is unable to do so due to various reasons. It also illustrates how visible those feelings are when you go through the blank pages as the writer skillfully connected the blank pages with a snowdrop. A snowdrop that is cold, invisible, and anonymous may indicate tears, deep pain, traumatic feelings, guilt, and/or regrets.

The overall imagery of this haiku may suggest sadness, loneliness, departure, grief, or deep pain that leaves a mother to remain inexpressive and silent.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

— “Snowdrop” by Clive Nichols

Martin Gottlieb Cohen’s bed wrinkles

between the bed wrinkles winter shadows

Martin Gottlieb Cohen (USA)
Previously published in Shamrock Haiku Journal, Issue 27, 2014

Like most one-line haiku in English (Japanese haiku are almost always written in one vertical line), this can be read in several ways. Readers will probably parse it as:

between the bed wrinkles/winter shadows

But there is also:

between the bed/wrinkles/winter shadows

and:

between the bed wrinkles/winter/shadows

…which all have different flavors. But for this commentary, I will speak about “between the bed wrinkles/winter shadows.”

A bed is an intimate place where we sleep, rest, read a book, watch TV, work on our computer, reproduce, or just daydream. So, having winter shadows tucked away in one’s bed wrinkles seems to be an addition to that intimacy. It is a connection between the natural and human world. When we read this haiku, we feel as if nature is never far away, even when we least expect it.

The imagery, though, is more than just a connection. It conveys a mood. “winter shadows” is a kigo or seasonal reference. When we think of winter shadows, we think of loneliness and reflection. In this context, the poet might be expressing his solitary nature at the time of this being written. However, this loneliness is accompanied by a companion: winter shadows. So, this poem may simultaneously express both loneliness and companionship.

Let’s take a look at the sounds of the haiku. We have two cases of alliteration with “between/bed” and “wrinkles/winter.” I feel the first case allows us to read the phrase more smoothly, while the second case makes us read it more disjointedly. This allows us to see the break in parts of this haiku.

Overall, I enjoy the expression of both loneliness and companionship in succinct imagery, helped powerfully by a kigo.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)

Darkness, shadows, and bed wrinkles—these three aspects can make a night more mysterious. For a moment, this haiku took me back to the time when I used to read mystery novels, which gave me an impetus to read the whole story in one sitting.

The word ‘between’ shows a transition. It also activates our thinking where we immediately start trying to figure out what is happening in the poem. It encourages us to shift our attention to the rest of the poem.

‘bed wrinkles’ is a phrase that can be interpreted in many ways. It shows restlessness, sleeplessness, memories, ageing, nightmares, loneliness, chaos, fatigue, and other physical or mental aspects that make a person change their position while lying down on a bed. It also connects to how life becomes complicated, even when someone tries to take a rest after the long and tiring journey of life. Bed wrinkles shape up like waves, labyrinths, and circles.

Winter shadows reveal the mystery that starts with the word ‘between’. These shadows are deep and dark, which are vivid and influential in many ways. Metaphorically, these shadows relate to traumatic events that cause restlessness and sleeplessness. Mostly, shadows never leave a person, whether of their own or of surroundings. In this monoku, it can be the combination of all types of shadows that collectively disturb the body and soul of a person that overshadows the peace of the night.

This profound monoku depicts the wholeness of life where both the inner and outer world of a person is in a constant flow, which builds the momentum from one reality to another, from one element to another, and makes life more sophisticated in many ways. I feel as if the transformation of one’s thoughts and feelings is inversely proportional to cosmic matters and the environment. That is why the scene ends on a dreamless night.  

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

— Painting by Vincent van Gogh

Srinivas S’s fog

winter night
the fog thickens around
a long lullaby

Srinivas S (India)
(Published in Under the Basho, Modern Haiku Section, 2020)

The silence and darkness of a winter night imply deep feelings on the surface. Also, memories arise that associate with silence and darkness.

In this haiku, the poet is reminiscing about and missing someone—most probably a child who is no more with him. The poet is probably a parent who is sharing his remorseful feelings with the winter night which is reflecting them through silence, fog, and darkness.

The fog thickening is projected mysteriously in this haiku but it shows the depth of loss that one feels deep inside. It can also mean the desire to forget traumatic memories. This can happen when a person sings a long lullaby and gets lost into the past which is getting vague with time and darkness.

The long lullaby also shows the intensity of grief and pain that one bears on a cold night but cannot retain anymore. So, the winter night provides a platform for catharsis and to sing a long lullaby that is heard by no one but the person himself.

I also feel the manifestation of the poet’s childhood in this haiku, where he feels nostalgic and remembers his childhood which had deprivations.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

The first aspect of this haiku that I saw was the association between a winter night and a fog becoming stronger during a lullaby. Nights in winter can be lonely and depressing. The act of a fog thickening while a lullaby is being sung makes it seem like the song itself is being diluted.

Another way to look at it is that the fog becoming thicker is similar to a long lullaby: you get immersed into the melody and get into the “thick” of feeling drowsy. Drowsiness is sometimes referred to as being in a state of fog.

We can also think of the fog coming to listen to the lullaby. In this sense, there is personification in this poem.

The atmosphere of the haiku is at once cozy and melancholic. It is also a bit mysterious, as the phrasing does not give a direct hint about whether the lullaby is being sung outside or inside.

The format of the lines is standard for English-language haiku. A punctuation mark, like a dash or ellipsis, could have been added after the first line to separate the parts of the haiku. However, it is not needed.

The letter “i” is prominent in the first two lines, which illustrates the starkness of the moment. The last line is dominated by “l” sounds, which provide the mood of a lull that a lullaby gives.

This haiku elicits multiple interpretations. This is a sign of a strong haiku. Multi-dimensional poems often create more layers and more resonance.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)

— Painting by Shuncho

Barnabas I. Adeleke’s muezzin’s call

muezzin’s call . . .
Santa Claus steps aside
to make ablutions

Barnabas I. Adeleke (Nigeria)
(previously published in Frogpond, 43.2) 

There are a few haiku that beautifully reflect interfaith harmony and show reverence and respect for every faith. This haiku is one of them.

The muezzin’s call to prayer is not only the call for prayer but also a message of peace for all those who are on the right path. The path that leads to serve humanity and make this world a better place. The writer beautifully blends two faiths based on the common grounds that are reflected in this haiku.

Santa Claus stepping aside is a gesture of reverence and respect not for other faiths but his own. It seems the Santa Claus in this case is a Muslim who took a break for offering a prayer, or it is a metaphor based on the actions a Santa Claus performs that brings happiness to others’ lives during the time of Christmas by distributing presents.

Ablution depicts the purification of the body before one offers a prayer. It is another way to clean one’s self and then serve others. The blend of beliefs and actions are interwoven beautifully in this haiku. It displays religious harmony in a true sense.

The muezzin’s call makes a person purify their body and soul before serving others. It’s an awakening call for all those who believe in peace, prosperity, and happiness.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

Most haiku are based on a season. The mention of Santa Claus sets this haiku firmly in winter and specifically at the time of Christmas. This could be said to be a senryu as well, which usually examines human life and cuts into it with satire, commentary, and societal backlash. 

In the spirit of giving, it seems like the Muslim man who is dressed up as Santa Claus for an event takes a moment out of his work to pray. I feel this is symbolic of how Christmas has turned into less of a Christian tradition and more of a universal holiday that focuses on giving and receiving gifts generously. In the moment described, the man who pretends to be Santa Claus gives a gift to himself: a moment of peace. He also surrenders himself to God, which can be seen as a gift as well. 

There is nothing hypocritical with a Muslim man portraying Santa Claus, by the way. Though Saint Nicholas was a Christian and is the inspiration for the myth of Santa, Islam and Christianity both puts importance on charity. As a side note, Jesus is discussed over 100 times in the Quran. And surprisingly, Mother Mary is mentioned more in the Quran than in both of the Christian testaments.

One way to look at this haiku is that despite acting a part for work, we should never forget who we are and our foundation. The act in the haiku also calls to mind the humbleness and faith one should have as a religious or spiritual person.

In terms of technical aspects, we can see that this was written in the standard format for English-language haiku. In addition, the sound of this poem can be noted in the use of the letters “u,” “s,” and “c.” In each line, “u” is employed, which slows down the reading of this haiku. This allows the reader to imagine the scene better and to feel the calm of prayer.

It is a haiku or senryu that is at once humorous and profound, speaking to interfaith beliefs and the weaving of cultures.

— Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)

egypt3_1650223c

Jay Friedenberg’s soap bubble

children’s laughter
the iridescent sheen
of a soap bubble

Jay Friedenberg (USA)

There is a mixture of emotions that can be found in this haiku. You have children’s laughter and brightness, which are associated with happiness and positivity. However, the mention of a soap bubble supplies an added perspective. The ethereal nature of a soap bubble lends to thoughts of sadness and the limits innocence’s longevity.

This relates to the Japanese aesthetic of “fūryū” which can be described as transitory beauty. Bath time for children is usually playful and memorable. But as an adult, when we see our children enjoying this moment, we may view it with a more introspective eye. We might take note of the transitory nature of childhood innocence and become nostalgic for simpler times.

The word “iridescent” is also important in this haiku. It refers to degrees of luminescence from different angles, and this might point to the fact that the poet is seeing this particular moment from a new view.

There is no kigo, or seasonal reference, mentioned in this haiku, but I would place it in spring. The laughter and joy mixed with melancholic introspection seem appropriate with this season.

Getting more into the technical aspects of this haiku, I think the poet did right by not adding punctuation as a “cutting word” or kireji in the first line. It would have made the first line too long, in my opinion. The length of the lines is standard for English-language haiku, which does its best to follow the go-shichi-go rhythm of Japanese haiku. Also, there is a plenitude of “l”s, “i”s, and “s”s in this poem. Not only does it make it musical, but it adds to the happy but stark nature of this haiku.

Friedenberg, through this poem, has given readers a chance to reflect on their childhood years and to cherish the joy they might have lost. Possibly, this haiku might prompt readers to integrate some of their innocent nature back into their lives. Sometimes we need reminders that life doesn’t always have to be serious. It can be fun and silly, and we can derive happiness from the smallest of things.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)

This beautiful and colorful haiku took me back to my childhood. I started reminiscing about this time of joy and happiness. I can relate to the deep and subtle feelings embedded in the imagery of this haiku that echo back, which creates a soothing impact on the reader’s memory.

In terms of the senses, I can divide this haiku into three parts:

– Line 1 is about hearing children’s laughter

– Line 2 is about seeing the iridescent sheen

– Line 3 could be about touching the soap bubble

Children’s laughter—the sound of a carefree life that starts from our childhood when there is little-to-no sense of responsibility or worldly possessions. The sound of children’s laughter is quite soothing as it has a great impact on the psyche of not only children but also the people who surround them. I take it as laughter therapy that we rarely experience these days but still want to be a part of. Our inner child misses these moments and sometimes, we seek solace in reminiscing about those happy moments that still strike our eardrums softly and make us smile.

The iridescent sheen depicts rainbow colors, the colors of life, and happiness, which connects to laughter. This shows the ‘wholeness’ of life where various colors impact our ‘aura’ and make it beautiful and positive. The sheen is the glow that subtly and miraculously brings light to life, especially in the form of elation and utmost joy. The iridescent sheen also presents hope and positivity in life which helps us to focus on small moments of happiness and the blessings we miss or ignore.

A soap bubble here shows how short our childhood bliss lasts. It also indicates the delicacy and subtlety of moments that we enjoy with our loved ones that unfortunately has a short duration.

Looking at the haiku at a more granular level, as Nicholas said, there are no ellipses in the first line. This makes this poem more open for interpretation and more flexible for enjoying the positive energy that the poet beautifully weaved into it.

To me, this haiku is about gathering our childhood memories related to hearing, seeing, and touching. I loved the way the poet magnified the micro-elements of innocence and positivity, which turned it into a life lesson.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

soap bubble painting

— Painting by Vandy Massey

Francesco Palladino’s lockdown

lockdown
in the flight of a seagull
a little sea

Francesco Palladino (Italy)

The current lockdown has changed our lives so much. We see new dimensions or unique perspectives often. This may be due to shifting from one normal to another which is original and profound in many ways.

In this haiku, the writer finds a subtle yet vivid moment where he feels the delicacy of existence in a beautiful way. The flight of a seagull seems to indicate a set direction in life or set objectives that one has planned before or during the current pandemic. It can also mean that the person has gained maximum mindfulness, where he accomplished his objectives or has had profound learning experiences. The ‘little sea’ to me shows a level of knowledge that is vast and/or an abundance of knowledge due to clear thoughts.

The other aspect of this haiku may be contrary to the above. Maybe, the lockdown and the self-isolation has disturbed the thought process of the narrator, where he lives in an imaginary world and finds his objectives merely an illusion or daydream about them instead of fulfilling them. The ‘little sea’ may be a mirage that comes our way during our daily routine and we seek solace in it until the lockdown is over.

Looking at the sound, the letter ‘l’ shows the stiffness or persistence of a thought process occurring during a lockdown.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

What I enjoyed immediately about this haiku is the pivot in the second line. It can refer to both the first and last lines. In a poem as small as a haiku, this is a powerful technique that creates more layers.
Thus, you can read it as:

1) lockdown in the flight of a seagull/a little sea

or:

2) lockdown/in the flight of a seagull a little sea

The first version is saying that the poet sees the lockdown in the flight of a seagull and he is comparing it to a little sea. The second version is giving the idea that a lockdown is like a little sea, which the flight of a seagull can show.

Both point to a similar theme, in my opinion: within the seagull, and perhaps within all of us, is a sense of isolation but also a grandness. This mix of feelings reflects in the autumn kigo of a seagull (though seagulls can ultimately refer to almost all seasons).

It is interesting to note the use of articles. Employing “the” with “flight” puts a focus on the act of the bird rather than the creature itself. It gives readers something to nibble on in terms of freedom/containment. In this time of quarantine, we struggle to have even basic freedoms.

“a little sea” could be metaphorical but also physical. The seagull could still be wet from a dive or some seaweed could be clinging to its wings while in flight.

As Hifsa noted, the “l” sounds in this haiku work well. I have a bit of a different take, though. I feel this letter in the poem provides a sense of the seagull lilting on the wind, free and at ease.

It seems Palladino is espousing the concept that freedom is present even when we are in a lockdown or have our movement restricted. That we should find inner joy even when our environment becomes demarcated.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)

s-l1600

— “Three Seagulls” by Ohara Koson 1900–1936

Haiku about “dust”

Haiku Commentary had a prompt challenge on Twitter that revolved around the theme of “dust.” Here are our favorite submissions and commentary on them. 

rising dust . . .
the old argument
resettled

— Marion Clarke (Ireland)

The opening line of this haiku alludes to the visibility, progress, and movement of something very intangible and subtle. ‘Dust’ may reflect resilience, hope, positivity, strength, or life. When a person moves on in life with all these characteristics, they find it easier to understand certain realities of life and their underlying meanings.

When we look back into the past, old arguments look vague and meaningless. We hold fast to our points of view over the years and ruin relationships because our state of mind doesn’t accept them or see through them for a better reflection of the causes of those arguments.

The resettling of arguments means a new perspective on past disagreements or the reasons behind those arguments that bring more understanding of life.

— Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

Haiku often showcase two slices of life that contrast in a unique and meaningful way. Here we have the action of rising and resettling juxtaposed, written in a way that can be taken both mundanely and metaphorically.  We can easily imagine by reading this haiku that an argument has settled on an imaginary ground and dust rising from its impact of touching the earth.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)


my childhood memories
a cloud
of chalk dust

— Paul David Mena (USA)

Childhood memories always remain with us no matter how old we are or how hard it is to get through our lives. We always cherish those memories no matter how bittersweet they are. Those flashbacks of the past look like a cloud of chalk dust that we enjoy for a moment and then get back to our routine lives. This also means that vivid memories are fading away either due to life experiences of both childhood or present or due to ageing. In any case, if words have been erased, only chalk dust remains for a short while. A cloud also shows fading memories or forgetting, where a person loses the details of childhood memories and has only short glimpses of their childhood.

The word ‘my’ depicts the personal experiences of the poet where he finds it hard to remember those memories. The letter ‘c’ in this haiku displays the half circle of those memories that result in mere images or glimpses from childhood without having any significant details.

— Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

I have written plenty of haiku on childhood memories and can say that it is quite difficult to do so. Mena has composed one with power and brevity in a seemingly effortless fashion (the trick is to make it look effortless when it is not). “Chalk dust” has many implications, as it pertains to education, writing, purity, innocence, and possibly more.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)


dust on your photos
the last fragments of you
that remain

— Shane Pruett (USA)

While the poet is looking at photos of a beloved of his, there remain parts of this person that are still technically alive on the pictures: the individual’s dust. This brings about an extra layer of sadness because even though a part of this person is still with the poet, it is a part that is non sentient and cannot interact with him. This haiku might reflect the Japanese aesthetic of mono no aware (物の哀れ), which is about the pathos and transience of things, and that sometimes brings about beauty in melancholy.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)

There are certain memories in life that we want to forget but cannot as they leave deep imprints on our minds and hearts. But still, time is considered as the best healer. So, the memories of loved ones remain as mere dust.

Specks of dust on photos, metaphorical flashbacks, or vivid memories are fading away or not getting the importance they deserve. This may be due to a change in priorities or other perspectives of life or ageing when someone cannot remember certain things of the past or ignore them.

In this haiku, ‘last fragments’ show the loosening of memories that the narrator once held dear. These fragments are dust, which also shows the annihilation of memories.
Ultimately, this haiku speaks about the transformation of a relationship from a tangible personal touch to the intangible thoughts and memories that later fizzle out in the dust of time.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)


an attic window sill
a wasp curls
into its own dust

— Alan Summers (England)
Haiku of Merit: Ginko & Kukai event with Professor Hoshino Tsunehiko (1997)
Pub. Yomiuri Shimbun Go-Shichi-Go On-Line Language Lab (Japan, 2005)

An attic window sill is a place where many creatures yearn for their dreams and rest for a moment or two and then fly away. An attic window may be a reflection of memories where a person finds themselves close to their inner self and feel protected.

The analogy of a wasp who curls into its dust may indicate the protection that we acquire after time. When we relate this to human life, our experiences reshape our potential and abilities where we can transcend and transform with time. The connection between ‘attic’ and ‘dust’ shows the stages of maturity that we gain phase by phase and eventually gain the maturity level where the outcomes of those experiences become our strength and protect us from an unseen future. ‘Dust’ may also reflect the annihilation where a person bends down due to either ageing or the brunt of the past that they bury under the dust of time or death.

The articles ‘an’ and ‘a’ project the individual experiences of a person that are more subtle but profound. The letter ‘w’, I feel, gives a sense of the ups and downs in life that reshape our intellect and bring ultimate maturity until death.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

To me, the act of the wasp curling into its own dust is representative of an attic itself: self-contained, enclosed, and a place of possible loneliness. The wasp being at the windowsill adds more to the pathos of this haiku, as it indicates that the wasp wished to leave the stuffy attic for its free life outside. It brings into question humanity’s relationship with nature and makes us think about how we can live in more synchronicity with the natural world.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)

5982985-KTKJFJFX-7

— “Dust Haze” by Steffie Wallace

Jacob Salzer’s intruder

THE INTRUDER

You stole her computer, her jewelry, and her credit cards, and bought things from companies around the world.

Yes, they cleaned up the shattered glass you left behind. And they have a new alarm system now, with a fence that nobody can climb.

You too are bound by the laws of karma. I just hope the seeds of karma will soon be destroyed before they grow into a vast, criminal tree.

morning mist . . .
the prisoner’s breath lingers
above barbed-wire

Jacob Salzer (USA)
(previously published Contemporary Haibun OnlineJanuary 2020)

This haibun (prose and haiku) starts with the worldly possessions of a person whom he loves. The computer, jewelry, and credit cards all show the signs of luxuries that a person possesses. The word ‘stole’ means that a person has either taken away all these luxuries or made her deprived of worldly comfort.

Having only shattered glass left behind indicates the mark of a broken relationship where there is nothing left. So, when someone enjoys worldly possessions by destroying others, their own life becomes more barren and destroyed as the analogy of seeds and trees in this haibun beautifully explains.

The morning mist reflects the confusion and chaos where there is no clear picture of what is right and what is wrong, and what is beyond the thick layer of mist that becomes a barrier. The prisoner’s breath could signify the efforts of an enslaved person who is so lost in worldly possessions and mundane life that they forget the consequences and put their life at stake. The barbed wire is another way of making a person conscious of their deeds whilst committing criminal activities.

Overall, the morning mist is like a ‘pleasure’, the prisoner’s breath is like their ego, and the barbed wire is their superego. The overall imagery of this haibun revolves around seeking pleasure by wrongdoings and eventually being caught up in the web of karma, where things that come around, go around. The pleasure principle takes a person to the verge of destruction where they lose their values, principles, and ethics, which destroys everything just to gain worldly wealth and temporary comfort. But when they get caught, they find themselves merely a sign of destruction.

The title of this haibun is quite intriguing as ‘intruder’ is any foreign or outer attraction that takes our focus away from the self, and we get lost into the luxuries of life until we achieve nothing.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

I like how this haibun is laid out into short paragraphs that are no longer than two sentences each. It makes the content easily digestible and stark. 

It is interesting how Salzer creates a narrative with the wrongdoing being demonstrated in the prose and the result of that action in the haiku. A lot of times, haibun make a leap of subjects and do not necessarily create a plot. Both methods are viable and in the case of this haibun, it creates pathos. 

The morning mist is free and travels where it wills. But with the prisoner, even their breath “lingers above the barbed-wire.” So, this could signify that the criminal in this story is locked away within and without. 

With an eye of sound, it is intriguing to note that each paragraph of the prose begins with the letter “y.” Also, in the haiku, we have the alliteration of “m” and a strong string of “r” sounds. The letter “r” is hard and brings about the roughness of life in prison to the reader’s mind. 

The meter of the haiku is also punchy and seems to reflect the violence of the criminal’s situation. Take the second line for example: the Prisoner’s Breath Lingers.

I feel that overall, Salzer conveyed a sense of remorse for both of the parties: the victim and the thief. An essential principle of haiku is to covey compassion, and this haibun is a fine example of this idea. 

Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)

Morning-Mist

– Painting by Ria Hills

Praniti Gulyani’s first hijab

my first hijab . . .
a shadow
on the flower

Praniti Gulyani (India)

(Previously published in Old Song: Red Moon Anthology, 2017)

The opening line of this haiku indicates the first experience of a person wearing a hijab (veil) which is significant in terms of its religious, cultural, and social value. A first hijab also means that a girl has entered into puberty where she has to cover herself up as a means of her protection when she is interacting with a world full of strangers and experiencing a different perspective of life that is more mature.

A shadow, in my opinion, means the self-reflection of one’s thoughts about drawing a line to protect herself from the outer world. A new self-image that is more careful and thoughtful. This shadow can also be the fears that a woman holds in her youth regarding her body, beauty, and self. Through a hijab, she is trying to keep herself away from the darkness of the outer world.

It is like a flower that unfurls and reaches the stage of blossom where many insects and seasons ruin its beauty and loses the charm of life.

The use of an ellipsis after ‘hijab’ indicates the deepest feelings of a person, which is more than merely a piece of cloth.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

What drew me to this haiku was the topic of “hijab” which is not a common theme in this art form, and that the second part of the poem is open to many powerful associations. 

As Hifsa mentioned, donning a hijab is part of the process of coming of age for a Muslim girl. Going through puberty as a girl is not something I’m familiar with as a man, but I can see the possible mixed emotions that it would bring. You are at once excited and scared for what becoming a young woman can entail. Perhaps the second part of the haiku is speaking about a more universal experience of one’s innocence being tainted. The poet, it seems, is expressing this through the lens of her religious and cultural experience. 

I feel each word and line break in this haiku is deliberate and potent. It has a serious tone and is not celebratory. In my opinion, the pacing of the poem is telling the reader “take this seriously” as the weight of the words can be felt palpably. 

In haiku, we speak of kigo, or seasonal references. “First hijab” can be said to be a kigo as it refers to a certain period of time. We can also say that wearing one’s first hijab could signify the spring of one’s life.

What is also interesting to note is the relation between the shadow and a hijab’s color, which is traditionally black. The correlation between the two parts of the haiku becomes even more apparent when considering this. 

I like that Gulyani did not explain what kind of flower she was referring to. That would detract from the power of mentioning her first hijab. It would also make the haiku too heavy with three distinct subjects to consider. “Flower” has many references, spiritually, physically, and metaphorically. I will leave it to the reader to puzzle over them in the context of this haiku.

Finally, I want to take note of its technicalities. Though the first line is the longest, which is traditionally short, I believe having “my” in the poem is important. Without it, the haiku would not be perceived as so personal. The brevity of the poem is commendable and no word is wasted. The poem seems to have been written effortlessly, but I doubt it. The best poems seem natural on the page, but behind them, there are sometimes hours and days of work. In terms of the sound, the “i”s in the first line make it stark and the “o” sounds in the last two lines slow down the pace, which is effective with such a short poem. 

Gulyani has written a unique and personal haiku that needs to be heard. It has resonance, brevity, and flow. Not only that, but she has also written about a substantial subject with the weight it deserves.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA) 

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– Painting by nysahanny  

 

 

Alan Summers’ duskfall

duskfall…
the moon bumps
into a paperboat

Alan Summers (UK)
(Published previously in The Heron’s Nest vol. XXI no. 4, 2019)

It’s difficult sometimes to summarize a whole story into the shortest possible amount of words, but when someone does it, it becomes a masterpiece. This haiku is one of those masterpieces that shows why haiku is considered as one of the finest forms of creative writing.

‘Duskfall’ with an ellipsis gives the imagery of a silent yet sad evening where there are no activities. The word itself shows the ending of life when dusk has fallen and is followed by darkness. But, the ending of life can also mean a new beginning that is deeper in nature. It looks like the locus of control is shifting from the outer world to the inner one where subtle aspects of nature get active and replace worldly life.

In this haiku, I can see both outer and inner aspects of life where outer life activities gradually enter into the night and let night complete the rest of the story. The moon bumping into a paper boat shows how things delicately work out of realities, especially when they enter into the night where a moon gradually comes close to Earth and touches the temporary or fragile part of life, which is a paper boat in this case.

Hifsa Ashraf (Pakistan)

Mr. Summers is often experimental and inventive in his choice of words and phrasing. In this haiku, “duskfall” is one such example. It is not a recognized word by the majority of dictionaries but it is intuitively understood. It has a potent imagistic sense to it, with the motion of dusk falling either into place or dropping away. I prefer to think it is the former. As Hifsa pointed out, the ellipsis helps to create movement as well.

The next two lines provide a startling but calming image of the moon bumping into a paper boat. However, we can discern that the moon is not actually hitting the paper boat, but its reflection is.

A fun part of reading this haiku is figuring out the connection between the first line and the next two lines. The haiku seems to say: “the coming of dusk is like the moon’s reflection bumping into a paper boat.” A lot could be interpreted from this, but I feel that the image gives rise to mystery and magic.

What is also curious is that Mr. Summers plays with color with the two parts: dusk being black and the moon and paper boat being white. In a way, the coming of the blackness accentuates the white. I get a sense that the poem could be speaking of yin and yang: the sky and the earth, the night and day, are intertwined and balance each out.

Besides all this thought, witnessing the moment described would be joyous and spectacular, especially in the quiet of dusk. Like in any poetry, haiku have a layer of mental interpretation and a layer of mood/atmosphere. Understanding both can give us a comprehensive picture of a poem.

Another feeling I get from this haiku is the beauty of the “o” sounds in “moon,” “into,” and “paperboat.” These long syllables slow down the poem and create the scene of dusk potently.

It’s difficult to write an original haiku about the moon after 100s of years of tradition of doing so. Mr. Summers has done it through his unique juxtaposition, word choice, and imagery.

Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA)

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– Painting by Gareth Naylor.