Vladislav Hristov’s no man’s land

no man’s land
between two graves
thin strip of grass

Vladislav Hristov (Bulgaria)

Scarlet Dragonfly, May 20, 2022


The first line is impactful because “no man’s land” is a term used during trench warfare (as the land between opposing trenches during a war). Such a desolate scene explains why this saying exists because no human survives in that stretch of land. However, in another sense, I think “no man’s land” could also mean a severe disconnect between humans and the Earth (i.e. it could mean two humans in this haiku didn’t feel connected with the land, but now their remains are buried in Mother Earth). Reclaiming land that was once seemingly devoid of life and labeled “no man’s land” shows the regenerative power of Mother Earth. Reincarnation also comes to mind as a possibility in the third line.

An impactful haiku that depicts the space between life & death, and between war & Nature.

— Jacob D. Salzer

The haiku starts with a strong statement of ‘no man’s land’, indicating the miseries of war. It shows how power and conflict end in nothing but annihilation. This also reminds us how irrelevant life and worldly boundaries are after the death of people in war. I also see it as a defeat where one may claim a piece of land after winning a war but that land is also used to bury victims.

‘Between two graves’ may symbolize two countries or boundaries of two countries that are doomed in a war, or destroyed enough to look like graves. I see it as the graves of unknowns who may be foes or feud but now are buried on the same land, side by side, facing the consequences of hate simultaneously.

I like the third line of this haiku which projects exactly the harsh realities and miseries that countries face due to disastrous conflicts. It shows despair, conflict, and cynicism that does not end even after a war. A ‘thin strip of grass’ may look like a sword, tongue, or the fragility of life after conflict which leads to more hatred and fear. It shows how one war leads to another where those in power do not think about martyrs or victims.

It’s a vicious cycle of hostility that goes on from one generation to another, from one country to another, and it ends nowhere but the massive destruction and death of countless precious lives.

Hifsa Ashraf

One of the potent features of this haiku is its pivot in the second line. “between two graves” can lend to both the first and third lines. It can be read as “no man’s land between two graves/thin strip of grass” or “no man’s land/between two graves thin strip of grass.”

There is no mention or implication of a kigo (seasonal reference). Yet, kigoless haiku have been written for hundreds of years. These haiku are called muki.

In terms of toriawase, or how things are combined, we have the solemnity of the graves and the thin strip of grass. The grass, though occupying a small area, becomes enlarged in our minds. Its importance becomes significant and represents sadness and cynicism.

There is no punctuation, but this seems reasonable in order for the pivot line to work. In English-language haiku, often punctuation is omitted in favor of the line break and a pivot line.

The pacing is the standard of English-language haiku, which is a short first line, a longer second line, and a short third line. This format approximates the rhythm of Japanese haiku.

Looking at the sound, the letter “a” is the most prominent. These long syllables bring gravity to the haiku. The “o”s in the poem also elongate the syllables.

Lastly, the language is simple and the composition is concise while conveying a poignant scene. Hallmarks of fine haiku.

This haiku describes something we might have seen many times but have not given its due importance. The poem also displays a relationship between the natural world and humanity, no matter how slight. Even a small connection can feel big in the eyes of the perceiver.

Nicholas Klacsanzky

Painting by Giles Watson. “Wayland’s Smithy.”

Randy Brooks’ row

digging potatoes
her story reaches the end
of the row

Randy Brooks (USA)


I appreciate how this haiku transports me to a farm, where digging potatoes is both a source of sustenance and a way to earn a living. I also appreciate how this haiku transports me back in time before we had cellphones and were more connected with the Earth. While this haiku may seem simple at first, I see deep implications. 

This haiku reminds me that words travel fast, but not always accurately. If the original story is heard by someone who tries to retell the story to someone else, the story can change subtly or more drastically from person to person. As a result, this haiku shows us the dangers of mistranslations and misunderstandings when stories are told and retold, especially by word of mouth. By the end of the row, the person may have heard a story that is much different from the original version. If this happens, there can be dissonance and profound consequences.

On the other hand, this haiku could have a positive connotation if her story is passed down accurately from person to person. Sharing stories was (and still is) a way to bond with each other and can help make the day more enjoyable too.

In Indigenous families, they have a remarkable way of preserving ancient stories by word of mouth from generation to generation. Storytelling is a deep and integral part of their culture and has continued over thousands of years. Many of their stories have also been recorded in English through books and transcripts. A good example is a book titled Indian Legends of the Pacific Northwest compiled by Ella E. Clark. I admire how Indigenous myths and legends contain important lessons that can be applied today, even though they are very old. 

I want to thank Randy Brooks for writing and sharing this haiku with us. This is an important philosophical and social haiku with depth and meaning.

 — Jacob D. Salzer 

It’s the ambience that makes this haiku concrete, digging into one’s life and seeing its harvest. This haiku also shows the hardship of a farmer’s life who expects something good in the end. Digging potatoes can relate to garnering a reward after the toil of work—a prize in the form of energy, taste, sustenance, and memories.

‘her story’ is a turning point in this haiku. It may tell us about the life of a farmer, a housewife, a worker, or a mother who has to feed her family. Digging potatoes may be correlated to planting dreams, wishes, or memories, and waiting for the harvest season for fruitful results. In this metaphorical harvesting, support (tools) aid her in gathering what she has worked towards.

This haiku is crafted very well. The words that are used let us wander through the various stories of her life. Her story reaching the end may reflect her ageing, fatigue, departure, failure, or success. The word ‘row’ in this haiku is carefully employed. From it, we can see the multi folds of this story that may indicate a poor family relationship, hardship without reward or encouragement, certain expectations from others of the harvest, or a dispute. The other side may be the row as a path that has taken her to her destiny, which may be both good and bad. I see here the chances we are given when we work hard. It depends on the path we have taken, the decisions or choices we have made, and the resilience or patience we have shown.

With no well-defined kigo, no punctuation, and an interesting line break in the second line, this haiku is worth reading again and again. It gives much for the reader to ponder.

Hifsa Ashraf

As Hifsa mentioned, there is no particular kigo, or seasonal reference, implied in this haiku. However, with the best times to harvest potatoes being in August to September in Illinois (where the poet lives), we could place the poem in those months. With the melancholy mood of this haiku, I feel it could be September.

There is no kireji or cut marker, but there is a grammatical shift starting in the second line. In the interaction between the two parts of the haiku, it seems the potatoes could be a metaphor for the story of the person being referenced. Perhaps, her history is hearty and rich, yet relatable.

The use of the word “row” and “end” intrigues me. I see different levels for each word to be read into. The person in question could be narrating a story until she reaches the end of the row of potatoes. Or, it could be that the woman or girl could have planted the potatoes and they are her story. This could imply her passing. While digging out the potatoes, the poet could be taking out her story, one by one.

In terms of sound, the letter “o” attracts me the most. The elongated syllables make the haiku more plaintive, matching the mood. I feel the letter “r” accentuates the seriousness of the imagery,

Looking at the pacing, the lines follow the standard for English-language haiku of a short first line, a longer second line, and a short third line. This approximates the rhythm of traditional Japanese haiku.

Ultimately, it seems the most potent quality of this haiku is its white space and double meanings in its imagery. With these, the haiku resonates in unexpected ways.

Nicholas Klacsanzky

“Woman Digging Up Potatoes,” Vincent van Gogh

Kelly Sargent’s campfire sparks

campfire sparks 
slip away

Kelly Sargent (USA)

(published previously in Frogpond, 45:1, 2022; Touchstone Award for Individual Poems nominee 2022)


“Campfire sparks” is a vivid image. It lets us pause and imagine the scene, which is realistic yet imaginative and subtle in several ways. One can wonder about the setting, which can be either a recreational camp or a refugee camp. It connects us with both sides of the story (visible/tangible and invisible/intangible) where one can see not only the mundane but also the spiritual side.

In addition, campfire sparks show transience but it also reflects how beautifully they are transformed from the ashes of wood into something that carves the darkness with their unique structure. However, they also demonstrate how our existence can become fragile over time, especially when it passes through hardship like the wood in a fire.

Teenage is a period where an individual’s personality is developing and reshaping. This is a stage of life when the focus can be more on heroism and risks that may end up in thrills and joy. Teenagers may concentrate less on lessons that nature displays than adults. Teenagers usually can’t see the subtlety or delicacy of life and its realities that spark off and on. This is shown in the closing line where the poet takes us from a vivid image to something that disappears either as part of the subconscious or as a memory.

With no punctuation and soft sounds in this haiku, the poem is more open for interpretation. I liked the way sparks are highlighted and well connected with perhaps the most significant part of life.

Hifsa Ashraf

Campfire sparks are a powerful visual to start with. The sparks can speak to our primeval life and spirituality. The word “campfire” could be referring to a student camp or a fire made while camping—both are relatable for readers.

The focus on teenagers is interesting. It is a peculiar age to be, as one is in the middle of being a child and an adult. It is easy to be unsure of oneself at that age. With “slip away,” I feel there are several dimensions to it in the context of teenagers. The teens could simply be bored and want to go away to do other things instead of being around a campfire. Or, “slip away” could be more metaphoric in that teens often seem distant from parents and loved ones. It could also have a more somber meaning in that many teenagers commit suicide or follow a path that leads to an early death.

This kind of haiku is difficult to write in terms of the subject matter, but I believe the poet did well in keeping it simple and concise.

Nicholas Klacsanzky

As a spark proceeds from the fire, it has been said jivas (individual souls) with their respective karma emanate from Shiva (universal Divinity). 

I feel the campfire could be a summer kigo, though I like that this haiku could apply to any season or time of year.

I feel the campfire resembles the emotions of teenagers (which are often difficult to self-manage) and passion. The teenagers slipping away could imply impatience and wanting to express love, away from society and its conditioning. I also see the fire as a symbol of the transience of a human lifetime, though I do believe in life after death. 

There is a balance of concrete imagery and mystery in this haiku, allowing us as readers to enter the experience in our own way. Teenage years are a challenging time. A powerful haiku.

Jacob D. Salzer

Photo Credit: Public Domain

Agnieszka Filipek’s maidenhair fern

old church wall
maidenhair fern
climbing to heaven

Agnieszka Filipek (Ireland)
(previously published in The Remembered Arts Journal)


In the first line, we get an image that communicates limitations and history. The word “old” in relation to the church wall is relative, given the structure stands on Mother Earth, who is much older. But of course, the old church also carries many years and memories within its walls. 

The focus on the church wall itself could be an image of old church ruins, though not necessarily. This interpretation could bring a sense of loss for people who once identified with the old church as part of their identity. Now all that remains could be fragments of its walls.

In the second and third lines, I feel a spiritual liberation, outside the confined physical and psychological walls of the church. I am reminded that Mother Earth Herself is the original cathedral, in which wisdom is not found in words, but in spiritual energies and silences. I am also reminded that stone structures will not stand the test of time, but Mother Earth has and prevails.

This is an important haiku that offers a portal into the limitations of certain organized religions and their architecture, juxtaposed with the ancient and mysterious power & silences of Mother Earth and the afterlife. A powerful haiku.

Jacob D. Salzer

What drew me to this haiku was the image of the maidenhair fern climbing to “heaven.” There are a few things to unpack here. The lovely shape of maidenhair fern leaves is a sight of beauty, charm, and sweetness. This in contrast with the old church wall makes for a striking image. Also, maidenhair ferns have religious and/or spiritual significance, as noted by the website The Joy of Plants

“The scientific name Adiantum derives from the Greek and means roughly ‘does not get wet’. When it rains the stems droop and the water rapidly slides off the leaves, so that the plant itself does not appear to become wet. In the symbolism of plants the maidenhair fern therefore represents purity and innocence, meanings that also recur in the ancient legend that said that someone is still a virgin if they can hold a branch of maidenhair fern without the leaves moving.”

The mention of a virgin should direct you to the Virgin Mary, with various interpretations. But, it seems what is of more importance is that the fern is a symbol of purity and innocence in a place such as an old church. It gives me a thought of paganism versus organized religion and how the elemental world may once again reclaim power over our lives in the current international decline of religious fervor. This haiku also makes me contemplate how the natural world reclaims human-made structures with grace and quiet. 

The word “heaven” can relate to a religious heaven or the physical heavens or cosmos. There could also be a painting of heaven in the old church that the fern is climbing towards. 

In terms of kigo, or a seasonal reference, the maidenhair fern is found in Ireland from June to September. So, maybe it is a summer-to-early-autumn kigo. This haiku does not have punctuation or any other approximation to kireji (cutting word), but there is a clear grammatical break after the first line. Looking at the pacing, the lines do not follow the usual English-language haiku lengths of a short first line, a longer second line, and a short third line. However, I find making the last line longer as if the climb to heaven is arduous is suiting. Finally, the soft sounds of the letters “o” and “l” provide sensitivity to the reading. 

This is a haiku with judicious use of imagery and symbolism. It drives us to contemplate religion, the natural world, and original innocence. 

Nicholas Klacsanzky

This is one of the best examples of metaphoric haiku where the opening line ‘old church wall’ makes it significant as it sets the direction. I wonder whether it is about a physical wall or used as an analogy where something protects or sets limits for certain beliefs. I take it as a traditional practice of religion or something/someone that holds their beliefs firm no matter how difficult the path is.

The maidenhair fern is quite delicate, though it can survive in a moderate environment. I see it as how balanced thoughts and beliefs help someone to achieve eternal blessings that may be referred to as ‘heaven’ in this case. The simple message behind this haiku may seem religious but it represents something universal: a way to live life by following the moderate path. This path can be rewarding here as well in the hereafter and brings happiness and satisfaction which one seeks as the most significant purpose of life.

Hifsa Ashraf

Painting by Joni Murphy

Hassane Zemmouri’s butterfly hunt

butterfly hunt…
the child comes back
with a wounded knee

Hassane Zemmouri (Algeria)
(published previously in Kontinuum, Issue 3, July 2022)


I feel that this haiku is possibly written from a memory of the poet’s childhood, as butterfly hunting was much more common in earlier times. It could also be a parent or grandparent teaching the child how to hunt butterflies in this modern day. In any case, this haiku displays innocence and the power of nature. The twist at the end can make the reader believe that the butterfly hit the child on the knee, which is at once humorous and a reminder of nature’s sway over us. Most likely, the child tripped and/or fell while running after a beautiful specimen and scraped their knee. In the child’s attempt to disturb another being, a lesson is learned about how powerless we are in the face of the natural world: even an entity as minuscule as a butterfly can escape our ingenious ways.

I could not help, as an American, thinking about the Wounded Knee Massacre (better known as The Battle of Wounded Knee). Though the poet is from Algeria, I felt the haiku has resonance with this event in that it was an attack on innocence. As History.com states:

“On December 29, the U.S. Army’s 7th Cavalry surrounded a band of Ghost Dancers under Big Foot, a Lakota Sioux chief, near Wounded Knee Creek and demanded they surrender their weapons. As that was happening, a fight broke out between an Indian and a U.S. soldier and a shot was fired, although it’s unclear from which side. A brutal massacre followed, in which an estimated 150 Indians were killed (some historians put this number at twice as high), nearly half of them women and children. The cavalry lost 25 men. The conflict at Wounded Knee was originally referred to as a battle—the Army troops involved were later rewarded with Medals of Honor—but in reality it was a tragic and avoidable massacre. Surrounded by heavily armed troops, it’s unlikely that Big Foot’s band would have intentionally started a fight. Some historians speculate that the soldiers of the 7th Cavalry were deliberately taking revenge for the regiment’s defeat at Little Bighorn in 1876.”

This haiku can also be a general symbol of the consequences of attacking guiltless parties out of ignorance, which can be seen throughout history in almost all regions of the world. 

So, this haiku, from my perspective, has a mix of humor, tragedy, and history. Through its simple language and ending twist, it implies a poignant message. 

Nicholas Klacsanzky

Is it a hunt for a butterfly or something more subtle, invisible, and deep? This was the first thought that came into my mind when I read this haiku. A butterfly hunt is not as easy as it looks, especially when a person is not fully focused. I see it as if a child wants to follow their dreams or is curious about the trail of a butterfly, which is usually mystical or difficult to trace. It shows how a curious mind looks deep into certain realities of life that cannot be easily grasped or comprehended. More specifically, this moment could be about how a child goes on an expedition that is beyond what is unseen but still exists—maybe a pursuit of fantasies or dreams tickled by their imagination. The ending is more dramatic in this case, especially when one strives to go beyond certain realities, or struggles with what path to take to kill a certain curiosity or to understand the subtleties of life.

On the other hand, I see this as a retrospection where a person regresses to their childhood, which was more memorable or contains deep memories. Butterflies may symbolize life, dreams, or happiness here and the child struggled hard to achieve joy or goals from the beginning. It also gives us a lesson about how we cannot achieve anything without struggle, with a physical one manifesting as a wounded knee in this poem. Overall, this haiku illustrates the crux of life: there is no shortcut to achieving something of significance.

Hifsa Ashraf

I feel this haiku speaks of consequences, the limits of human thought patterns/mental programming, and the gentle (and bold) power of Mother Earth.

On first read, the word “hunt” seems to imply wanting to conquer and capture the butterfly. The reasons are unclear, but I feel the child likely has a mix of curiosity and the desire to dominate, perhaps with the intent to put the butterfly in the box of scientific analysis. We don’t know how old the child is in this haiku, which creates a range of interpretations and meanings, as Nick and Hifsa have expressed.

The butterfly could be a summer or spring kigo. Either way, in the end, I feel the butterfly in this haiku got away. 

Butterflies play a vital role in pollination and complex ecosystems. As is stated on the Portland State University website:

“[Butterflies] are also extremely important ecologically. Butterflies pollinate flowering plants and serve as food for other organisms, thus forming an important link in the food chain. Populations have declined in recent decades, owing to increased pesticide use (especially herbicides); loss of fencerows; urbanization and other destruction of habitat; and loss of caterpillar host and nectar plants. Managing your garden for butterflies can help conserve butterfly populations as well as greatly enhance a traditional garden.”

Source: https://extension.psu.edu/gardening-for-butterflies

In terms of sound, the soft and long “o” sounds in the haiku carry gentleness, while, in contrast, the hard “t” and “k” sounds have a bold and immediate emphasis.

In the end, while science has its place, I feel if we only see through its limitations we can become blind to the spiritual power and mystery of Mother Earth. This haiku reminds me that curiosity has its limits and dangers as well. I feel a balance is needed between Science and Spirit, between wonder and logic—otherwise, as a species, if we lack sensitivity and reverence, we may take the consequences. 

An interesting haiku with layers of depth, significance, and meaning.

Jacob D. Salzer

“The butterfly hunt” by Berthe Morisot  (1841–1895)

Kala Ramesh’s wood-deep echo

again the wood-deep echo of a cuckoo’s song

Kala Ramesh (India)

(previously published in Heliosparrow Haiku Journal, March 2021)


I appreciate the synesthesia between sound and imagery in this monoku. “wood-deep echo” harbors a deep silence that is beautiful, mysterious, and almost haunting. I also visualize the cuckoo’s song resonating with the rings hidden inside trees. This creates a sense of harmony where the cuckoo and the forest have become one. I can hear the cuckoo’s song and echoes resonating within the poet’s quiet presence as well. I experience this myself as I read this too. I am transported into the scene. I can imagine the cuckoo’s song creating ripples in consciousness itself and perhaps simultaneously extending into past lives and the future.

This is an excellent monoku with depth, meaning, and a strong atmosphere.

Jacob D. Salzer

This monoku has a series of variations that make it dynamic and deep. I read it in many ways to get the layers of various themes that the poet tried to discuss.

It starts with ‘again’ which means there is a repetition of whatever is following it. It also shows the curiosity of the person who is passing through the same experience again and enjoying it fully.

The wood-deep echo may allude to memories, news, imagination, or illusions that a person feels or listens to due to deep silence, meditation, or wind. However, it seems the person has a deep connection where they want to hear what is pleasant to the ears or what is more distinctive than other voices. This also reflects a state of mind that is calm, still, and focused. A cuckoo’s song refers to something special—like in Indian mythology, a cuckoo’s song is related to the beginning of the monsoon season.  

Overall, it is a deeply personal experience of a moment that connects the person with what is going on and what is coming after. It also signifies the relationship between nature and human nature that is tightly woven with the senses. I see it as meditative where a person tries to attune to the cuckoo’s song which brings joy in their life sooner or later. 

Hifsa Ashraf

As Hifsa mentioned, the cuckoo’s song is commonly a harbinger of the monsoon season. Since the poet is from India, this can be said to be a kigo (seasonal reference) local to this country. Traditionally, the cuckoo is a kigo for about every season in Japan and a beloved bird of that country. A famous haiku magazine in Japan is named Hototogisu (cuckoo), which started in 1897.

There is no kireji, or cutting word, in this haiku. However, there is a grammatical pause after “again” which makes the haiku either two parts or one. In the English language, kireji are not commonly used in one-line haiku.

Even though there is only one image at face value, there are two considering the word “again.” The depth and ethereal nature of the cuckoo’s echo is repeated with all of its richness. The echo is wood-deep perhaps because some cuckoos nest inside trees. This richness of sound, when repeated, can bring about a sense of bliss and spirituality. The song is also a union of tree and bird, which makes it even more robust.

Kala Ramesh’s haiku often showcase euphony, and this monoku is no exception. The soothing “o”s and soft “n”s create a melodic reading—as if the cuckoo was singing through the haiku.

This haiku has a timeless feel to it, as I feel it can be read in any era and can resonate. A classic, yet modern work.

Nicholas Klacsanzky

Sumi-e by Ogata Gekko

Michael Buckingham Gray’s circling osprey

circling osprey
closing a hole
in the clouds

Michael Buckingham Gray (Australia)
(published previously in Presence, 74, 2022)


In my first reading, the imagery spoke of a sense of completeness and union. With the circling osprey in a “hole,” the cloud gains back its full cover over the sky. This could symbolize the uniformity of us all ultimately or that the clouds and the ospreys are the same (and everything else as well).

Knowing that ospreys circle in the air during courtship, this haiku takes on new interpretations. The serendipity of the cloud’s hole being covered by the courting ospreys shows that random acts, and even intentional ones, sometimes change the things that surround it. I don’t know if there is any objective sense of “good” in the imagery, but with the word “hole,” I feel as if something is being resolved. It is a feeling of positivity that is more intuitive. Perhaps, the most favored type of haiku is felt and understood intuitively.

A lovely, succinct haiku that presents exacting imagery and a special feeling.

Nicholas Klacsanzky

An osprey is a fish-eating bird of prey known for its migratory habit. The colour of its feathers and long-range flight makes it one of the most unique birds. A circling osprey is linked with the act of courtship, which is also called a sky dance. There may be other reasons for circling, though i.e. reducing energy for a flight, a balancing act of staying in the sky to stay within the thermals, or a way to prepare for migration. In any case, I can see it as a mode of survival that the bird has by having non-verbal communication with its surroundings and symbolically giving a message to its female partner or prey. This is how birds demonstrate how powerful every move or gesture they make is.

I can also see a whirlpool in the sky that is formed as a result of merging both the white features of the osprey and the clouds. It is a kind of beauty that fills the void in the sky, as the rest of this poem says. “Closing a hole in the clouds” is how powerfully and energetically a bird can fly in the sky so that one cannot see any flaws or blueness of the sky. It’s a beautiful, meditative image of covering what is yet to be completed. Life is full of such voids that need our ways of dealing with them by using our abilities and energies in the right direction.

This haiku seems to give a lesson on how one can turn things in their favour by using the right energies at the right time and by having faith in their unique potential.

Hifsa Ashraf

The clouds in this haiku could depict autumn, winter, or spring. To visualize only one hole makes me think the clouds are thick. I do think kigo (seasonal references) in haiku are not always categorized rigidly by the four seasons but can depict transitions between the seasons throughout the year.

In terms of sound, the letter “c” takes precedence and amplifies the circling motion. Also, the “o” sound brings a sense of wholeness where even the hole is an important part of the bigger picture. A see the hole in the clouds as a kind of portal into another dimension. In that sense, perhaps the Ospreys could be the gatekeepers to another realm. 

The movement of circling also reminds us of the cycles of life, and that even when we have apparent holes in our life, we are never alone. The clouds too are impermanent, as is the temporary hole.

There is no kireji or a hard break in this haiku. The poem can be read without any pauses at all, but the 3-line format allows us to read the haiku at a steady pace. I feel the lack of a hard kireji adds to the feeling of wholeness in this poem.

This is an excellent haiku that symbolizes the cycles of life and death while also leaving room for metaphors.

Jacob D. Salzer

Japanese woodblock print from Pictorial Monograph of Birds (1885) by Numata Kashu (1838-1901).

Florin Golban’s old stories

old stories—
the words grow
by the fireplace

Florin Golban (Romania)
(originally published in Under the Basho, 2022)


I appreciate how this haiku demonstrates the power of stories. It reminds me how a story with depth and meaning lives long after the words themselves. Some stories also have so much depth that new meanings and interpretations can be found in them, even after many repeated readings.

This haiku also shows how stories are connected to other stories, and how one story can inspire our imagination to create new ones.

In this haiku, the fireplace setting could bring to mind a grandma or grandpa reading to their grandchild or grandchildren, or it could be a man, woman, or child reading in solitude and deep contemplation. The fireplace provides me with calmness, warmth, and focus.

Regardless of what we imagine, this is a haiku that bridges the past with the present moment, and the future. Perhaps this haiku could inspire us to leave behind new stories for future generations. A beautiful haiku that demonstrates the power of words and stories.

Jacob D. Salzer

Old stories may refer to many things i.e. kinds of stories (fables, anecdotes, folklore, fairy tales, etc., or stories told in the past most probably in childhood that might be shared by elderly members of the family. I see it as a community-based storytelling session that used to take place in villages or towns where storytellers would share their personal experiences, voyages, or long journeys.

The second line in this haiku is impressive. It makes it profound and unique in many ways. The word ‘grow’ is something that is gradually taking shape over years. This is an excellent choice of words that can make a reader think deeper to justify its use. I can see it as an evolution of stories that pass on from generation to generation, growing in minds with changes and improvisations. Accordingly, modifications to these stories that fit well develop in each era. These stories provide lessons that people use to inculcate morality within communities, clans, tribes, and families. This is not something ordinary when there were no proper or modern means of communication.

The ‘fireplace’ could be the center of attraction for all those who gather and listen to those stories. This haiku could be set in winter when people gather around to exchange or share their life experiences or stories. I also see a connection between the fireplace and enlightenment or rekindling the mind to think deeply whilst listening to old stories.

I liked the overall imagery of this haiku that shares the vastness and significance of storytelling, which is missing in our lives now.

Hifsa Ashraf

As Hifsa mentioned, this haiku is probably placed in winter, but it also might be in autumn. The contrast between growth and possible seasons of decay is poignant.

The poet made an interesting choice to use an em dash in the first line to “cut” the two parts of the haiku. With “grow,” I would expect an ellipsis to illustrate the continuation of action. However, an em dash promotes the idea of the eternal fireplace, in my mind.

The contrast between the season and “grow” is present, but also there is a contrast between “old stories” and the constant growth of the words of the stories. This growth could happen through retelling, the cultural context changing, and the resonance the words have in readers.

In terms of pacing, the poem follows mostly the standard line lengths of English-language haiku. It has a short first line, a longer second line, and a third line of the same length. Usually, we vie for a third line that is a bit shorter than the second line, but I do not think the length of the third line in this instance makes a marked difference in the rhythm. I think the somber and introspective mood is captured well.

Euphonically, this poem has a pleasing string of “o” sounds, which brings it charm. Nostalgia may be felt as well through the pleasant “r” sounds in each line.

The pivotal word “grow” in this haiku opens up many interpretations and feelings. And, as we read and reread this haiku, it grows on us.

Nicholas Klacsanzky

Painting by Morgan Weistling

Pris Campbell’s small town festival

small town festival
a cherry blossom drifts
into the tuba

Pris Campbell  (USA)
Sakura Award, Vancouver Cherry Festival, 2018


Right away, the first line sets the scene. I hear the music and imagine myriad colors at this festival. There is a great deal of humility here as well. I feel the people living in this small town are not seeking attention from mass media outlets. Instead, I feel they host the festival to simply celebrate life in their own small and meaningful ways. 

I also appreciate the contrasts in this haiku between the cherry blossom and the tuba. The cherry blossom is soft, quiet, and small, while the tuba is hard, loud, and relatively large. For me, these contrasts add humor to the haiku and show how the soft, quiet people have their place and are just as valuable as the loud people in this small town. I also like how the cherry blossom drifting into the tuba shows how some things in life cannot be planned but rather happen spontaneously. I also feel the anticipation of the next note of the tuba resulting in the cherry blossom flying out into the wind like a piece of confetti. I feel joy imagining this scene. 

It seems the details of this festival will not make the news outside this town (actually, a lot of positive, uplifting events don’t make headlines in mainstream news). However, I feel the energy of this festival creates invisible ripples that subtly uplift human consciousness as a whole, because everything is connected. In addition, because this haiku won a Sakura Award (and was subsequently read by many people all over the world), this haiku spreads joy and has honored both the festival and the people living in this small town. As a result, this haiku demonstrates how a single haiku can honor and shine a light on people whose lives are rarely seen or noticed. On a personal level, this haiku reminds me to be grateful for this life and the little that I have.

This haiku also reminds me of the Water Village scene in Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams movie. Coincidentally, there are flowers and villagers playing tubas toward the end of this scene! Here is a link to watch it for free online: Akira kurosawa | Dreams Film | The village of the Watermills – Bing video.

This haiku speaks volumes about humility, offers a different perspective, and encourages us to be grateful for what we have and to find joy in life. It also reminds me of how small things in life make a difference in ways we will never know. A powerful haiku.

 — Jacob D. Salzer

Small-town festivals are full of life and colours as I have personally experienced. The gathering of people and the cultural blend make such festivals rich in many ways. This richness captures our senses and lets us enjoy every single aspect of a festival, which unites us with the strings of our uniqueness.

A cherry blossom and tuba elude to the kind of festival it is. The festival could be more eastern, where the poet tried to oscillate between two extremes in terms of sight, sound, and touch. One extreme includes cherry blossoms that are soft, delicate, silent, and peaceful while the other extreme is the tuba which reflects loudness, music, and liveliness. This is how a small-town festival blends the variations of life and beautifully presents them.

Living in the present moment is a quality of small-town festivals. They make people focus more on the ‘here and now’ and challenge their threshold levels to register things that people usually don’t notice. The holistic picture of this haiku may include the wind, the movement of petals, and music that sounds more like orchestrating to the ears and allows people to enjoy it together. 

Hifsa Ashraf

The kigo or seasonal reference in this haiku is “cherry blossom,” which marks spring or late spring. It matches the joyous mood associated with small-town festivals and also the playful last line.

There is no kireji or “cutting word” in this haiku, but the grammatical break in the second line works well. If punctuation was to be used, perhaps an ellipsis would illustrate the word “drift.”

The association between the two parts of the haiku is interesting. One interpretation or feeling behind the association could be that being in a small-town festival is like being a cherry blossom petal that drifts into a tuba. As a contrast, it could be that in a tight-knit community event, there is a cherry blossom entering the new, big world of the tuba. Also, the first line could simply be setting the scene and not trying to make a comparison or contrast. But, what interests me most about the image is that there is suspense and that this beautiful thing in the natural world has become a part of a human-made element.

In terms of pacing, this haiku follows the standard rhythm of English-language haiku, which is a short first line, a longer second line, and a short third line. This approximately matches the traditional rhythm of Japanese haiku.

In looking at euphony, the “l” sound in the first two lines brings a softness to the reading, while the “t” sound presents a more pointed reading. Even more, the “o” sound in the first two lines adds more to the musical quality of the haiku.

Overall, this haiku is highly effective due to its unique imagery, sense of place, and sound.

Nicholas Klacsanzky

Evening Cherry Blossoms at Gotenyama – print by Utagawa Hiroshige, 1831.

Deborah A. Bennett’s Linden Trees

cars passing all day 
in between 
the silence of linden trees 

Deborah A. Bennett (USA)
(published previously in Wales Haiku Journal, Spring 2022)


The stark comparison between cars and the linden trees in this haiku is a humble reminder of just how loud and fast-paced human life can be. Without notice, trees quietly and efficiently provide oxygen, store carbon, clean the air, and cool down city temperatures with their shade. I see trees as spiritual giants and their resilience is well-portrayed in this haiku. Trees were here long before humans and they do their work, regardless of human beings polluting the Earth on a daily basis. Ultimately, all human beings come and go, but the regenerative power of trees and forests can stand the test of time and has proven to regenerate, even after nuclear power plant disasters and cataclysmic events. This is partly due to the vast mycelium networks underground. Mycelium are master decomposers; they create more depth and nutrient-rich soil, but they also communicate and connect trees and plants in infinitely complex ways that we as humans cannot fathom. 

On the note of interconnectedness, perhaps this haiku can also inspire more people to use alternative ways of transportation that result in less pollution. We are physically made of elements from the Earth. If we see ourselves as not separate from the Earth as isolated individuals, but rather as spiritual beings who are intimately and deeply connected with the Earth and the Great Mystery, then I think more of us will naturally choose to be more mindful and lead better, more meaningful lives.

In short, this is an important haiku that juxtaposes fast-paced human life with the resilient power of Mother Earth and trees. A powerful haiku.

Jacob D. Salzer

Cars passing all day may be symbolic of the rush in our daily lives that revolves around materialism where one is involved in earning money, making a career, and living up to the expectations of the modern fast-paced life. I also see how these cars passing can be linked with pollution. With more carbon emissions and polluted air, we are running after a materialistic life. I can also see how vehicles are defining our social statuses and our routines. This mechanic life where distances become shorter to destinations creates vacuums internally in terms of health, lifestyles, and relationships.

The second line ‘in between’ demonstrates how miserable this life can be. The silence of linden trees might symbolize how we have muted nature, birdsong, and wind, and brought a pause to the natural cycle which is destructive in many ways. The linden tree is a remedial tree that is good for coughs and colds. We have not only destroyed the growth of trees but also ruined the healing process that usually comes from nature. Noise and air pollution have clogged our minds. Sometimes we cannot enjoy the nature around us or see how deeply it has affected us. The destructive aspects of nature can surprise us, as we are not fully attuned to it. So, our real success or progress is not our fast-paced life or technology that facilitates us, but the nature that keeps us moving on naturally and simply. It inspires us to focus more on our genuineness and real potential.

To me, this haiku is about the balance between nature and nurture, which is significant for a healthy and peaceful life.

Hifsa Ashraf

I like how this haiku can be read in various ways due to the pivot in the second line. It can be read as one flowing phrase, or as “cars passing all day” (full stop) and then “in between” (pause) “the silence of linden trees.” Additionally, it can be read as “cars passing all day in between” and then “the silence of linden trees” as a juxtaposition. This allows for multiple interpretations.

With the “silence of linden trees,” I believe this haiku might be placed in autumn. Without leaves, the trees don’t make a sound. The poet could also be speaking of the internal quiet of a tree or that it never speaks.

With a lack of punctuation, the pivot line can work its magic. A lot of haiku use punctuation in place of a kireji, or “cutting word.” However, in this haiku, the lack of punctuation seems to be a benefit.

The length of the lines is not standard for English-language haiku. Usually, it is a short first line, a longer second line, and a short third line. The poet could have placed the current first line as the third line, but that would do away with the power of the pivot in the original version:

in between 
the silence of linden trees 
cars passing all day 

It seems the poet is not so interested in following the standard format and writes haiku organically. This is commonly a sign of expertise.

Sonically, the L sounds carried throughout create a sense of softness. This reflects the silence well. The assonance of the A and E sounds also makes for a mellow reading.

With a combination of a meditative and melancholic feeling, this haiku brings us into a new state of mind that is once relatable and unfamiliar.

Nicholas Klacsanzky

Painting by Philipp Franck, Avenue of Linden Trees