The #HaikuSeed prompt last week was ivy with an additional photo prompt
There are a lot of great haiku and senryu submitted this week and it was difficult choosing which to comment on. I’m also preoccupied with other stuff related to designing the website and magazine, so this week’s commentary might not go too deep. But I hope you enjoy these brilliant haiku that beg your mind to imagine and think.
a wall ripples
The idea of a wall rippling is too interesting to not stop and picture it. If the fragment in L1 (line 1) is not about wind in one form or another, do you see how the brilliantly written L2 might not work the same way. The idea of a wall covered in ivy or creepers rippling would be a stretch but Pippa quite cleverly and tenderly directs the reader
towards the desired interpretation of a wall rippling. From there on, it is up to the reader to interpret the phrase a wall ripples anyway they could.
Great haiku make you want to read them over and over again. Why? There is no single reason. Sometimes you do not understand what you read completely but the verse has your attention anyway. Sometimes you love the imagery and your mind can’t help but go back to the first line to relive it. And so on. But the result is that with every re-read the scene and moment the haiku captures becomes increasingly vivid and sensory. This haiku is doing that to me.
A story is brilliantly woven here in the juxtaposition and it pulls at your heart even as a wonderful image of ivy slowly covering all the tools in a shed takes forms. Now, some might say this haiku is has too many words or too prose like or that it can be stripped down to fewer syllables. That maybe so.
my father’s workshop —
now only ivy grips the
handles of his tools
But I strongly believe some haiku work wonders because they use a extremely simple language that needs more words to express the thought/idea. You see this in many haiku of the Japanese masters. There is of course a very very fine balance every writer has to try to find when doing this because it can easily bring down the quality of the verse if it becomes too prose like.
happy to have
avoided the nettles
i falter slightly
A haiku that abounds with whimsy that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. You can almost see the writer or some person live this moment in your head.
I have chosen this haiku to underline how even though it reads like a sentence, frowned upon and difficult to get accepted from what I’ve noticed, it still has so much ma (space) in the scene that I as a reader can fill.
The ma in this haiku that could be said to be a sentence is the brief time between the moment when the person dodges a nettle shoot and the moment when he realizes he lost balance.
As I said in my commentary on the previous haiku, you can see this in a lot of haiku by the Japanese masters, at least in the English translations of their original Japanese haiku. Again, there is a very, very fine balance. I’ve decided I will add very, very fine balance whenever I say something that goes against the usual convention. This very, very fine balance I speak about is from my experience as a haiku reader. As a writer though, I’m nowhere near good enough to easily find the fine balance myself. So do not take my words as advice, but just as pointers from a reader. If your own explorations and learnings disprove or convince you otherwise, stick to it.
The imagery in this haiku is amazing. You’d think the fragment (L1) and the phrase (L2 & L3) are close and maybe there isn’t enough space between them. But there is. Where is the poet making this observation from? Is she in the room with this person whose voice goes out the window and up the ivy on the wall next to the window.
an open window —
his rich baritone voice
scales the ivy
Or is she on the rooftop doing something? Perhaps enjoying the evening breeze as the sun sets painting the sky orange when she hears, faintly at first and then clearly, his voice. How is the voice reaching here on the rooftop? There must have been an open window and maybe the rich voice is rising in pitch and so climbing up the ivy.
the last constraints of
This haiku/senryu shifts so much from the prompt that my initial reaction was one of skepticism. But as an editor I wanted to understand why the writer has gone where they did after I asked them to shift away from the usual scenes that arise from the prompt ivy. It took me a while but I began to appreciate this exceptional poem.
My personal preference as an editor and a reader is that the contrast or interplay between the two images in a haiku/senryu as part of juxtaposition do not feel too forced and on-the-nose, especially when going into stream of consciousness, metaphor, opinion, etc. The writer here could have easily written fading ivy in L1 to juxtapose it with her image of the last constraints to force the image of ivy into the readers mind. But she did not. Instead, she used fading and last as a link between the two images and it is working wonders. I’ve talked only about semantics so far. the last constraints of polite discourse – there is a lot to unpack here. It is quite evident that our society is not becoming better as a whole even if there continue to be proponents of good everywhere trying to do their best. The internet is one of the big players in where our society is headed, as is all technology. You see truth being denied straight out, lies being believed, extremism seeping into nationalism and large swaths of citizens of different countries quite receptive and welcoming to it all. Sigh!
Other Featured Haiku
Many of these haiku too have exquisitely incorporated various aspects of haiku writing like ma(space), link and shift, etc. But I unfortunately cannot write commentary for all of them. So I would love the readers of our journal to look at all of these featured haiku closely and see what they are doing that makes them work.
the first blush of fall
on the leaves of three
waits to pounce–
summer’s end –
all along here
ivy bowed oaks
thirty years on
is there still passion
beneath the ivy?
Hege Jakobsen Lepri
the green tea is brown
no creak in the gate
the greenery that coils…
deep green ivy clings
to a surname
the Russian vine
loses its leaves
I’ve started this journal with an idea to see amateur haiku poets like me write more nature-themed haiku, having seen all sorts of topics being written in haiku form by aspiring writers on Twitter and other places on the internet. I’ve been there, I’ve done that. But I’ve grown into a classicist when it comes to haiku as I really looked at what most of the haiku written by masters like Basho, Issa, Buson do. So I’m not too quick to warm up to contemporary haiku. It is an undeniable fact that the haiku form in English has been evolving for decades now and it will continue to. So while I keep this journal to inspire and feature nature-themed haiku, I will occasionally break from it because I see some expertly written haiku that I cannot help but appreciate what the writer has achieved and it makes me rethink the kind of haiku I want to feature here.
HSJ readers and contributors, if you like these feature posts with commentary, we would consider it a great encouragement and would love it if you shared it with others on the social profiles. On Twitter you can tag us at @HaikuSeed_, we are looking to gain audience of both writers and readers as we aim to grow.
Thank you for writing haiku for our prompts and reading the journal. We hope our journal inspires you. Keep writing!
— Sankara Jayanth Sudanagunta
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- All featured works are copyrighted to the respective writers. We would love it if you cite being our journal if your work is going to be published elsewhere, no obligations though.
- Photos used in our journal are taken by and copyrighted to Sankara Jayanth Sudanagunta unless stated otherwise.