The #HaikuSeed prompt last week was candle with an additional photo prompt
A lot of senryu or senryu-like submissions for this prompt. Usually, if the verse centers around concrete elements of nature while having a light human presence in some form, the line between haiku and senryu becomes blurred. And if the verse includes no nature and on top of that includes deep thoughts or expressions that are abstract and are hard to perceive as concrete images, I see them being strongly senryu than haiku even if there are elements of nature in it. Not surprising given the prompt. Few of the common scenes, words & aspects in the haiku submitted this week include flickering candle, wind-flame & love-candle juxtapositions. I would have liked to see more nature-themed haiku for this prompt (and for all #HaikuSeed prompts, after all, this is intended to be a nature-themed journal). But the senryu that were written contain some exquisite craft and depth, so I’m not one to squander the chance to showcase how haikai poets’ minds and spirits work wonders with just a few words irrespective of what label of Japanese poetry it falls under.
on the tablecloth—
petro c. k.
This senryu immediately brought forth all the anxiety of the COVID-19 pandemic. I couldn’t stop seeing a man, young or aged, sitting alone in his house at a table with no lights on. Before him is a framed photo of his late wife illuminated by candlelight. How many months has it been? Or is it years?
long covid is a medical term that means long-term effects post-COVID infection. This is straightforward. But from the perspective of people who lost their loved ones to the pandemic, how long is long?
The gloominess that was forming in my mind after reading this verse inspired me to do a little digital painting that goes along with the senryu.
Now and then, I will create little artworks that I’ll use with one of the featured haiku blossom of the week. I could see a potential new page on our journal called #HaikuSeed Blossoms Showcase – a gallery hosting such featured haiku with my artwork. Do share these images on social media and tag us if you like them.
This haiku is quick and efficient in creating the experience it set out to do. Kudos, Paul! I loved this from the get-go. The juxtaposition of learning the weather forecast and then jumping to feet to search for candles is brilliant and relatable. We all think we have candles in stock for emergency only to see there are none when the power does go.
wind in the forecast
a quick inventory
Paul David Mena
So learning from such experiences, a person begins to immediately check for candles at the first sign of troubling weather and the phrase a quick inventory of candles is wonderful in this context.
This haiku by Jenn too is built with very concrete images set within the same time frame as that of Paul’s haiku. We do find a candle in the inventory, now where to put it and light it? Does your window have a wide enough ledge? Are you working on something at your desk but you are a careful person, so you do not want the wax falling on your table but you are also not the kind of person to buy candleholders.
a saucer to catch
the candle wax
Or maybe there is one in the inventory but you were unable to find it, so you make do with a saucer. Is the saucer some cracked old one that she is repurposing? Or is she like me and doesn’t care about spoiling an in-use saucer because candle wax can be cleaned easily off it.
a piece of the day
Great juxtaposition here. The writer sets the scene with the fragment candlelight. We as readers already begin to develop this scene in our heads without a conscious thought. There is a dark room and within it a lit candle. Is the candle on a table or on a windowsill? Is it late into night? Perhaps there is a storm and a power outage and the writer is unable to sleep? Or maybe they….
Before you know it, the writer surprises you by saying there is still daylight. So your mind is surprised, in a good way, as you begin to repaint the images with this new bit of information. Even in creating such a layered haiku, notice how simple the language is. These are all signs of great haiku.
The quintessential pleasure in realizing the contrast between the initial images in your head and the ones after you’ve consumed the haiku is one of the most rewarding experiencing that great haiku provide because you as a reader can claim to have created the scene in your head along with the writer who gave you a crafted framework of sorts.
Apart from Petro’s verse, all the ones I commented above have concrete images and are themed around nature. This verse by Mark, like the Petro’s , uses one concrete image and one abstract. This haiku/senryu worked for me immediately but with the realization that my interpretations are deeply rooted in my own experiences.
soft glow of light
flickering in the window
longing to be home
If you have to interpret L3 “longing to be home” as a prompt for visualizing a place, what comes to your mind? Where is the writer right now? Consider the phrase he setup in L1 and L2, now what place could he be in? As soon as I read L3, I saw a man sitting at the window overlooking mountains, clouds and greenery on a cold, gloomy evening. This brought back memories from the time I was in Italy for a work assignment in early 2020 when COVID-19 hit that country and I did not want anything more than to come back to India and be with my family where it will eventually spread. The day after I returned to India in March 2020, India banned travelling to and from Italy without further notice and I had to count my lucky stars. Now the reason I say all this is – the house I stayed, I could see mountains clad with low rolling clouds and greenery everywhere from my bedroom window. So after reading the haiku, a vivid scene of me standing at the window, a wind passing by and making the candlelight flicker and the gloomy fading light leaves me longing to be back home. In that sense, even though L3 is an abstract thought, my experience as a reader was deeply concrete. So it doesn’t matter if something is labelled haiku or senryu, it is just a matter of what experience the editor is seeking from verses they want to feature.
Other Featured Haiku
Labelled so only because I cannot comment on all the haiku I like.
a cobweb stretches across
the rocking chair
reading by candlelight
to the dark ages
how the night reverses
drafty old church
the warmth of the votives
on my hands
Joseph P. Wechselberger
the candle flame and I
the heartbeat of a city
Hege Jakobsen Lepri
how much of the wick
one night consumes
at the hospital a shudder escapes the candle in prayer room
i make peace with
his 86th birthday–
we all shared
the same wish
he beats her with
candle lit table
filled with chatter
in the dark…
her steadiness deepens my
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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- Photos used in our journal are taken by and copyrighted to Sankara Jayanth Sudanagunta unless stated otherwise.