Haiku

 with Kevin McLaughlin

Kevin MacLaughlin, poetry magazine, haiku

Senryu are an important subset of haiku.  These are the seventeen syllable verses that deal with human affairs and emotions.  The original form had not the least bit of an “I” involved in the composition.  The poems interacted directly with nature, perceiving things as directly as possible. But this cannot truly be done without involving the workings of your mind and your senses.

 

Named after the poet Senryu, this form of haiku seldom contains a cutting word, or a kigu, the seasonal reference.  Each of the definitive R.H. Blyth collection of Japanese masters contains a section devoted specifically to human affairs. Frequently, Senryu involve humor, irony, pathos, and even sentimentality.  Senryu have become extremely popular in the West.  One estimate is that 60% of the haiku being written currently are either senryo or haiku/ senryu hybrids.

 

The acknowledged finest of haiku poets, Matsuo Basho, is well represented in this section devoted to the joys and sorrows of being a human being on a very hostile planet.  Please bear in mind the verse below are Mr. Blyth’s translations, and he makes no effort to fit them into their 5-7-5 structure in their original form.

 

Failing health and strength;

My teeth grate,

On the sand in the seaweed.

 

Going to buy rice,

The snow covered bag,

As a kerchief.

- R. H. Blyth

In the following verse, Basho sees old age as something desirable, because freed from grasping and passion, we see reality as it really is, a transient, ever flowing domain ruled by impermanence.

 

The first winter rain;

Today alone,

May others also be old!

-Matsuo Basho

Old Folks

Morning is the time for old folks, 60 plus years old, geriatrics in every possible state of physical condition, to visit the market.  Many of them shop before the younger, healthier people awaken or have returned from their work places.  These people move slowly, deliberately.  They comprise a large segment of the population in every country.  “From the stormy waves of birth, old age, sickness, and death, from the ocean of samsara, may I free all beings.” –Mahayana vow.

 

So many old folks,

Fill the market this morning,

Picking through produce.

 

Lying in coffin,

No longer animated:

Mourners mumble prayers.

 

Hauling the soft shell,

To the St. Lucie’s shoreline:

Plop! Of a turtle.

 

Mountain range of clouds,

Peaks illumined by the sun:

Summiting each one.

-Kevin McLaughlin

poetry magazine, kelly writers house

Evan Guilford-Blake from Stone Mountain, Georgia, writes haiku in the traditional fashion.  His pen of many colors reflects the eye of one who looks deeply into the world around him.  When you are awake, there are many subjects for the poet to transmute into seventeen syllables. My guess is Mr. Guilford-Blake has a notebook filled with poems that deserve to be shared with readers.

 

Writing and writing:

A pen of many colors,

Ink of many dreams.

 

Chilly, overcast,

Cardinals on the driveway:

The first signs of spring!

 

Blackening spring sky,

Thunder crashes, lightning bolts,

Dog starts to whimper.

 

Rain on the window,

Then falling to Earth.  Silence

Becoming silence. 

The verse below is my personal favorite.  It should be read singularly, without injecting any of the reader’s speculations or emotions.

 

Ten thousand years’ songs,

Voices of the Universe:

This breeze past my ear.

                      -After Kaiseki

 

Previoulsy published in 3Lights Gallery.

 

The neighbor’s house, dark,

Wind rages, snow swirls in the yard,

The cry of a cat.

 

Previously published in First Literary Review East.

-Evan Guilford-Blake

Devin Harrison, of Vancouver Island, Canada,  would seem to have a well- honed world view, and this vision appears in his haiku .I am publishing three of his verse this month, and will present two more in September.

 

bleak diagnosis

the passage of time

jumps the tracks

dust clouds—

allowing my thoughts to come

and go

 

I love the above haiku.  It describes the perfect state of calm, abiding meditation.  Thoughts arise, and then Mr. Harrison releases them, unaffected.

 

mixing them up

after souls have fled

 

bone piles

-Devin Harrison

 

Vera Ignatowitsch has written a haiku that would be greatly admired by our haiku ancestors.  It is pure.  It adheres to the classical format.  I especially appreciate her subtle reference to Summer as in an August Harvest.  We appreciate Ms.  Ignatowitsch’s regular Zen suffused poetry. Blossom would be an outstanding “cutting word.”

 

poppy seed pods swell

cupped inside fading blossom

throbs fertility

-Vera Ignatowitsch

 

P.J. Reed writes poetry in many forms, and has previously been published in BTS.  An citizen of The United Kingdom, she holds several advanced degrees.  I noted that she has published four books of haiku and senryu.  Her work contains that haiku/ senryu hybrid which I previously mentioned with regard to the Basho poems.  She has an eye for social affairs as well as nature.

 

tired businessman

takes aging wife to dinner

hungry for a change

couples sip lattes

stare lovingly into phones

and forget to talk

rotund man wobbles

after disappointed wife

carrying a spoon

flotilla of ducks

veer across the still water

a mallard mission

The verse below made this reader smile.  How sweet it is to see the blackbirds (or in Florida’s case, laughing gulls) collecting twigs for their nests. A common sight, but, in the way of haiku, a precious sight. These poems flows effortlessly.  Not an extraneous word in any of these pieces.  This reminds me of Alan Watts’ quote: “But with a little more familiarity you realize that haiku poetry excels in one of the rarest artistic virtues, the virtue of knowing when to stop.

a blackbird listens

paused in her twig collection

woodpecker knocks twice

- P.J. Reed

Mr.  Davidson quiets his mind for a period every day, and writes at least one haiku.  The whole Universe is there with him experiencing his experience of scrub jays, darkness, and that wonderful “Shadow bringing light.” That is poetry in its purest form.

 

Shrill cry of scrub jay,

Squirrels seek treetop refuge,

Silent racer waits.

 

Shadows held at bay,

Darkness conspires with wind:

Flickering candle.

 

Sunday’s clouds bursting,

Summer’s dry Earth sprouting green:

Shadow bringing light.

-Joseph Davidson

 

Angie Davidson’s poem forms a natural link with P.J. Reed’s “Flotilla of ducks.”  Mrs. Davidson’s haiku makes a graceful transition from the ducks to nearby yellow wild flowers.

 

Ducks preening near pond,

Enjoying summer weather

Yellow flowers bloom.

-Angie Davidson

 

Our astrophysicist contributor from Dublin, Ireland, Honorah Murphy, included a note with her submittals pointing out Earth is the only one of the inner planets able to retain its water, the source of life. Matter at the macro level is her natural world.  Interesting, it would be, to read haiku concerning matter at the sub-atomic level.

 

Magnetic field shields,

From solar wind particles,

Preserves Earth’s oceans.

 

Venus shines alone

In the cloudless morning sky:

An early moonset.

-Honorah Murphy

 

Mark Weiss is a sophomore at Plainview High School on Long Island New York. Mark combines his love of haiku and all-things science with an abiding interest in arachnids.  Noble creatures, they are.

 

Spikey egg cases,

In a dirty, twisted web:

Black widow crawling.

 

Two spiders reside,

In nook of the shower stall,

Safe from water spray.

-Mark Weiss

Yet once more I encourage all haiku writers to share their work, their insights into the nature of all things, with fellow poets and BTS readers.  For those interested in haiku, I recommend you cast back into the BTS archives and reference the September column.  It provides a pretty thorough explanation of the basic format.

 

--  Kevin Mclaughlin

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