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with Kevin McLaughlin

poetry magazine, haiku, Kevin MacLaughlin

Matsuo Basho’s (1644-1694)  “Old Pond” haiku is considered the highest example of the form.  It is a piece well familiar to any serious student of Japanese literature.  Old Pond is treated by many Zen Masters as a flash of kensho insight into the ultimate nature of reality.  It is beautiful in its utter simplicity. With just a few words, it accomplished the non-duality of the subject and the poet.  The final line, “Splash!” is the demonstration of Big Mind in an awakened being.  Due to difficulties translating the verse into English, it cannot be fitted into the familiar seventeen syllable format without damaging the poem’s swift expression of understanding.


Old pond,

Frog jumps in:-



Basho’s career is generally divided into two periods: every haiku written pre- Old Pond and the verses written post-Old Pond.  Did the sound of that frog splashing into the water really temporarily liberate Basho from suffering?  Who knows?

A common white moth

Flutters by us unnoticed:

The dead bamboo branch.


Two stars and the moon,

Form a perfect right angle:

Light years of photons.

-K. McL.

How delicate is our world.  Sarah Cannavo’s work points out that “even stars fade,” and that people, considered worthless by some, may truly be precious gems.  I admire the range of the poet’s vision.  It encompasses the infinite as well as the slight frost of one’s breath on a winter’s day with equal reverence.  Possibly Cannova experiences those periods of satori, the “Ah, ha!” moments that enrich our precious human births. In his haiku commentaries, R.H. Blyth stated, “Everything is the same, yet everything is different.”  I believe his maxim is well illustrated by Sarah Cannova’s intriguing haiku.

Your beautiful eyes

Shine like stars in a dark night.

But even stars fade.


They call him worthless,

Heap pressure on him, but don’t

Know the gem they hold.


In the winter’s cold,

My breath steams the chill air: yours

Is lost in the forest.


The sky swirls black above as

The Earth tilts in an endless spin,

A speck in the infinite.

-Sarah Cannavo

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

-Kevin McLaughlin, haiku editor

Last month we began to review Joan McNerney’s canon of haiku, each of which exquisitely maintain the inter-being of human/natural relations.  McNerney’s work will bring bliss to every true writer or reader of haiku!

This carpet of spring

To cuddle my toes in.

Such a fragrant rug!


If I could only

Save this bundle of breezes

For hot summer days.


Hallow mouth of the moon.

Clouds cross forming

An airy handkerchief.

-Joan McNerney

I read these three verses by Fabiana Victoria without irony: I simply allowed the “Power words” to deliver the special world view that accompanies haiku. Victoria has a deep insight into human emotions.  We will have more of Fabiana’s work published in January.


In this morning light

I see you for what you are

And through my soft love.


In a city of rain

Where the sun shines, love thunders

And we kiss at dusk.


Would you help me if I

Suddenly said I was lost

If I was drowning?


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