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with Kevin McLaughlin

Kevin MacLaughlin, poetry magazine, haiku

Two quotes from Thomas Cleary’s “Classics of Buddhism and Zen, Volume 1, seems appropriate to set the tone for this month’s column.  Though the quotes address a specific belief system, their applications are universal.  You don’t have to be Buddhist to perform Buddhist deeds, you don’t have to be Christian to perform Christian deeds, etc.

“To move people with words it is essential to be true and cutting.  If your words are true and to the point, the reaction they evoke will be shallow—who would take them to heart?”

“The realm of the enlightened is not an external realm with manifest characteristics; it is the realm of the sacred knowledge found within oneself.  You do not need paraphernalia, practices, or special knowledge to attain it.  What you need is to clean out the influences of the psychological afflictions connected with the external world that have been accumulating in your mind since beginningless time.”

Mr. Cleary’s translations, if subtly considered, will enrich most any poet’s haiku.


The charred palmettos,

Still reek from the controlled burn:

Ash coats forest floor.


A cloud of flowers:

The voice of a woodpecker,

Screeches across the woods.


November full Moon:

King tide floods across the dunes,

Changing the coastline.

-K. McLaughlin 


A bamboo grove conveys a sense of dignity and spirituality.  Bamboo, a member of the grass family, is characterized by its hollow stems.  In a metaphorical sense, these hollow stems represent the empty nature of all phenomena.  The black bamboo in this verse can be enjoyed at the Morikami Gardens in Delrays Beach, Florida.

The sound of the wind,

Hollow stems clack together,-

The black bamboo grove.

-Kevin McLaughlin


Jac Shortland, from Cork, Ireland, has been published in a diversity of journals and anthologies. Ms. Shortland has been short-listed for the prestigious Fish Poetry Prize in 2017.  She “hasn’t made up her mind of life’s mysteries, and most likely never will.” I am more optimistic.  Mindfulness and writing haiku will lead her to her unique Truth.


One leaf on thick stem,

Yellow daisy sketched,

Thirty seven times.


Snail trail sprite river,

Slides to a mercury Moon,

Web weaves a mirror.


Glare car nausea,

Isn’t the gorse beautiful?

Turned me off yellow.


Add light to still life,

Softly rub and smooth with thumb,

Not for sweaty thumbs.


Make and do patchwork,

Hem and stitch on floral piece,

Not for sweaty thumbs.


Light short crusty pastry,

Knead and roll on floured board,

Not for sweaty thumbs.

-Jac Shortland


James Breslin Godfrey has isolated the image of the day’s most illuminating moment, and reminds us that what creates this beauty is a star spewing photons. The haiku instills serenity while finding this calmness in the ultimate impermanence of our mortality .


The low sun spews light,

And shadow every Autumn,

We view it briefly.

-James Breslin Godfrey

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 2016 column.  It provides a pretty thorough explanation of the basic format.


--  Kevin Mclaughlin

Mary K. Gowdy has written a seemingly simple piece that has left me awestruck.  Ms. Gowdy is determined to understand her place in the Universe.  Have we not all gazed at a night sky and bathed in a sense of wonder?


I want to stand in

The Sahara and marvel

At the Universe.


-Mary K. Gowdy

Veerangana is a teenage poet from New Delhi, India, whose work appeared in the September BTS.  I must reiterate we are reading the haiku of a true prodigy.  His work is subtle, surprising, and learned.


September pond,

Basho’s ink blots,

A frog’s back.

(A delightful homage to that most famous of haiku, Basho’s, “Old pond/ Frog jump in/ Splash!)



The mirth

Of my mirthlessness.

(Wonderful paradox spread by moonbeams)


Evaporating twilight,

A pause,

Between Dreams.

(Not many of us are capable of Dream Yoga)



Vera Ignatowitsch’s appreciation of stinging rain, crystallized water, and the solstice song marks the ability appreciate both the ephemeral beauty of the natural world and the best of human culture.  We should all have the good fortune to spend some time seeing the world through her eyes.  The good news is we have her poetry.


Rain stings like needles

Driven by gusts scouring

Clean the nascent womb.


Bare branch bows deeply

Respecting first frost forming

Its crystallized pelt.


Swirling flurry: flakes

Swallow sounds; stillness sings

Sacred solstice song.

-Vera Ignatowitsch


Kenneth Salzmann has been published in the Comstock Review, California Quarterly, Chronogram, Plum Tree Tavern, and many other publications.  Mr. Salzmann makes his home in both Woodstock, New York and Ajiijc, Mexico. BTS will publish four more of his haiku in our January 2018 edition.


Blue- crested hummingbird,

Kisses jacaranda blossoms,

Azure apparition.


Dining with our dead,,

Whisper dire milkweed stories,

Let’s go for a drive.

-Kenneth Salzmann


Josie Gregory is a Junior in college studying to become a Middle School teacher.  I predict teaching haiku to develop writing skills will be part of her curriculum.  Much beautiful work comes from younger people.


Two moonlit chirpers,

Silently sing requiem,

For gold cannot stay.

-Josie Gregory

FREE “ModPo,” our 10-week course on modern & contemporary U.S. poetry.  (9-9-17/11-21-17)

(The ModPo site will be open all year but we convene a super-active 10-week “live” run-through of the course each September through November.)

1st opened ModPo in 2012 and has offered great fun of a community of people worldwide who care about poets and poetry. The original ModPo Teaching Assistants, whom you encounter in the video discussions, are still here! They are remarkable! And many ModPo students now join us as “Community TAs” (or “course mentors”). ModPo is more in fact than a course—it’s an ongoing symposium, a growing lively discussion, a true community. We sincerely welcome you!

Joe Davidson is a visionary whose weltanschuang is reflected in his finely crafted, classical verse.  His eyes are ever on that distant peak.  Mr.Davidson sees, appreciates, and shares with the rest of us.


Winding, twisting trail,

Obstacles obscuring vision,

Ever present peak.


Winter’s first daybreak,

Silhouette of oaken bough,

Last light of Summer.


Recycle raindrops,

Drumming from under the eaves,

Twelve cans ringing out.

Anger’s empty form,

Lacking eyes, ears, nose, mouth, mind,

Casting dark shadows.

(Anger is one of the Three Poisons recognized by Buddhism.  Mr. Davidson contrasts the poison with an echo of The Heart Sutra.)

-Joseph Davidson

Angie Davidson’s haiku ranges from the outer cosmos to tears streaking down the face of someone who recognizes the suffering that plagues the beings on this planet.


Tears streaking down face,

Memories silent echo,

Surrounds tree of tears.


Hot dog galaxy,

Infrared is only light,

You can see through space.


Big black hole in space,

Eating a buffet of stars,-

Can eat black matter.

(People drawn towards astrophysics will love that image of a black hole dining on nearby stars.)

-Angie Davidson


Jen Smith  has seemingly made great strides opening up her “Third Eye.” An accomplished photographer, Ms. Smith has finely tuned visual skills.  This month she has turned her attentions to the ocean, from whence all of life began. 


Daylight slowly fades,

Autumn shines on the water:

Golden reflections.

Fields covered in white,

Waiting for harvest day,

Acres of cotton.


Mollusk of three hearts,

Blue blood circulates system:

Common octopus.


Blue waters run deep,

Sound waves echoing throughout,

Great whites migrating.

-Jen Smith


John Merkel, published in several BTS issues, has always exhibited great compassion in his haiku.  In this verse Mr. Merkel gives gentle treatment to the human condition, well aware we are all writing our own narratives as we dodge this planet’s perils.

The tip of the pen,

Flows with oily liquid ink,

Pages of thought stains.

(Indeed, thought stains!  Cognitive processes, often as not lead to insights and spiritual alchemy)

-John Merkel


Mick O’Grady is a retired microbiologist who has spent his life tying his profession to his Roman Catholic beliefs.  Science and religion…what a wonderful hybrid.  Also, Mr. O’Grady has proven haiku is not the domain solely of Eastern religion, Pantheism, and Humanism. 


Communion wafer,

Bringing sanctifying grace:

The body of Christ.

(Transubstantiation is one of our life’s deepest mysteries. This verse presents a deep sense of reverence.)

The baptismal font:

Water purifying life,

Bestowing its Grace.

(Christianity overlaps with the world’s other great belief systems.)

-Mick O’Grady

International Poetry with Tendai Rinos Mwanaka and Rameeza Nasim
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