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with Kevin McLaughlin

Kevin MacLaughlin, poetry magazine, haiku


Haiku has evolved over the centuries.  Originally a purely Japanese form of poetry, it was a form of “play verse,” featuring humor puns, and references to national holidays.  In the 17th century, primarily due to the influence of Matsuo Basho, Buson, and Chora, it became the poetry of mindfulness and developed a synergistic relationship with Zen Buddhism.  It was believed the amount of Zen in the poet was reflected in the amount of Zen in the haiku.  Many guidelines were incorporated.  The seventeen syllables became highly structured.  As a purist, I still believe there is a 5-7-5 syllable format  to which the poet should adhere.

Haiku spread out from the small Island nation of Japan and became a world-wide form, enjoyed by writers and readers across the planet.  Variations were introduced, but they did not constitute a major shift in the form.

I believe the first genuine evolution in the form has happened in the last few years.  African poets have discovered, and are working, in the haiku universe.  This brings the cradle of civilization, the beautiful African continent into the haiku canon.  Images, traditions, and belief systems unfamiliar to Eastern and Western practitioners is becoming available. An entire trove is becoming available.  The form has been given the name Afriku, and, I believe, will infuse haiku with exciting, unfamiliar work to be appreciated.  I invite all African poets to submit their work to BTS.  We are eager to read more African haiku.   


Kayode Afolabi (M.D.) from Nigeria reads, writes poetry, provides poetry, and seems extremely mindful of the natural world around him.  He has been published in Ake Review, Vox Poetica, Praxis Magazine and several other publications. Note: a harmattan is a dry,dusty wind on the  West African coast.


The harsh harmattan,

Hears the coming thunderstorms,

Flees into transience.


Come harmattan breeze,

Blow our sins away,

Make us white again.


Insensitive we

Never stop to wonder why,

These Christmas goats sweat.


A warm and bright morn-

A transient tease to trick one,

Into the down downpour.


Flouncing home after rain,

The croak of toads mock me,

“You’re still unmarried.”


Strolling homewards,

In the dead of night

Which, doctor or witchdoctor?

-Kayode Afolbi

Adjei Agyfi-Baah lives in Ghana.   He is a lecturer and a teacher of language.  He is the author of two books, “Afriku” and Ghana 21 Haiku.  He is the winner of several international awards.  Mr. Baan is a champion of nativised forms. BTS will be interviewing Mr. Baah in an upcoming issue. There is likely an immense African poetic tradition that will soon span the globe.


Xmas holiday,

Receiving a gift,

Of my unsent mail.


Harmattan ghost,

A lone fisherman emerging,

From a fogged lake.


Coastal village,

The languid pose,

Of headless coconuts.


Waste polyethane on the road,

Passing vehicles dribble it,

Back and forth.


Harsh winds…

Slowly a roll call

Of mangoes.

Adjei Agyfi-Baah


Veerangana is a teenage poet from New Delhi whom we have had the honor of publishing in several recent BTS issues.  Her poetry is graceful; while set in the natural world, it conveys a subtle mystical quality.


Purple lilac…

Clinging to the petals,

A fisherman’s dream.


Lunch time…

There’s no place,

For last night dreams.


No better listener…

Than the crumpled moon,

On her stained skirt.


Vera Ignatowitsch writes gracefully, and, seemingly, effortlessly.  Her self- preoccupation seems to drop away, leaving her weightless and able to see clearly the world of plants, animals, people, and minerals. We are grateful to Ms. Ignatowitsch for her steady, insightful contributions. Note she is able to work within the 5-7-5 classical haiku format.


Abandoned food scrap

Now transformed by scavenger

From refuse to feast.

(Without scavengers to digest carcasses, disease would soon be overcome by disease.  Vultures come to mind: the hardest working birds on this planet.)

Boiling water’s heat

Steals in, solidifying

Bright yolk at the core.


One lonely pigeon

Perched in bare branches braces

Against the north wind.

(This poem serves as a perfect introduction to the next topic, “Ki.”)

-Vera Ignatowitsch


Many have inquired how the seasonal referent became an integral element of the classical haiku.  This quote from Harold Henderson best answers this question.  “In order to produce their effect, haiku writers make great use of what they call renso, or association of ideas, and they do this in several different ways. The older haiku-makers came to the conclusion that the experience common to all men was the change weather with the different seasons, and so introduced into nearly all their poems what is known as ki, or season.  This means that in nearly all their poems there is some word of expression that indicates the time of year, and so forms a background for the picture they are trying to paint in the reader’s mind.”


The ki in this haiku is the annual appearance of the robins.  They stay in the area in early winter, and stay for but a few days.

Days of the robins:

Migrating birds getting drunk,

On the local berries.


Cold mist in the air,

Not a star is visible,-

Traveler hurries.


Rats running confused,-

Air temps in the mid thirties,

No leaf burrow is warm.

-Kevin Mclaughlin


Bob Whitmire is a former soldier who is now a journalist. Hailing from Maine, he spends his leisure hours reading, writing, and shoveling snow. Among other pieces, he sent in a haiku which delightfully and accurately uses atmospheric terminology.  I acknowledge I had to consult the dictionary to find the meaning of Bombogenesis (a cyclone in the mid latitudes that rapidly intensifies.)  I have no doubt Mr. Whitmire is the first poet to use this word in a haiku.


Millibars plummet,

Snow falls horizontally:



Languages wiggle out,

“Birdie pooped on mommy’s car,”

The genie breaks free.


Refreshing breeze dies,

Midges swarm exposed flesh,

Mist in the gloaming.

(This haiku has a light Scottish feel.  Midges are small flies that swarm.)


Black holes in a gyre,

Gravity waves pass through us:

A dance before time.

(The LIGO science center detected gravitational waves several years back.  Caused by collisions of black holes, they were predicted by Einstein more than a century ago This black hole collision is estimated to have occurred 1.3 billion years ago.)


Hand on the duckboard,

Death retains its steadfast grip,

Still the poppies grow.

(Duckboards were used in World War I to cross the mudfields between trenches.)

-Bob Whitmire

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

Frequent contributor Joe Davidson navigates both the conventional and absolute realms, a by-product of “every minute” spiritual practice.  Images of seeming insignificance can be brought to the surface and seen to be inexhaustible treasures. Mr. Davidson and I have exchanged communications regarding the equality of the mundane and the supra-mundane.


Bamboo smoldering,

Fragrant incense ash in tray,

Smoke dancing in light.


Beyond the trailhead,

Safety of known left behind,

Under blue expanse.


Starless ebony sky,

Blue-white light casting shadows:

Gentle sound of rain.

-Joseph Davidson


Angie Davidson practices the ancient tradition of celebrating holidays and feast days.  The ki in her verse can be detected in every line! Mrs. Davidson is one of our contributors who believes particles physics and astrophysics make up the natural world.  I agree.


Hanging ornaments,

Making out cards, buying gifts,

Christmas is coming!

Cryo- volcanoes,

Slushy fissures spewing ut,

On Pluto’s small world.


-Angie Davidson

Jen Smith submitted a haiku I find to be a perfect complement to Mrs. Davidson’s.  As always, Ms. Smith presents a beautiful visual image.


Glowing embers rise,

Shadows dancing across floor,

New Year closing in.


Zachary Outzen makes his home in California; currently he is attending college in Virginia. He writes with a poignant relationship with both nature and of other human beings.  After reading the second and third haiku in this series, you are likely to want to read a fourth and a fifth.


Cold air burns my lungs,

Rolls in from woolen hills:

Nestled in, I let it enfold me.


Shades of yellow,

Light your face, your hair,

Much as it was that morning.


Our story’s concluded,

You’re parked down the street,

I reach to balance us.

-Zachary Outzen


Ireland’s Astrophyicist Honorah Murphy submitted two haiku that raise the reader above Earth’s surface.  Currently Ms. Murphy is engaged in a study of the Kuiper built; we look forward to poetry about these small assortment of comets, planetoids, and meteors that lie just outside our solar system’s gas giant planets.


Atmospheric gas,

Begins to condense and freeze:

Clouds float through the sky.


Space is not empty,

It is filled with energy:

Matter arises.

(Readers who admire this haiku might enjoy reading physicist Lawrence M. Krauss’ “A Universe from Nothing.”)

-Honorah Murphy


Dr. Sandip Saha from India is a chemical engineer and metallurgical engineer.  He has published one book available on Amazon, and has been published in numerous journals and magazines. A scientist who writes poetry…the Taoist ideal of balance.


Mountain erupts fire,

Inhabitants die,

From far it looks nice.


Rainbow after rain,

Peacocks dance behind bush,

Children cheer with joy.


Mango orchard blooms

Aroma spreads around,

Whole India smiles.

(Ah, this haiku satisfies the senses!)


Sun not in the sky,

Nature’s call, national park.

The leopard crawls, jumps.


Dark cloud covers sky,

Fisherman in deep ocean,

Eager to reach home.

-Dr. Sandip Saha

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