Haiku

with Kevin McLaughlin

Cast A Cold Eye

Haiku poets eschew metaphors, similes, rhyming, stock associations with mythology or history, romantic love, extended narratives, and all the other conceits employed by the traditional Western poet. Haiku will never express the drama of Baudelaire’s “Don Juan leaned on his sword / And offered not a glance around,” or Blake’s “Invisible worm that flies in the night / In the howling storm.” The haikuist can admire great standard poetry such as Yeats’ “Cast a cold eye / On life, on death / Horseman pass by.” Beautiful are these lines, expressing deep philosophical truths. But this is not the work of a haiku poet. A well written haiku does not rely on allegory or symbolism. Haiku is simply the Fact.

 

From the garage eaves,

A fallen wasp nest fragment:

One wasp tends the eggs.

 

K. McLaughlin

 

  

Martin Golan has twice been among the finalists for the Allen Ginsberg Award. He published the novel One Night With Lilith.

 

The old are autumn

     as it spreads its rainbow death

          leaves are aged hands.

 

(Profound truths stated simply that apply to humans and to trees.)

 

Mountain rock, I drag

     this jagged stone across you.

          Make you shriek, poor thing!

 

Father, dead one year,

     looked out my window—so bright

          was that ancient snow!

 

Forty winters' chill

     has not stilled his startled voice:

          “The street’s so bright, look!”

 

This warm day of spring

     on a bench by the river

          fur-coated women

 

Martin Golan

 

  

James Babbs from Stanford, Illinois, has employed an inspired haiku floating line. Note his usage of “A strange looking star.” Used in each of his verse, it is not a refrain. This line has a uniquely different function. The reader comes to seek the image, enjoying Mr. Babbs’ focus on that strange looking star.

 

a strange looking star

up there in the sky

shining down on us

 

(Mr. Babbs follows the Self and discovers a Star. What could be more satisfying?)

 

a strange looking star

bending in the river

water splashes on rocks

 

something we leave behind

reflected in the glass

a strange looking star

 

sunrise through the fog

a strange looking star

the way she says my name

 

James Babbs

 

Sylvia Semel’s poetry approaches the Absolute, the Wheel of Nature. Her second verse is as fine a haiku as I have ever read. Consider the lilies of the field. Consider the water lily floating slowly by.

 

sinking sun

swallowed by the earth

this summer day

 

Previously published in Japanophile.

 

the water lily

floating by in slow motion;

the still sandpiper

 

fireflies’ flashes

splashing flora bright;

incandescent night

 

sand sparkling saffron—

my feet burning from its touch;

gulls walk slowly by

 

Previously published in Innisfree.

 

a hot summer day—

the sprinkler is turned on

children shout with glee.

 

Sylvia Semel

Margaret Tau grew up in rural Delaware where her love of animals, the environment, and the astral world inspires her writing. Her work has appeared in Frogpond and Under the Basho.

 

still caressing

the leash you left

time for my walk

 

storm clouds gather

combatants face off

family reunion.

 

(What a vision! Clouds gather for battle.)

 

birthmark

born without it

no proof of beginning

 

Margaret Tau

 

 

Milorad sin Nade Tesla Ivanković, Verschez (Vršac,) Serbia, may become a Flashing Dragon themself in these haiku skies. A prolific writer, a volume of their work would comprise a rewarding read.

 

one pillar pagoda

thousand Buddhas—

aren’t too heavy?

 

(A thousand Buddhas lifted with one finger.)

 

summer storm—

a flashing dragon

devours the sky.

 

cold autumn rain

cowherd warms his bare feet

in the cow piss.

 

(This is a work that sees only reality, reality stripped of qualities such as pleasant and distasteful. That cow piss is precious.)

 

moon spying over the beach—

waves muffle the footprints

off the sand.

 

Bodhisattva

saving all whether microscopic

or macroscopic.

 

(Bodhisattvas have lovingkindness for all the realms.)

 

april snow

is melting—

the scent of south prevails.

 

Milorad sin Nade Tesla Ivanković

 

Julia Rae’s foaming waves and bulbous moon capture the essence of all spiritual paths. Ms. Rae employs the hardness of iron and the softness of sheep’s wool.

 

Foaming waves leap and curl

Cresting the horizon

Timeless ebb and flow

 

Bright with sun’s last light

Clouds slant in steps

Towards the heavens

 

Branches overhead

Orange glow peeks through

Bulbous moon hangs low

 

A fluttering butterfly

Smack! Against the window

Turns around

 

(The Smack! of that butterfly is loud enough to penetrate the rocks.)

 

Sunset rain

Blurry through drops on windowpane

Pastel and petrichor.

 

Drifting shadows speckle the ground

I look up to see

Shimmering cotton.

 

Julia Rae

 

John Rowland from Jacksonville, Florida, in perfect 5-7-5 form, has captured the seasonal essence. No sound is necessary. The poet has told us all we need to know.

 

August canine days

Humidity, Fahrenheit

Numbers are equal.

 

John Rowland

 

Hege Jakobsen Lepri is a Norwegian-Canadian translator and writer. Ms. Lepri writes about a subject seldom addressed . . .  food.

 

cocktail party sweep

the last canapes swallowed

by underpaid help

 

bird congregation

one chirper’s always ahead—

early bird special

 

Hege Jakobsen Lepri

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

Sarah Mahina Calvello conveys both a deep appreciation of the world around her and a playful approach to sweets and sensual delights. She offers admirable examples of the “neo-haiku,” poems that stray from my beloved 5-7-5 form.

 

Ube ice cream

After being too long in the sun

Such a relief

 

Cinnamon sugar coffee is soft

Hits my tongue and makes me smile

Sweet reprieve

 

Seeing the ocean again

Makes me remember how you used to

         bring me shells back

Weeping and falling long seagrass

 

(The seagrass loads this beautiful piece with a Zen component.)

 

I love

When the city is quiet in daylight

So rare

 

I stare at the moon

Transfixed

Nestled under dissolving mist

 

A secret

Spilled onto murmuring roots

Over a glass of spilled wine

 

Sarah Mahina Calvello

 

Angela D. Sargent has written a plant poem that sets a beautiful image and contains just the appropriate measure of philosophy.

Dipladenia

Reaching out, holding on

Humans should take note

 

Angela D. Sargent

Anita Sahoo is a graduate in IT. She was born and raised in the town of Cuttack in Odisha, India. Currently, she lives in Toronto, Canada. She presents drooping petals that capture the ephemeral aspect of nature.

 

crack in the sidewalk

a wildflower dances

to rhythm of my puff

 

droopy golden petals

unfurl once again

—break of dawn

 

fireflies

flickering lights

amidst a shroud of mist

 

(Her fireflies are stronger than the beam from a laser.)

 

star studded sky

gleams with rainbows

on New Year’s eve

 

first trickle

on barren bosom of earth

—onset of monsoon

 

Anita Sahoo

 

John Merkel lives in Stuart, Florida. He has arrived at the concept of Spiritual Alchemy, wherein an experience, to be valid, must also be transformative.

 

Fog lifts from lake

Pileated woodpecker

Crying for her mate.

 

(The shriek of the woodpecker can penetrate the rocks. Great juxtaposition with the fog over the lake.)

 

John Merkel

 

Professor R.K. Singh of Dhanbad, India, has mastered the spirit and the format of haiku.

 

spider’s network

between two photo frames:

action in silence

 

(Only advanced souls must be capable of perceiving action in silence. This poem, indeed all of this haiku set, has a vague Taoist quality.)

 

filling emptiness

waves dance over each other—

the sky meets the sea

 

wild sugarcane

no animals savor—

aging monsoon

 

moon energy

fills up the inner space—

call to wake up

 

darkness of the heart

bouts of quiet clashes:

midnight oracle

 

she looks ahead

after years of heart-bleed:

harvest moon

 

Professor R.K. Singh

 

Don’t allow your ego or your id to get in the way of a good haiku!

Kevin McLaughlin

Copyright  Better Than Starbucks 2020, a poetry magazine    

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