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with Kevin McLaughlin



The kireji is a cutting word, a powerful element of the haiku that divides the verse into two parts, parts that can either be compared or contrasted.  In the Japanese language there are words that serve as punctuation.  In English verse, in lieu of an actual cutting word, punctuation may also serve to achieve the same effect.

Kireji are missing from most modern haiku, and are either missing or difficult to detect in haiku’s classical period in Japan.  Most writers of haiku are familiar with the 5-7-5 syllable format and the need for a direct or indirect seasonal reference.  Few poets are mindful of the kireji.  Even in the Blyth haiku volumes, there is little attention paid to the cutting word, the word that frequently is the difference between the verse being merely a pleasant statement about nature and the crafting of a poem reflecting the acuity of the poet’s Zen eye.

In standing water,

There grows a water lily:

The dank smell of mud.

-K. McL


The cutting word (s) is water lily  It compares and changes the focus from the water lily’s purity to the odoriferous mud.  Even Basho may have enjoyed this Kireji.  It is Zen’s Gateless Gate through which all must pass.  As a side note: in the 16 years I have lived in rural Palm City, this is the first time a water lily has sprouted on the property.



Anne-Marie  Docherty’s author’s notes correctly indicate all 5 senses are utilized in the brilliant series she submitted.  Her vision and her ability to connect natural elements with the Buddha Mind, the soul, the essence of human nature, are deep and beautifully subtle.  Of particular joy is her poem based on smell,  one that contrasts the earthy woodlands with the freshness of icy air implied in her companion pieces.

I disguise myself

Living amongst the woodlands,

Squirrels, bugs, birds, bees.


I nourish the land,

Autumn’s blanket becomes crisp,

Stark, white, purity.


Slowly with magic

I single handedly turn

The seasons over.


I’m fairy nature.

Come to collect fall’s leaf wares

To wrap up autumn.

Ms. Docherty also submitted a 2 line piece that belongs with her set:

“Sweeping winds and driving rains,

giving nature rest till spring.”



R.H.  Blyth wrote, “We are by nature earth-worshippers, fire worshippers, water-worshippers.  The elements are our teachers, our play-mates, our enemies, these dear, dangerous lords of life.  They bring us into beings, and receive us again at the last.  No wonder we stand in awe before even the most casual stream when it is swollen and swirling with the waters of spring.”  I believe Joan McNerney’s canon exemplifies this human/ nature relationship.  This month we will be publishing 3 of her verses.  Unless the poet objects, we will continue to publish additional haiku she submitted in succeeding months.

Our woods are half dressed

In fragile buds as dandelions

Sprout from nowhere.


An apple blossom

Stolen from the park tree at dawn

Quivering with rain.


A tree waves wooing

Birds who fly from branch to branch

Looking for a home.

-Joan McNerney

We end this month’s offerings with an extremely personal and complex piece.  This poem could be adapted, and presented in several different formats.  I caught a sense of Baudelaire as I was giving it a second reading.

Forgive me, all of you.

I looked my nemesis in the eye,

But I could not swallow it all.

-Carl Scharwath

Once again, I would like to encourage all haiku writers to share their work, their insights into the “inter-being” of all things with fellow poets and BTS readers

-Kevin McLaughlin

Haiku editor


Tempora Vista 2

photo by Carl Scharwath

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