Across the Haikuverse, No. 13: Lucky Edition

Yes, this is the thirteenth edition of the Haikuverse and it is appearing on the thirteenth of February. But don’t worry, nothing can possibly go wrong! I’m a very experienced tour guide and I’ve never lost a passenger yet. Just don’t touch that red button over there on the control panel marked “Eject.” Got that? Okay, I’m gonna count you all at the end to make sure one of you didn’t give in to your curiosity. (Haiku poets, like cats, are notorious for their curiosity.)

I’m feeling a little bumptious tonight because I just got back from a great meeting of the Midwest Regional Chapter of the Haiku Society of America. It was wonderful seeing other haiku poets in person, which I very rarely do, although of course I adore interacting with all you people on the blog and via email and Facebook and Twitter … man, I love living in a time when such things are possible. But real live human beings are impossible to resist, even when you have to drive three hours one way to go see them.

Sadly, I overslept (up too late writing haiku again) and got slightly lost a couple of times on the way there, so I missed Charlotte DiGregorio‘s presentation on haiku for beginners, which I would have liked to hear because I am always trying to figure out good ways to explain haiku to beginners myself. But I did catch superlative presentations by Heather Jagman on Issa (you may think I already know a bit about Issa, but believe me, Heather knows more) and by Michael Nickels-Wisdom on the highly original Wisconsin poet Lorine Niedecker, whose collected works I have made a note to buy very soon. (I should write more about these talks later when I don’t have three thousand other words to write.)

And, of course, I saw a lot of the fantastic people I met at the “Cradle of American Haiku” conference last September (Charlotte and Heather among them), and met a lot of new fantastic people. A bunch of us had lunch together afterwards. It was weird to be at a whole long table full of haiku poets, but fun. I guess I should get out more.

Anyway. You would really rather read good poetry than my incoherent ramblings about my inadequate social life, wouldn’t you? Fine. The tour will now commence. Don’t touch the red button.


Haiku (Haibun, Haiga, Etc.) Of the Week

The usual disclaimers apply. A random and eccentric sampling of haiku that gave me the shivers in the last couple of weeks.

Note: It was really hard these last couple of weeks because NaHaiWriMo has increased everyone’s output so considerably, and so much of that output is so good. Tons of it is on Facebook, tons of it is on Twitter. Some people (I love these people, even though I’m not one of them) are keeping it on their blogs. I made the executive decision not to feature any of the NaHaiku that exist only on social media sites, because there would be no end to it if I started to copy-paste every single haiku I’ve “liked” on Facebook or retweeted on Twitter in the last two weeks. I would have a nervous breakdown, and you don’t want to see what that looks like.

Another note: I know it seems like I feature the same people here over and over again. That’s because I kind of do. Please don’t think I don’t know that there are about ten thousand more fantastic haiku poets in the world than the ones that keep showing up on this blog. But these are mostly the ones who keep blogs themselves, blogs that a) I’ve managed to discover (feel free to send me URLs of any haiku blogs you love that you don’t think I’ve discovered); b) I love to pieces, so I really can’t help wanting everyone else to love them too.

I do try to honor and pass around the work of poets who don’t keep blogs in various other ways — by, as I mentioned, showing my appreciation on Facebook and Twitter, and by singling out in this column my favorite haiku published in  journals. (See this week’s “Dead Tree News,” for instance.) Again, let me know about any journals or other publications I’ve missed. Keeping up with the frantic and increasing activity in every corner of the Haikuverse would be a full-time job if I let it be. I welcome reports from correspondents in areas I may not have traveled heavily.


From The Spider Tribe’s Blog (an excerpt from a “tanka sonnet”):

the first splash
of ewe’s milk…

— Claire Everett


From feathers:

snow-fog field
geese ignore the sound
of my phone

— Angie Werren


From Haiku Bandit Society:

an empty screen;
a crow’s broad wings
disappear into glass

— William Sorlien

(And while you’re over there, make sure you check out this great haibun of Willie’s.)


Speaking of haibun, there was one I loved at Heed Not Steve recently. Here’s the haiku:

an icy breeze
whistling through bare limbs
the future

— Steve Mitchell

An “after” from Bill Kenney at haiku-usa:

first snow
having looked at it
I wash my face

— Etsujin 1656-1739


From scented dust:

February rain
stacking pills too round
to stack

— Johannes S.H. Bjerg

From season creep:

summer afternoon
on hats
the sound of rain

— Comrade Harps


From Yay words! (a NaHaiWriMo entry):

snow day—
I cradle a bowl
of steamed rice

— Aubrie Cox


From zen speug:

on the snowdrops

— John McDonald

From jornales:

the children’s laughter
rise in the air

— Alegria Imperial

(By the way, lately Alegria has been writing some really fascinating meditations on her own haiku and the writing of haiku in general. Wander around over there and take a look at some of them.)

From my Facebook page, where Vincent Hoarau left me this great birthday present (a response to one of my own haiku):

les étoiles

exactement les mêmes

qu’à ma naissance


the stars

exactly the same

as the day i was born

— vincent

(By the way, a lot of people wrote me great haiku for my birthday, many of them on this very blog. They were amazing gifts. Thanks, Bill and Rick and Alegria.)

From Blue Willow Haiku World:

春浅し旧姓で待つ上野駅   森 裕子
haru asashi kyûsei de matsu ueno-eki

early spring
with my maiden name
I wait at Ueno Station

— Yuko Mori, translated by Fay Aoyagi


From The Perpetual Bird:

waning moon—
stars coming back
that were never gone

— Joseph Hutchinson

From A Lousy Mirror, a fascinating online publication by Robert D. Wilson:

dry wheat grass . . .
the whiteness of
a child dying
— Robert D. Wilson

From see haiku here: a wonderful haiga based on this haiku —

a cuckoo’s flight —
dissecting diagonally
the emperor’s city of Heian

— Buson

Kuniharu wrote the following fascinating commentary about this haiga, which will make no sense to you if you don’t go look at the haiga, people.

“Hototogisu, or cuckoo, is the kigo of summer, so this haiku is about the season. But what interests me is the word ‘diagonally.’

The city of Heian is a planned city, modeled after old Chinese capital city; the streets are just like in the haiga, in rigid lattice. And this lattice shape corrisponds to the ritual manner also. Many formal ceremonies took place at the emperor’s palace. One basic rule of human movements in the formal ritual is that you never move diagonally, they should be always right-angled. …

Knowing all these, our appreciation of the word ‘diagonally’ deepens more. Cuckoo is so free, free from all the rigidness and restraints in human world, which culminates at the emperor’s city.”

— Kuniharu Shimizu


From Roadrunner, August 2008, Issue VIII:3:

I can’t reproduce this here, but you absolutely have to go take a look at it. Scott Metz put together an interactive graphic that reveals some “found haiku” in poetry of Whitman and Thoreau. It’s stunning.


Deep Thought

This isn’t directly about haiku, but if you like haiku I’m pretty sure you’ll like this. (Your money back if not completely satisfied.)

A while back I mentioned in this column my sadness at the fact that David Marshall was giving up his five-year-old haiku streak. Well, I’ve been finding my grief easier to bear since starting to follow his prose blog, Signals to Attend. David’s writing itself is beautiful — clear and concrete and at the same time lyrical and original — but even more important, what he writes about is in my view urgently worth writing about (I’m talking about a big-picture kind of urgency, not a news-at-ten kind of urgency).

One of his recent essays, “Making Scenes,” seems especially valuable for haiku writers (and other human beings, but this is at least theoretically a haiku blog). He starts out by saying simply, “I like to think about what people are doing right now,” and gives a list of examples — “a seventh-grade girlfriend talking to her new son-in-law,” “a former student hanging a print in a narrow apartment powder room.” People he knows, people he doesn’t know, mostly all doing the kind of mundane things we do all day that make up the vital texture of our lives. “[A] sort of peace,” David writes, “settles in me when I imagine everyone okay.” On News at Ten, after all, something terrible is always happening to someone. But something terrible is not happening to most of us most of the time. If you take the time to look around the world at what people are doing, you’ll mostly find them at a myriad of ordinary activities.

Then David jumps straight from the daily routines of humanity into poetry — in particular, Walt Whitman. “Little moments,” David says, “populate [Whitman’s] poems,” moments that are “companionable, reaffirming people flow in one river that, at least in our daily lives, moves in similar ways to the same sea.” He quotes Whitman on the universality of human experience across time and space:

“I am with you, you men and women of a generation, or ever so many generations hence; …
Just as you feel when you look on the river and sky, so I felt;
Just as any of you is one of a living crowd, I was one of a crowd;
Just as you are refresh’d by the gladness of the river and the bright flow, I was refresh’d; …”

This amazing verse of Whitman’s ramps up the reader’s expectations, and David doesn’t let them down in the final paragraph of his essay. He wonders if technology is really helping us to empathize with each other or is further emphasizing our tendencies toward individuality and solipsism. After all, he reminds us, “we have imagination. Why can’t we see how closely other lives parallel our own, how, at any instant, we are all acting in the same scenes?”

To me, this is what poets do, or at least should do. They use the power of a sympathetic imagination to place themselves in the situation of another human being, to see the world from another person’s point of view, to figure out what makes other people tick. Maybe this is part of why, when people talk about the necessity of haiku faithfully reflecting our personal experience, it troubles me slightly. Obviously there isn’t anything wrong with reporting our own experience in poetry — sharing our experiences is one of the things that helps other people imagine what it’s like to be us. But we have to return the favor. We have to remember that we’re part of the wide river of humanity, and try to place ourselves in context in that stream by looking around us and thinking about what’s going on in the lives and hearts of other people.


Dead Tree News

A couple more print journals came in the mail for me this week. One was the venerable Modern Haiku, which has been around for several decades now and is going stronger than ever under the editorship of Charles Trumbull. The other was the very-recently-started, but already well-established, tanka journal Moonbathing, which features exclusively tanka by women and is edited by Pamela A. Babusci. (I wrote more about Moonbathing in Haikuverse no. 11, with information about how to contact Pamela for submission and subscription information.)

Modern Haiku 42:1, featuring the stunning Eagle Nebula on the cover (I know what it is because my physics-major husband told me, not because I have a nebula-classifying hobby — not that there’s anything wrong with that!), is full of so many things — haiku and senryu, haibun, haiga, essays, book reviews, news — that getting through it all has eaten up much of my free-reading time for the last week or so. I cannot possibly tell you all the things that impressed me in here. I will say that I thought the haibun selection was outstanding, and I am very picky about haibun. Then there were the haiku … okay, you’ve been patient, here’s a ridiculously small selection of the juicy stuff:


— Joyce Clement


nothing more to say —
the thunk
of an axe at sundown

—Susan Constable


I read aloud
the part about the rabbit hole …
falling snow

— Sari Grandstaff


How can one write
This ceaseless rain
Makes everything inseparable

— M Hasan



— Mark F. Harris


father’s day —
an airplane flies us over
the fault line

— Michael Meyerhofer



goldenrod —
as if I should be happy
to hear from her

— Christopher Patchel


back from the war
all his doors
swollen shut

— Bill Pauly

in an urn
if only she knew
its pear shape

— George Swede

Wisst ihr wie bald wir
sterben werden?
mall people!
do you know how soon
we will die?

— Dietmar Tauchner


I am still trying to figure out tanka. I’m getting there, I think. But I still have a reflexive feeling much of the time when I read tanka that they are overgrown haiku that need to be pruned. Tanka aren’t just long haiku, of course, they have different aims than haiku — they’re much more personal, much more about feelings — so it’s not fair to judge them by haiku standards. And I did enjoy a great deal of what I read in Moonbathing. For instance(s):

rising winds
scatter fallen leaves
I hang
swinging between
two moons

— Marilyn Humbert


the illegitimate child —
I imagine turning up
on their doorstep
one day
in a bright red beret

— Angela Leuck


a gray cloud
through the window
when I close my eyes
a single cry of migrating birds

— Sasa Vazic




Ready to cry uncle yet? (So often that’s people’s response to my helpful attempts to educate and reform them. Baffling.) Okay, I’ll open the hatch in just a moment, but first I want to know … did anyone press the red button? Anyone? Anyone?

No one? Okay, I guess my perfect record stands intact. No one yet has died of reading too much haiku. Not on my watch, anyway. And I have just scientifically proven that there is nothing unlucky about the number thirteen. Relax. Go write a nice little poem.

24 thoughts on “Across the Haikuverse, No. 13: Lucky Edition

  1. Bawww. Mel, you’re flattering me the way you keep pulling my ‘ku for these editions. I look forward to reading through all the others. (And digging into Modern Haiku 42.1, which came in the mail yesterday–my birthday gift to myself was a subscription and a couple back issues I was published in.) And since you keep mentioning the nebula, I have to say, that’d make a great line for haiku… right? Right?

    Also making me sad that the trip to Chicago is so far away! I do miss everyone (but this also makes me grateful for the internet).

    I think I’ve mentioned this before, but you should also check out Eucalypt, another tanka journal that’s just straight up tanka. Lots, and lots of tanka. A bit pricier, but worth it. Beverley publishes a wide range of styles and topics, then her artist teammate does pen drawings for each issue (example here). Not trying to overly sell it or anything, but it was a publication that helped me get over the tanka angst.

    • Well, I really love that ku … although there were several others that I liked a lot too, but I’m trying to limit myself to one per customer these days. 🙂 That snow and that rice belong together, all right.

      Oh, yeah, nebula haiku … that’s on my list of potential subjects (I have a long and eccentric list, but sometimes my ideas are way ahead of my poetic skill).

      Yeah … you told me about Eucalypt before and I actually have a subscription order prepared that I need to take to the post office so I can get a mail order for AU$40. 🙂 I feel even better about this decision now I saw that photo of the page your great tanka is on … love the layout and the sketch.

      I’ve written a zillion more tanka since the ones you whipped into shape. I’m not really that afraid of them anymore, but it still feels a little weird to be writing them. Like I’m some Heian lady lying around in bed, dashing off little trifles to impress her lover. (Wait a minute. This isn’t actually a bad thing, is it? Hmmmm.)

      • The snow and rice one is probably one of my favorites I’ve written so far, so I’m glad out of all of them, you picked that.

        I’ve been trying myself, but nothing really stellar has popped out. (Stellar, nebula, get it? Get it?)

        Beverley will also take US dollars as long as you hide it in a card or letter. And I agree, the layout is really clean.

  2. Dear Melissa,
    It’s rarely that I write comments and even more rarely that I compliment he or she or they, this or that (perhaps because I am a Scorpio), so, please, don’t take me wrong: I have to tell you that I have read every single word above simply because I enjoy your way of writing and find it interesting and pleasant to my heart…
    Thank you!
    Thank you also for liking my tanka. It’s easy to be found as it is at the end (of the story, not the world:)

    Best wishes

  3. Hi Melissa, I’m very honered and most humble of being mentioned in such fine company and maybe vainly flattered of being in a crowd described as eccentric. Your harvest of net-gems is absolutely wonderful – you have an eye for the good stuff – and confirms me in my hope for the survival and renewal of haiku.(And luckily they go off in all directions!). You seem to find the trends that will contribute to help “western” haiku find its voice. Somehow reading these fine haijin show me of the importance of haiku-circles and poets being inclusive rather than exclusive.

    Again – after reading your blog – my browser “open tabs” have been further increased in number (am using 3 browsers for the time being to have instant access to the good stuff – not very orderly, but that’s me …)

    Thanks again


    • Well, Johannes, as I’ve mentioned before I do consider your haiku gems. I am still in awe that you can write such skillful and original verse in a language not your own (though you have certainly earned the right to call it your own by now).

      I have great hope for the future of western haiku, I think we are stumbling slowly towards something worthwhile that we can call our own. And yes, I think it is far more valuable to spend our time reading and writing the kind of haiku that we want to see in the world, and supporting others who are doing so, instead of sniping at each other over what haiku is or should be.

      Thanks for your support and appreciation. 🙂

  4. You write well, Melissa you write the way you talk, making what you write accessible, enjoyable to read, and natural.

    I was glad to see that you
    included Sasa Vazic. She is a
    remarkable poet.

    A nice publication, Melissa.

  5. Hey Melissa, I always enjoy your tours through the Haikuverse! Thank you for swinging by my neck of the, err, ku-galaxy.

    And see? I didn’t touch the red button once!

    We’re back, safe and sound and, we, ummm, we . . . boy, that button is shiny. It’s almo- AIIYEEEEEEEE!!!!!

  6. It’s been three days. I have arrived finally from this ‘lucky’ flight in your -kuverse still reeling from more stunning sparks you’ve thrown in along the sky-path. I was flying on dragonfly wings–you may have failed to see me tailing along and often disappearing having been blown occasionally by wind. But my sheer wings have turned more sturdy with each whirl in your -kuverse. Meeting your picks of haiku poets has been expanding mine, too; from the bamboo grove where I was hatched, I now fly over stunning fields, pretty soon, of crocus.

    This great flight is really always a ‘high’ for me as you can see in the tangled images in this comment! Thank you so much again and again for making me part of it. And for this flight, for including ‘meringue’!

  7. I really enjoyed your post–so much information and such a delightful, mischievous tone. I’ve followed your link the the Haikuverse competition and hope to put something together before the end of the month. I have one question? Do haiku posted to one’s blog count as published? Thank you for the information and chance to get to know another haiku poet.

    • Thanks much, Yousei. It’s probably best to read the rules at the HaikuNow contest site because I think they answer all those questions about what constitutes publication, but the short answer to your particular question is, I believe, “yes.” That is … don’t send something to the contest that’s been on your blog, or really anywhere public at all (Facebook, Twitter, etc.).

      • after seven years of writing haiku i came to this conclusion,
        english language haiku is simple formula writing, not poetry,
        vastly overrated, and a very easy way for people who are
        not writers or poets to become a writer / poet. japanese haiku
        are the only haiku in existence . . .

        petting zoo
        our toddler calls the lion
        a lamb

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