Across the Haikuverse, No. 28: The On Beyond Zebra Edition

On Beyond Zebra

Sometimes 26 letters are not enough. Dr. Seuss fans will know what I’m talking about.

Anyone who writes seriously at all, I’m guessing, is frequently frustrated by the inadequacy of language to express the full range of things there are to express in the world. There aren’t words for everything. There aren’t even combinations of words for everything, although one of the things that great writers (and sometimes even we lesser writers) do is find new combinations of words to express things that haven’t been expressed before, or that have been expressed before but are in need of refreshing.

On my journeys around the Haikuverse that’s chiefly, I believe, what I’m looking for — people saying things in ways that are new, or new to me. I read a lot, I always have, so it’s not that easy for me to find words I haven’t found before. But it happens, still, many times each month. It’s one reason to keep going. There are others, but I keep coming back to words. I think language, for me, might occupy roughly the same space in my brain that religious awe occupies in the minds of many. We are endlessly finding new things to describe and inventing new ways of describing old things, as individuals, as a species; this seems like reason enough to believe in some form of eternity. Thanks to everyone who’s given me some reason to believe this month.






alive –

morning rain




ikke –


— Johannes S.H. Bjerg, 2 tongues/2 tunger

Dear Malvina,
It’s been a long time since we It’s already autumn here . . .
lonely evening

— Rafael Zabratynski, DailyHaiku, 12/21/11


うごけば、  寒い     橋本夢道

ugokeba,        samui

if I move,                  cold

—  Mudo Hashimoto, trans. Fay Aoyagi, Blue Willow Haiku World


Slime trail—
glancing back at
the glinting

—Don Wentworth, Tinywords

(Also, you should read this lengthy interview with Don from Christien Gholson’s blog.)


crow watching –
the unseen tree branch suddenly

— Angie Werren, feathers


dusk at the beach
a stone and I
touch each other

Dietmar Tauchner, International Second Prize, The 15th Mainichi Haiku Contest


冬蜂の死にどころなく歩きけり  村上鬼城

fuyu-bachi no shini-dokoro naku arukikeri

a winter bee
continues to walk
without a place to die

— Kijo Murakami, trans. Fay Aoyagi, Blue Willow Haiku World


the TV ignores

John Stevenson, ant ant ant ant ant’s blog


cave mouth
a scream beyond my range
of hearing

— George Swede, Mann Library Daily Haiku



like me
made to last



— Johannes S.H. Bjerg, 3ournals and frags




hour upon hour
a veil of simple snow
falling without reason
I feel an urgency
to risk everything I know

— William Sorlien, Haiku Bandit Society


trailing my hand
through the water
for a moment
more river
than man

— Paul Smith, Paper Moon




Another grey day has fallen as a pall on the new calendar as if what makes a difference really doesn’t. Only the ticking clock and the distant squawking of a crow or better yet, complaint, as well as the deep sigh of engines passing by tell the trudge goes on. I look on the cypress with a creeping sense of sorrow. The deep cold has darkened its twigs.  Gifts piled beside it now holiday debris. A black garbage bag rests folded in the bin. I gather the cards. The wishes slide off my fingers. A bag of pebbles waits to be planted on the vase. Like wishes that might take root, I would have to water them each day. But for now

blue notes waver under the lamp

— Alegria Imperial, jornales


No, It’s Not Japanese Short-Form Poetry, But It’s My Blog And I Can Do Whatever I Want


Almost Ready

five forty five a.m.

very cold

I move
close to a heater

night like wind



By god
I hear
a rooster


I had
only heard
a rooster


In the movies


To think
of the beautiful things

Your memory
has led me

And this poem

Almost ready!

— Aditya Bahl, dipping butterflies




Gene Myers, the blogger over at The Haiku Foundation, asked a bunch of poets in December what their hopes were for English-language haiku in 2012. One of my favorite answers to this question, part of which I’ve quoted below, came from Scott Metz:


“One of my hopes is that the aesthetics and techniques—the poetics—that have become traditional (classical?), and entrenched, in English-language haiku (with all its wonderful and creative misreadings, limitations, misinterpretations and ahistorical stances) continue to flourish and intensify, and deepen. With an emphasis on transparency (and directness) of language, simplicity, plainness, literalism, direct experience, season words, and ‘ordinary reality,’ a remarkable, timeless foundation has been created.

“Another one of my hopes for English-language haiku is that it will continue to diversify and evolve; that poets will continue to play (the hai in haiku) artistically (with language, modi operandi, imagery, structure, culture, media, history, literature), go where they need to go—go where they must go—and continue to question and resist. …

“I look forward to the craft and artistry and invitations in everyone’s poems: all the doors and windows left open and/or cracked, all the lights on in the attics, all the latches and locks left undone. I hope for more of all of it and thank everyone for sharing it.”

— Scott Metz, Hopes for English-Language Haiku in the New Year



Alan Pizzarelli and Donna Beaver, the team behind the haiku-podcast goodness of Haiku Chronicles, have once again teamed up with the astounding Anita Virgil to produce something amazing: a video exploration of the many dimensions of modern English-language haiga, narrated by Anita and set to music. You need to spend half an hour watching this: Haiga Gallery.



ant ant ant ant ant 12

Contact Chris Gordon at for a copy of the most recent issue of his intermittently-published and mind-altering journal, featuring the poetry of the great Jack Galmitz. [Apologies to Jack for leaving his credit off the original version of this post. All I can say is, I need new glasses.] I highly recommend the ant ant ant ant ant blog too.


Haiku from ant ant ant ant ant 12


The Heron’s Nest

just how
to hold you
paper kite

— Dan Schwerin, The Heron’s Nest, Dec. 2011

Amongst the usual THN goodness in the most recent issue was this haiku? senryu? which was discussed at length at the most recent meeting of (one of) the real-life haiku groups I attend, during a session on senryu led by the great Bill Pauly. The author, Dan, a wonderful person and poet, is a member of our group — he drives two hours each way to join us every month, which makes us all feel very lucky. This poem of his is so light and deft and well-constructed that it reminds me of a paper kite; I keep expecting it to lift into the air any minute.


bottle rockets #26

pinwheel —
as if a second thought
starts to turn it

— Satoru Kanematsu



One day in December when I was feeling very gloomy Peter Newton’s new book showed up in my mail, with a cover illustrated by Kuniharu Shimizu and an interior designed (oh, and written, of course) by Peter, with the kind of attention to detail that one normally associates with the finer still-lifes of the Flemish Old Masters. Or, you know, something like that. What I’m trying to say, in my usual pretentious way, is that this book is a lot of fun to hold. And page through. And look at. And read. Plus, there aren’t enough orange books in the world.

Cover of What We Find


standing in the middle of now here





on my ceiling
the untraceable wanderings
of an ant
someone’s words carved deep
on a tree in my mind



33 thoughts on “Across the Haikuverse, No. 28: The On Beyond Zebra Edition

  1. Aaahh, the world is right again! One of my fave irregular periodicals – now with a beyond-zebra (post-zebra?) edition!!!! I do love how you pick good stuff from the messy web and bring it to my (our) attention. It adds to the pile of books I’ve ordered but still haven’t read. (pile o’books on one side – a mile o’bookmarks on the other. How will there ever be enough time in the world?!) Oh, and thanks for including my humble scrrriblingers (a new word?) in this string of pearls.

    I didn’t know about the multi-ant’s printed stuff. THANKS! Am a huge fan of that blog; yes, that blog too 😉

    Keep well and keep your head above the water.

    (if you go beyond Z in your search for “new” words/letters, the next might be “æ/Æ” – a combination of a and e (ä in German and Swedish). The first letter of “æble”/apple, “æter”/ether, “æske”/box etc. (actually sounds like the “e” in etcetera but at least 50% longer)

    • That’s it, the next edition will be the “ae [don’t know how to do that character] is for aeble” edition. I’m not kidding.

      BTW, your poetry is blowing me away lately, Johannes. Was hard deciding which ones to include here…

      • You’re too kind, Melissa. You might need to use a DK keyboard lay-out. But that’ll be weird as the key “æ/Æ” will be physically missing. Maybe a font-viewer of some kind can show you how to get to it – not to mention its two sister “ø/Ø” (oe; ö in German and Swedish) “øgle/lizard” “ø/island” “ønske/wish”) and å/Å” (shared with Sweden and Norway)) – no phonetic equivaleent – “ål/ee” “mål/goal/target”.

        Mmmmhh, might have to find a way to demonstrate how they sound …. 🙂

        Back in the think-box …

  2. oh, melissa — thank you. so many wonderful words you’ve found; thanks for taking the time to share them with us.

    it seems like everytime I flirt with the idea of giving up this poetry-writing thing, you find something and pull me back into the haikuverse. it’s funny: I just bought a brand new copy of ‘winnie-the-pooh’ and it’s swirling around in my head to do pooh-kus for the february nahaiwrimo. you just gave me the justification. 😀

    keep breathing.

  3. Pingback: hour upon hour, a tanka by William Sorlien at Melissa Allen’s Across the Haikuverse, No. 28: The On Beyond Zebra Edition / Red Dragonfly « word pond

  4. So often I come across your blog and know I can be busy for hours down this maze of words you’ve set out before me. An exploration into the nuances of word arrangement. Maybe that’s also what a poet is, especially a haiku poet — an explorer of white space, like so many of the original explorers whose journeys began where the map left off…

    Thanks for being crazy curious. For showing me the world. I am but a deckhand on the HMS Haikuverse and grateful for it.

    just when I think I am alone a dragonfly


    • Now I want to take a bunch of pieces of blank paper and explore arranging words on them.

      Or maps. Haiku on maps.

      “Crazy,” I believe, is the operative word in the phrase “crazy curious.” But I’m glad my insanity is apparently contributing to world happiness.

      Thank you for the dragonfly haiku. It made my day better.

  5. Again, I’m losing words for words I wish weren’t there before so I can scramble letters to say what I wish. ‘Thanks’ seem worn out for what you’ve been doing, combing and buffing what you find in the haiku universe for one–those stray asteroids bouncing or flailing about that you catch, finding them a shelter here in your haikuverse. So there, the words came out, anyway…

    zebra sizing itself in a dress same as itself

    But I’d like to say it, too, in a tongue with words I now hardly use in my new life here in North America, the Iluko tongue I had as a child, ‘Dios ti agngina unay unay, Melissa!’ (literally meaning, ‘God is worth so very much”) or the more casual way, ‘Napnuan yaman’ (Richly full). While I never did think about what the phrases mean, I see it just now: they’re meant to give back what you give to the other–your worth, your wealth. Here in a universe of words, this gift to us is your boundless joy and talent at finding words…too much, huh!

    But really, again, you’ve come up with something to treasure, and mine among them! Always so honored, Melissa!

    • What a wonderful phrase for “thanks”… I love the poetry you write in Iluko and I love the effect that your fluency in Iluko and Spanish has had on your English … it is also fluent but it’s not conventional, there are so many surprising turns of phrase in it, it’s so much fun to read! Napnuan yaman, Alegria … your writing makes my life fuller. 🙂

  6. Yes to the highest degree to Valli’s comment! Stated so well,so simply.
    Thank you so much,Melissa. You are the best!
    Loved Peter’s haiku/line. So true.

  7. Now on to hiragana! Then katakana! Just kidding. Will you keep these up after the alphabet dries up? I enjoyed this one even more because it touches on so many things I’ve been reading and hearing lately. Lovely as always. 🙂

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