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5th Sailing

Sails is a section of troutswirl that is devoted to presenting questions for discussion and debate on the nature and possibilities of haiku. Sails will be overseen by Peter Yovu. For an introduction to this section, see Sails.



. . . 5th Sailing . . .

presented by Peter Yovu


The word seems a question unto itself. Composed of at least five sounds, it involves most of the mouth to say it. Comprising at least four distinct meanings, each with a separate etymology, its presence alone on the page leaves one uncertain if it refers to something which can be heard, to a sea channel, to health or to probing the depths. That is, until it is given context, and even then, all its meanings will swirl around it, and into us.

The context here is primarily sound as something heard and something made. So one question that arises is, how important to you is sound as a quality in haiku? How strong a factor is it in how you compose your poems, and in your enjoyment in reading them? Do you edit with sound in mind? We often celebrate the senses, and seek their renewal with haiku, but do you value the taste of words themselves and what they make your mouth do? (The poet Donald Hall refers to this pleasure as “milktongue”). Or do you regard it as a poetic device to be downplayed, or avoided?

As always, I encourage you to find your own point of entry into this Sailing. But what I would encourage most, is that you (and I will do the same) present for our pleasure and consideration a haiku (or two, or three) which you feel is greatly enhanced by the play of sound, whose meaning perhaps, is inseparable from its body. Can you say a thing or two about it? I look forward to seeing which haiku you choose to show us, and to the sounds you make on the subject of sound.

This Post Has 39 Comments

  1. Oh, Lorin, It’s amazing to me that something so familiar to me as a quahog could be called “exotic” …delicious, maybe…yet words from countries like Australia are “exotic” to my ears, and yet so familiar to my friends from Oz…

  2. John Stevenson’s reminder that we need to be cognisant of the different sounds in the different regional areas of the English-speaking world is a good one. 🙂 The old ‘tomaytoes/ tomahtoes’ difference is only a beginning. . .

    Regional words/ phrases will always have a place in authentic writing, even if at first they seem ‘exotic’ . Here’s one containing an ‘exotic’ regional word that puzzled me until I researched it and made myself somewhat familiar with it. I was then was able to come to an appreciation of the haiku and realise that this word and no other was the best for the purpose:

    the uneven edge
    of a quahog shell

    paul m.

  3. I think that John Stevenson’s comment bears a bit of weight for me here. I’ve noticed that US haiku contests seem to find foreign phrases intriguing. As if the unfamiliar phrase custs through the repetition of what we hear ever day. Regional phrases also seem to have the same intrigue. Has anyone else felt this way?

  4. When writing a poem, haiku-derived or otherwise, I notice that I have a tendency to favor sound effects over other possibilities. One way of saying this is that I get mesmerized by a beautiful body, one curve rhyming with and amplifying another, convexities playing with concavities, and settle there, as in a graceful hollow held by the sound of soughing pines but ignoring that there is no water nearby.

    An example is a poem I am working on now. As it sits in my notebook, it ends with the word “upstairs” which pleases me because it has a strong sound-correspondence with a word which comes earlier. I have trained myself, but not too Pavlovially I hope, to believe that body (sound and rhythm) trumps everything, that things like meaning, nuance, undercurrent etc. can take care of themselves. (Many a marriage has foundered on this belief).
    And I still believe that there is a way of working with poetry which requires such faith, and can benefit from it, but a certain wisdom, and intelligence and (I don’t know the word right now) is also needed sometimes. So in my example, I need ultimately to de-trance myself from the delights of the body and consider whether another word ( not “upstairs”) is what is really needed.

    I am not going to provide the entire poem here, so this is not about getting advice, at least not right now, but I want to keep this Sailing open a bit. The blog, frankly, and from my strictly personal perspective, is getting to be a bit of a closed circuit, with little jolts of electricity coming in from here and there prompting a shout or two that quickly fades.

    Maybe it’s enough.

  5. I have so much respect for Peggy, that I told her that I never submitted anything to the Nest until she became an associate editor, and I ment that.

  6. we have: Peter, Paul, & all we need is Mary.

    cool, a “pintail” poem! Am not sure why I am not
    getting mail any longer, but I am not getting mail.

    Personally, I would feel that “sound” would be important to any form, regardless of genre. “Haiku” is an oral genre. Actually,
    a “marsh hawk,” is a Harrier. [sorry].

    “sound” can come from anything, even implied sound, to a hard Ee.

    Indian summer–
    a bee bounces around
    in the beer can

    Originally published: the heron’s nest, then whatever NR6 did with this.

    “rhythm,” is mind set, a state of awareness, which can be achieved by feel. Feel the image!
    Mull it over in you mind. Taste it.

    I would never consider myself as a minimalist, but
    most of my haiku are 10 syllables or less and I do not count syllables.

    Berlin wall
    a smooth stone
    in my pocket

    You cannot hear the sound within this poem? Bill
    [Higginson] said it reminded him of David & Galiath.

  7. The sound of a poem is one way to name its ultimate “meaning.” We can’t separate meaning from the sound of the words that communicate meaning. Nor can we separate the sound of words from the syntax: the rhythm of the speech act comprised of the words. Which is not to say that a good haiku, like any good poem, can’t be paraphrased, only that the paraphrase reduces the poem to a statement (rather than a certain sound). Jim Kacian’s haiku: calm evening/the ballgame play-by-play/across the water– the “calm” of the repeated “a” sound is broken up by the hyphenated “play-by-play” much like the calm of the evening is broken up by action on the diamond. Calm returns with the final line, but not before the hard “c” closes the link between “calm,” “ballGame,” and “aCross.” Interweave is counterpoint to the classic form of this haiku. Here we see the poetic virtue of the bi-form, the “verticality” of the superposed line in tension with the contingent world of baseball. So much energy, it’s hard not to laugh. I recall a contemporary of Issa’s defending his poems against an attack that they were just jokes: a good haiku has the energy of a joke. The sound of this haiku can’t finally be separated from the sound it makes in the body, or how it “sounds” the body of the reader, echoing still, across the water.

  8. For this haiku, I was present the evening that must have inspired it. Hilary can certainly speak for herself, I’ll just look over her shoulder, figuratively…

    sweet grapes
    the conversation passes
    between friends

    Hilary Tann

    The table had a lot of things we passed around … wine, three or four cheeses, several kinds of crackers, nuts, dried fruits, usually some prepared or cooked hors d’oeuvre, maybe a country bread and several olive oils to try for dipping . . . Hilary could have chose other words to “pass.” She could have had it as around the table, across the table, among friends. Any # of things. All in her control. But the big, ripe, red, seedless grapes were captured in her language. “sweet grapes” reads slowly and ends open-mouthed. Language matches the adjective and noun… and she made it plural. Control. 2nd part of the haiku … more Ss but I do not think them noticeable, as a separate thing. They blend into the whole. Grapes passed; conversation passed, but she doesn’t hit you over the head with the repetition of motion, of the fruit and the speech.

    I also chose one by Ferris Gilli. It is _about_ sound and also has sound and music of its own. She took a risk… used an uncommon word; “serrated.” It is the perfect word, to me (who knows these little frogs from living in Florida — peepers are also annoyingly persistent in Spring up north, slightly different calls).
    The over and over rasp is like sawing. Repeated shape.

    night rain–
    the small serrated song
    of a frog

    Ferris Gilli

    Hear the contrasting actual sound of the random drumming of the rain, contrasted with the serrated song. Rain and this song are related… the frogness of these frogs. They come out to spawn because of this rain. But the rain goes all night— the frogs likewise. That lines 2 and 3 end with a similar single letter?

    The construction is only seen, to me, upon dissection. Doing this to a haiku is not a good thing except to explicate. Ferris puts it all past you — smoothly. Two actual sounds — and words to match.

  9. Not to ignore Peter’s request about my comment with Hilary Tann’s haiku, first off, Peggy Willis Lyles, Mistress of Music in haiku, has left out any of her own.

    This very morning I was typing to a haiku newbie and used this as an example (to listen to haiku, even if only in your mind’s ear):

    first a smooth-to-say line that matches the welcome weather, all smiles . . .

    Indian summer
    a turtle on a turtle
    on a rock

    Peggy Willis Lyles,
    first pub. in The Heron’s Nest, I guess

    The rhythm done three complete times in but two short lines… looks like turtles, looks like piled turtles. Humpy, unlovely looking reptiles. Four hard Ts in a row, ending with rawKUH. So hard! Yet the suchness of turtle is captured. This is what turtles are, and what they do… seek the sun. Peggy loves her creatures, but will not show it directly. Language Master? You bet.

    I also agree with Peggy that if “technique” shows it is too much, applied too thickly. As she points out with the Father Roseliep, a fine haiku need not be musical at all (or pay much heed to sound). But, when the haiku lets the author . . . ?

  10. Sound is of considerable importance to me in haiku. At minimum, the sound of the poem should not interfere with its meaning. At best, meaning, to quote Peter, “is inseparable from its body.” Haiku already posted under this sailing suggest a wealth of subjects and moods available to the genre. Sense dictates sound; sound conveys sense. For the most part, I prefer a certain restraint, veering away from devices that might overwhelm content

    Rhythm and repetition of sounds (alliteration,consonance, and assonance) are the techniques we think of most often, but sometimes a different sort of music serves the poet’s pupose. Here is an example:

    the black hen
    eating outside
    her shadow

    Raymond Roseliep
    Listen to Light, Alembic Press, 1980.

    Roseliep was an accomplished poet even before he found haiku, skilled enough to join ear and eye with a progression of vowels in which only the “a” sounds in “black” and “shadow” match. I think the poem would be far less successful if he had substituted “pecking” for “eating.”

    In a different vein, strong accents and repeated “t”s and “st”s are essential to this haiku by another master poet:

    i take the strongest
    of my walking sticks
    first cherry blossoms

    vince tripi
    monk and i, Hummingbird Press, 2001

    I feel the stick meet the ground four times in the strong strides of the first two lines and then twice more slowly, maybe three times, in the last line, with the feminine ending prolonging an appreciative moment.

    I’ll offer several more examples in varied moods.

    buffalo bones
    a wind less than a whisper
    in the summer grass

    Chad Lee Robinson
    The Heron’s Nest IX:3, 2007.

    in from the cold–
    only my hands
    to warm my hands

    Penny Harter
    Global Haiku: Twenty-five Poets World-wide, Mosaic Press, 2000.

    stones in the rootmass
    of a fallen tree–
    winter stars

    Peter Yovu
    The Heron’s Nest IX:2, 2007.

    saw-tooth peaks–
    leave my body
    to wild dogs

    paul m.
    Called Home, Red Moon Press, 2006.

    trail’s end
    the taste of wild onion
    still sharp on my tongue

    Billie Wilson
    The Heron’s Nest, VII:3, 2005.

  11. Paul MacNeil, I can’t help but ask you to say something about “controlling the sound of the words”.
    I think that could be helpful.

  12. moonlit snowflakes
    cling to a tuft of
    milkweed fluff
    Michael Ketchek Modern Haiku Vol.39.3 Autumn 2008

    this heat
    the old Moravian gravestones
    flat to the gound
    Bruce Ross Modern Haiku Vol.39.3 Autumn 2008

  13. Controlling the sound of the words, the haiku:

    sweet grapes
    the conversation passes
    between friends

    Hilary Tann
    The Onawa Poems 1999-2008, Ship Pond Press, 2009, p. 21

    and, that sound, plus sound(s) alluded to in the haiku:

    night rain–
    the small serrated song
    of a frog

    Ferris Gilli
    The Heron’s Nest, Vol. II, #1, ’00


  14. Friends, this I believe is a good Sailing in which to dangle your feet and get them wet: all that’s asked really is to contribute a haiku whose sound quality somehow impresses you. No need, even, to comment.

    Here, I’ll do it myself with a haiku by Peggy Willis Lyles from the recent Roadrunner:

    uprooted —
    thorn buds stud
    the devil’s walking stick

    (Geez I wish I could comment).

    1. a pig’s memory
      it leads to colours
      of hesitant hills

      Stanley Pelter

      (Blithe Spirit, vol.13 no.2, June 2003, 34)

  15. Marsh hawk here. Just thought this might be a good time to mention that, while we read perhaps ninety percent the same language in English, we speak a less universal language. Any consideration of the sound of a poem needs to be informed by the dialect / accent of the English spoken by the poet (and reader). I’ve had the experience, many times, of having a poem that hadn’t registered for me in print come alive in the recitation of the poet or some reader more fortunate in dialect than I.

  16. Ah! Peter and Paul…how I wish I could clip your comments and attach them to all my submissions. Plain speech…it’s been the only poetry I’ve known…but I must admit I do enjoy some of the lessons given with regard to some of the examples. Some of the points brought out so far have made my enjoyment of haiku even richer.
    What I discovered about plain speech is that my plain speech is not the other guy’s plain speech. You are right about getting the rhythm right for the hearer/reader but everyone’s got their own internal clock unless they’ve been training on 5/7/5 or some other metre. But Paul’s point that to listen to a couple of hours of 5/7/5 haiku could be mind numbing. Personally, I like to find one haiku and live in it for awhile. As I do drawings for a particular haiku, you would not believe the layers I discover in dwelling on a thought at a time.
    As far as having more haiku poets join in the conversation, tell your friends we’re here…and we miss them!

  17. Paul. I’m happy that as in previous postings, you have grabbed on to a few balloons that in their excitement (if you will forgive my anthropomorphizing a balloon) would otherwise
    slip off into the ether and burst. So I will amend my thoughts about “padding” as it relates to “lilac in full bloom”. I will hold to my notion that the sounds made by the words “in full bloom” add to the richness of the poem, despite, as far as its meaning goes, being unnecessary. But it may be truer that the rhythm they provide is, for reasons our bodies know better than our minds, necessary for the health of the poem. Rhythm, one might say, is the delivery system for sound. It will seem dissonant to any puritanical notions about haiku, but in some way it feels true to say about it that: “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing”. And the swing will vary, of course, depending on the child sitting in it.

  18. For myself, sound is only important to the poem in that it read naturally. I do not count syllables or look to add repetitive consonants for effect. It is more important that a poem can be read aloud with a natural rhythm. But I don’t think I can define that rhythm. In selecting poems for my inclusion in Dim Sum both John Stevenson and I withheld a nice poem because it needed a word, an extra beat, in a line. I couldn’t explain why other than it “felt” like it needed one. I am probably too focused on what is being said, rather than how it is being said; and often as the fine examples above show to my own detriment.

    I was interested in Gabi’s comment about the emphasis on the 5-7-5 ‘backbone’ in Japan. I would think all poems would have a similar sing-song effect when read, and would all have the same rhythm. I would not like to be the 20th poet at a reading. I prefer each poem to sound as its own, and not like others.

    Additionally, I think too much of this game-playing can be distracting. The Spiess poem quoted above is a good example of that (to me). It is a tongue-twister. The first few lines with their consonants give a nice echo of rain on tin, but I find “pelting” to be too much. He went too far. I think you lose what is being said by how it is said. One covers the other.

  19. I am making the following request under this Sailing because of the sounds that are *not* being made here or elsewhere throughout *Troutswirl*. A blog, you might say, is like an eco-system– the more varied it is, the richer it is, and the healthier it is. Right now we seem to have a small number of regular contributors– some deer and woodchucks that can’t resist the garden, and an even smaller number of owls and marsh hawks that scan the fields for mice, maybe grab one or two, then don’t come back for weeks. Well, who knows how owls think? And now and then a visitor arrives, weaves in and out of the light at the forest’s margins and is gone before we are quite sure what we have seen.
    As eco-systems go, maybe it’s been enough, maybe there are creatures and orchids and fungi that seldom sprout mushrooms and are never seen but still are part of the whole. My analogy ends there, however, because I believe the life of this blog depends on visibility, on bear-hoots as well as owl-hoots, and sometimes on a willingness to display one’s colors, vocal and otherwise.

    So the request is for participation– doesn’t have to be every day or every week– from poets and readers who have not yet done so. I make this request not in any official capacity (I don’t have one) but for personal, even selfish reasons. I find out about myself when I express myself (I can always admit to being wrong (wonderful discovery!) later on if necessary) and I also find out about myself in response to what others have found about themselves. I believe that in some sense we go out into nature to uncover our own dragonfly-nature,
    stinky-fox-den nature, lichen-natures. (Or into the city to find out about our glass and concrete nature, our fear of the subway nature). Similarly, I hope many and more will come to this blog if not to discover, at least to engage with the nature of haiku as it ranges from traditional to avant-garde to maybe something we’ve yet to see.

  20. Thanks Peter, you have answered a question that has puzzled me for a long time. This is the trouble with following the rules to the letter…I have been paring my haiku down to as few words as possible lately and it seemed natural but I’ve been getting some pushback that they are too curt in some instances. Now I understand why…you have to know when to break the rules!
    Also, “ee” is right in the peeling…I used to get sun poisoning every time I was in the sun for more than 15 minutes as a kid. I spent many a summer day soaked in red wine vinegar to take the sting out (which hurt like the devil at first) and then the cooling. So that haiku just puts me back on the beach in my teens. I certainly feel this one.

  21. Peter, thanks for the critical note of appreciation on this poem. It’s always been one of my favorites.

    Sound is just one of many resources available to english-language haiku.

    I appreciate sound in poetry and use it instinctively. And sound goes along with rhythm, equally important to me in such a small poem as haiku.

    Also the use of reptition or parallism, another poetic device…would Virgilio’s poem ‘lily, out of the water, out of itself’, have succeeded without it?

    I think assonance, consonance, alliteration, onomatopeia, etc. honor the beauty of our language and I recognize and appreciate it in haiku so long as if feels natural and not contrived.

    I don’t see much ‘allusion’ though in our haiku, or maybe I haven’t looked around enough. But the Japanese used it a lot. My own tongue in cheek effort published in Croatia.

    flu season. . .
    to kiss
    or not to kiss


  22. Here’s another sound-rich insect haiku found recently over on the “Tobacco Road” blog, and as it happens, by a poet featured on this week’s Montage– Carole MacRury:

    lilac in full bloom—
    bees bumping
    into bees

    I present it not only for how the sound conveys meaning beyond the meaning of the words– the body of the poem is its own meaning– but also for how, in order to amplify this effect, it breaks what some may regard as a rule …

    The rule is “no padding just to get a syllable count or other effect”. It could be argued that the first line would have been sufficient as “lilac”, the word itself conveying fulness. But how much would have been lost without the sumptuosity of “in full bloom” as it leads one by the lips down to “bees bumping/ into bees”? So put me down as bumptious on padding.

    And over on his “lakes and now wolves” blog, Scott Metz has posted a one-liner notable for its sound:

    after peeling my burnt skin new coolness

    This is a poem of pure sensation, beautifully realized I believe. It may evoke personal memories for some, and thoughts of renewal and the like, but first of all, it will be felt, it will be understood by the body.

    Here too it could be argued that the word “after” is redundant, but without it, something is missing. The “er” sound in “after”, repeated and reinforced by the same sound in *burnt*, to my ear provides a drone for the poem, an undercurrent or foundation against which the play of two principal long vowels, “ee” and “oo” can arise. The “oo” sounds in “new coolness”, in fact, are richer not only because of the drone, but also because of the contrast with that long “ee” in “peeling”. The coolness literally feels new.

    As I think Allan said, you can’t plan this kind of sound-making. But it’s possible to develop one’s ear, and though it may irritate some, I think this kind of analysis can be seen as an appreciation, and a way to open the ear.

  23. And here’s another from your own Viral 1.3

    mosquito she too
    insisting insisting she
    is is is is is

    — Peter Yovu

    It contains lots of sound thanks to all the assonance and it is about sound, very cleverly written. Especially as the sound of a mosquito is one we instinctively don’t like!

  24. Here’s a sound haiku that I found in Acorn by Paul MacNeil:

    water lilies
    the stiff stance
    of a bull

    Paul MacNeil

    When I read short “i” short “i” and then came to the short “u” …
    Uh! I could almost feel the bull…hear him grunt… What a wonderful play on sounds. The stiff stance “st” “st” sort of dumps you into it too.
    Well, I see that Gabi’s post shows what the Japanese enjoy hearing in their haiku, emphasizing the last sound of each line –
    letting the sound disappate before moving on to the next line,
    but in this haiku I found it delightful to be tossed, light as a feather and then come to the ground with great weight. So once again I see variations of what language means to us from different cultures. This is all very interesting…

  25. During Japanese haiku meetings, each haiku is read out loud twice, whith the emphasis on 5 7 5 as its poetic backbone. So the sound and flow is very important!

    furu ike yaaaaaaa
    kazwazu tobikomuuuuuuu
    mizu no otooooooooo

    this sort of voice …
    So the cutting words help giving a Japanese haiku its rythm and punch when read aloud, something I really miss in English haiku.

    end line three kanaaaaaa


  26. What marvelous music! I’m glad Allan notes that someone like me could get tied in knots trying to obtain the effects of some of these truly gifted haiku poets achieve. This post has me scanning some of the journals to become more aware of some of the artistry I’ve been missing. Since I think in images, there is very little sound…so I have a lot to learn. Thanks.

  27. Regarding sound and birds, here’s one by Anita Virgil:

    holding you
    in me still…
    sparrow songs

    Scott Mason mentioned assonance as a more subtle use of sound repetition than alliteration. I find sibilance can also satisfy that aim. I enjoy the way


    segues into the much quicker rhythm of

    sparrow songs

  28. I’m delighted Sandra Simpson cited Christopher’s “foghorns” in this context, with its lovely play on the word “sound” itself. I also hasten to agree with Scott Mason that subtlety is often the best course to pursue. If haiku poets tried to emulate the complicated sound patterns of Bashō’s “karasu” or Spiess’s “Lean-to of tin” on every outing, they’d tie themselves into knots and become paralyzed. Such haiku, I think, cannot be forced or manufactured; they happen when they do…and they will do so only rarely. What has to be balanced against craftsmanship in haiku, I think, is a strong element of spontaneity. Still, if one is receptive, sound often “happens” of its own, so to speak, arising naturally from the elements that have presented themselves to the poet as the basis for a haiku.

    I’d like to offer three more notable exs. of sound in haiku:

    beads of dew
    cling to ripe blueberries
    the sinking moon
    (Jack Barry, The Haiku Calendar, 2007, Snapshot Press)

    Note here how the poem is bound together by assonance in the final word of each line. That round “oo” sound also fortuitously evokes the three types of spheres the poem presents. And to me it seems underscored by the repetition of cavernous nasals, “n” and “m”.

    lifting mist…
    a flock of knots fans out
    across the creek
    (Matthew Paul, Presence 33, 2007; reprinted Wing Beats)

    A personal favorite of mine. Here the sound patterns work horizontally rather than vertically. Each line is bound together by its own “key” (if you will) and differentiated from the others.

    thunderheads offshore
    the osprey coming early
    to its nest
    (Peggy Willis Lyles, To Hear the Rain, 2002)

    In terms of rhythm, this one has always stood out for me. The last two lines actually form a perfect iambic pentameter unit, the alternating unstressed and stressed syllables suggesting the steady wing beats of the approaching osprey. Also note the repetition of the “aw” vowel of “offshore” and “osprey”, helping bind together the poem’s two elements in an inevitable-seeming way. There is something about the experience of birds, it seems to me, that often brings out the most lyrical vein in our haiku.

  29. Speaking of Christopher — a musician, incidentally –, he wrote something that I found very interesting in describing his selection criteria for a contest he was judging. When it came to the matter of sound, he cited its critical role in contributing to the felt BELIEVABILITY of a poem. This was a startling notion to me, not least because, once articulated, it immediately struck me as true.

    To second (or third) Gabi’s and Merrill’s comments above, I believe this credibility-enhancing effect applies as much to “flow” or “rhythm” as it does to individual or collective phonic effects.

    Most believable, in my view, are those sound treatments I’d characterize as “present but subtle”. This probably accounts for my usual preference of assonance, say, over alliteration, though each (and others) can be used to great effect in the right context.

    That said, I’d offer the following wonderful haiku by the late Claire Gallagher as it originally appeared in The Heron’s Nest:

    the laughter
    of elderly friends
    magnolia rain

  30. I think sound is a very topical matter in haiku – no doubt why you chose to bring it up here.

    Perhaps it’s possible to divide haiku into two broad categories (with a possible two sub-categories) on the basis of sound:

    1)haiku in which sound sometimes has a notable impact and contributes to the poem’s effectiveness.

    1a) haiku in which sound plays a pivotal role in the effect of the haiku – strong rhythm, strong alliteration, strong assonance, etc.

    2) haiku which contain no noticable sound-based effect.

    2a) haiku which purposely seek to eliminate any such effects from the poem in order to “let the images speak for themselves”.

    Looking online I already found some good examples of these variations such as:


    in the darkness
    of womb, a life swims
    into my life

    by _kala at


    we are what we eat crow caw

    by Jim Kacian at


    february sun —
    a can nods through
    the water’s reflections

    by Frank Williams at


    in front and behind are cows: wanting cows to the right and left, too

    by Hashi Kageo at

    I don’t think any one way is the right way – each of these approaches can still produce excellent haiku (which isn’t necessarily a direct statement about the one’s I’ve chosen here – they were all easy to find and that was the main reason I used them here! I am rather fond of a couple of them though.)

    Anyway, just some thoughts.

  31. I was just reading Allan’s haiku:
    a redtail’s echo…
    the reservoir the color
    of surrounding pines

    How round the sounds are encompassing the opening up and surrounding the whole scene…and the rhythm of the whole piece resounding again and again … like an echo…

  32. This is one topic I intend to just sit out and listen to…I can feel the sound reading your posts…wonderful. I’m also glad that Gabi added rhythm to sound. I could feel the incantational effect of the haiku given in her post’s link. Hopefully if there are enough posts I’ll learn to sing.

  33. 青田にはあをき闇夜のありぬべし

    aota ni wa
    aoki yamiyo no
    arinu beshi

    Hirai Shoobin 平井照敏

    あざみ あざやかな あさの あめあがり

    azayaka na
    asa no
    ame agari

    Santooka 山頭火

    More is here:

    too-in とういん【頭韻】 alliteration, consonance, is used in Japanese haiku.

    My Japanese sensei always says:

    read it out loud and hear how your haiku sounds. Sound and a smooth flow is very important in traditional Japanese haiku.


  34. Lean-to of tin;
    a pintail on the river
    in the pelting rain.

    — Robert Spiess, The Turtle’s Ears (1971)

    Here’s a relatively “early” ex. of a splendid use of sound in ELH. The number of sound patterns here is truly remarkable!

    * The initial “L” recurs in “tail” and “pelt”.
    * The “n” of “Lean” recurs in “tin”, “pin” (and there’s an internal rhyme!), “on”, and “rain”. The final “n” of “tin” and “rain” bind lines 1 & 3 together in a kind of near rhyme (reinforced by the eye rhyme of the repeated “i”).
    * There is a very notable pattern of “t” sounds: “to”, “tin”, “tail”, “pelt”.
    * And there is the crucial repetition of the plosive “p” sound in “pintail” and “pelting”.
    * The double “r” of “river” is also echoed by “rain”.

    Most of these patterns are exs. of consonance (repetition of consonant sounds) and alliteration (repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of stressed syllables). Following the internal rhyme of “tin” and “pin”, there is also the additional assonance provided by “river” and “in”. That short “i” is the dominant vowel sound.

    But it’s the consonance that does most of the “work” in this poem, I feel. Can you not hear, esp. through those “t”s and “p”s, the needles of rain pinging off the tin lean-to and falling more softly into the river?

    I feel sound is extremely important to haiku composition. It’s an expressive resource and part of the *poetry* of haiku. And it’s very much part of J tradition, as Kenneth Yasuda pointed out long ago. Spiess’s haiku follows in the tradition of Bashō’s famous

    kareeda ni karasu no tomarikeri aki no kure

    (“on a bare branch a crow has settled — autumn nightfall”)

    No translation can begin to do justice to the rich pattern of /k/ and /r/ and /n/ sounds in the original.

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