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HAIKU DIALOGUE – Social Issues – Poverty and Hunger

 

It’s no secret that the entire world has been divided since the beginning of time, whether that be by race, class, religious beliefs, or even cliques in high school. There’s only one way that we can learn to love unconditionally and that’s through empathy and understanding. Over the month of November, I’d like to take some time to get to know one another by sharing our diverse life experiences on the theme of social issues. Everyone has specific social issues that affect them.

The importance of social awareness in haiku is not to change opinions, but to show the opinion from our own perspectives. What personal experiences have we had to make us passionate about that particular issue?

For the month of November, each poet may send one or two haiku/senryu on the week’s theme via our Contact Form.

There will be a selection process in which I will briefly comment on a few of the selected pieces.

The haiku appear in the order in which we receive them.

My next theme is Climate Change.

In my humble opinion, climate change is one of the most important social issues and it doesn’t get nearly enough attention. If we don’t work together to solve environmental crisis, nothing else we fight for will matter because we won’t have a world to live in. This week, we’ll focus on climate change. How has the environment changed over the course of your life? What ideas do you have to instill positive change? What do you think the world would be like if we don’t change? Although I have provided some suggestions of directions for this theme, I leave this open to interpretation.

The deadline is midnight EST, Saturday November 30, 2019.

Social Issues: Poverty and Hunger

As I have spent the last few days preparing for Thanksgiving with my family, this week’s cull has made me sick to my stomach and a little more money-conscious than normal. I think this topic was something that was truly needed. Although I did choose to comment on a few, each poem speaks for itself.

charity gala —
the optimal temperature
to serve champagne

Eva Limbach

Charity events are not uncommon and a great way to raise awareness and donate to those who need the help, but how fortunate are those who can be more concerned with the temperature of a luxury, such as champagne versus real-life crisis like poverty and hunger. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with living a little and enjoying life, but the irony in this poem is a feature we have, in a way, become completely immune to.

after the cowboys
buffaloed the Indians
Pine Ridge

Autumn Noelle Hall

What a clever piece this is on multiple levels! Pine Ridge is a Native American reservation that happens to be located in the poorest county in the United States. This poem not only shares heartbreaking facts to spread awareness, but is also a reminder of what was taken from Native Americans to keep them in poverty and suffering even hundreds of years after their land was taken from them. Not only is this a poignant poem to share in general, but especially around US Thanksgiving. Of course, there’s also some word play (and I do NOT use “word play” lightly here) on cowboys and Indians, but I think the wording is necessary as we are reminded of the innocence of children and how a mundane game to them has become a topic that adults just avoid talking about. However, these are the things we NEED to be talking about. My sincerest thanks to Autumn for taking on such a difficult topic.

around the world in 80 days
not me
slow slow snail

Erick Harmon (age 11)
Los Angeles, California, USA

I know this poem doesn’t outright speak of poverty and hunger, but the layers imply otherwise. The book Around the World in Eighty Days is centered around a wealthy man who places half of his fortune on betting that he can travel around the world in eighty days. To me, knowing the book, the more obvious meaning of this poem is that the poet would be too poor to travel like the man in the book, however I think it could be interpreted much deeper than that. Line one could represent a sense of community and how we’re supposed to help each other out, but in lines two and three, there’s the realization that we can’t for one reason or another, even if we want to. This poem, while simply put, is just brilliant and so open to interpretation.

(PO)v(E)r(T)y

Eileen Zhao (age 17)
Los Angeles, California, USA

I’m a sucker for one word poems and double meanings– this one has both! I must say that this is one of the most clever pieces I have read. Ever since I wanted to be an artist of some sort, which has been the better part of twenty-seven years, I have called myself a starving artist, but I think the joke is much more than that at this point. While I was lucky enough to attend college, I have lived out of a suitcase since my freshman year, drifting from dorm to dorm, in and out of my parents, ex boyfriend’s, and other various friends’ and family’s houses. Nearly ten years later and I still cannot afford a place of my own. Many people might say that it’s a life artists choose for themselves, but as someone who cannot work “regular” jobs due to panic attacks, I would have to disagree. Poetry might land you in poverty, but perhaps some of us might rather be poor and happy doing what we love than being more financially stable, but hating our lives daily. I think that most everyone who reads this poem can relate and would agree that it’s nothing less than brilliant.

Here are my other selections for the week:

one-room schoolhouse the hunger the thirst for knowledge

Mark Gilbert

 

charity
how hard it is
to ask

Debbie Strange

 

poor man’s sandwich
a billboard for ham
and bread on his mind

Aljoša Vuković

 

homeless camp
Thanksgiving
just another word

Stephen Peters

 

grad school dues
macaroni and cheese
again tonight

Pris Campbell

 

she scans the car
hoping for change
offers him her lunch

Susan Rogers

 

alms bowl
snowflakes fall
anywhere

Serhiy Shpychenko
Kyiv, UA

 

whether Buddha or Jesus,
the laughter of crows
in a failing crop

Andrew Riutta

 

in front of the grocery store
a homeless man
asking for change

Olivier Schopfer
Switzerland

 

A penny
in my empty pockets
Autumn wind

Un centesimo
nelle mie tasche vuote
Vento d’autunno

Dennys Cambarau

 

group home
fellow tenants beg for
my Chinese takeout

Jackie Chou

 

whirling dervishes
his look as I drop the coin
in his bowl

Anitha Varma

 

i have the best dad
the girl tells the man
who adopted her

Ljiljana Dobra
Sibenik Croatia

 

hungry beggar
temple’s donation box
filled to the brim

Vandana Parashar

 

the poor queue up
for their pulses ration,
bean counters busy

Natalia Kuznetsova

 

harvest moon –
in the beggar’s hat
just a coin

Daniela Misso

 

lifting an empty cup
to his lips…
someone’s child

Pat Davis

 

halloween’s over
a bag person empties
the waste bin

Marta Chocilowska

 

cold moon–
children in a refugee camp
share a glass of milk

Teiichi Suzuki

 

landfill leftovers –
the beggar
gives way to crows

avanzi di discarica –
il mendicante
lascia il posto ai corvi

vincenzo adamo

 

family huddled
around dumpster –
dinner time

SD Desai

 

deserted, lonely
she doesn’t know
how to beg

Aju Mukhopadhyay

 

hand-me-down
for the hole in the shoe
a cardboard insole

Carol Jones

 

refugee food camp
a child picks breadcrumbs
from the ant holes

Hifsa Ashraf
Pakistan

 

reality bites
the hostel residents share
bed bugs

john hawkhead

 

spring water
thin soup stretched into
another day

Michele L. Harvey

 

potholes
our pockets
fill with potatoes

simonj
UK

 

among our exports
mountains of
gratified desires

nancy liddle

 

windfall
the piece of loaf in garbage
missed by stray

Vishnu Kapoor

 

alms
the heart-wrenching gratitude
of a leper

Ingrid Baluchi
Ohrid, Macedonia

 

early morning
how many bottles does it take
for one lunch*

*In Croatia people collect plastic bottles for which they get a compensation of 0,067 €, or 0,075 $ each.

Dubravka Šćukanec
Zagteb, Croatia

 

gloomy morning
the boy and his dog share
an old piece of bread

Slobodan Pupovac
Zagreb, Croatia

 

thanksgiving volunteers
feeding the homeless
once a year

Laurie Greer
Washington DC

 

At the bakery
Licking the windows doesn’t
Cost us anything

Margie Gustafson

 

a regular
the old beggar–
gran gives lunch

Christina Chin

 

just downstream
from the chemical plants
their drinking water

Mark Meyer

 

public garbage pickup –
the dumpster emptied out
by a tramp

Luisa Santoro

 

homeless camp
“Jesus Loves You”
in the underpass

Garry Eaton

 

hunger moon
I blow
a long breath

Guliz Mutlu

 

school canteen –
the empty place
of a poor child

mensa scolastica –
il posto vuoto
di un bimbo povero

Maria Teresa Piras
Italy

 

homeless
a man shares his lunch
with pigeons

Rich Schilling
Webster Groves, MO

 

homeless couple
feeding stray dog
feels like home

Franjo Ordanic

 

sunday splurge
we sprinkle sugar
on wonder bread

Kath Abela Wilson
Pasadena, California

 

donating for
my conscience
bus stop billboard

Adrian Bouter

 

the tremble voice
of a destitute child
bitter wind

Agus Maulana Sunjaya

 

howling stomach
before and after
wishing star

Anthony Rabang

 

hunger strike –
the midnight noise from
the school pantry

Adjei Agyei-Baah
Ghana / New Zealand

 

a box for monthlies
next to the washing powder
in the food bank box

Keith Beniston

 

a shivering beggar
emerges
from his box

Steve Tabb

 

his lunch –
near the school gate
the stray dog awaits

Madhuri Pillai

 

lined paper
letter to Santa
“A blanket, please.”

Margaret Walker

 

Christmas package
from the cousins
hand-me-down shoes

Peggy Hale Bilbro
Huntsville Alabama

 

Christmas night:
no one sees the empty bowl

notte di Natale:
nessuno vede la ciotola vuota

Giuliana Ravaglia

 

dumpster diving
the strongest teen
keeps watch

Janice Munro
Canada

 

small hands
to a piece of bread –
broken dreams

piccole mani
verso un pezzo di pane –
sogni spezzati

Angiola Inglese

 

will the sun rise?
…still little bare feet
in the rubble

Elisa Allo

 

half a pill
until month’s end
week one

Ron Scully

 

full harvest moon
refugee children sharing
a stale loaf of bread

cezar ciobîcă

 

empty dogfood cans
piling up behind
an old man waits in his tent

paul geiger
sebastopol ca

 

all my tomorrows
an empty plate

Charlotte Hrenchuk

 

skid row soup kitchen
serves five thousand
Thanksgiving dinner

Charles Harmon

 

the bullied boy
every day the same
stained teeshirt

Roberta Beary
County Mayo Ireland

Lori Zajkowski is the Post Manager for Haiku Dialogue. A novice haiku poet, she lives in New York City.

Guest editor Lori A Minor is a feminist, mental health advocate, and body positive activist currently living in Norfolk, Virginia. She is the editor of #FemkuMag. Most recently, Lori gave a presentation on social awareness in haiku at Haiku North America 2019.

Katherine Munro lives in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, and publishes under the name kjmunro. She is Membership Secretary for Haiku Canada, and her debut poetry collection is contractions (Red Moon Press, 2019).

This Post Has 25 Comments

  1. I am really appreciating this series of haiku. So many writers are rising to the challenge with superb poems. Kudos to Lori for selecting and collating them. Thanks also for including mine.

  2. Thank you so much, Lori, for choosing to comment on my senryu. I especially appreciate what you had to say about the childish games we play and the way we avoid taking adult responsibility for their outcome. Other ideas behind my poem include the fact that 97% of those on Pine Ridge Reservation live BELOW the Federal Poverty line, and of course the government-sanctioned wholesale and deliberate slaughter of the American Bison in an effort to starve the Plains tribes they sustained. The sole remaining herd of pure-blood Bison in North America reside in Yellowstone National Park; all the rest we encounter are the result of crossbreeding with cattle.

    A few more poems that really broke my heart:
    *
    charity
    how hard it is
    to ask
    *
    Debbie Strange
    *
    —What a sad statement, that our society shames those who ask for help, when it takes such strength and courage to do so. A powerful and elegant capture of this pathetic predicament.
    *
    harvest moon –
    in the beggar’s hat
    just a coin
    *
    Daniela Misso
    *
    —I can’t help seeing the way the biggest, most beautiful orange moon of the season is reduced to a mere copper coin here. That is how much poverty can damage even our perspective.
    *
    refugee food camp
    a child picks breadcrumbs
    from the ant holes
    *
    Hifsa Ashraf
    Pakistan
    *
    —This image is absolutely devastating. I am imagining the ants boiling up to defend their crumbs from those little fingers. Just astounding the lengths to which hunger can drive us.
    *
    spring water
    thin soup stretched into
    another day
    *
    Michele L. Harvey
    *
    —“spring water,” which would normally denote cool and refreshing here just conjures inability to escape the cold outdoors. Not only is the soup stretched thin, but the days themselves. I find myself wanting to wander down to the spring with fresh vegetables and herbs to enrich this humble meal.
    *
    thanksgiving volunteers
    feeding the homeless
    once a year
    *
    Laurie Greer
    Washington DC
    *
    —This poem makes me wince at the way we pat ourselves on the back for doing our annual good deeds, as though that temporary charity could make up for the other 364 days of suffering. I lived in D.C. for a couple years and I handed more than one of my packed lunches out my car window to homeless men on my way to work; it wasn’t enough.
    *
    homeless camp
    “Jesus Loves You”
    in the underpass
    *
    Garry Eaton
    *
    Living near Colorado Springs as I do, this poem hits close to home. We are surrounded on all sides by self-proclaimed Christians who race to pass legislation outlawing the homeless. First they cleared the camps from along Fountain Creek, so as not to upset the tourists. Then they made it illegal to sit on the sidewalk downtown, so as not to upset the locals. All while driving cars covered with Focus on the Family fish stickers and owning mountain vacation homes that stand empty 95% of the time. The combination of Garry’s last two lines really captures the true “spirit” of this “out of sight, out of mind” town: Jesus loves you—in the underpass.

    1. Thanks for all your comments and careful readings. I walk by a group of three or four homeless men on my way to work every day. One of them has been living on the streets around here as long as I can remember–20+ years. The sheer ability to survive is breathtaking–as is the way we let it go on and on.

      1. Hi, Laurie,
        *
        You know, the last three sentences you wrote about your experience with the homeless would be an excellent lead-in to a haibun or tanka prose. All you need is a haiku, senryu (or tanka):
        *
        “I walk by a group of three or four homeless men on my way to work every day. One of them has been living on the streets around here as long as I can remember–20+ years. The sheer ability to survive is breathtaking–as is the way we let it go on and on.”
        *
        ____________
        ________________
        _____________

        (________________)
        (________________)

        *
        😀 Autumn

  3. A thought-provoking collection. Like several others, I can relate to Kath-Abela’s sugar on wonder bread as a treat in childhood. The poem that struck me most was:

    whether Buddha or Jesus
    the laughter of crows
    in a failing crop

  4. Thank you Lori for another thought-provoking collection. I have been enjoying your inclusion of ‘alternative’ micro poems. I found my mind wandering to this featured one a few times, considering the connections between poetry/haiku and poverty:
    .
    (PO)v(E)r(T)y
    Eileen Zhao (age 17)
    Los Angeles, California, USA
    .
    This haiku by Keith Beniston struck me as it weaves in the hidden suffering of women who cannot afford menstrual supplies:

    a box for monthlies
    next to the washing powder
    in the food bank box

    Keith Beniston

  5. Each poem has its own power to tear at our heartstrings. These four really got to me:
    charity
    how hard it is
    to ask
    Debbie Strange

    thanksgiving volunteers
    feeding the homeless
    once a year
    Laurie Greer

    deserted, lonely
    she doesn’t know
    how to beg
    Dubravka Scukanec

    early morning
    how many bottles does it take
    for one lunch
    Aju Mukhopadhyay

    Sorry if I spelled the foreign names incorrectly!

    1. i THANK THE EDITOR FOR PUBLISHING MY POEM
      Hearty Thanks to Pat Davis also for publishing my poem but not the one marked. My poem is almost

      deserted, lonely
      she doesn’t know
      how to beg

      +

  6. Thanks for such a stimulating dialogue Lori. I agree with you, Eva Limbach’s champagne haiku is ‘right on the money’ as the very appropriate saying goes.
    .
    Cheers, John

  7. Thank you Lori for prompting us to take on this topic. I’ll mention these three which particularly affected me –
    .
    thanksgiving volunteers
    feeding the homeless
    once a year
    Laurie Greer
    .
    a shivering beggar
    emerges
    from his box
    Steve Tabb
    .
    halloween’s over
    a bag person empties
    the waste bin
    Marta Chocilowska
    – I found the description ‘bag person’ caught the way these people are dehumanised by society particularly well.

  8. Lori, thank you for including one of mine, and especially for your incisive comments on your selected poems, always so heart-felt and thoughtful.
    .
    Thanksgiving, Harvest Festivals, Christmas, etc….these celebrations are laudable, rooted in ancient society’s need for cohesiveness, and, of course countering the depths of wintry darkness with cheer and gratitude. (If we can enjoy these times without creating a mass of waste in food, paper and plastics — so much the better. I give no excuse for being a partial ‘kill-joy’…Needs must, as they say.)
    .
    We do indeed tend/choose not to remember the reality for millions of others during the rest of the year. Nothing wrong with capitalizing on good times with adverts to remind us, as in Adrian Bouter’s:
    .
    donating for
    my conscience
    bus stop billboard
    .
    and Laurie Greer’s:
    .
    thanksgiving volunteers
    feeding the homeless
    once a year
    .
    The following says it straight, thank you Debbie:
    .
    charity
    how hard it is
    to ask
    .
    Debbie Strange
    .
    And so did this one, on a different wavelength because of its religious cynicism, and truly saddening because of its implied but understated reality:
    .
    whether Buddha or Jesus,
    the laughter of crows
    in a failing crop

    Andrew Riutta

    1. Thanks kindly, Ingrid. I appreciate your taking the time to mention my work. This is a deeply personal poem, and it touches me that it resonated with you. Wishing you a prosperous new year!

  9. I participated but mine wasn’t selected this week, on the subject of having to choose food or pharmacy. It is something I see often. Even with insurance the cost of co- pays can be high.
    *
    sunday splurge
    we sprinkle sugar
    on wonder bread
    .
    Kath Abela Wilson
    .
    This one reminded me of my childhood. For my siblings and I it was Saturday mornings. I didn’t know anyone else did this. And the assonance of each word!
    *
    the bullied boy
    every day the same
    stained teeshirt
    .
    Roberta Beary
    .
    In re-reads the overlap of the second line stood out to me. Every day his situation is the same. Besides lack of a change of clothing there is obvious lack of parental attention, which is even harder to see the end of. Heartbreaking!
    *

  10. The last line – “ once a year” – in Laurie Greer’s haiku expressed how little understanding some have of the daily needs of so many.

    thanksgiving volunteers
    feeding the homeless
    once a year

    Thank you for including my entry!

    1. Yes, exactly, Margaret–people who work with the homeless say they get more help than they need on Thanksgiving–it’s all the other days that they really need it. This kind of highly visible gesture has always reminded me of the way a lot of people go to church only on the major holy days and forget about it all otherwise.

      thanks so much for noticing the poem

  11. This collection brings home the destitution and poverty from around the world. Well done to all.
    .
    landfill leftovers—
    the beggar
    gives way to the crows
    .
    Vincenzo Adamo
    .
    The amount of food waste goes to show many buy far too much for our needs, there is plenty for all, it just needs correct distribution.
    the beggar along with the mention of crows, I find ambiguous, and can be left for the reader to decide another reading of haves and have-nots.

    .
    Thank you for adding my verse to the mix, Lori.

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