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HAIKU DIALOGUE – A Good Wander: The Art of Pilgrimage – Encounters

A Good Wander: The Art of Pilgrimage with Guest Editor P. H. Fischer

“Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.” – Basho (translated by Sam Hamill, The Essential Bashō, Shambhala, 1999)

Ready to lose yourself in the wonder of wandering? If so, grab your rucksack, water bottle (filled with a bit of sake perhaps), a pair of good trail shoes, a sturdy walking stick, and, of course, your favourite notebook and pen.

Over these next two months, I’ll share brief reflections and photo prompts from my Camino pilgrimage. This 900 km trek, from France across the Iberian Peninsula to Santiago de Compostela and beyond to the Atlantic Ocean, reignited a passion in me for haiku. I committed to composing at least one poem per day as a practice of being present to the moments unfolding along the way.

I’m not the first to scribble haiku while sojourning through villages, cities, mountains, plains, and sacred sites. Beginning with Basho (his Narrow Road to a Far Province remains the classic haiku travelogue), many poets including Santoka, Ryokan, and Kerouac, have taken to the open road to wander lonely as clouds, sing songs of nature (and themselves), and return to inspire others to join in on the chorus.

I invite you, likewise, to heed the poet’s instinct to get outside to go within; to ramble with intent, to write, and to return from your journey renewed, perhaps even transformed. You don’t need to go to Santiago, Jerusalem, Stonehenge, Graceland, Burning Man, or Matsuyama to accomplish this. Even a walk to the corner store can be a pilgrimage if experienced with our haiku senses attuned. Through the wonders of technology, we can journey from the comforts of our home if a physical jaunt is not possible. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that perhaps the most fascinating journey – navigating our interior landscape – can happen while sitting quietly on our meditation cushion.

It may be true, as J.R.R. Tolkien attested that “not all who wander are lost,” but let’s have fun trying. Isn’t that the goal of both pilgrimage and art – to lose oneself utterly in the present moment? To experience the ineffable/transcendent/divine (pick your term), and at least try to transmute our experience through a creative medium like haiku?

Alright, enough talk! Let’s get out wandering and writing. I look forward to reading your poems about real, imagined, imminent, interrupted, or eventual journeys. May the wind be always at your back!

next week’s theme: Purpose

Spend more than a few minutes walking the Way with another pilgrim, and the question will come up: “So, why are you walking the Camino?” I always stumbled on the query.

My reasons for wanting to walk the Camino evolved over the years. From hoping to find the meaning of life (ha!), to catching a call for a new career, to finally, in the last years, a desire to let go of it all; embracing whatever mid-life and beyond might bring (minus the need for reading glasses, lol).

As I walked, I luxuriated in the present moment. I did not think of my purpose; I did not think of Santiago, of reaching this goal or that goal, or any goal (except, a few times, trying to find a bed for the night). I didn’t think of much at all, actually. Imagine that! When has that ever happened to me – the old monkey-mind taking a long nap?

I was fully present in, with, under, and through it all: a donkey’s laugh, a lone tree on the Meseta, a threatening thunderstorm gathering in the distance, a cuckoo bird’s call, the wind’s current in the canola fields, the smell of a barnyard, flourishing poppies, pilgrims from all walks of life and nations.

I didn’t want it to end. And then I realized – it doesn’t. The present moment, the power of now, is always with us. My purpose, whether walking a pilgrimage or making toast, is simply to be mindful of it; to enjoy it for all it’s worth.

This week, please reflect on a time in your own journeys when you felt powerfully present in the moment unfolding around and within you. Like the single poppy standing out in a field of a canola in the posted photograph, perhaps there’s one profound instance of mindfulness that sticks out for you. Write a haiku/senryu about it, or about the purpose of your journey, or of an epiphany you had along the way. I look forward to your mindful reflections.

The deadline is midnight Pacific Standard Time, Saturday November 19, 2022.

Please use the Haiku Dialogue submission form below to enter one or two original unpublished haiku inspired by the week’s theme, and then press Submit to send your entry. (The Submit button will not be available until the Name, Email, and Place of Residence fields are filled in.) With your poem, please include any special formatting requirements & your name & residence as you would like it to appear in the column. A few haiku will be selected for commentary each week. Please note that by submitting, you agree that your work may appear in the column – neither acknowledgment nor acceptance emails will be sent. All communication about the poems that are posted in the column will be added as blog comments.

below is Peter’s commentary for encounters:

As I read your submitted poems this week, I felt the privilege of vicariously experiencing your encounters. Together, we met strangers all over the world: in planes, trains and automobiles, at the Taj Mahal, on a remote Irish isle, in Parisian wine bars and on office fire escapes. We met fathers cracking corny dad jokes, aunts gossiping at funerals, veterans recalling the horrors of war, and innocent kids playing in a sandlot. We encountered hummingbirds, raccoons, giant sequoias, and even Schrödinger’s cat!

In these encounters and in the writing and reading of them, we meet each other. We meet new or unseen aspects of our world and even of ourselves. Perhaps we experience something much more, disguised in the million masks of the transcendent. There is an eastern greeting that beautifully acknowledges the sacred in all encounters. When two people meet, they welcome and bow to the divine within each other.

Before I share some comments on a few selected poems and invite you to share your own thoughts on the remaining selections in the comment section below, a deep bow to all of you.

Namaste, Peter

turbulence…
all my secrets
come tumbling out

Vibha Malhotra
Noida, India

While writing this commentary, I witnessed a wasp pounding against our window screen, trying to get back outside. Having released my poor friend to the wild, I turned my attention back to Vibha Malhotra’s poignant poem, which has an affinity with what just happened. The subject of this senryu witnesses their life take a tailspin towards its own demise. Whether the turbulence is experienced from the seat of an airliner or in the hot seat of an interrogation room, a psychiatrist’s couch, or at a family reunion, the catharsis of letting the truth tumble out, perhaps for the first time, can be therapeutic even as it is terrifying. This poem, with its touch of gallows humour, is a reminder that we don’t need to have a brush with death to free our conscience. Regular confession – clearing out the psychological cobwebs (and wasps) – is good housekeeping for the soul.

old chestnut
we share its leaves
with my neighbor

Vladislav Hristov
Bulgaria

Without naming the tensions of a neighbourly relationship, Vladislav Hristov’s haiku skillfully implies them. Neighbour One has a beautiful old chestnut tree. It’s large, fecund, and abundantly brilliant. Irrespective of ownership, Neighbour Two perhaps enjoys the tree’s shade in the heat of summer and delights watching their children play with the neighbour’s kids as they climb the tree’s sturdy branches or launch into the evening on a tire swing. But the test of any relationship occurs when the seasons change. The winds of November pick up and blow in a direction decidedly unfavourable to Neighbour Two. While Neighbour One enjoys the spirited auburn chestnut leaves twirling in an autumnal dance, Neighbour Two watches the work pile up on their side of the fence. What is their view of the old chestnut now? This poem made me chuckle as I recalled Norman McLaren’s 1952 Oscar-award-winning short film Neighbours produced by the National Film Board of Canada, wherein two chummy neighbours live harmoniously side by side until a flower grows on their property boundary. Who does it belong to? All hell breaks out as the neighbours wrestle with that question.

being able
to speak his name
without fear

Barbara Gaiardoni
Verona (Italy)

Traditionally, haiku comprises a fragment, and a phrase set in juxtaposition to each other, the two parts sparking an aha moment of surprise/recognition in the reader. In Barbara Gaiardoni’s powerful poem, we find just a phrase, which is perfectly acceptable for a senryu even if many senryu writers now employ the fragment/phrase structure noted above. The phrase starkly standing on its own makes this poem stronger as it brings into sharp focus the subject’s courage to rise and speak out without fear. Finally, they can voice the name of the one who… well, we don’t quite know what happened, although we can imagine. Readers enter the charged silence of this poem to encounter the unthinkable. Whether there is an implied fragment here (rape, elder abuse, extortion, murder, etc.), the memory of the unstated, unconscionable act had wrested the subject’s voice (and therefore power) away. Until now. Years later, the subject of this senryu courageously announces the name of the perpetrator who did this heinous act against them. It’s never too late to seek justice. Never too late to speak up. Never too late to move towards healing.

garden party …
I make small talk
with the hollyhocks

Annie Wilson
Shropshire, UK

At a climate crisis protest I once attended, I saw a woman holding a placard that read “Things are so bad, even the introverts are here!” As an introvert myself, I nodded in silent agreement. As I did when reading Annie Wilson’s fine haiku, which could be an anthem for us wallflowers. Everything, well, just about everything in this poem is lovely and inviting: an English garden at the height of summer, manicured flower beds, flourishing hollyhocks whispering in the evening breeze. Paradise! But there’s a catch – that little word “party” acting as the fly in the ointment. Sometimes we introverts find ourselves in social situations like these not by choice but by circumstance or obligation. What to do? Some of us pair up with a loquacious extrovert who is more than happy to carry the conversation. A few might seek the solitude of a bathroom stall. A good number of us slip out at the exact moment deemed acceptable to do so. The subject of this poem finds relief, even if momentarily, down the cobbled path, against the fence at the back of the property, quietly chit-chatting with a cluster of flowers that symbolize protection (against the madding crowds no doubt!).

and here are the rest of the selections:

snowy morn
I dust off
my welcome mat

Roberta Beach Jacobson
Indianola, Iowa, USA

 

flying in
for a lunch date
pigeons

Peggy Hale Bilbro
Alabama USA

 

the memory
of her visit –
migratory bird

Valentina Ranaldi-Adams
Fairlawn, Ohio USA

 

flying solo
my first friendship
bracelet

Julie Bloss Kelsey
Germantown, Maryland, USA

 

Six-thousand-mile flight
I wake with my head on
a stranger’s shoulder

Jenny Shepherd
London, UK

 

above the Pacific
my seat-mate inspired
to write her first poem

kris moon kondo
Kiyokawa, Kanagawa, Japan

 

red-eye flight
a first-time mom cries louder
than the baby

Vandana Parashar
India

 

train journey
i pick my protagonist

Daya Bhat
India

 

train journey
in six stops
she tells me her life story

Margaret Mahony
Australia

 

subway stares
we encircle the woman
in a hijab

Lorraine A Padden
San Diego, CA USA

 

night tram –
the moon is never late
for the meeting

Dan Iulian
România

 

bus stop
the talk of something more
in the autumn rain

Stephen A. Peters
Bellingham, WA

 

crowded bus
once again
the scent of her hair

Padma Rajeswari
Mumbai, India

 

radiation
in the bus home the driver
whistles opera

Alfred Booth
Lyon, France

 

taxi driver in the autumn rain goes the extra mile

Marcia Burton
Salt Spring Island, Canada

 

traffic signal
amidst the cacophony
my eluxoroma

Arvinder Kaur
Chandigarh, India

 

road to Santiago –
who knows who I will find
around the curve

Dennys Cambarau
Sardinia, Italy

 

big cardboard box
in the road
Schrödinger collisions

Jerome Berglund
Minneapolis, Minnesota USA

 

I interrupt
a white cat as it wanders-
moonly pilgrimage

Sarah Davies
Bedford, UK

 

pitch darkness
Inishbofin revelers
in the light of craic

petro c. k
Seattle, Washington

 

around my pint a garden of faces

Bittor Duce Zubillaga
Basque Country

 

wine bar in paris
my high school french
pairs better with a red

Kerry J Heckman
Seattle, WA

 

chance meeting
on a starless night
a spark is lit

Lori Kiefer
London UK

 

office romanceー
kissing
on the fire escape

Keiko Izawa
Japan

 

sudden storm
i find The Alchemist
in an unknown store

Meera Rehm
UK

 

brick lane market
I tell her I like her pants
she calls me cheeky

(I had no clue pants means underwear in the U.K.)

Eavonka Ettinger
Long Beach, CA

 

Mary Magdalene shrine—
a priest contemplates
my bare legs

Adele Evershed
Wilton, Connecticut

 

tripping on cobblestones in the red light district

Dan Campbell
Virginia

 

taj mahal lovers’ bench
your presence
in your absence

Padmini Krishnan
United Arab Emirates

 

mountain bridge
two travelers cross
the Milky Way

Florin C. Ciobica
Romania

 

between corries
the unexpected cold
of a dog’s snotter

simonj
UK

 

daily morning walk—
the faces of strangers
so familiar

Neena Singh
India

 

kampong alleyway
to the old man on a stool
I return a smile

AJ. Anwar
Jakarta, Indonesia

 

wandering through the maze
my dad telling everyone
corny jokes

Sari Grandstaff
Saugerties, NY

 

pathway a laugh shows a lost pal

Subir Ningthouja
Imphal, India

 

serendipity
the echo of my town
in her voice

Teji Sethi
India

 

acceptance –
the old men in the square
share their childhood

Paul Callus
Malta

 

sandlot game
the kid on a bike
is asked to play

Richard Straw
Cary, North Carolina

 

playing soldiers
grandpa tells another story
with his eyes

Herb Tate
UK

 

Cretan village–
old men tell me how many
Germans they killed

Ruth Holzer
Herndon, Virginia

 

autumn fireside
a vet relates being
mistaken for dead

Richard L. Matta
San Diego, California USA

 

my feet
trembling
goldfinch on snow

Richa Sharma
India

 

cathedral guide
whispers the way
to the saint

Maurice Nevile
Canberra, Australia

 

funeral service —
the aunts gather
for a family gossip

Muskaan Ahuja
Chandigarh, India

 

50th high school reunion
we meet up at the tomb
of our teacher

Maya Daneva
The Netherlands

 

tracing
her fingers over his name —
a bench with a view

Wendy Gent
Bristol, UK

 

the
smell
after
the
rain…
Bucha

martin gottlieb cohen
Egg Harbor, NJ US

 

dividing paths…
the morning glory catches
what’s left of me

Deborah Karl-Brandt
Bonn, Germany

 

stillborn shrine —
i count the pauses
in her story

Roberta Beary
USA/Ireland

 

marbles
in the slave quarters
a stranger grabs my hand

John Pappas
United States

 

lifelong hike
puncturing blisters
of old grief

Adrian Bouter
the Netherlands

 

untold stories—
sunlit pebbles
on a riverbed

Rupa Anand
New Delhi, India

 

along the stream
washing our hands
the racoon and i

Bryan Rickert
Belleville, Illinois USA

 

spring tides
coming and going
our footprints

Amanda White
Morvah, Cornwall, UK

 

t’ai chi for two
a silent dance
in every mirror

Rita Melissano
USA

 

here I stand
watch me too
passing cloud

Kaushal Suvarna
Pune, India

 

a voice
calls my name
giant sequoia grove

Victor Ortiz
Bellingham, WA

 

summer awe
the hummingbird drinking
from my hand

Susan Burch
Hagerstown, MD

 

the guide
shares our rapture
dancing lemurs

Susan Farner
United States

 

vermillion sky and also you

Tiffany Shaw-Diaz
United States

 

through rotating doors
she comes to our rendezvous
wind-turned butterflies

John Hawkhead
United Kingdom

 

ferry boat—
he teaches me
his alphabet

Pippa Phillips
Kansas City, MO

 

as if it’s ordinary . . .
you sit down for breakfast
with your washed hair

Barrie Levine
Massachusetts, USA

 

evening drizzle
standing for two hours to vote
strangers become friends

Marjorie Buettner
Chisago City, MN

 

parking lot
handing out pamphlets
he talks about climate change

Tuyet Van Do
Australia

 

hitchhiking
a Haida chief recites
the raven legend

Bruce H Feingold
Berkeley, CA, USA

 

sweat lodge
a drink of water
in each story

marilyn ashbaugh
edwardsburg, michigan

 

dreamtime
the sky comes to life
in an elder’s stories

Tracy Davidson
Warwickshire, UK

 

ghost tales
the storyteller gone
without trace

Jeff Leong
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

 

cheap hostel
the roommate offers me weed
and his life story

Tomislav Sjekloća
Cetinje, Montenegro

 

Alzheimer’s
the new face
of an old friend

Mona Bedi
Delhi, India

 

so much fog
so many sheep
and a donkey

Mircea Moldovan
România

 

distant flute . . .
first the flock
and now the shepherd

Ingrid Baluchi
North Macedonia

 

harbor stroll
the windblown strains
of fifty ukuleles

Cynthia Anderson
Yucca Valley, California

 

overcrowded bench
we all look out to sea
for something…

C.X.Turner
United Kingdom

 

West Bank wall
Bansky and I share
a moment of truth

Sharon Martina
Warrenville, IL

 

orange pith
sharing what brought us
to this path

Laurie Greer
Washington, DC

 

at the chai stall
talk of wars
and wives

Ruchita Madhok
Mumbai, India

 

coastal path
just two blisters between us
luckily – both his

Ann Smith
United Kingdom

 

old fur fundraiser
the women at the shelter
sew teddy bears

Maxianne Berger
Outremont, Quebec

 

small town cafe
the added ingredient
of well aged ribbing

Mike Stinson
Nebraska USA

 

family meeting
waiting to tell mom
you’re muted

Caroline Giles Banks
Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

 

bookshelf
her scrawled signature
in the unreturned book

Madhuri Pillai
Australia

 

years later
each letter still closing
with ‘buen camino!’

Helen Ogden
Pacific Grove, CA

 

kongozue
memento from the mountain
he never climbed

Jonathan Roman
Yonkers, New York

 

Kumano Kodo
lingering bells of pilgrims
echo in my mind

Teiichi Suzuki
Japan

 

bullet train
tea lady bowing
to an empty car

Jonathan Epstein
USA

 

Guest Editor P. H. Fischer (Peter) lives, works and plays in Vancouver, Canada, on the traditional, unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples. He is the winner of the Vancouver category of the 2022 Haiku Invitational of the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival, and is grateful to see his poetry published in a growing list of haiku journals including The Heron’s Nest, Modern Haiku, Frogpond, Presence, First Frost, Whiptail, Kingfisher, Prune Juice, Haiku Canada Review and others. His top passions (besides family) are walking and writing haiku. If he could, he’d leave on another 900 km ginko today!

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

Managing Editor 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). Find her at: kjmunro1560.wordpress.com.

The Haiku Foundation reminds you that participation in our offerings assumes respectful and appropriate behavior from all parties. Please see our Code of Conduct policy.

Please note that all poems & images appearing in Haiku Dialogue may not be used elsewhere without express permission – copyright is retained by the creators. Please see our Copyright Policies.

This Post Has 20 Comments

  1. Thank you Peter for you thoughtful commentary on my poem. I am honored.

    I really enjoyed your selection and this particular ku really made me pause:

    here I stand
    watch me too
    passing cloud

    Kaushal Suvarna
    Pune, India

  2. This collection is so rich with haiku of places, senses, images and special moments. I think they would be lovely in a chap book. Thank you, haiku poets, and Peter, for sharing these with me…with all of us. They are a blessing!

    1. This comment is a blessing to me, Seretta!
      Thanks for your encouraging words and for your own fine contributions to this column. 🙂
      Peter

  3. Thanks to all of you for your kind words, encouragement and support. I’m so glad that you are enjoying the selections and interactions here! There are so many great poems this week; thanks for highlighting and commenting on a number of them. It’s such an honour reading all of your submissions. I’m enjoying the journey so much and am glad we still have a few more kilometres to go on this trek together! A huge thank-you to both kj and Lori. Their wonderful support keeps us all going. 🙂
    Peter

  4. Thanks, Peter, as always—a voice kind and spiritual. Your attention to detail in laying out the order of these selections added extra joy to this week’s reading.

    Here are a few that I particularly enjoyed.
    …..
    crowded bus
    once again
    the scent of her hair

    Padma Rajeswari
    Mumbai, India
    .
    A mysterious connection, encounters from a distance—often felt
    …..
    tracing
    her fingers over his name —
    a bench with a view

    Wendy Gent
    Bristol, UK
    .
    Returning to a dedication of love—a lifetime of joy remembered. I want a bench with a view when it’s time
    …..
    a voice
    calls my name
    giant sequoia grove

    Victor Ortiz
    Bellingham, WA
    .
    In the immense canopy, a spiritual beckoning, or a literal friend, breaks the solitude with grace
    …..
    years later
    each letter still closing
    with ‘buen camino!’

    Helen Ogden
    Pacific Grove, CA
    .
    A tribute to the deep friendships found through travel—instant lifetime bonds
    …..
    Mary Magdalene shrine—
    a priest contemplates
    my bare legs

    Adele Evershed
    Wilton, Connecticut
    .
    Ironic and flat-out funny—love it
    …..
    tripping on cobblestones in the red light district

    Dan Campbell
    Virginia
    .
    An hilarious moment of connection—much said unsaid with 8 words
    …..
    Thanks, Peter!

  5. another great selection
    I particularly enjoyed:
    *
    orange pith
    sharing what brought us
    to this path

    Laurie Greer
    *
    ferry boat—
    he teaches me
    his alphabet

    Pippa Phillips
    *
    wine bar in paris
    my high school french
    pairs better with a red

    Kerry J Heckman

    1. Thank you, Andrew! And thanks to Peter and everyone at THF. This is truly a wonderful run of verses!

  6. Thank you so much for including me in this week’s journey. I’ve really enjoyed these rounds of travel prompts which bring forth such a bubbling fountain of outstanding verses, and your commentaries are exemplary, Peter! Well done, all!

  7. I am positively delighted to be included in these wonderful selections, Peter. Your commentary is always so thoughtful. I also greatly admire the way you placed the poems and the journey through laughs and tears.

    Speaking of which, this poem made the world stop:

    tracing
    her fingers over his name —
    a bench with a view

    Wendy Gent
    Bristol, UK

    Beautifully moving, Wendy.

  8. Thank you Peter for publishing my haiku, and thank you Sari for your comment. Wonderful to read each week.

  9. Thank you for accepting my haiku to meet the others in the Haiku Dialogue this week! So many favorites here but I did particularly enjoy these two:

    train journey
    in six stops
    she tells me her life story

    Margaret Mahony
    Australia

    small town cafe
    the added ingredient
    of well aged ribbing

    Mike Stinson
    Nebraska USA

    Both very relatable. Complex emotions with some humor and poignancy.

    1. Sari, so glad you enjoyed “small town cafe”. Though the poem was inspired at the “Korner Kafe” in Basin, Wyoming, I have found the quality of small town banter to be comforting at many stops along the way. It is also in my DNA! Thank you, Sari

  10. Grateful to Peter H Fischer for including my ‘daily morning walk’ ku in the selections. Such beautiful verses have been shared, and I enjoyed Peter’s commentary. Congratulations to all featured poets and many thanks to Kathy, Managing Editor & Lori, Post Editor for this wonderful feature which keeps us kicking every week!

  11. So many great verses, again, this week. Congratulations to all poets. A delightful read, Peter.

    I had a little giggle when I read this one.

    brick lane market
    I tell her I like her pants
    she calls me cheeky
    -Eavonka Ettinger

    Nice one 🙂

  12. Thank-you P. H. for publishing mine. Every time I submit I wonder if I will be accepted. Thank-you to all the poets who submit, Kathy, Lori, and the Haiku Foundation.

  13. I offer my thanks to Editor Peter Fischer for inserting my haiku in this delightful selection.
    Congratulations to all featured authors, and especially to some of my dear friends who often accompany me in my literary journey.

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