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HAIKU DIALOGUE – A Good Wander: The Art of Pilgrimage – Obstacles and Trials

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 themeCarpe Diem!


In Los Arcos, a week into my pilgrimage, and a day after the famed wine fountain at Irache, I paused at the cemetery on the edge of town to decipher an odd message written for all passersby. Inscribed over the gate of the burial ground was a proclamation by those who lived, toiled, and now rested in the earth of this old town.

As I watched fellow pilgrims walk past the inscription without as much as a glance, I was grateful for having seen it, and for Google’s ability to translate the message for me:

I once was what you are.
You will be as I am.

A tingle shot up my spine; my brush with mortality in the Pyrenees still sending out aftershocks. I recalled an Ash Wednesday service I attended years ago, presided over by my clergy friend who first planted the idea of the Camino in me. Full of compassion, he looked into my eyes, loaded his thumb from a small bowl filled with palm ashes from the previous Easter, smudged a cross on my forehead, and spoke this strangely comforting blessing: “Remember, you are dust, and to dust you will return.”

I also thought of the Dead Poets Society and the fictional Professor Keating whispering to his students as they leaned in to view old photographs of deceased alumni: If you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you… do you hear it? Carpe… carpe… carpe diem. Seize the day!

As we walk our own journeys this week, reflecting on the temporality of all things (including ourselves), let’s write a haiku/senryu inspired and encouraged by those gone before, by the great cloud of witnesses, by the communion of life. During this coming week of celebrating Halloween and All Souls, I look forward to your poems that seize the haiku moments within your day, considering the end we will all inevitably face (hopefully many more miles down the road).

The deadline is midnight Pacific Daylight Time, Saturday October 29, 2022.

below is Peter’s commentary for obstacles and trials:

Friends, I’m playing hurt this week. Ironically, as our writing prompt recalls my last brush with mortality up in the French Pyrenees, I am now writing from a hospital bed. This has given me pause (again) to reflect on what is most important in my life journey. For that, I’m grateful. I’m staying positive and hopeful. In the meantime, your haiku submissions have been a tonic for me – a delightful diversion and sense of commiseration while waiting for the next steps.

Whether it was walking on thin ice, huddled in mountain caves, searching for sign posts buried in the snow, travelling to the roof of the world (the Himalayas), the English Channel, or the Australian outback, it wasn’t just my illness that took my breath away this week! I’ve picked out a handful of poems to comment on. Please share some of the heavy lifting and provide your own notes of appreciation for other fine haiku/senryu that speak to you in the selections.

A couple of housekeeping items before we dive in: Please remember to only submit two poems before the deadline per week. To honour the integrity of the submission process and to be fair to other poets, I will not select a poem if the poet has submitted more than the maximum limit of two. Hope that’s understandable. Another thing that would be really, really helpful for guest editors is for you to include your name and location underneath your poem(s) within the same cell that contains your poem. Even though the form asks for your name and location again in another cell, the happy result would mean one copy and paste instead of three, which adds up to a good chunk of time for the guest editor. Several of you are doing this already. Much appreciated!

Finally, while I covet your good vibes for my recovery (thank-you!), let’s keep the focus of our comments on the poems selected this week. There are some great ones, beginning with what follows.

Ultreia! Peter


Roberta Beach Jacobson
Indianola, Iowa, USA

At first glance – and that’s all it took – this poem caught this “looker” like an image reflected in an infinity mirror. It’s fun, yet profound. For me, it raises the question: can we transcend our limited perspectives? Or can we let go of the desire to do so? Perhaps we’d be wise, as Antoine de Saint-Exupery once suggested, to close our eyes and open our hearts, which can “see” the essence of reality. Another way to view this poem (there are many) is to accept its implicit invitation to move past the question “is there life after death?” to a more important one. With the eyes of the heart opened, the question turns back around; reclaimed for the present moment: “Is there life before death?” As haiku poets, we know the answer to that question.

in the mud
on the wrong side of the río
one shoe

Peggy Hale Bilbro

A single shoe in the mud on the banks of the Rio Bravo. Such powerful, evocative, and disturbing imagery! That said, it’s the phrase “wrong side” that haunts and keeps me coming back to this poem. Which side of the river is the “wrong” side? Can there be such a discrimination? Yes, unfortunately. If we follow some blow-hard politicians mischaracterizing their neighbours across the border, we may adopt an “us versus them” ideology that cages (literally sometimes) the other should they dare try to seek a better life on “our” side. From another perspective, the affluent, corporate-dominated, imperialistic, and domineering side of the divide may appear to be the “wrong side” for anyone with more compassionate, egalitarian, and inclusive values. Thankfully, Peggy doesn’t steer into didacticism but skillfully focuses the lens of the poem onto an image planted in the mud, a symbol of how entrenched we can be in nationalism instead of embracing our common humanity.

the dog’s hips stuck
in the squeeze stile


Another trap! This time, as the day draws to a close, the poet describes “man’s best friend” stuck in a squeeze stile, the English invention farmers have used for centuries to allow humans to traverse boundaries while preventing livestock from doing the same. It’s not just human beings who encounter obstacles and trials along life’s path. The dog’s predicament freezes time for the reader as we’re left wondering if someone will save the poor pooch. The poem, with its liberal use of alliteration, assonance, and consonance, is euphonically pleasing. As is the freedom the dog in question experiences as we, the reader, finish the tale in the white space beyond the poem’s last syllable. It’s there that the poem takes a turn and man becomes the “dog’s best friend.”

closing my eyes
to the memory

(balut = 18-day old incubated duck egg, eaten in the shell; street food in the Philippines)

Jonathan Epstein

We expect to see haiku written in the present tense. In Jonathan’s delicious poem (the balut notwithstanding!), we meet someone in the present moment, closing their eyes. That’s all that’s happening here. Or is it? Whether the person’s at their writing desk, in transit on the subway, or pausing in front of a just-served balut in a Filipino restaurant in their American city, there’s a lot going on behind those eyelids! They transport back to another time, another place, another moment that, in recollection, becomes so perfectly present that we can taste it. They delight or cringe at the past, made present again through the superpower of imagination. As a vegan, I will not be ordering balut any day soon, but I’ll take a second helping of poems like this anytime!

monkey bite—
I pretend Hanuman
favors me

Pippa Phillips
Kansas City

Shit happens. Undeniably. A bird poops on your head, a car breaks down in the desert, a morning starts with coffee and Wordle and ends with half your ass hanging out of a hospital gown. A monkey may bite the hand that feeds. How to read this? How to read life? Why not mythologically, poetically, imaginatively? Pippa’s poem, alluding to the great Hindu Monkey King myth of Hanuman, invites us to reframe our maladies and misfortunes. What happens is often out of our control. Our response to what happens is up to us. Is it possible to see points of light in times of darkness? While I’d love to hear more of the subject’s encounter with a monkey, what I really need is a similar spirit of resilience to enliven my view of life’s obstacles and setbacks.

and here are the rest of the selections:

inside every heart
the lonely traveler
beside the wild lake

Deborah Bennett
Carbondale, Illinois USA


91st birthday
climbing out of bed
her Everest

Nick T
Somerset, UK


repeat dream
a leopard crouches low,
leaps on a lowing calf

Neera Kashyap
Delhi, India


weather forecast
I pack my pilgrim bag
I unpack my pilgrim bag

Minal Sarosh
Ahmedabad, India


our luggage carrier
with cat piss

Julie Bloss Kelsey
Germantown, Maryland, USA


as the red line picks up
speed to the airport

Srinivasa Rao Sambangi
Hyderabad, India


cancelled flight
above the airport
a flock of cranes

Florin C. Ciobica


missed flight—
breathless, I see
the takeoff

Neena Singh


meeting the One
while stuck at the airport …
changed route

Natalia Kuznetsova


our lost tickets
at the feet of Hermes
Athens Airport

Victor Ortiz
Bellingham, WA


TSA checkpoint
stepping aside to air
my dirty laundry

Sharon Martina
Warrenville, IL


lost passport
briefly freed
from my karma

Laurie Greer
Washington, DC


wrong train
seeing another side
of myself

petro c. k.
Seattle, Washington


cruise of a lifetime in cabin lockdown

Caroline Giles Banks
Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA


early morning bush walk
clearing the cobwebs

Carol Reynolds


road trip chatter
turning out of the driveway
we break down

Marion Clarke
Warrenpoint, Northern Ireland


hard rain
my mountain bike’s tyre

Ravi Kiran


mind the gap
tripping and falling
into the tube

Nancy Brady
Huron, Ohio


Dover to Calais
roll, pitch and heave
ad nauseam

Maxianne Berger
Outremont, Quebec


missing my bus
the long, waterless, walk
from Uluru

Tracy Davidson
Warwickshire, UK


didgeridoo voice
the wallet-less way home
from the outback

Richard L. Matta
San Diego, California, USA


growth strategy
the great march forward
leading backward

John Hawkhead
The Shambles, UK


endless journey
around the grindstone
a blindfolded camel

Ingrid Baluchi
U.K./North Macedonia


ramblers’ footpath
I yield my right of way
to the bull

Ruth Holzer
Herndon, Virginia


the newborn’s
discharge rescinded—

Stephen J. DeGuire
Los Angeles, CA


the son he imagined
walks alongside
the son that he has

Colette Kern
Southold, NY


under the bridge
never acknowledging
the thin ice

Lynne Jambor
Vancouver BC Canada


coyote call
between the boulders
my boot

marilyn ashbaugh
edwardsburg, michigan


ancient forest
bear and bear cub
among the raspberries

Stoianka Boianova


detour –
a field
of wildflowers

Dan Campbell


the weeds
in my garden

Tiffany Shaw-Diaz
United States


dandelion through a crack loneliness escaping me

Richa Sharma


songs of a thrush –
ancestral messages
from beyond

Minko Tanev


another uphill
the rock
in my shoe

Lorraine A Padden
San Diego, CA USA


mountain climb
I keep my balance
with a selfie stick

Maya Daneva
The Netherlands


halfway up
the temple stairs . . .
breathing meditation

Kimberly Kuchar
Austin, Texas


wave of mist –
climbing up
from cloud to cloud

Piyal Ranasinghe
Colombo, Sri Lanka


trudging up
a crooked trail. . .
the whole Himalayas

Meera Rehm


gravel mountain road
flooring the supermini
and praying

Kerry J Heckman
Seattle, WA


Khardung La
the next turn turns
rain into snow

(Khardung La is a mountain pass in the Leh district of Indian union territory of Ladakh. It is the highest motorable pass in the world.)

Vandana Parashar


hairpin curves the illusion of new beginnings

Daya Bhat


Koya mountain path
in the blizzard
barely visible signpost

Teiichi Suzuki


pace of the wind
I too change

United Kingdom


stuck in the storm
strangers telling each other
their name

Deborah Karl-Brandt
Bonn, Germany


mountain cave
our embrace outlasts
the snowstorm

Subir Ningthouja
Imphal, India


camino pilgrims
twisting in a cold wind…
pink scallop shells

Marilyn Ward
Lincolnshire, UK


mountain pilgrimage
in my footsteps the questions
I need to answer

Stephen A. Peters
Bellingham, WA


stalemate the war with myself

Tim Cremin


walking in the fog
I don’t get lost
I’m already lost

Luciana Moretto
Treviso Italy


the big Buddha
lost in the smog…

Adele Evershed
Wilton, Connecticut


electrolyte deficit
my wobble
at high altitude

Cynthia Anderson
Yucca Valley, California


slurred words
I keep
my own counsel

Luciana Moretto
Treviso Italy


Himalayan trek
… he teaches us
to climb down

Sushama Kapur


in a snowstorm
the long night

Richard Straw
Cary, North Carolina


the haiku in my mind
stays in my mind

Mona Bedi
Delhi, India


withering winds…
finally finding
Ms. Right MD

Keiko Izawa


side by side
in the hotel
in the hospital

Maurice Nevile
Canberra, Australia


cut flowers –
no one in his place
on the return journey

fiori recisi –
nessuno al suo posto
nel viaggio di ritorno

Maria Teresa Piras
Sardinia – Italy


tenth wedding anniversary
she takes off
her ring

Vicki Vogt
Watertown, MA United States


bump……….bump……….long-haul Covid

Valentina Ranaldi-Adams
Fairlawn, Ohio USA


glimpses of azure ocean
from my bungalow porch
covid iso

Louise Hopewell


ocean voyage —
waves lift and drop us
in midnight’s black

Pris Campbell


baggage claim
the wrong name
on my suitcase

Baisali Chatterjee Dutt
Kolkata, India


forgotten toothbrush
our good morning
air kiss

Bryan Rickert
Belleville, Illinois USA


swim-up bar
my underpants still flying

Alan Peat
Biddulph, United Kingdom


why can’t I go in?
Buckingham Palace guards
will not say a word

Margie Gustafson
Lombard, IL USA


how lucky to find
a waterside tent pitch —
Alligator Lake

(Arriving at night, we saw the warning sign only next morning)

Keith Evetts
Thames Ditton UK


unprepared camper
at the next site
a bear eats his birthday cake

Deborah P Kolodji
Temple City, CA


fear of heights
left behind
hot air balloons

Geoff Pope
Paducah, Kentucky


windy riverside
discovering a shrine
between street arts

Anna Yin
Ontario, Canada


the path back home
Hurricane Ophelia

Lori Kiefer
London UK


the strait fills
with fog
no puffins today

Susan Farner


hearing aids—
still can’t hear the rain
pummeling the roof

Terry Macrae
Roseburg, OR, USA


rising above
negative self-talk
erect lotus

Amoolya Kamalnath


Cruz de Fierro
the paraplegic
on hands and knees

(The Cruz de Fierro (cross of iron) on the Camino de Santiago is atop a large pile of stones that pilgrims have carried and deposited over the years as penance.)

Helen Ogden
Pacific Grove, CA


the last hill
engine fire

Pamela Jeanne
Yukon, Canada


overnight snow …
in the silence
nothing is certain

Annie Wilson
Shropshire, UK


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:

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 31 Comments

  1. Glad to hear you’re back home Peter. Prayers for a speedy recovery. With minimal access to the internet for the last week while traveling, I’ve been unable to make comments.
    So many great haiku submissions this week. Your introductions alone provide considerable inspiration. I’m enjoying this haiku journey with you. Thanks for including my airport debacle with TSA haiku.

  2. If I post a concrete haiku, will the formatting
    be lost in transit? Thank you for your reply.

    1. Hi, Lev,

      Yes, most likely the submission form will not play nice with the special formatting. Please leave a note with formatting instructions. If needed, the team will connect with you to ensure proper formatting should the poem be selected. Hope this helps.


  3. Thanks for including my haiku in this collection, Peter. I was struck by all the haiku, in particular, straight to the heart of Mona Bedi’s haiku.

    the haiku in my mind
    stays in my mind

    It happens that physical difficulties prevent the expression of a thought. It evoked situations like this in me and involved me very much.

  4. Thank you very much dear Peter
    Two Haiku of mine…so stunning?!?
    Never mind.
    Wednesday is a really exciting day, we can enjoy challenging prompts and masterly commentaries.
    Dear Peter I do hope you get well soon: all together we must resume our journey
    Thanks again
    Luciana Moretto

    1. Oh my, Luciana! You’re very welcome.
      I enjoyed both of your poems but that was my mistake/oversight. I should have chosen only one, oops! I have been a bit off my game this week.

      I am home from the hospital now and slowly recovering. Indeed, I’m still on the journey with all of you! Haiku Dialogue has been a welcome diversion for me. I am already enjoying this week’s submissions.


      1. don’t worry dear Peter, it’s all clear.
        A nice stroll and everything will be perfect.
        My warmest wishes

  5. arthritis—
    the haiku in my mind
    stays in my mind
    Mona Bedi
    Delhi, India
    Arthritis happens to many people as they age. As the condition becomes more severe, more activities can no longer be performed. This haiku does a good job of describing this.

  6. Thank-you P. H. for selecting mine. Best wishes on your recovery. Thank-you Kathy, Lori, and the Haiku Foundation

    1. Welcome, Valentina! And thank-you for the well wishes. Like your poem, it’s been a bit bumpety bumpety but I’ve got good wheels to keep the cart rollin’ for now 🙂


  7. I so enjoyed all of these, and there were so many that fed me humorously. But I wanted to highlight this favorite:

    halfway up
    the temple stairs . . .
    breathing meditation

    Kimberly Kuchar

    As someone who has a terrible time with stairs and meditation, this one hit home. 😂

  8. Sorry to read of your hospitalisation, Peter. Hope all will be well, soon. Housekeeping rules, my apologies.

    Another delightful line-up of verses, congratulations to all poets.

    early morning bush walk
    clearing the cobwebs
    – Carol Reynolds

    Not only clearing the cobwebs from the mind, but also the webs interlaced between plants.
    A lovely visual, Carol. I do try and avoid the cobwebs when out and about in the field, not always possible, though.

    1. Thank you Carol. It seems we align not just with our names. This haiku has been waiting it’s opportunity on my list for a while. I am slowly realising the concept of less is more in my writing and rewriting some earlier ones. I am so enjoying Peter’s inspirational themes.

      1. Thanks for the reply, Carol.
        And, a timely reminder to go look at verses I have stashed away and haven’t looked at for some time.
        Happy writing 🙂

    2. It’s all good, Carol. 🙂
      Thanks for your wishes, happy to be back home and moving forward!
      Carol Reynolds poem certainly resonates with me as well. Nothing like a morning walk to clear the mind!

  9. Another bumper crop of fine haiku and senryu. I picked this one out as a good example of a monoku that rings true…

    stalemate the war with myself

    Tim Cremin

  10. Congratulations to all the poets. So many excellent “mishaps” noticed in a quick read. Maya Daneva’s use of a selfie stick made me smile, Susan Farner’s missed puffins, one bird I have always desired to see in the wild, the concrete haiku of Sushama Kapur’s sideways trek and Valentina’s bumpety long Covid ride, and Keith Evetts’ Alligator Lake situation, which reminded me of our trip to Kenya and the warning sign about hippos coming ashore to eat at night and the electric fence, both needing to be avoided. I know I will discover more gems as I read them throughout the week. Thanks, PJ, for including one of mine and I hope you recover quickly.

    1. Indeed, Nancy, so many schadenfreunden (ha!) to keep me company this week. I felt your poem viscerally as I always get the heebie-jeebies when standing too close to the edge of a subway platform (SkyTrain here in Vancouver).


  11. Thanks so much for featuring me! I’ll tell you the monkey story…

    I was taking my family to visit Wat Phnom when I lived in Cambodia. The temple is full of altars and we were all carrying fruit to put on the altars. Because of the altars, there are monkeys everywhere in the temple. One of them came up to me and was grabbing my bag in what I took to be a playful manner. I had a banana cluster so I decided to give him one because hey, monkey, banana, I’m an idiot. I remember the monkey putting his perfect tiny human hands and putting them on the hand holding the banana. Then he bit my thumb down to the bone and backed off. He actually beat his chest. This was a small monkey, but I guess monkeys get Napolean complexes too. Anyways, the monks came out with tiger balm, which immediately stopped the bleeding, and I had to go around looking for a doctor to give me a rabies shot. I still remember how to say “A monkey bit me” in Khmer: sva kum.

    1. This rang a bell. I was mugged by a Barbary ape on top of Gibraltar, which ran off with my sandwich lunch. And in Thames-side Richmond, my wife was bitten to the bone by an ungrateful grey squirrel when she failed to furnish a peanut. Ah, how we haikuists like to extol Nature….

        1. Great stories, Pippa and Keith! I’ve never spent any time with monkeys or apes (other than Saturday mornings as a kid watching reruns of The Monkees on television, lol). But if I do, I’ll definitely remember your cautionary tales!

          1. Also watch out you don’t tread on an inshore electric ray while swimming in Mozambique. And that the loo at the Great Zimbabwe ruins is a cool spot for a boomslang. And if in sandals on top of the citadel Laferrière in the north of Haiti, mind the tarantulas. Be aware that at Bumi Hills, Zimbabwe, the intercom may warn guests to be careful as there is an elephant at reception (no editor has accepted my ku based on that one 😏 ). Thames Ditton is kinda dull after a life in diplomacy!

      1. While in Bali, my father experienced the bite of a grumpy macaque. These fellows felt entitled to his food, my father disagreed. The macaques always win.

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