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HAIKU DIALOGUE – A Walk on the Wild Side – Photo 1

A Walk on the Wild Side: Relating to the animal world – with guest editor Carole MacRury

Issa showed compassion to animals in many of his haiku, such as “butterfly flitting– / I too am made / of dust” and “spring breeze– / monkey families, too / take healing baths” (by Kobayashi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue). Basho also noticed and related to animals in many haiku. Many of the masters were lay monks or wrote haiku through the Buddhist belief that animals are sentient beings.
We encounter many creatures in our day to day life, through our pets, walks in the wild, aquariums and zoos to name a few. We share similar drives, to reproduce, to raise young, to protect them, to find food and seek shelter. Social skills, love, and even play are also shared attributes.
I will post four photos and with each one, please take the time to note your reaction, any emotions, any memories or thoughts that crop up. What is the body language of the animal saying to you? It may be you write a haiku about the animal, or it could be you write about something that relates to your life simply by interpreting the animal’s body language, gaze, or action towards something happening in your own life.

next week’s theme: Photo 2 – Angry Bird

We know birds age, as we age, but somehow I had never encountered what I would consider an ‘old’ bird, until this eagle. Take a good look. It has reached its natural life span and is probably 20 to 25 years old. Its eye was rheumy and faded, its beak worn down and ragged. Its feathers were askew. It was being bothered by a gull who sensed the eagle’s weakness. He turned on it briefly, then flew off in a lumbering fashion. This eagle collapsed and died 2 days later. Of old age. We all get old, we die, some through natural causes, some before their time. Write a haiku in response to how this old eagle makes you feel, either for the eagle, or for your own inevitable aging. Can you relate?

The deadline is midnight Pacific Standard Time, Saturday January 16, 2021.

Please submit one or two original unpublished haiku inspired by the week’s theme by clicking here: Contact Form.  Please put Haiku Dialogue in the Subject box, & include your name as you would like it to appear, & your place of residence, with your poem.

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 Carole’s commentary for Photo 1 – Zoo Life:

My humble thanks to all of you for submitting your haiku and sharing your personal connections and associations as inspired by this image. Many of the haiku and senryu expressed empathy for animals forced to live a caged life. Other poems reflected upon a variety of human frustrations, moods and insights felt through our own newly experienced loss of freedoms through Covid. My choices reflect haiku and senryu that could stand alone and not rely on the image. I hope you enjoy these five poems that kept coming back to me. I would like to have chosen more. Please find your own favorites in the long list and leave a comment for the poets. We all learn from each other’s insights. Notice I do not attempt to label any poem haiku or senryu. I leave that up to others.

zoo enclosure –
the scent of sadness
fills the air

Nick T

I’ve always appreciated the phrase/fragment aspect of haiku. In this case, the fragment provides a setting for an unforgettable and thought-provoking phrase, ‘the scent of sadness’. I appreciate the sibilance and the sensory impact of this phrase, along with the invitation to reflect upon how sadness smells. We know we can smell fear, why not sadness then? It’s the smell of the ocean within our own salty tears, the smell of depression, the smell of an empty room where a loved one once slept. But this haiku speaks to the smell of a caged life, to fur, wet concrete, waste and browning food, to an animal life behind bars. The smell of sadness permeates the air, permeates me in an unforgettable way.

now I understand
their rattling of cages

Tracy Davidson
Warwickshire, UK

I appreciate the sense of epiphany in this haiku as expressed through the last two lines. The sudden understanding of what it feels like to be in ‘lockdown’, be it a zoo cage, a prison, a cage holding asylum seekers, or even our own sense of lockdown as experienced through Covid restrictions. I am also reminded of the many people who feel locked into their own bodies through an incapacitating illness. This haiku packs a powerful emotional punch through understatement that allows the reader to sense the frustration, anger or despair one would feel under any circumstance of enforced confinement. Lockdown is the perfect word choice as it opens the haiku up to multiple layers and interpretations depending upon the reader’s own experiences. This is a haiku that can stand the test of time.

blue hour
pulling the sheet
up over my head

Terri L. French

This haiku needs little explanation. You either feel it or you don’t. I not only felt it, I could relate to it. It all starts with the open ended ‘blue hour’. Well, there is an actual blue hour, but it’s more a phenomena than an hour and can be seen just before dawn when the sky has a bluish cast. Although it happens before dusk too, the phrase suggests the morning. But on a metaphorical basis, haven’t we all had our ‘blue hours’, blue itself suggestive of a sense of melancholy not to mention the blues as expressed through the musical roots of Black-American spirituals. While the thread to the image is slender, it is visceral in the way it resonated with the ennui of a caged animal and the ennui we might feel when it comes to facing another day under confined circumstances.

cabin fever
in my quarantine dream
I’m Rilke’s panther

Susan Rogers
Los Angeles CA

It’s not uncommon for Japanese poets to allude to famous poems in their haiku, so I would encourage those who are unfamiliar with Rainer Maria Rilke’s poem, “The Panther”, to look it up. You won’t be sorry and it will deepen this haiku even more and add insight into the emotional connection the poet must have felt with this image. The poem, however, stands perfectly well as it is. ‘cabin fever’, and ‘quarantine’ both relate strongly to the sense of confinement of ourselves and the cat. Most of us are familiar with the relentless back and forth pacing of caged animals. It mimics our own sense of restlessness under Covid restrictions. There seems no escape even in a dream, from the sense of confinement, either for the panther or the dreamer. One senses the feverishness of both.

family reunion
the way we treat
distant cousins

Bryan Rickert

The honesty of this haiku hits home, both as it relates to our own treatment of distant cousins and the ape family who share 97 percent of our DNA. Without the image, it’s unlikely that the reader would think of our connection to the great apes. The haiku stands alone without need of the image and I appreciate where the poet’s mind went with the prompt. Family reunions bring together people who are related through blood but come from different branches of the family tree. This haiku brings to mind the family tree as it relates to humans, but also, knowing of the image, the sense of guilt in the way we treat a species we are closely related to. Again, while the haiku stands alone without need of the image, this would be a perfect example of the rules of haiga, where a fully realized haiku paired with the proper image could, together, offer a third element of appreciation. But for me, I will never attend a family reunion again without thinking of this haiku.

below are the rest of the selections:

shadow boxing the yardarm

Helen Buckingham


the neighbor’s argument
with his dog

Deborah Karl-Brandt


how sadly
the caged eyes
watch the fly

Subir Ningthouja


winter night
a homeless man wrapped
in layers of newspapers

Olivier Schopfer, Switzerland


monkey’s paw–
my love letter too
finds a home

Arvinder Kaur,Chandigarh,India


chimpanzees chaff
masked visitors

Teiichi Suzuki, Japan


marital strife
the gloom
in mother’s eyes

Helga Stania


lattice window
with every passing bird
a bit of freedom

Mirela Brăilean


world view of goldfish
inside the glass bowl
outside the glass bowl

Vishnu Kapoor


how easy to see
deep down in the dog’s eyes —
years of misery

Mark Meyer


this urge to fly
a drifting cloud
over the zoo

mRehm UK


litterbug —
a scrap of paper
jolting our conscience

Ingrid Baluchi (North Macedonia)


a caged chimpanzee plugs its ears …
visitors noise

Daniela Misso
San Gemini (TR)


zoo visit . . .
flies cloud
the yawning lion

Aparna Pathak


zoo visit
behind the bars
you and me

Eva Limbach


anxious being our planet

Roberta Beach Jacobson
Indianola, IA,. USA


the onset
of another bad-hair day . . .

Valentina Ranaldi-Adams
Fairlawn, Ohio USA


a chimpanzee
through the bar

Mohammad Azim Khan Pakistan


my zoo

Pere Risteski


ZOO generation
the shade of the rainforest
only in dreams

Dubravka Šćukanec
Zagreb, Croatia


wolf howl—
the primordial echo
of my cockapoo

Clifford Rames
Freehold, NJ


from the window
an inmate sees

Surashree Joshi
Pune, India


zoo –
every dream

zoo –
ogni sogno

Maria Teresa Piras


childhood memory
dentist office ashtray made from
a gorilla’s hand

Gary Evans


school children
aping the inhabitants…
monkey house

Michele L. Harvey


morning fog
the house cat stalks sparrows
on the fifth floor porch

John S Green
Bellingham, WA


wrinkled papers
in the chimp’s cage
a child’s lost crane

Barrie Levine
Wenham, Massachusetts


Wild Kingdom
flies on the paws
of a white tiger

Tim Cremin
Andover, Massachusetts


under the weight
of boredom
a summer yawn

Melanie Vance


deep silence
over the zoo

cezar-florin Ciobîcă


in the animal farm
a new rebellion

kaiser von kahn


every parrot talking…
the zookeeper’s
blank face

Pat Davis, NH USA


zoo visit
who will blink first
the monkey or I

Minal Sarosh
Ahmedabad, India


at the zoo
the child watches
the pigeons

Helen Ogden

Guest Editor Carole MacRury resides in Point Roberts, Washington, a unique peninsula and border town that inspires her work. Her poems have won awards and been published worldwide, and her photographs have been featured on the covers of numerous poetry journals and anthologies. Her practice of contemplative photography along with an appreciation of haiku aesthetics helps deepen her awareness of the world around her. Both image and written word open her to the interconnectedness of all things; to surprise, mystery and a sense of wonder. She is the author of In the Company of Crows: Haiku and Tanka Between the Tides (Black Cat Press, 2008, 2nd Printing, 2018) and The Tang of Nasturtiums, an award-winning e-chapbook (Snapshot Press 2012).

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.

This Post Has 24 Comments

  1. Thank you so much Carole for choosing my haiku to comment on. I apologize for the delay in my comments and gratitude, it has been a bit of a challenging week. I want you to know that your response was very heartening to me. I have a father who I have not been able to see for a while do to his isolating in the wake of the pandemic. For me, he is a little bit like those monkeys and Rilke’s panther, imprisoned in his own residence due to the fear of being vulnerable to the virus. He does not have very much which makes him smile these days, but when I read your comments about my haiku over the phone I could hear his pleasure and almost see him smile. I also read your comments to my friend who is a wonderful poet and moderates a Rilke blog and again I could hear her “smiling” over the phone. I think that is what these forums are so beautiful at doing…providing a space for creative connection and uniting hearts and imaginations in the gift that inspiring haiku and senryu can give. I thank you for the gift of this conversation and for your encouraging response. My gratitude also to all the poets and commentators who contributed to it. I enjoyed reading all the haiku as well as the thoughtful comments.

    1. Thank you Susan, for sharing the story behind your haiku! SO lovely you read your haiku and my commentary to your Father! Good to hear he smiled LOL

  2. Nice work, everyone!

    this urge to fly / a drifting cloud / over the zoo
    mRehm UK

    If there is a pause after the first line, I see the desire to escape imprisonment and float as freely as the cloud. However, if read as a continuous statement, I see it being a hot, cloudless day at the zoo, where the poet has compassion for the animals having to endure it just for their amusement. I’m sure that’s not the intention, but I like that the poem reads well either way!

    “Notice I do not attempt to label any poem haiku or senryu. I leave that up to others.”–I do think the separation of haiku and senryu is unnecessary these days.

  3. Cheers Carole for being the photo ekphrastic host for a month. TY for placing my poem among the many excellent choices. Here are a few of my favorites:
    at the zoo
    the child watches
    the pigeons

    Helen Ogden
    This reminds me of the classic child playing with the box the expensive present came in. and the pigeons are free…
    Wild Kingdom
    flies on the paws
    of a white tiger

    Tim Cremin
    Andover, Massachusetts
    This image says so much about freedom to me. I know zoo animals can have flies, but still the noticing …
    this urge to fly
    a drifting cloud
    over the zoo

    mRehm UK
    Like the pigeon poem, the freedom to amble aimlessly is underrated until you can’t. I also wonder if the animals in the zoo notice the cloud along with the poet…

  4. Congratulations to all the poets featured in this week’s ‘Haiku Dialogue’ and also to Carole for her commentary. Reading the ‘Haiku Dialogue’ is both educational and inspiring. Many thanks!

  5. Thank you, Carole, MacRury, Lori, and Kj for including my haiku and for taking the time to do this set of columns. Another lovely selection of poems this week. I have enjoyed reading them all. Stay safe!

  6. I had hoped for a wide range of reactions to this image and wasn’t disappointed. Thanks for all your kind words.

  7. Thanks Carole for your excellent choice of such varied haiku. They cover the entire range from sweet to horrific. Good food for thought!

  8. Thank you, Carole, for including my haiku. I wasn’t sure I should even submit it, but the image has always remained in the back of my mind all these years. I’m not even sure how it surfaced so strongly this time. Hoping to forget/not to forget. Take care and stay safe in these times.

  9. zoo –
    every dream
    Maria Teresa Piras
    This haiku is very thought-provoking. Thousands of people visit zoos for their own enjoyment. How many of those visitors wonder what it is like for the animals?

  10. Thank you Carole for your prompt that connected us to the domain of all living beings. I appreciate your written analysis of the first five poems, a tremendous help to me as a novice poet.

    The varied perspectives of all the selections are remarkable.

    I am grateful for the weekly gift of Haiku Dialogue and to all those who work to keep it going.

  11. Thanks so much for including my ku, Carole. Many moving poems here – I’m very much with Carol and Ingrid re Gary Evans ‘childhood memory’ – a horribly arresting image.

    1. I agree, Helen. What an awful image. I was 4 or 5 years old at the time. The memory still haunts me and still repulses me. The inhumanity of humanity. Thank you for commenting.

    2. Helen, I had to include your haiku because it hit me in a visceral way that I found hard to put into words. But I looked up yardarm to get insight, and in the end, ‘shadow boxing’ immediately kept bringing me back to the image and seeing it as a weary fighter holding a scrap of towel….:-)

  12. This is a heart-tugging selection of verses.
    Well done to all poets, and well chosen Carole.

    Oh, my goodness. . .

    family reunion
    the way we treat
    distant cousins
    —Bryan Rickert

    how sadly
    the caged eyes
    watch the fly
    —Subir Ningthouja

    childhood memory
    dentist office ashtray made from
    a gorillar’s hand
    —Gary Evans

    1. I agree, Carol. What a jarring set of poems. We have such a lot to learn before we can raise our heads and call ourselves ‘human(e)’.

  13. Thank you for including my submission on a subject close to my heart, Carole.
    Your photo of an orangutan’s boredom brought a knot of sadness, outrage and guilt, for I have, in the past, been implicit, through ignorance, of causing unnecessary stress to animals by visiting zoos and being entertained under the Big Top. These venues are outdated as we learn that life forms other than ourselves have feelings similar to our own. With the demise of ‘panem et circenses’, I do not see the point of exploiting animals for any form of entertainment or for other kinds of use by humans. . . including wildlife trafficking, fur fashion and puppy farms.

    Gary Evans struck a chord with his submission, which many like-minded people would be repulsed by, and I’ve come across those empty elephants’ feet used as umbrella stands in front hallways. Disgusting, distressing and deeply disturbing. We humans have a lot to answer for.

    childhood memory
    dentist office ashtray made from
    a gorilla’s hand

    Gary Evans

    1. Indeed we do, Ingrid. I would like to think otherwise, but I fear not much has changed. We humans have a long learning path ahead of us. Thank you for commenting. (You might take a look at my reply to Carol Jones.) Take care.

    2. Thanks Ingrid. Gary’s haiku reminded me of how little we valued animal life in the past. It took centuries before they stopped poaching for ivory, for instance… (although that’s still an issue in some places) It shows our our shifting perspectives and growth when confronted by images from the past. Thanks Gary for reminding us….

  14. Thank-you Carole for publishing my senryu and for taking the
    time to do this set of columns. Thank-you also to Lori and Kathy
    for their continuing efforts on this column.

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