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HAIKU DIALOGUE – All the World’s a Stage – curtain call – commentary

All the World’s a Stage with Guest Editor Alex Fyffe

Welcome to this month’s performance of Haiku Dialogue! Tonight’s program will begin shortly. There will be a brief intermission between acts, and we ask that you stick around until the final curtain call to support the performers. We hope you enjoy the show!

That’s right: The inspiration for the next few weeks is going to come from theatrical terms. Although one might not associate haiku with theatricality, I think that terms like “intermission,” for example, can inspire a whole folio of ideas for haiku poets to explore.

Below is Alex’s commentary for curtain call:

end of visiting hours
the glass somehow
thicker

Lorraine A Padden
San Diego, California

The image of the impossibly thicker glass makes tangible the distance that the speaker feels now that visiting hours are over. The speaker may be either the person leaving or the one left behind. For both, the separation hardens the world around them and creates new layers of isolation that soon may be impenetrable.

the squeak of the pallbearer’s shoes buttercups

John Pappas
USA

Pappas brings such verbal levity to this solemn occasion. But the silly, slightly annoying ‘squeak’ of the shoes as the coffin is carried through or near the lovely buttercups emphasizes everything beneath the coffin, as if the speaker were perpetually looking down, focusing on anything and everything but the coffin itself. Through this sense of avoidance, we can sense something more emotional taking place as we follow the feet in procession.

dad’s funeral
so many people
I hardly know

joanne van helvoort
The Netherlands

Van helvoort’s poem also handles an awkward funeral scenario, one in which the speaker feels out of place around all of the people who have come to send off their father. Perhaps the speaker is surprised to see just how many people have come, some they may only have met once or twice altogether. Or maybe there is some commentary about how the people who were rarely around during a person’s life are all brought together when they die.

graveyard
our family tree
under snow

Roberta Beach Jacobson
Indianola, Iowa

Jacobson’s poem works beautifully as a traditional imagistic haiku – a tree by a family grave covered in snow – but the ‘family tree’ also takes on symbolic significance, whole generations of family members buried beneath the snow on the ground.

no longer any trouble
to each other…
the lights turn on

Luciana Moretto
Treviso, Italy

There is a powerful poem by Simon Armitage called “To His Lost Lover” that begins: “Now they are no longer / any trouble to each other.” I am not certain if Moretto is alluding to this poem, but the phrase, even truncated, carries a tremendous weight. In the context of this theme, the lights turning on could represent the end of the play, when all the characters on stage become only actors unburdened by the hatred and scheming of their roles. But taken alone, the poem hints at a grief that is nearly indefinable, a loss that is all the more apparent in the light.

the chanteuse
stays for an encore
day moon

Gavin Austin
Sydney, Australia

There is something beautiful about a day moon, despite its faded appearance. The encore may not shine as brightly as the main performance, but there is some comfort in looking up and knowing that there’s one more song after the last.

missed curtain call
her pointe shoes stained
with blood

Stephanie Zepherelli
Oahu, Hawaii

A performance can go on too long, however, and wear out its welcome. I hear it is not uncommon for a ballerina’s feet to blister and bleed after grueling practice. After everything she went through, this particular ballerina can’t even come out to take her final bow on the stage.

red tulips
bow and bow and bow
March wind

Peggy Hale Bilbro
Alabama, USA

Bilbro’s tulips, on the other hand, do nothing but ‘bow and bow and bow’ to the early spring wind. This repetition presents a lovely and unexpected take on the theme, the prideful flowers in a perpetual curtain call.

curtain call
the fourth wall
falls away

Mark Gilbert
UK

Through the use of rhyme in all three lines (‘call,’ ‘wall,’ ‘falls’), Gilbert also pulls down a kind of curtain between the poet and the reader, making us fully aware of the technique on display. The words all come together to take their bow before we move on to the next display.

masking curtains . . .
the stages of destruction
in wartime

Ingrid Baluchi
North Macedonia

Baluchi’s play on words pivots us in the second line from the wings of a theatrical stage to a devastated war zone. In this context, ‘masking curtains’ might take on a new, sinister meaning.

how pretty the old witch standing ovation

Arvinder Kaur
Chandigarh, India

Kaur captures the magic of theater in this simple description. The elderly witch from the play turns out to be quite beautiful in the end. Her transformation from character into actress happens before our eyes. The spell theater casts on us is complete, and the realizations we make upon awakening from our enchantment only occur when the lights go up and we all applaud the mystery of it.

school play
the lead’s divorced parents
outclap each other

Harrison Lightwater
The Netherlands

Some extra offstage drama to cap off the evening’s performance, a sad little game of who loves you the most, kiddo? But at least they’re both there. That has to count for something, anyway.

And that’s a wrap. The curtains close for the final time on this theme. Until we meet again, thank you to everyone who contributed!

 

Join us next week for our next prompt…

 

Guest Editor Alex Fyffe teaches high school English in the Houston area. His haiku and senryu have been published in various journals, including Frogpond, Modern Haiku, Failed Haiku, Akitsu Quarterly, and the Asahi Haikuist Network. Some of his favorite short form poets include Issa, whose work he discovered in the intermediate Japanese textbook he used while studying in Hikone, Japan, and Santoka, whose writing introduced him to the liberating concept of “freeform haiku.” Currently, Alex uses haiku in the classroom to ease students into poetry and build their confidence as readers and writers. Alex also posts haiku, including translations of contemporary Japanese haiku, on Twitter @AsurasHaiku.

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.

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Haiku Dialogue offers a triweekly prompt for practicing your haiku. Posts appear each Wednesday with a prompt or a selection of poems from a previous week.

This Post Has 11 Comments

  1. Thank you Alex for selecting my senryu for commentary. I enjoyed all the poems this week and last, and appreciate the work that goes into this column.

  2. Delighted to have been chosen for this, even if my take was on a darker theme. Thank you Alex, and for your thoughtful comments on all the poems.
    They all had something special, and I particularly appreciated the observed detail in John Pappas’:
    the squeak of the pallbearer’s shoes buttercups,
    which conjured up not only sound, but perhaps the reflection of these shiny flowers in the shine of polished shoes.

  3. a beautiful take on the theme …

    red tulips
    bow and bow and bow
    March wind …. Peggy Bilbro

    I enjoyed reading the comments – thanks Alex

    1. Lucia,
      A new prompt will be posted next Wednesday after 9AM EST. The format has changed. KJ could explain it better than I.
      Nan

    2. Lucia,
      Nancy is correct – we changed the format as of January 2024 – as stated in the note posted above, we offer a prompt every third week with the submission form, & on the other two weeks we share a selection of the poems submitted for the prompt, without & with commentary… hope this helps, kj

  4. Congratulations to all featured poets! I simply loved this haiku:

    how pretty the old witch standing ovation

    Arvinder Kaur

  5. Thanks Alex for choosing these and including one of mine. I loved this one from Arvinder Kaur (and your commentary):-

    how pretty the old witch standing ovation

  6. I really enjoyed the selections and reading the comments to them. So many good selections. I could barely choose a favorite but this is tops among them…

    the squeak of the pallbearer’s shoes buttercups

    John Pappas
    USA

    Also the tulips bowing and the ballerina’s shoes soaked in blood, forcing a missed curtain call.

    I also like the graveyard one after it

  7. Wow, congratulations to all of these poets! Take a well deserved bow! From comedy with Peggy’s tulips, reminiscent of the woman in The Sound of Music who bows over and over again for her second place finish, to the tragedy of loss of loved ones, these haiku were all stellar performances.
    Gavin Austin’s chanteuse (his word choice) paired with the day moon struck me as a singer who hasn’t been in the limelight for years (think of Joni Mitchell) and gets an encore.
    Roberta’s family tree buried in snow may have been my favorite knowing my family tree has expanded because of DNA findings. Hidden families are no longer buried in snow or otherwise.
    Thanks Alex for these poignant, enlightening haiku.

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