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HAIKU DIALOGUE – Ekphrasti-ku… Misguided Little Unforgivable Hierarchies

Ekphrasti-ku with Guest Editor Pippa Phillips

Once upon a time, under the dubious influence of Nietzsche, I grew despairing of the undeniable fact that I wasn’t a cool Dionysian at all, but a nerdy and visually fixated Apollinian. Once I got over myself, I leaned into it. There’s nothing I like more than taking a sketchbook to a museum on one of its free days. This time, I’d like to take you with me, to visit some of my favorite paintings, and the stories behind them, on a kind of digital ginko walk. These paintings are rich with detail and all are open to metatextual rumination. I look forward to seeing how they inspire you.

next week’s theme“Arbol de la Esperanza, Mantente Firme” (“Tree of Hope, Remain Strong”)

The link to “Arbol de la Esperanza, Mantente Firme” (“Tree of Hope, Remain Strong”), from DCA, City of Los Angeles, is here.

The title of Frida Kahlo’s work, “Arbol de la Esperanza, Mantente Firme” (“Tree of Hope, Remain Strong”), can be seen emblazoned on a yellow flag in the hand of the artist’s counterpart on the right. The title comes from a song, “Cielito Lindo,” which you can listen to here.

You will likely find the tune familiar.

Kahlo was involved in a bus accident in her teens, and suffered from injuries that caused her lifelong pain. In this picture, the artist is reckoning with a recent surgery and recovery that forced her to wear a metal back brace, and which was unsuccessful in addressing her pain. The artist takes matters into her own hands in this picture, rescuing her invalid self and emerging victorious in Tehuana costume. She finds healing in cultural elements, her faith – yet the landscape behind her complicates this story, moving from the clear skies of the song to a cloudier one, and drought-wrought cracks seem to be fissures in the artist’s resolve.

The use of art to address personal pain and heal from it is something that reverberates with me, as I found solace in haiku during a low point in my life, and I have heard many haikuists express similar sentiments. Sing and don’t cry, goes the song that inspired the painting. Cante y no llores. What songs will you sing?

The deadline is midnight Central Time, Saturday January 29, 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Please use the Haiku Dialogue submission form below to enter one or two original unpublished haiku inspired by the week’s theme, and then press Submit to send your entry.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 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 Pippa’s commentary for Misguided Little Unforgivable Hierarchies:

! ; v e $ m @ + + e < ! e $ $

P. H. Fischer
Vancouver, Canada

So much is folded into this monoku. The first thing that strikes you is its semblance to a grawlix, giving it the immediate appearance of profanity. On closer examination you see the message: “lives matter less” – a profane sentiment indeed, undermining its allusion to the Black Lives Matter movement. Even closer, we see that the symbol replacing ‘r’ is the inequality sign, signaling the basis for the profane sentiment – and the lives that might have mattered have fewer dollar signs than the other side of that sign, implying at least one structural form of that inequality. Another thing to notice about that inequality sign is that it is the poorest substitute for its letter, giving a tone of interruption: “Lives matter –” someone starts to say, but they are cut off by the inequality sign, to be told no, not under capitalism, at least.

peeling back her plumage
the caged bird
still singing

Tracy Davidson
Warwickshire, UK

Plumage here conjures up images of feminine decoration, particularly the feathered kind – a specific kind of decoration associated with nightlife, with a signal to sex – peeling it back may be something like a woman lifting her skirt for a ride – or it could be the opposite, a discarding of one’s adornment for the truer self underneath. If femininity is a cage, do you lean into it, or try to escape? Whatever song you choose to sing, the cage remains – but so does the song.

Aoko mora we eat our livers as stilettos

(Aoko, Japanese origin, meaning ‘blue child’ and mora, Spanish origin, meaning ‘little blueberry’)

Alan Summers
England

If Finnegan’s Wake were a haiku, it would look something like this. ‘Ao,’ in Japanese, can mean either blue or green – the blue aspect plays on the next word, while the green aspect conjures up budding vegetation – another meaning it has is algae bloom. It can be a girl’s name in Japan as well as Africa – for the Luo, a Kenyan-Tanzanian tribe, it means ‘born outside.’ While ‘mora’ continues the multicultural picture of youth and nature, haikuists might have come across this word being used interchangeably with ‘on,’ the basic sound unit of Japanese – although mora is a more general linguistic term. This adds a metatextual dimension to the poem, asking us to measure its sound. ‘Stiletto’ is also ambiguous – it can also be a knife. That and the eating of livers conjures up mythic punishments – Prometheus’s eagle, the pain of the little mermaid’s bargain – but the poem implies we punish ourselves – and the stiletto is, after all, a punishing shoe to wear.

already against
the next war
finch song

Bryan Rickert
Belleville, Illinois USA

The world-weariness of this poem is at odds with its humor, the political element at odds with the natural, the scale of war at odds with the scale of a bird, the implied catastrophe at odds with the pleasantness of birdsong – yet these disparate elements are forcibly yoked together by the observation that war and the struggle to evolve past it are as cyclical as the seasons.

after the last land mine destination wedding

Roberta Beary
County Mayo, Ireland

I used to live in Cambodia for some time, and one of its strangest elements is the juxtaposition of the omnipresent physical legacy of the Khmer Rouge and the beauty of its landscape – and the tourism both these things draw. Most people I saw were as likely to visit a temple as to visit a killing field – this poem immediately conjured up the atrocity tourism that I remain troubled by. I’m sure it has served as the location to many destination weddings, and I am sure that land mines were nearby. Beary’s poem explores similar tensions as Rickert’s, but where Rickert’s tone is one of resignation, Beary’s is an indictment.

separated at birth knot

Tim Cremin
Massachusetts

There are only four words to this poem – and four is the number of death – this is a poem that plays with opposites. Death governs the composition of a poem about birth – it begins with separation, and though the immediate separation that comes to mind is that between siblings, there is also the separation that comes with the cutting of an umbilical cord – something that comes to mind with the knot at the end of this monoku. The knot implies a binding on what has been unbound – after all, no matter which separation you read into this poem, family is bound by blood.

& here are the rest of the selections:

bodies reclaiming the unclaimed

Mariel Herbert
California, USA

 

the artist’s blood spit
on paper
blossoms

Lev Hart
Calgary, Canada

 

polka dots caught
in infinity’s net
hallucinations

Caroline Giles Banks
Minneapolis, Minnesota

 

pornocopia —
the delirious lust
for blood and roses

Mark Meyer
Mercer Island WA USA

 

false pretense held hostage by her f-me pumps

Cynthia Anderson
Yucca Valley, California

 

a clash of ‘isms’
in the pale blue dot–
wailing siren

Madhuri Pillai
Australia

 

matryoshka
inside she hides another
identity

James Gaskin
Fukushima, Japan

 

At the top
of the food chain
hungry bellies

Geetha Ravichandran
India

 

chiaroscuro
in the potpourri I taste
my best flavours

Luisa Santoro
Rome, Italy

 

wounds and bruises
in hierarchal state
red anemones spring

Melanie Vance
USA

 

carousel swirling –
everything becomes
something else

Cristina Povero
Italy

 

wolf moon
her aeolian screams
non-consensual

Amanda White
Morvah, Cornwall, UK

 

red blossom
a snake slithers around
through the grass

Mona Iordan
Romania

 

same old bondage . . .
bending over backwards
to please him

Bill Waters
Pennington, New Jersey, U.S.A.

 

hierarchy blossoms into blood

Pamela Jeanne
Yukon, Canada

 

pink blood
dripping from the sky
not for girls

genie nakano
Gardena, CA

 

remembrance day…
red poppies
mark their graves

Nancy Brady
Huron, Ohio, USA

 

flesh on
flesh on flesh
the blossoms pulsate

Alex Fyffe
Texas, USA

 

eating away
our dreams and hopes
this bio war

Kavya Janani. U
India

 

my temple studio
use to be a guestroom
i paint inner windows

Kath Abela Wilson
Pasadena, California, USA

 

anti war protest
turning our words into
hand grenades

Florin C. Ciobica
Romania

 

this life
not even a bicycle
to carry her away

Peggy Hale Bilbro
Alabama

 

a butterfly amid thorns I lose my way to you

Devoshruti Mandal
India

 

blood color-
warm shade on the grass
of a pomegranate

Angiola Inglese
Italia

 

bionic bits…
I bend over backwards
to try and fit in

Baisali Chatterjee Dutt
Kolkata, India

 

blood lilies –
the different perspectives
of politicians

gigli di sangue –
le diverse prospettive
dei politicanti

Dennys Cambarau
Sardinia, Italy

 

humanity lost in the fog of war

Bona M. Santos
Los Angeles, CA

 

the same dahlias
on a different grave
wartime

Mona Bedi

 

The way
the pale grass cuts us—
kaleidoscopic bloom

Sonika Jaiganesh
United Kingdom

 

war stories
i turn bullets into
haiku

Christopher Calvin
Indonesia

 

ascendant
screaming the world
into flowers

Pat Davis
NH USA

 

Auschwitz . . .
the bricks
scream

Kathleen Trocmet
New Braunfels, TX USA

 

stilettos
climbing a barbed wire
fence

Lafcadio
USA

 

red rose in grandma’s hair –
tango night
at the veterans center

Daniela Lăcrămioara Capotă
Romania

 

top girl
her furs fashioned
from her sisters’ pain

Dorothy Burrows
United Kingdom

 

Leviathan
a whip snaches
the Takka flower’s flesh

Mircea Moldovan
România

 

bend over backwards,
incubus on sucubus –
this is how class works

Sarah Davies
United Kingdom

 

miscarriage crimson rose buds on the fence

Arvinder Kaur
Chandigarh, India

 

splash of blood —
all forms
lead to void

Amrutha Prabhu
Bengaluru, India

 

crack
in the kaleidoscope
now I see it

Roberta Beach Jacobson
Indianola, Iowa, USA

 

prepartum shaving the bitch’s nips

simonj
UK

 

sunspots a phoenix erupts in blood fire

John Hawkhead
UK

 

blood rain i play with glass dolls

Subir Ningthouja
Imphal, India

 

a dried rainbow
beneath so many cracks
star dust

Alfred Booth
Colombes, France

 

saffron in rains
his last letter
from the east coastline

Anna Yin
Ontario, Canada

 

birds between bullets
singing as the sun
bleeds out

Alan Peat
Biddulph, United Kingdom

 

Sat on a wall
In world at war
Gave a flower

Ian Parkin
Sheffield, England

 

a pile up
of motorcycles
of body parts

Mark Gilbert
UK

 

war never ends only on hiatus

Susan Farner
United States

 

in the constellation of sadness silently the abused child

Helga Stania
Switzerland

 

artificial pond
among colored carps
hierarchies

Teiiichi Suzuki
Japan

 

Winter –
room in my pots
for wild flowers

Kaushal Suvarna
India

 

Occluded
Pages of history
Write back

Rashmi Buragohain
India

 

glass ceiling
i take the stairs
instead of the lift

Richa Sharma
India

 

piston heads
the mechanical owl
lets go of its gas

Robert Kingston
Chelmsford United Kingdom

 

ink art –
the child captions it
as mom’s heart

R. Suresh Babu
India

 

misguided generations
stack upon one another
their unforgivable sins

Hifsa Ashraf
Rawalpindi, Pakistan

 

crack from a flung
high-heeled shoe
glass ceiling

Deborah P Kolodji
Temple City, California

 

misled into black beauty tortured into acrobatics

John Zheng
Itta Bena, Mississippi

 

blood on the tracks
the need for me to escape
so far away

Stephen A. Peters
Bellingham, WA

 

hate speech rally
sparrows on the wire
sing harmoniously

Keiko Izawa
Yokohama, Japan

 

crime scene —
searching for a heart
among the body parts

Keith Evetts
Thames Ditton UK

 

spike heel…
painting with the tip
of triple-loaded bristles

Laurie Greer
Washington, DC

 

taffeta & chiffon
a runway
of bones

Jonathan Roman
Yonkers, NY

 

a fashionista
stamps her mark
stiletto moon

Sue Courtney
Orewa, New Zealand

 

all the Zen stones
reshuffled
Peace

Ravi Kiran
India

 

walking a familiar path
his muddy shoes
at the doorstep

Deborah Beachboard
Adna, WA

 

fighting to take over the voices in my head

Vandana Parashar
India

 

artwork
all the colours
of their pain

Margaret Mahoney
Australia

 

bone white shirt
crack!
dark marrow

Mashaal Ahmed
Washington DC

 

rubbish dump
children untangle
rusted wires

Daniela Misso
Italia

 

regeneration—
the trash we leave behind
in war

Ingrid Baluchi
North Macedonia

 

on the warpath trampled flowers spilling red

Minal Sarosh
Ahmedabad, India

 

sex equality
making women’s room
bigger than men’s

崇尚性平等
洗漱须要大空间
女士才方便

chong shang xing ping deng
xi shu xu yao da kong jian
nv shi cai fang bian

Xiaoou Chen
Kunming, China

 

bootprints leave lasting impression

Jenn Ryan-Jauregui
Tucson, AZ

 

a black swan
nesting in the blades
cross-hatching

Adele Evershed
Wilton, Connecticut

 

cyborg easy rider
finding traction
in trafficked flesh

Richard Matta
San Diego, CA

 

lost in the twists
and turns of an umbilical cord
worldly identities

Teji Sethi
India

 

Guest Editor Pippa Phillips is a recovering academic who hails from Cape Cod. Her micropoetry has been published in a variety of publications, including Cold Moon Journal, Frogpond, Failed Haiku, Modern Haiku, and The Asahi Shimbun. She also writes long and short-form fiction. She is interested in the intersection of ethics and aesthetics and walking the line between the populist and the experimental. You can find her on Twitter @IpsaHerself and Instagram @pheaganesque.

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 13 Comments

  1. Thank you so much, Pippa, for an inspirational prompt and a wonderful commentary. Congratulations to all the poets featured. I thought some of this week’s responses were astonishing and I have learnt a great deal by reading all the poems. Many thanks to everyone!

  2. This week’s art prompt and the resulting poems are really mind-blowing for me! Your analysis of the selected poems brought depths to them thst I was not able to see on my own. Thank you so much and thank all of the poets who responded so poignantly to the art.

  3. Thanks Pippa for including mine. I felt this striking painting was difficult to approach – I zoomed into the detail to try to capture a gory close-up of the collage technique. P.H. Fischer’s monoku stylistically reminded me of a collage. And I felt Cristina Povero also tried to capture the collage aspect:

    carousel swirling
    everything becomes
    something else

  4. Amazing, thought-provoking haiku this week!

    war stories
    i turn bullets into
    haiku

    Christopher Calvin
    Indonesia

    I love this haiku for pointing to the redemptive and cathartic power of art to provide light (both Calvin’s poem and Mutu’s painting) amid darkness.

    Bryan’s poem is similarly evocative, giving voice to the voiceless—at least in human affairs. Oh, how our world might spin to a different tune if we all stop to listen to the finch’s love song.

    already against
    the next war
    finch song

    Bryan Rickert
    Belleville, Illinois USA

    Thank-you, Pippa, for selecting my poem this week and for your commentary. Your interpretation is spot-on, and you have articulated it astutely; seeing things I didn’t see myself.

    Another layer I hoped to convey is how the increased digitization of reality, including humanity, is inexorably stripping us of materiality; codifying our being into a commodification of data points. As we become increasingly virtual entities, sold down the river of imposed algorithms, our lives become more and more “matterless”, that is, disembodied, unable to distinguish between an actual finch call and the call of a ringtone.

    Haiku, like all art, is an act of resistance to the many dehumanizing, earth-dishonouring forces that hide in the hollow horse we all too often welcome into our homes, schools, nations, politics, lives.

      1. Thank-you, Mark. I really appreciate your comment.

        I’m enjoying this series immensely and am grateful for the introduction to Wangechi Mutu’s incredible art. Thank-you, Pippa!

        Peter

  5. What a varied take on a great prompt. Thank you Pippa for including mine.
    Thoroughly enjoyed your selections.
    As always a deep bow to KJ and Lori for maintaining the page.

  6. A lot of great, challenging art this week–no surprise, considering the inspiration! Some favorites (other than the ones that are already commented on so well):
    .
    carousel swirling –
    everything becomes
    something else

    Cristina Povero
    Italy
    .
    I like how Povero uses the language of transformation to talk about an artwork that was made by swirling existing images into new forms.
    .
    same old bondage . . .
    bending over backwards
    to please him

    Bill Waters
    Pennington, New Jersey, U.S.A.
    .
    Great commentary from Waters on the pressure some feel to live up to old repressive norms.
    .
    Auschwitz . . .
    the bricks
    scream

    Kathleen Trocmet
    New Braunfels, TX USA
    .
    A unique take on the image–the horror of heaped bodies living on, their cries echoing down the decades as a reminder of the brutality of diminishing the humanity of “the other.”
    .
    top girl
    her furs fashioned
    from her sisters’ pain

    Dorothy Burrows
    United Kingdom
    .
    miscarriage crimson rose buds on the fence

    Arvinder Kaur
    Chandigarh, India
    .
    Haunting and beautiful at the same time, much like the artwork itself.
    .
    birds between bullets
    singing as the sun
    bleeds out

    Alan Peat
    Biddulph, United Kingdom
    .
    Love the play on words here with sun/son.
    .
    in the constellation of sadness silently the abused child

    Helga Stania
    Switzerland
    .
    hate speech rally
    sparrows on the wire
    sing harmoniously

    Keiko Izawa
    Yokohama, Japan
    .
    bone white shirt
    crack!
    dark marrow

    Mashaal Ahmed
    Washington DC
    .
    Some excellent use of contrasts in the above.

    1. Many thanks, Alex, for mentioning my poem. I am delighted that you appreciated it. I admired your poem too. I thought the repetition of ‘flesh’ and all the ‘s’ sounds worked wonderfully and produced a great rhythm.

      flesh on
      flesh on flesh
      the blossoms pulsate

      Alex Fyffe
      Texas, USA

  7. peeling back her plumage
    the caged bird
    still singing

    Tracy Davidson
    Warwickshire, UK

    I take this as a reference to Maya Angelou’s well-known poem. Neat to refer to one such work of art in comment on another – I like it!

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