Facial Expressions with Co-Guest Editors Hifsa Ashraf & Arvinder Kaur
Facial expression as non-verbal communication is the most significant way to express emotions. Darwin also considered facial expressions as a significant part of the evolution of communication. We may run short of words, but our face symbolically says a lot. It is said that a person’s eyes can lead us to their heart and soul, something that poets and writers have used to the hilt. Apart from the movement of facial muscles, facial expressions have their own language that varies from culture to culture in terms of their understanding and interpretation. In this era of technology, emoticons are used to convey a range of emotions. In fact, one can safely say that emoticons have softened and lent a personal touch to messages that might otherwise seem dull and drab.
In literature, and especially in poetry, facial expressions have a special place. One can immediately understand the import of the moment if the poet says that her large eyes filled with wonder, a tremulous smile played on her lips and the moon appeared pale. In micropoetry, many famous haiku poets have used facial expressions in their poetry in an interesting way. Some examples from Basho’s poetry:
A sense of terror, fear, or surprise in both poems:
an old river
making big eyes
at the willow
stars in my eyes
wishing to see blossoms
on weeping cherries
Translator: Jane Reichhold
Basho: The Complete Haiku
And Kobayashi Issa used facial expressions in a different way:
the face of the man
who planted pines
Translator: David Lanoue
Used with permission, Haiku Guy.com
Many facial expressions have been identified now but we will stick to the basic six facial expressions. And these are happiness, surprise, contempt/disgust, sadness, fear, and anger. You can let your imagination run wild and share some personal experiences or stories, or your observations related to these facial expressions in the weeks to come.
next week’s theme: contempt/disgust
There are certain micro-expressions related to contempt/disgust that can be seen when a person feels disgusted. One may pucker one’s face or wrinkle the nose in disgust. There could be a half smile which is almost condescending or perhaps a kind of pout. How do you express disgust? You can share more expression from macro to micro levels by sharing your poems this week. It may be a nasty smell from the dump, or anything that you find disgusting.
The deadline is midnight Eastern Standard Time, Saturday November 25, 2023.
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 Hifsa’s & Arvinder’s commentary for anger:
a long frown
with white knuckles
The news these days can wreck anyone’s emotional well-being. The rhetoric of the sizzling headlines spreads negativity. The poem is subjective as well as universal in nature. The hope for a positive change grows bleak and bleaker each day. We as humans seem to be on the path that evokes angry reactions and one may give vent to such emotions within the precincts of one’s house and in private. For restraint is the need of the hour whether it is action or reaction. An extremely relevant visual image.
her unshed tears
till long after
A storm that rages inside manifests itself in the facial expression of a glare. Again we must exercise restraint in both personal and social relationships. What is it that the speaker is angry about? The beauty of this poem lies in its yugen. Maybe the narrator shed her tears in private at a later time, maybe not. There is a lot that the reader can infer and that is a wonderful characteristic of micropoetry so well executed in this poem.
of a war protester
We are living in disturbing times. The chaos in our surroundings leads to agitation and anger in us. The eyes are the most expressive and here they are reflecting the feelings of a war protester who is empathizing with the victims of war and feeling their pain of loss and grief. The poem mourns for the war victims as we can do nothing but feel strongly for them. A poem that represents the current socio-political reality in such few words.
once again she leaves him
waiting in the rain
A universal story of betrayal, departure, and breakup that may leave the person angry. There is a strong connection between emotions and rain and it has been captured so well here. The mystery of leaving a person ‘waiting in the rain’ adds more to the story. The one who has been betrayed might even be crying in the rain, a trope often used to hide tears.
of a hungry baby
Anna Maria Domburg-Sancristoforo
The Hague, Netherlands
Hunger still looms large in our world. In certain countries it has acquired gargantuan proportions. It is a demon that needs to be fought tooth and nail. Nothing can surpass the abrupt and sudden anger of a hungry baby. The connection between the raging sea and a hungry baby is beautifully used here as the thrashing waves with a loud sound may be very frightening just like the shrieks of a baby crying with hunger. This haiku may suggest a refugee child who reaches foreign shores without any food.
mother mutters on seeing
the price tags
There is a sense of amusement here that comes as a welcome change in the general vibe of the poems in this collection. There is a strong hint of the global economic crisis. The poem also has a touch of nostalgia as we think about our parents waxing eloquent about prices in their younger days and angrily comparing them with the prices of the present. Inflation upsets household budgets and is a source of seething anger. Muttering to oneself is one of the best ways to express passive anger at something that one cannot change. A harmless way of venting one’s emotions. The poem stood out for its amusing take on anger.
pulling his child
from the rubble–
his clenched jaw
A painful scene of a family who is the victim of war where a father is trying to protect and rescue his child from under the rubble and is angry at the senseless destruction. A clenched jaw may denote how hard he is trying to get his child out of a dangerous situation and of course the association of a clenched jaw with suppressed anger cannot be ruled out. The poem stood out in the way it links the facial expressions of anger with what may be an everyday situation for some.
the abusive scowls
of drunk husband
Hla Yin Mon
A common story of domestic violence. The ‘loud thunder’ may reflect both verbal and physical abuse that the spouse is facing. Is the speaker angry at the injustice of the situation or at herself for living in an abusive relationship? Why is life so unfair to some? Many of us will sadly relate to this image.
grinding my teeth
in my sleep
We often hold back our anger in our daily routine or cannot express it properly or give vent to our pent-up emotions and that usually becomes a part of our subconscious and results in disturbed sleep or nightmares. It may also reflect a sense of post-traumatic stress disorder where the person may be going through trauma arising out of the past.
Join us next week for Hifsa’s & Arvinder’s selection of poems on the theme of contempt/disgust…
Guest Editor Hifsa Ashraf is an award-winning poet, author, editor, and social activist from Rawalpindi, Pakistan. Her work has been widely published. Hifsa is the author of six micropoetry books on gender-based taboos, mental health, socio-cultural, and socio-political issues. She has won The Touchstone Award for Individual Poems 2021 from The Haiku Foundation. She received special mention for her book, Her Fading Henna Tattoo, in the Touchstone Distinguished Books Award 2020 and in the Haiku Society of America Merit Book Award 2021. Her most recent micropoetry collection, hazy crescent moon, is about Islamophobia and is published by Alba Publishing, UK.
Guest Editor Arvinder Kaur, author, translator and an award-winning poet, specializes in English literature and Media Studies. Her haiku have appeared in several international journals. She is the author of four books of micropoetry, two of which are bilingual where she has translated her own work into vernacular. Her books have been very well received in India and abroad. She lives in Chandigarh, India with her family.
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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