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HAIKU DIALOGUE – Facial Expressions – contempt/disgust (2)

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:

autumn wind—
the face of the man
who planted pines

Translator: David Lanoue
Used with permission, Haiku

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: fear

It is said that fear is mostly hidden and silent, but it can express itself loud and clear. Even if one manages to hide expressions related to fear, a brief moment may trigger it and it may show up on a face in the form of wide eyes, face turning pale, stretched lips, or a sudden scream. How do you express your fear? Does a good or bad memory trigger fearful feelings or expression? Is it darkness that triggers fear or that creepy sensation? Does a nightmare leave you drenched in sweat in the middle of a cold night?

The deadline is midnight Eastern Standard Time, Saturday December 09, 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 contempt/disgust:

world falling apart –
between the eyebrows
my wrinkle deepens

Cristina Povero

Indeed we are living in a world where we face disgusting situations so often. It hurts us, we get angry, and of course we are filled with contempt by the fact that there is no empathy for one’s fellow human beings. Lust for power and an invincible ego blinds us. This poem stood out for the fact that it captures the moment of reaction so aptly. The wrinkle getting deeply etched on the forehead tells the painful story of this chaotic world. This perhaps is not a place for the sensitive amongst the human race.

mangled doll –
child’s narrowed eyes
after airstrikes

Nalini Shetty

A mangled doll tells the story of a childhood marred by war. The poem is an exceptional take on what children go through in times of war. The world of the innocent is unable to understand the dialectics of war and why it must affect their world. They are unable to understand that war does not spare anyone. The symbol of a mangled doll captures the feeling effectively. It also depicts detachment or departure where a child gets angry over losing a prized possession.

narrowed eyes flash
at men who topple
the ancient tree

Ruth Happel

We have faced terrible consequences of meddling with Nature. It has been said, specifically in Covid times, that Nature retaliates. But it seems we have not learnt our lessons. Trees are still being felled in the name of development. The poem captures the facial expression of disgust at the same. The ancient tree is a connection with the past that people may feel when they love nature and want to remember the natural history of things associated with us.

belly button
every aunt’s piercing gaze
on my piercing

Vandana Parashar

Apart from talking about disgust the poem is a terse comment on people who get judgemental all too soon. It stood out for the fact that it lends itself to many interpretations. The reason for disgust might be the generation gap, envy, or even nostalgia on the part of the senior woman. Be it anything such gazes are piercing indeed. A very astute use of repetition and alliteration.

sudden grimace
an infant discovers

Ravi Kiran

What an adorable haiku it is! Children show some real facial expressions that depict their mood and from these expressions we know what they actually want. This is the evolutionary process of learning and showing expressions. An extremely vivid image of an infant discovering sour and obviously disgusted by it.


Join us next week for Hifsa’s & Arvinder’s selection of poems on the theme of fear…


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:

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This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Particularly enjoyed the wordplay in Vandana’s poem and Ravi’s made me smile as I remembered similar moments when my now grownup children were babies!


  2. sudden grimace
    an infant discovers
    Ravi Kiran
    I pictured it instantly… beautiful

  3. Thank you so much for choosing and writing your comment on my haiku!
    I am really honoured!

  4. What fantastic choice for commentary! I especially loved Vandana’s belly button ku. What a perfect use of repetition, masterful.

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