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HAIKU DIALOGUE – Facial Expressions – fear (1)

Thank you, poets, from all around the world, for continuing to support Haiku Dialogue! Because of your enthusiasm & record submissions, we will again be changing how the column runs in the New Year… stay tuned for details… kj

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.

Below is Hifsa’s & Arvinder’s selection of poems on the theme of fear:

black pupils round
as archery targets
doe in heavy traffic

Diane Funston


firework night –
a flash of white
in the dog’s eyes

Caroline Ridley-Duff


panting puppy crouches
under the couch

Radhika De Silva
Sri Lanka


frozen blink
a spider crawls out
of my cleavage

Eavonka Ettinger
Long Beach, CA


my eyes widen
trying to write
about fear

Sharon Ferrante
Florida, USA


forked lightening —
the fear
I hold inside

Allison Douglas-Tourner
Victoria BC Canada


power blackout
in the elevator–
cold sweat

Teiichi Suzuki


the o
of her open mouth
a cry suspended

Tony Williams
Scotland, UK


hunter’s moon
the whites of my eyes
w a x i n g

Adele Evershed
Wilton, Connecticut


eyes wide open
in the dark out of fear

Satyanarayana Chittaluri
Hyderabad, India


darkening hill…
my heart starts to beat
in my ears

Srini S
Rishi Valley, India


lights off!
the tremulous voice of my son
calling ‘mumma’

Nitu Yumnam


eyes shut tight
in a corner trembling –
a shooting spree

Hla Yin Mon
Yangon, Myanmar


along with saliva I swallow
my stage fright

Franjo Ordanić


seeing floaters in the dark my frozen face

Lakshman Bulusu
Princeton, NJ, USA


mother trembles
more than the feverish baby

Lanka Siriwardana
Sri Lanka


shrill scream
my grandson tosses
a toy snake

Neena Singh


a lizard
i try to pluck it
with a long blink

Amrutha Prabhu
Bengaluru, Bharat


horror movie
the rise and fall
of eyebrows

Ravi Kiran


her pulse pounding
with his every footstep

Laurie Greer
Washington, DC


stocks slide
wiping the sweat
on my forehead

Minal Sarosh
Ahmedabad, India


silent scream
I face the Rottweiler
running at my toddler

Nancy Brady
Huron, Ohio


power flickers
in the makeshift clinic
tunnel vision

Caroline Giles Banks
Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA


new hairdo
she turns to the mirror
with a twisted face

M. R. Defibaugh
United States


eyes wide open
in the middle of the night . . .
shadows in my dream

Daniela Misso
Umbria, Italy


blackness of night
my face the colour
of day-old snow

Vandana Parashar


missile strike
she crouches in the corner
hands over head

Gwen Bitti


UFO in flight
eyes wide open
in horror

Stoianka Boianova


strangled scream –
our fears move us
between two worlds

Minko Tanev


bath spider
my heartbeat rises
into my face

Lori Kiefer


when the lift doors close
I forget how to breathe

Baisali Chatterjee Dutt
Kolkata, India


at the gallows —
the prisoner tightly
shuts his eyes

Mona Bedi
Delhi, India


in the hush
after a fox’s scream
cold shivers

Annie Wilson
Shropshire, UK


ear to ear grin
a wide-eyed shaking boy
peeks through the teeth

Alan Peat
Biddulph, United Kingdom


Join us next week for Hifsa’s & Arvinder’s commentary on additional poems, & our next prompt…


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:

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 11 Comments

  1. Thank you so much for including my poem, Hifsa and Arvinder. Thanks also to KJ and Lori for all they do to keep Haiku Dialogue running. I’m eager to see what the changes for next year will be.

    This poem definitely sent a shiver up down my spine:

    silent scream
    I face the Rottweiler
    running at my toddler

    Nancy Brady
    Huron, Ohio

    It truly captures the moment with fierce intensity.

    1. Thanks, E. for the comment on my haiku. I’m terrified of many dogs, but for my kid, I’d stand up to any dog who’d maul him.

  2. Enjoyed all the selected poems. So many asoects of fear is touched beautifully. Thank you all.

  3. Eavonka’s and Lori’s spider fears haiku to straight to my soul. I have always been freaked out by spiders, destroying many a bed after awakening from a nightmare of spiders descending toward me. Their haiku definitely echo my phobia.

    Other expressions of fear were also deftly expressed. Congrats to all, and thanks to Hifsa and Arvinder for selecting one of mine. Thanks too to KJ and Lori for keeping the Haiku Dialogue going week after week. Your support of the guest editors is outstanding.

    1. I admit, Nan, that I was a bit worried my poem would be too scary to be chosen! It doesn’t make it any better to know that it actually happened to me. Eek!

      1. Eavonka,
        I understand your terror, and can’t imagine how scared you must have been. I once discovered a wolf spider in my dorm room walking on my “art piece” and since my roommate was in class, I dragged my RA down to kill it since the idea of it jumping on me was equally terrifying. She laughed until I told her that I’d be sleeping in her room that night (until it was taken care of). Thankfully, she did!

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