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HAIKU DIALOGUE – Facial Expressions – fear (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: surprise

There are a lot of surprises in life – positive as well as negative. Surprises can catch you off guard. There can be pleasant surprises in the form of a birthday or anniversary party as well as the arrival of some close relatives. Others may get some unexpected news of a promotion or good grades or a job letter or email. Poets can also get surprises of winning contests or competitions that must change their facial expressions at once. You may have some personal moments in life where your jaw dropped, you could not help raising your eyebrows or opening your mouth wide involuntarily. Surprise us with some unique expressions of surprise.

The deadline is midnight Eastern Standard Time, Saturday December 23, 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 fear:

the white of wide eyes wolf moon

John Pappas
United States

There were many ‘wide eyes’ poems this time. This one stood out for the fact that it not only evokes fear but a sense of yugen with the trope of the wolf moon. Incidentally, the wolf moon is likely to happen in the first month of the year. A time to challenge yourself to let go of repressed fears and insecurities. Besides, the howling of the wolves is loud and clear at that time. This can be chilling to the bone both literally and figuratively.

pale face
a toddler crouching
in the rubble

Tuyet Van Do

This is a vivid poem with a sad yet stark clear image. Perhaps, we as people have short memories. In some parts of the world we have already put the wars behind us while they are still raging, destroying homes and destroying lives. And then this is just a toddler whose world has already turned into rubble. There is fear of the worst kind on their face while trying to find something or someone beneath the rubble.

winter war
a child’s face frozen
in a silent scream

John Hawkhead
United Kingdom

War is not just a raging issue but is also a sad and cruel reality of our times. Children are the ones who suffer the most. The power games that the nations play put their future at risk. The child in this poem is obviously terrified and their frozen face depicts the menace of war. This raises many questions and the reader is left to ponder on these. This is an exemplary haiku where the reader’s involvement is enhanced to think beyond silence.

her pale face
gets paler…
his tightening fist

Tracy Davidson
Warwickshire, UK

This poem raises a painful social issue of our times or maybe of all times. Does it portray domestic violence or the fear of something yet unknown and the narrator’s face getting paler at the apprehension? The facial expression of fear is so well-captured in a few words. The ellipsis, the unsaidness, makes this poem a loud scream of fear.

night sweats –
what if you don’t
come back

Susan Burch
Hagerstown, MD

A condition suffered by many of us when a loved one goes out. And night is the time when our worst fears surface. But where would the person in the poem have gone? To war? To solve a dispute? To the hospital? Night sweats are a universal reaction to fear especially when someone cannot forget what caused it and finds it difficult to negotiate the condition. This is again left to the reader, lending a touch of mystery to the poem.

roller coaster
my eyes squeezed shut
before the drop

Bryan Rickert
Belleville, Illinois

This poem is such an appropriate metaphor for life and catches the facial expression of fear along the way. We get so excited to get onto the roller coaster but only the gritty ones survive. The exhilaration when the roller coaster reaches its peak and the feeling of fear when it drops down. The poem has a universality about it and many of us can relate to it. The involuntary reaction of fearful apprehension is so well-stated.

take off
the man next to me
crosses himself

Keiko Izawa

The poem stands out for its vividness. We often see a fellow passenger making a cross or praying before a flight takes off. At the end of the day it is a venture into the realm of the unknown, the unfamiliar, and that by itself can fill us with fear. The poem stood out for the fact that it moves away from the usual takes on fear and makes its point deftly.

business presentation
my eyes darting
between bosses

Marion Clarke
Warrenpoint, Northern Ireland

A manifestation of fear and its facial expressions as this show up in the corporate world. The fear of rejection is writ large in the eyes that dart this side and that to read the expression of the boss. If Japanese short forms are about catching and recording moments of everyday happening, this poem does it astutely.

ashen pale
biopsy report

Geetha Ravichandran

The fear of what the future may hold makes us go ‘ashen pale’, especially when it concerns a person’s health. Biopsy reports can wreak havoc with one’s emotional and mental well-being even if they are still unopened. The fear starts taking root long before the results of the health reports come out. Some intense feelings can also be observed through the change in colour of the face.


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


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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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 6 Comments

  1. Hi Krishna
    For some weeks now the themes of Haiku Dialogue have run over two weeks. So these ku are from the second week on ‘Facial Expressions: Fear’ with week 1 of the theme running last week. The majority of haiku and senryu feature in week 1 and then the host guest editors comment on a smaller selection in week 2. So if you submitted work this week it can’t appear in the second week – all the commented poems were submitted the week before. The next two weeks will be on ‘Surprise’

    1. Thanks John for the reply. I have not submitted haiku for the past few weeks. Will catch up with new developments.
      fearfully watching
      the monsoon downpour
      paper boat
      I have PD. I wrote an haiku in comments section of the page that had Parkinson’s-based haiku. The lady, sorry I don’t remember the name, who is administering that page replied to one haiku in some sort of a salutation. It would have been great learning if the lady had made a critical comment on my haiku. Not difficult as my haiku on Muhammad Ali was the only one. Best Wishes.

    2. thanks so much for jumping in with an explanation, John! 2024 will see some new changes, including a brief explanation on every post so readers will know what is going on! cheers, kj

      1. The Haiku Foundation and Haiku Dialogue have been supports of steel especially for those entering the magical world of Haiku. Dangerous if individuals make THF their fiefdom.

  2. earlier there used to be other haiku apart from those selected. don’t know why the practice has been dropped. to make it plain, didn’t enter any haiku for this week. selection can be subjective. of course, don’t expect any reply. to my comment. disappointed.

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