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HAIKU DIALOGUE – Facial Expressions – happiness (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: sadness

You have expressed happiness in myriad ways. Let us now pause for a moment and imagine something opposite. Sadness is an intrinsic part of our lives and can manifest itself in many ways. As Charles Baudelaire says, “I can barely conceive of a type of beauty in which there is no melancholy.” Likewise, it is hard to imagine poetry without melancholy. One may pull a long face, have downcast eyes, stare into nothingness, have lip corners turned downward, drooping eyelids, etc. Nothing can hide the deep sadness that one’s eyes may reflect. Sadness may be due to pain, season, nostalgia, memories, grief, departure, failure, low self-esteem, thoughts, environment, etc. What saddens you the most? We are looking forward to reading some deep poems on sadness that may be around your personal experiences or your experiences with others.

The deadline is midnight Eastern Daylight Time, Saturday October 28, 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 happiness:

sunrise the crescent beneath the cheeks

Nitu Yumnam

I found this to be an exceptional poem of hope, something that our world is in dire need of. The one-liner connects beautifully and subtly to the happiness prompt while leaving so much unsaid, a quality that is much admired in haiku. The reader is left guessing if the narrator is the mother herself or an onlooker. But certainly everyone is in a happy place.

eyes lighten up her body scent

Deborah Karl-Brandt

A poem that strongly appeals to the senses and in such a few words. It leaves you wondering if the image is visual or is celebrating a fragrance. In both cases the eyes light up with happiness.

dopamine rush
the earth breaks open
into an aster

Vandana Parashar

There was a time when people found happiness in small things. Perhaps some of us still do but habits and priorities are changing and so is the center of reward in our brain. A thought away from the ordinary that goes to the root of happiness. So when you have that dopamine rush it can entirely change your worldview. The ugly becomes beautiful and the scars look like flowers.

the light
in her eyes
Daddy’s home

Pamela Jeanne
Yukon, Canada

This beautiful haiku reflects a strong bond between a father and daughter. The light in her eyes says it all, one of the best non-verbal signs of happiness that can be felt easily without thinking much. Nothing can surpass the happiness and comfort of children in the company of their parents.

skimming stones…
my son’s dimples
land in the lake

Adele Evershed
Wilton, Connecticut

A mother reflects in a unique way upon her child’s happiness in skimming stones or the enjoyment of doing it. The dimples on his face are beautifully compared and connected with the bouncing or skipping motion of stones in water where the harmony and subtlety of the whole process can be observed. I can see the perfect synchronization of both splashes and giggles in this joyful haiku.

starry sky
how many laughs from dad
I carry with me

Maria Teresa Sisti

This poem is poignant and has a distinct flavor of nostalgia. So many happy memories of childhood stay with us throughout life. Elders, especially dads and grandads love telling their jokes and laugh at them even before they finish. The starry sky perhaps hints at otherworldliness and beyond and that things are left unsaid. The poem is open to the reader’s interpretation.

sudden showers
after a scorching day
the baby’s giggle

Sangita Kalarickal
United States

I can relate to this lovely haiku as the heat in the summer season affects my mood. Sudden showers are not less than a blessing after a scorching day. I can listen to the sound of rain and the baby’s giggle at the same time like an orchestra of happiness.

first date –
all things have
the color of her eyes

Dan C. Iulian

All the excitement about a first date is reflected well in this haiku, especially when the person is seeing the reflection of the beloved in everything and compares it with the colour of her eyes.

The poem is love pure and simple. It stood out for its simplicity and directness of emotion. Certainly all of us have been through this. When love happens nothing else matters. There is no one else that one can be aware of. There is no other colour except that of the beloved’s eyes and it conveys happiness unlimited.


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


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 10 Comments

  1. Dear Hifsa & Arvinder,
    This workshop is very therapeutic and a great support to have at these difficult times.
    Reading these ‘ku has a unifying effect bringing out our shared humanity.

    LOVE ALL the selections and sensitive commentary.
    Wonderful Sharings! from caring poets….such a special gift. Thank you.

  2. Dear Hifsa & Arvinder, you have made special and outstanding selections this week. Thank you so much, i enjoyed all of them.

  3. Thank you Hifsa and Avinder. I was thrilled that you chose my haiku as one of the ones to comment on. All of the pieces you chose were amazing but these two are my favourite:

    skimming stones…
    my son’s dimples
    land in the lake

    Adele Evershed
    Wilton, Connecticut

    dopamine rush
    the earth breaks open
    into an aster

    Vandana Parashar

      1. No worries. Enjoyed reading your poem. I am sure it is relatable for many of us. Thanks for sharing it.

  4. Your comment on my poem was a delightful surprise, and it truly brightened my day. I express my deep gratitude for including me! I greatly appreciate your dedication as Guest Editors. Wish you both happiness and success. Thank you to kjmunro and THF team for their efforts and time. Congratulations to the others featured.

  5. I like many haiku from here and one among several, very poignant of Maria Teresa Sisti:

    starry sky
    how many laughs from dad
    I carry with me

    Maria Teresa Sisti

  6. Dear Hifsa, Dear Arvinder,

    thank you very much for commenting on my poem. I was not expecting it and it made my day today. I liked the prompt very much. It was a ray of light on the horizon. It’s nice to be able to share all the forms of happiness (and to remember that happiness is possible), especially because current events almost make you despair. Thank you for your hard work as Guest Editors.

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