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: anger
Anger may have many forms and expressions, but the non-verbal expressions are more common. Reddened eyes and eyes that glare so hard they could burn a hole anywhere, tightened lips, and lowered eyebrows give a signal to others that it is not a good time. One cannot ignore the flared nostrils of someone who is just trying to express their feelings about the situation. Let us know how your face reacts to something that makes you angry.
The deadline is midnight Eastern Standard Time, Saturday November 11, 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 sadness:
her sadness hits deep within solitude
John S Green
Sadness often leads to solitude that cannot be hidden even if the person finds a way out by bringing about changes in life. There are streaks of some deep pain or grief that surface when a person is all alone. Whether it is nostalgia or a memory of someone long lost, it is not possible to ward off the thoughts especially in solitude. It is a universal experience articulated in such few words.
catches my sadness . . .
a day of letting go
This phrase ‘a day of letting go’ is not less than a trial in one’s life, but it is not that easy to get over things that really mean so much to us. Things or events that have some special place in our heart and soul may come back one way or the other. The mirror or our state of mind reflects our true feelings and some facial expressions become the witness to those feelings and thoughts.
letting her go
my eyes –
waning crescent moons
Grace De Sousa
This poem stood out for the fact that a common image has been used in an absolutely uncommon way. The departure of a loved one is the most difficult time in life, especially after having a long association with that person. It is never easy to live down. The ‘waning crescent moons’ are rightly associated with the expression of the eyes that see nothing but darkness in the form of sadness, melancholy, and grief.
behind his non-stop talk sorrow
This is a prevalent habit with deeply sensitive people. A subconscious effort to hide sorrow or pain. One can relate to this easily as many of us resort to it in order to disguise our emotions. Non-stop or frivolous talk is one such thing people indulge in when unable to give vent to some deep emotions and feelings. One can feel the pain behind the tone and the pitch of the voice.
a shadow of grief
on my face
Yucca Valley, California
A passing cloud may take us back to some memories that generate pain. The sight has the power to change one’s state of mind. Certain glimpses trigger agony and one can go into mourning again. It is not easy to get over the memories of a person who is not there anymore in one’s life. After the loss of a loved one, grief becomes an intrinsic part of our inner selves and resurfaces often.
the silence after
the sparrows have gone
This poem has myriad connotations. It may refer to a cultural practice for some, while for others it may refer to the extinction of a well-loved species. In many parts of the world sparrows have sadly become extinct. In our region sparrows symbolize girls who have gone to the husband’s house after getting married, leaving a void in the lives of the parents. The ‘downcast gaze’ may be of both the daughter and her parents whose silence is so eloquent. There is a touch of loneliness after the departure of those we have loved all our lives.
an obituary posted
Fairlawn, Ohio USA
This is a reality of today’s digital world where everything is said and done with the help of an emoji. We try to express through an emoticon and consider it a replacement of our deep feelings and thoughts. Is a crying emoji enough to offer condolence? Can it do justice to someone’s loss? We need a lot of rethinking here. In any case, people readjust to such realities and consider them as the quick and shortest possible way to express feelings and emotions. We live in a fast-moving world, but if you are condoling with all your heart you may need more than just an emoji.
the profound sadness
in that dog’s eyes
Mercer Island WA USA
A sad truth of our lives. We consider animals to be our best friends, but in our world pets, too, suffer loneliness and neglect. Eyes are the best way to express deepest emotions where verbal communication is not possible. Only a compassionate person can feel the pain and sadness of other creatures through their expressions and gestures. A poignant moment so well-captured.
staring at memories
of a moving train
Rock Island, Illinois, USA
An outstanding poem about facial expressions in a state of sadness. The poem is imbued with a visual quality and one can see the person staring at the window that reflects some profound memories. One is in a trance, almost detached from the rest of the world. Time comes to a standstill. A moment experienced often by so many of us.
blinking away tears
I force a small smile
for my son
Yes, this can be seen and felt. Very often there is a mixture of emotions on the face of a parent. It is difficult to hide some overwhelming emotions, especially when there is a special occasion. One can see how a parent tries not to share the true feelings that may hurt or make the child uncomfortable. This compassionate gesture reflects the caring attitude of a parent.
the old man staring
into the empty mailbox…
There is just no substitute for a family one has nurtured with love and care, and yet old people long for the company and the touch of the ones they loved and reared. We cannot live alone without connecting with others. The old man who seems alone is looking for a letter from someone significant in his life or an important document from someone that he needs the most. In both cases he faces emptiness. Winter rain or tears in his eyes reflect the cold behavior of others from whom he has expectations. The poem is a succinct comment on the lives of the elderly who suffer neglect. Certain precious feelings are just lost in the humdrum of life.
Join us next week for Hifsa’s & Arvinder’s selection of poems on the theme of anger…
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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