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HAIKU DIALOGUE – Facial Expressions – surprise (1)

Poets from all around the world – we appreciate your support of Haiku Dialogue! We have been thrilled with the response to the changes we made at the beginning of this year, & will be making one further change to make this column even easier to manage, & also to inspire more dialogue about the poems.
In January 2024, we will extend each Haiku Dialogue prompt over three weeks instead of two, so that each week will have a separate component: first the prompt, then the long list of poems, & then the commentary. So each prompt will provide three posts, over three weeks, instead of the current two… please be patient as we all adjust to the new system! with sincere thanks, 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 surprise:

the sudden upturn
of her smile
waxing flower moon

Tony Williams
Scotland, UK


sounding low
papa’s smile on seeing me
at the door

Vandana Parashar


raised brows
again the editor selects
my second-rate ku

Louise Hopewell


my daughter
caught sneaking a cookie—
wide eyes

Eleanor Dean
Massachusetts, United States


eyes wide
lips a perfect O
he unboxes Lego

Neena Singh


the perfect circle
of my niece’s lips
Christmas puppy

Maxianne Berger
Outremont, Quebec


ashen faced
she lets me know
about the pregnancy

Bryan Rickert
Belleville, Illinois


ghost train
leaving the tunnel
eyebrows first

John Hawkhead
United Kingdom


tears of joy flow
into her open mouth
the perfect present

Jenny Shepherd
London, UK


mouth wide open
a teenager looks
at her exam results

Tuyet Van Do


pupils dilating
as she processes the second
pregnancy test

M. R. Defibaugh
United States


her smile reveals
a wanted gift

Marilyn Ward
Lincolnshire, UK


the roundness
of her lips O
his knee drop

Eavonka Ettinger
Long Beach, CA


dour great-aunt
her eyebrows rise
at the low etiquette

Ann Rawson
Scotland, UK


the toddler’s
bright eyes and open mouth
soap bubbles

Olivier Schopfer
Geneva, Switzerland


eyes widened —
her son’s unexpected
return from war

Mona Bedi
Delhi, India


deep in the woods
our wide eyes meet …
deer’s fleeting shadow

Annie Wilson
Shropshire, UK


heads in their phones
one wandering eye
meets another

Holly Brennan
Massachusetts, USA


mouth agape
the thousand tickles
of a millipede

Richard L. Matta
San Diego, California USA


jaw drop —
you tell me you love
someone else

Susan Burch
Hagerstown, MD


sudden wedding proposal
she almost chokes
on a dill pickle

Cristina Povero


poker face
draws his fourth king
all jaws drop

Stephen J. DeGuire
Los Angeles, CA


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:

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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. “raised brows
    again the editor selects
    my second-rate ku”
    – Louise Hopewell

    Hearing a diagnosis like coronary artery disease or CAD leading to MI or simply a heart attack is the nearest I can get to in measures of human sensitivity which sends the eye brows up when learning that my painstaking literary effort has been all in vain, and more so due to an editor’s insensitivity.
    In a short verse, a Ku, the depth of the meaning can be felt at once or ignored conveniently by a reader/editor in a haste to pass it, like some editor’s notify the poet,”…but I pass this one though I enjoyed reading it.”
    As interested parties we all can sense the mixed feelings we silently try to pass off with an involuntary upping of the eye brows when being so rejected. There are two views we can employ in evaluating a haiku, one leaves us with an Ah! for the depth at which its meaning is tactfully camouflaged, or an Ah! for the tact itself of the author. Which option the editor goes for is solely the editorial privilege we respect, inspite of our own vivid feelings. Therefore I like this haiku, so close to my heart, and talking about hearts, I as well may explain why I began by mentioning myocardium because MI is the restraining of artery blood flow that nourishes the heart itself which works to give life to the whole body. Editor’s are also the “cardiac arteries” in Haiku.

  2. So happy to be included in these fine selections, Hifsa and Arvinder. I have so enjoyed all of your Facial Expressions prompts, and I think you’ve done an excellent job.

    I was most struck by this poem:

    deep in the woods
    our wide eyes meet …
    deer’s fleeting shadow

    Annie Wilson
    Shropshire, UK

    I love how Annie creates such a vivid picture within nature. One I am lucky to have experienced myself.

  3. I really enjoyed my visit here. Surprise is a wonderful topic of fodder for haiku. Many terrific poems.

  4. sounding low
    papa’s smile on seeing me
    at the door
    Vandana Parashar

    Thanks Vandana, I felt this haiku was “mine”, I also happened to see the surprise in my father’s eyes!!
    It’s a moment in my life that I won’t forget.

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