Skip to content

HAIKU DIALOGUE – Facial Expressions – surprise (2) & Introduction to All the World’s a Stage

please be patient as we move forward with our new presentation of a prompt every third week… thanks, kj

Facial Expressions & Introduction to All the World’s a Stage

Welcome poets to a New Year & a new format for Haiku Dialogue! First, thanks to Co-Guest Editors Hifsa Ashraf & Arvinder Kaur for an interesting look at our facial expressions in haiku. Welcome back Guest Editor Alex Fyffe – we are in for a treat, & a wonderful start to the year with a theatrical theme – happy writing! kj

All the World’s a Stage with Guest Editor Alex Fyffe

Welcome to this month’s performance of Haiku Dialogue! Tonight’s program will begin shortly. There will be a brief intermission between acts, and we ask that you stick around until the final curtain call to support the performers. We hope you enjoy the show!

That’s right: The inspiration for the next few weeks is going to come from theatrical terms. Although one might not associate haiku with theatricality, I think that terms like “intermission,” for example, can inspire a whole folio of ideas for haiku poets to explore.

prompt:  intermission

Our first prompt will be centered around the word “intermission.” During a lengthy play, it is common to pause the performance about halfway through in order to give the audience a fifteen-minute break to use the facilities and/or purchase some concessions – or to attend to any personal drama – before returning to the onstage drama.

The intermission is a temporary reprieve from the emotional endurance run of a powerful performance, the calm before catharsis. It is a return to the self after the ego-death of the dark theater where all the huddled bodies temporarily lose themselves in the actors, a reminder that the world of the stage is not the whole world, that we are neither Hamlet nor Ophelia, only observers adrift in the lobby. The intermission is a time for us to attend to our physical needs after having momentarily forgotten that we had them at all. For some, it is a smoke break, or a bar with their name on it. In life, intermissions can be those five-minute passing periods between classes, a coffee break, the gap between different lovers, or any number of “pauses,” of intervals that separate the big acts in our lives.

Write a haiku or senryu with the idea of “intermission” in mind, however you interpret the word. You could, of course, write about a literal theatrical intermission experience, or you could refer to other types of intermission, those moments between the scenes of life.

The deadline is midnight Eastern Standard Time, Saturday January 06, 2024.

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. 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 surprise:

meteor shower
catching stars
in my eyes

Lori Kiefer
United Kingdom

Apart from an inherent and vivid image of a surprised expression on the face, the poem also surprises us with a twist in the tail. Having stars in the eyes has many connotations but the play here is between the literal and the figurative. It also stood out for the fact that it creates an extraordinary connection between the fragment and the phrase.

doggy balloon
the toddler’s eyes widen
with each fold

Richard Straw
Cary, North Carolina

The poem took us to the world of innocence. The playful image comes as a relief given the fact that we live in a war-ridden world. It seems like a reminder that humanity is capable of lighter moments and that life goes on whatever may happen. Someone seems to have engaged the toddler as the shape of a dog emerges from a balloon. This is an extremely positive image.

getting old
laughter lines stuck
in surprise

Patricia Hawkhead
United Kingdom

This is something all of us discuss as we grow old. The lines on the face stand for how we have marveled at the magic of life. Somehow the image takes us to what a famous actor has said about lines and wrinkles. They are a sign of a life lived intensely, how deeply we have felt each emotion that life has brought us. So it is great that the wrinkles remain on the face in a world where aesthetic clinics offer plenty of freebies to get them removed. A very interesting and relevant image.

unplanned party
all the gaps
in granny’s teeth

Ravi Kiran

An interesting poem reflecting some fun and amusement. Unplanned events sometimes become the most memorable ones. Elderly people enjoy them the most as they always look forward to gatherings where they are able to spend some time with their loved ones. The gaps in granny’s teeth symbolize declining health or ageing but even that doesn’t stop her from sharing her expressions of surprise. An unplanned party may not fill those gaps but it may have brought much needed fun into her life.

dad’s diary-
dropping my jaws
on all that was unsaid

Nalini Shetty
Mumbai India

There is a sense of mystery here. Is the narrator going through the diary after dad’s death? Or is the father away? In any case, the element of surprise is inherent in the dropping of jaws. Universally, dads are known to keep things to themselves. The poem gives a peek into the inner world of all fathers. The secrets that they bury inside and the likes and dislikes that they do not convey. The tenderness of a father’s love has been so well-captured.

saucer eyes
baby’s first sight
of herself

Kavita Ratna

The surprise when a baby girl discovers her own beauty. The poem oozes with innocence and tender beauty. What a refreshing image in a world where people are busy running a rat race at breakneck speed. ‘Saucer eyes’ is a rarely used expression and as L1 it proves impactful. One can imagine what a beautiful doll this little girl must be.

home for Christmas
… mum’s eyes brimming
with tears

Margaret Mahony

An extremely relatable image. The surprised delight when children come home to be with parents on festivals and landmark days is so well-conveyed here. Seniors find it difficult to hold back tears of joy. The ellipsis at the beginning of L2 provides a lot of scope for the reader’s interpretation.

eyes widen
when I see an old woman
in the mirror

Adele Evershed
Wilton, Connecticut

Watching one’s own transition in the mirror always has surprises in store. Women, in particular, find it hard to negotiate when it comes to the change from youth to old age. Again a universal sentiment well-conveyed through wide eyes.


Join us next week for Alex’s selection of poems on the topic of intermission…


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.

Guest Editor Alex Fyffe teaches high school English in the Houston area. His haiku and senryu have been published in various journals, including Frogpond, Modern Haiku, Failed Haiku, Akitsu Quarterly, and the Asahi Haikuist Network. Some of his favorite short form poets include Issa, whose work he discovered in the intermediate Japanese textbook he used while studying in Hikone, Japan, and Santoka, whose writing introduced him to the liberating concept of “freeform haiku.” Currently, Alex uses haiku in the classroom to ease students into poetry and build their confidence as readers and writers. Alex also posts haiku, including translations of contemporary Japanese haiku, on Twitter @AsurasHaiku.

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.

Haiku Dialogue offers a triweekly prompt for practicing your haiku. Posts appear each Wednesday with a prompt or a selection of poems from a previous week.

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 14 Comments

  1. A lovely way to start the year!
    Thank you Hifsa and Arvinder for a set of wonderful prompts. I have enjoyed reading your commentary every week and am especially grateful that you selected a couple of my ku.

  2. Dear Arvinder and Hifsa, this selection was truly a surprise for me! I have also been tip-toeing into spiritual readings and practices – so this ‘seeing one-self’ is several layered for me… So grateful for the commentary too!

  3. I have found this entire Facial Expression series to be fantastic, Hifsa and Arvinder. I am grateful to you both for your wonderful selections and commentary.

    Thanks also to KJ and Lori for all they do to keep Haiku Dialogue running smoothly. I’m looking forward to this new series!

  4. Thank you so much Arvinder and Hifsa for including my haiku. I am delighted to be among these wonderful poets. You made my day!

  5. Dear Arvinder and Hifsa, thanks so much for including my haiku. I’m not usually selected for comment, so I’m particularly please to be in this haiku dialogue community!! All the best, Patricia

  6. Thanks for choosing one of my poems and for leading this THF forum these past few weeks. The poem is based on a distant memory regarding a Thanksgiving Day dinner held at a restaurant. Each child in attendance received a balloon animal created by a scary-looking clown. A few of the children were more surprised by the clown’s appearance than by the bright balloons he made.

    By the way, I should have used “twist” as the last poem’s word instead of “fold.” The word “fold” is more appropriate for poems about origami. I tried to send a correction after the poem was submitted. However, revisions aren’t allowed in Haiku Dialogue. Here’s how the poem should appear in the world of hindsight:

    doggy balloon
    the toddler’s eyes widen
    with each twist

    1. Correction about a correction:

      In the above comment, I should have written “poem’s last word,” not “last poem’s word.” Although it may happen otherwise, I may write something more before the balloon pops.

  7. Thanks a ton Hifsa and Arvinder for this encouragement….wonderful way to start 2024. But my fav with subtle humor is
    unplanned party
    all the gaps
    in granny’s teeth
    Ravi Kiran

  8. Thanks a ton Hifsa and Arvinder for this encouragement….wonderful way to start 2024. But my fav with subtle humor is
    unplanned party
    all the gaps
    in granny’s teeth

  9. saucer eyes
    baby’s first sight
    of herself

    Kavita Ratna

    I am especially drawn to this poem with its fresh image and choice of words. Who isn’t drawn to the face of an inquiring baby?

    1. Thank you, so so so much Lori! The same of the stars in the eyes!!! Entirely a delightful series!

  10. Dear Hifsa and Arvinder,

    Thank you very much for selecting my haiku for commentary and also for a brilliant set of themes!

    Best wishes,


Comments are closed.

Back To Top