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HAIKU DIALOGUE – Family Portraits – Portrait Five & Introduction to A Good Wander: The Art of Pilgrimage

Family Portraits with Guest Editor John S Green & Introduction to A Good Wander: The Art of Pilgrimage

Thank you Guest Editor John S Green for the wonderful family portraits & the haiku they inspired, & welcome to our new Guest Editor P. H. Fischer, with whom we will embark on a new adventure… kj

Introduction to A Good Wander: The Art of Pilgrimage with Guest Editor P. H. Fischer

“Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.” – Basho (translated by Sam Hamill, The Essential Bashō, Shambhala, 1999)

Ready to lose yourself in the wonder of wandering? If so, grab your rucksack, water bottle (filled with a bit of sake perhaps), a pair of good trail shoes, a sturdy walking stick, and, of course, your favourite notebook and pen.

Over these next two months, I’ll share brief reflections and photo prompts from my Camino pilgrimage. This 900 km trek, from France across the Iberian Peninsula to Santiago de Compostela and beyond to the Atlantic Ocean, reignited a passion in me for haiku. I committed to composing at least one poem per day as a practice of being present to the moments unfolding along the way.

I’m not the first to scribble haiku while sojourning through villages, cities, mountains, plains, and sacred sites. Beginning with Basho (his Narrow Road to a Far Province remains the classic haiku travelogue), many poets including Santoka, Ryokan, and Kerouac, have taken to the open road to wander lonely as clouds, sing songs of nature (and themselves), and return to inspire others to join in on the chorus.

I invite you, likewise, to heed the poet’s instinct to get outside to go within; to ramble with intent, to write, and to return from your journey renewed, perhaps even transformed. You don’t need to go to Santiago, Jerusalem, Stonehenge, Graceland, Burning Man, or Matsuyama to accomplish this. Even a walk to the corner store can be a pilgrimage if experienced with our haiku senses attuned. Through the wonders of technology, we can journey from the comforts of our home if a physical jaunt is not possible. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that perhaps the most fascinating journey – navigating our interior landscape – can happen while sitting quietly on our meditation cushion.

It may be true, as J.R.R. Tolkien attested that “not all who wander are lost,” but let’s have fun trying. Isn’t that the goal of both pilgrimage and art – to lose oneself utterly in the present moment? To experience the ineffable/transcendent/divine (pick your term), and at least try to transmute our experience through a creative medium like haiku?

Alright, enough talk! Let’s get out wandering and writing. I look forward to reading your poems about real, imagined, imminent, interrupted, or eventual journeys. May the wind be always at your back!

next week’s theme: The Call to Adventure

Seventeen years before beginning my month-long sojourn, I listened to a friend tell tales of his own pilgrimage just completed. It was the first I heard of the Camino, a centuries-old pilgrimage to the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela which, according to legend, houses the revered remains of the Apostle St. James. Historically religious, the Camino is now traversed by millions of people from around the world for as many reasons as there are stars in the Milky Way.

Inspired by my friend’s pictures, not unlike the one posted here, I felt a call to wander the same ancient ley line snaking over the Spanish landscape to Santiago and beyond to Muxia and Finisterre (the “end of the earth”) at the Atlantic Ocean – historic Celtic sites that predate the cathedral.

For years, family and work commitments conspired against my dream until Linda, my soulmate, returned from a conference in snowy Saskatoon where she volunteered to bump herself from an overbooked flight home, resulting in a $1,000 airline travel credit. Meeting her at our airport arrivals, she gave me the voucher and smiled. “Quit talking about your Camino, go already!” Bless her.

I booked a flight and became overwhelmed with preparations: What backpack to buy? How many pairs of underwear? Do I need a sleeping bag? Poncho or rain jacket? How’s my French? Terrible. My Spanish? Even worse! Is my passport current? No. Shorts or convertible pants? Cash or credit? A guidebook or app? Don’t forget earplugs!

Oh, and I hadn’t told my boss I’m going. Details, details…

Prompted by my pilgrim story or this week’s photo taken in the province of Palencia, Spain, please write a haiku/senryu about your own calls to adventure, the preparation it entailed/entails, the training leading up to departure, or, perhaps the dream of travel that was shelved or kept alive but yet fulfilled. I look forward to reading your poems.

The deadline is midnight Pacific Daylight Time, Saturday October 08, 2022.

below is John’s commentary for Portrait Five:

This winds up my first appearance as a guest editor on Haiku Dialogue. I hope to return. Although it has been a whirlwind, the keepsakes are real. Thanks to Kathy (kjmunro) and Lori for guiding me through this magical haiku ride.

And special kudos to all of you – the hundreds of poets who sent me haiku in reaction to my family portrait photos. If I never selected you, I apologize. But I will next time, if you make the effort to read the haiku I did pick, then learn and grow from this creative garden.

Here we go:

in minerva’s glaucous gaze
a poem yet unborn


This was a lovely poem. Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom, is having writers block . . . ha! Or something, to allow her to pause for just a moment while she, and her friend, collect their poetic thoughts . . . a perfect subtle connection to the image.

locked up
in genetic coding
family secrets

Eavonka Ettinger
Long Beach, CA


family album
every leaf
the lake collects

John Pappas
United States

Eavonka and John have captured a deeper feeling I garnered from this photo. Family traits are, indeed, locked up in the genetics of individual family members. Good genes are a lucky thing, or not, no doubt.

war coverage—
the photographer uses
a black and white filter

Eva Limbach


war zone
talking to the sky
all the hidden voices

Vibeke Laier
Randers, Denmark


of the holocaust
ash moon

Teji Sethi

Eva, Vibeke, and Teji evoked important conflict resolution. They all superimposed the photo onto current and historical warfare. Well done, although a sullen pause.

grandma’s stories
we never have enough
of the witches

Meera Rehm

Ha! This is so true. Children are naturally drawn to imagination and the impossible idea of evil – which (no pun intended) is not a natural impulse at birth, as far as I know.

an owl feather spirals
onto the hunger stone–
harvest moon

Helga Stania

This haiku foretells what might happen if climate change gets out of control.

A ‘hunger stone’ is a stone, naturally exposed or deliberately implanted in a river during a drought, which is dated and often inscribed to mark the water level as a notice to future generations that they may face famine if the water reaches that low level again.

This week garnered several words I had not seen before. I looked them all up. I happily included many that added depth to the poetry. Please, look them up yourself, as you read through this wonderful list of haiku – all winners.

and here are the rest of the selections:

all soul’s day
something you couldn’t
quite put your finger on

Michael Henry Lee
Saint Augustine, FL


his gaze
the butterflies blush
in the belly

Nitu Yumnam


East Berlin …
crushed by my desire
for freedom

Roger Noons


movie night
with the new wife:

Curt Linderman
Seattle, Washington


heaven or hell
finding my way through
the high heeled forest

Stephen A. Peters
Bellingham, WA


found inheritance—
gold star report cards and a
broken rubber-band

Roberta Beary
USA/ Ireland


gray scale—
the way we hide behind
our truths

Ingrid Baluchi
North Macedonia


florentine smile
holding in thrall

Bidyut Prabha
Bhubaneswar, India


lonely night
my parrot pretending
to sleep

Bakhtiyar Amini


her secretive smile
only the owl knows

Gary Evans
Stanwood, Washington


where we are now
in the dementia ward
a tragic wisdom

Elizabeth Moura
East Taunton, MA


dusk walk
a gum tree creaks
against another

Maurice Nevile
Canberra, Australia


whistling winds
family altar‘s candlelight
beckons me

Keiko Izawa


hollow of the night
the owl and I
staying awake

Tuyet Van Do


silent flight
his hand on my shoulder
now missing

Vibha Malhotra
Delhi, India


serenade drifts
on the night breeze
too-wit too-woo

(Too-wit too-woo are the calls of the female and male tawny owls.)

Ravi Kiran


midnight melody
in between his snoring
an owl hoots

Chittaluri Satyanarayana
Hyderabad, LB Nagar, India


her portrait
looking back at me—
a beauty of ukiyo-e

Teiichi Suzuki


sharp eyes
another spell
in the principal’s office

Tracy Davidson
Warwickshire, UK


eccentric aunt
the owls and skeletons
in her closet

Bryan Rickert
Belleville, Illinois USA


maple leaf
I leave without

Richa Sharma


lonely seventies—
she shares her wisdom
with an owl

Mona Bedi
Delhi, India


“The Maltese Falcon”…
she role plays
her everyday life

Lynne Jambor
Vancouver BC Canada


formal portrait
two souls open
to the world

Susan Farner


with one glance silence

Rehn Kovacic
Mesa, AZ


rainy day
my favourite song from
a black and white movie

Minal Sarosh
Ahmedabad, India


her last thoughts
in a note

Tony Williams
Scotland, UK


muck-up day
the principal warns us
she sees all

(Muck-up day is the last day of the final year of school in Australia, marked by practical jokes and student pranks.)

Louise Hopewell


tango dance
unravelling the secrets
of the night

Padmini Krishnan
United Arab Emirates


kiraman katibin…
an angel tattooed
on each shoulder

Laurie Greer
Washington, DC


counseling session
i lie
about my crystal ball

Sarah E. Metzler


starring at me
you and this owl
full moon

Maya Daneva
The Netherlands


to pierce
all veils

Mike Fainziber
Rehovot, Israel


dusty album
little fingers
rewind the tune

Maurice Nevile


on the family wall
Dad’s yard sale find

Maxianne Berger
Outremont, Quebec


the hues
of this pregnant silence

Arvinder Kaur
Chandigarh, India


no man’s land
only smog and mist
here and there

Christopher Calvin
Kota Mojokerto, Indonesia


deleted messages
she knows I know she knows

Vandana Parashar


how easily
her eyes
belie the smile

Padma Rajeswari
Mumbai, India


the hoot of the owl
fills the void

Dan Iulian


all night before
the cry of an owl…
then mother-in-law’s visit

Mirela Brăilean


in the eyes
fear flickers
in the air

Refika Dedić
Bosnia and Herzegovina


an odyssey
behind a pair of eyes
the cold night

Richard Straw
Cary, North Carolina


fra cocci di vetro
la luna piena

between shards of glass
full moon

Giuliana Ravaglia
Bologna (Italy)


photo op
the macaw on my arm
tilts to my face

A.J. Anwar
Jakarta, Indonesia


in the guest-room
photos of the family’s
black sheep

Ella Aboutboul
West Sussex, UK


wing-swept night
nothing seen of witch
except amulet

Margie Gustafson
Lombard, IL USA


future in-laws
the trompe l’oeil
of their stares

Valentina Ranaldi-Adams
Fairlawn, Ohio USA


witching hour…
her soul settles
on my shoulder

Adele Evershed
Wilton, Connecticut


imaginary friends
the secret space
between feathers

Barrie Levine
Massachusetts, USA


after he left a white owl’s feather

Kath Abela Wilson
Pasadena, CA USA


birds of prey
a falconer’s unusual

Deborah P Kolodji
Temple City, CA


a thousand words
in one

Didimay D. Dimacali


Guest Editor John S Green, author of Whimsy Park: Children’s Poems for the Whole Family, is widely published in all styles of poetry – especially haiku. John lived in Europe before moving to the United States at age thirteen. His daughter cooks with spice, and his wife still laughs at his jokes.

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.

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 21 Comments

  1. Congratulations to all the poets. Have enjoyed series of haiku, making me look beyond the photo. Thanks John. Looking forward to the pilgrimage with P.H. Fischer.

    1. You have a lot to look forward to with Peter—he will be wonderful. A key element of successful haiku when writing in response to a photo is to look as far beyond as possible leaving only a subtle link to the image. Thanks!

  2. Thank you, John, for introducing us to your family! And for spending time to share your thoughts on our poems. It has been a pleasure to read other poets’ interpretations of each photo prompt, and I was honoured to have had some of mine published.
    As always, many thanks to the team working hard behind this series, much appreciated.

    1. Yes, Ingrid, the team of Kathy (kjmunro) and Lori make it easy for us guest editors. They deserve big-time hugs.

      Other poet’s interpretations of the haiku selected is highly instructive. I do wish more of this activity would occur.

  3. John – many thanks indeed! A learning experience all around!!!

    Here is one I did not submit, I’m sure you can guess which picture it refers to…

    you did what?!
    with my photo

  4. a thousand words
    in one
    Didimay D. Dimacali
    There are many haiku poets who believe this.

  5. I admit I squealed a bit when I saw my poem featured and commented upon. Thank you so much, John, for this amazing journey through your Family Portraits. I have so enjoyed and grown each week.

    Thanks also to Kathy, Lori, and the Haiku Foundation for this space to explore and discover my favorite poetic form.

  6. John I really enjoyed each and every haiku prompted by your inspiring themes and thank you so much for all those wonderful selections and comments. I am glad that my haiku was included too. I also thank KJ and Lori, and I looked forward to each weekly session.
    Congratulations to all the poets featured! There are so many to admire here!

  7. Thanks for the mention. I do tend to use English poetics, which is a matter of personal style, but I will always question totally abstract content, which to me is a matter of genre.

  8. John I hope you enjoyed your magical haiku ride. Thank-you for selecting mine this week. Thank-you also to Kathy, Lori, and the Haiku Foundation. Welcome to P. H

    1. Thanks for the welcome, Valentina. It’s an honour and a treat to do this. Big shoes to fill however. John’s time here was fabulous! Thanks, John. I’m sure you’ll be back 🙂


      1. Ha! Thanks, Peter.
        I am going to settle in for a two month journey to enjoy the 900 km trek you’ll take us on.
        Looking forward to reading all the haiku our fabulous readers will create . . .
        All the best,

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