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HAIKU DIALOGUE – Family Portraits – Portrait One

Family Portraits with Guest Editor John S Green

For the month of September, a total of five weeks, we will write haiku in response to photographs of human faces – portraits of sorts. These will all be images of my family – hence the title, Family Portraits. This could be termed a photo-haiga exercise – composing a haiku in reaction to a picture.

Often, the instinct is to write a description of the image. However, this is rarely satisfying. From my experience, a poem that connects in a subtle manner is more rewarding. For some excellent examples, please take a look at The Haiku Foundation’s Haiga Galleries.

Many haiga do not mention the scene at all, but simply allude to it via the haiku. The image and the words complement each other. Let’s work on that over the next five weeks. I look forward to your poems.

next week’s theme: Family Portraits – Portrait Two

My daughter and son-in-law kept postponing their wedding date due to the pandemic. One day, she called me and said they were eloping to Zion National Park in Utah. Just the two of them with a guide. It was a perfect day. Write your haiku in response to this picture, but also let your thoughts drift to your own experiences with weddings. Thank you.

The deadline is midnight Pacific Daylight Time, Saturday September 10, 2022.

Please use the Haiku Dialogue submission form below to enter one or two original unpublished haiku inspired by the week’s theme, and then press Submit to send your entry.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.

POETS!!
To make things easier for our Guest Editors, please include in the ‘Poem’ box both your NAME & RESIDENCE as you would like it to appear in the column, along with your poems… thanks, kj

below is John’s commentary for Portrait One:

Wow! This is my first time editing Haiku Dialogue. It has been a wonderful mix of adventure, responsibility, and joy. Many thanks to Kathy for asking me.

I received 233 poems from 145 poets. Twenty-eight different countries! For me, one of the best aspects of the haiku community is it is a thriving global art form, with engaged, kind people.

Many writers sent me poems that described the photograph in a more or less direct manner. These were not particularly striking. Others alluded to the scene in a more subtle style – drawing me in to nuances. One thing I should have emphasized is that each haiku should ‘stand on its own’ as a poem. The reader should not need the image to be able to enjoy the meaning of the poem.

Here are my selections with comments.

inheritance
another generation
with that nose

Bryan Rickert
Belleville, Illinois USA

Bryan’s sense of humor comes through beautifully in this poem. Not only do we inherit money and keepsakes, but physical features.

fresh snow turning off her hearing aids

Kimberly Kuchar
Austin, TX

Kimberly’s monoku has a few layers, in my viewpoint, which always strengthens a poem. First, I thought of a lady who did not want her serenity to be disrupted by a loud noise like a car. It also could relate directly to the great-grandmother in the photo, who may want to turn off her hearing aids because of the wailing child.

opera night
an infant joins
the soprano

Ravi Kiran
India

There were many poems that spoke to the crying child. This one, by Ravi, takes the situation into an opera house to great effect. Well done.

opposite ends of life
all that exists
between them

Kerry J Heckman
Seattle, WA

Kerry forces us to contemplate the many years that separate the baby and the elderly woman. Many contributors wrote to the timeline of a human life, but I felt Kerry used a sense of the Japanese aesthetic, yūgen, to special effect.

blush
of the first cherry
gentle rain

Margaret Mahony
Australia

This haiku stands out completely on its own. Its simplicity but depth struck me immediately. Margaret has brought the newborn baby in with delicate panache.

killed in action …
his mother not destined
to become grandma

Natalia Kuznetsova
Russia

Natalia wrote about the pain of war. It went straight to my heart. A newborn brings delight to families the world over. But, the death of child is devastating. Thank you, Natalia, for writing, and sharing your haiku.

Here are the rest of my favorites. While I am unable to comment on them, I truly hope you will take time to reflect on your peers’ haiku. It is an honor for these poets to hear from this vibrant community. Make someone’s day – comment on specific haiku below. Thanks.

& here are the rest of the selections:

rain on glass
so many words
unspoken

John Hawkhead
United Kingdom

 

bumble bee dust
all of the open flowers
he must visit

Marilyn Ward
Scunthorpe UK

 

two worlds
collide as one
cherry blossoms

Stephen A. Peters
Bellingham, WA

 

taking first place
at the gurning competition
summer stars

Robert Kingston
Chelmsford, United Kingdom

 

generation gap
great
greeting great

Mike Fainzilber
Rehovot, Israel

 

Cumulonimbus
in still air
Indian summer

Luciana Moretto
Treviso Italy

 

first cry
I learn to hold the weight
of her tear

Lakshmi Iyer
India

 

carrying the news
of generations—this
newborn’s cry

Penny Harter
Mays Landing, New Jersey

 

family ties
another spider
in the spider’s web

Bakhtiyar Amini
Germany

 

tiarella blooms…
she hovers on the brink
of dreams

Vibha Malhotra
India

 

a sudden
increase in volume
new life

Jenn Ryan-Jauregui
Tuscan, AZ

 

I hold you so many generations between I remember you

Peggy Hale Bilbro
Huntsville, Alabama

 

wind of change
swaying now when once
we danced

Tony Williams
Scotland, UK

 

getting the name
of somebody
they’ll never know

Robeta Beach Jacobson
Indianola, Iowa, USA

 

the sudden cry
reminds me of myself
eighty years ago

Chen Xiaoou
Kunming, China

 

blood moon
you say
it isn’t me

Susan Burch
Hagerstown, MD

 

first time we met was
last time I spoke your name —
speed dating

Bonnie J Scherer
Palmer, Alaska USA

 

One potato, two potato
three potato…
diaper.

Jerome Berglund
Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States

 

suddenly autumn
all my dreams for the future
are screaming at me

Dana Clark-Millar
Bend, OR USA

 

wavering nest
a nightingale sings
to its old tree

Pravat Kumar Padhy
India

 

soft familiarity
of the womb
. . . now all this weirdness

Ingrid Baluchi
North Macedonia

 

distant thunder–
crying baby’s
grasping power

Teiichi Suzuki
Japan

 

cradle song
in and out
of harmony

Roberta Beary
USA/Ireland

 

divine seeds –
they recreate the flower
the bird the human

Stoianka Boianova
Bulgaria

 

family picnic
our voices louder
than the waterfall

Minal Sarosh
Ahmedabad, India

 

baby book
his first words
drawn in blue crayon

Laurie Greer
Washington, DC

 

the journey
from spring to the sea
just a blink

Mirela Brăilean
Romania

 

heartbeat …
a fallen baby bird
in my hands

Daniela Misso
Italy

 

cocooned in old folds
the prickle of new life—
little thorn moth

Adele Evershed
Wilton, Connecticut

 

homestead
in the old tree’s shade
a sapling

Richard Straw
Cary, North Carolina

 

breezy cemetery
dad on his knees
above mother’s spot

Seretta Martin
California, United States

 

spring music
I sleep to the sound
of her gurgles

Padmini Krishnan
United Arab Emirates

 

family photo album—
three generations
of frowns

Dan Campbell
Virgina

 

looking back
at how far we’ve come
baby photo

C.X. Turner
United Kingdom

 

Drawn in like a turtle
protecting ourself
We protect others

J L Wright
Corpus Christi TX

 

if…
the goose accepts
the cat

Alan Harvey
Tacoma, WA

 

looking at the future looking at the past looking at the future

Gary Evans
Stanwood, WA

 

tsunami –
in shocked frenzy
fishing boats

Amoolya Kamalnath
India

 

the unexpected need
to recall
long forgotten skills

Padma Rajeswari
Mumbai, India

 

double helix
sharing pieces of us
in the same strand

Bona M. Santos
Los Angeles, CA

 

rectangle of light —
watching the goldfish
watching us

Alan Peat
Biddulph, United Kingdom

 

discolored photo –
of grandmother’s rosary
only the shadow

foto scolorita –
del rosario di nonna
soltanto l’ombra

Maria Teresa Piras
Sardinia – Italy

 

grandmother’s prayer
becomes the lullaby
spring breeze

Agus Maulana Sunjaya
Tangerang, Banten

 

mountain shadows moon
the next generation
of unexpected tears

Sari Grandstaff
Saugerties, NY

 

generazioni…
l’arco e la freccia
in divenire

generations …
the bow and arrow
in the making

Giuliana Ravaglia
Bologna Italia

 

a trace
of cilantro in the soup
my stepmother’s face

susan rogers
Los Angeles, California

 

family tree-
the roots
hold the blossoms

Ram Chandran
India

 

at first they thought it was grandma’s cooking

Frank Frazee
Bellingham, WA

 

burrito…
the hungry look
of love

Nancy Brady
Huron, Ohio

 

dozing off…
the cold nose of my dog
nudges a toe

Pris Campbell
U.S.

 

colic—
the tea kettle
whistling dry

P. H. Fischer
Vancouver, Canada

 

infant’s wail
the shock
of how you once were

Allyson Whipple
St. Louis, MO

 

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: kjmunro1560.wordpress.com.

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 24 Comments

  1. So many wonderful poems on the passage of generations. Thank you John for the challenging prompt.

  2. Congratulations John for all the fine selections. I like the rich variety of all the responses but keep returning to the following which I find stunningly beautiful and multi layered.

    bumble bee dust
    all of the open flowers
    he must visit

    Marilyn Ward
    Scunthorpe UK

    tiarella blooms…
    she hovers on the brink
    of dreams

    Vibha Malhotra
    India

    wavering nest
    a nightingale sings
    to its old tree

    Pravat Kumar Padhy
    India

  3. Thank you so much for including my haku in this beautiful collection as well. I was particularly struck by Daniela Misso’s haiku: the strong emotion and tenderness of an instant …

  4. Great selections and commentary, John! This will be a fun month 🙂

    A few poems grabbed me this week and provided pause for thought, wonder, or a chuckle.

    burrito…
    the hungry look
    of love

    Nancy Brady
    Huron, Ohio

    This one made me laugh out loud. When our boys were toddlers, we used to wrap them up tight in their bath towels after a bath. I’d call them “my burritos.” One time my wife asked the youngest child if he was a good burrito or bad burrito. He’d always say “I’m a good burrito” but this time he thought he’d mix it up and said, “I’m a hungry burrito” and proceeded to bite his mother on the leg nearly sending her through the roof! We still joke about our little burrito monster who isn’t so little anymore. ;).

    rain on glass
    so many words
    unspoken

    John Hawkhead
    United Kingdom

    This poem is so evocative in its imagery and tenderness as the poet’s tears (perhaps) find affinity with nature’s cold honesty. The melancholy, introspective mood raises many questions for me: were these words of affection that the child needed to hear but never did, words of confession that could have cleared the air and reconciled lovers, words that, indeed, were better left unsaid yet powerfully internalized? There are so many ways to read this poem and the symbolism of rain obfuscating our clear vision of right and wrong, fortune and misfortune, turmoil and peace, is poetically delightful.

    looking at the future looking at the past looking at the future

    Gary Evans
    Stanwood, WA

    As suggested in the prompt, pairing this poem with the photograph results in a powerful and perception-bending Haiga. Speaking of bending, I’d love to take this monoku and bend and twist it into the mobius strip it implies. There’s a continuity here, an invitation to see the eternal story played out among temporal souls. Young or old (chronos time), there is also the sense of “kairos” time, that is, time out of time. The third entity looking at the scene is, of course, the poet, or perhaps even more wonderfully, that numinous, nameless “awareness” or consciousness that is ageless, eternal, never-changing, but always there celebrating the incarnate life from young to old and back again. Take a bow, Gary!

    You too, John! A delightful read this week.

    Thanks,
    Peter

    1. P.J.
      Glad I made you laugh. You basically hit the nail on the head. They now call swaddling newborns especially wrapping up like burritos, and what parent or grandparent doesn’t hone in about the cuteness factor with “I will eat you up,” because they love the baby/ child so much. Even Max in Where the Wild Things Are by Sendak says it.

  5. What a fine collection, John. The month is off to a fine start. Congratulations to all the poets selected; every poem made a unique contribution. And thank you for selecting my monoku. I am humbled to have had “looking at the future…” recognized as worthy of inclusion.

    1. It is certainly worthy of dialogue…

      Interpolating the past and future. It covers everything. It is meaningless.

  6. John, On this your debut, I am already appreciating your interest in poems that have multiple layers. That is one of the things that I am drawn to when I read haiku. I also enjoy your proclivity toward humor. I found your commentary and selections to be thoughtful and well done. Thank you for publishing my haiku. I must admit that I didn’t realize that the photo you posted may have been suggesting an Ekphrastic haiku and my mind latched onto the idea of a personal family portrait and generations. Now, as I read my haiku I’m always considering other words and thinking — what if I had used the words “mom’s” and “plot” — would those have been better choices? Mom is what we called her but I went with the sound of “t” in mother and spot. Also I think the word spot is like when your standing at the cemetery and tell someone, “that’s her spot,” The word “spot” seemed more pointed and less generic than plot. Although, plot in life, or in this case, plot in death is also another way to look at the word plot. I think it would be interesting and fun to see poets comment on their word options and choices their haiku. Welcome aboard!.

    breezy cemetery
    dad on his knees
    above mother’s spot

    Seretta Martin
    California, United States

    1. Hi Seretta,

      Your analysis of your own poem is refreshing, and it brings up many good points. First, yes writing poetry in response to a photograph is an ekphrastic exercise. But, also simply a prompt to write haiku.

      Your point of looking at your original poem for ways to strengthen it is something we should all do as a normal way of editing. One of the values of haiku gatherings, in person or on zoom, is to workshop our poems. The opportunity to have other poets offer their thoughts on your poem, such as using ‘mom’ and ‘plot’ in place of ‘mother’ and ‘spot’ is invaluable. The haiku community is very kind with the workshopping of each others haiku, haibun etc. Some may suggest to drop spot completely as spot or plot is implied.

      breezy cemetery
      dad on his knees
      above mom

      Thanks for your kind words. It is my honor to be here as guest editor.

  7. A tremendous start to a tremendous theme John. Thank you for including mine. Congratulations to all poets, successful or not in making an appearance this week.
    I was stopped my tracks by

    blood moon
    you say
    it isn’t me

    Susan Burch
    Hagerstown, MD

  8. Thank you John for including my haiku and your commentary. This week was a wonderful challenge, you have certainly made my day. Congratulations to all poets for their haiku, they were a delight to read.

  9. Really interesting selection this week, but I’m going to single out Dana’s mortal alarm for applause:

    suddenly autumn
    all my dreams for the future
    are screaming at me

    Dana Clark-Millar

  10. I found two items interesting about this week’s column.
    .
    The first was the submission statistics since they provided an
    understanding of how much time and effort is needed to
    produce the column every week.
    .
    The second was the strength of the relationship between
    each haiku and the photograph.
    .
    Some haiku, like this one, had a strong relationship
    to the photograph while some of the haiku had little or no
    relationship to the photograph.
    /
    grandmother’s prayer
    becomes the lullaby
    spring breeze
    .
    Agus Maulana Sunjaya
    Tangerang, Banten

  11. Thank you so much, John for this inspiring collection. It’s always exciting to see which haiku are chosen especially with such a unique objective.

    While I was dazzled by many, I was particularly struck my Kimberly Kuchar’s monoku you chose to comment upon. A great reminder that less can be so much more.

  12. Thank you John for including my haiku on family portraits this week. I was really touched by this one. It captures that feeling evoked holding your newborn child, grandchild or great-grandchild for the first time. Similar in tone and theme to my haiku this week:
    carrying the news
    of generations—this
    newborn’s cry

    Penny Harter
    Mays Landing, New Jersey

  13. Welcome to our online “haiku family,” John! Make that 146 poets worldwide participating in the weekly Haiku Dialogue. Somehow I missed the deadline last week!
    There were so many insightful perspectives to peruse. I especially liked the depth and nuance of Richard Shaw’s “homestead” haiku:

    homestead
    in the old tree’s shade
    a sapling

    And I was touched by the tenderness of Daniela Misso’s “heartbeat” haiku:

    heartbeat …
    a fallen baby bird
    in my hands

    Congrats to all!

  14. Wonderful, John. Indeed there is the magic of image with the muse of words! The genetic link of ‘nose’ by Bryan Rickert and ‘double helix’ by Bona M Santos scintillate the scientific spirit. ‘opera night’ by Ravi Kiran, ‘first cry’ by Lakshmi Iyer, ‘spring music’ by Padmini Krishnan, ‘family tree’ by Rama Chandran’ capture my attention. The monoku ‘looking at the future’ by Gary Evans is unique in its technique of repetition with a streak of philosophical expression. Kudos to all poets.

    1. ‘looking at the future’ has no tangible qualities (phanopoeia), and is devoid of meaning without the picture.
      It does not ‘stand on its own’.

      1. looking at the future looking at the past looking at the future

        Gary Evans
        Stanwood, WA

        I beg to disagree, simonj. We all look (with or without hope) to the future from our experience of the past, don’t we? I see in this poem a real concern by the poet that not all is well in our world, way beyond the obvious disappointment of a grandmother causing a baby’s brief anxiety. The photo supports this, but acts only as a supplementary reminder.

      2. Thank you John for selecting my poem!

        I was particularly moved by the below poem:

        carrying the news
        of generations—this
        newborn’s cry

        Penny Harter
        Mays Landing, New Jersey

        Also, Bona’s double helix and Pravat Padhy’s wavering nest and of course Ravi’s opera/soprano and Ram’s roots/blossoms.

    2. Thank you, Pavan, for adding my haiku to your list of favourites. Thanks a lot, John, for including my haiku here. And congrats to all the poets whose work was featured this week.

  15. Welcome John, and thanks for these photography prompts. It’s certainly going to be a challenge.

    Natalia ‘s haiku is heartbreaking and poignant knowing that war affects generations. Laurie Greer’s made me smile, and Dan Campbell’s made me chuckle.
    Congratulations to all the poets. Thanks for including one of mine in this week’s edition.

    Congratulations to all

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