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HAIKU DIALOGUE – Finding peace and contemplation… in quiet spaces… in a cloister

Finding peace and contemplation… in quiet spaces with Guest Editor Marietta McGregor

At times in our lives, fast-moving events of our day-to-day existence may become overwhelming. Between work and family responsibilities, daily needs and doomscrolling, days rush by in a breakneck blur and we sometimes end the week with a sense of ‘where did that go?’ We’re surrounded by the wonders of our shared universe. Maybe it’s time to become immersed in the enjoyment of one aspect of this spectacular world which amazes, delights and refreshes us. We can marvel at the night sky or clouds by day, cheer a ladybug as it climbs a twig and opens its wings, dangle our feet in a cool river, rest in a tree’s benevolent shade, stroke velvety green moss, smell ozone freshness at the coast, crunch through frosty grass, listen to morning birdsong, taste a last autumn apple. Small pauses in quotidian life may be devoted to living slower, using every sense, and sharing our pleasure through poetry. Simple gifts.

Each week for the next few weeks there will be a photographic prompt on the theme of ‘Finding peace and contemplation. . .’ with images capturing moments when we might seek inspiration if the going gets tough. I look forward to reading your personal response to the moments you’ve discovered.

next week’s theme: … on a pilgrimage

A famous pilgrimage route on the Japanese island of Shikoku is unusual in that it follows a circular path. It includes 88 temples and many other sites believed to be connected with the Buddhist priest Kūkai, from the 9th century. At the railway station in Takamatsu you’ll often see pilgrims ready to set out, with their distinctive white robes, straw hats, and bamboo staffs. Another well-known pilgrimage is the Camino de Santiago, St James’s Way. This route through Spain links with connecting routes from France and Germany. Pilgrims pause at many French cathedrals. I saw these staves, some bearing the scallop shell of Saint James, leaning against the old stones inside a pilgrim church. Scallops are said to symbolise courage, strength and hope. The little bluebird also sends a hopeful message. Why were these helpful hiking sticks left behind, I wonder? Were they forgotten, or had their owners tired of their long journey? Whatever your beliefs, sacred places are fascinating! I’d love to hear your haiku about pilgrimages or meditative walks you may have taken, or thought about.

The deadline is midnight Eastern Daylight Time, Saturday March 26, 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.

below is Marietta’s commentary for in a cloister:

Grateful thanks to everyone who responded to this week’s prompt of a cloister. You found many quiet spots to seek inspiration as well as peace. Your cloisters may have been built in earlier centuries or they may be more modern environments. For some, a grove of trees was a place to seek silence. There were also beautiful haiku about flowers, scents and sounds such as birdsong encountered in cloisters. Even bats featured, but perhaps not as the best bringers of calm and contemplation! I hope you enjoy the selection, and look forward to your comments. Thanks as always to Kathy, Lori and The Haiku Foundation for supporting Haiku Dialogue.

wind whispers
exploring the cloister
of an empty shell

John Hawkhead
Bradford on Avon, UK

A rather mysterious haiku. Is this a deserted beach at low tide with only a shell to sense the wind? Or has the poet picked up the shell and held it to an ear, hearing the faint echo of wind from the sea? From L1 and L2 we might expect we’re hearing the wind in a built structure, then we find in L3 the cloister is in fact deep in the empty spirals of a volute. The poet could have reversed the lines to read, ‛the empty shell of a cloister’, but I think the poem as written has surprise and hence greater resonance. The ‛wind whispers’, with lovely alliteration, in the poet’s own mind.

Easter Vigil–I slip out seeking
the wild company of lilies

Ash Lippert
South Carolina, USA

English-language haiku written on two lines are uncommon, although the form is found in renku. Some two-liners may work better if condensed to monoku. This somewhat surreal poem is not in that category. A cut in L1 after the season indicator grounds the haiku in a liturgical setting. The poet’s ‛slipping out’ could be the mental distraction we sometimes experience on solemn occasions, despite our best intentions. Then L3 delivers a surprise – it is not worldly diversions the poet escapes for, but wild lilies. Lilies are associated with Christian tradition as a symbol of hope and new beginnings. They often appear in Renaissance paintings of the Annunciation as a symbol of purity. To join their company implies a metaphoric wish for escape into the beauty of nature. Many readings are packed into this haiku.

mouthing mantras
as a koi rolls gravel
in its mouth

Richard Matta
San Diego, California

While I cannot claim to be familiar with meditation, as I understand its use a mantra may help to release the mind and maintain focus. Here we’re invited to imagine a mantra as a smooth stone, turned again and again on the tongue, just as a carp mouths a pebble to scrape off every scrap of weed. If we read the haiku as a run-on sentence without a syntactical break into two sections, we see it makes use of simile or explicit comparison to indicate a relationship, which is rare in modern haiku, although Bashō certainly used it in several works. Conversely, we could read the poem a different way – two activities may be happening at the same time. Perhaps the poet meditates by a pond, while a koi rises to the surface, pebble in mouth.

last wave floods
the sand castle cloister
global warming

Ron Scully
Burien WA

From the carefree pastime of constructing an elaborate sandcastle complete with turrets and archways, as the tide turns we’re wrenched back to the present. No longer just a phenomenon which happens naturally twice a day, the onrush of the sea is a disquieting reminder of increasing floods and inundation many places may suffer as a result of climate change.

& here are the rest of the selections:

medieval cloister—
a wind passes
through the history

Aljoša Vuković
Croatia, Šibenik

 

backyard garden
footsteps come and go
dad’s tulips still there

Stephen A. Peters
Bellingham, WA

 

Loveseat . . .
her bookmark shaped
like a dove

Deborah Karl-Brandt
Bonn, Germany

 

vow of silence—
an amazing garden
out of sight

Nicole Pottier
France

 

glasshouse days
the growing space
in my head

Alan Peat
Biddulph, United Kingdom

 

cloister at Arles
old prayers whispered into stone
our voices drop

Kathleen Cain
Arvada, CO USA

 

old churchyard
a comforting scent
of jasmine

Jeff Leong
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

 

cathedral cloisters
being the scale for
the artist’s painting

(When I was taking photos at Norwich cathedral, a local artist asked me to pose beneath the tower / spire in order for him to scale his drawing.)

Robert Kingston
Chelmsford United Kingdom

 

Cloisters of Durham,
the evening caught in my hair,
a darkness, a bat

Sarah Davies
Bedford

 

sheltering in place
I remember the unicorn
the monks’ nurtured herb garden

Lorraine Schein
Queens, NYC

 

cloistered
in the mountain’s shadow
saguaro solitude

marilyn ashbaugh
gulf stream, florida

 

the monks’ evensong
worries melt
into patient walls

Christa Pandey
Austin, TX, USA

 

abbey’s cloister—
the moon is mirrored
in an old well

chiostro dell’abbazia—
la luna si specchia
in un vecchio pozzo

Dennys Cambarau
Sardinia, Italy

 

lambent light
passing through cloister arches
novena prayer

Marilyn Ward
UK

 

in the zendo
melting down
my armor

Genie Nakano
Gardena, California

 

hot weather
across the cloister’s hallway
light and shadows

Olivier Schopfer
Geneva, Switzerland

 

abbey of Follina
silence filled
from a fountain choir

Angiola Inglese
Italia

 

enough light to read by the white silence of morning

Pippa Phillips
Kansas City, MO

 

Vulture peak—
Buddha’s ancient retreat
suddenly two caves

Neera Kashyap
India

 

scissors
for the lancet windows
pillow fort

Mariel Herbert
California, USA

 

in the pond
in the prison courtyard
a lotus blooms

Ravi Kiran
India

 

my aloneness
my true companion
in a cloister

Vishnu Kapoor
Chennai, India

 

reading a book
in the shade of a tree . . .
my corner of peace

Rosa Maria Di Salvatore
Catania Italy

 

snow falling
in the gargoyle’s mouth
silence

Jonathan Roman
United States

 

a lone cypress
touches heaven . . .
starry night

Neena Singh
Chandigarh, India

 

cloister ruin—
the song
of a blackcap

Helga Stania
Switzerland

 

spring drizzle—
whistling tea kettle
in the tea arbor

Teiichi Suzuki
Japan

 

under my favourite tree
sitting with books . . .
reading the fallen leaves

Ram Chandran
India

 

leaving home
the crucifix
at the right of my door

Jason Freeman
Maine, USA

 

meditation
slowly winding down
the canton trail

Bryan Rickert
Belleville, Illinois USA

 

“mum… mummy… MUM!”
sometimes I envy
silent orders

Tracy Davidson
Warwickshire, UK

 

new cracks
in a crumbling cloister
another war

Firdaus Parvez
India

 

in a fragrant garden
in a world of silence
I write haiku

Refika Dedić
Bosnia and Herzegovina

 

letting go
of every atom
a walk in the woods

Pat Davis
NH USA

 

in the abbey garden
a rose
against the sky

Eva Limbach
Germany

 

meditation
I rekindle my quiet space
again

Nisha Raviprasad
India

 

slowly rounding
the meditation circle
first scent of spring

Rehn Kovacic
Mesa, AZ

 

one of the crowd
searching for Francis and Clare
cellphones chirp

rick lawson
Georgia, United States

 

behind the convent walls
her life
in prayer

Margaret Mahony
Australia

 

ancient temple
the peaceful flutter
of a hundred lamps

Anitha Varma
Kerala, India

 

dew in the cloister garden rosary

Lorraine Padden
San Diego, CA USA

 

jacaranda grove
as if the petals
are forever

Arvinder Kaur
Chandigarh, India

 

vespers
finding peace
inside me

Mirela Brăilean
Romania

 

cloistered life
and all its trappings—
brewmeisters

Stephen J. DeGuire
Los Angeles, CA

 

cloister saints . . .
how the stone
upholds this vow of silence

Laurie Greer
Washington, DC

 

meadow walk
I learn to read
the open sky

Meera Rehm
UK

 

tall oaks
pieces of heaven
into the third eye

Mircea Moldovan
România

 

in the woods
blue shadows stretch
deer trails

Elizabeth Tibbetts
United States

 

my favorite chapel—
standing beneath
the redwoods

Dan Campbell
Virginia

 

cloister garden
a crocus pushes up
along the back wall

Vandana Parashar
India

 

old stone cloisters
creeping along quietly
ivy-leaved toadflax

Ingrid Baluchi
North Macedonia

 

Ephrata Cloister
we retreat afterwards
to the bed and breakfast

Sari Grandstaff
Saugerties, NY, USA

 

becoming stone religion

Keith Evetts
Thames Ditton, UK

 

exercise yard
circling
a ribbon of sky

Luciana Moretto
Treviso Italy

 

in silence
wandering and wondering
why the bell tolls

Dorothy Burrows
United Kingdom

 

cloistered yard . . .
a touch me not flower
not so shy

Milan Rajkumar
India

 

meditative silence
a mouse scampers
through dust

Kathleen Mazurowski
Chicago, IL

 

first sight—
i breathe mountains
of the morning

prima vista—
respiro le montagne
del mattino

Daniela Misso
Umbria, Italia

 

cloister ruin
the thousand-year-old
silence

Marianne Sahlin
Sweden

 

my bench at the
prairie’s edge
a red-winged trills

Susan Farner
USA

 

hushed temple sheltering our higher selves

Cynthia Anderson
Yucca Valley, California

 

clearing my thoughts Gregorian chant

Bona M. Santos
Los Angeles, CA

 

chambered nautilus
spiraling ever further
into myself

Mark Meyer
Mercer Island WA USA

 

cradled
in the misty mountains
a hum of chants

Subir Ningthouja
Imphal, India

 

pandemic
cloistered in a place
without a cloister

疫期多烦忧
不见修女走回廊
幽禁客房中

yi qing duo fan you
bu jian xiu nv zou hui lang
you jin ke fang zhong

Xiaoou Chen
Kunming, China

 

cloistered garden
rows of rosemary lined up
in pots

Roberta Beach Jacobson
Indianola, Iowa, USA

 

summer porch
she relaxes
to the wren’s song

Nancy Brady
Huron, Ohio, USA

 

I manage to smile
thinking of him
under his favourite Parijat tree

Padma Rajeswari
Mumbai, India

 

spider plant
the corner in the balcony
just for my thoughts

Minal Sarosh
Ahmedabad, Gujarat

 

childhood memories
a peek through the forbidden
window cracks

Didimay D. Dimacali
USA

 

without instruction
I walk a labyrinth
amazed

Greer Woodward
Waimea, HI

 

dawn
quietude
a hawk’s sky

C.X. Turner
United Kingdom

 

afternoon silence
in an empty cloister
the scent of linden

Slobodan Pupovac
Zagreb, Croatia

 

dawn meditation
stepping in time
with curlew song

Louise Hopewell
Australia

 

Dies irae
this mortal coil’s
four walls

James Gaskin
Fukushima, Japan

 

rooftop terrace—
the sky and I
our changing moods

Madhuri Pillai
Australia

 

guest room
the half moon bright
with silence

Barrie Levine
Massachusetts, USA

 

The Met Cloisters—
out of place and time
transported

Jenny Shepherd
London

 

zen retreat
the mindful state
of scattered stones

Mona Bedi
Delhi, India

 

Gloucester Cathedral—
waiting for God
I find Harry Potter

Adele Evershed
Wilton, Connecticut

 

santuario . . .
nel vecchio chiostro
anche la neve cambia colore

sanctuary . . .
in the old cloister
even the snow changes color

Giuliana Ravaglia
Bologna Italia

 

velvet cushions
by the window
where rainbows are

Zahra Mughis
Lahore, Pakistan

 

old cloister
a trellis supports
all my sins

Florin C. Ciobica
Romania

 

cloister garden
going barefoot
down the medieval lane

Lorelyn De la Cruz Arevalo
Philippines

 

in a cloister
the breeze takes me
just me

Anna Yin
Ontario, Canada

 

that cypress
knows my secrets—
corner of shade

quel cipresso
conosce i miei segreti
angolo d’ombra

Maria Teresa Piras
Sardinia – Italy

 

In the shadow
of the cloister
a wild red rose

Margie Gustafson
Lombard, IL USA

 

old pond—
a cloister monk murmurs
around silence

Luisa Santoro
Rome, Italy

 

vesper
nuns praying
for peace

Cristina-Valeria Apetrei
Romania

 

hidden pond—
sharing the stillness
a fallen rose & I

Keiko Izawa
Japan

 

closed garden
a butterfly stitches
the light and the shadow

Mona Iordan
Romania

 

silent cloister—
timeless stones
seeping stories

Cristina Povero
Italy

 

quietly praying
as I circle the monastery
hooded crow

Margaret Tau
New Bern, North Carolina

 

earbuds and Bach
orchestrating
my escape

Sharon Martina
IL, United States

 

pond ripples
the heron and I
both still

Deborah P Kolodji
Temple City, CA

 

mountain chapel
underneath the creek’s babble
echoes of your song

Susan Rogers
Los Angeles, California

 

silent retreat
the moon and i
cheating

P. H. Fischer
Vancouver, Canada

 

Guest editor Marietta McGregor is a fourth-generation Tasmanian who has made her home between Australia’s national capital Canberra and the scenic south coast of New South Wales for over four decades. A lover of the natural world since childhood, she went on to study botany and zoology, and has worked as palynologist, garden designer, science journalist, editor, university tutor, education manager, and grants developer for the national wildlife collection. A photography and travel enthusiast since retiring, she enjoys capturing fine detail of fleeting moments. She came late to haiku, which appealed for its close observation and poetic expression of ephemeral experience. Her haiku, haibun and haiga have been widely published, have won awards and appear in anthologies.

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 13 Comments

  1. What an inspiring collection of poems from this prompt! Thank you Marietta! These especially caught my eye and my heart.

    hidden pond—
    sharing the stillness
    a fallen rose & I

    Keiko Izawa
    Japan
    This beautiful poem has the feel of a perfect haiku…no word missing, no word extra.
    .
    closed garden
    a butterfly stitches
    the light and the shadow

    Mona Iordan
    Romania
    What a lovely gentle image!
    .
    in the pond
    in the prison courtyard
    a lotus blooms

    Ravi Kiran
    India
    Beauty and peace even in the most unlikely setting.

  2. Thank you, Marietta, for including my poem with commentary this week! I enjoyed making my way slowly through each of these lovely moments of stillness.

    Angiola Inglese’s

    abbey of Follina
    silence filled
    from a fountain choir

    stood out to me for it’s melodious consonance that echoed the bright sound of falling water. I also enjoyed Teiichi Suzuki’s

    spring drizzle–
    whistling tea kettle
    in the tea arbor

    also made beautiful use of sound in its pairing of watery, misty images. This haiku had a subtle warm perfume, and I could feel the clinging weight of the humidity it evoked as I read it.

    letting go
    of every atom
    a walk in the woods

    by Pat Davis made me think about the hint of existential horror that many forms of spirituality stir in me. To contemplate oblivion, to see the world the self as ephemeral, to be confronted by the smallness of your existence or the lack of boundaries between you and the rest of nature — there’s both comfort and terror to be found in those ideas. Peace and death may seem on their face to oppose one another, but, as this haiku suggests, they are closely entwined.

    Lorraine Padden’s

    dew in the cloister garden rosary

    packs so much meaning into this small pairing of images. Seeing the dew in the rosary beads and the rosary in beads of dew is beautiful, and the evanescence of the dew suggests the fleeting nature of life or, perhaps, of the prayers themselves — the concerns that pass in and out of our lives as the days change over… or maybe our prayers are like dew from the perspective of the god in the poem, uncountable and briefly perceived

    Lastly Anitha Varma’s

    ancient temple
    the peaceful flutter
    of a hundred lamps

    struck me with it’s wonderful evocation of sound, wordlessly suggesting the stone halls, the passing echoes of footsteps, the beauty of emptiness.

    Thank you again, Marietta, and to all the poets who share their work with all of use every Wednesday:)

  3. Thank you Marietta for selecting my poem. Always have fun to write and to read.

    Cheers and congrats all!

  4. Many thanks to Marietta, Kj and Lori for this week’s uplifting column. I am delighted to have a poem included. There are so many glorious and peaceful images. Congratulations to all the poets!

    One poem that I particularly admired was

    Loveseat . . .
    her bookmark shaped
    like a dove

    Deborah Karl-Brandt
    Bonn, Germany

    For me, this evoked the sense of calm, well-being and escape that reading and literature can bring. The fact that the bookmark is ‘shaped like a dove’ seemed so appropriate for these distressing times and emphasised the hope for peace.

    A poem that I enjoyed because of its humour was

    silent retreat
    the moon and i
    cheating

    P. H. Fischer
    Vancouver, Canada

    A lovely, fun poem to complete a thought-provoking selection that is a joy to read.

    I look forward to reading next week’s column.

    1. Thanks for the kind comment, Dorothy!

      Thanks also to Marietta, kj, and Lori for your wonderful work. Reading this feature every Wednesday is just what I need to get me through to the weekend.

      Best wishes, Peter

  5. Thanks Marietta Mc Gregor for sharing my verses. Congratulations to everyone for such interesting writings!

  6. Thank you Marietta for selecting my poem for commentary. This week’s selections give a sense of atmosphere and, in many cases, calm in these troubled times. Congratulations on this sequence!

  7. Thank you Marietta for including my haiku. I loved each one they were all soothing and peaceful.

  8. Thank you Marietta for including my haiku this week! And thank you and Kathy and Lori and past guest editors for all your work keeping this feature vibrant. I look forward to it every Wednesday. The haiku are breathtaking this week. I am inspired.

  9. Thank you Marietta for including mine.

    A wonderful diverse collection.
    I enjoyed the contrast of these two from outside the walls.

    pandemic
    cloistered in a place
    without a cloister

    疫期多烦忧
    不见修女走回廊
    幽禁客房中

    yi qing duo fan you
    bu jian xiu nv zou hui lang
    you jin ke fang zhong

    Xiaoou Chen
    Kunming, China

    mum… mummy… MUM!”
    sometimes I envy
    silent orders

    Tracy Davidson
    Warwickshire, UK

  10. Many lovely offerings this week!

    I find myself wondering if Bryan Rickert’s ku was supposed to read “canyon” instead of “canton”?

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