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HAIKU DIALOGUE – Finding peace and contemplation… in quiet spaces… in a second-hand bookshop

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: … in a gallery

Becoming immersed in a work of art encourages us to reflect on the artist and their world, as well as our own. When we enter a gallery, freed from bustling city streets we slow down, drop our voices, calm monkey minds, and begin to appreciate new perspectives. The atmosphere is soothing, almost a meditation. Everyone has their own reasons for attending museums and art galleries. Permanent collections become havens, and some people re-visit favourite works as they would treasured friends. Special exhibitions generate a buzz of excited interest, and stimulate different ways of looking. This photograph shows part of the collections of The Clark Art Institute, Massachusetts, a lovely gallery set in stunning wooded grounds. I welcome your haiku about how time out in your favourite arts centre helps you unwind.

The deadline is midnight Eastern Standard Time, Saturday March 12, 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Please use the Haiku Dialogue submission form below to enter one or two original unpublished haiku inspired by the week’s theme, and then press Submit to send your entry.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 second-hand bookshop:

Thank you poets for your bookish contemplation this week. Lost in the pages of old books some of you discovered echoes of your own history. Some found traces of others’ stories in the form of intriguing margin notes, pressed buttonholes, four-leaf clovers, significant dog-ears, underlines and secreted letters. I was looking for original takes on the bookshop/old books theme, and if there were several poems along similar lines I have not always included them. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the selection, and find haiku which resonate with you to comment on. Thanks as always to Kathy, Lori and THF for coordinating Haiku Dialogue.

letting him
read me
annotated book

Vandana Parashar

A spare first-person haiku which in the reading opens up several possibilities. Has the poet chosen to reveal their inner being to a lover through carefully staged real-life actions or words? Or is the subject of L1 a new acquaintance, perhaps someone encountered at a book club or poetry reading, who is offered a book with personal notes inscribed which may help open the poet’s heart to a receptive reader? Either way, I think the poet is keen for this person to get to know them better.

used copies of Gatsby
he holds each vintage
to his nose

Laurie Greer
Washington, DC

An interesting juxtaposition. The protagonist here is cast in the role of connoisseur, apparently sniffing their way through a flight of early editions of the classic F. Scott Fitzgerald novel set in the Roaring Twenties, America’s Jazz Age. Do these old editions have their own individual scent, depending upon whose shelves they resided? Considering that bootleg liquor flowed freely through the pages of the Gatsby novel, perhaps the copies are redolent of that time, as captured in the haiku. Another reading could set the poem in the book-lined library of a discerning bibliophile who likes to browse his collection with a fine vintage claret or port (or several) at his elbow.

beach read
a breeze gives away
the ending

Kristen Lindquist
Maine, USA

Readers of my acquaintance fall into two main groups – those who always turn to the back page before finishing a novel, and the rest who don’t want the end revealed because it spoils the story. I admit to the occasional flip over if I desperately want to know if a character is still present in the closing pages, or has been killed off (if the latter, I still finish the book but with a stronger sense of impending doom). Beach reads tend to be quite light and not too gripping. Maybe the poet has dozed off in the warm sun, book open beside them. As they sleep, the pages are being riffled by a sea breeze and the ending is revealed, but does the sunbather see it, or does the book close again before they wake?

next to recipes
for bouillabaisse
The Origin of Species

Keith Evetts
Thames Ditton, UK

Like haiku poetry, second-hand bookshops can be eclectic, even eccentric, in their juxtapositions. In this haiku, the poet observes Charles Darwin and cookery cheerfully co-existing side by side on a shelf. Bouillabaisse is called the king of fish soups. A speciality of Marseilles, it’s believed to have been invented to use up ugly and unsaleable, but tasty, spiny fish such as the rascasse, a type of scorpion fish. Any fish can go in, heads, tails and all, along with saffron, fennel, orange zest and Pernod. The brew must be boiled hard and long. The best examples take days to cook, during which a sort of culinary magic occurs. In a letter to a friend, Darwin laid the foundation for the biogenic ‛primordial soup’ theory, expounded in the 1920s by Haldane and Oparin, where building blocks of DNA coalesced from a simmering aqueous solution of organic molecules derived from early Earth’s atmospheric gases. A clever juxtaposition that works well.

moving for the last time
i choose my companion
books carefully

Susan Farner

Anyone with a treasured book collection knows how hard the task of culling can be, despite Marie Kondo telling us that 30 books are quite enough to own. As we age we often find the need to downsize, and that means possessions must be shed. Well-loved books are good friends, some of which are for life. The poet understands that change is inevitable and has come to embrace this, but that doesn’t necessarily make the job any easier. The haiku to me has a melancholy tone, conveying a sense of the inevitability of change, and wabi, of serene acceptance.

& here are the rest of the selections:

the scent
of a cracked spine

Shloka Shankar


taking a look at
the life of the others
public bookcase . . .

Deborah Karl-Brandt
Bonn, Germany


second-hand book
between its pages
a pressed poppy flower

Olivier Schopfer
Geneva, Switzerland


tales of war—
behind a used book
the spider weaves

Vincenzo Adamo


in the bedroom a tattered book
of Andersen’s tales

Tsanka Shishkova


used book
the underlined portions
tell a different story

Ram Chandran


at the bookstore
I hesitate in between
War and Peace and Idiot

Željko Vojković


war at hand
I look out for a book
of love poems

Teji Sethi


bookmark . . .
heart-shaped skeleton leaf
says it all

Lakshmi Iyer
Trivandrum, India


book exchange our hearts race

Roberta Beach Jacobson
Indianola, Iowa, USA


Little Women . . .
so many memories
when I was a girl

Rosa Maria Di Salvatore
Catania (Italy)


back again browsing—
the book i didn’t go in for
finds me

Alan Peat
Biddulph, United Kingdom


store shuttered
the scent of paperbacks
stacked in the rain

Pris Campbell
United States


overfilled shelves—
volume after volume
about warfare

Mark Meyer
Mercer Island, WA USA


blank page of a book
my late father’s handwritten
driving directions

Jackie Chou
Pico Rivera CA USA


hunger pangs—
rusty pages and silverfish
for half a penny

R. Suresh Babu


old dream book—
what it means
to dream nothing

Aljoša Vuković
Šibenik, Croatia


war-torn world
I travel back
with old books

Priti Khullar


deep spring—
lost in Saijiki
at a book café

Teiichi Suzuki


dust on a book—
i wipe off stagnant

Richa Sharma


second-hand book
tracing the frayed spine
of an old friend

Firdaus Parvez


strict silence
from a corner cubicle
a knuckle cracker

Ingrid Baluchi
North Macedonia


in a cookbook
mother’s handwriting
second-hand bookshop

Mirela Brăilean


folded cold inside the used bookshop butterfly



second-hand store
on my knees
book foraging

Suzanne Leaf-Brock
Pine Island, Minnesota


love poetry
a pen-underlined verse
on the last page

Slobodan Pupovac
Zagreb, Croatia


secondhand bookshop
lingering with Wang Wei
birds calling in the ravine

Helga Stania


sepia forest
lost inside the pages
with the author

Ravi Kiran


chypre scent
of bygone days . . .
old bookshop

profumo cipriato
di tempi passati . . .
vecchia libreria

Daniela Misso


flea market—
the past owner’s thoughts
in an old poem book

Milan Rajkumar
Imphal, India


Book of the Dead
key from afterlife
to the life

Stoianka Boianova


leaving the library
full of ideas

Franjo Ordanić


shredded pages
in the book store
a brown mouse

Marilyn Ward
Scunthorpe Lincolnshire UK


in the smell of old pages
a long-distance love

Sonika Jaiganesh
United Kingdom


bookstore escape
the travel choices
in Steinbeck and Swift

Richard Matta
San Diego, California


fiction all those happy endings

Dan Campbell


Grandma’s war chest
a hand me down book
on girl guiding

Robert Kingston
Chelmsford, United Kingdom


moving house
nothing but books and
Confucius himself


fu zi qian xin ju
wei jian xi ruan yu zhen bao
wei you wan juan shu

Xiaoou Chen
Kunming, China


pre-loved books
all the dog eared pages
in the romance section

Louise Hopewell


between the pages
a love letter
not meant for me

Margaret Mahony


the faint scent
of another’s pressed rose
second-hand Love Story

Meera Rehm


the rust
on The Mill on the Floss . . .
dusty store

Arvinder Kaur
Chandigarh, India


another story
in the second hand book
a four-leaf clover

Nazarena Rampini


rummaging through a stranger’s words four-leaf clover

Eva Limbach


second-hand bookshop
I quietly slip down
Alice’s rabbit hole

Baisali Chatterjee Dutt
Kolkata, India


early spring breathing the peace bibliosmia

Neena Singh
Chandigarh, India


first love . . .
at the second-hand bookstore
lost and found

Anna Yin
Ontario, Canada


used books
self-help buried under
love poetry

Bryan Rickert
Belleville, Illinois USA


in need of a happy ending reading the last chapter first

Kathleen Trocmet
Texas, USA


floor to ceiling
the owner goes straight
to the book I ask for

Cynthia Anderson
Yucca Valley, California


armload of books
the knowing nods
of the cashier

Pat Davis


all these worlds
consisting of words . . .

Marianne Sahlin


old cooking book
mom’s humming from the page
of my favorite pie

Keiko Izawa
Yokohama, Japan


a selection of books
with 18 point fonts

Valentina Ranaldi-Adams
Fairlawn, Ohio USA


covering titles
in the window display
bookstore cats

Caroline Giles Banks
Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA


tattered bible
reading scribbled notes
to my older self

Jeff Leong
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia


used bookstore
chance encounters
with marginalia

Helen Ogden
Pacific Grove, CA


in the secondhand book
I connect with a stranger

Padma Rajeswari
Mumbai, India


autumn smell . . .
a library ticket in
the second hand book

Minal Sarosh
Ahmedabad, India


after the bombing . . .
War and Peace
falls off the shelf

Melanie Vance


in the shadows
of old rose bushes . . .

Alfred Booth
Colombes, France


old corner bookstore
re-reading the story book
mom read to me first

Joe Sebastian
Bangalore, India


looking for Proust . . .
the scent of time
whispers secrets

Elisa Allo
Zig, Switzerland


huddled together
Ginsberg, Kerouac, Bukowski . . .
a stranger’s smile at my delight

Madhuri Pillai


on the flyleaf
a spidery
ex libris

Ann Smith
United Kingdom


book club—
exchanging more
than words . . .

C.X. Turner
United Kingdom


new novel
I set out to live
a king’s life

Mona Bedi
Delhi, India


grassy scents
in the old library . . .
my father so close

Giuliana Ravaglia
Bologna Italia


stroke of midnight I turn into a book

Lafcadio Orlovsky


bookshop step stool
already in use
hey sleepy kitty!

Maxianne Berger
Outremont, Quebec


second-hand bookstore—
a blue and yellow candle
lit in the corner

Xenia Tran


road side book stall—
with a cup of coffee I meet
Jean Valjean

Hla Yin Mon
Yangon, Myanmar


the librarian’s

Barrie Levine
Massachusetts, United States


treasure island
in the children’s section
unearthing gems

Dorothy Burrows
United Kingdom


time traveling in
second-hand bookshop . . . hours
go by like seconds

Margie Gustafson
Lombard, IL USA


stacks of used books
I straighten my spine
before walking in

Sari Grandstaff
Saugerties, NY


first edition
getting a whiff
of old rags

Bona M. Santos
Los Angeles, CA


the bell
in the olde bookshop

Peggy Bilbro


dimly lit store
he passes me the warmth
of a dog-eared book

sanjuktaa asopa


head over heels
between aisles
preloved books

Kanjini Devi
The Far North, Aotearoa NZ


crowded bookstore
reading out loud
an old love novel

Eufemia Griffo


watching it tumble
from the musty book heap—
She Stoops to Conquer

Margaret Tau
New Bern, North Carolina


escaping the heat—
I enter the bookshop
into autumn

Ash Lippert
United States


missing “M” and “R”
remaining volumes
in the free bin

Greer Woodward
Waimea, HI


vintage bookstore
savoring the scent
of second chances

Sharon Martina
Illinois, USA


not the ones
I would have starred
used anthology

Tim Cremin


book shop affogato
finishing my Calvino before
the ice cream melts

Kath Abela Wilson
Pasadena, California


through leaves of grass
the silverfish

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:

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 15 Comments

  1. Thank you, Marietta, for including my poem in this week’s column and for another insightful commentary. Congratulations to all the poets. There are so many poems to admire and so many different perspectives to enjoy. I loved all the poems chosen for Marietta’s commentary and many more including…

    through leaves of grass
    the silverfish

    P. H. Fischer
    Vancouver, Canada

    I really enjoyed the slow movement in these lines. All those ‘s’ and ‘l’ sounds add to the creepiness. And the book title works really well too. Fab!

    1. Thank-you, Marietta and thank-you, Dorothy for your kind comment. Funny, my partner also used that word – “love the poem, but oh so creepy!” 😉

      I also really enjoyed your poem, Dorothy, with its reference to another classic and the nice wordplay!

      On the note of finding hidden gems, as several poets mentioned, I also love the unexpected wonders that might appear in bookstores and in an old book itself including pressed leaves, handwriting in the margins, cards, bookmarks and as Margaret Mahoney mentions, love letters!

      between the pages
      a love letter
      not meant for me

      Margaret Mahony

      I can’t think of many other places (apart from nature) that are as comforting to my soul as a good used bookstore!


  2. Dear Fellow Writers,

    Since we recently completed the “Ad Astra” sequence, I asked kj if I might post a call for submissions for the 2022 Dwarf Stars Anthology. Speculative haiku selected and posted on our blog in 2021 would qualify.

    On April 1 submissions open for the 2022 Dwarf Stars Anthology, from which the best short speculative poem published in 2021 is selected. Anyone may submit their own poems or those of others; there is no limit to how many poems you may submit for the anthology, but poems are selected for inclusion by the editors. Only members of the Science Fiction Poetry Association may vote for the award. Open to all genres of speculative poetry, including science fiction, fantasy, horror, and “unclassifiable, but speculative.” Poems must be no more than 10 lines (or more than 100 words for a prose poem) not including title or stanza breaks, and first published in 2021, include publication credit. For guidelines and more information:

    Greer Woodward and Adele Gardner, Editors

  3. overdue:
    the librarian’s
    Barrie Levine
    Massachusetts, United States
    Clever word play in this haiku.

  4. Marietta, thank-you for including mine and welcome back. Congrats to all the poets.

    1. Hello Valentina, thanks for your kind welcome! It’s good to be back. Admin has fixed your extra-long post. Would you be able to re-post your comment on individual verse/s, please? Cheers, Marietta

  5. Thank you Marietta for including my haiku. As a lover of reading, libraries and all bookshops. I thoroughly enjoyed this prompt. Congratulations to all poets!

  6. Thank you, Marietta.

    I particularly enjoyed:

    on the flyleaf
    a spidery
    ex libris

    Ann Smith

    road side book stall—
    with a cup of coffee I meet
    Jean Valjean

    Hla Yin Mon

    the bell
    in the olde bookshop

    Peggy Bilbro

    not the ones
    I would have starred
    used anthology

    Tim Cremin

    fiction all those happy endings

    Dan Campbell

    floor to ceiling
    the owner goes straight
    to the book I ask for

    Cynthia Anderson

  7. Thank you Marietta for including mine. What a pleasure it was to follow last week’s art prompt with another close to my heart. Very much enjoyed your selections. Congratulations to one and all!

  8. Thank you Marietta for this photo prompt and for including my haiku here. I am a school librarian and a passionate bibliophile so this week’s haiku theme is near and dear to my heart. I love the ones upon which you commented and there are just so many favorites here for me. This one I love because I am guilty of perusing people’s bookshelves when I am at their home. Also in any public spaces. And I love curating my living room shelves:

    taking a look at
    the life of the others
    public bookcase . . .

    Deborah Karl-Brandt
    Bonn, Germany

    This one also struck me. There is such a satisfying feeling of serendipity when you find just the right book in a vintage bookstore. The whole idea of second chances I just love:
    vintage bookstore
    savoring the scent
    of second chances

    Sharon Martina
    Illinois, USA

  9. An enjoyable journey in the world of books, with so many friends around…a lot of wonderful poems; I can’t wait to read them all, leisurely! Thanks a ton, dear Marietta for selecting one of mine, and congratulations to all!

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