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HAIKU DIALOGUE – Literary Devices – onomatopoeia

Literary Devices with Guest Editor Alex Fyffe

For this series, I’d like to focus on the use of various literary devices in haiku. We tend to think of these techniques as applicable to longer lyric poetry – haiku is often taught to be a form without literary trappings, a simple breath of a poem, honest and straightforward, without ornament. Of course, this is a misconception, as the best haiku tend to be very carefully crafted, with one good poem often going through several revisions. And just like their longer cousins, haiku are capable of tackling metaphor, simile (despite what you might have heard), personification, symbolism, allusion, and any number of other techniques. Each week, we will take an in-depth look at a different technique and apply it to our haiku.

next week’s theme: alliteration

Continuing our exploration of sound in poetry, let’s take a close look at alliteration, consonance, and assonance. These are all three very closely related terms with slight differences between them.

Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of nearby words: “A snake slithered down the sidewalk.”

Consonance, as the name suggests, also deals with the repetition of consonant sounds but in the middle or at the end of nearby words: “The brick got stuck in the grackle’s nest.” (The hard “k” sound of “brick,” “stuck,” and “grackle” are examples.)

And finally, assonance refers to the repetition of vowel sounds in nearby words: “When he grins, it seems so simple to live.” (Here, the short “i” sound in “grins,” “it,” “simple,” and “live,” and even the way we pronounce “when,” are examples; note that “he” and “seems” are also examples of assonance with their long “e” sounds.)

Like onomatopoeia, these devices can sometimes be used to mimic the sound of the subject being written about, such as in my first example. “A snake slithered down the sidewalk” imitates the hissing sound of a snake. In this way, we get an onomatopoeic effect without directly using that device.

Repeating sounds can also help set the mood of a piece. Using lots of harsh noises together can create an uncomfortable or unsettling feeling in the reader (we call this cacophony), and using lots of soft sounds can create a soothing, mellow feeling (we call this euphony). Considering which words to choose to achieve these various effects is part of the fun of crafting poetry.

An example of sound devices creating cacophony: “The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!” (Lewis Carroll, “Jabberwocky”)

An example of sound devices creating euphony: “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness…” (John Keats, “To Autumn”)

For this prompt, make effective use of alliteration, consonance, and/or assonance to make a haiku or senryu that sounds just right.

The deadline is midnight Central Daylight Time, Saturday July 30, 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 Alex’s commentary for onomatopoeia:

I think the sound effect that came up most while reading through the submissions was “pitter-patter.” It showed up in about a dozen entries. And there were a few instances of “snap, crackle & pop,” too. But there is a great variety of other onomatopoeia to look at this week, so here are some of my favorites:

broken light dawn
rooks fill the air
with creaking floorboards

John Hawkhead
UK

Hawkhead’s unexpected comparison turns these rooks into noisy upstairs neighbors, creaking around at first light.

doof doof
football meet fence
…all summer

Tony Williams
Scotland, UK

The sound effect here might double as commentary on the “doof” who keeps kicking the ball against the fence. Williams even resorts to a kind of caveman speak (“football meet fence”). Combined with the ellipsis, there seems to be a lot of pent-up frustration over the neighbor.

pop-popping corn
the distant sound
of target practice

Seretta Martin
California, USA

In this poem, too, the onomatopoeia word works in two ways. We start in the household with the sound of popcorn popping – we can imagine a family perhaps getting ready for movie night – but then this sound is overlapped by a more unsettling popping somewhere in the neighborhood.

cloudy day
a robin’s
cheerup

Susan Burch
Hagerstown, Maryland

In this charming haiku, the onomotopoeia of the bird’s cheeruping doubles as advice to the listener: Although it might be a gloomy day, cheer up. We can’t control the weather, but we can control how we feel about it. A very stoic robin, indeed.

a quick crunch–
my crown
cracks

Ruth Holzer
Herndon, Virginia

As someone who had to go in for an emergency root canal last week, I couldn’t help but relate to Holzer’s tooth woes in this poem. I, too, find those quick crunchy snacks hard not to give in to, much to my mouth’s dismay.

war memorial–
the whistle of mortars
mix with bird song

Mark Scott
Vermont, USA

Scott’s poem reminds me of a highly condensed version of Yusef Komunyakaa’s masterful “Facing It,” a poem about his visit to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in which he describes the things he sees in the reflective surface blending with memories of his time in Vietnam.

spring hike
a rosehip shrub
chiff-chaffs

Tomislav Sjekloća
Cetinje, Montenegro

Every week, I seem to learn something new. Two poets, I believe, used “chiff-chaff” as their sound word, so I had to look it up and discovered the chiffchaff, a type of bird I’d never heard of before. I like, too, how Sjekloća does not refer directly to the bird, only to the sound it makes coming from the shrub.

click click click my mouse digs a rabbit hole

P. H. Fischer
Vancouver, Canada

We’re all just a few clicks away from heading down the rabbit hole these days. I adore the way Fischer’s poem uses naturalistic imagery with double meanings to say so much so quickly.

Some other favorites:

distant train . . .
rails hum
warm on my ear

Kathleen Trocmet
Texas, USA

 

the buoy’s clang
as a kittiwake lifts
dawn mist

Keith Evetts
Thames Ditton, UK

 

my thoughts
crackling and hissing
alone at the campfire

Chittaluri Satyanarayana
Hyderabad, India

 

summer dawn
the crow’s caw gives it
its voice

Srini S
India

 

beach party –
the lonely barking
of a stray dog

festa in spiaggia –
l’abbaiare solitario
di un cane randagio

Maria Teresa Piras
Sardinia, Italy

 

the purr of the prancing horse spider so red

simonj
UK

 

next to a music school
a train whistling
the tritone

Aljoša Vuković
Croatia, Šibenik

 

bender—
the night bus and I
hiccup home

Adele Evershed
Wilton, Connecticut

 

buzzing of bees
ripe figs thump
in the afternoon

Stoianka Boianova
Bulgaria

 

pop!
first ripe
tomato

C.X. Turner
UK

 

tick
by tick –
my erasure

Vijay Prasad
Patna, India

 

children
sing the sun—
cock-a-doodle-doo!

los niños
cantan el sol—
kikiriki!

Jonathan Roman
Yonkers, New York

 

splash!
my daughter’s words
into my mind

Amrutha Prabhu
Bengaluru, India

& here are the rest of the selections:

stunning sunshine
through the window…
a pigeon goes bam!!

Marilyn Ward
Lincolnshire, UK

 

A whoosh of waves,
the seashell whispers
“Take me home.”

Caroline Ridley-Duff
UK

 

night game
whiffs of smoke still
hold sunshine

Billy Guerriero
Littleton, Colorado

 

listen…
the boom-boom-booming heartbeat
of sad news

Deborah Karl-Brandt
Bonn, Germany

 

cool breeze . . .
quacking and honking
on the lake

Ronald Degler
Harbor City, California

 

volunteer job
hurry up, hurry up
croak the ravens

Jackie Chou
USA

 

shshshsh –
the rain falls slowly
on white lotus

shshshsh –
cade lenta la pioggia
sul loto bianco

Dennys Cambarau
Sardinia, Italy

 

milk route
the mews of kittens
a mile away

marilyn ashbaugh
Michigan, USA

 

matching Zoom blouse
and face mask
the cat’s meow

Caroline Giles Banks
Minneapolis, Minnesota

 

snap crackle pop
two uniforms discuss
war over breakfast

Robin Rich
Sussex of England

 

never
slap-slapped on any gym floor
my gym shoes

Roberta Beach Jacobson
Indianola, Iowa

 

every journey a song a dolphin clicks

Richard Thomas
UK

 

ancestral shrine
susurrus of rain in the cypress
what need for prayers

Sonam Chhoki
Bhutan

 

tick-tock!
water drops
in empty can

Lakshmi Iyer
India

 

the bother
of the clock tick-tock . . .
sleepless night

Rosa Maria Di Salvatore
Catania, Italy

 

quiet night—
his snoring calls
clear as a bell

Nitu Yumnam
India

 

old pond —
in the blue green bloom
nothing goes plop

Alan Peat
Biddulph, UK

 

champagne pops from flute to flute choir staccato

Maxianne Berger
Outremont, Quebec

 

my writer’s block :: the click-clack of his keyboard

Marcie Wessels
San Diego, California

 

campfire
the snap crackle and pop
of breakfast

Carol Reynolds
Australia

 

swaying trees
the clang clank crash
of a dog’s bowl

Ravi Kiran
India

 

pitter-patter…
the rain seeps
into my dream

Neena Singh
Chandigarh, India

 

the thud
of a fallen apple…
moving day

Hifsa Ashraf
Rawalpindi, Pakistan

 

windy night
the rusty hinges creak
into the darkness

风吹门扇频启闭
锈蚀铰链传响声

feng chui men shan pin qi bi
xiu shi jiao lian chuan xiang sheng

Chen Xiaoou
Kunming, China

 

lonesome night –
pitter-patter of the rain
lullabies me

Natalia Kuznetsova
Russia

 

dry heat
the clunk clunk clunk
of bamboo chimes

Bryan Rickert
Belleville, Illinois

 

fledgling’s first flight
off a cliff face…
splat!

Tracy Davidson
Warwickshire, UK

 

mudflat hiking
the squish of salt marshes
under my feet

Anna Maria Domburg-Sancristoforo
The Hague, Netherlands

 

fluffy snow
two fluffy puppies
don’t stop yapping

Tsanka Shishkova
Bulgaria

 

gossips …
the crunch of hot bruschettas
in the room

Daniela Misso
Italy

 

chicchirichì
the first song of the cock
dawn wakes up

Vincenzo Adamo
Italy

 

pink moon
the thud of a fallen
grapefruit

Cynthia Anderson
Yucca Valley, California

 

night train
chugging
towards morning

Ram Chandran
India

 

a rustle …
pulling after her
soft legs

Mircea Moldovan
Romania

 

awooo!
my puppies remember
their origin

Franjo Ordanić
Croatia

 

cottonwood trees–
the rustle of her dress
as she walks away

Lafcadio
USA

 

pitter patter the rain of tiny feet

Sushama Kapur
Pune, India

 

discord
only the clink
of soup spoons

Rajeshwari Srinivasan
India

 

early dawn –
the trumpet of conch shell
during mom’s puja

(In India, as a part of the ritual, conch shells aka shell trumpets are blown during God worship in temples and households in order to cleanse the air of evil spirits, accompanied by cymbals and chanting.)

Daipayan Nair
India

 

shh…
the stars
are speaking

Tiffany Shaw-Diaz
USA

 

gossip after funeral
a bee’s angry buzz
near the window pane

Arvinder Kaur
Chandigarh, India

 

“morepork”
calling souls
to the other side

(In New Zealand there is a small brown owl called a morepork whose name describes its two-tone call. In Maori tradition it comes from the spirit world and its call close by can be a warning of death or a bad event.)

wanda amos
Old Bar, Australia

 

night orchestra
in a mango orchard –
frogs’ croaks

Neera Kashyap
Delhi, India

 

freight marshalling yard
copying the prolonged screech
Dad’s African Grey

Ingrid Baluchi
North Macedonia

 

a loud tick
after midnight
mugginess

Luciana Moretto
Treviso, Italy

 

walls whispering otherwise

Richa Sharma
India

 

moment of silence…
the shushhh of soil
slipping from my fingers

Laurie Greer
Washington, DC

 

crow sounds the alarm
redtail hawk’s around again
morning wakeup caw

Kathleen Cain
Arvada, Colorado

 

after the funeral
the phone rings
in an empty house

John Pappas
USA

 

evening gongyo–
the twittering of passerines
before retiring

Mona Bedi
Delhi, India

 

abandoned hen house
the rusty-hinged door
squawks

Marianne Sahlin
Sweden

 

colors in a row
of the freight train
… tutum tutum

colori in fila
del treno merci
…tutum tutum

Angiola Inglese
Italy

 

one over the eight
ice plinking
in the plonking

Herb Tate
UK

 

smack!
under the whirring fan
another mosquito

Milan Rajkumar
Imphal, India

 

chakka-chh my View-Master of pretend summer vacations chakka-chh

Peg Cherrin-Myers
Franklin, Michigan

 

red woodpecker –
how it still ticks
the old memory

picchio rosso –
come ticchetta ancora
il vecchio ricordo

Maria Cezza
Maglie, Lecce, Italy

 

CAW caw CAW caw
a debate
in the tree top

Susan Farner
USA

 

squelching mud
the playground awash
with whoops and hoots

Louise Hopewell
Australia

 

sunny afternoon…
a hummingbird zip-zips
from blossom to blossom

Nancy Brady
Ohio, USA

 

early morning thoughts
about murder…
the crows keep cawing

Baisali Chatterjee Dutt
Kolkata, India

 

midnight swoosh of cars one by one by one….

Padma Rajeswari
Mumbai, India

 

heatwave
plop …even a drop of rain
explodes

Minal Sarosh
Ahmedabad, India

 

summer trudges on
the slap-slap
of flip-flops

petro c. k.
Seattle, Washington

 

lonely moon
learning to live
without his patter

Sushma A. Singh
Lucknow, India

 

psst
a raindrop’s calling
from the candle

James Gaskin
Fukushima, Japan

 

gentle tug…
the soft sussuration
of my silk sari

Suraja Roychowdhury
Lexington, Massachusetts

 

July afternoon
grass crackles underfoot
while I worry

Danita Brandt
Michigan, USA

 

vroom
a little red car
stops by her foot

Zahra Mughis
Lahore, Pakistan

 

the steady tick-tick
of an old clock . . .
heart doctor’s office

Valentina Ranaldi-Adams
Fairlawn, Ohio USA

 

hummmmmmmmmmingbird

Helen Ogden
Pacific Grove, California

 

shooting star
the splash of water
from a stone

Lori Kiefer
London, UK

 

breakfast for two
sizzling grease pops
on her dress

M. R. Defibaugh
USA

 

Kyoto temple
each gong
penetrates

Jonathan Epstein
Los Angeles, California

 

climate change
a frog lands on the old pond
with a thump!

Sebastien Revon
Ireland

 

autumn leaves
floating down from the tree
a warbler’s trill

Sue Courtney
Orewa, New Zealand

 

mountain walk –
a burbling stream replays
old conversations

Annie Wilson
Shropshire, UK

 

cicada season
the buzzing
of my sleeping feet

Pippa Phillips
Kansas City, Missouri

 

chimney sweeps
chitter in the closed room
creaking floorboards

Herbert Shippey
Tifton, Georgia

 

cicadas’ chirrup
lullabying me to sleep
under aleppo pines

Cristina Povero
Italy

 

the last dinner guests
finally head home
‘quawk of a night heron

Sari Grandstaff
Saugerties, New York

 

my first sight
sound of a small bird
Fuuuuji! Fuuuuji!

Kath Abela Wilson
Pasadena, California

 

thwack
the measured response
of grade school nuns

Lorraine Padden
San Diego, California

 

pug puppies
whimper and suckle
the mom yawns

Richard Straw
Cary, North Carolina

 

honk!
goose playing chicken
with a Honda Civic

Allyson Whipple
St. Louis, Missouri

 

cobblestones
where the hot top is worn away
the rag man’s horse snickers

Tim Cremin
Massachusetts, USA

 

blooming honeysuckle
the buzz
in the secret garden

Sangita Kalarickal
USA

 

widows talk
a crinkling
of tissue packets

Maurice Nevile
Canberra, Australia

 

deep water \
the large stones kerplunking
south of middle C

D. M. MacDonald
Sacramento, California

 

crack of dawn…
my articulations
start squeacking

Florin C. Ciobica
Romania

 

Guest Editor Alex Fyffe teaches high school English in the Houston area. Although he has been writing haiku off and on for a decade, he only started submitting his work during the Global Event known as 2020. Since then his haiku and senryu have been published in various journals, including Frogpond, Modern Haiku, Failed Haiku, Akitsu Quarterly, and the Asahi Haikuist Network. Alex’s first glimpse of haiku was in a collection of writings by Jack Kerouac, and he found the work of Issa while studying abroad in Japan, but he didn’t fall in love with the haiku until he discovered the free-form work of Santoka Taneda. Currently, Alex uses haiku in the classroom to ease students into poetry and build their confidence as readers and writers. Alex also posts 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: 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 21 Comments

  1. Alex, thank you thank you for choosing mine too. Onomatopoeia in haiku is beautiful.
    Congratulations to all participating poets.

  2. Hi Alex
    Thanks for selecting my ‘rook floorboards’ for comment. It’s amazing to hear a flock of them going over my hose in the mornings as they fly out to the fields. There were lots of good haiku this week, but I have to single this comedy moment out:

    bender—
    the night bus and I
    hiccup home

    Adele Evershed
    Wilton, Connecticut

    1. Great pick. I also got a chuckle out of the pun in Cain’s poem:
      .
      crow sounds the alarm
      redtail hawk’s around again
      morning wakeup caw

      Kathleen Cain
      Arvada, Colorado

  3. Very lively!

    How we love to be poets, and irrepressibly introduce devices from Western poetic traditions into this supposedly austere genre. It’s a blast to have the editorial encouragement here. And this week, to underline the importance of sound in poetry. Thank you, Alex.

  4. This week’s Dialogue was so much fun, I’ve always found much inspiration in this column bit this one was a joy to read, especially out loud. Thanks so much Alex for including me, it’s been quite enjoyable playing around with these literary devices. I might add that someone already has a shoe-in for next week’s column with the use of consonance!

    a quick crunch–
    my crown
    cracks

    Ruth Holzer
    Herndon, Virginia

    1. I’ve seen several poems over the past couple of weeks that could have easily fit into this week’s alliteration exercise. And yes, this one is a prime example, with the alliteration strengthening the onomatopoeia, those hard “c” sounds crunching and cracking as they do. Thank you for highlighting it!

      1. Ah yes, I meant alliteration, I guess I briefly got confused because of the hard c in consonance matches up with the hard c’s in that haiku. I guess I wanted consonance to describe what was going on 😄

  5. Thank-you Alex for this week’s selections and for your commentary on my poem.

    A deep bow to KJ, Lori and the Haiku Foundation as well for ensuring that HD remains the highlight of every Wednesday morning for me. So many great poems this week. Alan Peat’s haiku jumps out at me (no pun intended) as a profound homage to a classic, highlighting how climate change increases the incidence of toxic algae blooms which threaten life in the venerable old ponds we hold dear:

    old pond —
    in the blue green bloom
    nothing goes plop

    Alan Peat
    Biddulph, UK

    Congrats to all the poets!
    Peter

  6. Thank you for you fine comments on my popping poem. Isn’t it strange how a simular sound can have such different sources…one creates comfort and the other mystery or fear if you know the source is guns.

  7. Thank you Alex for including my haiku here and congratulations to all the poets! Lots of wonderful haiku to ponder. Thank you to Kathy and Lori for our weekly Haiku Dialogue too. I especially enjoyed this one:

    thwack
    the measured response
    of grade school nuns

    Lorraine Padden
    San Diego, California

  8. a wonderful orchestra of sights and travels, thank you, again, alex and thf family for this series of workshops.

    MUST COMMENT HERE:
    this one by peg….holds great nostalgia for me! as… early as i can remember, i wanted to be a photo-journalist, and would have loved to go on vacation with my family as a child…and take snapshots of the scenery and new family adventures….but we were quite monetarily poor….however, very rich in imagination and invention! the view master toy would double well, as a camera, with that clunky lever while my imagination would swirl up a reel of mystery lands to visit and uncountable stories to share.
    thanks….for writing this peg and bringing back the sounds and early dreams of my childhood:
    and i love how your made up sounds appear as bookends…or air-quotes and how it pairs with your made up story in you childku poem.

    chakka-chh my View-Master of pretend summer vacations chakka-chh

    Peg Cherrin-Myers
    Franklin, Michigan

    1. I also remember having one of these toys as a child, although I think we called them “viewfinders” in my household. Thank you for sharing your memories!

    2. Oh, thank you for your comment Wendy! Made my week! I’m so happy it connected with you. Yes, we were monetarily poor as well, and that was one way I could escape into an imaginary world. 😊
      Thank you again!!!

  9. This one was ssssooooo much fun to read!!! Full of personal touches and experiences! From all the poets!

    Thank you for feeling the sound in Fuuuuji!!! That was a true experience too! I had written a tanka about hearing, but not seeing the hidden bird, a warbler …Japanese uguisu the first moment I saw Fuji . ( unforgettable!) I put it in the tanka just as fuji fuji and it was very aporeciated by Japanese judges…..

    But it took this special focus given on onamatapoeia to realize by research how full of this technique Japanese is, and how appreciated it is in the language! So I was able to learn that… and emphasize it more! That is how I came to spell it out as a sound. I love the learning , with patience, that is possible through these calls!

    1. Yes, Japanese has an absurdly large amount of onomatopoeia words, as any avid manga readers out there will know. Sound effects almost take on their own character in manga. And Japanese poetry and literature, in general, make great use of onomatopoeia, too. Thank you for sharing the story behind your haiku. I’m happy to hear you were able to connect with the theme so well.

  10. Alex, thank-you for choosing mine. Also thank-you to Kathy, Lori, and the
    Haiku Foundation. Thank-you to all the poets including those whose haiku
    were not selected.

  11. This week’s selections are a cacophony of sounds, congrats to all. Am impressed with them all, but Louise Hopewell’s squelches haiku is so wonderful for the sound it makes. Squishy, sucking, mud between the toes fun…no wonder the children are whooping. Valentina ‘s haiku pairing the clock ‘s ticking with the cardiologist ‘s office, fantastic. Petro’s slap of flip flops, spot on. Will be examining and reading more deeply throughout the week, Thanks for including one of mine, Alex.

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