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HAIKU DIALOGUE – Literary Devices – synecdoche and metonymy

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 themeonomatopoeia

Bam! And we’re off… to onomatopoeia. Probably the literary device that is the most fun to say and least fun to spell, onomatopoeia, or a sound effect word, is a staple of prose, poetry, and comic books alike.

I tend to think of onomatopoeia in two ways, the first being non-words that are meant to closely replicate sounds, like Spider-Man’s “thwip” and Wolverine’s “snikt.” These are arrangements of letters that try to closely mimic what an action sounds like but that are rarely used as verbs (it would be odd to write, “Spider-Man thwipped his way across town”). Some examples include zzz, fzzt, shh, ugh, ahh, eek, ew, bah, etc.

The second and more common type consists of real words used as verbs or nouns. Dickinson’s popular opening line, “I heard a Fly buzz – when I died –,” is an example. These are words like groan, bark, caw, creak, chatter, howl, pop, patter, thump, squish, and a thousand others.

Onomatopeia lends itself particularly well to haiku, which must quickly catch the reader’s senses. In the one hundred translations of Basho’s most famous poem, for instance, we sometimes see the last line, mizu no oto (lit. sound of water, or water’s sound), creatively changed into a sound effect: “plop” or “splash!” Sometimes when writing, we focus too much on the sense of sight, but sound can be just as powerful. The right sound can make us laugh or jump, amuse us or unsettle us. For this prompt, focus on sound by using an onomatopoeic word in your haiku.

The deadline is midnight Central Daylight Time, Saturday July 23, 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 synecdoche and metonymy:

Going through the submissions for synecdoche/metonymy, I realized just how tricky these devices can be. Trying to distinguish between them and metaphor, for instance, or personification, or even onomatopoeia in some cases, wasn’t always easy. One poet asked me what the difference is between synecdoche/metonymy and idioms, and this must have been a common issue, as there were several idioms in the submissions (and some in the selections below). To answer the question, I believe an idiom – a common, nonliteral expression – can contain synecdoche or metonymy but that synecdoche and metonymy do not have to be used in idioms.

after dad left
my little mom brought home
the bacon

Kath Abela Wilson
Pasadena, California

In this poem, Wilson uses the idiom “brought home the bacon,” which, of course, means “supported the household.” Within this idiom, “bacon” is an example of metonymy, as it represents financial support.

sunrise
a whinny makes its way
through the pasture

Bryan Rickert
Belleville, Illinois

Rickert’s poem effectively uses “whinny” to stand in for a horse. I believe this fits the definition of synecdoche, but it is also an example of onomatopoeia, another topic coming up in this series on literary devices.

I say I’m leaving

her dress
lets out a sigh

Penny Lowery
Devon, UK

In Lowery’s poem, the dress may be an example of metonymy, as the clothes are intended to represent the woman, but it is also clearly a use of personification.

So there does certainly appear to be overlap with synecdoche/metonymy and other devices/techniques, making the selections a bit eclectic this week. In general, I accepted poems I thought were strong, whether or not they strictly met the theme, as long as they made an honest effort and said something interesting.

Some poets took intentional creative liberties with the topic, as well:

fertile womb—
the violence
of synecdoche

Pippa Phillips
Kansas City, Missouri

 

boots
on
the
ground
men
reduced
to
bodies

Ash Lippert
South Carolina, USA

Phillips refers to the device itself in order to make a powerful comment about a major modern issue. Lippert uses the device to show how some people are reduced to their parts every day (illustrated also by the way each word is separated from the others), seen as tools, their humanity ignored.

Some other favorites from this topic:

ultrasound…
she names
the bump

Nancy Brady
Ohio, USA

 

each beak
sings his song –
spring dawn

Tomislav Maretić
Croatia

 

seafront gulls
all eyes on the fish
and chips

Lori Kiefer
London, UK

Kiefer’s clever use of “all eyes” refers, of course, to the gulls eyeing the food, but I think it also lets us imagine the diners keeping a close eye on their meals.

bottle return…
a homeless man pockets
tomorrow’s drink

Marcie Wessels
San Diego, California

 

raised fists
against the dead hand
of the past

Herb Shippey
Tifton, Georgia

 

mother tongue
everything sounds
like a lament

Ruth Holzer
Herndon, Virginia

There were a few excellent poems with “mother tongue” in them, but I particularly love how the phrase in this haiku connects to the fragment. The sense of loss between generations within a community is palpable.

smoke curls
feathers
over the cinder

Geetha Ravichandran
Mumbai, India

 

Decree Nisi
no clause to be found
to mend my heart

Amanda White
Morvah, Cornwall UK

 

old recipe book her hand in each notation

Pris Campbell
USA

 

the student body of evidence on our hands

Sarah Metzler
USA

 

everyday—
stars and stripes
at half-mast

Peg Cherrin-Myers
Franklin, Michigan

These last two pair together well. How sad it is to have to accept some horrors as merely “everyday” events.

& here are the rest of the selections:

forty-one
the ticking of the clock
until it stops

Deborah Karl-Brandt
Bonn, Germany

 

tartan picnic rug relying on dad to smooth things

Sheila Barksdale
Gotherington, England

 

curry aroma
i board once more
the night train

Subir Ningthouja
Imphal, India

 

an old crow
in the wings
of night

John Hawkhead
UK

 

fancy toppings
in a beauty contest
county fair

Roberta Beach Jacobson
Indianola, Iowa

 

syrinx
of light
rippling pond

Dustin Hackfeld
Ingleside, Texas

 

morning bird calls
my name on the beak
of a sparrow

Jackie Chou
USA

 

my fingers
done walking reach out
ready to dial

meekly reader
USA

 

home goal
that little white lie
thrown right back

Carol Jones
Wales

 

The Ramayana –
heads in the forest
hands in the society

Lakshmi Iyer
India

 

petrol-scented rose —
a swollen summer crowd
queues for the bus

Alan Peat
Biddulph, United Kingdom

 

wing me
to the heart
of the Highlands

Ann Rawson
UK

 

morning window
a white singlet
watching traffic

Maurice Nevile
Canberra, Australia

 

egg moon
all the romance
in the double helix

Keith Evetts
Thames Ditton, UK

 

the wind and I
speak different tongues…
love has no barriers

Paul Callus
Malta

 

pedal
to the metal
summer heat

marilyn ashbaugh
Edwardsburg, Michigan

 

connecting with
ancestral Greek heritage
learning my αβγ’s

petro c. k.
Seattle, Washington

 

open sea
the pounding of
a gavel

Sherry Grant
Auckland, New Zealand

 

the child
needs a hand
first walk

Chittaluri Satyanarayana
Hyderabad, India

 

eating her fill
for four mouths
mother bird

Rajeshwari Srinivasan
India

 

impossible headcount –
a winter sea
of pink flamingos

Neera Kashyap
Delhi, India

 

zoo visit
my cheeky monkey
out-chatters the monkeys

Louise Hopewell
Australia

 

bitter truth
always coloured
by the times

Amrutha Prabhu
Bengaluru, India

 

dryness of a palm
rubbing my chest –
a lullaby

Daipayan Nair
India

 

papercut—
the sharp edge
of his words

Hifsa Ashraf
Rawalpindi, Pakistan

 

leaving home
a tendril from our creeper
curls around

Arvinder Kaur
Chandigarh, India

 

welding machine
I wish I could unite
the hearts

Bakhtiyar Amini
Duesseldorf, Germany

 

jazz night
ivories warm up
the dance floor

Ravi Kiran
India

 

rising creek
river gums
knee deep

Carol Reynolds
Australia

 

soiled
hands sow bread
for tomorrow

Daya Bhat
India

 

doctor’s visit
now my shopping bag
full of greens

Minal Sarosh
Ahmedabad, India

 

blind date
i wear my monday’s
on sunday

Wendy Bialek
Arizona, USA

 

boots on the ground
she waits
for the telegram

Tracy Davidson
Warwickshire, UK

 

vacation
in the funny papers
a siren wail

Samo Kreutz
Ljubljana, Slovenia

 

alfresco dinner…
blinking back her tears
Ukrainian waitress

Luciana Moretto
Treviso, Italy

 

body builder
he flexes his biceps
on clay feet

Christa Pandey
Austin, Texas

 

moonless sky
strewn all around
the parijat

(Parijat, night-jasmine in English, literally means celestial. Parijat bloom at night and fall down in the morning.)

Ram Chandran
India

 

Sunshine State speed-dating
the gators lurking
just below the surface

Susan Burch
Hagerstown, Maryland

 

a bunch of suits
making decisions for all …
another crisis

Natalia Kuznetsova
Russia

 

first dance…
he asks for her hand
in marriage

Neena Singh
Chandigarh, India

 

a sleepy town
the wind takes away the garbage
from the street

Slobodan Pupovac
Zagreb, Croatia

 

pride parade
a rainbow flag flutters
from their window

Meera Rehm
UK

 

just a pencil
and an eraser…
haiku therapy

Tsanka Shishkova
Bulgaria

 

horned moon
deer musk
fills the night

Minko Tanev
Bulgaria

 

dead ends the clutter on the forest floor

Cynthia Anderson
Yucca Valley, California

 

first two-wheeler
she learns about
the uphills of life

Susan Farner
USA

 

her smile
overcoming
her childhood

Rehn Kovacic
Mesa, Arizona

 

footsteps
in the sand
strangers I will never know

Margaret Mahony
Australia

 

heirloom recipe . . .
it says sprinkle the shortbread
with haiku

Sue Courtney
Orewa, New Zealand

 

doomed economy
the ruling heads
roll

(This ku is in reference to the economic and political crisis in Sri Lanka.)

Vandana Parashar
India

 

first time in Rome
my SD card full of
ancient bricks & stone

初访古罗马
千年古建何其多
装满存储卡

chu fang gu luo ma
qian nian gu jian he qi duo
zhuang man cun chu ka

Chen Xiaoou
Kunming, China

 

evening calm
breath of green leaves
from the verandah

calma serale
respiro di foglie verdi
dalla veranda

Daniela Misso
Italy

 

new term
shushing up
at the Head’s bark

Ingrid Baluchi
North Macedonia

 

on night watch a murder of crows

wanda amos
Old Bar, Australia

 

attached
to a tree by a thorn—
woodpecker

Tony Williams
Scotland, UK

 

wandering the stacks…
every visit
a picaresque adventure

Laurie Greer
Washington, DC

 

the school teacher –
she counts the noses with a few
extra hands

Guido De Pelsmaeker
Holsbeek, Belgium

 

summer fever
through the paper straw
sour and sweet

Mircea Moldovan
Romania

 

chasing butterfly wings with my feet slow drag

Anette Chaney
Harrison, Arkansas

 

political show
the same weighty words
of white beards

Mirela Brăilean
Romania

 

inheriting
these bitter vineyards . . .
real estate

Alfred Booth
France

 

bravely first
my shadow down the stairs
of depression

Richa Sharma
India

 

he gives a hand
to the broken bust
Kintsugi

Victor Ortiz
Bellingham, Washington

 

reading Issa,
a light breeze
moves the curtains

leggendo Issa –
una leggera brezza
muove le tende

Maria Teresa Piras
Sardinia, Italy

 

wedding toast
pink bubbles sparkling
in the flute

Mona Iordan
Romania

 

bad hair day
red streaks
at sunset

Ella Aboutboul
West Sussex, England

 

massive hall
the slow baton evokes
a wave of sound

Richard Straw
Cary, North Carolina

 

diamond versus heart
she draws lessons from
the House of Cards

Anna Yin
Ontario, Canada

 

night at the zoo
in the moonlit cage
a silverback

Marianne Sahlin
Sweden

 

Paris –
ghosts of unsung artists
linger on streets

Milan Rajkumar
Imphal, India

 

the sun lays
a golden mat
along the path

il sole stende
una stuoia dorata
lungo il sentiero

Maria Cezza
Puglia, Italy

 

Saturday nights
learning to salsa
my two left feet

Bona M. Santos
Los Angeles, California

 

all ears . . .
w a i t i n g
for your apology

Barrie Levine
Massachusetts, USA

 

twenty days
swallowing stones
swimming test

Mariel Herbert
California, USA

 

old library
scattered everywhere
book worms

perpustakaan tua
tersebar di mana mana
kutu buku

Christopher Calvin
Kota Mojokerto, Indonesia

 

pink sunset . . .
my classmate’s
white hair

Rosa Maria Di Salvatore
Catania, Italy

 

war and peace
the whole world at his hands–
the shadow player

A.J. Anwar
Jakarta, Indonesia

 

refugee camp
the unheard voices
of childhood

Mona Bedi
Delhi, India

 

wings
shock of them
taking off at gunshot

Vibha Malhotra
India

 

winter sun
wings passing through
runway chainlink

simonj
UK

 

first buds
two sets of fingerprints
on the wine glass

James Gaskin
Fukushima, Japan

 

off piste—
ploughing through
mountains of emails

Adele Evershed
Wilton, Connecticut

 

twenty-five years
together—my son and his wife
count silver linings

Penny Harter
Mays Landing, New Jersey

 

Medusa’s hair . . .
even in dreams
you wriggle away

Sonam Chhoki
Bhutan

 

a prodigal son’s lantern searching for home

Dan Campbell
Virginia

 

evening tide
a deeper voice
calls

Peggy Hale Bilbro
Alabama, USA

 

labbra suadenti…
ricamo di gesti
nella penombra

persuasive lips…
embroidery of gestures
in the dim light

Giuliana Ravaglia
Bologna, Italy

 

ever-drifting
wind-blown feathers
migrating north

C.X. Turner
UK

 

stress test
the white coats
hanging around

Richard L. Matta
San Diego, California

 

migrating geese
the refugees talking
about their nests

Florin C. Ciobica
Romania

 

wallflower
my shadow steps
onto the dance floor

Sharon Martina
Warrenville, Illinois

 

vela in porto l’ombra di una nuvola

sail in port the shadow of a cloud

Angiola Inglese
Italy

 

war news
counting the fresh graves
we have to tend to

Maya Daneva
The Netherlands

 

slipping into shadow the black cat’s yowl

John Pappas
Boston, Massachusetts

 

kite weather
the wind chimes play
a symphony

Valentina Ranaldi-Adams
Fairlawn, Ohio

 

auto center
a team of overalls
discuss the dodgers

Margaret Tau
New Bern, North Carolina

 

no words like your words
when my lips are yours
fruit basket

John S Green
Bellingham, Washington

 

’round midnight
the number cruncher
crushing his fifth

P. H. Fischer
Vancouver, Canada

 

cedar canoes
mother tongue stripped from her mouth
floating empty

Marcia Burton
Salt Spring Island, Canada

 

I use your outstretched arm
to trace her diamond crown
Cassiopeia

Susan Rogers
Los Angeles, California

 

poetry reading tears
the pen
makes its mark

Sangita Kalarickal
USA

 

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. thank you, alex & staff for providing these wonderful workshops of learning and sharing!
    i am enjoying a l l of the gems created from the stimulating prompts you place before the group.
    thank you for listing mine amongst this outstanding array of responses.

  2. Hi Alex and Haiku Team,

    Thank you very much. Always enjoy here and learnt so much!

    Will share Alex’s insight and others at our today’s haiku workshop!

    And thanks some friends’ submission as well!
    (Yesterday, also donated a small fee to haiku foundation )
    Cheers.
    Anna yin

  3. After doing some research, I discovered that a few words I thought of as examples of onomatopoeia are not; words like ugh, eek, bah, and wow, for example, are interjections or exclamations a person might make but are not considered sound effects (since they are made by a person to express feelings like disgust, fear, etc., not to mimic anything in particular). I just wanted to note that here as a kind of correction to a few of my listed examples from the prompt. Others, like zzz, fzzt, and snikt and thwip, of course, were proper examples, along with words like kapow, thwack, and so on. I’m sure you can think of many (I’ve seen several already in the submissions!).

    Also, thank you all for your comments and for sharing your favorite finds of the week. Always encouraging to see your enthusiasm.

  4. I’ve skimmed through (for the first time) this issue of Haiku Dialogue because I was interested to find out more about various ‘literary devices’. Some are easy to spot (for me) others not so easy.

    My favourite haiku from the selections is:
    .
    boots
    on
    the
    ground
    men
    reduced
    to
    bodies

    Ash Lippert
    South Carolina, USA
    .
    . . . firstly because I’m really sick & tired of the idiom, “on the ground”. These days, it seems there’s a litter of reporters, newsreaders, photographers etc. who are said to be “on the ground” every time I watch the news. I would like to wring the neck of whomever initiated this irritating idiom! Ash’s context of “boots” (metonym) “on the ground” (idiom) is followed by the scathing truth of the straightforward “men reduced to bodies”.
    .
    Which reminds me: my brother-in-law (Australian) was killed in Vietnam by ‘friendly fire’ (an oxymoron, clearly an oxymoron invented by a moron.) ‘Friendly fire’ : what that means is that he was machine-gunned up and down his spine by a soldier or soldiers of a ‘friendly’ nation (no prizes for guessing which nation) who were staggering around in the bush. How friendly can you get? ( Obviously, communications were less than what was desirable.)

    1. Lorin, thank you for sharing your brother’s story. I agree that friendly fire is a horrible term. In Aldous Huxley’s essay “Words and Behavior,” he critiques the way language is used to manipulate people into thinking less harshly about acts of violence. As an example, saying something abstract like “the use of force is necessary to maintain order” instead of “the use of guns and explosives to harm and kill men, women, and children is necessary to create enough fear of our power to keep others from challenging it.” He argues that the more abstract people can make horrible things, the easier it is for the public to accept it, and so we must be more precise with our words in order to illustrate just how atrocious these abstractions really are. I think “friendly fire” is a perfect example of this. It is much easier for the general public to accept the loss of someone “killed by friendly fire” than to accept the loss of someone “murdered intentionally or accidentally by the gunfire of a person or people on the same side.”

      I’m glad that you liked Ash’s poem. I also appreciated the way the poet subverted the idiom by commenting on how it depicts soldiers as less than full people.

  5. Thanks to Alex and all contributors – such an interesting interpretations of the theme.
    this haiku by Natalia is particularly poignant to current times – we have come so far but in many ways its the same old power structure.

    a bunch of suits
    making decisions for all …
    another crisis

    Natalia Kuznetsova
    Russia

  6. Thanks, Alex. Aside from Lori Kiefer’s I particularly valued:

    petrol-scented rose —
    a swollen summer crowd
    queues for the bus
    — Alan Peat
    (I can smell the fumes, see the reddened faces, feel the fatigue)

    dead ends the clutter on the forest floor
    — Cynthia Anderson
    (I read through this one without lingering at first; but it keeps coming back to haunt me with its dead/ends the clutter…. dead ends/the clutter… and the whole line)

    pink sunset . . .
    my classmate’s
    white hair
    — Rosa Maria Di Salvatore
    (brimful of wabi-sabi and admirably economical, packed with associations through “classmate”)

    a prodigal son’s lantern searching for home
    — Dan Campbell
    (another haunting line fizzes from creative Dan Campbell)

  7. Another great selection to read through, Alex, thank you for placing mine among them.

    This one made me smile, and I’m sure many of us can relate to the scene. I also enjoyed reading your comments,

    seafront gulls
    all eyes on the fish
    and chips
    – Lori Kiefer
    London, UK

  8. Dear Alex, thank you for publishing my ‘haiku sugar’ haiku. I was in a quandary whether it needed explanation and pleased now I let it speak for itself.

  9. Thank you Alex for including my haiku, they are all wonderful. I particularly love
    after dad left
    my little mom brought home
    the bacon
    Kath Abela Wilson

    also
    bottle return…
    a homeless man pockets
    tomorrow’s drink
    Marcie Wessels

    Just great
    Always a pleasure to participate.

  10. My compliments to Guest Editor Alex Fyffe for this delightful selection and the comments which accompany it. Thank you for also highlighting my humble contribution. Congratulations to all featured here.

  11. pink sunset . . .
    my classmate’s
    white hair
    /
    Rosa Maria Di Salvatore
    Catania, Italy
    /
    This haiku needs only a few words to express the concept of time passing. A sunset comes after hours of daylight. White hair appears after years of living. Since the sunset is pink, the reader can assume that the classmate’s life at this time of life is good.

  12. Alex, thank-you for publishing my haiku. It is always a pleasure to be published.
    Thank-you Kathy and Lori for your efforts. Congrats to fellow Ohioan Nancy Brady on her well-written haiku. Also, congrats to all the other poets.

  13. Thanks Alex for the unusual prompts. I totally agree with Nancy Brady. All the poems featured here are like a new fresh wind. …..

    1. Thanks Valentina for the compliment and Meera for your words, saying it so much better and more poetical than I. Am enjoying reading and rereading the haiku this week.

  14. Dear Alex and the team,

    thanks for including my haiku again. Glad to join the weekly challenge! fun to read all!

    I hope you don’t mind I share the following:

    We are calling for haiku submission to be included in Here and Now, Discover Mississauga and More eBook publication. Please send 1 -5 haiku to info@surewaypress.com before the deadline Sept 1, 2022, publication date Oct, 6 2022. We are also calling for haiku based on the photos we provided at the link. https://www.surewaypress.com/photos-for-haiku-exercises

    Those who submit their haiku before Aug 10 will have a possibility of having their work to showcase at the Japan Festival at Celebration Square in Mississauga on Aug 20. 2022.

    Thanks.
    Anna Yin

  15. Congrats to all the poets. So many great examples from Valentina’s symphony to Barrie’s apology lack to Pippa’s womb, etc I enjoyed reading them and will probably re-read them over just to pick up more nuances and clever uses of words. I think I understand the difference between the two better now. Perhaps we use them all the time in our day-to-day speech and it just makes sense even though we don’t define them as such. Thanks Alex for this prompt and making sense of the differences and even for selecting one of mine.

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