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HAIKU DIALOGUE – Literary Devices – the flashback

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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 themesynecdoche and metonymy

Synecdoche and metonymy are two similar literary devices that are often confused for one another (at least, I know that I always have to refresh my understanding of them every year when covering poetic techniques in class). Both terms describe techniques of naming something indirectly, using a part of a thing to refer to the whole thing (synecdoche), or using an associated term to refer to something (metonymy).

A famous example of synecdoche is in Dylan Thomas’s “The Hand That Signed the Paper,” in which the titular “hand” stands in for the leader who signed the paper – the hand here represents the whole person. Similar examples include “mouths to feed,” “my new wheels,” “the talking heads on TV,” etc.

Metonymy can be found in the popular Lytton quote, “The pen is mightier than the sword,” in which the pen signifies the written word and the sword signifies aggression. Shakespeare’s “lend me your ears” is often cited as metonymy, as well, since the “ears” in this example represent the people’s attention, not the people themselves. One of the most common examples is referring to a king or queen as “the crown.” Another one: “The White House released a statement today” (in which White House refers to the president/government).

So to simplify: synecdoche = referring to something by naming a part of it, and metonymy = referring to something by naming a closely related word. You may have noticed that synecdoche has the same prefix as synonym, and metonymy shares its prefix with metaphor. This is another way to help keep the two straight, as “syn” can mean “together” (in synecdoche, the part and the whole are connected together) and “meta” can mean “beyond” (in metonymy, you use something beyond the thing itself to refer to it).

These devices, I believe, lend themselves very well to the haiku and senryu forms. You can probably think of examples already that you have read or written yourself that contain one or the other. For this prompt, I am looking for haiku that make good use of either synecdoche or metonymy (or both!). I look forward to reading your submissions.

The deadline is midnight Central Daylight Time, Saturday July 16, 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 the flashback:

There were so many wonderful responses to the flashback prompt, it was difficult to turn some of them down; even a number of the rejected poems were excellent.

One of the most common themes was revisiting home. We may not be able to go home again, but we can trace its influence throughout our lives, such as in these poems:

old house . . .
my childhood
in each room

Rosa Maria Di Salvatore
Catania, Italy

 

homecoming
birds are still singing songs
from childhood

Stoianka Boianova
Bulgaria

 

ancestral home
the acorn I buried
now on a branch

Ravi Kiran
India

I especially appreciated the magical feeling of Kiran’s poem, in which the acorn from the ground is now hanging overhead; we know these to be different acorns, of course, but one led to the other, and they are essentially connected as one through birth and rebirth.

Scent is supposed to be most connected to memory, so it makes sense to see a wealth of entries focused on smells eliciting the past:

Chanel No. 5
Mother’s scent still strong
from an empty bottle

Ingrid Baluchi
North Macedonia

 

past the shop window
lavender scent of mom’s
crepe paper roses

Kath Abela Wilson
Pasadena, California

 

Calvin Klein ad
the scent of cologne
on his coat

Jackie Chou
USA

 

lost breeze
I recognize the scent
of black locust

Nazarena Rampini
Italy

 

old scent—
back to one name
on the return address

P. H. Fischer
Vancouver, Canada

Fischer’s poem excels at giving us background information through suggestion. By telling us what we’re back to, we know where we’ve been.

Along with scent, food is another staple of bringing the past into our present lives. Comfort foods, childhood favorites, the meals our parents relied on or made for special occasions – these foods shape our identities and regularly send us back to younger years:

bubbling
fresh coriander soup
mama’s apron

Bidyut Prabha
Bhubaneswar, India

 

homeplace visit
grandma’s mapo tofu
hot in the mind

John Zheng
Mississippi, USA

 

light drizzle
the sizzle of hot pakoras
back home

Vandana Parashar
India

Parashar’s poem cleverly uses sound, the internal rhyme of drizzle and sizzle, to emphasize how the sound of the rain reminds the speaker of the food they associate with home. The closing, “back home,” also gives the poem a sense of longing for the past.

For a number of poets, present sights take them back to something less fortunate, a time of loss and grief:

hospitals…
the day we returned home
motherless

Hla Yin Mon
Yangon, Myanmar

 

carbon monoxide –
the notes left for others
but none for me

Susan Burch
Hagerstown, Maryland

 

half-closed pink rose …
the clenched fist
of my lost baby

Annie Wilson
Shropshire, UK

 

I still live
with the pinecone owl
that I made for her

Andrew Diamond
Missouri, USA

I think Diamond’s poem is a good example of the single-phrase haiku thanks to an effective use of line breaks. Although the details are left unclear, the first line – “I still live” – suggests that the “her” of the poem has perhaps passed on. The connection between the two is clarified by the sweet toy that the speaker made for her, and the desire to hold on to this is heartbreakingly understandable.

Marriages, weddings, and proposals came up frequently in the selections, too, sometimes in a positive light, sometimes not:

silk dress…
my niece’s
hapless marriage

Luciana Moretto
Treviso, Italy

 

snowy morning
stirring wedding memories
in your coffee cup

Meera Rehm
UK

 

wedding invite . . .
my gold kanjivaram sari
I could never tie

(The kanjivaram sari is made from a type of silk woven in the Kanchipuram region of S. India. The exquisite work on this sari makes it a must in an Indian bridal trousseau and these saris are often passed down.)

Rupa Anand
New Delhi, India

 

wedding photo
the stars in those eyes
once

Arvinder Kaur
Chandigarh, India

 

night picnic
the stars
spelt out your proposal

Baisali Chatterjee Dutt
Kolkata, India

 

his third wife
that childhood swear
not to have a girlfriend

Samo Kreutz
Ljubljana, Slovenia

 

cemetery —
my father and mother
still together

Mark Meyer
Mercer Island, Washington

But the most common theme I received was about school. We’ve all been through those school days, for better and worse, so it makes sense to see the topic pop up so often:

school pickup
my grandson
wearing my son’s smile

Margaret Mahony
Australia

 

Daughter’s graduation –
all the reasons I missed
my own

Vivienne Tregenza
Penzance, UK

 

my first day
at school—
the wind at my back

Tony Williams
Scotland, UK

 

the straight
lines of sunlight
geometry class

Srinivas S
Rishi Valley, India

 

farewell day—
a ruined photograph
in my school album

Daipayan Nair
India

 

year book
oh how the dreams
clashed with reality

wanda amos
Old Bar, Australia

 

duck-and-cover drills
early education
in big lies

Caroline Giles Banks
Minneapolis, Minnesota

 

50 ways
to blow my cover–
class reunion

Cynthia Anderson
Yucca Valley, California

Finally, I’d like to make special mention of some poems that I think stand out, whether for their imagery, creative turns of phrase, or structure:

black berry vines
the shadows in me
that can’t get out

Stephen A. Peters
Bellingham, Washington

 

the deer in the trees,
each nerve and hair electric-

your face in the crowd

Sarah Davies
Bedford, UK

 

first anniversary–
we’re held together
only by paper

Ruth Holzer
Herndon, Virginia

 

a butterfly
caught in a bottle
trapping me

Amrutha Prabhu
Bengaluru, India

 

Cundy Harbor
trawlers I had forgotten
haul sundown

ron scully
Burien, Washington

 

ice floes
that breakup
at the sea’s edge

Marianne Sahlin
Sweden

 

twilight –
my daughter’s braided hair…

Jorge Alberto Giallorenzi
Chivilcoy, Buenos Aires, Argentina

 

boat rope
the noose around
that winter

C.X. Turner
UK

 

even now
her accusation . . .
icicles on the pane

Sonam Chhoki
Bhutan

 

bagpipe concert
the folksong
grandpa used to be

Maya Daneva
The Netherlands

& here are the rest of the selections:

this envelope
storing last summer’s seed
our love in a mist

J E Jeanie Armstrong
Canterbury, UK

 

spin the bottle
a maple key
catching the wind

marilyn ashbaugh
Edwardsburg, Michigan

 

pale moon
on bare branches…
his last letter

Deborah Karl-Brandt
Bonn, Germany

 

floating
in cashmere
deep REM

Roberta Beach Jacobson
Indianola, Iowa

 

migraine
the split thunder jerks
of the borewell drilling

Lakshmi Iyer
India

 

lilac –
a widow reflects
on short-lived love

Paul Callus
Malta

 

childhood home ..
the cutting of a rose
it still smells

Angiola Inglese
Italy

 

wasp in a jam jar —
satisfied now with the breeze
in tall grass

Alan Peat
Biddulph, UK

 

sleepless night
a childhood hymn
evokes tears

Christa Pandey
Austin, Texas

 

chemos later…
she gazes at the many
tones of sunset

Neera Kashyap
Delhi, India

 

thunderbolt
held my breath at father’s arm
river crossing

Chittaluri Satyanarayana
Hyderabad, India

 

pressed flower
her wrinkled face
still beautiful

Vishnu Kapoor
Chennai, India

 

red postbox
circling it three times
with the letter

Keith Evetts
Thames Ditton, UK

 

Childhood innocence
grass stains on a
Whitsuntide dress

Caroline Ridley-Duff
Yorkshire, England

 

ocean sunset
the long path of life

martin gottlieb cohen
Egg Harbor, New Jersey

 

first breakup—
the unknown numbers
in my call log

Daipayan Nair
India

 

drowning
my sister’s incessant
phone calls

Mike Fainzilber
Rehovot, Israel

 

mother’s will
she smothers me
in calamine lotion

Tracy Davidson
Warwickshire, UK

 

rocky shoreline
I let it all
slip away

Bryan Rickert
Belleville, Illinois

 

war stories
grandfather’s pipe
on the shelf

Slobodan Pupovac
Zagreb, Croatia

 

leaving home . . .
a calf emerges from
a broken barn

Carole MacRury
Point Roberts, Washington

 

a lost crown…
the king of the castle
smaller than me

Marilyn Ward
Lincolnshire, UK

 

trapped mosquito
when the wings wouldn’t go
back onto the fly

Herb Tate
UK

 

that face
in the crowd…is it
my old boyfriend

Peggy Hale Bilbro
Alabama, USA

 

grandma’s advice
the noise of pebbles
in the backwash

consigli di nonna
il rumore dei ciottoli
nella risacca

Daniela Misso
Italy

 

old school –
the window from which
I’ve looked at the clouds

Daniela Lăcrămioara Capotă
Romania

 

anticipation
the first time he kisses
the back of my neck

Sue Courtney
Orewa, New Zealand

 

yearning–
the caterpillar
calls my name

Lafcadio
USA

 

school group photo —
her smile still so fresh
in my old album

Milan Rajkumar
Imphal, India

 

grandpa’s gramophone
wiping the dust
of our childish giggles

Minal Sarosh
Ahmedabad, India

 

a falling star…
the days
we were together

Ram Chandran
India

 

firecrackers
school kids scrambling
for cover

Jeff Leong
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

 

piggybank
fat with memories
of my childhood

Zelyko Funda
Hrvatska

 

old postcard
in the ancestral wardrobe
moon dust

Minko Tanev
Bulgaria

 

that impish smile/
my daughter/
in my footsteps.

Amoolya Kamalnath
India

 

operation theatre…
the pinned frog jumps
off the tray

Neena Singh
Chandigarh, India

 

the bullet still cold
from my father’s old rifle
night’s meekness

Mircea Moldovan
România

 

half moon cookies
my first taste
of yin/yang

Laurie Greer
Washington, DC

 

travelling abroad
the willowherbs…
his green bible

Luciana Moretto
Treviso, Italy

 

conversation
his gesture suspended
I see my father again

Claude Lagadec
France

 

the crack of a bat
hazy summer afternoons
safe, at home

Danita Brandt
Michigan, USA

 

lost
in the Perseid rain
memories

Tsanka Shishkova
Bulgaria

 

dad’s sad look
when asked about the war …
monuments pulled down

Natalia Kuznetsova
Russia

 

the radio on –
a choir of cicadas in grandfather’s courtyard

la radio accesa –
un coro di cicale nel cortile di nonno

Maria Teresa Piras
Sardinia, Italy

 

Sunday drive
a roll of film
in the Brownie

Barrie Levine
Massachusetts, USA

 

family reunion –
the crowd
of flashbacks

Vijay Prasad
Patna, India

 

wavelets
over the lake 寒気 yesterday
a drowning

simonj
UK

 

other seasons –
where your chair was
flowers are born

altre stagioni –
dov’era la tua sedia
nascono fiori

Maria Cezza
Salento, Italy

 

hospital isolation
those butterfly wings
stuck in a jar

Padmini Krishnan
United Arab Emirates

 

attic boxes –
finding our son’s toy elephant
for his son

Bruce H. Feingold
Berkeley, California

 

my chipped front tooth the spare ribs special

Bona M. Santos
Los Angeles, California

 

summer moon –
my first attempts
at astronomy

Ana Drobot
Romania

 

where there were cedar waxwings magnolia buds

Allyson Whipple
St. Louis, Missouri

 

summer rains
as the corn leaves uncurled
his smile returned

Susan Farner
USA

 

empty nester
unable to train
the flying squirrel

Margaret Tau
New Bern, North Carolina

 

every hospital becomes the one you died in that cold autumn

Marcia Burton
Salt Spring Island, Canada

 

jumping off swings
from their highest point
knee replacement

Rehn Kovacic
Mesa, Arizona

 

the aftershock
of trying to save a life –
avalanche

Colette Kern
USA

 

out of the fog
a memory
of you

John S Green
Bellingham, Washington

 

boom-flash
the dog snores
last year

Mariel Herbert
California, USA

 

rolling thunder
my first rocket attack
Da Nang

Herbert Shippey
Tifton, Georgia

 

babysitting…
the kids
I never want

Peg Cherrin-Myers
Franklin, Michigan

 

seasons passing by my birth month

Richa Sharma
India

 

full moon
the deep blue
of a second chance

Lori Kiefer
London, UK

 

the opening riff
of the power of love
your hand in mine

Louise Hopewell
Australia

 

old temple
my memories go back
to great-grandma

Ljiljana Dobra
Croatia

 

lost innocence…
her holiday photos
of my hometown

Madhuri Pillai
Australia

 

the tune
he used to listen
daylilies

Eva Limbach
Germany

 

seedling in deluge
rice farmers weep over
the lost old seasons

A.J. Anwar
Jakarta, Indonesia

 

distant summer days
the glow of buttercups
under my chin…

Adele Evershed
Wilton, Connecticut

 

Spanish shawl –
the cante jondo
tapping …tapping…tapping

Chal español –
el cante jondo
sonando…sonando…sonando

Julia Guzmán
Córdoba, Argentina

 

new boots
no wind or noise
in the snow fort

Tim Cremin
Massachusetts, USA

 

lockdown .. in my yard
from childhood books
bold hoopoes

Luisa Santoro
Rome, Italy

 

a walk inside
a different silence
grandma’s room

James Gaskin
Fukushima, Japan

 

summer moon–
the way you caress
my scars

Mona Bedi
Delhi, India

 

tattered photograph
my mother’s praise
for my cousin

Valentina Ranaldi-Adams
Fairlawn, Ohio

 

skipping stones…
my childhood’s dream
falling elsewhere

Anna Yin
Ontario, Canada

 

breakup…
that hibiscus falls
forever

Devoshruti Mandal
India

 

filling the birdbath. . .
a summer afternoon’s
bellyflop

Richard Straw
Cary, North Carolina

 

resin perfume …
among the young leaves
my school on the mountain

Giuliana Ravaglia
Bologna, Italy

 

screeching tires
Muff bleeding
on a sunday street

Pris Campbell
USA

 

polaroid sunset
the pastel pink taste
of a first kiss

Ana Growl
Surrey, UK

 

Alcatraz gift shop:
the metallic taste of water
from my father’s cup

Marcie Wessels
San Diego, California

 

uncorking an old bottle
a sudden whiff
of grampa’s homemade wine

Cristina Povero
Italy

 

playground swing stars within reach

Victor Ortiz
Bellingham, Washington

 

only
when we were sick
the bear shaped mug

James Lindley
USA

 

under moonlit cherry blossoms
our shadows entwined
in memory

Jonathan English
Washington, DC

 

up to his old tricks
dad finding quarters
in my kids’ ears

Sharon Martina
Warrenville, Illinois

 

the green wall
of my childhood–
the door that still won’t close

Pippa Phillips
Kansas City, Missouri

 

Poppy Day…
red-handed with stabbing
my neighbor’s melons

Florin C. Ciobica
Romania

 

Independence Day
after each explosion
the hurt in your eyes

Susan Rogers
Los Angeles, California

 

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 20 Comments

  1. Thank you, Alex, for including my haiku in this beautiful collection. Reading the comments is an enrichment.

    1. I was happy to include it. It’s good to hear that the work of the poets here will continue to inspire more poetry at your workshop. I hope it goes well.

  2. Thank you, Alex, and welcome back. This is going to be yet another fascinating series to add to our enjoyment of haiku/senryu, and it felt good to have one of my poems picked out from such a bumper crop this week…all of them worthy. Much appreciated.

    1. Glad to be back! I’m looking forward to seeing how everyone responds to this series. I think there will be a lot of interesting poems from week to week.

  3. Welcome back, Alex! I like the grouping by themes/memes.

    Not sure that my Latin (or Greek) is good enough, but let’s have a go….

      1. It’s just 6 seconds long. I don’t know how to erase the stuff that comes after.

  4. These poems evoked such a range of emotions!

    Vishnu Kapoor’s (mentioned above) brought tears to my eyes, as did this one, but for very different reasons:

    firecrackers
    school kids scrambling
    for cover
    Jeff Leong, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

    These two made me laugh out loud (I hope they were meant to!):

    operation theatre…
    the pinned frog jumps off the tray
    Neena Singh, Chandigarh, India

    and

    jumping off swings
    from their highest point
    knee replacement
    Rehn Kovacic, Mesa, Arizona

    others came right out of my own childhood experiences (even though I not from Massachusetts!):

    new boots
    no wind or noise
    in the snowfort
    Tim Cremin, Massachusetts, USA

    Sunday drive
    a roll of film
    in the Brownie
    Barrie Levine, Massachusetts, USA

    I’m intrigued by the relationships/stories behind these poems:

    red postbox
    circling it three times
    with the letter
    Keith Evans, Thames Ditton, UK

    and

    rocky shoreline
    I let it all
    slip away
    Bryan Rickert, Belleville, IL

    1. Thank you, Danita. The red postbox: I’d always wanted to be a research scientist, until I was one. This was the pivotal moment when I took the decision to turn down the offer of a fellowship. I didn’t know what I wanted to do…. Every time I see a red postbox (in UK) I think how my life changed.

      1. That was such a brave decision! I advise undergraduate students who struggle with decisions about applying to grad schools or finding a job–all those huge, potentially paralyzing choices–I tell them (maybe rightly or wrongly) that there is not a “right” and “wrong” decision, there are only different paths. I hope your path has been a blessing to you!

    2. Danita,

      Thank you much for mentioning my poem. It comes directly from life.

  5. Thank you Alex for including my haiku. They were all such a pleasure to read.

  6. Hello and welcome Alex.

    I’ve enjoyed reading the verses you have chosen, and your comments.

    this one-

    pressed flower
    her wrinkled face
    still beautiful
    -Vishnu Kapoor
    Chennai, India

    Just like her face, simply beautiful, in more ways than one.

  7. Alex Fyffe, it’s great to have you back again. I find it so much fun to write in a new way and explore the poetic devices without compromising Haiku. Thank you so much for selecting my poem, too. Love the way how you categorised the poems.
    Congrats to all the selected poets. Many thanks to Cathy and Lori.

    1. Thank you, Meera. I’m happy to hear that you’re enjoying the prompts and the commentary so far. It is awesome seeing the different approaches everyone takes–there are always so many excellent and unexpected responses!

  8. Welcome back Alex. Thank-you for publishing my haiku. Thank-you Kathy and Lori. Congrats to all the poets.

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