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HAIKU DIALOGUE – Migration – Flora and Fauna – commentary

Migration with Guest Editor Carole MacRury

Migration is the movement of people from one place to another, with the intention of resettlement. For thousands of years humans have moved and expanded their range over land bridges that no longer exist.  These early nomads followed the food, the climate or fled natural disasters. Historically, mass migration has shaped every country in the world through both conflicts and exploration. It continues today as our world grows smaller due to international trade and travel. There are many causes of international migration. Some people move in search of work or economic opportunity, to reunite with family or to study. My family fits into this category when we left Canada to study in the US, and never went back. Some move to escape conflict, persecution, or large-scale human rights violations. Still others move in response to the adverse effects of climate change, natural disasters, or other environmental factors. And some people were forcefully stolen from their countries to become slaves in another country. These migratory patterns shaped our countries. We wouldn’t be the same without the rich influx in immigrants who enriched our lives through their contributions in science, politics, technology, fashion, food, music, art and so much more. Most of us in the Americas can trace our roots back to another country. Indigenous people have their own unique stories to tell about the effects of colonization on their lives.  We’ll explore this rich topic for the next few weeks calling upon our own experiences with emigration, our own experiences with the migration of flora and fauna, and lastly, our internal migration within our own countries.

Below is Carole’s commentary for Flora and Fauna:

It was difficult to limit myself to 12 poems, so I’ve added one more to make a baker’s dozen. All of these haiku shone at first reading and made it through 3 subsequent readings. In reading through these poems you will find creative use of language, strong imagery, sensory impact, and even humor. Not all in one poem! One poem attracted me purely because of its allusion. This was a difficult challenge and I received many factual poems. But those poets able to turn fact into poetry were the poems that ultimately drew me in. I researched and learned a lot through all the offerings, so at times I’ll add a note at the end to share fascinating facts that came to light with my own research into the subject. But every poem stands on its own.

stealing breath
from a pond —
water hyacinths

Teji Sethi
Bangalore, India

The evocative and original phrase ‘stealing breath’ brought me right into this poem. Then, as I read it in its entirety, I came to appreciate the double entendre of this special phrase. In my experience, the image of prolific water hyacinths is one of beauty and yes, could certainly take my breath away. However, a deeper reading opens to the invasive aspect of water hyacinths with their ability to shade out indigenous species and reduce the oxygen in the water with their thick mat covering. This is a perfect example of how a poet can utilize language to turn fact into poetry.

Note: We all walk a fine line with our attempts to control plants that have been labeled invasive. Despite being labeled invasive in certain areas, water hyacinths are said to have anti-inflammatory, antifungal and antibacterial properties and are used in medicinal ways.

where is home?
a swirl of swallows
at twilight

Sébastien Revon
Ireland

How unique, to open a haiku with a question. The poet’s use of alliteration, ‘swirl of swallows’, builds on this lovely twilight image in a musical way that mimics the movements of the flock. While this may be a common sight for some, the twilight setting and the evocative question add mood and emotion. ‘Where is home?’ could be simple curiosity about where the swallows will return to in the winter, or it could be asking whether their summer or winter grounds are both considered home. But, beyond the swallows, ‘where is home?’ offers deep introspection on our own lives. Especially when it relates to the human migratory patterns of our modern world. However, for me, it also evokes our existential search for home, the emotions that come on a starlit night or when looking at a twilight sky filled with visiting birds.

knowing
she’d come back to me
winter wren

Bryan Rickert
Belleville, Illinois

The idea of ‘winter wren’ appealed to me, as I think of them as birds of summer, not necessarily winter, so I was delighted to find out there is indeed a ‘winter wren’. They are found mostly in coniferous forests, and because of their ability to dig out insects from bark and fallen logs they can survive the winter. And they’re recognized for their long and exuberant song! I loved the certainty the poet felt in the return of this tiny bird, especially in a winter setting when such a spotting would be uplifting. But was it just the bird’s return? Haiku are often subtle metaphors and I see the return of more than just the little wren in this lovely haiku. The certainty of the seasons and all they offer, the return of a tiny bird or perhaps a loved one.

Carpathian ridge
a chamois pushes day moon
out of its territory

Florin C. Ciobica
Romania

I was delighted to find out a chamois is a goat-antelope creature. This animal is native to the Carpathian Mountains although similar chamois species are found in Southern Europe and around the Mediterranean. Their hides have long been used for a variety of leather products also referred to as “chamois”. The chamois, like the Rocky Mountain goat I’m familiar with, can be found at high elevations in the summer. This poet has brought us a stunning image that is like a silhouette seen from below. ‘Pushes day moon’ is a lovely example of figurative language used to bring an image to life. Picture the long horns almost touching a low day moon as the chamois is silhouetted against the ridge. I have photographed goats this way, but never in the presence of the day moon. The last line suggests the inborn tenacity of these creatures to defend their territory. The addition of the article “the” before day moon might benefit this haiku, but its absence didn’t detract from the image, and in a way gives ‘day moon’ a personality of its own.

Note: I believe conservation methods have been created to protect the chamois.

Flamingos
come and go
talking of Chilika

Sudha Devi Nayak
Bhubaneswar India

I wonder if I’m the only reader who felt a refrain from another poem when first reading this haiku. It kept playing in my mind, so I chose it as an example of allusion, something we don’t see as much of in English language haiku, although the Japanese don’t hesitate to use it. A click of the mouse told me that Chilika is the largest brackish water lake in India and Asia and the second largest in the world, as well as a major attraction to many migratory species, including flamingos. My imagination filled with a lovely pink picture of flamingos strutting back and forth, muttering to each other, their long legs, long necks and black beaks grazing the richness of the waters.

Now, to the allusion that immediately came to mind, “In the room the women come and go talking of Michelangelo”. A refrain from T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” only we have flamingos coming and going, perhaps talking of their favorite gathering place, Lake Chilika. I confess, this is my own response, and may not be the poet’s. But, once a poem is out there it becomes the reader’s and anything can happen.

Note: Due to several natural and artificial reasons, Lake Chilika’s fragile ecosystem has been threatened recently. Steps towards conservation have been taken.

ivory earrings
the crack of elephant
tusks

Nitu Yumnam
India

So much in 7 words! The alarm bell goes off with the opening ‘ivory earrings’. Although antique ivory is legal to own, these earrings remind us that even though there is a ban on international trade in ivory, elephants continue to be poached for their tusks. I admire the use of onomatopoeia with ‘the crack’ of elephant tusks suggesting the sound of ivory being broken off and stolen. While it could easily represent the sound of fighting elephants, the ‘ivory earrings’ suggest otherwise. I inherited a family of carved African elephants from my mother, and all had tiny tusks made of ivory. And I do feel some guilt now that I am aware of the fate of all elephants as tusks continue to be harvested for commercial gain. The life of an elephant for trinkets. Sad indeed.

Note: The ivory issue extends to all creatures with teeth, tusks, and horns.

spring’s first swallows
stitching the sky …
my window too small

Annie Wilson
Shropshire, UK

The sibilance in the opening phrase works well to bring this image alive. ‘Stitching the sky’ is a lovely way to show the movement of these aerial acrobats as they weave through the sky snatching at insects. It’s a sight I see often, especially over bodies of water like rivers and lakes. There is the thrill, also, of a ‘first’ sighting as long-awaited swallows return to breed and raise their young throughout the summer. This haiku is filled with all the hopes and longings for spring. Yet, the last line suggests a more serious mood, that of one’s view being reduced to a window’s worth against the vast view outside. While some may have a picture window view of the world outside their home, not everyone does. Some people have smaller windows, some people are housebound, or as a third reading, there is no window created that can take the place of a sky filled with swallows.

stuffed specimen
between nothing and being–
extinct wolf

Teiichi Suzuki
Japan

Such an evocative phrase, ‘between nothing and being’. Although it spoke to a museum specimen it also evokes a state of mind. A long dead species is brought back to life. I visit museums a lot and find remnants of extinct species fascinating. So, a beautiful evocative phrase to speak to an extinct wolf. I wish I could see it. However, I had to find out more about extinct wolves upon reading this haiku, and considering the poet is from Japan, I came across the “Honshū wolf”, a small gray wolf much loved by farmers because its howl warned them of the approach of wild boars. It was seen as a spirit of the forest and honored with shrines. Unfortunately, the wolves got rabies from dogs, and all were shot, the last one in 1905. Surprisingly, going back to ‘between nothing and being’, new studies of this wolf are now tracing it back 20,000 years. I value what I learned by taking the extra time to find out more about extinct wolves, but this haiku stands alone very well on the strength of such an evocative phrase.

briefly renting
the summer sky
swift screams

Ben Oliver
United Kingdom

I admire this poet’s creative expression with ‘briefly renting the summer sky’, an original and fresh way to show the temporary appearance of swifts coming to breed in the UK, only to return to sub–Saharan Africa for the rest of the year. Along with the sibilance of lines 2 and 3, there is the added surprise of ‘swift screams’ in the final line. Now the sky is filled with swifts and the sound of swifts, which has been referred to as a two-toned scream. I appreciate the added auditory effect to go with the visual sight of the swifts.

Note: Swifts often form screaming parties during summer evenings, and a flock of swifts is called ‘a scream’.

cranes at sunset
flowing north
stirring heaven’s river

Mike Fainzilber
Rehovot, Israel

There is a lot of music in this haiku when I consider the sibilance of ‘sunset/stirring’, and the subtle assonance of ‘flow…/north’. It opens with a clear image of cranes at sunset, a beautiful sight which is enhanced by the following lines. In line 2 we realize they are in flight and in line 3 our eyes reach for the heavens. To my knowledge, flying north indicates they are flying toward their breeding grounds. ‘Stirring heaven’s river’ is an evocative phrase with many possible interpretations. My own moves toward the Milky Way, but the image of cranes stirring heaven’s river could be a biblical reference, or simply the flight of cranes stirring the colors of the sunset on the horizon. However one reads this haiku, it most definitely stirs the senses.

gathering
only the wind
tumbleweed

Ann K. Schwader
Westminster, CO USA

Five words and yet this poem made me wish I could be like the tumbleweed moving along at the whim of the wind. Unencumbered, not burdened with the weight of being human. The proverb, “A rolling stone gathers no moss” comes to mind, but I prefer this tumbleweed for its spontaneity and freedom. I’m entranced by tumbleweed, as I often have them roll alongside me when I’m driving out on the range, or when they suddenly cross my path, rolling haphazardly where the wind takes them. Sometimes the shortest haiku requires no commentary at all. This one speaks so well for itself.

Australian spring…
dust bunnies reproduce
under the bed

Nancy Brady
Huron, Ohio

After reading 12 sheets, 3 columns each of flora/fauna haiku, this was a welcome break away from the concerns of the environment as it pertains to flora and fauna. Thank you dear poet for this delightful comic relief inspired by your Australian spring cleaning. I have to say your reproducing dust bunnies have migrated to my place too! I somehow suspect that the dust bunny is one creature that never has to fear extinction. A delightful haiku.

May elections
regular as clockwork
the cuckoos arrive

Keith Evetts
Thames Ditton UK

And the final poem is spot on with the timing of May elections and the return of the cuckoos at the same time. Note how the second line pivots, ‘May elections regular as clockwork’ and ‘regular as clockwork the cuckoos arrive’. The word ‘clockwork’ brought to my mind cuckoo clocks announcing the hour. But ultimately, what made me smile was the subtle metaphor of returning birds that echo the insanity surrounding elections these days. After all, the cuckoo is known for laying an egg in another bird’s nest to escape having to raise it themselves.

 

Join us next week for our next prompt…

 

Guest Editor Carole MacRury resides in Point Roberts, Washington, a unique peninsula and border town that inspires her work. Her poems have won awards and been published worldwide, and her photographs have been featured on the covers of numerous poetry journals and anthologies. Her practice of contemplative photography along with an appreciation of haiku aesthetics helps deepen her awareness of the world around her. Both image and written word open her to the interconnectedness of all things, to surprise, mystery and a sense of wonder. She is the author of In the Company of Crows: Haiku and Tanka Between the Tides (Black Cat Press, 2008, 2nd Printing, 2018) and The Tang of Nasturtiums, an award-winning e-chapbook (Snapshot Press 2012).

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.

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Prompt photo credit:
prompt photo one – Immigration – Carole MacRury

Haiku Dialogue offers a triweekly prompt for practicing your haiku. Posts appear each Wednesday with a prompt or a selection of poems from a previous week.

This Post Has 31 Comments

  1. What a wonderful selection and great commentary, Carole! I loved all these poems. Knowing that Sébastien is French and has been living here on the island of Ireland for so long made his particularly poignant.

    marion

    1. Thank you Marion for your words. The number of excellent poems I receive each prompt blows my mind. I am so appreciative of all who share their haiku and thoughts.

  2. A lovely collection this week. I especially appreciated the optimism in winter, and other possibilities, in Bryan Rickert’s

    knowing
    she’d come back to me
    winter wren

  3. A wonderful selection of poems – congratulations to all. I’m absolutely delighted to be included. Many thanks, Carole – and especially for your enlightening, astute and insightful commentaries.

    1. Thank Annie. And thanks for submitting your lovely haiku through ‘a window too small’. And that memorable phrase…’stiching the sky”.

  4. Thank you so much Carole.
    You commented my haiku so well. Better than I could do myself. You read it in a way that allows it to encapsulate some universal topics.
    As for myself, I remember exactly where I was when I thought of it. I was walking back home from work and saw these swallows twittering and swirling around as usual at that time of year and at that time of day, where I live in Ireland. As a French man living in Ireland for more than 15 years, I often wonder now where is home. But at that very moment, I felt my home was there. My home was, in a way, this swirl of swallows.
    I loved all your commentaries but the one that stands out for me is Annie Wilson’s as it made me smile and more… I can picture Annie’s body moving, and Annie, trying to still see these swallows. I found the phrase “stitching the sky” quite unusual and original, in a way that I’d like to translate it in French.
    Thanks a million, Carole!

    1. Thank you so much, Sébastien. I’d love to see your French version! And, of course, I love your poem.

    2. Sebastian, thank you for your comments about ‘where is home’, and your answer, which opened the haiku and the image up even more for me.

  5. Thank you so much Carole for your commentary on my haiku You referred to my allusion and your comments were so beautifully explanatory The way you described the Flamingos chattering to one another was what occurred to me Never imagined that it would be selected for your comment

    1. Thank you Sudha for bringing this scene to life. The allusion to the Prufrock line added another dimension to the poem. I’ve used it myself with Shakespeare…’flu season/ to kiss / or not to kiss’.

      1. Prufrock is one of my favourites, Sudha, so I loved the comparison of these long legged birds to the cultured ladies in Eliot’s poem. No doubt the lake in which the flamingoes wade is as worthy of admiration as Michelangelo’s work!

        marion

  6. Dear Carole,

    Many thanks for including my poem in amongst such a fantastic selection. It is a real honour. I think my favourite, if such a thing is possible, would be

    stealing breath
    from a pond —
    water hyacinths

    Teji Sethi

    The way it holds its serious message so lightly is breathtaking.

    Best wishes and congratulations to everyone

    Ben

    1. Thanks for the comments on a favorite, Ben. Your fresh and original phrasing ‘briefly renting’ spoke volumes.

    1. So enjoyed your poem Keith, and happy you approved of my ‘take’ on it. Yes, Sébastien’s deeply open-ended ‘where is home’ is quite lovely.

      1. In England we have elections to local government bodies in May each year, when turnout might be as good as the weather; and sometimes the general election may be timed to coincide. I picked up on the cuckoo’s calling while canvassing a few years ago (for the residents’ association, I hasten to add). It tickled my sense of humour and irony.. Glad you spotted the cuckoo clock too.

        Thank you for all the thought and work you put into commentary, Carole. May your pipes never freeze

  7. Absolutely thrilled and pleasantly surprised to find my poem selected for commentary. Thank you so much, Carole, for your insightful commentary. Truly honoured. Your mention of African elephants struck a chord with me as it brought to mind the ivory earrings and necklace gifted to me by an African family – what a coincidence. Though I’ve never worn them, they serve as a poignant reminder of the immense suffering endured by these majestic creatures. Their silent agony speaks volumes, highlighting a heartbreaking reality…

    Every poem included here is exceptional in its own way. This one will stay with me for days.

    Carpathian ridge

    a chamois pushes day moon
    
out of its territory

    Florin C. Ciobica
    
Romania

    Loved the vivid imagery; I can visualize it clearly. Beautifully crafted.

    Heartiest congratulations to all the poets featured!

    1. Thank you Nitu, for sharing additional comments about your poem. I feel the same about my mother’s elephant collection which was brought back from Africa by my brother who spent years working in Africa. A beautiful piece of art, but a terrible reminder of an ongoing tragedy for the elephants.

    2. Dear Nitu, I am very glad that you liked what I wrote. Thank you!
      I appreciate your poetry too. It is a sad but profound one whose purpose is to raise awareness and change mindsets.

  8. To continue today’s “election” theme…

    🙂

    Final results show that the conservative and staid Flora Party got only 2 votes.

    While the more liberal and active Fauna Party received a whopping 11 votes, with the progressive Avian faction earning a majority of 7 of those!

    +++

    The following is my favorite, for all the same reasons noted in Carole MacRury’s comments. I also like how the “w” in “twilight” echoes the “w” in both “swirl” and “swallows.” Very rhythmic and curvy.

    where is home?
    a swirl of swallows
    at twilight

    Sébastien Revon
    Ireland

    1. 🙂 Richard, thanks for bringing a smile to my face this morning! I didn’t even consider the ratio of flora/fauna in my choices. But there it is! Thanks for this great opening to the short list!

  9. Dear Carole,

    Thanks so much for the insightful commentary! I indeed had the Milky Way in mind as ‘heaven’s river’, following Basho and other haiku masters, but interpretations can (and should) be personal for each reader.

    A deep bow to all the other poets selected. There are too many favorites to mention all, but I will say that I am very struck by Ben Oliver’s “briefly renting … the summer sky”. Lines any poet would have wished to have written him/herself…

    Thanks again,

    Mike

    1. Thanks Mike. Yes, Milky Way is certainly the first thought that comes to mind with ‘stirring heaven’s river’. Lovely poem.

  10. Thanks Carole for the surprising selection of my poem for commentary. I am thrilled that you recognized a humorous bent on the serious problem of the rabbit population in Australia.
    As I was thinking about the flora/fauna prompt, I was sweeping and was shocked at how many dust bunnies had accumulated (that is, had reproduced), and I was inspired. Glad you appreciated my humor; not everyone does. So thanks again.

    Keith Evetts’
    May elections
    regular as clockwork
    the cuckoos arrive

    really resonated with me as yesterday was my state’s primary election. I spent the day from well before sun up until well after sun down working the election (as I have for nearly ten years) and elections are getting crazier and more cuckoo with each one. Well done, Keith. I love this poem. Thanks for sharing this one Carole.

    Congrats to all the poets. Enjoyed the haiku and the commentary on each of them.
    Ly

    1. I absolutely adored your poem, Nan, the wonderful commentary from Carole, and your additional background info here. Huge kudos!

      1. Thanks, Eavonka. I’m glad you liked it and Carole’s commentary. I appreciated Carole’s commentary and that she understood the haiku. I admit I was thrilled she included it especially since I actually figured that if it wasn’t in last week’s column it was too comical for such a serious subject.

    2. Thank you Nancy, for responding to the prompt in your own perfect way. I must tell you your haiku got more than just my appreciation, but an editor behind the scenes loved it too! 😉

      1. Thanks so much, Carole, for saying this. Thanks, too, to the behind the scenes editor who appreciated it. While I liked it, I worried that it might be considered way too frivolous. Thanks again for appreciating my humor and including it. 🙂 ~Nan

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