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HAIKU DIALOGUE – Migration – Immigration – 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 Immigration:

I hope you enjoy each poem on this short list as much as I did. The haiku aesthetics most important to me can be found in each of these poems and I will touch upon a few of these in my commentary. I would like to add that any of you who submitted haiku to the prompt that was not related to immigration but more about flora/fauna, please feel free to submit them to the next prompt when it is posted. My thanks to each of the 12 poets below for their fine work, and grateful thanks to kjmunro and Lori Zajkowski for their assistance behind the scenes.

that kind of hope
a crocus through the snow
wherever you go

Stephen A Peters
Bellingham, WA

I enjoyed the classic feel to this haiku written in the short/long/short three-line form, and just under 17 syllables, with a strong seasonal image. A bit of a rarity these days which makes it extra special to me. It addresses the theme in a subtle yet profound way by simply showing a strong image that asks us to identify with the crocus pushing up through the cold snow. What we know. Spring comes, no matter what, even if there is snow on the ground. We, too, will endure, no matter what, no matter how many moves we make, or the difficulties we might face. The crocus can be read as a metaphor for how we keep hope alive. Also, like most of the poems on the short list, this poem utilizes the fragment/phrase technique, with a strong pause after the first line. Also note the assonance of ‘hope/crocus/snow/go’. The content overrides any concerns about end rhyme, which to me appears natural, not forced at all.

magnolia moon
eight migrations later
I’m home

Katherine E Winnick
Brighton UK

Another haiku that opens with a strong image. I can see how the plate-sized blossom of a magnolia might remind us of the full moon in all its pearly glory. Magnolias grow in many places and are among the oldest trees going back 95 million years. Perhaps ‘magnolia’ is alluding to other myths or meanings, but to me, it suggests a full moon that makes this homecoming special. It also reminds us that through eight migrations, one repeatedly goes through the moon’s phases. The moon is our constant companion. Note, too, the alliteration of ‘magnolia/moon/migrations’ and how lovely it is to read this haiku aloud. ‘Magnolia moon’ offers a sense of celebration to this lovely homecoming.

no questions asked
an immigrant
donates blood

Ravi Kiran

Seven words, yet so much is suggested, a technique I admire in these small poems. We don’t need or want a story, we want a “moment”. I must admire this poet’s astute observation and the way it is presented with no opinion or judgment, leaving room for the reader’s personal reaction. To me, it shows that beneath the skin we are all the same and one’s blood is as valuable as another’s. Immigrants, as we know, often face many challenges, including discrimination. Yet, when it comes to saving lives by donating blood, there is no immigrant, there is simply a human being. The first line suggests this thought, but we also feel the generous spirit of the immigrant willing to donate blood. I can’t speak for other countries, but in the USA, one does receive payment for blood. Well, maybe a cookie.

in each line
on father’s face…

Neena Singh

Sometimes a poem gifts us with knowledge, a new word. This poem did just that with the last line hiraeth, which is a Welsh word that they say can’t be translated into English. It’s “a blend of homesickness, nostalgia and longing, a pull on the heart that conveys a distinct feeling of missing something irretrievably lost“. Isn’t that beautiful? Juxtaposed against this father’s lined face one can feel not only the years that have passed, but the richness and depth of emotion found in each line of this father’s face as it’s observed by the speaker. The ellipses offer a moment to reflect on the father’s face before being introduced to this amazing word. It’s the pathos of “irretrievably lost” that got me. Homesick pales in comparison, so yes, I was totally seduced by this word and the way it was used in this lovely haiku. It’s enriched my life and I’m quite sure I’ve felt these complex emotions in my own life.

the old country
bound in twine
grandpa’s satchel

Barrie Levine

There isn’t a single wasted word in this haiku, and I appreciate its use of figurative language in the 2nd line. Not only is the satchel ‘bound in twine’, a humble substance on its own, but ‘the old country’ is also ‘bound in twine’. It’s easy to assume that the satchel contains mementos of the old country. It’s a haunting image that reminds me of what we might find in an attic after someone has passed away. It’s a beautiful take on the theme of immigration and how these memories are saved and passed on to the next generation. There is also much to be read into the use of ‘twine’ as it suggests an old satchel that has been opened many times over the years enough that it had to be ‘bound in twine’ to keep it closed long after the clasp may have been broken. Note how the middle line acts as a pivot, but in a very natural way.

kolache –
a thumbprint of life
in the old country

Bonnie J Scherer

When I first read this I immediately responded to the word ‘kolache’. We called these cookies thumbprint cookies when I was growing up, and all of us delighted in creating the dent with our thumbs and filling it with jam. This poet has made excellent use of the word ‘thumbprint’ to not only describe the kolache cookie, but also to show a sense of personal identity through memories of eating and/or baking this cookie. One puts their “stamp” on not only the cookie, but ‘life in the old country’. A sensory haiku that brings in taste and smell and a glimpse of the past.

sea pebbles
resettling after
many moves

C.X. Turner

What do sea pebbles have to do with resettling after a move? Living by the sea myself, I identify with the sound of sea pebbles when a wave washes over them and then retreats. Their watery rustle resembles a rain stick when you turn it upside down. The use of ‘resettling after’ chimes with the tides, the many moves, and the final resettling afterward. There is a sense of homecoming with the use of ‘resettling after’, of adjustments made, as the pebbles do, after the waves retreat. I did wonder if this wouldn’t work well as a monoku offering a clearer choice of pivots. But I love the juxtaposition which I find works so well with the idea of ‘resettling’ whether pebble or person.

tobacco fields
dad chews
on his broken English

P. H. Fischer
Vancouver, Canada

I’m drawn to haiku that engage the senses. I not only see the tobacco fields, but I taste and smell the tobacco, and even more, I hear the dad as he speaks. I appreciate the figurative use of ‘chews’ to bring in a hint of chewing tobacco as well as chewing ‘on his broken English’. This dad comes to life thanks to this wonderful phrase. It’s a moment that allows me to imagine this man’s life. I don’t need to know whether the tobacco fields reminded the poet of his dad, or whether the dad might have worked or owned such fields in his life. It works well just as it is, leaving room for the reader to experience this moment through their own interpretation.

between home
and homeless
the fault lines

Teji Sethi
Bangalore, India

There is so much one can unpack in these 7 words. I’m almost afraid to try, but this haiku has something to say that is deeply true to all of us. We’re all a step away from having our lives turned upside down through natural disasters, especially earthquakes. This literal take works well, but who could ignore the metaphor of the entire haiku? We all face ‘fault lines’, whether they are the unstable fractures of rock below the surface of the earth, or the fault lines we face daily through relationships, jobs, interactions, anything that can suddenly change our circumstances and threaten our sense of security. This could even extend to wars and loss of homeland. Note the rhythm of this haiku and how the article puts a personal emphasis on ‘fault lines’. This article has earned its place in this concise and brief haiku.

migrant family…
giving the rescue dog
a forever home

Laurie Greer
Washington DC

I immediately felt the generosity shown in this haiku, that of a migrant family offering a home to a rescue dog, even if they may not have a home themselves, or who remember what it was like to not have a place of their own. It reminds me of how those who have less often give more. In this case, shelter, food and love for a desperate dog. “Home is where the heart is” comes to mind with ‘forever home’. It suggests the obvious love I’ve seen between homeless people on the street and their pets, sharing food, sharing their meager existence. ‘Forever home’ as well suggests the reality of the transient who must move from place to place and how wonderful it must feel to find a ‘forever home’ of their own. Not a word wasted in this lovely haiku. The alliteration of the two words ‘family/forever’ binds this haiku in a touching way.

grandpa’s accent-
spiced rum

Bryan Rickert
Belleville, Illinois

As I’ve mentioned, I’m drawn to sensory haiku and in this case, ‘spiced rum’ flooded my taste buds and my nose as soon as I read the words. Perhaps it’s the grandpas in my own past, but I could easily see and hear this grandpa as he enjoyed his drink, his speech thickening and reverting back to his mother tongue with each sip. Perhaps, too, the spiced rum itself was filled with memories. A lovely image that I loved to fill out with my own experiences with grandparents.

arroz con pollo
flood my tongue

Susan Farner

This haiku resonated with me right away. Food, like poetry, is right up there in the way it unites cultures. The beauty of this haiku is in its understatement. Again, it suggests but doesn’t tell a story. It offers a single sensory moment. The reader is left to create their own story. We fill in the memories. As this was written to the theme of migration, one can assume memories of one’s homeland arose with the taste of a traditional dish. But if read without the theme, it also works beautifully in relating how food can ‘flood’ our taste buds with memories of any special moment in our lives. This haiku, like others in my list, reminds me of the importance of taking care in word choice. ‘Flood my tongue’ offers a remarkable sensory experience that draws the reader right in.


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:

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Photo Credits:

Banner photo credit:
©<ahref=’‘>somchai20162516</a>, <a href=’‘>123RF Free Images</a>

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 17 Comments

  1. Dear Carole,

    Enjoyed reading and re-reading the ku and your commentary! What a treat and what a learning! Thank you so much for these excellent lines – they have made a deep impact!

  2. Great read! I learn a lot from the comments as much as from the haiku themselves. Bravo to all writers and to Carole MacRury: Thanks a million!

    1. Thanks Sebastien, There were so many fine poems on the long list too that would have been enjoyable to comment on as well. The beauty of the long list posting is that is an opportunity for all of you to choose and talk about what you like from the list. We all learn so much when that happens. Editor’s choice is just that, but when commenting on other people poems, everyone becomes an editor. :-)

  3. A wonderful selection of haiku on this topic! Thank you so much for including mine, Carole. I almost went with the monoku version of my poem, but decided against it in the end. Your comments really resonate!

    1. I’m happy to hear my comments resonated with you C.X. Only six words but so open to interpretation. And such a subtle suggestion of sound!

  4. Good commentaries, Carole!

    Ravi’s incisive verse and the commentary to it stood out for me:

    no questions asked
    an immigrant
    donates blood

    Ravi Kiran

    ….clipped to my little file of favourites. (And I think the word ‘donates’ is crucial here, stronger than the usual ‘gives’ and suggesting no payment)

    1. Yes, for sure. ‘donate’ resonates in a special way especially in lieu of the first line.

      However, reading it again, I notice in my comments I had a typo. It should read ‘one does NOT receive payment for blood’. It’s almost always a donation for a variety of reasons. Sorry about that. I thought I’d caught it, but apparently not!

      1. Carole: I also found it an interesting example of a short single image verse that nevertheless contains an implicit cut and four elements arranged: no questions/donates, and immigrant/blood. Way more complex and allusive that it looks on first reading, plenty of inwardness, ‘resonance,’ and thoughtful crafting. An excellent pick!

    1. Thanks John. Thanks to all of you for making these choices so difficult! So appreciate the great responses to this first prompt.

  5. Wonderful selections, Carole, and I found your commentary to be particularly insightful into what makes a great haiku!

    1. Happy to hear you found my comments helpful, Eavonka. Each of us has their own particular tastes in haiku, and I did my best to show you why these haiku appealed to me.

  6. Thank you Nancy. Wonderful to hear your response to Brian’s poem. I have to thank everyone for offering me such an amazing selection. Cutting my short list down to 12 was no easy task, but then, they are enjoyed and recognized on the long list.

  7. thickening
    grandpa’s accent-
    spiced rum
    –Bryan Rickert
    and reading your commentary, Carole, reminded me of my husband’s story about his grandmother and her siblings. He is second generation (Scottish) and spent a great deal of time with grandmother because the death of his mother when he was four. When his grandmother’s siblings visited from Glasgow, the longer they stayed, the more difficult it was for the children and grandchildren to understand what was said as their Scottish brogue became thicker and thicker as the time went on especially if there was whisky being served in the evening. Bryan’s haiku really resonated with me since I have heard so many stories of his childhood.

    All of these haiku, especially with the commentary, are outstanding. Thanks Carole.

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