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HAIKU DIALOGUE – Rain ! Rain ? – Drought – commentary

Rain ! Rain ? with Co-Guest Editors Arvinder Kaur & Vandana Parashar

India is a country of diverse geographical features. In the northeast we have Cherrapunji, which receives 11,777 mm rainfall each year, making it one of the wettest places on the Earth, and in the northwest we have the Thar Desert, also known as the Great Indian Desert, which is the world’s 18th largest desert. Every year we see nature’s bounty as well as its fury.

Floods, droughts, snowstorms, cyclones, earthquakes – we see it all. For the next prompts we’ll ponder over the two extremes which make us question – “How much is enough?”

Below is Arvinder’s & Vandana’s commentary for Drought:

so many reasons to rain again withered vines

Roberta Beach Jacobson
Indianola, Iowa, USA

This one-line poem seems to address so much in such few words. One is taken in by the subtle pause which may occur at different places for different reasons, but the most relatable is the one before ‘withered vines’. Till this point the poem has already incorporated the beauty of alliteration, which perhaps is reiterated in some way in the last two words as well. Thematically too there are ‘so many reasons’ that make the reader fall in love with this poem. Which one of these reasons does the poet have in mind? As it is often said, the beauty of haiku lies in suggesting and in what is not said. Readers can take their pick as to what they want to take away from here.

drought shapes the mosaicked contours of lives

Lakshmi Iyer
India

One can see a work of art right away and then be taken in by the irony of it all. This earth of ours is Nature’s canvas, it may shape it, fill it with beauty, but sometimes it makes a drawing, the lines here and there, puts pieces together like a mosaic. Only this time it is a cruel joke on this world of humans. The hand that feeds them withdraws itself leaving them to starve. The juxtaposition in the poem is so stark. Mosaics are used to beautify, but not this one. An astute use of the noun as verb, this one-liner turns out to be hard-hitting.

broken ground
the memory of water
in a small seed

John Hawkhead
UK

Is there nostalgia in this poem, a sense of melancholy, a feeling of loss or is the poem about change, about transformation? Does L1 speak about peace or about war, of creation or of destruction? One wonders if the seed is left alone, exposed on dry land and thus remembering water. A very different and an extremely enigmatic yet simple take on the prompt. The poem leaves a lot to readers and opens layers upon layers of interpretation.

long summer drought
the jigsaw puzzle
of a farmer’s life

Hifsa Ashraf
Rawalpindi, Pakistan

An extremely poignant take on the prompt. How the farmers live in the fear of Nature’s wrath. The cracks on the earth spell doom for them and the image of ‘the jigsaw puzzle’ sits so appropriately. It is hard to put the pieces of life together if one has to suffer a long drought. The poem stood out for the visual of the puzzle that is so close to the face of the earth in the case of a severe drought.

fleeing drought
their only chance
the high seas

Mike Gallagher
Ireland

The cruel irony in this poem has a strong magnetic pull to it. About 71% of the Earth’s surface is covered by water, and the oceans hold about 96.5% of it. Unfortunately, this water is too salty for drinking, growing crops and most industrial uses. Doesn’t it feel unfair that there is so much water on the Earth and yet people are dying of the scarcity of water?

L1 gives us the opening scene in which people are forced to leave their homes in search of water. L2 builds upon it and makes one hopeful that there is some chance of them surviving this calamity. And then comes L3 – the high seas! Fleeing in search of water by waterways! It’s like God or fate cracking some wicked joke.

One can imagine the sad eyes of migrants who had to let go of their homeland because of drought and now all they can see is water all around, not a drop of which they can use. It feels like the tears of those who are fleeing are adding salt to ‘the high seas’. This poem surely shows the mastery of the poet in building up the poetic tension and ending it with a delicious release.

megadrought the forest raining fire

Cynthia Anderson
Yucca Valley, California

This five-word poem is a powerhouse of imagery and emotions. Leaving out the single article, each of the remaining four words depicts four different colourful images – ‘megadrought’ (cracked brown earth), ‘forest’ (different shades of green), ‘raining’ (the grey of clouds and the freshly washed colours of trees, buildings and everything else the rain falls on) and ‘fire’ (the fiery orange). But when we read all of them in one breath, the whole imagery is changed. The cheerful colours of the trees and the soothing effect of rain are all gone. We are left with severe hopelessness as the scene unfolds a ‘megadrought’ and the rain turns out to be unbearable heat. The usage and placement of each word in this monoku is brilliant and shows the poet’s expertise in the form.

meteorological drought in the next channel Met Gala

Sankara Jayanth Sudanagunta
Hyderabad, India

This is another poem with inherent irony, but totally different from the previous one by Mike Gallagher. The earth’s resources and man’s wealth are unequally, unfairly distributed. We often hear of the plight of others on the news and then we get on with our lives. We are too caught up in our own ordeals to give more than cursory attention to what is happening in other parts of the world.

This poem, very economically, underlines this tendency and also the tendency of humans towards sensationalism. The glitz and glamour have more takers than the serious news of world problems. How does this reflect on us? That’s for us to think about. Like a good haiku, the poet draws no inference but holds a mirror for us. He intentionally leaves it open-ended for readers to respond to. How we respond is a reflection of who we are.

 

Join us next week for our next prompt…

 

Guest Editor Arvinder Kaur, author, translator and an award-winning poet, specializes in English literature and Media Studies. She was one of the founding editors of the bilingual haiku journal Wah. She has been a guest editor at Triveni, Failed Haiku and recently at The Haiku Foundation’s Haiku Dialogue. Her haiku have appeared in several national and international journals. She is the author of four books of micropoetry, two of which are bilingual where she has translated her own work into vernacular. Her books have been very well received in India and abroad. She lives in Chandigarh, India with her family.

Guest Editor Vandana Parashar is a postgraduate in Microbiology, an educator and a haiku poet. Her haiku, senryu and tanka have been published in many national and international journals of repute and have won her many prizes and accolades. Her haiku was also shortlisted for the prestigious Touchstone Award 2020. She is an associate editor of haikuKATHA and one of the editors of Poetry Pea and #FemkuMag. Her debut e-chapbook, I Am, was published by Title IX Press (now Moth Orchid Press) in 2019 and her second chapbook, Alone, I Am Not, was published by Velvet Dusk Publishing in 2022.

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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Photo Credits:

Banner photo credit: Unsplash

Prompt photo credit: prompt photo two – Drought – Unsplash

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 8 Comments

  1. Dear Arvinder & Vandana, thank you for the generous commentary on my monoku. Very much appreciated. I found all the selections thought-provoking and the commentary insightful throughout.

  2. Dear Arvinder Kaur & Vandana Parashar, excellent and deeply felt commentaries. My readings of all the selected ku have been greatly enhanced by the nuances you have brought up-stage. Thank you very much.

  3. Wonderful evocations and thoughtful comments on the dichotomy between those who are suffering or have suffered from drought and those who haven’t (yet) had to feel its malignant effects.

  4. I love the selections. Very pleased to be among them and get commentary on it. Thank you so much, Vandana and Arvinder.

  5. A thoughtful and engaging selection of haiku and comments for this theme. I won’t single out any for special notice as they are all great. Thank you for including mine Arvinder and Vandana!

    1. Thanks for your kind comment, John.
      We appreciate your trusting us with your work.

    2. Your haiku is striking and enigmatic, John. I thought it might describe a seedling that has received sufficient rain to germinate and break through the dry earth, only to find no more moisture to sustain it…hence water is contained only in its memory.

      marion

      1. broken ground
        the memory of water
        in a small seed

        John Hawkhead
        UK

        Seeds buried or stored away long ago (as in Egyptian pyramids) can still germinate and come to life. This seed is “remembering” what water is as rain bathes its “tomb” exposed in broken ground.

        This haiku brings to mind Henry David Thoreau’s posthumously published book, Faith in a Seed: The Dispersion of Seeds and Other Late Natural History Writings.

        The book was edited by Bradley P. Dean and published in 1993 by Island Press in Washington, DC.

        Here’s the book’s epigraph, also by Thoreau:

        “Though I do not believe that a plant will spring up where no seed has been, I have great faith in a seed. Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders.”

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