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HAIKU DIALOGUE – The Language of Flowers – Flora as Food and Medicine

The Language of Flowers: A Global Perspective with Guest Editor Carole MacRury

This is a friendly reminder to all submitting poets – please carefully follow the submission guidelines: submit a maximum of two (2) original, unpublished haiku prior to the stated deadline for your work to be considered for the column… thanks! kj

Floriography, the sending of secret messages via coded flower arrangements, was popular during the Victorian Era (between 1837 and 1901). Hanakotoba is the Japanese form of the Language of Flowers. Countries around the globe have their own language, myths, meanings, history and symbolism pertaining to flowers, some going back thousands of years. While the sending of secret messages through flowers might not be as popular today as it was in the Victoria age, we still use flowers to express significant moments in our lives, such as births, deaths, weddings, religious services, holidays and specific cultural and personal ceremonies.

We grow gardens, arrange flowers, and pick wildflowers to brighten our homes. The scent of flowers can lift our spirits or cause an allergic reaction. We communicate through the color of flowers. White, for instance, can represent purity, innocence, or death depending on one’s culture. Flowers throughout history have been used for their mind-altering effects. The poppy for instance evokes remembrance of those fallen in war, but also represents their medicinal ability to ease pain and our passage out of this world, or cause addiction. Flowers flavor and spice our food, or help heal our ailments through herbal remedies. Many countries around the globe have a national flower. Our hearts are lifted or broken through flowers, either cultured or wild. We are inspired by flowers through art, music and literature, whether exploring the sensuality of Georgia O’Keefe’s blossoms, or taking a trip down memory lane listening to Pete Seeger’s ageless melody, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” a song as relevant today as yesterday. Sadi, an ancient Sufi poet says, “buy hyacinths to feed thy soul.”

My photos are meant to inspire you to dig deep into your own relationship with flowers within the framework of your own specific cultures through each weekly sub-theme. My preference has always been to look closely into flowers in all stages of their lives: bud, blossom, fading. I find that looking into the heart of a flower one often finds oneself.

Banner Art courtesy of Sondra J. Byrnes Haiku Poet and Ikebana Artist

next week’s themeFlowers:  Traditions and Occasions  

There are many traditional uses of flowers, the most obvious ones being weddings, funerals and religious services around the globe. Countries, of course, have their own rules as to the appropriate selection of flowers for certain occasions. Grace Kelly mistakenly placed chrysanthemums beside a guest’s bedside table, and was berated for it because in Europe chrysanthemums are often given at funerals and in memory of the dead. Something to consider and research if you are a world traveler and want to gift a hostess flowers. Kate Middleton followed a 170-year-old tradition by including a sprig of myrtle from Queen Victoria’s garden in her wedding bouquet. Beyond traditional and formal occasions, we also gift or receive flowers as a means of communication, such as love, forgiveness, gratitude. We pay homage with flowers from birth to death: from flower girls scattering petals in wedding processions, to first prom corsages and boutonnieres, to celebrating personal milestones in our lives. I’ve never forgotten my first corsage as a teenager. I’ve hated gardenias ever since. We toss bouquets on stage to honor special performances. We preserve our memories through drying special occasion flowers, or pressing petals between the pages of thick books. Wreaths are present at commemoration services, or we lay them on graves. We bring leis back from Hawaii. We create daisy chains as children. Flowers are hostess gifts, birthday gifts, or purchased simply to lift our moods. The white calla lily represents purity and innocence. It was the flower my daughter chose for her wedding. Note the ladybug clinging to the tip. Whether receiving a gift of handpicked wildflowers, or a bouquet of Valentine red roses, flowers communicate, commemorate and/or celebrate. What memories or moments can you associate with these three words?

The deadline is midnight Pacific Daylight Time, Saturday May 28, 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 Carole’s commentary for flora as food and medicine:

My deepest thanks to all who continue to explore the language of flowers with me. I was amazed at the response to this week’s theme of flora as food or medicine. I had such a wonderful time reading your savory, sweet, medicinal and/or recreational moments, sometimes flavored with humor, other times flavored with sadness, many times flavored with memories. It was difficult to narrow down my choices. At times I looked up a foreign word to enrich my reading and understanding of certain haiku. What is familiar to one culture may not be familiar to another. Even if I didn’t choose your haiku this time, each haiku taught me something about your culture and for this I am appreciative. Many poems could have benefited by editing grammar and/or double-checking translation accuracy. I winnowed out poems of a similar nature and chose those that appealed to me most. In the end, I chose poems that offered the best of haiku as defined by the Haiku Society of America: “A haiku is a short poem that uses imagistic language to convey the essence of an experience of nature or the season intuitively linked to the human condition.”   I am most fond of haiku that resonate beyond a rich image. Here are a few of my favorites. You’ll find so many more haiku in the long list deserving of commentary. Please follow up in the comments with favorites of your own.

slug and I dining together wild strawberries

Deborah Karl-Brandt
Bonn, Germany

I enjoyed this poem as one who loves to forage for wild berries. Would I feel differently if these were berries grown in my backyard, where the slug is more often viewed as a pest to be destroyed? It reminds me a bit of Marlene Mountain’s ‘pig and I’ sharing the spring rain. It’s an intimate shared moment that acknowledges the slug’s right to eat too. It has the flavor of Buddhist teachings to do no harm to any living creature.

gran’s nettle soup
sprinkled with salt
and spells…

Adele Evershed
Wilton, Connecticut

There’s a lot to unpack with this deceptively simple haiku. First, nettle soup goes back to the Bronze Age, 3,000 years ago, so it’s easy to imagine the myths associated with this old recipe. The aha, or surprise in this haiku comes with the word ‘spells.’ Was gran a witch? I don’t think so. But who knows? Certainly, gran was capable of a little magic in the kitchen. The word has a mythical quality, as if the secrets to gran’s soup go back years and are known only to her. Isn’t it true that so often we try to remake our gran’s recipes but they never taste quite the same. The magic they add is known only to them. Of course, the sibilance of ‘soup/sprinkled/salt/spells’ adds its own magical sounds to this haiku, as if an incantation itself.

hemlock blooms in full view Buddha on the hill

Sonam Chhoki
Thimphu, Bhutan

This haiku has a powerful juxtaposition, and much can be read between the lines. In full view, you have Buddha on the hill, the enlightened one, and hemlock, a deadly poisonous plant. You may remember it as the poison that took Socrates’ life in 399 BCE. I’m grateful to learn more about hemlock because I didn’t realize it was dangerous even to touch. I like the way ‘in full view’ acts as a pivot between ‘hemlock blooms in full view,’ and the alternate reading of ‘in full view Buddha on the hill.’ Life and death, existing in full view together on the hill. Not just existing, but ‘blooms’ if you choose to read that word as a verb as well as a noun. While I’m not a Buddhist, I do think death and impermanence are important in Buddhist philosophy with death considered to be ever present and a natural part of our existence. Not a word is wasted when it comes to the crafting of this lovely haiku. And ‘hemlock/hill’ and ‘blooms/Buddha’ create a haiku that is rhythmic and pleasing to the ear as well as the heart and mind.

chamomile tea . . .
pressing pause
in each sip

Lori Kiefer
London, UK

Another haiku with so few words, yet each is weighted with meaning. There were many poems about chamomile tea, but this one offered room for speculation. It’s a sensory haiku with a strong image. I can see the steam, smell the tea, and imagine the relaxing benefits of sipping this hot herbal beverage. The magic comes with ‘pressing pause,’ a figurative phrase that suggests the very act of sipping this tea puts one’s life on hold for just a moment. There doesn’t need to be a backstory. Life is the backstory, with all its complications, worries, stresses, and lists of things to do. Don’t we all need to press pause from this crazy world? This is a haiku that suggests but doesn’t tell, which allows us as readers to enter the poem with our own interpretations of what it feels like to press pause and mindfully sit and sip a cup of chamomile tea. I debated whether it might be ‘with each sip,’ but that puts focus on the action of sipping whereas ‘in each sip’ puts the focus on the tea, which is the point to me.

midnight baking
a sip of spirits and caraway
on the seed cake

Kath Abela Wilson
California, USA

It’s so lovely to read a haiku that evokes something beyond the image. Too often I read haiku that spell out the entire story so in effect there are no associations to discover. How many have gotten up at midnight to bake a cake? What do you think it suggests? Haiku often work well when they ‘suggest’ as this one does. Midnight baking will mean different things to different readers. A young mother could have forgotten that their child was to take a cake to school. But to me, it suggests insomnia and a desire to put to good use this awake time in the creation of a cake, and hopefully, ‘a sip of spirits’ and scattering caraway seeds on the cake will lift one’s spirits too. Again, the sounds in this haiku work well, with ‘sip/spirits/seed,’ ‘caraway/cake,’ and the internal rhyme of ‘baking/caraway/cake.’ The poet’s carefully chosen words make this haiku memorable.

& here are the rest of the selections:

saving the best
for last—
edible orchid

Terri French
Huntsville, AL

 

zafaraan
an old houseboat
brims with stories

(zafraan is an Urdu word meaning saffron.)

Teji Sethi
India

 

election campaign
the fifth round
of mint tea

Lakshmi Iyer
India

 

smiling at life again –
Bach flowers …

Sonreír otra vez
a la vida
Flores de Bach

Julia Guzmán
Córdoba Argentina

 

jasmine qehwa
i drift from dream
to dream

Hifsa Ashraf
Rawalpindi, Pakistan

 

a puff of hookah-
full moon floats in the sky
on a new moon night

Ram Chandran
India

 

saffron threads
a scent of Kashmir
in my kheer

(kheer – a traditional rice pudding)

Mona Bedi
Delhi, India

 

basil tea
craving for mother
settles

Aparna Pathak
Gurugram, India

 

old girlfriend
always there when I need her
Mary Jane

Stephen A. Peters
Bellingham, WA

 

gathering rosemary Simon and Garfunkel in my head

Pris Campbell
US

 

posh restaurant
my father nibbling
on the garnish leaf

Jackie Chou
United States

 

saffron sky
the flavor of that kiss
still lingers

Ravi Kiran
India

 

lemon balm tea
a pale reminder
of summers past…

Tony Williams
Scotland, UK

 

out of her bed
and into a frying pan
squash blossom

Richard Straw
Cary, North Carolina

 

placebo effect –
a plastic orchid
in my tiki drink

D. M. MacDonald
Sacramento, California

 

buffalo grass
the taste of sunlight

martin gottlieb cohen
Egg Harbor, NJ U.S.

 

crushed jasmine petals
applied with a prayer
her mastitis wins

C P
Los Angeles

 

on her birthday
receiving edible love
Yunnan rose-cake

云南玫瑰饼
把爱藏在糕点里
献给心上人

yun nan mei gui bing
ba ai cang zai gao dian li
xian gei xin shang ren

Chen Xiaoou
Kunming, China

 

foxgloves
mom turns rosy
once more

Subir Ningthouja
Imphal, India

 

end of spring . . .
she adds just a hint
of chive blossom

Ronald Degler
Harbor City, California

 

tasting room
from the brandy glass
the scent of roses

Željko Vojković
Croatia

 

teff injera soaking up the scents of Ethiopia

Corine Timmer
Portugal/The Netherlands

 

saying it with flowers deadly nightshade

Jonathan Aylett
Liverpool UK

 

relieving
emotional stress–
matcha

Teiichi Suzuki
Japan

 

dandelion wine
the family christening
I forget

Tracy Davidson
Warwickshire, UK

 

tasting so strange
this dandelion salad –
a widowhood

Samo Kreutz
Ljubljana, Slovenia

 

chamomile tea
I dream
I’m pretty

Baisali Chatterjee Dutt
Kolkata, India

 

saffron milk
a daughter
unlike me

R. Suresh babu
India

 

herbs de Provence
grandmother’s love
the main ingredient

Bryan Rickert
Belleville, Illinois USA

 

Dad’s elderflower wine
too impatient
to let it mature

Ingrid Baluchi
North Macedonia

 

fried courgette flowers —
she says we are all soft
somewhere inside

Alan Peat
Biddulph, United Kingdom

 

summer breeze
from the garden
a whiff of tulsi

Manoj Sharma
Kathmandu

 

summer abroad
the neem flower rasam
takes me home

Srinivas S
India

 

hillside of chamomile
I pluck and eat
the sun

Sharon Sheppard
Magnolia, DE USA

 

butterfly pea flowers
a fistful of them
floating in her cup

M. R. Defibaugh
United States

 

Sunday night…
all the family gather
for minted lamb roast

Wanda Amos
Old Bar, Australia

 

belly breaths…
channeling the Qi
of frankincense

Richard Matta
San Diego, California

 

peppergrass
once bitten
bites back

Byron Sharpe
Baton Rouge, LA USA

 

saffron rice
a soldier dreams
of going home

Neena Singh
Chandigarh, India

 

around the wound shades of poultice

Arvinder Kaur
Chandigarh, India

 

rose bath
I’m Cleopatra
reincarnated

Vandana Parashar
India

 

chrysanthemum buds
unfolding
sipping tea ..

Rupa Anand
New Delhi, India

 

rose petal jam
a gift from Bulgaria …
taste of first love

Natalia Kuznetsova
Russia

 

schoolyard salvia
we sip its nectar silently
after our quarrel

Keiko Izawa
Japan

 

the difference
between night and day…
prayer plant

Laurie Greer
Washington, DC

 

mum’s lamb roast
with rosemary-
I’m home

Margaret Mahony
Australia

 

childhood memory
the scented shade
of strawberry grapes

Angiola Inglese
Rapallo-Italia

 

my daily
prescription in Kenya –
one baobab leaf

Dan Campbell
Virginia

 

pressed flower –
the memory of first love
always fresh

Mirela Brăilean
Romania

 

cut chrysanthemums –
now just a matter
of time

Connie Tash
United States

 

each night
reading to dad from Issa
poppies flow through him

Mircea Moldovan
România

 

Sunday
father adds more saffron
to the biryani

Minal Sarosh
Ahmedabad, India

 

a diet
of dandelion leaves
Poe’s cottage

(Edgar Allan Poe was said to be so destitute that he was forced to forage for dandelion leaves outside of his cottage located in The Bronx, New York.)

Jonathan Roman
Yonkers, New York

 

April ginkgo-
walking through rainbows
of ranunculus blooms

(The Flower Fields in Carlsbad, CA are awash with color for a short blooming period March to May each year.)

Carol Judkins
Carlsbad, CA United States

 

stinging nettles
the burning heat
of the soup

Marianne Sahlin
Sweden

 

calming the chaos
hibiscus tea
evening

Kathleen Mazurowski
Chicago, IL

 

nasturtium
garnish
her special touch

Susan Farner
United States

 

tossing in some roots dandelion tea

Roberta Beach Jacobson
Indianola, Iowa, USA

 

dinner plan(t)s

Barrie Levine
Massachusetts USA

 

trickles of light
smell of quince and pine
beyond the fog

Minko Tanev
Bulgaria

 

those days
everything made better
with a dock leaf

Amanda White
Morvah, Cornwall, UK

 

herbal tea
detoxifying
my toxic mind

Angelo Ancheta
Philippines

 

summer drink
—the rose garden
in a spoonful of gulkand

(gulkand is a sweet preserve of rose petals made in India)

Sushama Kapur
Pune, India

 

acacia flowers
in her colorful salad—
scents of May

Tomislav Maretić
Croatia

 

lavender spritz her monsters fall asleep

C.X. Turner
United Kingdom

 

lotus tea . . .
the lake’s evening breeze
in the old cup

Milan Rajkumar
Imphal, India

 

watching the rabbit watching me wild dandelion

Margaret Tau
New Bern, North Carolina

 

dandelion wine
all of the things
she didn’t say

Margie Gustafson
Lombard, IL USA

 

toasting
to our fortieth anniversary
an aged Cabernet

Bruce H. Feingold
Berkeley, CA USA

 

we begin
to hug again
chamomile

John S Green
Bellingham, WA

 

walk in the woods
no herbs
for her wounds

Zahra Mughis
Lahore, Pakistan

 

gathering thyme . . .
my mother still stuck
in the past

Florin C. Ciobica
Romania

 

Buddha’s day–
every dish contains
turmeric

Stephen J. DeGuire
Los Angeles, CA

 

rose jam
royal perceptions
away from home

Stoianka Boianova
Bulgaria

 

flecks of blue sky
lacing my drink …
borage flowers

Annie Wilson
Shropshire, UK

 

maple sap dripping
through the early morning frost
spring sticks

Maya Daneva
The Netherlands

 

taking
a chance on you –
wild mushroom

Valentina Ranaldi-Adams
Fairlawn, Ohio USA

 

sugared pansies
a taste of spring
tickling my tongue

Sharon Martina
Warrenville, IL

 

lavender ice cream
a paler shade of
purple fields

Mona Iordan
Romania

 

cilantro—
two kinds
of people

P. H. Fischer
Vancouver, Canada

 

as soothing
as a cello concerto…
carnation petal tea

kris moon kondo
Kiyokawa, Kanagawa, Japan

 

from here to the woods sunflowers high as me

Lev Hart
Calgary, Canada

 

monsoon…
misty green of tea leaves in
my morning cuppa

Joe Sebastian
Bangalore, India

 

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.

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 16 Comments

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed reading all the poems this week! There are many I love. Congratulations to all the poets and thanks to Carole for considering my poem worthy of publication.

  2. Thank you Carole for including my haiku.
    It’s such a pleasure to read these poems each week, congratulations to all.

  3. cilantro—
    two kinds
    of people
    /
    P. H. Fischer
    Vancouver, Canada
    /
    This haiku implies a basic truth about food while using only five words.. When it comes to a food item, there are often two types of people – those who like the item and those who do not. I like cilantro and I like this haiku.

    1. I’m so glad you pointed out this poem Valentina. It was one of my favorites too, and I’m happy to hear your interpretation is exactly the same as mine. In my experience, with cilantro it’s love it, or hate it! (I love it!)

      Carole

      1. Thanks for the comments, Valentina, simon and Carole!

        For the record, I am firmly on the Team Cilantro side. As it stands we’re up 3-1 (sorry, simon). Yay Cilantro! 😉

        Peter

    2. Peter’s haiku was one of my favorite poem from this week’s fragrant bunch. I smiled immediately upon reading it. Such simple well-played humor is not easy yet Peter did it.
      .
      cilantro—
      two kinds
      of people
      .
      P. H. Fischer
      Vancouver, Canada
      .
      I never had cilantro growing up. My mother was a big parsley person—mainly as a garnish. When I went through a health phase I learned that parsley is one of the best foods to eat so I juiced it and put it on things, even then not for the taste. Not till after I began to cook in earnest after I turned thirty did I discover cilantro and the many ways to use it—and it added flavor!

      Peter has written an instant classic, for me.

      1. Great comments John. Thanks! Cilantro…I was late to this herb as well, but basically discovered it through Mexican food, tacos….can’t live without it now!
        Carole

      2. Very kind, thanks John and Corine. I had fun with this one.
        Wow, juicing parsley! I’ll add it to my bucket list 😉
        Peter

        1. Totally by coincidence, Peter has the Haiku of the Day today:
          .
          Haiku of the Day
          .
          dump truck
          a boy unloads
          his first expletive
          .
          —P.H. Fischer
          .
          I was thinking that, perhaps, this boy should have his mouth washed out with cilantro!

    3. When I was little I hated cilantro. I told my mother it tasted of soap. I began to love it when I moved to Portugal twenty two years ago. This is a great poem.

  4. Many thanks to you, Carole MacRury🙂🙏 for including this ku of mine in this week’s ‘Haiku Dialogue’. Congratulations to all featured haijins!

  5. Thank-you Carole for publishing mine. Thank-you to all who make this column possible. Thank-you also to all the poets who submitted regardless of whether or not your haiku was selected.

  6. What a wonderful collection of haiku celebrating the theme, flora as food or medicine. Kudos to those poets highlighted, and to guest editor Carole MacRury for weeding through all the entries and providing insight into what makes a haiku truly blossom. And of course thanks to editors Lori and Katherine for their weekly contributions behind the scenes.
    Among my favorite haiku, Lori Kiefer’s chamomile tea, Sharon Shepherd’s hillside of chanomile, Mirela Brailean’s pressed flower, Carol Judkins’ April ginkgo, and C.X. Turner’s lavender spritz her monsters fall asleep.
    As always, I will return to this week’s THF Haiku Dialogue to savor at leisure all the entries.

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