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HAIKU DIALOGUE – The Language of Flowers – Flowers as National Symbols

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

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 themeThe Scent of Flowers:  Memories and Emotion  

Smell is our strongest sense and just a whiff can trigger sudden memories and intense emotions. Or if scent-sensitive, cause adverse physical reactions, especially in pollen season or crowded perfumed spaces. Others find scents mood-enhancing as in lighting scented candles while taking a bath, or setting a romantic scene.

We are drawn to scents in many ways. Sometimes following them down a garden path, or choosing products we use every day like cologne, toothpaste, shampoo, soap, cleaning products, health and beauty products, diffusers, incense, and aromatherapy. A waft of floral scent can come to us on the wind – from a garden, from someone’s perfume, or a bar of soap – and immediately trigger a memory. The scent of rose, lavender, ylang-ylang and others can bring back the scent of grandmothers, of lavender sachets for lingerie drawers or incense we might have burned in the ’60s. Every country around the world has their own highly scented and favored flowers. We sometimes find comfort in holding on to clothing that carries the fragrance of a loved one who has passed on.

Have you experienced a moment where a sudden fragrance brings a sense of longing, of happiness, or perhaps evokes a detailed memory or intense emotion about a person or particular moment in your life? I chose a photo of a wild rose as the scent will always bring back my home. I wonder if the rich scent of wild rose bushes triggered memories in Issa as he walked to his village.

the closer I get
to my village, the more pain . . .
wild roses

Kobayashi Issa: 1763-1828

(Permission granted by David G. Lanoue: Haiku of Kobayashi Issa (haikuguy.com))

The deadline is midnight Pacific Daylight Time, Saturday May 14, 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 flowers as national symbols:


My thanks to everyone for submitting haiku to what I thought might be a difficult prompt. We don’t often think of our national flower, and in fact, some of you may have had to look it up. Along with haiku written to the theme of a national flower were haiku moments and memories inspired by specific flowers. I received many haiku related to poppies and sunflowers which was to be expected because of the ongoing war. But, I was hoping to see a bit of myth, character, personality and cultural exchange surrounding various national flowers and I wasn’t disappointed.

I was particularly impressed with the range of haiku from India, where the national flower, the lotus, is an important part of daily life. While I believe a haiku should be able to stand on its own without googling, I found myself looking up certain flowers and unfamiliar words to deepen my understanding of the haiku, especially if it had spoken to me just as it was. Some unfortunately lost strength without their reference, and I strongly encourage those poets to express their haiku within a haibun. Some made it very difficult for me to choose between two fine poems! But I love that, so not complaining. Perhaps I’ll see some of those again as we move through the many languages of flowers.

My favorites cover a range of responses to the prompt. In the end, it’s always the poem itself that will win me over. I looked for strong images, careful crafting, rhythm, and room for the reader to round out the poem. Also important to me is freshness and originality over poems that restate what we already know. While we learn from history, we are most touched by humanity and those special moments of universality that bring us together. Thank you all for rising to the challenge and sharing your personal insights as inspired by flowers. I was deeply touched by many of them. Please choose a few favorites of your own and let our poets know in the comments below.

late afternoon
a Scottish bee wing-deep
in a thistle

Tony Williams
Scotland, UK

What a unique and sweet way to introduce us to Scotland’s national flower, the thistle. I absolutely loved ‘wing-deep’ and it immediately brought to mind, ‘bottoms-up,’ a toast to drinking the very last drop, draining the cup, much like the bee burrowing to the bottom of the thistle to get the last grains of pollen. The late afternoon setting had me joining this little bee, only maybe in a local Scottish pub. This haiku took me to Scotland. A good use of descriptive language; ‘ wing-deep’ makes this haiku memorable.

lotus petals —
the many tongues
of a prayer

Anju Kishore
Chennai, India

The lotus is the national flower of India. It is a flower rich in meaning and myth and is nationally revered. As the author mentioned in a footnote, India is a land of multiple faiths. I would add that India is also a land of multiple tongues with 22 separate official languages and countless dialects. I find this an exceptional haiku in that it opens with a strong image and follows up with a deeply associative phrase that unifies languages and religions under the auspices of a common sacred flower, the lotus. On the technical side, I appreciate the sounds within this haiku, the ‘p’s and ‘t’s that bind this haiku together. Also the subtle metaphor of ‘petals’ as it relates to people. It is a unifying haiku that has deep layers and has the ability to bridge cultures if we consider the many tongues of the world.

black roses in her garden a little anarchy

Susan Burch
Hagerstown, MD

Who hasn’t felt a bit rebellious? Symbolically, a black rose hints of danger and has been a recurring symbol in anarchist ideology throughout the world. This rare flower is deeply symbolic and rich in history and myth. Depending on where you stop to breathe, is the ‘little anarchy’ in the garden, or in the thoughts of the woman who planted black roses in her garden. I sense both. I see a woman who isn’t afraid to express her individuality and defend her freedom of choice, something that currently is under threat right now. Or, perhaps she’s just a unique character in the neighborhood who refuses to follow the status quo. Or she simply loves black roses. It works well in its one-line form and for me expressed the ongoing struggle for women’s rights.

rosehips
the slow release
of hidden truths

John Hawkhead
England

Roses are adored for their beauty, scent and red roses in particular symbolize love and romance. Yet, hidden beneath those petals are the beginnings of the rosehip, a fruit that begins to ripen once the petals begin to fall off. This is a development not often noticed, unless one is aware of the many health benefits of this fruit and patiently awaits the time they can be picked and put to use such as teas, oils, jams and jellies. The space between the fragment and phrase allows the reader to imagine not just the hidden truths of the rose but associate it also to the time it takes to discover the hidden truths related to our lives. I would love to contemplate some of those hidden truths over a steamy cup of rosehip tea!

rose petal tea
a quiet pour
of sunrise

Barrie Levine
Massachusetts USA

This is a quiet, reflective haiku and works well without a lengthy analysis. I’m partial to sensory haiku and I enjoyed the figurative language of ‘a quiet pour of sunrise.’ This phrase brings in the image of a slowly rising sun, but also suggests the sound of that first pour of tea. It’s a moment full of peace, warmth, scent and taste.

lotus moon
robin slips in
a prayer note

Daya Bhat
India

There are so many possibilities to unpack with this sensory haiku. The setting suggests a meditative moment in the presence of a lotus moon. Both lotus and moon are highly symbolic images in India and are often inked together as a tattoo to indicate enlightenment or feminine power. The usual image is of a crescent moon together with the national flower, the lotus. Whether I imagine myself enjoying the moon, or in a yoga class, or a meditation or prayer group, the surprise comes in the last line, the birdsong, the ‘prayer note’ slipped into the silence of a meditative moment.

& here are the rest of the selections:

light shift
a new spot for
mother’s blue irises

Robert Kingston
Chelmsford, United Kingdom

 

A gunmetal sky
blood-red poppies rage
before the storm

John Lanyon
The Cotswolds, UK

 

lotus pose
mind slowly empties
of thoughts

Anitha Varma
Kerala, India

 

petals
from a paper poppy
common ground

marilyn ashbaugh
edwardsburg, Michigan

 

sweet lilac scent
blooms tucked away
in Mom’s bosom

Elena Malec
Irvine, California

 

the murkiness
of potted waters
urban lotus

Ravi Kiran
India

 

prom night
learning about the weeds
among the flowers

Stephen A. Peters
Bellingham, WA

 

first buds —
now paper poppies
are fading

Alan Peat
Biddulph, United Kingdom

 

first to bloom
rose bush of a neighbor
on vacation

Richard Straw
Cary, North Carolina

 

carolina jasmine mother drawn in yellow

Pris Campbell
United States

 

the vast cosmos
a new playground for the rich …
my cosmos flowers

(The cosmos flower symbolises peace and wholeness)

Natalia Kuznetsova
Russia

 

dandelions
national flower
of suburbia

Peggy Hale Bilbro
Alabama/Italia

 

wilted rose our fading women’s rights

(red rose is the USA National flower)

Bryan Rickert
Belleville, Illinois USA

 

dried carnation
so many promises
unfulfilled

Samo Kreutz
Ljubljana, Slovenia

 

o flower of Scotland
I too
have my spiky side

Tracy Davidson
Warwickshire, UK

 

cornflower field
a long look
with children’s eyes

Helga Stania
Switzerland

 

spring wind
time to say goodbye
ripe dandelion

Slobodan Pupovac
Zagreb, Croatia

 

sunflowers
the way they surround
the world

Vibeke Laier
Randers, Denmark

 

dark-maroon tulip deepening my devotion

Corine Timmer
Portugal/The Netherlands

 

knowing nothing about war and peace sunflower fields

Eva Limbach
Germany

 

wiejski autobus
wysiadam tam
gdzie kwitną jabłonie

country bus
I get off there
where apple-trees bloom

Wiesław Karliński
Namysłów, Poland

 

flame lily
the flowering
and the poison

Keith Evetts
Thames Ditton UK

 

plum blossom or peony
that’s a question
Made in China

梅花或牡丹
百花争艳在中国
国花难定夺

mei hua huo mu dan
bai hua zheng yan zai zhong guo
guo hua nan ding duo

Chen Xiaoou
Kunming, China

 

lotus in mud
what we tell ourselves
about ourselves

Vandana Parashar
India

 

red roses
in the Bulgarian embassy
homesickness

Tsanka Shishkova
Bulgaria

 

rendezvous
between dead wood and a rose . . .
ikebana

Alfred Booth
Colombes, France

 

the white lotus
with a golden heart
mother Teresa

Amrutha Prabhu
Bengaluru, India

 

visitorless shrine–
on the stone for prayers
fallen sakura

Teiichi Suzuki
Japan

 

splitting
the silence of the night
a blue poppy

(blue poppy is the national flower of Bhutan)

Teji Sethi
India

 

cherry blossoms …
the windblown notes
of our favorite song

D. M. MacDonald
Sacramento, California

 

plum blossoms
every line on her face
a battle fought

Jackie Chou
United States

 

jazz night
from a blue diary
lavender smell

Mircea Moldovan
România

 

as if a poem
about sunflowers
could do anything . . .

M. R. Defibaugh
United States

 

grandpa’s garden
his roses still climb
to heaven

Pat Davis
NH USA

 

forgotten birthday
I blow dandelion tufts
one by one

Nisha Raviprasad
India

 

national day of mourning
already wilted
the golden wattle

Alice Wanderer
Australia

 

daffodils
the baby takes
one two three
steps

Roberta Beary
Mayo, Ireland

 

flower show
i recite daffodils
on the lawn

R. Suresh babu
India

 

humanity’s
symbolic tree –
the weeping willow

Dan Campbell
Virginia

 

trade winds
learning the French word
for poppies

Mariel Herbert
California, USA

 

golden wattle
between the snow gums
stars

(Australia’s elite sportsmen aren’t the only ones who love a bit of green and gold—Queen Elizabeth II wore golden wattle on her official coronation gown when she took the throne on June 2, 1953. Australian wattle appeared alongside other floral emblems representing different corners of the British Empire, including New Zealand’s fern, South Africa’s protea, Canada’s maple leaf and India’s lotus flower.)

Louise Hopewell
Australia

 

murky waters
where hope floats…
land of the lotus

Baisali Chatterjee Dutt
Kolkata, India

 

cherry blossom night
genji’s seduction
floats in the moonlight

Keiko Izawa
Japan

 

a mixed bag
the bulbs I planted
rearranged by squirrels

Hege A. Jakobsen Lepri
Oslo/Toronto

 

American Beauty…
what still needs
to be stated

Laurie Greer
Washington, DC

 

birdsong
in the sunflower field
artillery adjustments

Kathleen Trocmet
Texas, USA

 

the weight
of your lotus eyes
stillborn

Arvinder Kaur
Chandigarh, India

 

daisy chain
holding my happiness
in your palm

Joanna Ashwell
United Kingdom

 

magic
without borders
seeds

Roberta Beach Jacobson
Indianola, Iowa, USA

 

anniversary –
whispering his name
to a rose

anniversario –
sussurrando il suo nome
ad una rosa

Maria Teresa Piras
Serrenti – Italy

 

in late winter
a wild viola plays spring…
remembrance

Bittor Duce Zubillaga
Basque Country

 

around a jeepney’s cross
sampaguita garland…
home sweet home

Lorelyn De la Cruz Arevalo
Bombon, Philippines

 

our daffodils
too much hiraeth
for one garden

(Hiraeth is a Welsh word for a type of homesickness/grief for the lost or departed, especially in the context of Wales and Welsh culture.)

Christopher Peys
Los Angeles, CA

 

bees in flight
on the coast road
strawberry trees

api in volo
on the coast road
corbezzoli

Angiola Inglese
Rapallo-Italia

 

bowing down
under the sky’s colour –
bluebells

Marianne Sahlin
Sweden

 

chill autumn
chrysanthemums glow
on a golden afternoon

Heather Lurie
Canterbury, New Zealand

 

Illinois natives
violets remain
the Shawnee long gone

Susan Farner
USA

 

mom’s blue iris –
a bumper crop
of memories

Colette Kern
United States

 

my plan
to outlast Putin
a sunflower tie

Jimmy Pappas
United States

 

a hillside
of california poppies
scent of asphalt

Sondra Byrnes
Sante Fe, New Mexico, United States

 

family time
stringing marigold chains
for her wedding

(Marigold is the state flower of Gujarat)

Minal Sarosh
Ahmedabad, India

 

cascading waterfall the splash of hillside poppies

Richard L. Matta
San Diego, California, USA

 

named after the lotus
I decide to grow
my inner beauty

Padma Rajeswari
Mumbai, India

 

teaching me
to accept the dark
wild rose

Radostina Dragostinova
Bulgaria

 

fading roses
she lets go
of my hand

Jonathan Roman
Yonkers, New York

 

Edelweiss…
the scent of courage
in the tea vapors

Elisa Allo
Zug, Switzerland

 

Your very name
is a poem – Iris,
my little girl.

Nikola Đuretić
Zagreb, Croatia

 

far from crowds
acacia globes brighten
her living room

Tuyet Van Do
Melbourne, Australia

 

sunlight through the new dawn rose

C.X. Turner
United Kingdom

 

summer picnic-
all the tulips
on mom’s dress

mona bedi
India

 

pressed red rose
how subtle the scent
of nationalism

James Gaskin
Fukushima, Japan

 

Memorial Day –
a frisky child
in a poppy field

Dan Iulian
România

 

champa flower
the intoxicating fragrance
of a childhood memory

Madhuri Pillai
Australia

 

irises on the islet—
they flourished before
our arrival

Tomislav Maretić
Croatia

 

lotus pond
detachment
from politics

Kavya Janani. U
India

 

fiori d’arancio…
ho dimenticato
di dimenticare

orange flowers…
I forgot
to forget

Giuliana Ravaglia
Bologna Italia

 

my love life’s short season
Sakura blooms
forever on Instagram

Melanie Vance
USA

 

Mariupol—
in the bomb shelter
a dream of sunflowers

Helen Ogden
Pacific Grove, CA

 

a petal
for each haiku line . . .
white trillium

(The white trillium is the official wildflower of Ohio.)

Valentina Ranaldi-Adams
Fairlawn, Ohio USA

 

setting the stage
for family traditions
Texas bluebonnets

Claire Vogel Camargo
USA

 

another lotus
in the lotus pond…
new at the brothel door

(Lotus is a national flower of India)

Devoshruti Mandal
India

 

Day of the Dead
I buy an armload
of marigolds

Cynthia Anderson
Yucca Valley, California

 

shamrocks . . .
the remembered scent
of mother’s stories

Lori Kiefer
London, UK

 

her dance card full
of admirers
showy lady slipper

Caroline Giles Banks
Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

 

drought
spent blossoms pregnant
with memory

Carol Judkins
Carlsbad, CA USA

 

forest echoes –
a lumberjack trampling on
the field of irises

Franjo Ordanić
Croatia

 

the halo around
a hazy moon…
night blooming jasmine

Genie Nakano
Gardena, CA

 

red roses –
so many words
left unsaid

Annie Wilson
Shropshire, UK

 

rumors of war
lilacs are late
this year

Margie Gustafson
Lombard, Illinois USA

 

mom’s peonies still scenting her absence

Florin C. Ciobica
Romania

 

edelweiss…
I wish I was
just as pure

Cristina-Valeria Apetrei
Romania

 

bowing
at the forest edge
dogwood bloom

(The Pacific Dogwood is the official flower of the province of British Columbia in Canada)

P. H. Fischer
Vancouver, Canada

 

golden poppy fields the bumpy road to Tinseltown

Bona M. Santos
Los Angeles, CA

 

admiring her reflection
in the garden pond
flowering dogwood

Margaret Tau
New Bern, North Carolina

 

a vacant playground overgrown with red poppies

Sharon Martina
Illinois, USA

 

the sharp sorrow of reliving
old love —
bitterroot with sugar

(The haiku references the state flower of Montana)

Ash Lippert
South Carolina, USA

 

fallen sunflower
so many sun- ripened seeds
spilled

(National flower of Ukraine, the sunflower)

Susan Rogers
Los Angeles

 

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 21 Comments

  1. Thank you dear poets for trusting me with your work. Unfortunately I have to be selective, so please don’t give up if your poem doesn’t appear. That doesn’t mean it won’t find a home elsewhere.

  2. Thrilled to have the national flower of the Philippines included, thank you so much Editor Carole. Thank you also Editors Kath and Lori.

  3. Thank you so much Carole MacRury for including my poem with a beautiful commentary. Very happy my haiku shares space here on Haiku Dialogue with all other wonderful poems. Thanks kjmunro and Lori – team HD!

  4. The feeling I had writing my haiku on sunflowers was helplessness. That does not show in my haiku, but it is implied. Innocent people are dying and suffering, and all I can do about it seems to be to write haiku and wear a sunflower tie. I wish I could do more.

  5. Thank you very much, Carole MacRury for your appreciative commentary on my haiku. Glad and honoured that you liked it. A pleasure to savour so many gems here. Thank you, THF and congratulations, poets!

  6. Thanks to Carole MacRury for including my haiku in this great collection. Congratulations to all the authors. I have read very emotional haiku. Reading the comments is invaluable.

  7. as if a poem
    about sunflowers
    could do anything . . .
    /
    M. R. Defibaugh
    United States
    /
    Many poets are writing about sunflowers even if only the poets feel a little better.

    1. It would be nice if it could do more, but we should write about what is going on in the world. I don’t mean to disparage any of the good sunflower haiku that have been written. My poem probably isn’t one of those, but a sunflower poem, nonetheless. It criticizes itself, but I also liked that it could be about something else, an unknown. Thanks for highlighting it. Thanks to Carole for including it!

    2. I agree many sunflower poems are being written and as we have seen, it has united the world around Ukraine. It has become a symbol. And resulted in many excellent poems. However, we can’t deny our feelings, and this haiku was chosen for what I felt was an honest acknowledgment of the sense of hopelessness we can feel watching war at a distance.

  8. Thanks to Carole MacRury for including mine, and congratulations to all the authors for the beautiful lines I was able to read. there is always a lot to learn here …

  9. A haiku bouquet expressing our collective minds, bold and beautiful. Thank you to each author for a trip to their countries and to Carole for arranging the bouquet. Living in the United States this week two linger in my mind: Bryan Rickert’s wilted rose and Laurie Greer’s clever American Beauty.

  10. Congrats to all the poets. Such poignant, well expressed haiku throughout the column. Just a quick skim over all of them and I found such gems among them. Peggy Bilbro’s dandelion one made me chuckle and Bryan Rickert’s women’s rights was excellent (and on point considering…). Valentina Ranaldi-Adams haiku about white trillium and comparison to haiku lines. Susan Burch’s black rose anarchy monoku was another that struck me. I know there are many more to read more thoroughly throughout the week, but considering the quality of the ones I quickly noticed, I am glad neither of mine was chosen.
    Loved the commentary, too. It was illuminating.

  11. I love this weeks prompt and all the beautiful responses… I look forward to being able to thank each poet as they post their’s on FB ;}

  12. Welcome Carole and thank-you for publishing my haiku. It is always a pleasure to be published. Thank-you also to Kathy and Lori. Congrats to all the poets.

  13. I always look forward to Wednesday mornings when the results of Haiku Dialogue are posted. Kudos to all who shared in this haiku experience.

    I especially liked the depth of John Hawkhead’s haiku,

    rosehips
    the slow release
    of hidden truths

    I liked weeding through the layers of possibilities in Susan Burch’s haiku,

    black roses in her garden a little anarchy

    and I found the humor of Peggy Hale Bilbro’s delightful,

    dandelions
    national flower
    of suburbia

    A special thanks to guest editor Carole MacRury (the insightful commentary provided weekly is so important to my getting to the next level when it comes to writing haiku) and those behind the scenes who make this weekly haiku learning experience possible.

  14. In abundance
    a vine of coloured scent
    crosses the globe

    Wow! What a wonderful introduction to this world of national flowers.
    Thank you Carole MacRury for including mine among this great collection.
    Congratulations to all poets.
    As always, a big thank you to KJ and Lori for keeping the inspiration going.

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