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HAIKU DIALOGUE – The Language of Flowers – Flowers: Nectar lovers and pollinators

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 theme:  Flowers:  Color symbolism 

The prompt this week is color symbolism. While meanings may differ around the globe, here is a generalized list that might inspire you.

It can be helpful to know the meaning and symbolism of colors if sending flowers while in a foreign country. For instance, the Imperial flower of Japan is the red or orange chrysanthemum and it can be found on crests, certain government documents and passports. A white chrysanthemum is used exclusively for funerals, so it would be a faux pas to gift your host with white chrysanthemums. In fact, since reading up on the Language of Flowers, I’ve come to a richer understanding of Ryota’s famous haiku, knowing now that ‘white chrysanthemum’ might suggest someone had died.

they spoke no words
the visitor, the host
and the white chrysanthemum

— Oshima Ryota (1718-1787) (tr. R. H. Blyth)

Red, on the other hand, especially a red rose, represents love and passion, and is gifted by lovers. However, one would choose the softer tones of pink to gift a child’s dance performance or music recital. Pink represents innocence, gentleness and grace, and platonic love. The image I’ve chosen is pink, but the pose of the unopened buds suggests mother and child, birth, or new beginnings. It spoke to me. Maybe it will speak to you too. Please write a haiku inspired by the image, or choose a color/flower from the link above that speaks to you.

The deadline is midnight Pacific Daylight Time, Saturday June 18, 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 nectar lovers and pollinators:

I received an overwhelming and wonderful response to this week’s prompt on insects. It made choosing poems for commentary and for the longer list even more difficult, but I am not complaining as reading through each haiku was a joy. I often felt Issa looking over my shoulder. Deep thanks to all of you for your submissions. With so many entries it’s only natural that many fine haiku will not make either list. Sometimes it’s because of repeat themes, other times it’s small grammatical mistakes, or the poems come across as statements or simple facts, or use a general term when a more specific term would evoke a better image and have more resonance. Subtlety, strong imagery, and evocative juxtaposition work best for me. Of course, it’s about personal preference, and I take full responsibility for my own preferences and taste in the aesthetics of haiku, and encourage poets whose poems are not on either list to submit them elsewhere. Editors are all different, as I’ve found out so many times with my own haiku. I will not argue my choices but encourage you to take advantage of the comment section to make your own favorites known. We are here to inspire our muse and to inspire each other. I could have kept on commenting but stopped at eight. I dearly hope that all of you take the time to comment on your own favorites. There are so many other fine haiku that deserve a nod from their fellow poets.

inchworm …
the bending and straightening
of my thoughts

Ram Chandran
India

I was happy to see the little inchworm granted its place among the nectar lovers and pollinators. Its duality lies in the fact that in its worm stage it’s a pest to plants, but in its moth stage it’s a good pollinator. This duality transfers itself to the dualism of the mind as it bends and straightens between two aspects of thought, much as the inchworm measures its way along its route. Like the inchworm’s measured movements, our minds, too, measure competing forces seeking a way to balance thought much as the little hunched inchworm balances its body. A delightful juxtaposition.

praying for peace . . .
deep in the lily’s throat
a bee’s hum

Sonam Chhoki
Bhutan

I could really feel a connection to nature in Sonam’s multilayered haiku. While many of us are praying for peace in this troubled world, it felt as if the bee, too, deep in the lily’s throat, was offering up its own prayer. And the lily recalls the peace lily, a symbol of peace, hope and rebirth, among many other meanings. The bee’s hum becomes a mantra to all prayers. It felt like a powerful trinity – human, bee, and lily. A prayer, singly and together.

the load
on the bee’s knees
earth day

Sarah Metzler
United States

The power of Sarah’s haiku lies in the words ‘load’ and ‘knees.’ Both are loaded words in that they offer subtle meanings and connotations. The word ‘load’ could be considered a heavy weight, a burden, a responsibility and/or it could refer to a physical weight or a psychic weight. The latter invites human empathy with the bee whose pollen pockets are packed and who can carry up to half its body weight in pollen. The fact that this weight is carried on the bee’s knees offers a subtle comparison to our human knees, and how they, too, might bend under a heavy weight. The juxtaposition of ‘earth day,’ a day set aside for promoting concern for the environment, adds to the importance of this bee to our lives, and the psychic weight we carry as we ponder the future of this most important pollinator who is so vitally linked to our own future. This is a good example of how careful and meaningful word choices can connote meanings beyond just a literal one.

ant
this world
is a sundew world

Keith Evetts
Thames Ditton UK

I can’t help but think Issa would have appreciated this haiku. He also liked to speak directly to insects. It also recalls one of Issa’s most famous haiku about a dewdrop world, which expressed the fleetingness of life, the loss of his young child. Here, ‘sundew world’ at first sounds pretty, but not when you know it can refer to a carnivorous bog plant. Eat or be eaten, the cycle of life, the food chain. A cautionary tale to the ant and a cautionary tale to us.

summer gossip
the butterflies
come to tea

Baisali Chatterjee Dutt
Kolkata, India

Another haiku that utilizes strong imagery to connote something beyond just the literal meaning of the haiku. I first envisioned a summer tea party where ladies might gather to sip tea and gossip. It’s a lovely scene – ladies gossiping, butterflies flitting, tea being sipped. Yet, with the appearance of the butterflies, I suddenly saw the ladies in a new light. I could feel a strong comparison between the guests and the butterflies. Are the guests like butterflies, drawn to the tea for gossip? Or are they, like the butterflies, simply flitting about from subject to subject, all dressed in their colorful attire at a summer tea party? Either way I enjoyed reading into this poem.

honeycomb–
my father houses me
and the swarming bees

Pris Campbell
USA

On the surface, ‘honeycomb’ suggests the father was a beekeeper. But this haiku walks that thin line between haiku and senryu if one looks closely at the connotations of each word. I personally love a story that lives between the lines. On the surface I appreciate the geometric structure of a honeycomb filled with the sweetness of honey and the idea of a father tending not only his hive, but his daughter who still lives at home. As a parent who raised teenagers long ago, and as a teenager once myself, I am reminded of the swarm of suitors drawn in by the sweetness of youth, and the concerns of parents. I feel the father’s careful tending of both home and honeycomb, both swarming bees and swarming suitors.

getting
all the attention
last chrysanthemum

Bryan Rickert
Belleville, Illinois USA

Another wonderfully understated haiku. No insect is mentioned, and that turns out to be a wise choice in my opinion. The ‘last chrysanthemum’ suggests the blooming season is coming to an end. One can imagine those late bees scurrying around to gather what pollen and nectar they could before fall and winter set in. On the other hand, those who have gardens can also appreciate the attention not only of pollinators at the last chrysanthemum in the garden, but people as well, as their eyes linger on the last lovely blossom of summer.

the bee and me
drunk again on
wild white indigo

John Pappas
United States

White wild indigo is a handsome member of the legume family. Standing at over three feet tall, this spring bloomer waves above the surrounding vegetation and is very attractive to pollinators like bees, moths, and butterflies. Bees do get drunk in summer heat by sipping too much fermented nectar. Humans, too, get drunk or get high on fermented spirits, but we also get high or drunk on intense feelings. White wild indigo can fill a prairie and look quite lovely. Bee and human both, in their own way, demonstrate a sense of intoxication from the profusion of the white wild indigo. I appreciate the fact that this moment is seasonal, experienced not just once, but each season the white wild indigo appears.

& here are the rest of the selections:

violin note—
a grasshopper climbs
the corn stalk

Daipayan Nair
India

 

connecting
one flower to another
the trail of ants

Samo Kreutz
Ljubljana, Slovenia

 

joining the dots
a ladybird
crawls into my cosmos

Tracy Davidson
Warwickshire, UK

 

weary bee
so many
wildflowers

Rehn Kovacic
Mesa, AZ

 

regretting
I am not a bee –
alpine flowers

(allusion to Emily Dickinson)

Natalia Kuznetsova
Russia

 

garden party–
Oswego tea with sand wasps
and fritillaries

Laurie Greer
Washington, DC

 

a bumble bee
buzzes the blossoms
on my blouse

Helen Ogden
Pacific Grove, CA

 

woodland walk …
I follow the butterflies
into summer

Lori Kiefer
UK

 

humming bees
the stories in my heart
so silent

Arvinder Kaur
Chandigarh, India

 

the sound
of a foreign language
honeybees

Pat Davis
NH USA

 

praying mantis
all the things i keep
wishing for

Mona Bedi
Delhi, India

 

wildflowers –
the bees buzz
a little louder

Milan Rajkumar
Imphal, India

 

tireless
a bee collects
the mellow light

Mona Iordan
Romania

 

campsite
the rising embers
of fireflies

Padma Rajeswari
Mumbai, India

 

morning light—
a hummingbird changes
its colors

Tomislav Maretić
Croatia

 

buzzing bumble bee
a lotus bud
unfurls spring

R. Suresh babu
India

 

buzzing wisteria –
I too need
to feel hectic

Cristina Povero
Italy

 

butterfly among
the wildflowers
enough space for both of us

Stephen A. Peters
Bellingham WA

 

accepting
the bee’s handshake
foxglove

J E Jeanie Armstrong
Canterbury UK

 

tending
the garden
bee and I

petro c. k.
Seattle, Washington

 

passing a butterfly passing me

Roberta Beach Jacobson
Indianola, Iowa, USA

 

pollination . . .
the blush
of a nearby rose

D. M. MacDonald
Sacramento, California

 

Symphony of bees
striking a chord
with me

Vivienne Tregenza
Penzance

 

death’s sting
a host of bees explores
the graveyard

Richard Straw
Cary, North Carolina

 

my lying eyes–
a hummingbird moth
in the plumbago

Sondra J. Byrnes
United States

 

lucid moon
water ant rows
a lotus leaf

Daya Bhat
India

 

haiku postcard
a ladybug climbing
the peony stamp

Elena Malec
California, USA

 

brook’s murmur
fireflies brink
on and off

Teiichi Suzuki
Japan

 

at home
spider in the dried
casket flowers

Maurice Nevile
Canberra, Australia

 

ray of light
the wing of a ladybug reveals
a rainbow

raggio di luce
l’ala di una coccinella rivela
un arcobaleno

Dennys Cambarau
Sardinia, Italy

 

first wattle
in the bowl
a green caterpillar

Margaret Mahony
Australia

 

butterfly
folded wings
on a withered flower

Slobodan Pupovac
Zagreb, Croatia

 

kindergarteners
searching for bee-color
in the crayon box

Barrie Levine
Massachusetts USA

 

café patio
a hawk-moth
sipping nectar

Laurie D. Morrissey
United States

 

the daisy bee –
my silence begins
after yours

Richa Sharma
India

 

city birds
dining al fresco. . .
our unsprayed yard

Lorraine Pester
Mission, Texas USA

 

sitting pretty on the blossom glasswing

Marion Clarke
Warrenpoint, Northern Ireland

 

bees in pirate pants boarding the morning glories

Dan Campbell
Virginia

 

wind chime
a bumblebee deep
in the sage blossom

Helga Stania
Switzerland

 

levitating the honeybee catnip

Victor Ortiz
Bellingham, WA

 

rose to lavender
lavender to rose
a bumblebee’s day

Mark Meyer
Mercer Island WA USA

 

milkweed blossom
the bee too drunk
to buzz

Neena Singh
Chandigarh, India

 

a butterfly’s shadow
flits across sunflowers
day’s end

Srinivas S
Rishi Valley, India

 

my muse…
a bee flies away
with a garden

Minal Sarosh
Ahmedabad, India

 

honeybee bending a white wild indigo

Richard Matta
San Diego, California USA

 

bees and butterflies
my son asks if flowers
get pregnant too

Vandana Parashar
India

 

as if roses
are not red enough
fire bugs

Ingrid Baluchi
North Macedonia

 

blood sage the whir of a hummingbird moth

Cynthia Anderson
Yucca Valley, California

 

summer heat
on my shadow
an army of ants

Anna Yin
Ontario, Canada

 

butterfly wings
the fragileness
of my dreams

Marianne Sahlin
Sweden

 

arranging roses
an earwig snuggled
between petals

Maurice Nevile
Canberra, Australia

 

pollen basket full
a bumblebee rests
on my sleeve

Gary Evans
Stanwood, Washington

 

a butterfly
beneath jasmines
starlit sky

Devoshruti Mandal
India

 

raspberry
nest of wild bees
in the stem

Tsanka Shishkova
Bulgaria

 

adding color
to white roses
one little ladybug

Zahra Mughis
Lahore, Pakistan

 

humming bird
plays a riff
on a trumpet vine

Margie Gustafson
Lombard, IL USA

 

basketful of cosmos
the bumblebee
refuses to let go

Sangita Kalarickal
United States

 

black ants
tickling pink peony buds –
this itch to bloom

Sharon Martina
Warrenville, IL

 

fashion statement
the woolly bear catwalks
in dark stripes

Valentina Ranaldi-Adams
Fairlawn, Ohio USA

 

drone fly
the taste
of synthetic honey

(drone flies are pollinators often mistaken for honey bees)

Lorraine A Padden
San Diego, CA

 

banana slug
first one tentacle
then the other

Bruce H. Feingold
Berkeley, CA USA

 

deep in the trembling morning glory a bee’s butt

kris moon kondo
Kiyokawa, Kanagawa, Japan

 

the sound of light
bumblebees feasting
on a sunflower

Florin C. Ciobica
Romania

 

mosquitoes
feeding on flowers
and me

Lorelyn De la Cruz Arevalo
Bombon, Philippines

 

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 9 Comments

  1. Thank you Carole for your thoughtful commentary on my haiku! What an honor. Thank you also for your inspiring prompts and for the selection of all these wonderful haiku that I will be visiting and revisiting.

  2. I especially like the juxtaposition of the human world and natural world in this haiku, of person and insect. The person sipping a drink – coffee after a meal, or enjoying the last of a bottle of wine – and the moth sipping nectar.

    café patio
    a hawk-moth
    sipping nectar

    Laurie D. Morrissey
    United States

    This suggests to me the person at the cafe is sitting late, enjoying the transition of day into evening; or maybe the sweet-talk of a lover after a few drinks; or someone in solitude, resting after a busy day enjoying a moment of calm oneness with the cooling evening. Honied memories will follow.

    I also love Lori’s haiku

    woodland walk …
    I follow the butterflies
    into summer

    Lori Kiefer
    UK

    where follow is a key word, the butterflies’ fragility turned here into a strong leading presence. And butterflies live so briefly, so while this haiku has an upbeat vibe, there is also something elegiac too, with the poet modifying this by following and continuing, by her presence, their presence.

  3. Just a couple of favorites

    humming bird
    plays a riff
    on a trumpet vine

    Margie Gustafson
    Lombard, IL USA

    basketful of cosmos
    the bumblebee
    refuses to let go

    Sangita Kalarickal
    United States

    Thank you for including mine, Carole. This was a lovely theme.

  4. mosquitoes
    feeding on flowers
    and me
    /
    Lorelyn De la Cruz Arevalo
    Bombon, Philippines
    /
    The mosquitoes like to feed on me also !!

  5. Carole, thank-you for publishing mine. I enjoyed reading your comments about how haiku choices are influenced by an editor’s preferences. Thank-you also to the others who make this column possible. Congrats to all the poets.

  6. Many thanks, Carole. You urged us to channel Issa, and who doesn’t love him? It is such an honour to be thought he would approve.

    I particularly liked:

    deep in the trembling morning glory a bee’s butt
    — kris moon kondo
    (love the slightly ironic juxtaposition of the lyrical with the coarser reality – oh please send it to Poetry Pea in the first half of July, kris!)

    basketful of cosmos
    the bumblebee
    refuses to let go
    — Sangita Kalarickal
    ( a very real observation of bumblebee tenacity, with the well-chosen ‘cosmos’ and ‘refusing to let go’ adding two more layers of meaning for the meditative)

    city birds
    dining al fresco. . .
    our unsprayed yard
    — Lorraine Pester
    ( a delightful, almost breathtaking, link and shift from flowers to insects to birds, with all that is implied about lifecycles, about the environment, and city life/the urge to return to nature/rewilding)

    the sound
    of a foreign language
    honeybees
    —Pat Davis
    (ah, if we could only learn to understand….)

    getting
    all the attention
    last chrysanthemum
    —Bryan Rickert
    (I thought a lot about various echoes from this observation, from bees and flowers to girls at a dance, through a late only child, funerals, to the time when there may be left just one flower in a despoiled Earth. A bow to Bryan.)

    1. Thank you Keith, for pointing out a few of your favorites. I think this has been the most stunning response yet and was thrilled with all the lovely haiku our poets submitted.

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