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HAIKU DIALOGUE – The Language of Flowers – Flowers: Traditions and Occasions

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: ikebana – embrace the space 

The concept of ma is at the heart of most aspects of Japanese minimalism and can be found in ikebana, in poetry, music, sumi-e, tea ceremony, and other facets of Japanese life. The word means “emptiness” or “absence.” It can be the space between objects, the silence between sounds, or the stillness between movements. You can sense this in the minimalism of ikebana, the negative space of sumi-e, and the space between the two parts of a haiku. For example, when the ikebana practitioner arranges material, she listens to each flower, leaf and branch and lets them dictate their own placement. The elimination of excess is highly valued. As haiku poets, we apply the same careful consideration to the words we choose for our haiku. Less is often more and what is not said is often most important.

For this week’s prompt let’s embrace the space and write a minimalist haiku instead of telling the full story. Let yourself be inspired by Sondra Byrnes’ lovely ikebana image and/or this much-loved poem by Nick Virgilio, an exemplary example of a haiku with a clear image that invites speculation.

lily:
out of the water . . .
out of itself

Nick Virgilio

Here is an excellent article on the concept of ma – “An Interview with Hasegawa Kai,” Robert D. Wilson, Interviewer, Tanaka Kimiyo and Patricia Lyons, Translators, in Simply Haiku: Quarterly Journal of Japanese Short Form Poetry.

Haiku used with the permission of the Nick Virgilio Haiku Association
Ikebana image courtesy of Sondra J. Byrnes Haiku Poet and Ikebana Artist

The deadline is midnight Pacific Daylight Time, Saturday June 04, 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: traditions and occasions:

Many thanks to all who submitted to the theme of “Flowers: Traditions and Occasions.” I received poems that paid homage to birth and death, to babies and old age, to marriage and divorce and even a few that referenced gods and goddesses. Even Shakespeare made an appearance. As usual, I always learn something new when reading through the poems, such as the fact there is a marigold-flavored tequila and that Italy has a famous artistic flower festival. Thank you all so much for sharing these moments of your life.

As usual, it was also a cultural treasure chest. The poems I chose for commentary drew me back again and again, and it’s obvious that recent tragic events have colored certain poems. Whether my interpretations are as the poets intended, three of the poems speak to me as poignant tributes to victims of mass shootings. Yet each is unique. All five of the poems I chose to comment on leave room for the reader to enter and close readings offer multiple layers. To showcase a variety of themes and styles, I had to narrow down my selection among poems with similar wording and themes. Many fine poems not on this list I expect to see in future publications. Please enjoy my selections for commentary and all the wonderful poems in the longer list. I’m sure you’ll find your own favorites too. Please share your thoughts in the commentary section.

makeshift memorial
more lilies than
I can bear

Bryan Rickert
Belleville, Illinois USA

I have always valued understatement in haiku. Bryan Rickert allows this powerful image to speak for itself. ‘Makeshift memorial’ recalls all the flowers, wreaths, and roadside crosses I’ve come across driving across the country. These makeshift memorials mark the site of tragic car accidents and are created by loved ones, neighbors, family, friends. The last two lines, ‘more lilies than / I can bear’ suggests a huge loss of life and takes me to another scene entirely. It takes me to the recent school shooting in Texas, although it could well represent the tragedy of all mass shootings and the huge response of community through the laying down of flowers. Each word carries its weight and evokes a response in the reader. The three alliterative ‘m’ sounds open the haiku and there is such power and suggestion in ‘makeshift’ and ‘more,’ as if each lily might speak to a life lost. Not a word could be taken away or added to this excellent haiku.

bumblebee . . .
for an instant I forget the flowers
are on your grave

Marion Clarke
Warrenpoint, Northern Ireland

I appreciated the element of surprise in Marion Clarke’s haiku as I read line to line. I am very fond of insects, so line one drew me in right away. What was going to be said about a bee? Nothing. At least not until you reach the last line and understand the little bee offered a momentary distraction from grief as it bumbled about the graveside flowers. This haiku speaks to the healing power of nature. The ellipsis worked well in making me feel I, too, was watching this little bee. It slowed me down and set me up for the surprise of a graveside setting. The phrasing has a pleasing rhythm enhanced by the alliteration of ‘forget the flowers.’

opening night
stargazer lilies
steal the show

Margie Gustafson
Lombard, IL USA

This haiku demonstrates the power of holding back on details. Flowers are usually given to performers and directors on opening nights in many different venues. I’m sure each reader will have their own memories of such events, opera as just one example. For me, it evoked every ballet recital, play, and musical I’ve attended where I had a grandchild participating. The expectation in the air, the scent of lilies, the excitement and anticipation followed by applause and bows at the end of the performance. Perhaps a little relief too, if a loved one was onstage. The fact the stargazer lilies steal the show suggests a huge response from the audience to whatever took place on this opening night. The sibilance of ‘stargazer/steal/show’ holds this phrase together in a very pleasing way.

bloodroot flower
the calendar full
of white space

Jonathan Roman
Yonkers, New York

I wanted to comment on this haiku because it’s another good example of the poet trusting the reader to draw their own conclusion as to the relationship of the two parts of the haiku. So many haiku spell out details which can close a haiku down. This is wide-open for interpretation and showcases the power of word choice to evoke emotion. Bloodroot is a snow-white flower, but with bright red stem and roots that can ooze or bleed a red-orange sap. It stains whatever it touches. I’m not sure ‘flower’ is needed as ‘bloodroot’ is the name of the plant and suggests the flower. Bloodroot also connotes ‘blood.’ This, juxtaposed with an empty calendar, suggests a life that was cut short.

plucked columbine more rounds of
…….thoughts and
…………..prayers

P. H. Fischer
Vancouver, Canada

I always appreciate a haiku that can be read on more than one level. On the surface, one could be offering thoughts and prayers while picking columbine perhaps as a gift for a sick, dying, or grieving person. The meaning of columbine differs depending on the source, but one meaning suggests columbine is a floral gift given to provide courage and endurance. However, the poet has chosen words that connote alternate meanings as well. ‘Columbine’ reminds me of another school shooting, ‘rounds’ reminds me of bullets found in assault rifles. Also, ‘plucked’ suggests something quickly removed as in the sudden loss of life. And suddenly the poem is about another mass shooting. Connotations can add layers to a haiku. Its structure enhances the tension and despair of recognizing we will forever be having to offer ‘more rounds of thoughts and prayers’ to a situation that continues to happen with no apparent hopes of a solution.

& here are the rest of the selections:

unmarked grave
only wind-blown wildflowers
pay a visit

Srinivas S
Rishi Valley, India

 

woven
in a wreath
a goodbye

Teji Sethi
India

 

peony buds
the bride’s
baby bump

marilyn ashbaugh
Edwardsburg, Michigan

 

faded roses
the words between us
I can’t take back

Stephen A. Peters
Bellingham, WA

 

Ashes scattered
among the bluebells –
a sea of sorrow

Vivienne Tregenza
Penzance

 

petal skirts
floating on the pond
hollyhock dolls

Seretta Martin
California, USA

 

funeral flowers
after everyone leaves
the bee lingers

Ravi Kiran
India

 

summer she loves me winter she loves me not

Alan Peat
Biddulph, United Kingdom

 

flying away dandelion wishes

Roberta Beach Jacobson
Indianola, Iowa, USA

 

Vegas wedding ~
weeds by the drive-through
gone to seed

D. M. MacDonald
Sacramento, California

 

gladiolas at her wedding at her funeral gladiolas

Mark Meyer
Mercer Island WA USA

 

a white calla
in the hands of a child –
First Communion

una calla bianca
nelle mani di un bambino –
prima comunione

Dennys Cambarau
Sardinia, Italy

 

clouds and
imaginary flowers
Mother’s Day

Richard Straw
Cary, North Carolina

 

after her birthday
I leave the petals
where they fall

Maurice Nevile
Canberra, Australia

 

dried mistletoe
kissing his memory
goodbye

Sherry Grant
Auckland, New Zealand

 

pixel bouquet
electrons carry
my love to you

Danita Brandt
Michigan, USA

 

chrysanthemum
how do i prepare
for the afterlife

Richa Sharma
India

 

sunflower’s seed–
in the dug-out bunker
a birth cry

Teiichi Suzuki
Japan

 

purple Irises
on my mother’s grave
last prayer

(The purple irises on a woman’s grave are believed to summon the goddess Iris to guide them on their journey to heaven.)

Tsanka Shishkova
Bulgaria

 

night jasmine
her fragrance wraps
the deity at dawn

Subir Ningthouja
Imphal, India

 

lilies of the valley…
the faded scent
of her marriage

Mariangela Canzi
Mariano Comense, Italy

 

sampangi garlands…
a bee sings
an invocation

Vidya Shankar
Chennai

 

devil-in-the-bush
I plant something suitable
for our divorce

Tracy Davidson
Warwickshire, UK

 

jasmine tea –
sips of relief
in hard times

Vipanjeet Kaur
Chandigarh, India

 

women’s day
another bouquet
dad forgets to bring

Tomislav Sjekloća
Cetinje, Montenegro

 

hospice garden-
counting roses
his favourite pastime

Ram Chandran
India

 

artificial roses –
how many gardens
saved

Aljoša Vuković
Croatia, Šibenik

 

rose sachet
all that’s left
of papa’s garden

Pat Davis
NH USA

 

funeral procession
passing her love of lillies
on to me

Herb Tate
UK

 

evening news
fresh bouquets crown
the hardened school

ron scully
Burien WA

 

daisy chain –
my first handmade
accessory

Ana Drobot
Romania

 

bouquet toss
the luck she was
not expecting

Minal Sarosh
Ahmedabad, India

 

grandma’s garden irises –
something
blue

Daniela Lăcrămioara Capotă
Romania

 

I give him tulips
because I love him —
and I love a pun.

Jenny Shepherd
London

 

first date…
the red rose still
scents my diary

Neena Singh
India

 

holding white tulips
the bride
wore blue

Margaret Mahony
Australia

 

wild daisies–
renewing their vows
every 5th anniversary

Laurie Greer
Washington DC

 

cherry lipstick
one sparkler and ninety-nine
marzipan roses

Maxianne Berger
Outremont, Quebec

 

salt marsh irises
your first anniversary
Persephone blue

J E Jeanie Armstrong
Canterbury UK

 

elopement bouquet
Black-eyed Susans
wild like her

Caroline Giles Banks
Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

 

thoughts and prayers. . .
a bouquet of cosmos
in a cracked vase

Terri French
Huntsville, AL

 

floating lamps
amid the chrysanthemums
the afterglow!

Lakshmi Iyer
India

 

poinsettias
the flourish of annunciation
in red

Peggy Hale Bilbro
Alabama

 

orange marigolds
the good tequila
almost gone

M. R. Defibaugh
United States

 

given with pride
mom arranges dandelions
in a crystal vase

Rehn Kovacic
Mesa, AZ

 

grandma’s wedding bouquet
crepe paper

Zdenka Mlinar
Hrvatska

 

school dance
sitting amidst a bunch
of wallflowers

Mari Sa
Australia

 

she loves me not
the exhausted
daisy

Lorraine A Padden
San Diego, CA USA

 

chrysanthemum sleeping the grief off

bunga krisan melupakan kesedihan dalam tidur

Christopher Calvin
Kota Mojokerto, Indonesia

 

magic show
tuberoses manifest
behind her ears

Mariel Herbert
California, USA

 

wisteria –
my distant friend
so close

glicine –
la mia amica lontana
così vicina

Maria Teresa Piras
Serrenti – Italy

 

homecoming
meadow flowers
at my bedside

Ingrid Baluchi
North Macedonia

 

a year older
her bigger handful
of dandelions

James Gaskin
Fukushima, Japan

 

rose petals
the scent of my unsent
love letter

Alvin Cruz
Philippines

 

after the wedding
the rose petal path
to my husband’s grave

Adele Evershed
Wilton, Connecticut

 

roadside railing
a flutter of cellophane
remains

Helene Guojah
UK

 

morning after
el Día de los Muertos
wilted marigolds

Helen Ogden
Pacific Grove, CA

 

willow catkins –
in his absence
I talk to cats

Lori Kiefer
London, UK

 

infiorata…
profuma di ginestre e rose
il mio piccolo paese

infiorata …
it smells of gorse and roses
my little country

Giuliana Ravaglia
Bologna Italia

 

calla lily —
the lengthening distance
between our rooms

Mona Bedi
Delhi, India

 

orange morning her chemotherapeutic body under marigold garlands

Devoshruti Mandal
India

 

white calla
sunlight dips
into the bride’s cup

Barrie Levine
Massachusetts USA

 

red silk roses
between the headstones
bright sunshine

Herbert Shippey
Tifton, Georgia

 

apology
i only notice
the thorns

C.X. Turner
United Kingdom

 

petals fall
from the Albertine rose …
the ache of pink

Annie Wilson
Shropshire, UK

 

graduation day
the scarecrow wears
a daisy chain

Florin C. Ciobica
Romania

 

mother’s blue orchid
now i send it to myself
for her birthday

Kath Abela Wilson
California, USA

 

a pressed rose –
that teenage boy
I knew long ago

Valentina Ranaldi-Adams
Fairlawn, Ohio USA

 

a lily of the valley
among Shakespeare’s sonnets
the longed for clue

Cristina Povero
Italy

 

Remembrance poppies…
all those soldiers lying
under the grass

Mona Iordan
Romania

 

garage sale
I choose the bible with the pressed
four leaf clover inside

Maya Daneva
The Netherlands

 

blue poppy pastures
what do the yaks know
of the yeti?

(Blue poppies are associated with the local folklores of the yeti. It is the national flower of Bhutan. Blue in Tibetan Buddhist iconography represents infinity and healing.)

Sonam Chhoki
Thimphu, Bhutan

 

mom’s funeral
a basket of daylilies
from her garden

John Zheng
United States

 

peaceful hyacinth . . .
the view through
Apollo’s tears

Connie Tash
United States

 

ma dragging me
to church every Sunday
jack-in-the-pulpit

Margaret Tau
New Bern, North Carolina

 

under all the flowers
something unimaginable
my child

Sharon Martina
Warrenville, IL

 

Gen Y wedding
the flower girl
is Grandma

Carol Judkins
Carlsbad, CA United States

 

red amaryllis
growing in the green gift box
our watchful advent

Curt Linderman
Seattle, Washington

 

Shinto wedding
a white butterfly alights
on the sakaki branch

Susan Rogers
Los Angeles, California

 

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 11 Comments

  1. Hi
    It seems there was a mistake in attributing a haiku to my name…the one that ends with chemotherapy…

  2. Congratulations to all the poets! Thanks Carole for selecting mine and for your insightful commentary.

    As a wallflower myself, this one made me smile:

    school dance
    sitting amidst a bunch
    of wallflowers

    Mari Sa
    Australia

    Thanks also to kj and Lori for all you do here at H.D.
    Peter

    1. From one wallflower to another…Thank you so much P. H. I’m happy to know my haiku brought a smile to your thoughts. And your haiku this week was very moving, indeed. Thank you for that. Wonderful to read everyone’s poems. Thank you so much to Carole and to the Haiku Dialogue team for including my haiku in this special collection.

  3. I am honoured to be included in this week’s collection. I enjoyed reading the haiku which have been published. Thanks to Carole and to the editing team.

  4. Happy to see mine included here! There are several that stood out to me as I read through this wonderful collection. Thanks for your work and lovely photos Carole!

    peony buds
    the bride’s
    baby bump

    marilyn ashbaugh
    Edwardsburg, Michigan
    .
    elopement bouquet
    Black-eyed Susans
    wild like her

    Caroline Giles Banks
    Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
    .
    thoughts and prayers. . .
    a bouquet of cosmos
    in a cracked vase

    Terri French
    Huntsville, AL
    .
    Gen Y wedding
    the flower girl
    is Grandma

    Carol Judkins
    Carlsbad, CA United States

  5. Thank you Carole for including my haiku.
    I love

    mother’s blue orchid
    now i send it to myself
    for her birthday

    Kath Abela Wilson

  6. apology
    i only notice
    the thorns
    /
    C.X. Turner
    United Kingdom
    /
    Only six words are used in this hard-hitting haiku. The roses are not mentioned but clearly implied as is the fact that there have been past
    apologies for the same offensive act.

  7. this is great!

    faded roses
    the words between us
    I can’t take back

    Stephen A. Peters
    Bellingham, WA

    nice work, Stephen!

  8. Thank-you Carole for publishing one of mine. It is always a pleasure and an honor to be published. Thank-you also to Kathy, Lori, and the Haiku Foundation. Congrats to all the poets.

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