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HAIKU DIALOGUE – The Language of Flowers – Ikebana – Embrace the Space

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 themeFlowers:  Nectar lovers and pollinators

 

This week let’s pay homage to the insects that frequent flowers. We’ll put on our Issa hats and write a haiku about them. I have photographed many insects and choosing just one to inspire you was difficult. Some insects spread pollen by accident while simply trying to satisfy a sweet tooth by sipping nectar. Some pause to mate or take a nap. Tiny caterpillars or grubs can make lacework out of a morning glory. I’ve witnessed dragonflies performing their mating dance while clinging to a stem. Perhaps the most interesting were the thistle aphids who produce something called ‘honeydew,’ a sweet glob that visiting ants take away to eat. It’s a symbiotic relationship that works, and while they go about their business, bees nestle deep into the thistle for pollen. I’ve seen ants, wasps, bees, beetles, ladybugs and many types of moths and butterflies prowling all over flowers, oftentimes sharing space together quite peacefully.

Look deeply into any flower. More often than not, you’ll find a small black dot – an aphid, mite, or tick – living almost unseen within the petals. Every insect with wings, even houseflies and flying ants, can be found foraging in flowers.

This image is of a bee visiting a milkweed blossom. A worker bee deliberately gathering pollen to take home to the hive. I could feel its joy in the way it nestled into the curve of the petal. Or maybe it was exhausted. You can write to this image or connect with an insect of your own choice. Here’s a little inspiration from Issa:

bagworm—
hanging from flowers
his job

butterfly flitting—
I too am made
of dust

Kobayashi Issa: 1763-1828

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

The deadline is midnight Pacific Daylight Time, Saturday June 11, 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 embrace the space:

Thank you everyone for your great response to the theme “Ikebana – Embrace the Space.” I mentioned ma, the Japanese aesthetic related to so many arts including ikebana and haiku. How it can be sensed within the space of an ikebana arrangement, or, as I like to think, within the space between two parts of a haiku where feeling can be evoked. Some of you were inspired by Sondra Byrnes’ ikebana image and others were inspired by the brevity and space found in Nick Virgilio’s well-known haiku. The Japanese aesthetic of ma is a challenging concept and I appreciate everyone’s efforts. I looked for poems that had strong visual imagery that evoked spirit, heart, or feeling, along with memorability and depth. Whether a haiku is one line, three or four, as has been said many times by many poets, haiku isn’t the fewest number of words used, but the fewest necessary. I hope you enjoy my selections, keeping in mind that my interpretations are personal and could be quite different from yours or from what the poet intended. Be sure to mention your favorites in the comments section. There were many other lovely poems that I felt rose to the challenge and embraced the space!

first date
roses do
all the talking

Ravi Kiran
India

I could sense the feeling of nerves in the space between the juxtaposition of ‘first date,’ and ‘roses do / all the talking.’ Who hasn’t been on a first date and felt excitement mixed with nervousness? Ravi allows us to feel all these emotions according to our own experiences. Also, as readers, we visualize the image. I see two people meeting for the first time and, in their shy silence, letting the ‘roses do all the talking.’ This haiku evokes a lot of feeling in seven words. Notice the use of figurative language in the couplet and how well it works to evoke feeling. Literally, roses don’t talk, but figuratively, they talk very well indeed.

cat folds into art

Roberta Beach Jacobson
Indianola, Iowa, USA

Notice this haiku does not have a juxtaposition. It has a noun, verb, and object. But as we all have realized, so-called haiku rules are not set in stone. What makes this one work is the poet’s choice of words, words that create an image and evoke so much more beyond the image. The verb ‘folds’ and the object ‘art’ immediately suggested origami. Also, as a former cat owner, I also saw my own cat’s careful movements before settling into her comfort zone. Whether imagining a paper cat or a live cat, the word ‘art’ expands the haiku. Another good use of figurative language. Could it use a juxtaposition, or pause? Maybe, maybe not…but these four words have depth and are memorable.

fieldfare song —
a forest filling in
the gaps

Alan Peat
Biddulph, United Kingdom

When I first read this one it felt like a song, thanks to the alliteration of ‘fieldfare/forest/filling’ which created a bit of word music and rhythm. I had to look up ‘fieldfare’ because it was unknown to me, and found it is a type of thrush. This is a haiku that appeals to the senses. You hear the song, then suddenly you are in the cool silence of a forest, then you hear the song, and on it goes. A duet of sound and silence. My experience of forests is cool, green-scented fir, pine, and hemlock forests filled with moss, lichen, and mushrooms. So, when the bird pauses its song, my senses would be filled with the silence and scents of a rainforest. It could be a different type of forest in the UK, but such is the way of haiku readers bringing their own experiences to a reading. Also, what is not lost on me is the phrase ‘filling in the gaps,’ which, to me, has the added depth of not just the forest filling in the gaps between the bird’s song, but the idea of birdsong and forest both filling in the gaps one might be feeling in their lives. A haiku that offers depth depending on the experiences of the reader.

shrub roses
talking to them –
talking to father

Samo Kreutz
Ljubljana, Slovenia

Another lovely haiku with a clear image that evokes feeling. Note the poet’s effective use of parallelism – the repetition of grammatical elements in the second and third line. The pauses are clear and pregnant with meaning, so maybe the dash isn’t needed, but it doesn’t matter. I enjoyed entering what I felt was the heart of this haiku. One can easily imagine oneself talking to roses, nurturing them along, admiring them, but ‘talking to father’ introduces a completely new element that invites speculation. I appreciate haiku that are understated and leave it to the reader to interpret as they will. This could easily be a person talking to roses and talking to her father at the same time. But it could also be that the roses have special significance, perhaps they were a gift from a deceased father, or perhaps they are graveside roses, which suddenly enriches this sensitive conversation between the poet, the roses and perhaps her deceased father.

the space
between islands
our last hug

John S Green
Bellingham, WA

As one who lives on a tiny peninsula almost surrounded by water and who wakes to the view of the San Juan Islands every morning, this poignant haiku spoke to me immediately. I can so feel the sense of ma between the two parts of this haiku. John has left a poignant and touching space for the reader to enter with their own experiences. It’s not so much what is said in this haiku, but what is not said that resonates. Literally, we know there is space between islands, but if we recall a famous poem, “No Man is an Island” written in 1624 by John Donne, the first two lines suddenly speak to individuals, to mankind, to countries and the need to bridge our separateness and connect with each other. There is both a literal space and a figurative space, which adds layers of meaning to this poem. Bringing my own life experiences to the poem, I saw a goodbye, perhaps between two individuals who never quite connected or understood each other. Other readers, I know, could easily interpret the first two lines quite differently and perhaps feel the impact of an impending permanent separation with ‘our last hug.’

& here are the rest of the selections:

globe thistle the whole world in his hands

Susan Burch
Hagerstown, MD

 

white nights
no sanctuary
for my shadow

Carol Judkins
Carlsbad, CA USA

 

his and hers
one dog bowl
wobbling

Richard Matta
San Diego, California

 

moth orchid…
hoping for something
better

Adele Evershed
Wilton, Connecticut

 

stirring the words –
a monk teaches
silence

Vijay Prasad
Patna, India

 

the way we lean
towards each other:
ikebana

Lori Kiefer
London, UK

 

bare ikebana…
the bristles
of broken roots

Laurie Greer
Washington, DC

 

ikebana . . .
remembering
his exact words

Alfred Booth
Colombes, France

 

zazen–
making room
for space

Sondra Byrnes
United States

 

when you
still were . . .
mistletoe

Marion Clarke
Warrenpoint, Northern Ireland

 

sumi-e
he captures me
in a brushstroke

Mona Bedi
Delhi, India

 

playing
to the moon
… Mozart

Zahra Mughis
Lahore, Pakistan

 

the fall in the fallen rose

Lakshmi Iyer
India

 

last spring’s bluebells
her baby blanket
cast aside

Ana Growl
Surrey, UK

 

delphiniums …
the summer sky
loses itself

Annie Wilson
Shropshire, UK

 

i
k
e
b
a
n
a

Florin C. Ciobica
Romania

 

lighthouse beam
my childhood spins
the dark

Kath Abela Wilson
California, USA

 

loss of appetite
the wedding ring
slipping

Geoff Pope
Paducah, Kentucky

 

bones
the crow
gives back

P. H. Fischer
Vancouver, Canada

 

ikebana
wildflowers’ urge to
arrange itself

Joe Sebastian
Bangalore, India

 

showing
the breeze
blossom fall

Bryan Rickert
Belleville, Illinois USA

 

rosebud
the aphid
leaps

Danita Brandt
Michigan, USA

 

in maple shadow
a hydrangea
finds it’s blue

Terri French
AL

 

waiting
the last rose
and I

Maurice Nevile
Canberra, Australia

 

sundown…
gossip
twining vines

Anna Yin
Ontario, Canada

 

zazen room
simple cut
of a single snowdrop

Teiichi Suzuki
Japan

 

ikebana
leaf shadows over
his garden chair

John Hawkhead
UK

 

calla lilies…
his use
of ellipses

Jackie Chou
United States

 

a crack in the stone one poppy

Peggy Hale Bilbro
Alabama

 

new moon
I start my diet
today

Marius Alexandru
Chicago, USA

 

marking
her unmarked grave
sweet William

marilyn ashbaugh
Edwardsburg, Michigan

 

one peony a bouquet

Pat Davis
NH USA

 

a feather
floats in space
fading shot

Stoianka Boianova
Bulgaria

 

you and me
the buzz
in the phacelia

Helga Stania
Switzerland

 

from a twig
to straw …
chemotherapy

Devoshruti Mandal
India

 

still life
her careful arrangement
of dead flowers

Mark Meyer
Mercer Island WA USA

 

our feet in the river honeysuckle

Corine Timmer
Portugal/The Netherlands

 

incense –
the ikebana
casts its shadow

incenso –
l’ikebana
getta le sue ombre

Daniela Misso
Italia

 

king-sized bed
the moonlight
between us

Barrie Levine
Massachusetts USA

 

skyscraper
on a small table
my garden

Slobodan Pupovac
Zagreb, Croatia

 

baby’s-breath
an open window
by the lake

Ronald Degler
Harbor City, California

 

no matter what the dandelion

Madhuri Pillai
Australia

 

Sky, earth, man —
the depth of the space
between them

Jenny Shepherd
London, UK

 

empty nest –
all the love
out in the world

Cristina Povero
Italy

 

sunflowers
the last silhouette
of sunset

Allyson Whipple
Austin, TX

 

altar lilies
the way my prayer
sings through

Susan Rogers
Los Angeles

 

saying sorry…
how to arrange
one peace lily

Alvin Cruz
Philippines

 

stem over stem
i braid
our lives together

Sangita Kalarickal
United States

 

crop farming . . .
a scattering
of poppies

Ingrid Baluchi
North Macedonia

 

rose moon
I open
to your touch

Vandana Parashar
India

 

lilies–
the dailiness of each
unfolding prayer

Margaret Dornaus
Ozark, Arkansas

 

mahonia shadows cremation ground

(The bark of the mahonia is used in death rites.)

Sonam Chhoki
Thimphu, Bhutan

 

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 30 Comments

  1. Another great haiku collection. I like the playful and creative thoughts. Thank you Carole and glad to have mine in this selection!

  2. What wonderful selections, Carole. Thank you. I have several favorites but this one by John S Green really spoke to me.

    the space
    between islands
    our last hug

    John S Green
    Bellingham, WA

    For me this ku evokes a feeling of reconciliation and a realization that there really is little if any distance between us humans as well as between us humans and more than humans. The first line raises the possibility of unlimited space, and I could be anywhere. And then with line two as I walk into its MA the space expands to the ocean’s horizon and I see various islands, the space between almost breathes as I feel the distance from one island to another and even beyond the horizon. And then with a sense of great open space, there is a hug, a tug, a strong pull of connection, warmth, and a wordless awareness that even if we touch for the very last time after our differences (great distances), we feel that we are really one and the same, kindreds, the separation is only superficial.

    1. A brilliant poem, John! I really enjoyed Carole and Victor’s comments as well.

  3. Many thanks Carole, for including and commenting on one of my poems. I am so delighted and honored, as I enjoy reading the selected haiku in this section. Apart of pervious mentioned and commented works, I especially liked:

    the way we lean
    towards each other:
    ikebana

    Lori Kiefer
    London, UK

    which made me think about the influence of other people in our lives to make us at least a little better, more harmonious with each other. At this I felt deep sadness:

    the fall in the fallen rose

    Lakshmi Iyer
    India

    and began to wonder how little we need to experience a pure and unspoiled happiness, when I read:

    our feet in the river honeysuckle

    Corine Timmer
    Portugal/The Netherlands

    so, thank you all for creating such a memorable and inspiring collection of haiku.

  4. zazen room
    simple cut
    of a single snowdrop

    Teiichi Suzuki
    Japan

    L2 & 3 embraces the subject so well – would make a great monoku

  5. between heaven
    and earth
    a willow branch

    white lotus
    kado with wilted
    leaf

    In the first haiku submitted I used the reference to the three branches in classic arrangement, one the tallest representing heaven, the shortest earth and between them man, which i relaced with a symbol of hope , the willow. It’s about space.
    The second haiku refers to the purity of lotus and a reminder of imperfection and transition of this life the wabi sabi of a wilted leaf.
    None of my haiku have been selected and I wonder why.

    1. The choice is always the gift of the editor.
      The first of your offerings is certainly passable. Your esoteric knowledge of ikebana adds to it, but almost anything could be in line three.

  6. ikebana
    wildflowers’ urge to
    arrange itself

    This haiku has been wrongly attributed to me. Kindly correct the error. As my name and city appear, I wonder if my haiku has been left out by mistake.

    Beautiful selections and enriching comments by Carole MacRury. Always a pleasure reading this section.

    1. Thank you so much Anju for pointing this out. I will have the webmaster correct the name of this haiku. My apologies.

  7. Thanks Mirela. I can think of another one word haiku that became quite famous written by Cor van den Heuvel. I thought Florin’s haiku, considering the theme of ’embrace the space’ was unique and refreshing.

    i
    k
    e
    b
    a
    n
    a

    Florin C. Ciobica
    Romania

  8. Thank you Subir. The placement of letters for the ikebana poem reminded me very much of the careful and meditative work of an ikebana artist, who one by one, chooses the exact length, space and placement for each stem.

  9. Several favorites for me in this week’s selection:

    empty nest –
    all the love
    out in the world

    Cristina Povero

    relating to our children as much as to many living things, except cuckoos!

    Others I went back to read again and think about include:

    still life
    her careful arrangement
    of dead flowers

    Mark Meyer

    It’s true that we cut short the life of flowers in their prime so as to use and enjoy them in many ways, so ‘still life’ was particularly resonant and ‘dead flowers’ a clever juxtaposition.

    The simplicity of Madhuri Pillai’s monoku made me smile:

    no matter what the dandelion

    —a wild flower we treat as a bit of a pest, yet we can admire for its cheery persistence, even the lone one being a magnet for passing urban dogs.

    Thank you, Carole, for including one of mine, and for your inspiring comments, plus all the work behind the scenes to make Wednesdays a day to look forward to.

    1. Thanks so much Ingrid for pointing out a few favorites. It was so difficult to choose a few for commentary as there were so many others I would have loved to have said something about too….but that’s the beauty of this forum and the comments sections. It allows everyone to be an editor and point out their favorites. I’m sure our fellow poems appreciate it very much!

    1. I thought the main theme was flowers. The space theme was superimposed on that flower arrangement, my thought. I never thought it was as easy as writing the Japanese word,in Engish, vertically to be selected. I did not know cuckoos loved flowers. I thought haiku was based on observations and written accordingly.
      Thank you so much for the enlightenment. My outlook on haiku will be so different from now on.

  10. ikebana, vertically, is my lord, thanks a lot. A lotus, unaffected by sorrow or rejoicings, is not.
    i
    k
    e
    b
    a
    n
    a

    Thank you very much,
    Roses are red and violets are blue
    Subir Ningthouja

      1. Thank you Subir. The placement of letters for the ikebana poem reminded me very much of the careful and meditative work of an ikebana artist, who one by one, chooses the exact length and space for each stem.

      1. Thanks Mirela. I can think of another one word haiku that became quite famous written by Cor van den Heuvel. I thought Florin’s haiku, considering the theme of ’embrace the space’ was unique and refreshing.

        i
        k
        e
        b
        a
        n
        a

        Florin C. Ciobica
        Romania

      2. Tequila. Ventures. Yes that instrumentation. Tequila, that intoxicating word. Flowers? Agave, I thought. Anyway the tequila haiku must be intoxicating, Mexican way. I have to go back to the haiku of the Sake brewers.

          1. There is body of haiku of the sake brewers predating Master Basho. Away from nobility. Cheers!

          2. Sometimes, people in ITALY would know. ITALY is favored. INDIA is not, cowering .
            COWERING.

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