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HAIKU DIALOGUE – Times of Transition – Becoming parents (2)

Times of Transition with Guest Editor Deborah Karl-Brandt

For the next few weeks let’s talk about Times of Transition. Arnold van Gennep and Viktor Turner explored these times of transition scientifically, because human existence is defined by them. So, together, let’s do the same – by reflecting on our lives. All of us experience periods in life when alteration takes place and we have to change too. Everything changes: the seasons, moods, the weather – there might even be times when the boundaries of right and wrong, of good and evil seem to change. We are caught in the middle of transition, becoming opaque like water in turmoil. Looking back, we hardly recognize our way up to the present; looking forward, our path seems to be foggy and uncertain. Sometimes we are challenged to let go of our former self to become someone new.

next week’s theme: Getting older

This morning you crawled out of bed, stiff in the hips? Your last night in a bar was, oops, so many years ago? The conversation with your best friend is no longer about planning your next backpacking trip, but about the fact that your stomach is suddenly no longer capable of handling chili peppers? You built a house, planted a tree, started a family, climbed the career ladder, read books and wrote poetry? Suddenly your own parents are old, the offspring have left the house and your last child wears fur? Write about how it is to become older.

The deadline is midnight Eastern Daylight Time, Saturday September 16, 2023.

Please use the Haiku Dialogue submission form below to enter one or two original unpublished haiku inspired by the week’s theme, and then press Submit to send your entry.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 Deborah’s commentary for Becoming parents:

beyond the known world my unborn child

Arvinder Kaur
Chandigarh, India

I love the image of a child in their mother’s womb (something so tiny) to the cosmos (the biggest thing ever). Even if the parent-child relationship is a very special one, every person is an individual being that will gather their own experiences in their life. Isn’t every human being a little spaceship of their own, on their journey into unexplored territory?

the lake swallows me whole new parent

C.X. Turner

Breaking through a border here as well. Suddenly, nothing is the same as before. Whoever the lyrical I was, it has been swallowed up. It remains open whether this is a turn for the better or for the worse. No one wants to drown, but one can also be so full of love that it feels like drowning. Or like being reborn.

long desert highway
my father confesses
he never wanted kids

Cynthia Anderson
Yucca Valley, California

A confession after which nothing is the same as before. How to deal with the fact that one’s own father did not want children? Suddenly there are many questions: how did the conception happen? Has the father’s attitude changed? Does he love his child? In retrospect, was becoming a father a positive experience? How to deal with such a confession as a child? Will it change the father-child relationship forever? To the detriment? We find ourselves in the desert with the lyrical I, and just like the latter, we thirst for answers. But there are none…

vast prairies –
too strong the desire
to be free

Hla Yin Mon
Yangon, Myanmar

The wide land of opportunity. The conscious desire not to have children in order to be able to explore it and not have to limit oneself. The prairie is empty. We don’t know if the prairie refers only to the womb or if the desire to remain childless may not have given the fulfillment it initially promised.

first baby
the joy
and the fear

Ingrid Baluchi
North Macedonia

Being a parent for the first time is not easy. There is an overwhelming love, but also a lot of fear. No one will tell you how it all works anymore. You have to figure it out for yourself: how to be a parent, a lover, a friend. Because you were born into a new life together with your baby.

three year old son —
all the same questions
my Dad couldn’t answer

Keith Evetts
Thames Ditton UK

I like the poem very much. There is a strong sense of connection between generations. A completely helpless parent tries the impossible: to answer all the questions of a three-year-old child, but there will always be more questions than answers. And so both grow together into new knowledge. Even if everything changes, something never changes. The curiosity of a child.

unfurled lotus the pink of the newborn cheeks

Nitu Yumnam

There is a newborn child and with them all the possibilities of humanity. Everything is already there, but just as a flower needs some time to unfold, the child also needs time to grow into their true self. The lotus, especially the flowering lotus, is also associated with Buddha and the spiritual world. Perhaps the poem is trying to assure us that there is a divine spark in each of us. I like this thought.

premature baby –
in a mother’s arms
the emptiness

Paul Callus

A poem about loss. The juxtaposition in this work is strong and very well chosen. The middle line also works as a pivot. Wherever this mother will go, she will carry the emptiness with her, as she would have with her child. Perhaps there is no greater loss one can suffer than losing a little one.

an infant crying
I feel the swell in my breasts
even after the surgery

Peggy Hale Bilbro

The body’s memory stores the reaction to a crying child. The pain of breasts filled with milk remains in memory, even after surgery. When dealing with this phantom of mother love, a question arises. When does a mother stop feeling like a mother? The answer is: never.


Join us next week for Deborah’s selection of poems on the theme of Getting older…


Guest Editor Deborah Karl-Brandt lives in Bonn, Germany, with her husband, two rabbits and numerous books. After her PhD studies in Scandinavian languages and literatures, she now works as a freelance author and poet. One of her poems won 2nd place in the 2021 Pula Film Festival Haiku Contest. Her poems have most recently appeared in Prune Juice, Kingfisher, First Frost, Frogpond, Failed Haiku and Tsuridoro. If she is not outside for a long stroll or to do some birdwatching, she is an avid reader who is currently exploring Chinese Xianxia Webnovels.

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:

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This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. My immense thanks, Deborah, for your insightful comments on my poem. Glad you liked it. Loved all the poems included here.
    Congratulations to all the other poets!

  2. Thank you so much, Deborah for selecting my poem for commentary again this week. It’s such an honour. I have enjoyed reading every heartfelt poem selected these last two weeks.

  3. Dear Deborah, I’m honored to have a poem chosen for commentary, thank you so much. And many thanks to Keith Evetts and Hla Yin Mon for your kind comments. It’s true, that statement coming from my father was a bombshell that affected me for years to come. I hadn’t thought about it for a long time, though, until this prompt came up.

  4. Thank you Ms. Deborah, for choosing my haiku for commentary, though it was a surprise, I wasn’t expecting it.

    When I was young I witnessed the negatives of marriage, and in that aspect, to not bring children into this world to suffer the consequences, if possible, becsme a much stronger desire. The vast prairie is, yes, empty but much more peaceful than a place full of uncertainities and challenges, adding to the fear of failed motherhood. Thanking you again, for giving me the urge to write more, and better haiku.

    I also like Ms. Cynthia Anderson’s haiku very much, for the same reason that it portrays some of the negatives of marriage, that I witnessed when very young. So some are happily single in the vast prairie.

  5. Deborah,
    These are very beautiful and heart felt poems you chose! Your commentary as well as the poets’ are also wonderful.

  6. This is such a pleasant surprise, Deborah; I never expected to be part of this final selection. Thank you for holding back my haiku and for the insightful comments that accompany it. Congratulations to the winners featured on this list.

  7. I didn’t expect to be here…so thank you for your comments, Deborah.
    In so few words, how to explain such a momentous occasion as becoming (or not) a parent, yet which all the poems chosen here have done so well without letting on too much.

    In my case, our first child was born during a hectic night on the maternity ward, with no time for niceties, and, in those days, no opportunity for the reassuring hand of husband or other close relative. In this isolation, fear and loneliness took precedent over love and awe while waiting to be reunited with my baby several hours later. Not a happy experience, but time heals, of course.

  8. Thankyou so much Deborah for insightful comments on my poem. I am really moved by Paul Callus’s poem.

  9. Thank you for commenting on my poem. Nursing my babies was for me the most wonderfully intimate bond possible with another human being. One of the many surprises rising from my double mastectomy is that I still experience that feeling of the milk letting down and the urge to nurse a crying infant. As you say, motherhood is forever.

  10. Thank you, Deborah!
    I also had in mind how it is that when we are new to the world, we have all these rather fundamental questions that are so hard for a parent to answer in plain understandable words; particularly those beginning with “why?” They remain unanswered…and, busy with schooling, work, getting and begetting, we put those matters aside. Only to find them again in the questions of our young offspring, and to learn, in many cases, that with all our experience we are no further forward.

    I very much liked these two:

    vast prairies –
    too strong the desire
    to be free
    — Hla Yin Mon

    For I too felt it, not only as concerns the prospect of parenting. And the not unconnected:

    long desert highway
    my father confesses
    he never wanted kids
    — Cynthia Anderson

    No escape from that bombshell during the rest of the journey! Cynthia is a consummate poet all round, and aside from the emotional horror we feel (mostly for the daughter) there is the wonderful choice of “desert,” desolation, dessicated barren-ness. And the stark word “confesses” — the sin and the truth, the penance and (one hopes) the absolution.

    I think it likely that the conversation continued with “But…” I hope so, anyway. I too *thought* I never wanted children (I wanted the “vast prairies”) — until they came along. And then, of course, nature takes over and you are bonded; and if perchance later separated, bereft without them.

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