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: The last frontier / Poems of dying and death
In Daoism, life and death, yin and yang, merge. Every living being has to die. We all know that we are exploring this last and ultimate transformation one day, whether we are ready or not. So better be prepared and think about what it means to be alive and what it means to die.
British author Terry Pratchett not only wrote about DEATH, he chose the following as his motto upon his elevation to the peerage: Do not fear the reaper. Japanese haiku masters wrote poems known as death haiku, which contained the wisdom of their lives and served as a final message. Several death haiku have been handed down from Basho. Do it like Terry Pratchett and Basho: let’s write about dying and death.
The deadline is midnight Eastern Daylight Time, Saturday September 30, 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Please use the Haiku Dialogue submission form below to enter one or two original unpublished haiku inspired by the week’s theme, and then press Submit to send your entry.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 Getting older:
– – – – – – – – – –
An old age.
Musheerabad, Hyderabad, India
I find this haiku, which is close to a concrete haiku, quite interesting. Connected and disconnected in equal measure by the second line, this line acts as a pivot. In this line I see a freshly created burial site.
An irreplaceable person is taken from home to a new place (one can ponder this pun alone for a long time), which turns out to be six feet below in the graveyard. The stale consolation is that the person was already very old, as the mourners reassure each other.
The harsh truth is nothing in this world can make us stay when our time has come to move on.
if apples weep
as they rotten
The curiosity of a child trapped in an older body that will sooner or later fall into decay. The tragedy of knowing that this will happen. That nothing can stop this process. Do the apples know this? They certainly don’t! Wouldn’t it be a real relief to be as ignorant as the apples? An ancient Taoist goal was to improve one’s well-being, to extend one’s youth and lifespan through self-cultivation in order to attain immortality. A dream as old as mankind.
late summer light
my anti-wrinkle cream
a few cents more
At first glance, a few cents doesn’t seem too much and the cream is a superfluous luxury item. But is it really that simple? Old-age poverty is a widespread problem. In the beginning, you can’t afford your beauty cream, and in the end, you may not even be able to afford a regular meal, adequate medical care, warm clothes, or a home to return to. After a lifetime of work, having enough money to live a carefree life in old age should not be a matter of negotiation.
the kintsugi gold
that makes us whole
How can you heal a broken heart? How many times can a heart be broken, and how often does it heal? Love is something that accompanies us throughout our lives. There is no fixed period. We can fall in love again and again. As sad as an ending is, there is also the possibility of a new beginning.
the scars that map
This haiku is beautiful and painful in equal measure. Someone has been drawn into war and must now live with the consequences until the end of his days. His youth, his health, perhaps his sanity have been terribly affected. I have the feeling that something of that person has already died there, in that war.
And the burning question is: was it even worth the cost? Now that person is old and living with the all-consuming hurt (scars) gets harder and harder every day.
One of the saddest, most authentic poems I have ever read. It will definitely stay in my mind. And it should be a reminder of what a terrible business war is, and how many wars are shaking this earth these days. We should all work to keep the peace.
somewhere up there
the shepherd’s call
One day we will have to leave. One day we will have to answer a call and move on. Growing older means knowing that the time we have here will probably be short. This poem asks the universal question of what will happen to us when we have died. Although our religions may be different, we all hope that we will be taken care of, that we will be freed from worldly pain, that we will remain in light and love, and that we can begin anew.
can i still be
Nairithi Konduru, 8 years old
My friend Sompronnuch from Thailand told me something that I often think about. Aging is a process, we get older every day. So what’s all this nonsense about birthdays, she asked me…? We age since we were born. Even a young child may wish to be younger. Maybe it’s becoming a big sister and wanting to be the baby of the family again, maybe school is harder than expected, maybe there are problems with other children. The desire to be cared for and to live an easier life and not have to deal with the consequences of growing older is a very natural desire.
my hips telling me
I’m not dead yet
Growing older for most of us means that our body turns into something immobile, into a structure that we have to coexist with. After growing as children and gaining new abilities every day, our world shrinks along with the abilities our bodies lose. But even though it hurts, the lyrical self welcomes the pain because it is proof that we are alive and our story is not yet over.
one more bald spot the ego comb over
Richard L Matta
San Diego, California, USA
I was told that the most beautiful part of my body was my hair. Since my hair has begun to turn grey, I’ve been struggling with it, with myself and with my vanity.
There are so many questions in this one-liner. What is beauty? How do we define ourselves? How do we overcome the pain that transformation brings? Is it possible to grow into acceptance? Do we learn to embrace the changes that come with growing older? I hope that one day I can look lovingly in the mirror and see the dignity of a life lived.
Join us next week for Deborah’s selection of poems on the theme of The last frontier / Poems of dying and death…
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: 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.