Under the March Moon with Guest Editor Carole MacRury
March (Martius) was named for Mars, the god of war, because this was the month when active military campaigns resumed after being interrupted by winter which was referred to as a ‘dead’ season. In fact, March was the first month of the year on the early Roman Calendar until around 450 BCE when January and February moved to the front putting March in third position where it remains in today’s Gregorian Calendar. Imagine how much easier it would be to make ‘resolutions’ in March with its visible signs of new beginnings and renewal, than in cold January. March comes in like a lion, goes out like a lamb. This reflects the transition from winter to spring and the changeable weather conditions particular to this month in the Northern Hemisphere. We’ll use three moon phases – Full Worm Moon, New Moon and Half Moon – to inspire our haiku. As we all write under our shared moon, feel free to use or not use the name of the moon phase in your haiku.
next week’s theme: Half Moon
The First Quarter phase, otherwise known as the Half Moon, falls on March 29th. In this phase, exactly half of the moon is illuminated, and half is in darkness. This is a period of growth as the half moon moves towards its full moon phase. Lore has it that this is a period of increased hunger and thirst and that it’s a perfect time for learning new skills and connecting with the universe and the world around us. Dreams tend to be more realistic, and we feel emotionally balanced.
My photo was taken at moonrise, a time when the moon is close to the horizon and appears orange for a period of time. The half moon is a perfect time to notice details along the edge separating light from shadow. The dark dry plains of ancient lava on the upper left, known as the Sea of Serenity, Sea of Tranquility and Sea of Nectar become visible. It’s a time when the moon shows its pockmarks to the naked eye with its many small craters and long ridges. I find this an inspiring moon phase and I hope you do too. Let the details on the bright side of the moon and the mystery of the dark side of the moon inspire your haiku as it may relate to your life.
The deadline is midnight Pacific Daylight Time, Saturday April 01, 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Please use the Haiku Dialogue submission form below to enter one or two original unpublished haiku inspired by the week’s theme, and then press Submit to send your entry.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 Carole’s commentary for the New Moon too:
IMAGE CREDIT: Burst, Nick Chung
There were so many fine haiku this month that it was nearly impossible for me to select 14 poems for commentary. Between the long list and this shorter list, I was astounded by the sheer number of excellent poems. You’ll find another tea poem among my selections. Both haiku are quite different and deserve their own space and notice. A cup of tea and moon viewing seem to go hand in hand much like reflections in a puddle. I think you will be pleased with the variety of haiku topics covered in this selection, from the sensory to the sublime, from the psychological to the political and in the end all well-crafted. While each haiku opened itself up to me intuitively, further research broadened the range of my interpretations. I learned something new from a few of these poems, and I hope you do too. Please do share any interpretation or comment of your own, as some of these haiku offer exquisite layers that I might have missed. Please keep trying if you didn’t make this list and I hope the examples from both lists I’ve chosen might help you in your haiku journey. Deep thanks to everyone for your participation and special thanks to kj and Lori for their behind-the-scenes assistance in posting and proofing.
This deceptively simple haiku is rich in atmosphere beginning with the end-of-day cup of tea to the sprinkle of stars beyond the earth’s atmosphere. The first line offers taste, warmth, and a sense of comfort. The two-line phrase nicely balances this peaceful mood with its sprinkle of stars. Nothing is too much, or too little, but seems just right. Perhaps the perfect ending to a long day. Along with the pleasing sibilance and alliteration of ‘sprinkle/stars’, there is the connotation of the word sprinkle used as a noun. As we bring our own experiences to our reading of haiku, I also felt the sweetness of the word ‘sprinkle’ as it relates to sugar, but then I’d pass on the sugar to have a cup of tea that reflects a sprinkle of stars as this haiku so delicately offers.
in the marble game
The word ‘marble’ caught my eye right away with this haiku and I was delighted to see the prompt taken straight out into the universe. We have an infinite number of galaxies, and I enjoyed the subtle repetition and idea of another new galaxy next to the new moon phase of earth’s moon. Of course, the connotations of ‘marble game’ intrigued me too. When I see images and illustrations of planets, they do resemble colorful marbles. I recalled my own bag of marbles and the games we played as kids. Nothing like the solar system marbles we can buy today and the more advanced galaxy board games. I’m not a gamer but wouldn’t be surprised if galaxy marble games exist as well. But over and beyond all that there exists for me a subtle metaphor. Certainly, we too are a part of the ‘marble game’ as we take for granted our own tiny blue planet within a rapidly expanding universe and its continuous formation of new galaxies.
star gazing . . .
I learn the word
Orewa, New Zealand
The words we choose can make such a difference to the success of a haiku. The word ‘septillion’ immediately brought back a memory of the way we often used the made-up word ‘zillion’ to express an undetermined vast number. As in, “there must be a zillion mosquitoes out tonight”. Yet here we have a word with an actual mathematical value. My mind can barely grasp trillion, yet septillion is 4 steps beyond, and it continues even further. And this interesting numerical word works because of the carefully chosen ‘star gazing’ instead of just showing a starlit night starry sky. The phrase ‘star gazing’ invites a sense of wonder, a sense of contemplation and focus.
I spill my secrets
to the new moon
Lombard, IL USA
There is more than one level to explore with this beautiful spring haiku. The phrase ‘spring quickening’ suggests the flutter of our hearts at the first signs of spring, but it also suggests the first flutter of life in the uterus. There is a wonderful sense of excitement bubbling up in the presence of the new moon that makes me understand the need to ‘spill my secrets’. It could be any number of secrets depending on the reader’s interpretation, but for me the emphasis suggests new life and procreation on all levels from human to fawns to mayflies. I feel a real sense of spring fever. The sounds and rhythm of this haiku are excellent with the ‘s’ alliteration and assonance of ‘new moon’.
moth porch party
I enjoyed the play on ‘new/old’. We know the moon is old too, but at this moment there is a play on what we label the ‘new moon’ and ‘old feelings’. I like the fact ‘old feelings’ are left for the reader to interpret. I smiled at ‘moth porch party’ having seen this many times myself. However, there are two ways to see this party – are the moths enjoying their nocturnal feeding on a moonless night or have they been drawn to a deadly party around a porch light? I prefer the space the poet has left for the reader to determine what the last line suggests. Moths are nocturnal creatures who fly easily in the dark of a moonless night. Too much light interrupts their navigational abilities and ultimately results in them being burned. Moth to the flame, so to speak, perhaps similar to the way ‘old feelings’ might surface on a moonless night. The choice of ‘party’ also suggests the inevitable, that of ‘old feelings’ surfacing just as surely as moths will be drawn to something that will burn them. There is just so much sound and emotion in this lovely haiku.
the familiar meow
of a stray
Another lovely contrast of ‘new’ to ‘familiar’. There is a feeling of intimacy when we think of a ‘meow’ coming through the darkness of a moonless night. The phrase ‘familiar meow’ suggests the cat is a frequent visitor on its nocturnal wanderings. Perhaps the moonless night is better for hunting, or perhaps the familiar cat is being given food by a caring person. The word ‘stray’ offers a feeling of empathy as we imagine a cat having to fend for itself. I feel a sense of connection between the listener and animal. A lovely haiku with sound and emotion.
freshly turned earth
through the screen
A perfect spring moment in my opinion, rich with the scent of ‘freshly turned earth’ with its suggestion of plantings to come. Senses heighten in the dark, so I can imagine this earthy scent flowing ‘through the screen’, perhaps on a light breeze. The open screened window or door suggests the poet too is welcoming this earthy smell and all its possibilities into their space. For me a sensory moment like this is everything a haiku does at its best. It invites the reader into the experience that feels both familiar and new at the same time and fills us with a sense of expectation.
the first hedgehog unfolding a blanket of stars
I’m not familiar with hedgehogs where I live, but I can easily imagine creatures familiar to my area that also emerge from hibernation in early spring. However, nothing unfolds like the hedgehog that sleeps wrapped up into a tight ball. I enjoy the vision of this bristly ball emerging from hibernation and unfolding itself for its nocturnal forays. The phrase ‘unfolding a blanket of stars’ is a beautiful figurative phrase that works so well when we think of this little creature’s emergence on a starry night. Star by star, bristle by bristle, this hedgehog unfolds itself for the first time after a long sleep. A wonderful monoku with a sense of expectancy with this ‘first’ sighting, and an amazing visual image. Note how ‘blanket’ works in a figurative way for both hedgehog and night sky as they both unfold and reveal themselves.
new moon night
I like the rhythm of ‘new moon night’. Some might say night isn’t necessary, but it works well here with its emphasis on darkness. This emphasis pervades the dream state too and reminds us of how owls hunt at night using their incredible night vision. While not stated in the haiku, the sound of the owl comes through with my reading. Upon waking up, the lingering call of an owl is all that is remembered of what might have been a good dream. We all know how easily we can forget our dreams. Love the notion of the very real owl flying away metaphorically with the poet’s dream.
me too, moon,
I enjoyed mining the depths of this simple haiku. The choice of ‘invisible phase’ for the new moon echoes the sense of invisibility we all feel at times. On the surface, it could be just that, an empathy with the moon’s moon as we reflect on our own sense of feeling invisible. Perhaps not being heard, not being seen, or, what we know as the invisibility of the aged. The ‘me too’ reference of course brings up the #MeToo movement with its focus on sexual violence. I appreciate that this reader feels free to contemplate the different ways we all feel invisible with the hopes that the future, like the moon’s phases, will bring light on our sense of invisibility. The repetition of ‘me too, me too’ draws out a sense of empathy and connection not only to the moon, but to the one feeling invisible.
the barn owl
sweeps past the stars
This haiku offers a moment in time that is sudden and fleeting. And such a vision with ‘moon-faced’ barn owl. I can almost imagine the sound of the wings as it swoops out of a barn and into the night sky. The fleetingness of this haiku is what caught my eye, not to mention the visual image. I usually associate my owl experiences with owls hooting in the night, but this image ‘sweeps’ out of the darkness of a new moon and disappears into a starlit sky, taking me, the reader, right along with it.
in a new season
old snow piles
The repetition of ‘new’ with ‘old’ works well and offers a moment of truth many of us can relate to. Despite our longing for spring, remnants of winter remain. Dates on a calendar, especially these days, are no indication of weather conditions. March offers surprises when it comes to weather – snowmelt, spring snow, anything can happen. On a metaphorical level, I enjoyed the idea of a new beginning against the reality of ‘old snow piles’, reminding us that whatever transitions we are experiencing, seasonal or otherwise, a bit of the past comes with us into the new season.
a falling tide
reveals the stars
Pacific Grove, CA
As I live on the ocean, this haiku drew me in with the first word ‘syzygy’ – indicating the effects the gravitational force of the moon and the sun have on earth’s oceans. During a new moon there is a straight-line configuration (syzygy) of the sun, moon and earth, which can result in extreme highs and lows, called King tides or Neap tides, both of which affect my life by the shore. The phrase ‘a falling tide reveals the stars’ is a literal truth where I live. Our starfish numbers are lower than they have ever been due to a virus. They can be seen at low tide clinging to rocks, stranded on sand, idling in tide pools, all waiting for an incoming tide. On another level, the coast is a wonderful place to view the stars with its open sky and uninterrupted view to the horizon, especially during a moonless night. Of course, last but not least, is the phenomenon of a bioluminescent beach best seen around the new moon, when there is no moonlight and you get a better view of the brilliant blue glow dancing in the waves like stars. There is much for the reader to unpack in this delightful 7-word haiku.
apogee moon the situations that never change
The ‘apogee’ is the point when the moon is farthest from Earth during a particular orbit. Whether perigee (closest to earth) or apogee (farthest from earth) this phase happens every 27 days, or once a month. I can feel a psychological resonance between the changing phases of the moon and the unchanging situations one might be experiencing. Also, the suggested distance of an ‘apogee moon’ makes it seem as if situational change was desired, but felt unreachable. This is where interpretations could differ depending on one’s own experiences. One could also look at the distant moon and find comfort in the fact some situations never change. But as I believe more in change than fixed situations, I tend to enjoy the slightly darker connotations. Especially having read the moon is moving away from us by about an inch per year.
Join us next week for Carole’s selection of poems on the theme of the Half Moon…
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.
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