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HAIKU DIALOGUE – Social Issues – Social -isms

 

It’s no secret that the entire world has been divided since the beginning of time, whether that be by race, class, religious beliefs, or even cliques in high school. There’s only one way that we can learn to love unconditionally and that’s through empathy and understanding. Over the month of November, I’d like to take some time to get to know one another by sharing our diverse life experiences on the theme of social issues. Everyone has specific social issues that affect them.

The importance of social awareness in haiku is not to change opinions, but to show the opinion from our own perspectives. What personal experiences have we had to make us passionate about that particular issue?

For the month of November, each poet may send one or two haiku/senryu on the week’s theme via our Contact Form.

There will be a selection process in which I will briefly comment on a few of the selected pieces.

The haiku appear in the order in which we receive them.

My next theme is poverty and hunger.

Growing up with a single mom, there were times when all we had to eat for dinner was one box of store brand mac-and-cheese, so this is a theme that is close to my heart. Poverty is an issue that is ever increasing throughout the world. Even if you’ve never been directly affected by poverty or hunger, you’ve either known people who are, or at the very least have passed someone begging for food and change. As we approach Thanksgiving in the US, I think this week’s theme will be a humble reminder of what we do have and if you’re currently experiencing poverty and hunger, will be a good opportunity to share your experience and resilience through hardship. Maybe you’ve worked in a soup kitchen or have given money to a stranger. Perhaps you’ve lived in a tiny apartment with your entire family. Regardless of your situation, your story deserves to be heard. Although I have provided some suggestions of directions for this theme, I leave this open to interpretation.

The deadline is midnight EST, Saturday November 23, 2019.

Social Issues: “-isms”

Another unnerving and poignant cull this week. I would like to sincerely thank everyone who took the time to submit. Some poems that were selected show personal experiences and others observations. We certainly have a long, long way to go. Prejudice is conditioned, but we can and will fight this. In the meantime, remember that each one of you is special and beautiful, just as you are. Live your best life and change for no one.

temple bells
the women pray
for change

Webster Groves
MO

Women have lived in a man’s world for far too long. We have won many battles regarding gender equality, but we haven’t completely won the war. Most of this, unfortunately, is due to a fixed mindset. As someone who was raised with southern baptist values and ideals, this poem, in particular, struck a chord with me. There are many religions that oppress women and bringing that aspect into gender rights is just beautiful. Line three is completely unexpected and adds heaviness to such a serious situation. This is the perfect example of a link and shift that will make your jaw drop.

Cinderella
in the closet
his mother’s slippers

Janice Munro
Canada

Cinderella is one of my favorite princesses. She wasn’t born into royalty and she wasn’t entitled. As a matter of fact, she was an abused girl who found unconditional love and even though she was conditioned to hate herself, she was resilient. This poem is beautifully written and there are layers I could just dig and dig through. Given the juxtaposition between Cinderella and this boy, it seems though he might be a small child playing dress up with his mother’s shoes. The use of “in the closet” is brilliant as it suggests this boy isn’t out yet, perhaps out of fear that he won’t be accepted. Either way, he’s a princess in my book. No one should have to be ashamed of or hide who they are and I just love this piece.

public garden
a stranger singles me out
as “that little Chink”

Jackie Chou
Pico Rivera, CA USA

Reading this feels like twenty steps backwards and I want to cry and throw things. Not only am I disheartened for the poet, but I am angry and disappointed that we are STILL at a point in society where things like this happen. The authenticity of this piece is certainly there and although I can’t say that I feel or even remotely understand what this person went through, I can say that the poet made me empathize to the best of my ability. Reading about experiences like these are exactly why talking about social issues in haiku is necessary and I’m going to do my best to stand up for those who experience unjust ridicule daily. Thank you, Jackie, for your bravery in sharing this experience.

Here are the rest of my selections for this week:

deadheaded roses
finally they take his threats
seriously

Christina Sng
Singapore

 

no sanitary napkins –
a red spot on dress
such a taboo

Neelam Dadhwal
India

 

the gray mantle
of invisibility
snow moon

Marilyn Ashbaugh

 

handicapped restroom
to your left
and down three steps

Peggy Hale Bilbro
Alabama

 

a cinema-
the white and black rows
crying the same tears

Aljoša Vuković
Šibenik, Croatia

 

all night long
smoke in the fireplace…
Auschwitz Camp

tutta la notte
fumo nel camino…
Auschwitz Camp

Francesco Palladino

 

Karl Marx-
calculating
his identity

Lakshmi Iyer

 

crazy insane
he describes the good party
like my mother’s illness

Kat Lehmann

 

thunderclap
we the silenced
boom #me too

Karen Harvey

 

morning hustle
protest banners for equal salary of female pilots

Nuky Kristijono
Indonesia

 

without a frown descending paralysis

simonj
UK

 

pointed stares
our blended family
not blending in

Sari Grandstaff

 

her widened eyes
as I explain bad touch
synthetic moon

Anitha Varma

 

the shortest skirt
and the deepest neck blouse
got the job

Franjo Ordanic

 

my first job-
resignation in white
if I get pregnant

Angela Giordano
Italy

 

corner flag
boy ashamed of father’s
monkey impression

Tomislav Sjekloća,
Cetinje, Montenegro

 

between beer gulps
guest’s in the bar take photos
of a beaten up girl*

*true story – Zadar, Croatia, Juni 13th 2018

Dubravka Šćukanec
Zagreb, Croatia

 

cold snap behind bares the freedom of expression

Helga Stania
Switzerland

 

Flow Chart

Group A
…./
dislikes
…./
Group B
…./
dislikes
…./
Group C

Valentina Ranaldi-Adams

 

cookie-cutter office
is all really fair
with the fairer sex

Vandana Parashar

 

temple taboo
even God to be guarded
stink of menstrual blood

Vishnu Kapoor

 

welcome mat set ablaze

Roberta Beach Jacobson

 

granny’s lessons in
standing up to machismo …
still relevant

Natalia Kuznetsova

 

birds of a feather
flock together —
CV whitening

Anna Maria Domburg-Sancristoforo

 

acid (ra)in (c)hang(i)ng the (s)oil co(m)position

Hifsa Ashraf
Pakistan

 

workplace power harassment–
waterless pool is
a coffin of fish

Teiichi Suzuki

 

shuffling the deck —
my ism trumps your ism

Mark Gilbert

 

dismissing the old man
with trembling hands
out of touch

Laurie Greer
Washington DC

 

A, not Anne –
her resume goes
to the next screening

Pat Davis, NH USA

 

so many scars
mostly deep inside
Vietnam

Charles Harmon

 

a little white girl
tries to wipe the color on the face
of a little black boy

Slobodan Pupovac
Zagreb, Croatia

 

they say size doesn’t
matter – unless it’s
metastasize

Guy Stephenson

 

racism –
a bad story
of colors

razzismo –
una brutta storia
di colori

Maria Teresa Piras
Italy

 

the shape
of missing legs walk
in his dreams

Steve Tabb

 

cold rain
the girl who doesn’t
play with dolls

Isabel Caves
Auckland, New Zealand

 

eyebrows lifted…
my in-laws still send cards
using his last name

Pris Campbell

 

the most
popular guy in school
a bully

Olivier Schopfer
Switzerland

 

how mom learned
her son was gay
left for dead

Kath Abela Wilson
Pasadena, California

 

an old man
hesitating at the door…
unisex restroom

Al Gallia
Lafayette, Louisiana USA

 

half clad boy-
the notes of his flute
from across the school gate

arvinder kaur
Chandigarh, India

 

labeled slow
now freed as an adult
she grows

Debbie Scheving

 

neoliberalism
the mugshot smile
of a politician

Agus Maulana Sunjaya

 

sitting close …
the annoyed look
of the lady

vicini sul tram…
lo sguardo infastidito
della signora

Lucia Cardillo

 

pagans and heathens …
the names for those
who worship the other

Madhuri Pillai

 

double dutch
on the schoolyard
a white girl
switches
sides

Roberta Beary

 

serving justice
the girl from the wrong side
of the tracks

Michele L. Harvey

 

onlooker scorns
crosscut saw
in his prosthetic hand

Christina Pecoraro

 

generation
after generation
blaming the other

Ingrid Baluchi
Macedonia

 

Maria becomes Mario:
students are crying
on that empty chair

Elisa Allo

 

gifted pianist
job offers dwindle
epilepsy

Ruth Powell

 

you loved my paintings
until you met me–
weighed and sifted

Lemuel Waite
Georgetown, Kentucky

 

invisible in the queue
her turn
never comes

Charlotte Hrenchuk

 

All Souls’ day
so many ageist pigs
still alive

cezar ciobîcă

 

he says I got this
the black ice we skid on &
rock hard embankment

wendy c. bialek
az, usa

Lori Zajkowski is the Post Manager for Haiku Dialogue. A novice haiku poet, she lives in New York City.

Guest editor Lori A Minor is a feminist, mental health advocate, and body positive activist currently living in Norfolk, Virginia. She is the editor of #FemkuMag. Most recently, Lori gave a presentation on social awareness in haiku at Haiku North America 2019.

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).

This Post Has 40 Comments

  1. There’s a lot to contemplate reading the line up with this collection, well done to all.
    .
    When I read this verse the image that came to mind was one I saw on an advert for ‘save the children’
    A young child that seemed to be no more than the age of two, sitting half exposed, (naked?) in a cardboard box on a busy street the little soul might as well had been a stray animal for the lack of concern. Horrific.
    .
    half clad boy—
    the notes of his flute
    from across the school gate
    .
    arvinda kaur

    This is such a sad read, for me, when we are supposed to live in an age of equality.

    1. We’re all the same people, human beings, yet what you read is the norm and perfectly acceptable in many countries, including here in this, my adopted own — a European country. You can imagine the consternation of passers by if they saw a child in a box in Soho or affluent areas of American cities.
      Why such cruel division?

      1. A cruel division, indeed, Ingrid. There’s always so much talk talk talk from governments to lessen this division, but here we are decades later…

  2. What a powerful collection of poetry. I could feel the depth of experience in every one of them. Kudos to the poets and to the curators.

  3. acid (ra)in (c)hang(i)ng the (s)oil co(m)position

    Hifsa Ashraf
    Pakistan

    It took me a while to see what you meant, but what you say is so important on several different levels.
    Brilliant! And thank you!

  4. Thank you to everyone who contributed to this thought-provoking feature—and to Lori for issuing the challenge! I could not get out of my tanka mind in time to contribute, but I really admire all the writers who managed to grapple with such a difficult topic in haiku form. A few of my favorites:

    the gray mantle
    of invisibility
    snow moon
    *
    Marilyn Ashbaugh
    *
    Love the pure poetry of this subtle senryu. I now have enough grey hair to be able to relate to the unsettling age-ist phenomenon it describes. Of course, I’m choosing to look at this invisibility as my new super power…
    *
    crazy insane
    he describes the good party
    like my mother’s illness
    *
    Kat Lehmann
    *
    This poem taught me something new. I had not considered the way the hyperbolic use of words like “crazy insane” to describe fun times might be offensive to those struggling with mental illness. Thank you, Kat, for raising my awareness.
    *
    acid (ra)in (c)hang(i)ng the (s)oil co(m)position
    *
    Hifsa Ashraf
    Pakistan
    *
    This poem is so much more than the cleverness that meets the eye. Acid rain is an anthropogenic issue, as is the climate crisis, as is racism. This poem demonstrates the way our actions change the very ground of our being. I especially like the “oh-by-the-way” quality the parentheses lend to this observation.
    *

    shuffling the deck —
    my ism trumps your ism
    *
    Mark Gilbert
    *
    This poem points to the way we work harder at trying to “out-victim” one another than we do at trying to relate to or understand one another. How interesting—and sad—that our society has mistaken the victim corner of the abuse triangle (abuser—victim—rescuer) for a position of power. What will it take for us to get out of the triangle entirely? Perhaps the awareness generated by our attentive witnessing of the infamous spouter-of-isms alluded to in line two is a start.

  5. I was really disappointed that my contribution didn’t make it. It was about bullying in the school yard. I am pleased by many friends that gad their contributions published. Overall I enjoyed reading the published pieces.

  6. Lots of great haiku here. This one caught my attention. I’m sure we all know mothers who encourage their daughters to play with dolls when the weather is not suitable for playing outside. So the last line is a surprise. We need to accept children for who they are and not who we want them to be.

    cold rain
    the girl who doesn’t
    play with dolls

    Isabel Caves
    Auckland, New Zealand

  7. Two others I admired were Janice Munro’s multilayered
    .
    Cinderella
    in the closet
    his mother’s slippers
    .
    and Peggy Hall Bibro’s sad and subtly ironic
    .
    handicapped restroom
    to your left
    and down three steps
    .

    1. Thank you Mark for your mention. The location of Peggy’s ‘handicapped restroom’ affected me strongly (gave me a jolt) as well. I also appreciated your words on Ingrid’s generation haiku bringing out several meanings including the double take on her use of ‘other’.

    2. Thanks Janice and Mark. I’ve seen way too many of these handicapped restrooms. Or ones with the TP way too high or way too low to access. Or no purse hanger. Or no way to grasp the door once inside the stall.

  8. Ingrid Baluchi’s really grabbed me –
    .
    generation
    after generation
    blaming the other
    .
    – an example where after first reading there was a ‘clunk’ moment when the implication of the last line sunk in – a truly ambiguous haiku/senryu for me, with two clear and simultaneous meanings – firstly the way generations (or other groups in society) are encouraged to turn on eachother, but also the chilling last line, where irrespective of which group it is, everyone blames The Other, whoever or whatever that happens conveniently to be. Meanwhile nothing seems to change. Fantastically done, for such a seemingly simple set of words and structure.

    1. Thank you, Mark, for seeing into my poem and for your comments.
      .
      I was thinking about how my parents used to blame the world’s ills on the ‘spoiled’ generation coming after WWII, and how hard a time it was back then for them.
      .
      They seemed to have forgotten that their parents’ generation kept their mouths shut at such atrocities as the First World War, colonial empire-building and social injustices on a grand scale.
      .
      Then our generation wonders at the way the world has become less courteous, and so violent and nasty with increasing fake news, hate mail, school shootings, street stabbings, and so on, and blame the current generation.
      .
      But there is some hope because in spite of all these ills, it’s possible that the current generation, and perhaps others coming after, will try, with greater access to the media, and by being more honest and acting more positively, to address and rectify some of these issues. They have to, to be honest. We’ve got ourselves and this planet of ours into a real mess, and our ‘leaders’ make things worse through greed, arrogance and little thought for the future.

  9. So many stories here, it is sobering.
    I was thrown off a bit by the length but intrigued by:
    workplace power harassment –
    waterless pool is
    a coffin of fish
    .
    Teiichi Suzuki
    *
    a cinema –
    the white and black rows
    crying the same tears
    .
    Aljosa Vukovic
    Sibenik, Croatia
    .
    Are theaters still segregated? That saddens me.
    *
    you loved my paintings
    until you met me –
    weighed and sifted
    .
    Lemuel Waite
    .
    A hard story here. It is difficult to separate the art from the artist sometimes, especially now with expectations of a social media presence.
    *
    an old man
    hesitating at the door…
    unisex restroom
    .
    Al Gallia
    .
    This created a vivid image, helped by the line breaks. Change is hard, and the man wants to make sure he’s at the right place.
    *
    without a frown descending paralysis
    .
    simonj
    .
    This intuitively moved me.
    *
    thunderclap
    we the silenced
    boom #me too
    .
    Karen Harvey
    .
    Powerful and concise. And maybe just me but I associated a positive clap in thunderclap.

    1. Lovely insight you shared, Gratitude to you. Shall we think the better of all beings? The goodness, one’s creativity, and, their kindness are prominent and more abundantly real than all begrudging assumptions and low thoughts we assign to others in wrongful judgment. Stop the spiral of strife, that is, the “sorting” of other people.

  10. DearLori, Lori Mnor and Catherine Munroe,
    Greetings, delighted to go through this week’s blog, My favorite one is the following of so many:

    how mom learned
    her son was gay
    left for dead

    Kath Abela Wilson
    Pasadena, California

    1. Agreed Radhamani, I found Kath Abela Wilson’s poem incredibly poignant with its shocking and heartbreaking last line (though skilfully leaving just a tiny bit of hope).

  11. Thank you so much Lori for your comments. This is indeed a powerful assembly of haiku. I started making a list of ‘choices’ but concluded that there are so many powerful images that I’d prefer to salute them all. Overall I come away feeling reaffirmed in the sense that we have a long way to go on many fronts and whether prejudices and injustices are blatant, subtle, or concealed, they are keenly felt.

  12. Another fine selection of poems. Thanks Lori for setting the bar high.
    All of the above are deserved of their place in this emotionally charged theme.
    I agree with Laurie above that it feels somewhat wrong to single one out.
    I though have, as this one really hit home hard.
    .
    between beer gulps
    guest’s in the bar take photos
    of a beaten up girl*

    *true story – Zadar, Croatia, Juni 13th 2018

    Dubravka Šćukanec
    Zagreb, Croatia
    .
    Living in a supposed humane society in the 21st century, one would think we could not return to such events. Yet here we see we have not moved much at all. Events such as this appears on social media sites daily; be it a fight, a stabbing, a shooting or as in this case a beating. Once upon a time people would have gone to aid someone in trouble. I like to think I would.

    1. While moved by the story, what about the haikuness or poetry?
      “beer” is a superfluous word in the “bar”, and “beaten up” is a conclusion, a tell not a show eg. a girl’s many bruises. Removal of “of” would also provide for a stronger cut.

  13. Many thanks to Lori and all the contributors–this is one of the strongest columns I’ve seen on this blog yet. All the poems are so powerful it seems wrong to single any out as favorites, and together, as they show the effects of everything from deliberate cruelty to thoughtlessness to the obliviousness of assumptions and ingrained habits, they give an illuminating, maddening picture of where we are now.

  14. Thank you for including my haiku here among this collection. So varied. Very interesting topics for haiku. Some are subtle and some are less so but all have quite an impact.

    1. Valentina, I felt yours was extremely bold and interesting (a concrete haiku/senryu?) and I don’t think I’ve seen that done anywhere else. I think it is in a similar territory to mine and Ingrid’s (all this energy flows in a circle and nothing changes…).
      .
      Flow Chart
      .
      Group A
      …./
      dislikes
      …./
      Group B
      …./
      dislikes
      …./
      Group C

      1. Thank-you for commenting on mine Mark. I was trying to make the point that a person who is discriminated against for some reason turns around and discriminates against someone else for a different reason.

  15. Thanks Lori for commenting on my haiku! I forgot to include my name. I really don’t understand why a certain group of people do something as simple as pray in a temple and another group of people aren’t allowed to? It makes no sense to me. Seems to me it’s all based on traditional rules that are completely bullshit. A lot of horrible isms out there.

    1. “Maybe time to tone down religions?”, she responds controversially.
      .
      Not that long ago, we used to say that money was the greatest evil.
      .
      These days we’re facing far more real and dire threats to the planet we live in and share with other ecosystems, yet religious beliefs seem to get in the way of common sense.
      .
      I await the flak….

      1. No flak from me. For all the beauty and comfort religion has given to the world, it is too often used as a blunt instrument against those who pursue spiritual comfort in different ways.

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