It’s the holiday season, and I hope that you and yours are doing well during these difficult and crazy pandemic times. I was thinking today about the gift of haiku and what it means to me. I thought that I would share some of my favorite haiku and senryu with you, and I invite you to do the same in the comments. (Note: Please share published poems only. Some publications will not publish pieces that have appeared anywhere online.) Let’s celebrate our haiku community!
In the past year, more than 25 haiku poets have generously shared their Advice for Beginners with New to Haiku. Many, if not all, of the poets interviewed advised new poets to read, read, and read some more haiku. If you follow this advice, after a time you will begin to collect haiku and senryu in the same way that you might gather seashells, bottle caps, or memories. You may not realize it at first, but some of these poems will become a part of you.
These are just a few of the poems that live with me.
all day long
i feel its weight
the unworn necklace
This poem is from Roberta’s collection with Snapshot Press, The Unworn Necklace, and is an excellent example of senryu as narrative. I have been fascinated with this poem since I first read it. Why is the necklace unworn? Did it break? Is it lost? Was it given to someone else? Does it even exist? Similar to a choose-your-own adventure book with different possible endings, multiple interpretations of this poem are valid. The message in this poem differs depending upon the reader.
washed jeans ––
his love note
Susan won an honorable mention in Sonic Boom‘s Fourth Annual Senryu Contest in 2018 with this deliciously sensual and surprisingly intimate poem. This poem feels like a secret between friends. Remember passing notes in high school about your latest crush? The hidden love note may be washed and faded, but if you know where to look, there’s that blush of discovery and a secret smile.
on this cold
2 night 3 4
— marlene mountain
The first time I read this poem by marlene mountain, which initially appeared in 1978’s moments/moments, unaloud haiku from High/Coo Press, I did a double take. This haiku has more than three lines! Can you do that? (Yes.) Wait, those are numbers! Why are there numbers? Ohhhh. They represent kittens! The kittens in this poem are arriving unexpectedly, just like this poem surprised me with its unusual line count, flow, and digits.
Good haiku continue to reveal themselves to you upon re-reading them. This poem takes that a step further by initially seeming nearly indecipherable. Personally, I did not understand this poem on the first reading or even the second! Like a puzzle, however, marlene’s haiku grabbed my attention and held on. I love the shape of the poem, which also intrigues me. I have decided that it resembles a kitten held in the mouth of the mother cat.
aster than the speed of lightf
— LeRoy Gorman
This haiku by LeRoy Gorman, which appeared in Scifaikuest in November 2016 and later won the 2017 Dwarf Stars Award, is another “puzzle” poem that I love. When I shared this one on the board for my son’s middle school class a few years ago, one child, when no one was looking, erased the “f” at the end of the poem and re-wrote it at the beginning of “aster”. The teacher was embarrassed, but I loved the way that the student interacted with the poem. Clearly, the haiku moved them so much that they had to respond! This haiku does make us uncomfortable. We want to move that “f” because leaving it at the end of the poem changes our world view.
a shade too brown
My heart hurt when I read this senryu by Jonathan, which appeared in May 13, 2020’s THF’s Haiku Dialogue for Haiku Prism – Brown. Such pain condensed into 3 lines. Such is the power of haiku and senryu. I have not had this experience, but when I read this poem, I was right there at the roadside stand, sweating in the heat with Jonathan and his family, feeling angry, resigned, and defeated, wanting to yell at the proprietor but not knowing if it would even help. Haiku and senryu can be effective windows into someone else’s life.
30th of June
my unidentified flag
furls into itself
Similar to Jonathan’s poem, Peg’s poem, a recent winner in the First Annual Trailblazer Contest, deeply touched me. I read through lines 1 and 2 wondering what was going on. Why this seemingly inconsequential date? Why an unidentified flag? And then, on line 3, I felt a wallop: it was the end of Pride Month and loneliness permeated everything. I wasn’t sure exactly where the loneliness stemmed from, but similar to Roberta’s poem, multiple reasons came to mind. I can’t hug the poet in person yet, but at least I can tuck their poem into my heart.
the moon behind the clouds––
all these little old ladies
— Mikey Kelsey, age 6
Speaking of my heart, I may be more than a little biased about this last poem, which appeared in 2014’s Rattle Young Poet’s Anthology. I love the child’s perspective here. All of the little old ladies crowding around to pinch the boy’s cheeks are holding him back, similar to the clouds shielding the brightness of the moon. Or maybe my son simply planned to moon the crowd, who knows?
What are your favorite haiku and/or senryu that you have read? Share them in the comments, and let’s celebrate our wonderful community!
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