HAIKU COMMENTARIES

grey day
smoke from a mill meanders
over the river


(The Heron's Nest) Award Volume 1, Number 3, 1999)

"This haiku is deceptively plain, and perhaps seems as lackadaisical as the day it describes. but there is more, much more than appears on the surface. One of the great gifts of haiku is that they encourage us to discover the extraordinary in the ordinary. There is great depth in this poem if one knows, not where, but how to look.

First, what is presented? We are told straight away, and in general terms, that the day is gray is ­no surprise, nothing spectacular, just what is ­and the grayness seems applied to everything.Imagine a mill:several large, dark gray buildings. Smoke issues from a tall chimney; it too is gray, but paler than the buildings.The sky stretches overhead, a few shades lighter than the disposition of the poet who takes in this panorama? Gray. The magic happens because the poet doesn't struggle to alleviate the feeling of heaviness but rather allows herself to sink into it, to be part of it. There's little energy in the air. The smoke doesn't rise straight up, nor does it stream or sink; it meanders, like the river itself.In fact "meander" is a word that more often describes the movement of rivers than of smoke . . . which leads me to syntax. an'ya's use of "meander" to describe the movement of smoke, brings the river to the sky and the sky to the river, melding them.

Although this poem reads simply and naturally, the skillful lyricism and patterning of rhythm are exceptionally effective. The first line "gray day" is two distinct beats. The long "a"s stretch those beats beyond the visual length of the words, yet the hard first letters keep the line succinct. Surprisingly, these two syllables sere to slow us down. Spread well apart, the three "m"s in the second line continue to slow the pace, stretching the three beats waaaay out. Much like the smoke described, the "m"s seem to meander. 

In the last line, the two "ver" sounds return us to the rhythm and tempo of the first line, but now the tone is soothing, like a broad river. This poem is a wonderful onomatopoeia. It conjures the slow flow of the day. At first glance, this haiku is a black and white photograph, not a color slide.The photographer is an artist, a writer who appreciates the subtlety of the wonders spread before her: a treasure trove in shades of gray. She sees the way the smoke crosses the river, one meandering stream crossing another. She chooses to participate in this intersection, and the pervasive gray in which it is embraced, opening to it, drinking in the nuances. She is transformed, and if we readers allow it, we too are transformed. Through this poem it is possible to enter into an abiding sense of peace and, in the resulting gratitude, begin again to see and to appreciate color".—Christopher Herold, 1999 Editor of the The Heron's Nest

Note: (This haiku was also voted a Favorite in the Valentine Awards 2000 for Favorite Haiku in Volume I, 1999), and reprinted in The American Srbobran Featured Serb American Writers No. 39, 2002), reprinted by World Haiku Association, 2002.)

 

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I work as a mountain guide, and was on a very narrow ridge traverse a few days ago in a strong east wind; the clients needed to pause - to put on gloves because the rock was cold - and a packet of aniseed lozenges were passed around..I quoted your haiku, one of my favourites.--Ray Mackenzie, Tour Guide on the Isle of Man

bitter cold

a juniper berry parts

the jay's beak

an'ya

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female pinecone

morning fog squeezes 

into its spiral

"Amazing, Never read a haiku quite like that!-"Michael McClintock, Tanka Socieety of America President

"I DO like this haiku. It's so vividly visual, and it'd...it's...ahhhhh... Gawd! So, so SENsual!"-Christopher Herold, Editor Heron's Nest

"Not content with emulating Christina Rossetti, an'ya has updated herself to Georia O'Keefe. Right!"-Kirsty Karkow

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moonset

a sudden vastness

between stars

"Without using the word "I", or some action by herself, at least to me an'ya makes her presence so vividly known by the absence of putting herself in the haiku. "A sudden vastness" may well be a physical fact but to me it comes over very strongly that "she (an'ya) feels it is vast" suddenly by the disappearance of light and something much larger and prominent. The delightful and essential joy of this haiku--that the poet IS there, but not intrusive. The "vastness/ between stars" was of course always there, in nature, but is perceived here as "sudden"...it is a human perception of what otherwise (without human perception involved) is a cold, impersonal, impossibly large universe...I particularly like how the transience of the "moonset" sets time in motion in contrast to this vast and fixed infinity of stars and the blank, eternal space between them...the temporal and eternal are realized together and simultaneously in a wonderful image. The haiku suggests there IS a role for consciousness in the universe, and the poem seems to be one of joy in that discovery--written in a century that saw consciousness as essentially meaningless, if not also a curse, by the existentialist philosophers, among others. All of this delivered in few words and simple utterance.--Michael McClintock

wee hours
the burn barrel
rekindles itself


(The Winter Moon Awards for Haiku 2008, and voted into where the wind turns, The Red Moon Anthology of English­ Language Haiku 2009 out of nearly 2000 nominations; only 161 poems were selected for inclusion).

"Simplicity of language and soft ­sounding words create the quiet, the peacefulness, the loneliness of night when no one is around. This moment too is magic. In the wee hours of the morning when the energy is calmest the flame reignites. Such contrast. The poet is chosen to see this moment and entrusted to share it with us. But this haiku can be symbolic as well. My mind can be the burn barrel of thoughts that awaken in the middle of the night, preventing sleep. Or the haiku can symbolize the experience of feeling at the lowest point of one's life, then suddenly realizing that the interior flame has not died after all."—Carolyn Thomas, Judge 

 

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hired hands

stack the last bales of hay

high autumn

(Third Place somewhere?)

"this haiku has a beautiful sound. the subject of hay is emphasized by the mellifluous alliteration of "hired," "hands," and especially "high," by the assonance of "hands," "stack," and "last," and the "bales" with "hay." The haiku has more going for it than pleasing sound, however "high autumn" is an uncommon phrase for autumn, and the idea is nicely captured in the staking of hay. There's a sense of contentment and completion to this one, a sense of satisfaction of a job well done, echoed by the height of the season.--Judge?

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june breeze

a hole in the cloud

mends itself

"This haiku is concise, vivid, and beautifully focused.We are first asked to feel a balmy june breeze. Then our eyes are drawn heavenward, where we see a familiar sight: a cloud with a ragged hole in it. AS we watch, the hole becomes smaller, the edges pulled together as if by invisible stitches.Another observer might have allowed his or her gaze to wander on, no doubt to a "more interesting" scene But something bout that hold caught and held the author's attention. As she watched air currents play with the loud, an'ya felt the flash of realization that inevitable burns itself into a poet's heart--the moment that a small drama is discovered in an ordinary scene. This moment, oore vivid to the poet than any photograph could be, was recorded in her memory. It is our gain that an'ya evolved her vision into words and then shared them with us. It's amazing to imagine a ting as wispy and watery as a cloud "mending itself", y this is a scene that I'm sure I've witnessed many times without a second thought. "june breeze" and the shifting shape of a cloud suggest a light, carefree mood. an'ya's haiku is powerful as pure imagery alone, but it's more than that. I see the cloud and its action as metaphor for our own fragility, and the way we must constantly mend ourselves. Not only do we heal our bodies, but our intangible emotions as well...our hearts.--

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garden deity

the banana slug

enters its mouth

(WHCtournament Judge's Favourtie)

"What an arresting, memorable image! And of course the banana slug has no regard for the deity here. What are gods to men are lumps of stone or a place out of the susn for the rest of creation. thge humor here is insightful and the delivery direct and uncomplicated."-Michael McClintock

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farmer's scythe
a harvesting song
in each sweep


(Third Place Betty Drevniok Award, 2009)

"The third place poem has an ageless quality. I could almost imagine it being written in the time of Basho.—Judge Angela Leuck, Vice President of Haiku Canada

 

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row after row
two draft horses plow
the odour of potatoes


(First Place Award Yellow Moon International Competition 2000)

In-­part from a book review of crosswinds: 

"an'ya, the only poet here represented who lives in the west, plays true to form with her broad rustic landscapes zooming into earthy detail." (Reprinted by the World Haiku Association in 2002, and numerous other places.) 

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circling vultures
the dead feral cat's
dead fetuses


"If Quentin Tarantino wrote haiku this could be one of his! The dead within the dead . . . and the circling motion of the vultures (intending to eat the dead, hence the dead within the living) . . . and the great cycle continues" . . . Michael McClintock, Tanka Society of America President

 

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banked fire
a sigh from the watchdog
in my arms


(Commended in the Presence Contest, and published in Presence No. Thirteen)

(Editor's Pick of the Week at womenonwriting.com (Women On Writing 2002), and rerinted in Cascade Arts & Entertainment Magazine of Cascade Publications Inc. Volume 12, Issue 9, 2006).

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night of stars

all along the precipice

goat bells ring

 

This haiku remains one of my favorite haiku of the last 10 or more years. There is something absolutely magical about it, and mysterious...I strongly associate it with the shepherds on the hills on the night of Christ's birth, and all the stories associated with that event--a purely personal association, perhaps. The use of the word "precipice" is absolutely superb and perfect, and is what chiefly conveys the poems' mystery and edginess; the immediacy and rightness of the goat bells that RING and of course is also powerful without any overlay whatever of the Christ story, or the highly condensed theology implied by the imagery in connection with that story...one sense the movement in the camp, the goats jostling, perhaps getting to follow the shepherd, who wants to take advantage of the starlight and move to new pastures before the heat of the day...I seem to want to fall headlong into the many possible reasons why those goat bells are ringing.--Michael McClintock

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flood plain

inch  by inch shorter

the bulrushes

(2nd Honorable Mention World Haiku Forum February Kukai,

reprinted in The Haiku Informator)

"The following haiku has keen seeing and objhective images to recommend it, we can measure the growing flood by the shrinking height of the bulrushes."-Michael Dylan Welch, Judge 

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family reunion

watermelons chilling

in the farm creek

"Second Place: family reunion. Another clear image, presented simply. With just a few key words, a wealth of images are offered. I like the way this one makes the season viid without naming it Vy extensions, it does the same with the family relationships"--?

 

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blustery 

the sagebrush snags whatever

blows by

"I have kept my remarks on all placed haiku to a minimum, and allowed their status as 'the chosen ones' to imply the accolades they obviously deserve. Of an'ya's haiku...'beautifully crafted', lyrical and resonant'; whether as haiku or poetry. Even thought I've never seen a sagebrush, these few words bring me closer to the scene than any photograph could."--Ernest Berry, New Zealand

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Wakako Katsube’s Ocean Day Kukai Choice

 

morning sea mist

the noises from a pod

of elephant seals

 

“I can feel the fresh morning air--very clear and crispy fresh air with the smell of the sea. I remembered the coastal line in Santa Cruz in California. I wonder if this writer is from the west coast of the USA! I used to live there for a few years during my secondary school days”.--Wakako Katsube, Judge

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open market

the gipsie baby clutches

a grape in her fist

"There is something powerful, iconic in this haiku, and on many layers...that little fist! Going after that grape!! Youth, human will, desire, an abundant earth 'there for the taking'...it's all there in that simple gesture...a brilliant haiku. In the genes of every human being there is that same innate, natural, and undeniable desire for the things of this world...from the get-go we reach out for it, find a way to put our hand on it and hold it for our own...the psychology underlying the haiku and the experience conveyed is is absolutely valid."--Michael McClintock, Editor

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READER'S CHOICE

Popular Poets

(poets who received the highest number of votes overall)

Double Grand prize shared with Ferris Gilli)

"an'ya first had a haiku published in The Heron's Nest i October of 1999, our second issue. The following month she received The Heron's Nest Award. Her work has been appearing, regularly ever since, and for good reason. an'ya is a gifted poet and has a natural affinity for haiku. haiku has provided her with the ideal means to express what she already understood intuitively. She recognizes the relevance of things and of circumstances, that most of us encounter in our daily lives but which often appear inane or commonplace. Consider this haiku (from issue seven) which garnered a significant number of votes.

bitter cold

the juniper berry parts

the jay's beak

Outwardly, the scene portrayed may seem common enough, but an'ya expresses it in such a way that our attention is directed to a deeper significance. What's so special? Oddly, something common to all living things: the instinct to survive. Life's necessities prompt us to act--to have that berry the jay must part its beak. But what does the parting, the jay or the berry? And, when the beak opens, bitter cold enters along with the bitter berry. Another fine example of an'ya's observing the extraordinary in the ordinary comes with her haiku "june breeze" commented upon earlier. an'ya also recognizes and marvels at synchronicity, ever-present but more often than not going unnoticed. The following haiku is another that received many votes from readers"

milking hour

a whitish mist moves

toward the moon

And then there are those occurrences that seem to exude magic, that have a powerful sense of disconnectedness. Those moments can be triggered by almost anything. And when the contrast between the images connected is extreme, as it is in the following haiku (distant stars, and goat bells) the connection is breathtaking. The stars become bells and the goats are stars, every one. Furthermore, the goats are walking along a precipice. isn't everyone, really Ultimately this haiku is suffused with mood; it is exhilarating, expansive...magic!

night of stars

all along the precipice

goat bells ring

This haiku also received a great many votes. I wish to thank an'ya for sharing so many exquisite moments with all of us who produce and who read The Heron's Nest".--Christopher Herold, Editor in Chief

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autumn rains

the library gargoyles

speak volumes

"autumn rains" is one of those rare haiku that is actually able to get away with breaking the rules, but because an'ya is an experienced haijin, she manages it in a way that the personification of the 'gargoyles' and the cliche of 'speaks volumes', doesn't offend the reader. In reality (which the art form of haiku is all about), it IS the true purpose of gargoyles on buildings. The 'r' and the 's' sounds throughout enhance this haiku, and a deep feeling of autumn is ever present. One can easily imagine themselves snuggled in an old stone library intently reading an old book while listening to the rhythm of the autumn rains via the lips of those old stone gargoyles."--peter B, Publisher

the passing year

a jetliner disappears

into gray clouds

(Heron's Nest IV:1)

"With the passage of time, haiku have naturally appeared that have an elegiac quality. I particularly like this one by an'ya. There is a sense of innocence lost (we will never again watch a jetliner slide into cloud with eyes entirely free of past horror) yet at the same time, of normality reasserted.--The Eye by Dee Evetts artcle published in Frogpond XXV:3."

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ever so late

scrunching my long curls

in spring mizzle

"After repeating - "scrunching in spring mizzle" - over a couple of times, it began to sound familiar and then I realized that it could have been written by my landsman Bobby Burns (Robert Burns, Scotland's greatesrt poet who wrote Auld Lang Syne, Coming through the Rye, and you take the High Road and I'll take the Low oad), and your haiku set to a lively tune.---bob