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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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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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).