Welcome to episode 21 of the second series of the haiku pea podcast. I’m Patricia and this week I would like to talk to you about musicality in haiku, bring you the latest from our second renku and to finish, I’m delighted to feature the poet Isabel Caves.

A bit of housekeeping.

The next podcast will be haiku or senryu on the theme of men. The deadline is the 11th of November but the podcast will be later than usual because I’ve got an extremely busy November so I expect to publish on the 30th. Apologies to everyone.

I was reading something that Florence Vilén wrote; “A poem worth reading is worth reciting, and will gain by it.”  I think many of you agree with her as you have written to me to say that you really enjoy listening to the verses being read out. The consensus of opinion seems to be that it gives you a new perspective on not just your work, but the writings of other poets. I’m delighted to hear that, because I love reading poetry and I’m quite passionate about hearing it. Thank you to everyone who has written to me it’s been very encouraging.


Let’s talk music…initially, I got to thinking about this topic some time ago because I wanted to submit to a particular journal, which specifically requested musicality and I couldn’t figure out what they meant, even by reading past editions. I decided to puzzle it out myself. Eventually I concluded that in my mind, and I’m quite happy to be contradicted, what constitutes musicality in haiku comes from the sound, rhythm, and movement of the verse.

Then as I started doing my research for this week’s episode I came across something that Claire Everett had written in volume 29 number 2 of the Journal of the British haiku society, Blithe Spirit. She was one of the judges of the 2018 haiku awards and she wrote this:

“my favourite haiku are small hymns to nature.” They “vibrate the very atoms of our being in the same way that the bees hum the blossoms and the wind sings the grass.” And this summed up nicely how I feel about haiku. As I said before I love to read poetry but I enjoy it maybe even more when I listen to it and to me musicality, even discordant musicality, is important.

I began to think how I could improve my haiku and senryu by being more aware of their melody and I thought maybe some of you would be interested to hear about my musings and conclusions. Perhaps some of what I say will resonate with you and then again perhaps not. Please, please let me know if you have any other ideas as you know I am trying to improve my writing.

I selected some poetic devices which I can use to improve this element of my haiku writing? Here’s my short list:

  • repetition
  • onomatopoeia
  • assonance
  • consonance
  • alliteration
  • the cut

Repetition can have a lot of different effects on a poem; such as creating surprise, anticipation and movement. I hope these verses illustrate how it can convey movement.

George Swede

Dropping stone after stone
into the lake – I keep

M L Bittle deLapa

firefly there
not there

Both from “Haiku Moment: An Anthology of Contemporary North American Haiku”
By Bruce Ross

Onomatopoeia, isn’t that a word thats resounds in your head? I’m sure you’ve all heard of it before but just in case, it’s a word that phonetically mimics or resembles the sound of the thing it describes. The use of such words accentuates the sound within the verse. When used well it aids your imagination and describes a situation without the use of further words, rather useful given haiku practice encourages brevity.

Some examples:

Wayne Kingston

fallen carpet trail
crunch on yellow, red, amber
dew point drop

(An original, just for us)

Alegria Imperial

the song I used to hear
of a bamboo broom

Bones journal


John Hawkhead

late autumn breeze
the trembling shivers
in butterfly wings

Chrysanthemum 26

I just love it when I spot assonance and consonance in verses, but I’m not very good at using them in my own work.

As you probably know, assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in a phrase or sentence. For example, “Light my fire.” What I found out in my research and I didn’t know before, is that apparently words that are vowel heavy create a more musical sound. And as if to prove the case I read a prose piece by Jonathan Roman today which used the word mellifluous and a verse by s zeilenga which used the word seething, both of which brought the point home to me.

Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in a phrase or sentence. Here’s an example to illustrate,“She sells seashells by the seashore.” an example which of course also has alliteration. To me that example is a little bit discordant, but I’m sure we can all think of music that is cacophonous or jarring rather than melodic, can’t we? In case you can’t, I’ve added a few to the show notes. You may disagree with me but of course one person’s cacophony is another person’s melody.

Gétatchèw Mèkurya – Ethiopian Urban Modern Music Vol. 5

The Raincoats 

Stravinsky’s Rites of Spring

I found a couple of verses to help me illustrate these methods, I hope:


Adam Traynor

the long a of gray
the long a of rain
the shortest day

Frogpond 33.1


Nick Virgilio


Haiku in English the first hundred years edited by Jim Kacian, Philip Rowland and Allan Burns

Peggy Willis Lyles

marsh lights
the owl’s cry dilates
our eyes



Nick Virgilio

the sack of kittens
sinking in the icy creek
increases the cold

Haiku in English The First Hundred Years edited by Jim Kacian, Philip Rowland and Allan Burns

Rosa Maria Di Salvatore

quiet night …
listening to the whisper
of the grass

Chrysanthemum 26


Lorin Ford

migrating eels
the warp and the weave
of creek water

Presence 54 (2016)


Prad Aphachan

The last light
Dying the sky a little
Less blue

Chrysanthemum 26

The Cut

In the same way that white is a non-colour and yet you can see it, so too is silence a non-sound and yet you can hear it. Often it creates movement in the verse. Therein lies one of the powers of the cut.

Rebecca Lilly

Misty pine-scented wind
drifts through the graveyard—
I’ve outlived my parents

Frogpond 41.3


Having brought us along
To the sky …
The summer moor ends.

Littledale Edge, 20.8.00 https://haikupresence.org/tagged/Tito

Francine Banwarth

living alone…
both ends
of the wishbone

The Heron’s Nest
Volume  XXl number 3  September 2019


Well, my research is certainly giving me food for thought and if I’m honest it’s frightening me a little bit. I hope it’s been interesting for you too and that you’ve enjoyed the verses I’ve brought to the podcast this week.

The renku

It’s been an absolute pleasure to work on so far and I’d like to thank the following poets for their collaboration; Kim Russell Richard Bailly. Wendy c bialek, m shane pruett, Veronica Hosking, James Young, Andrew Syor, s zeilenga, B S Saroja and Rickey Rivers Jnr.

marble steps
sculpted by endless soles
a welcome chill
Kim Russell

mural tablets—
how ancient my son’s name

wind in the willows
unanticipated storm
green blades impaling
Richard Bailly

will the night be dark
or give no shelter?

kissed moon
all those unfinished poems
wendy c. bialek

empty leaves
the fading colours
m shane pruett

an old quilt
grandmother’s warmth
passes down
m shane pruett

bitterly cold
she adds peat to the fire

hypnotic glow
involuntary shiver
reaches his soul
Veronica Hosking

snow glitter
in the alpine air

shawl bent
the long trudge through winter
collecting logs
James Young

a returning trapper
offers his assistance
Andrew Syor
breaking bread
news from another village
northern lights
s zeilenga

the sky lamp shines long tonight
love birds
B S Saroja

urgent flight
whisking wings
gallows bright
Rickey Rivers Jnr

Let’s finish today with a little treat. Most months we hear a little something from Isabel Caves, a very accomplished haiku poet from New Zealand. Today I thought we should hear just a little bit more than one verse and so I give you a small selection of Isabel’s work. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Isabel Caves

desert oak
the many shapes
of stillness

(Wales Haiku Journal, Winter 2018)

cereal bowl
a painted fairy tells her
it’ll be okay

(Troutswirl, the Haiku Foundation blog)

nightfall –
a lily pad catches
the moon

(Stardust Haiku, September 2018)

Thanks so much for coming along and listening (or reading the shownotes)  today. I really enjoyed finding the verses, working with you on the renku and hearing a little bit more from Isabel, thanks Isabel.

The next podcast is our special on the topic of men. I’m very much looking forward to that podcast. Thanks to everyone who’s sent verses so far but there’s always room for more and the deadline is the 11th of November. Please send them by email though otherwise I can’t keep track of things. Looking forward to speaking to you soon but in the meantime, keep writing…

If you can’t find what you’re looking for in the show notes just drop me an email and I’ll sort it out for you. Ciao

Series 2 Episode 21: Making Music

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