First off, thanks once again to the many poets who featured in the last episode “making sense of the world”. The episode was very well received and the feedback was marvellous.

Special thanks to Mineko and Giddy who have challenged me to think more deeply about a few things:

  • Personification in Haiku
  • The definition of Senryu
  • Cultural differences in the development of haiku and senryu.

What am I going to be looking at this week?

Juxtaposition and the link between the images. It’s  difficult to find the balance, not so close that you give the game away but not such a wide gap that it is incomprehensible.

Then we are off to visit with a couple of poets from across the other side of the world to me and of course I will read the haiku that I have managed to write since we last met.

Why did I return to juxtaposition? I was reading haiku and one or two of the juxtapositions just weren’t making sense to me, even after I had read them several times.

In a search for enlightenment I returned to basics. I read an article by Ferris Gilli, who said, “Most haiku written in the classic construction contain two parts in juxtaposition, with each part containing an image. Ideally, the images are fundamentally different and independent of each other, and each image represents a different topic.” (1)

Different topics, all well and good, but there has to be a connecting thread between the two parts, something that we as readers should be able to grasp. As the reader, you normally have to make the leap alone, but the poet has left you clues. As Marco Fraticelli said “Readers fill the gap in their imagination and complete the image.” (2)

My problem with the incomprehensible haiku was that the clues were not making any sense to me. Why?

Maybe because:

  • I was being too impatient and not giving myself time to understand them
  • I was not equipped with the experience of the poet. We’ve all had different life experiences, perhaps the poet was describing or observing something I had not or could not be familiar with myself
  • The poem was using surrealism
  • I just got the feeling that the poet didn’t know how to construct haiku/senryu
  • The poet was experimenting

Experimentation is perfectly fine. If we don’t push the boundaries the genre may become stale. Evolution should be encouraged.

Confronting haiku and senryu that are outside the realms of my reality is also a good thing. If you stick to ideas within the common consciousness then the pool of ideas is limited. I like to be confronted with new ideas, they broaden your horizons, don’t they?  As Alan Summer’s says “Discovery is a vital component in any discipline, and I am always thrilled when I discover something new, or something new about something familiar.” (3)

However, I do believe haiku should be simple to understand. That haiku in English should use “simple and primarily objective language.” (4) That the connection between the two parts should perhaps challenge your imagination without being too hard to understand. How do we do this though. Well, I’m going to take some advice from Gary Hotham:
I need to be “subtle. Probably more subtle than subtle.” (5) To endeavour not to share too much. Leaving space for the reader to use their imagination.” to ask myself “Am I making my words work.” Am I using them in “the best way to arrange the words for the moment” I’m “trying to bring the reader into? Do the words have the power. Word power is important for any poem but especially for the haiku since there are so few in the poem. That is a very challenging and exciting part of creating a haiku—using a few words to explore the wonders of earth and perhaps beyond to the far reaches of our universe.” (5)

This week I have tried to find haiku with two strong images, and which allow, at least for me, just enough space to use my imagination and make sense of them. Haiku that use their words judiciously and are relatively simple. Simple not being used in a perjorative way. Let me know what you think?

digging up
the memory of earth

Olivier Schopfer
Geneva, Switzerland (5)

shallow brook—
first snow settles on a stone
above the water

Tomislav Maretić
Zagreb, Croatia (5)

the slow drip
of honey on bread . . .
late-autumn sun

Maria Steyn (1)

stalled car
foot tracks being filled
with snow
Gary Hotham (6)

flat tire
the cows just stand and slowly
turn to look

Marianne Bluger (7)


weeds grow
in the place of roses
exhaust fumes

the parachute opens
belly flop

This week we are off to visit Giddy in Australia and Su Wai in Singapore. This week I’m not going to comment on the work, exept to say I really enjoyed them and thank you to both ladies. I’ll just read their work and let your imaginations do the rest:

flooded creek
car becomes stranded
snake washes by

Su Wai
a rose
between the pages
a story, untold

Thank you to all of you for listening, for emailing and tweeting me with comments and thoughts, I love to hear from you.

I would really love to read your submissions on the topic of childhood for a podcast in January next year.


  1. Ferris Gilli
  2. Old Pond Comics
  3. Alan Summers 
  4. Graceguts
  5. The Heron’s Nest Awards
  6. Haiku Anthology with an introduction by Cor van den heuvel
  7. Haiku Moment An anthology of contemporary North American haiku

Su Wai Hlaing’s blog

Giddy Nielsen Sweep Twitter

Week 45: Cow Bells

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