A blog devoted mainly to haiku and senryu and to thoughts about, and inspired by, haiku and senryu.

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Location: New York, New York

Haiku is to poetry as espresso is to coffee.

Saturday, April 30, 2005

morning paper

the morning paper
turning first to the letters
to see if I'm there

Friday, April 29, 2005


butterflies dance windshield

Thursday, April 28, 2005


the joy of spring
winter's joy
the same

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

someone's trash

someone's trash
by a quiet pond
quiet pond

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

not flashy

magnolia tree
now puts on leaves—not flashy
but they wear well

those scattered blossoms

those scattered blossoms
can't cover its nakedness
the magnolia tree

Monday, April 25, 2005


the splendor
of the magnolia
till today

Sunday, April 24, 2005


Mass in the morning
love in the afternoon
keeping it holy

Saturday, April 23, 2005

white helicopter

This is not the same helicopter as in the posting for 4/21. We get a lot of helicopters around here.

white helicopter
cloudless sky

Friday, April 22, 2005


deathbed repentance
but he recovered

Thursday, April 21, 2005


making its silent way
through leafless trees

magnolia petals

magnolia petals
today they lend their color
to the lawn

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

talking business

Can't shake the senryu. This one is based on an observation in the New Jersey Transit waiting area in Penn Station NYC. We were headed to Philadelphia.

talking business
on a cell phone
his hand hides his mouth

Monday, April 18, 2005

reason to smile

In a senryu mood

reason to smile
this time the birds attacked
his neighbor's car

Sunday, April 17, 2005


the child's delight—
sprinkled by water
at Sunday Mass

thanks dw

dw bender's comment on the previous post, including her beautiful 2-line haiku (She shows us how it's done.) led to this effort:

tell the butterfly
dandelion's a weed
In a moment of madness, I even thought of doing this one in telegraphic style
dandelion a weed
inform butterfly
but I decided against it.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Toward Definitions: 10th Approximation

This is the tenth and last of a series of approximations, posted with the intention of moving gradually closer to, without ever hoping to arrive at, a definition of the formal aspects of haiku. Although these have been presented in a tone of pedantry only to be expected, I fear, from a retired academic, they are meant essentially to outline my personal understanding of what I think I'm doing when I write what I claim is haiku. Thoughts on issues of content, including the haiku/senryu relationship will be presented now and then in no particular order. Like the haiku and senryu I've posted, these approximations invite comments, questions, corrections, and criticism.
All of these approximations have assumed as the norm the three-line form most familiar in English. Is that the form of haiku? Well, no. There are also one-line, two-line, and four-line haiku. This raises a question [Excuse a cranky old English teacher's observation that it doesn't beg the question; it raises it.]: How much formal variation can be allowed to haiku before it ceases to be haiku and becomes simply the short poem? The answer is simply stated: There is no answer.
My interest in my own practice has been primarily in the three-line form, and I expect that will continue to be the case. I post here one of my few experiments in the two-line option. I wrote this one in February.

overcoats flapping
midwinter thaw

advancing spring

advancing spring
the buds aren't waiting
for me to count them

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

13 April 2005, 1:10pm EDT

tired of waiting
I sigh and raise my eyes—
the moon at midday

before a Rubens

This one has been revised since the original post. Some comments indicated there was a problem of clarity in the original. My thanks to Anonymous Poet and Jim.
stooped over his cane
before a Rubens—
his gaze travels upwards

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

suddenly silver

My thanks to Fred of urban-ku for his help with this one. You can sample Fred's work at mmariani.homestead.com.
suddenly silver
as they turn in their flight
city pigeons

Monday, April 11, 2005


seventy-two years
nothing special about them

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Dali and

I spent a long weekend in Philadelphia, where my wife and I visited the Dali show at the Philadelphia Museum. The show was, as expected, extremely crowded, leading to the senryu below and the postscript that follows. As I mentioned in a senryu posted a few days ago, I'm a short man myself.
crowded museum
waiting for the tall man
to move along
and I waited
and he
in his good time
moved along
we two
each of us taking
the time
that is ours

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

first person

Here are two senryu (I think), based on personal data. Not exactly what they call "confessional poetry," but maybe I'm coming out of my shell.
how many years I've spent
playing grown-up
no height for a man
but it's mine

Monday, April 04, 2005

long day

the long day
I don't know what to do
with this sun

Sunday, April 03, 2005

daylight saving

set the clock ahead
growing older
every hour

unwelcome guests

unwelcome guests
these ants of spring—
our home is theirs

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Toward Definitions: 9th Approximation

In the 8th approximation, I looked at the "phrase-and-fragment" structure that is the norm in haiku past and present. We have to note, though, that there are deviations, for which there is ample precedent in the work of the Japanese masters and in the practice of contemporary haiku poets. On the latter point, consult respected anthologies like Cor van den Heuvel's The Haiku Anthology and Bruce Ross's Haiku Moment, both highly recommended.
There is, for instance, haiku consisting of one complete sentence. Some purists reject this option outright, which, of course, they have a right to do in their own writing. But readers who consult the anthologies I've just mentioned will find single-sentence haiku by Nick Avis, Chuck Brickley, Jack Cain, L. A. Davidson, David Elliott, J. W. Hackett, Penny Harter, Doris Heitmeyer, Anna Holley, Adele Kenny, and Elsie Kolashinski, among others; proceeding alphabetically, I've stopped at the letter K, and, at that, I haven't included everyone.
Examples that follow are derived from David Cobb's handsome anthology, Haiku: The Poetry of Nature. I'll arrange the examples in the familiar 3-line form, although that is not how haiku appears in Japanese, a point I touched on in an earlier approximation.
Basho is generally regarded as the first great master of haiku. Here's one of his:
kagero no
waga kata ni tatsu
kamiko kana
In translation:
heat waves
shimmer on the shoulder
of my paper robe
Since we're working with translation, this is a bit tricky, but Basho's haiku seems a clear ancestor of today's single-sentence haiku. Does this mean that any old sentence will do, as long as its divided into three lines/segments of 17 syllables or less?
Well, no. Look at the last word in the original Japanese. "Kana" is a cutting word: one of those words with no definite meaning that function rather like punctuation in English. The nearest equivalent to kana—a very rough one indeed—would be an exclamation point; very rough, because kana is much softer, less emphatic, than an exclamation point. With no specific denotation, it signals the poet's wonder and surprise at what he has just observed.
Here's one criterion for the single-sentence haiku, and, in writing haiku, it's the test I apply to the single-sentence deviation: Is it worth a kana? That is, does it move convincingly to a feeling, however subtle, of wonder and surprise? Actually, I prefer Glenn Gould's wonderful phrase "wonder and serenity."
In the application of this criterion, whether to my own work or that of others, I do not claim infallibility.
Single-sentence haiku (I think of them as kana haiku.) that appear on this blog, in reverse order:
March 31, "spring visitor"
March 23, "dandelion" (an interrogative sentence)
March 16, "pointing to spring"
March 7. "Third Approximation," "the carriage horse," illustrating accentual haiku
Most of my haiku are in the phrase-and-fragment form, since, as I said at the beginning of this long post, that is the norm.

heavy rain

I don't know how the weather is where you are.
a dying Pope
heavy rain about the work
of heavy rain

Friday, April 01, 2005


According to the American Horticultural Society's Great Plant Guide, "The greenish white flowers [of Euonymus Fortunei/`Silver Queen'] in spring are insignificant." That led to this (And, yes, I do know how to spell "significance."):

Silver Queen
insignificant flowers
signifying spring