from the Icebox inbox – 49

with comments by Sosui (Nobuyuki Yuasa)

From a lot of new haiku submitted these past few months, I have selected the following eight and will comment on each of them. But first, I should like to tell you briefly what kind of haiku I prefer. Ezra Pound’s famous words “direct treatment of the ‘thing’” are often used to explain haiku, but I have always thought that this shows only one side of haiku. I much prefer William Blake’s famous lines “To see a world in a grain of sand / And a heaven in a wild flower”. They describe haiku much better. I believe that haiku must show infinity in an image of a moment. Of the many submitted, there are only a few that come close to my conviction.

two varied tits
came from the coppice
fused into cherry blossom

Yoshiharu Kondo, Shiga

I like this poem because it successfully conveys the joy we all have when cherry blossoms come to bloom. It would be better to put a dash at the end of the second line to separate the third line. In Japanese haiku we use kireji (cutting word), but I think you can get the same effect by using a dash. It shows the last line belongs to a different level of experience.

my new Jawa bike –
the dragonfly comes back
for a second look

Kanchan Chatterjee, India

I have always liked dragonflies since boyhood. There is something humorous about the dragonfly in this poem. Dragonflies have big compound eyes and they can see certain things very well – for example, another dragonfly far away. I wonder what this dragonfly saw in the poet’s bicycle.

hot sunny day …
ants changing their
course of action

Lakshmi Iyer, India

I chose this poem because a line of ants is a favourite topic in Japanese haiku. I feel, though, that this poem needs to be more precise in its presentation of ants’ action. “Changing course” fails to show us what the ants are doing. I suppose ants changed their course because of the heat. If so, you could say, “ants changed their course / going through the leaves.” You must think once more about Ezra Pound’s words I quoted above.

one pink Japanese
magnolia petal on
the black, wet road –

Sydney Solis, Florida

I have chosen this poem for two reasons: first, because it has four lines and second, because magnolia is used as a midwinter seasonal word. I have no objection to four-line haiku. I sometimes feel three-line haiku too short and truncated, especially if each line contains only one word or just a few words. But the one-word line in this haiku, however, can be justified. My second point is about magnolia. In Japan it blooms in spring. Does it really bloom in midwinter in Florida? If the last line had been “midwinter weather”, it would have been easier for me to have understood the poem.

empty house
the sun’s rays light up
the lone gecko

Uma Anandalwar

This is an impressive poem. During World War II, I used to live in a farmhouse with a few geckos. In Japanese, a gecko is called yamori, which means “a keeper of the house”. Geckos used to frighten me, suddenly dropping down from ceilings and walls. A gecko is truly a symbol of an empty house. I am glad to see this poem.

arriving at a tea shop
after a long trek …
a puppy greets me

K. Ramesh, Tamil Nadu

This is a heart-warming poem. It is nice to have a welcome of this kind when you are tired. It would be even nicer if the author had given us a more detailed description of the puppy. I live in a home for aged people where no animals are allowed, but there is one cat that lives with us. Here is my poem about it:

On a balmy day
I whistle to the white cat —
My greeting ignored.

Sleepless night in spring
My love’s gentle breath is a
Melody of peace

Ulla Bruun

This is an impressive poem, soothing and heart-warming. The only thing I am worried about is the way the second line ends. It is better, I think, to close it as a complete line and use a dash to emphasize the last line; for example, “My love’s gentle breath is heard — / A melody of peace”.

wind picking up –
suddenly from glassy lake
Hokusai waves

Ingrid Baluchi, North Macedonia

In this poem, “Hokusai waves” are used very effectively, and the speed with which they rise from the glassy lake is impressive. The only thing I am slightly worried about is the lack of season word. Of course I am aware of the legitimacy of non-season haiku, but in describing a scene like this, the use of a seasonal word is desirable.

12 responses to “from the Icebox inbox – 49

  1. Many thanks for a nice selection of haiku with very useful and insightful comments by Sosui. I was a little surprised, especially since Sosui mentioned Ezra Pound in his opening remarks, that he made no mention of what seems a clear and deliberate echo of that poet’s famed ‘In a Station of the Metro’ poem, in Sydney Solis’s haiku. Compare (first the haiku, then Pound’s poem):

    magnolia petal on / the black, wet road

    Petals on a wet, black bough.

    Well, I find it hard to imagine it to be a coincidence, and I find this ‘honkadori’ works rather well. Sydney, if you read this, perhaps you could add some remarks?

    • Well spotted, Norman! For those who need reminding, Pound’s famous “In a Station of the Metro” Imagist poem published in 1913 (a fine example of juxtaposition) goes:

      The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
      Petals on a wet, black bough.

      We wonder, Sydney, whether this poem might have been at the back of your mind?

      • Hello. Interesting conversation and observations. thanks for noting. I am not familiar with Pound’s poem, never even read Pound but know who he is. I do read a lot of haiku and haiku history, and was aware of juxtaposition of nature and urban favorites to contrast in haiku by the masters. I do believe a lot of this comes up from the collective unconscious, when we receive that flash of inspiration from the depths of our intuition, we draw upon the well humanity has used in the past. I have been told many of my haiku come across that way, I write something and it has some relation to a famous poem I haven’t read before or was unaware of. Write On! Sosui’s comments were most insightful. I love reading comments about haiku. I learn so much! Thanks! Arigato!

    • Thank you Norman, for your comment. Very interesting! I have written more below in an answer to Tito’s comment. Sorry i am slow and not good at finding all these comments and how to reply to them! Thanks again! Great subject of conversation!

  2. Honoured and grateful to be selected as part of Icebox Inbox 49…thank you, Sosui, for noticing it and for your feedback.

  3. Thank you very much for selecting my haiku,Sosui.
    I agree with your advice. I put a dash at the end of the second line.
    I want to learn the cutting words.
    Thank you.

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