Friday, May 25, 2018

To the Lighthouse: Word Choice, the Center of the Practice of Writing

                                                                                                         morning shower --
                                                                                                         finding just the word
                                                                                                         I was looking for

                                                                                                         Carolyn Hall
One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.
-- Jack Kerouac

In "Word Choice in English-Language Haiku: The Uses of Roots" (Frogpond, 36:1, 2013, pp. 72-76), David Grayson emphasizes that

Word choice stands at the center of the practice of writing. This is particularly true for poetry, and even more so for haiku. Simply put, the choice of a word can make or break a poem... (p. 72)

I agree with David Grayson completely: the choice of a word can make or break a [haiku.] Like Cid Corman, I believe that 

... words have color, form, character; they have faces, ports, manners, gesticulations; they are mood, humors, eccentricities; -- they have tints, tones, personalities ... (Cid Corman, At Their Word, p. 156).

There is little room for lengthy description in writing haiku; therefore, haiku relies on strict simplicity of phrasing and careful word choice. Writing haiku is a good exercise in concise, purposeful word choice. Haiku practitioners can hone their haiku by "improving word choice, re-drafting for maximum precision and concreteness, choosing details and imagery that 'show'  the particular mood, sensations and/or ideas they perceive in their subject image." (Caroline Smith,"Reading and Writing Haiku Based on Traditional Japanese Criteria")

Take the following haiku for example:

the front porch
filled with childhood laughter
moving day

When I workshopped this haiku in a poetry forum, several poets suggested that it might be better to change "childhood laughter" to "children's laughter" or leave out "childhood."

Case 1: changing "childhood laughter" to "children's laughter"

Evaluated in the thematic and emotional context of my haiku, there is a BIG difference between childhood laughter and children's laughter. childhood laughter is used to describe a memory of how the porch used to be used many years ago. Its succeeding line, moving day, is in the present, when the narrator's has left childhood behind. A sense of sadness is subtly conveyed through the poignant juxtaposition of "childhood laughter" (in the past) and "moving day" (in the present).

If I had children's laughter instead, I would read this new phrase, "filled with children's laughter," as in the present tense, and interpret the scene described in revised haiku completely different from the one portrayed in my original: as a family is moving out (or in), the children have time to play and laugh on the porch while the parents/adults attend to  the more serious matter of doing or supervising the moving.

Case 2: leaving out "childhood"

I would read this revised line, "filled with laughter" as in the present, and  interpret the revised haiku as a family happily moving in to their new home or moving out of their old house.

One word can make such a BIG difference to a haiku.

And each word is a matter of life and death -- Cid Corman

Note: You can the full text of David Grayso's article here. The haiku below are fine examples used in his article.

first frost
the echo in the caw
of the crow

Mark Hollingsworth’s poem (which won Frogpond’s best of the Fall 2009 issue) contains the Old English-derived words “first”, “frost” and “crow”. These words produce an austere and spare feeling that underscores the scene....

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

In this classic by Nick Virgilio, the Old English words- “sack”, “sink”, “creek” and “cold” – paint a sharp picture that is multi-sensory. The reader can feel the cold and the wet, and imagine the muffled cries of the kittens...

... Sometimes a word can surprise you, as in Gary Snyder’s poem:





Without resorting to the dictionary, we might reasonably expect that “piss” (vs “urinate”) would be of older lineage in English. It denotes a basic bodily function, is one syllable, and is of common (even vulgar) usage. But it’s of Latin (French) origin. So, there are exceptions....

Butterfly Dream: Night of Stars Haiku by an’ya

English Original

night of stars
all along the precipice
goat bells ring

The Heron's Nest, 3, February, 2001


Chinese Translation (Traditional)


Chinese Translation (Simplified)


Bio Sketch

an'ya is a haiku and tanka poet who has been published in over 60 foreign languages, and appeared in places and publications worldwide. If you would like to read more of her works and a complete biography, please visit

Thursday, May 24, 2018

One Man's Maple Moon: Chance Meeting Tanka by Sheila Bello

English Original

chance meeting
he hugs and hugs me
as if it matters
he knew where to find me
all these years

Moonbathing, 7, Autumn/Winter 2012-13

Sheila Bello

Chinese Translation (Traditional)


Chinese Translation (Simplified)


Bio Sketch

Sheila Bello writes haiku, tanka, lyric poetry, creative nonfiction and short fiction. She lives in Scarborough, Ontario. Sheila was born in Trinidad and migrated to Canada in 1972. She is inspired by nature and is an avid gardener.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Butterfly Dream: Ceasefire News Haiku by Justice Joseph Prah

English Original

ceasefire news ...
Mother mutters as she draws
her last breath

Justice Joseph Prah

Chinese Translation (Traditional)

停火新聞 ...

Chinese Translation (Simplified)


Bio Sketch

Justice Joseph Prah is a Ghanaian and a member of Africa Haiku Network and United Haiku Tanka Society. His haiku have appeared several times in Africa Haiku Mamba e-anthology, Mainichi Daily Haiku column, Haiku Masters webpage, Asahi Haikuist Network, Robert Epstein Haiku anthology on Animals Right, The Moon Takes Off Haiku and Senryu anthology, Brass Bell, Cattails, and Shambhala Times Community Magazines etc.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Butterfly Dream: Nursing Home Haiku by Natalia Kuznetsova

English Original

leaves whisper ...
outside the nursing home
nothing else

Natalia Kuznetsova

Chinese Translation (Traditional)

樹葉沙沙作響 ...

Chinese Translation (Simplified)

树叶沙沙作响 ...

Bio Sketch

Living in Moscow, Russia, Natalia Kuznetsova is an assistant professor of English and freelance interpreter. Before discovering the haiku world, she wrote poetry in Russian. She started writing tanka and mostly haiku in English several years ago, and participated in numerous competitions worldwide and won some awards. She now contributes regularly to World Haiku Review, Mainichi Daily, Asahi Haikuist Network, Shiki Kukai and other traditional and on-line publications. She was included on the list of "European Top 100 Most Creative Haiku Authors" from 2010 to 2013.

One Man's Maple Moon: Roses Tanka by Robert Henry Poulin

English Original

being unfaithful
for the first time
I send her the roses,
every thorn removed

Robert Henry Poulin

Chinese Translation (Traditional)


Chinese Translation (Simplified)


Bio Sketch

Robert Henry Poulin is published internationally, winning awards for his poetry. He is CEO of Colt Media Group, and he has several books in print on haiku. He is a widower living in Florida.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Butterfly Dream: Now and Then Haiku by Fay Aoyagi

English Original

winter sunset
the Pacific Ocean between
my ‘now’ and ‘then’

Blue Willow Haiku World,  January 30, 2011

Fay Aoyagi

Chinese Translation (Traditional)


Chinese Translation (Simplified)


Bio Sketch

Fay Aoyagi (青柳飛)was born in Tokyo and immigrated to the U.S. in 1982. She is currently a member of Haiku Society of America and Haiku Poets of Northern California. She serves as an associate editor of The Heron's Nest.  She also writes in Japanese and belongs to two Japanese haiku groups; Ten'I (天為) and "Aki"(秋), and  she is a member of Haijin Kyokai (俳人協会).

Saturday, May 19, 2018

One Man's Maple Moon: Fukushima Tanka by Alegria Imperial

English Original

after Fukushima --
another note from Mie
tells me
her bonsai cherry tree
blossomed a little

Atlas Poetica Special Features: The Atomic Era, 2015

Alegria Imperial

Chinese Translation (Traditional)


Chinese Translation (Simplified)


Bio Sketch

With works published in international journals, Alegria Imperial, a former media person and journalist in Manila, Philippines, since stumbling on Japanese short form poetry ten years ago, has found the perfect fit for her writing. She now lives in Vancouver, Canada.

Butterfly Dream: First Laugh Haiku by Lee Nash

English Original

first laugh
I can hear my daughter

Asahi Haikuist Network, May 5, 2017

Lee Nash

Chinese Translation (Traditional)

Chinese Translation (Simplified)


Bio Sketch

Lee Nash lives in France and freelances as an editor and proofreader. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in print and online journals including Acorn, Ambit, Angle, Mezzo Cammin, Orbis, Poetry Salzburg Review, Presence, and The World Haiku Review. You can find out more from her website.

Friday, May 18, 2018

One Man's Maple Moon: Homecoming Tanka by Marion Alice Poirier

English Original

first homecoming,
a pitcher of blossoms
brightens my room --
only the cherry trees
the same as I remember

Marion Alice Poirier

Chinese Translation (Traditional)

使我的房間生輝 --

Chinese Translation (Simplified)

使我的房间生辉 --

Bio Sketch

Marion Alice Poirier is a lifetime resident of  Boston, MA.  She began writing haiku in 2001 and eventually began to teach haiku in workshops on Poetry Circle and Emerging Poets. She also write short poetry and have been published in on-line haiku and short poetry journals like Tinywords, Hedgerow and The Heron's Nest.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Butterfly Dream: Hillside Path Haiku by Lysa Collins

English Original

hillside path --
catching the scent of hyacinths
I retrace my steps

Lysa Collins

Chinese Translation (Traditional)

山坡路 --

Chinese Translation (Simplified)

山坡路 --

Bio Sketch

Lysa Collins is an environmentalist who currently lives on the west coast of British Columbia, overlooking the Strait of Georgia, where she writes haiku and other short forms of poetry.  Her poems appear locally, nationally, and internationally, in a variety of print and online publications.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

One Man's Maple Moon: Gatepost Tanka by Anne Curran

English Original

a heron
resting on the gatepost
in river fog ...
I listen for the call
of my ancestors

Cattails, June 2015

Anne Curran

Chinese Translation (Traditional)

在門柱上休息 ...

Chinese Translation (Simplified)


Bio Sketch

Anne Curran is  Japanese verse form poet who lives in Hamilton, New Zealand. She is very grateful to all poets and editors who have been encouraging in this writing journey. She lives with an extended family who she loves dearly. She loves to read poetry, literature and news of all kinds.

Butterfly Dream: Flute Notes Haiku by Jane Reichhold

English Original

sun down
sliding between redwoods
flute notes

DailyHaiku, Cycle 12, 2011

Jane Reichhold

Chinese Translation (Traditional)


Chinese Translation (Simplified)


Bio Sketch

Jane Reichhold was born as Janet Styer in 1937 in Lima , Ohio , USA . She had published over thirty books of haiku, renga, tanka, and translations. Her latest tanka book, Taking Tanka Home was translated into Japanese by Aya Yuhki. Her most popular book is Basho The Complete Haiku by Kodansha International. As founder and editor of AHA Books, Jane also published Mirrors: International Haiku Forum, Geppo, for the Yuki Teikei Haiku Society, and she had co-edited with Werner Reichhold, Lynx for Linking Poets since 1992. Lynx went online in 2000 in the web site Jane started in 1995. Since 2006 she had maintained an online forum – AHAforum

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Cool Announcement: A Freebie, Echoes

My Dear Friends:

The Haiku Foundation just published a free e-book of haiku, Echoes 2: The New Resonance 20th Anniversary, that features all the poets in the first 10 issues of the New Resonance series from Red Moon Press (its Grayscale print copies of the book may be purchased for $8 here). I am a New Resonance poet and 15 of my haiku are anthologized in New Resonance 7: Emerging Voices in English-Language Haiku (published in 2011, one and a half years after I started writing haiku). Below are my haiku included in Echoes 2:

cliff edge ...
the sound of waiting
for nothing

Highly Commended, New Zealand Poetry Society Haiku Contest 2016,

winter twilight
crossing the border
a child's shadow

Fourth Prize, New Zealand Poetry Society Haiku Contest 2016

distant sirens
over the border bridge
a blood moon

Shortlist, Touchstone Distinguished Poem Award 2015,

first glimpse
of her mastectomy bra
winter rose

Runner-Up, Devidé Haiku Award 2015

a monarch
folds into silence ...
budding petals

Second Place, World Haiku Competition 2014

im-mi-grant ...
the way English tastes
on my tongue

Second Prize, Kokako Haiku Competition 2013
 (Note: you can read my 109 award-winning poems here)

Selected Haiku from Echoes 2 for your reading pleasure:

but the road I'm on . . .


Scott Abeles

inauguration day
newsprint darkens
my fingers

Mariposa, 36

Susan Antolin

cat in the garden untangling twilight

Second Prize, Kusamakura Haiku Contest 2014

Annie Bachini

the carving knife
out of its sheath
winter darkness

The Heron’s Nest, 17:1

Francine Banwarth

abortion day
a shadow flutters
the fish tank

Rattle, 47

Roberta Beary

mountain summit —
back bent by the weight
of stars

Ito-en Oi Ocha Haiku Contest 2018

Meik Blöttenberger

rope swing
a kid launches himself straight
into summer

Mariposa, 25

Yvonne Cabalona

night time
in the hospice aquarium
the pulse of fish gills

The Heron’s Nest, 16:2

Joyce Clement

spring cleaning
an unmarked box
filled with mother’s smell


Pamela Connor

moonlight fingering the blue of her prayers

Acorn, 39

Susan Constable

swifts wheeling to the edge of dusk

Presence, 53

Susan Diridoni

ebb tide —
we turn to the sound
of a whale’s breath

Acorn, 22

Connie Donleycott

between two mountains
the wings of a gliding hawk
balancing sunlight

Brussels Sprout, 2:1

David Elliott

just-fledged light
chips of wren song
from the log pile

Presence, 45

Claire Everett

humid night . . .
a tadpole breaks the surface
of ancient stars

Second Place, Sharpening the Green Pencil 2014

Chase Gagnon

midnight subway
watching her apply lipstick
he licks his lips

lit from within

Brenda J. Gannam

from a lifted oar
a shimmer connects the sky
and sunlit river

First Prize, Genkissu Haiku Contest 2009

Beverley George

stubble field —
a hawk and its shadow
meet at the mouse

Modern Haiku, 46:1

Robert Gilliland

the muezzin’s voice
breaks on the high note
Ramadan moon

Frogpond, 40:3

David Grayson

scattered stars shaking off the umbrella

 Acorn, 39

John Hawk

interlocking lakes
a bald eagle rises
with its prey

Modern Haiku, 47:2

Elizabeth Howard

deepening dusk
a great blue heron
fades to sky

All That Remains

Catherine JS Lee

summer's end
the sparkle of coins
in the fountain

tinywords, 17:2

Bob Lucky

still warm
long after sundown

Modern Haiku, 48:2

Jonathan McKeown

becoming morning . . .
the hedge redirects
a dove’s flight

Muttering Thunder, 2

paul m.

all day rain
the refrigerator’s

Modern Haiku, 46:3

Ben Moeller-Gaa

prenuptial contract
fish bones neatly spaced
on white china

Acorn, 30

Ron C. Moss

spring mist —
a mallard paddles
through our stillborn's ashes

Memorial Day

H. Gene Murtha

the cascading notes
of a canyon wren

Modern Haiku, 46:1

Tom Painting

dusting off a trail map:
                         the edge
                         of winter

Second Prize, Kusamakura Haiku Contest 2005

Paul Pfleuger Jr.

refugee child —
folding and unfolding
his paper boat

First Prize,  Sharpening the Green Pencil Contest 2017,

Stella Pierides