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Haiku Sequence   

May 2020

These past few weeks I have had a hard time focusing on any sustained reading, so I Have returned to an anthology of haiku. Most people are familiar with the form and the 5-7-5 syllable structure. Those three lines of 5 syllables, 7 syllables, and another 5 syllable line are not always maintained.

In Japanese, haiku does use those 17 syllables but instead counts sound. We would count the word “haiku” as two syllables in English, but it is three sounds in Japanese (ha-i-ku).

This month we are using the haiku form with a strict 5-7-5 syllables. We will also follow several other form "rules." Classic haiku is nature-based and often seasonal. No rhymes. Classical haiku also employs a cutting word (kireji in Japanese) that makes a verbal punctuation mark that separates the typically two juxtaposed images of the poem. In English, we don't have kireji so poets sometimes use a dash to make a pause so that readers can reflect on the connection between the two parts. That a good idea because a haiku can be read and digested too quickly.

Translations of Japanese haiku into English vary greatly. There is a poem by the master Matsuo Basho that reads in Japanese as:

Furuike ya
kawazu tobikomu
mizu no oto

I found many translations of this famous frog poem. The most literal one I found is not 5-7-5.

old pond
frog leaps —
sound of the water

Here are two other translations:

mossy pond;
frog leaping in—

when the old pond
gets a new frog
it’s a new pond

This is a version described as "translated as a Zen koan”

the bungling frog
leaped for the pond, but landed
in Basho’s brain

Our haiku prompt this month is to write a sequence of 3 or more related poems. I have seen several variations on this kind of sequence. It can be 3 poems on the same thing. I have seen poems connected by using the last word of one as the first word of the next (still possibly connected by theme) and several poems constructed using the same words in new constructions.

As a model, I chose three spring poems by Basho that are connected by the season but also by blossoms which are very often used in haiku to indicate spring. These are my own translation and I have adhered to the 5-7-5 form. (Note: "ume" means plum)

today they begin
selling sake and ume -
I smell the blossoms

all four of my bowls
for noon meal are not perfect -
cherry blossom rain

the ume blossom
perfume is taken by wind
into cold winter

For more on all our prompts and other things poetic, check out the Poets Online blog.


white blossoms so brief
new leaves dance into summer –
wish for plums this year

I weed-eat the creek
overflowing with grasses –
wild plum above it

no sound of traffic
only one bird sings tick-tick –
plum shadows my work

Taylor Graham


Scientists wrestle
With funeral-like sadness
Over climate change.

Slime mold tendrils show
Intricacies similar
To the cosmic web.

Small trial suggests
Compost of human bodies
May well be fruitful.

Ron Yazinski


Every year in May –
Last year’s summer memory
In pure pink petals:

Glowing ashes wait
Devour the breezing feeling –
Discussing the heat.

Don’t wait ‘til eclipse
For warming rays to bless you –
Seek growth at all times.

Victor Green

(three senryu made up of phrases from Plath’s “Morning Song”)

Love set you going.
Your bald cry, your nakedness;
we stand round blankly

Our voices echo
I’m no more than your mother;
cry, and I stumble

All night you flicker
my Victorian nightgown
wakes to listen clean

Ron Bremner


haiku are boring

of my younger years
happens more each year

No politics here.
Even haiku crave love.

Ken Ronkowitz


Springtime snow pellets
Melt on red maple saplings
In ashen drab woods

Brush ensnares trekkers
Sparse woods seek companionship
Saplings shake snow dust

On a rocky trail
In a fairytale forest
Soft hail pelts hikers

Margaret R. Sáraco


Faint dappled sunlight
Fiddleheads sprout from black stumps -
Lithe dancers en pointe

Lawn recently mowed
Long legged robins pick worms -
Stout migrant workers

Smashed terracotta
Stacked behind white garden shed -
Forgotten old men

Frank Kelly


rabbits stot jays call
trees roll forward on the path—
thoughts crash on bleached bones

sometime someplace here
long after before now rose—
petals fell stars wept

words dissolve like spring
dry as grass before the wind—
fire purifies all

Robert Miller


Water meets pavement,
tripping divine music notes-
as rain droplets jam

Nature and science
form a holy percussion -
a rhythmic deluge

Heaven, earth collide;
a spring shower crescendoes -
a joyous release!

Terri J. Guttilla