Favourite Haiku by Catherine Mair


Bearing in mind that haiku are about being part of the world around us any subject is approachable. In the haiku I’ve selected the subjects range from an attempt at haiga to a young father walking his pre-schooler to daycare. I believe that haiku should remain centred on a moment which moved the observer to feel amusement or sorrow or some personal response. Writing and reading haiku sharpens awareness and is like switching on a light in a dark room.


my haiga butterfly –
its deformed wings
pinned to the page

– Jeanette Stace

From the first reading this haiku caught my attention – the deformed wings, wings for flight pinned to a page. Jeanette Stace’s haiku often demonstrate a gentle irony. In this haiku she is mocking her attempt to create a haiga butterfly.  Interestingly, if food is scarce for monarch caterpillars life can be sustained by feeding them on pumpkin. However, when the butterfly emerges from the chrysalis its wings may be deformed.

weather forecast
searching the sky
for an isobar

– Jeanette Stace

I love Jeanette Stace’s quirky humour. The absurdity of this senryu always makes me smile.

evening walk
at the top of the hill
the loudest bird

– Sophia Frentz

Sound is not so frequently captured in haiku. A lot is suggested in this poem. It feels as if the summit has been reached with minimum noise and the reader feels included in the achievement. The loud bird call is quite startling.

between the gaps
a crab hole
changes colour

– Harry Frentz

Harry has created an image which is very original. It conjures up a tidal estuary, mangroves and wet sand. The tide’s inward and outward flow and the scuttling crabs are implicit. What strikes me as something special is the focus on the crab hole rather than the more obvious crab.

pregnant again …
the fluttering of moths
against the window

– Janice Bostok

This is one of Janice Bostok’s famous haiku. The beautiful analogy between the stirring new life in the womb and the fluttering of moths against the window is a masterpiece.

stopped to allow geese crossing some idiot honks

– Janice Bostok

So much indignation expressed in this appropriately single-line haiku. The single line suggests a road and you can just imagine the geese unhurriedly crossing. And ‘honks’, what a perfect word. Janice Bostok is an acclaimed haijin.

replying to
sympathy cards the stamps
taste bitter

– Ross Clark

Ross has brilliantly employed the bitter taste of the stamps to capture the sorrow of bereavement. Economical and powerful.

she folds
my failed poem
into a dove

– Owen Bullock

Owen’s haiku is a moving example of how, what seems like a dismal failure can be transformed into something lovely. There is heartwarming optimism and transcendence in this haiku.

abortion clinic number scribbled on her calendar

– Dorothy Howard

This one-liner is in stark contrast to the one above. This senryu is devastatingly cynical. However, it demonstrates the versatility of haiku and how no subject needs to be shied away from.

walking her to crèche
one warm finger

– Tim Bravenboer

A lovely image of a young father and pre-schooler happy in each other’s company as they walk to crèche. The detail of the one warm finger gives a seasonal hint.

Editor’s note: Catherine Mair is the founder of the Katikati Haiku Pathway and from 1995-2001 was editor of the annual winterSPIN, New Zealand’s first journal dedicated to haiku and its related forms. She was awarded a Queen’s Service Medal in 2008 for services to poetry and the community. Catherine lives in Katikati, next door to the property where she was born. Read Catherine’s own haiku on her Showcase page.