Favourite Haiku by David Cobb

I am particularly moved by haiku with a leaven of human interaction with the natural environment. By some people’s definition some or all of the following might be classified as senryu, but if so, I think they err, because they are solemn not facetious; their mood is well on the way towards wabi or sabi. And anyway, I take refuge in the Japanese dictum, that if a haiku poet writes a senryu it’s a haiku, and if a senryu poet writes a haiku it’s a senryu.

midday heat
soldiers on both sides
roll up their sleeves

– Lenard D Moore

Moore’s haiku shows that there is more that unites enemies than divides them. A shared humanity.

seedless grapes
he spits the skins

– Susan Rowley

This one probably is a senryu. The mother’s annoyance (and acceptance) at the perverse behaviour of her son is archly human and amuses me.

distant thunder
the dog’s toenails click
against the linoleum

– Gary Hotham

The word ‘click’ is very arresting – the small noise that for an instant upstages the vaster one waiting in the wings. But this is finally reversed by that ingenious choice of the word ‘linoleum’ – almost onomatopoeic for the sound of thunder.

hot bath water
cold on the breastless side
spring thunder

– Yoko Ogino

Ogino’s haiku I admire for its wonderful ambiguity. What is it that is cold – water that the skin healed over the mastectomy feels as cold even though it is really hot? Or the spring? Is the emphasis on loss, or the poet’s gratitude for what (despite alteration) still remains? Less spring feeling is more spring feeling? In an earlier version of this haiku Ogino’s final line was another fine day; which seemed to express a reason for rejoicing.

my runny nose:
everywhere, except on its dewdrop
evening dusk falls

– Akutagawa Ryunosuke

Poor old sod, feeling sorry for himself! Well, men do, don’t they? Of course, it gets more macabre when you learn that Ryunosuke wrote this just before committing suicide, leaving a note to ask his sister to deliver it to his doctor (with whom he often shared haiku) the following day.

its sight has been lost
and yet, for that eye also
I polish a glass

– Hino Sōjō

There is something infinitely fair and considerate and ‘sporting’ about this one. And whimsical. I like whimsy.

the pork chops
shaped like Africa

– Marco Fratelli

Haiku and politics don’t mix. But I know of no haiku that makes a propagandistic point more delicately (though I know some people regard this haiku as very ‘gross’.)

my head in the clouds in the lake

– Ruby Spriggs

For me, writing a haiku in a single horizontal line is justified if it obliges the reader to consider the possibility of alternative meanings. This one not only does that, but finally melds all possible interpretations into one, as if every word in the haiku were linked to the next by a hyphen.

Editor’s note: David Cobb made a teaching research trip to Japan in 1977 and, with the encouragement of a local high school teacher, began to learn how to write haiku. In 1989 he helped establish the British Haiku Society, serving as secretary (1990-97) and president (1997-2002). He started the BHS newsletter and its magazine, Blithe Spirit.

His haiku and haibun have received numerous international awards, as have his collections of his work. His most recent awards are the the Oi-Ocha Prize (for a single haiku) in 2010 and a Haiku Society of America Merit Book Award in 2007. Spitting Pips, a collection of David’s haibun, was published in 2009. For more information see his website.