Favourite Haiku by Susan Constable

Trying to identify my favourite haiku is like asking me which of my children I love the most. However, if the following ten poems were my own, I’d be very proud of them all.

under the rainbow
a hundred cows with
one expression

Peter Yovu

This haiku always makes me smile. No matter how many times I imagine the scene, it tickles my funny bone and seems 100% true to experience. There’s the joy of the rainbow, of course, but imagining this herd of cows is by far the best part. I can’t help but wonder how a talented cartoonist would depict it.

Just as I have favourite novelists, I also have favourite haiku poets. Two that come immediately to mind are Carolyn Hall and Christopher Herold. I could easily pick handfuls of their haiku as favourites, but will restrict myself to two each.

how to dress her
for eternity –
blossom rain

Carolyn Hall

 

dark comes early now –
we speak of the children
we didn’t have

Carolyn Hall

I admire Carolyn’s handling of loss, sorrow, and grief in these and other haiku. The juxtaposition of natural images and human experiences touches my emotions without telling me how to feel … and nothing feels forced. The lack of sentimentality combined with effective imagery make these haiku incredibly poignant.

dark dark night
a leaf strikes the pavement
stem first

Christopher Herold

 

first light
everything in this room
was already here

Christopher Herold

These two haiku illustrate Christopher’s observational skills, which are so much better than my own. His use of simple language to describe common experiences always works so well! He invariably shows me things I’ve seen a thousand times, but have never really paid attention to. I love seeing the world through his eyes.

So many haiku deal with our sense of sight that I’m always delighted to find one that concentrates on one of our other senses, particularly sound. This haiku by the late Peggy Willis Lyles is one of my favourites because of its attention to sound – not only the sound of the rain, but also the sound and metre of the words themselves. With the phrase in perfect iambic pentameter, I can’t help but hear the drumming of the rain.

summer night
we turn out all the lights
to hear the rain

Peggy Willis Lyles

Another poet who often writes about sounds is the Indian poet Kala Ramesh. She penned one of my favourites when I first began writing haiku myself.

spring breeze –
I catch the tune
she leaves behind

Kala Ramesh

The magic is in ‘catch’, since we all know how easy it is to hear something and have it stick with us all day and into the night – lyrics (or more often a melody) that just won’t leave us alone. That’s how ‘spring breeze’ affected me. I also like the ambiguity of the pronoun ‘she’. Is it a child, an adult … or simply the wind?

Haiku from two Australian poets are also among my favourites. First, this one by Lorin Ford:

on a bare twig rain beads what light there is

The visual is wonderful and the one-line format stretches my eye and my imagination from one end of the twig to the other. The turn on ‘beads’, as it changes from a noun to a verb, works well for me. I enjoy starting my reading at different places and working my way back to the beginning in a circular fashion. For example: what light there is on a bare twig rain beads

Ron Moss caught my attention with the following poem when I began my haiku journey in 2006.

starry night …
what’s left of my life
is enough

The vastness of the universe and the beauty of the night sky is a powerful image. It reminds me to constantly be grateful for what nature gives me free of charge. I hope, when my own life nears its end, I’ll remember this haiku and remain thankful for all of Life’s gifts.

One more to make an even ten:

autumn fog …
the river knows
the way

Francine Banwarth

The fog in this haiku stimulates my senses by blocking out any other visuals. I must engage my sense of touch and hearing, rather than rely on my sense of sight. Francine’s few well-chosen words convey both a literal and metaphorical truth. Maybe when I’m in such a fog, I can learn to use all my senses and become more like the river – trusting myself to know the way to move forward with confidence.

Editor’s note: Susan Constable has numerous forms of poetry published but since 2006, however, haiku has become her form of choice – she also writes tanka, haibun and haiga. Her work has been widely published and she has won the Francine Porad Haiku Contest (2010), while her tanka sequence, The Eternity of Waves, was a Snapshot Press e-book winner in 2012. Susan has served as tanka editor for online journal A Hundred Gourds.

She lives with her husband on Vancouver Island, off Canada’s west coast, where the natural world provides much of her subject matter.

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