Choice Haiku ~ John Daleiden, US




“Candle In The Wind”

The candle is a significant object in world culture; it is used for practical functions, aesthetic reasons, and religious celebrations and other occasions. The November / December “candle(s) Haiku Thread reflects all of these uses. One hundred forty-one Haiku written by thirty-one haijin living in fourteen countries were contributed to this Haiku Thread.  One of the most frequent topics was the celebration of religion:

the colorful candles
light up Bethlehem

# 37. Priyanka Bhowmick, IN

luminaries light
the path to a living crčche—

# 141. . John Daleiden, US

light a candle
say a prayer
God is everywhere

# 86. Sandra Martyres, IN

a lighted candle
blurs the blue cathedral air—
wax on the table

# 80. Vladimir Ludvig, CR

Eve of Christmas—
a candle burning
at the window

# 136. Maria Tirenescu, RO

in every window
a promise

# 21. Angie Werren, US

In reading the above six haiku the “candle” is a central image tied to significant religious images and practices. The candle is frequently associated with prayer and a particular religious doctrine or belief:

prayer candles
from the Virgin’s robe
the essence of roses

# 44. Alegria Imperial, CA

Advent candles—
a broken wooden cross
in the prayer book

# 63. Chen-ou Liu, CA

vigil candles
the flicker
of mumbled prayers

# 03. Alegria Imperial, CA

prayer candle—
she puts her lips
to the icon

# 138. Stella Pierides, DE / UK

the steady flames
of tea candles
my mother’s prayers

# 32. Alegria Imperial, CA

St. Gertrude website
he clicks to light a candle
for his daughter

# 11. Chen-ou Liu, CA

Sunday offering…
candles, roses and prayers
for our soldiers

# 56. Willie R. Bongcaron, PH

In essence the candle becomes a symbol, the physical—the tangible link that humans choose as a symbol linking them with a spiritual presence, an abstraction, and a belief in a powerful force beyond their own limited physical world. The candle as symbol is an aid in human contemplation of a spiritual force. Often the physical candle is a practical symbol helping individuals maintain a rational link between spiritual life and the social world where life moves forward for the living in a societal context.

a symbol
of unwavering faith—
two lit white candles

# 07. Willie R. Bongcaron, PH

grandma's spirit
is appeased
the candle burns

# 66. Sandra Martyres, IN

the old chapel—
in the votive candle holder
a firefly

# 133. Cezar-Florin Ciobīcă, RO

…and in the middle of all this serious contemplation we are reminded of the mundane and practical—a firefly. It is wise to never lose sight of humor in our lives…

The candle as a symbol helps each human connect with significant events that frame the various social fabrics of life:

they light their wedding candle—
incense fills the air

# 140. Yamadori, US

perfumed candles
light up her grave
a daughter's blessing

# 72. Sandra Martyres, IN

After the requiem—
the grandpa’s photo
near the candle

# 132. Maria Tirenescu, RO

…but even a church event must end…

church service
an altar server raises
his candle snuffer

# 75. Willie R. Bongcaron, PH

…and suddenly we comprehend the preciousness of life…even as

the candle flickers
the wind blows
time is running out

# 13. Sandra Martyres, IN

Human beings often take the luxuries of life for granted—never completely realizing how one of the marvels of the modern world enrich life beyond measure until individuals are temporarily forced to function without that precious commodity—electricity:

he reads newpapers
in dim candle light
a power failure

# 119. Sandra Martyres, IN

power outage
in his pyjamas grandpa
roams with a candle

# 90. Sandra Martyres, IN

power break—
reading her last letters
by candlelight

# 137. Cezar-Florin Ciobīcă, RO

In contrast to life in a highly industrialized environment, some people use the light of candles regularly in their simple lives:

in the igloo
burning midnight oil
night lessons

# 114. Bernard Gieske, US

early nightfall ...
a candle flickers
in the beggar's hut

# 74. Keith A. Simmonds, TT

an old beggar throwing
shadows on the wall

# 139. Cezar-Florin Ciobīcă, RO

lights in the city
in my hut

# 04. Priyanka Bhowmick, IN

flicker of hope
the comforting warmth
of the candle flame

# 77. Willie R. Bongcaron, PH

the way
in a dark abyss
one candle

# 05. Karen O'Leary, US

Romantic occasions are often lighted with the ambiance of candlelight joyfulness:

in candle light
a dinner for two
her face glows

# 70. Sandra Martyres, IN

first meeting...
a candle light bonds
our shadows

# 31. Ramesh Anand, MY

sparkle in your eyes
candle flame

# 122. Stella Pierides, DE / UK

Another happy occasion that is enhanced with candles is the celebration of a birthday:

the first birthday—
first time on his feet gazing
at a single flame

# 08. Djurdja Vukelic-Rozic, CR

on the cake
freshly-lit candles
inviting a song

# 108. Bernard Gieske, US

alone at dusk
I add one more candle
to the cake

# 69. Chen-ou Liu, CA

rice paper moon
another candle
on the cake

# 62. Cara Holman, US

…for some individuals the birthday candle occasion knows no age limit…

he takes a deep breath
forty candles on his cake
to be blown out

# 84. Sandra Martyres, IN

seventieth birthday cake
his big sigh
blows out the candles

# 47. Munia Khan, BD

he blows out
all eighty birthday candles—
the year ends

# 134. Yamadori, US

birthday candles
too many tree rings
to count

# 60. Cara Holman, US

In utter contrast to the social togetherness and community sense, candles can establish an overwhelming forlorn sense of loneliness; these haiku present a juxtaposition of solace and isolation:

the silence
—a wax candle

# 17. Tonka Lovric, CR

the wax melts
the candle burns
she watches the clock

# 92. Sandra Martyres, IN

a dark winter night
a candle
her only succour

# 64. Sandra Martyres, IN

burning wax
the old man lights candles
to keep out darkness

# 117. Sandra Martyres, IN

alone with my dog
the scent of Christmas candles

# 67. Chen-ou Liu, CA

faint light
a solitary candle
in the wilderness

# 54. Willie R. Bongcaron, PH

farewell—England’s rose!
Elton’s “Candle In The Wind”
sadness in the air

# 49. Munia Khan, BD

the candle flame
faulters...then flickers out—
grief follows

# 102. Sandra Martyres, IN

An intense sense of community and social interaction is pictured in a significant number of haiku contributed to this thread:

candlelit study
three shadows chase each other
around the wall

#61. Chen-ou Liu, CA

his hands so deft
on the lute

# 38. Alegria Imperial, CA

Candle light
scent of tuberose
on rustling silk

# 121. Karin Anderson, AU

falling snowflakes—
the smell of wax smoke lingers
on the window sills

# 16. Vladimir Ludvig, CR

around the table...
three generations
in the candles’ glow

# 10. Cara Holman, US

goodbye darkness
a candle
lights up his life

# 94. Sandra Martyres, IN

early dusk
the candle melts
into itself

# 58 Cara Holman, US

…and finally, the candles thread moves beyond a description of human conditions, religious notions, birthday celebrations, individual feelings of loneliness and isolation, romance, and social occasions to the realm beyond earth—reaching out into the universal depths of space…

how pale the moon

# 126. Stella Pierides, DE / UK

candle on the sill—
a moth circles into
the Big Dipper

# 131. Cezar-Florin Ciobīcă, RO

lone candle—
another solar system

# 95. P K Padhy, IN

Each of the thematic groupings above make informative haiku sequences; individual haiku are strengthened when poised in juxtaposition with their neighboring verses, both prior and subsequent ku.

Choosing two outstanding haiku from a field of one hundred forty-one haiku is a very difficult task. There are so many criteria to consider—the themes, the construction, the so called rules of haiku (written, unwritten, implied, and historical concepts)…  In the “candle(s)” Haiku Thread there are many worthy verses; thank you haijin for your abundant contributions.

For me, Cezar-Florin Ciobīcă, RO has composed the most intriguing haiku in the thread:

an old beggar throwing
shadows on the wall

# 139. Cezar-Florin Ciobīcă, RO

This haiku is composed of a fragment (line 1) and a phrase (lines 2-3); a kireji separates the fragment and the phrase. However, the underlying literary allusion is the most intriguing part of this haiku; lines 2-3 remind me of a widely known ancient Greek philosophical text about how humans know (comprehend) and what they do with that knowledge. The shadows on the wall remind me vividly of Plato's fictional dialogue in The Republic between Plato's teacher Socrates and Plato's brother Glaucon at the beginning of Book VII. This allegorical literary reference is commonly known as the Allegory of the Cave—also known as the Analogy of the Cave, Plato's Cave, or the Parable of the Cave

Plato created this analogy as a way of introducing the idea of finding the ultimate good (knowledge, truth, justice, call it what you will). In the metaphor, a group of people are seated and chained while facing a wall deep in a cave. Behind them is an elevated walkway where others carry objects. A fire (candle light) behind these objects projects their shadows onto the wall which is the only thing the chained people can see.

To those seated people who know nothing else, these shadows are reality. They are not shadows of objects but the objects themselves. All judgments and knowledge and opinions are formed without knowing the true source of the shadow, so imagination is valued and ignorance is rampant.

One of these people is then unchained and freed (later on it is learned that the person who does the freeing could be the philosopher-king mentioned later in The Republic. The freed person is then turned around and exposed to the fire and objects. Imagine all that you know as reality suddenly being false and having to learn a whole new reality. This painful process is the beginning of education.

Then the freed person is taken out of the cave and into the bright sunlight. After a life of darkness (ignorance), there is pain as the eyes adjust to the rays of the sun. As the eyes gradually adjust, the freed person can begin to understand relations between objects. For example, the sun (candle) causes light, the light causes heat, and so forth. The learning process continues and once he discovers the ultimate Good/Justice/Knowledge, he knows the true form of everything. In a way you could call this reaching perfection of knowledge. For a real world example, a carpenter would have to know the "true form" of a perfect chair in order to judge and compare the quality of other chairs. Needless to say this perfection is impossible to reach in the real world.

Now that the freed person has attained this ultimate knowledge of something, he can never go back to being ignorant like he was in the cave, even if he wanted to. The next step is to return to the cave to educate the people still chained. Most likely he would be ridiculed for preaching something so different from their accepted reality. Regardless the freed person will be the happiest because he knows the truth, the ultimate good.

In very short, simple language the Cave Metaphor simply lists the steps necessary in education. We first rely on our imaginations and then rise up through varying degrees of exposure (we know a little more when faced with the actual objects in the cave, then a little more once we go out of the cave, then more once our eyes adjust to the sunlight, etc.). Plato's Cave metaphor like Ciobīcă's "old beggar throwing
shadows on the wall" is about knowing and what humans do with the knowledge of knowingan important philosophical concept.

My choice of a second superior haiku is

around the table...
three generations
in the candles’ glow

# 10. Cara Holman, US

Holman has constructed her haiku using a fragment (line 1) and a phrase (lines 2-3).  The use of ellipsis at the end of line one offers a partial stop kireji. The focal center of the haiku is a table on which is placed a lighted, “glowing” candle. The lighted candle implies that the event takes place in the dark—at night time.  In the light of the candle glow is revealed an unspecified number of people representing three generations—the implication is that this is a family grouping. Without the light of the candle there would be darkness and hence a lack of sight identification. The light becomes the agent of revelation—and hence, it seems to have a mystical power, a super human force. A similar notion of a powerful force represented by the candle is present in the 141 haiku in the thread. A reader might ask why three?  Is the number three chosen for its symbolic meanings?  Might there even be four generations—or would the number four diminish the impact of the haiku? The dedicated and serious haiku reader and writer will perhaps generate additional questions for that is the nature of superior haiku. The unstated and implied is a hallmark of exceptional haiku.

Frankly, there are many commendable haiku in this thread and taken all together these are the haiku characteristics that can be observed in the most successful verses:

·         The use of a fragment in line 1 or line 3

·         The use of a two line phrase in lines 1-2 or lines 2-3

·         The use of various kireji in the form of western punctuation, usually at the end of the fragment

·         The use of juxtaposition of image sets instead of direct figurative language commonly used in western verses

·         The arrangement of the haiku in 3 lines

·         The use of no more than 575 syllables distributed over three lines; frequently the English haijin uses fewer syllables

·         The occasional use of literary references both directly and implied

·         The use of the required theme (candle(s) in the announced Haiku Thread

·         The use of kigo (although not required—unless the haijin is attempting to create a classical haiku)

 The Sketchbook editors thank each of you for your participation and we look forward to reading your haiku in future threads.  Please also consider participating in the haiku associated with each forth coming issue.

 ~John Daleiden, Phoenix, AZ


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