Karina Klesko, Editor






Good Day to all the SHH Poets,

I am sorry that I was unable to judge the premier of this section, but John did a fine job as he always does. So it is my pleasure and honor to be back and able to view your work this time. I have created SHH as a place to grow and learn as well as compete. I am going to take this opportunity to mention that I would also like haiku written for teens and the issues they face. Look for the announcement and details in the next issue of Sketchbook.

SHH-Karina Klesko

I found all the haiku demonstrated creative and insightful juxtaposition that succeeds in reaching the reader on many levels of interpretation. After studying each haiku very carefully it occurred to me that many people are not used to writing haiku with specified kigo/season words. It is an art and most poets that write renku/renga are more likely to use kigo/season words properly. Traditional haiku uses kigo but modernization has changed that to stating a season but in a way that is not necessarily compatible with the rest of the haiku. There should be one season word per haiku and generally it is the present season, whether you are in the northern hemisphere and it is spring or the southern hemisphere where it is autumn. SHH is designed to recognize kigo and its place in haiku. Whilst looking up the season word for a particular haiku, one should also check out the other words used in the haiku. Double season words are not acceptable because they interfere with continuity, serenity and purpose.

Season words conjure up emotions and sometimes a universal vision of certain occurrences. For example: Spring rain—this seems plain enough, two words, spring and rain. Each reader will have a different image and feeling that will go along with the season words spring rain. What happens next gives meaning to those words.

In haiku, the writer creates a yugen—a feeling, sensibility, something that is untouchable. Japanese Haijin have created lists of words for each season, with divisions for everyday life associated with the elements. In the early centuries haiku and waka/tanka was used as a way of communicating within a class or between the social classes (early text messaging and we thought that was new!). Kigo or season books, journals and lists were created as a sort of a kigo/season bible. The next lines albeit a haiku or tanka, would complete a thought or present a new idea juxtaposed with the kigo, to not only create a message but to also invest or draw upon an emotion. So you can see that using two kigo would be confusing because of their intended greeting or statement, especially two different season words or phrases. In the spoken Japanese language the syntax/sounds would be marred and become gibberish. That is an easy way to approach kigo. I have tried to keep this simplified rather than spooling academic rhetoric. In this SHH column we are going to deal with kigo and season words. Below I have listed all the kigo used in this issue’s entries. Next, I have chosen haiku I think stand out and give a forthright message that also can be seen on different levels. Or does it need to be? Many old school haijin believe there should not be any hidden messages, that the haiku should be plainly stated and taken as it is presented and not to look for other meanings.

I agree it should be composed in this simple manner, but how it is interpreted is left to the reader. That will depend on race, religion, culture, environmental location, and education to name a few.

Listed Kigo: balmy breeze, thin mist, muddylandscape, gray fox, rookery, spring mist, night in spring, spring thunder, frog, wild geese, slush, skunk cabbage, remaining snow, Forget Me Not, butterfly, Spring peeper, soap bubbles, sowing, planting, kite-flying, violet, spring dust, evening mist, spinach leaves grow, seed-planting, falling camellia petals, departing geese, dandelions, cherry blossoms, blackbird:, robin, slug, April morning, seed, poppies, cuckoo, furrows, plowing,  plum blossoms, willow fluff, vee of geese, vernal equinox, cats in love, melting snow, skylark, old woman’s day, Knocking eggs

Displayed here is a very small nesting of topics. A good exercise might be to print out the Five Hundred Essential Season Words at Renku Home or any online sajiki for the season we are in and put it in your pocket or purse and do a ginko walk, which can take place anywhere, see if you can experience or look for any of the things that are on that list. This will train us to keep a keen eye out for the smaller things, or things not usually noticed. You can carry a pocket sajiki and a blank journal to fill.

I will list the haiku that use kigo properly, give experience to an emotion, and to leave enough space between the lines to reflect on what is written and unwritten giving a feeling of wabi sabi.

Rather than to explain wabi sabi, here is a link I found that will do very nicely.


Editor’s choices—Karina Klesko

In no particular order:

spring planting—
grandmother teaches me
her grandmother's song

~Michele L. Harvey, US

This haiku resonates tradition, cycles of life and generations of life giving. It is written in a forthright style in its beautiful simplicity and humility of words that blend together as a single thought. It is juxtaposed perfectly, a combination of natural order through the use of two images.  

spring mist
tales about her malaprops
bring mother back to me

~Peggy Heinrich, US

Spring mist creates a veil, dividing things from one another. This kigo has evoked an emotional message, without stating it. The next two lines compliment the kigo by  the lifting of the veil. I find this especially skillfully designed because there is a sadness/sensation of wabi sabi yet a degree of humor and endearment.  

hospital courtyard
two convalescents knocking eggs
with the chaplain

There was something about this I liked immediately but was not sure why. The wording is interesting, hospital courtyard-the word court evokes a feeling of justice or judgment but with the word yard to make a single word. Yard gives a feeling of being outside. Again I was feeling a sense of urgency as I continued to read.  The two convalescing (recovering/healing) patients knocking eggs  / opening the eggs (suggesting birth).

Christos Anesti! Christ has risen.”

They are knocking the eggs with the Chaplain, or head of the church (God/Jesus). The picture now opened up for me of Jesus with the two sinners on the hill outside the city or court of judgement. Cristian has depicted the Easter scene. I found that quite amazing because he used no words to tell the reader, the story is there, the reader feels it, and it opens up before him as a picture without saying a single word about it. This is a nurtured skill. Others who are not Christian or familiar with this will not be encumbered by definitive words.

On a simple level of what is said, is what it means, the haiku presents a fascinating picture of two convalescing patients with a chaplain knocking or breaking-open eggs.

This particular tradition was cited by Cristian Mocanu as being in the Spring Observances and Traditions in Romania. 

Many times kigo listed in the special observances will be understood by a specific culture, but this is nicely written using the word chaplain:


1. member of the clergy associated with a college, hospital, etc.

Synonym: Cleric, Member of clergy, Pastor, Preacher, Abbey, Archbishop, Bishop, Blackcoat, Abbot, Archbishop, Archdeacon, Bishop and I am sure the list could go on.

The next haiku is an example of a Romanian cultural observance:

feeble sunshine
the young mother greets
her “old woman’s day”

~Cristian Mocanu, RO

Spring Kigo: “old women’s day”: (Early Spring):Traditions and Observances (Romania) From the Romanian Saijiki in the World Kigo Database. Online at
"Zilele babelor” / “Old-women-days” (March 1st to 8th): Based on an old legend, one is supposed to pick one of these days with inconsistent weather; if it snows on that particular day, it’s a bad omen, if it’s sunny, it’s a good omen for the rest of the year.

Behind the teacher—
the classroom is still filled
by the smell of lilacs

~Cristian Mocanu, RO

I like this haiku as it gives a hope of sweetness of new blossoms of lilac and beauty in the classroom. A nice topic, I added the em-dash to the first line because it read like a sentence. And that happens as well with the stops, syntax conversion and restructuring of translations between languages with the masters.

There is a wabi sabi, a yearning for hope and expectations in the classroom left behind.

blind date:
her long hair cascading
into the spring night

~Chen-ou Liu, CA

Blind date in my world has two interpretations. If the date was visually blind, the long hair against the darkness of the sky gives the expanse and message of no limitations in its juxtaposition to her limitations.

If it is a first date on a spring night, the long black hair cascading into the darkness gives the feeling of unknown expectations. Here the kigo is used as a message of the bud of a relationship, letting down the hair is letting down inhibitions.

If you received this haiku in a message what emotion would it draw from you?

I want to thank all SHH 2 haijin and encourage their participation in the May / June SHH 3 Contest; the kigo is summer. At that time I will choose 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Choice haiku. Please review the criteria for the SHH 3 Contest.

~     ~     ~     ~

I have taken the time to identify haiku submitted in the SHH 2 spring haiku containing double kigo, a practice that is generally avoided in contemporary haiku composition.

a thin mist
blankets the ocean
evening chill

The kigo is "thin mist"—Sky and Elements selected from the Yuki Teikei Haiku Society (San Jose) on-line:  "chilly night" is listed as an autumn kiigo in the society's list also; additionally, William J. Higginson in The Haiku Handbook also lists "night chill" as an autumn kigo. This raises the question does the line 3 use of "evening chill" constitute a double kigo? Although the wording is slightly different than the published saijiki, the  close conflict could have been avoided by checking the kigo list.

The next haiku presents a more definite occurrence of double kigo use:

dandelion puffs kigo
finding their ground
the mud season

In this haiku both "dandelion" and "mud season" are documented as spring kigo words in the Yuki Teikei Haiku Society (San Jose) on-line resource:   "mud season" is the identified kigo word.

Like the haiku above, the the next verse contains a definite double kigo:

near the pond—
willow fluff caressing
the harvest moon

The selected kigo is willow fluff (ryuujo, mid spring) from The Five Hundred Essential Japanese Season Words on-line:;  "harvest moon" is also cited as a autumn kigo in "The Heavens" list in the same saiji. Regarding the use of double kigo Dr. Gabi Greve provides this discussion as a guide:

One kigo in one traditional Japanese haiku is the guideline (yakusokugoto, promise), the "general rule", the advise a Japanese haiku sensei will give his student at the first encounter and keep reminding him afterwards. (My own experience, passing on the instructions from Michiko sensei:

Write ten years according to the yakusokugoto, then you are able to judge for yourself when not to do so! But first try to eliminate one of the kigo from your haiku, if your draft has more than one.). World Kigo Data Base.

The fourth example of haiku submitted with questionable kigo is:

April morning—
the song of chaffinch
in an old apple

As submitted, no saijiki citation was included; instead, the occurance of daily observation and experience was listed as the kigo source. Wikipedia identifies  the "chaffinch" as a  small passerine bird in the finch family Fringillidae widespread and very familiar throughout Europe. It is the most common finch in western Europe, and the second most common bird in the British Isles. Its range extends into western Asia, northwestern Africa, and Macaronesia. The chaffich is also called by a wide variety of other names. The haiku as submitted did not contain the words "apple tree", but clearly that is what was meant. Regardless of the intent of the haijin, "apple (ringo) is considered a late autumn kigo in The Five Hundred Essential Japanese Season Words on line:  Line 1 establishes the setting of the haiku as "April morning".  Thus, the haiku as written appears to have a mixed kigo reference.

Finch is not listed as a kigo in Higginson's The Haiku Handbook  nor in his on-line list The Five Hundred Essential Japanese Season Words.  In her on-line Haiku date base Dr. Gabi Greve says "Some common bird names, like FINCH, come in many families and sub-species during various seasons. So FINCH like this is used as a topic, whereas the specific name, like BULLFINCH, is listed in its season as a kigo" (World Kigo Database).  However, Greve gives not make a specific reference to chaffinch as a kigo.

The SHH 2 contest required a spring kigo. The discussion above indicates some of the difficulties haijin encounter when they are required to select a season kigo in a contest entry. Gaining a thorough working knowledge of kigo is no easy task.  Fortunately, there are a number of on-line kigo resources as well as many print kigo resources. It is up to the haijin to use these resources to aid in the composition of a haiku containing a single and effective kigo.

 In light of the foregoing discussion of double kigo in the SHH 2 spring kigo contest I have developed these specific guidelines for future SHH Contests:

All Choice SHH Contest haiku will be chosen by these standards.

  • the use of kigo / no double kigo permitted

  • the citation of kigo from a print or on-line saijiki

  • evocative power

  • transformation by the use of suggestion/not stating or telling

  • juxtaposition

  • the feeling of wabi sabi

  • the use of yugen

I wish you happy haiku writing for the SHH 3 summer kigo Contest and look forward to reading your submissions.

~Karina Klesko









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