rÓbert of rŌbear Repor fame will be the guest lecturer, speaking on the use of spiritual guidance and miracle working with the problem employee. He should know, he’s an expert.
Year’s end –
still in straw hat
Come, let’s go
till we’re buried
on my horse
a frozen shadow.
lights of homes
that slammed their gates on
Deer in rain –
then heard no more.
deep winter grove,
a bonfire’s glow.
Just by being,
I’m here –
Winter lull –
thus no sins.
but don’t test
the fire, snow Buddha.
snow tracing wings
of mandarin ducks.
Wumen Huikai 无门慧开 (1183–1260), Chán master most famous as the compiler of and commentator on the 48-koan collection The Gateless Gate. In many respects, Wumen was the classical eccentric Chan master. He wandered for many years from temple to temple, wore old and dirty robes, grew his hair and beard long and worked in the temple fields. He was nicknamed “Huikai the Lay Monk”. At age 64, he founded Gokoku-ninno temple near West Lake where he hoped to retire quietly, but visitors constantly came looking for instruction.
The winning poem from the Tricycle Haiku Challenge surveys the political landscape of America in 2022.
By Clark Strand
frost on the pastures
in rural America
adding to the white
Although haiku poetry is governed by certain time-honored conventions, there is no universally agreed-upon rule about what subject matter can or cannot be addressed within the form. Poets are always testing the limits of haiku, pushing it in new directions to see what can be said using just seventeen syllables.
Japanese haiku took a political turn during the lead-up to World War II. In 1937, the most influential magazine of the day, Hototogisu (“little cuckoo”), created a special section devoted to patriotic haiku—poems that became increasingly militant after 1939. But Japanese fascism was not without its critics. Some poets wrote haiku that opposed the war, and many of these poems are considered masterpieces today.
Saito Sanki (1900–1962) was the nominal leader of the antiwar haiku movement. Here are two famous poems of his:
Machine gun bullets:
right between the eyes a red
to swallow a hard-boiled egg
the mouth opens wide
The first haiku is shocking in its nontraditional use of the season word hana, for “cherry blossom.” About the second, written in Hiroshima on a dark night one year after the bombing, it is best to let Sanki speak for himself:
Sitting on a stone by the side of the road, I took out a boiled egg and slowly peeled the shell, unexpectedly shocked by its smooth surface. With a flash of searing incandescence, the skins of human beings had as easily slipped off all over this city. To eat a boiled egg in the wind of that black night, I was forced to open my mouth. In that moment, this haiku came to me.
—The Kobe Hotel, trans. Saito Masaya
Sanki was imprisoned by Japan’s Special Higher Police for writing haiku like the first one. The second was published in a magazine but was omitted from Sanki’s second collection for fear that the book would be censored by American Occupation officials, who suppressed information about the atomic bomb.
Political protest haiku have been written in English, too, but they have rarely succeeded as well as this season’s winning poem. The first two lines offer a panoramic landscape of rural America, its pastures covered with frost. The scope is national, not local, as we would ordinarily expect in a haiku. Only in the last line do we understand the significance of that choice. We are being shown not just a visual landscape but a political one.
A good haiku works through the subtle nuances of spoken language, and this one is no exception. Expressions like “killing frost,” “hard frost,” and “frosty reception” inevitably influence our reading of the final line, making it clear that the spread of white nationalism through the American heartland is the real subject of the poem.
A poem like this is unlikely to be met with censorship in 2022 America. But it still takes courage to write it. The chill I felt when I first read it gets deeper with every day.
The Tricycle Haiku Challenge asks readers to submit original works inspired by a season word. Moderator Clark Strand selects the top poems to be published in Tricycle with his commentary. To see past winners and submit your haiku, visit tricycle.org/haiku. To read additional poems of merit from recent months, visit our Tricycle Haiku Challenge group on Facebook.
November 1, 20225:31 AM ET
An altar for Gabriel Garcia Marquez and his wife Mercedes Barcha, is set up in the studio of their home in Mexico City, Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021. Day of the Dead, or Dia de Los Muertos, the annual Mexican tradition of reminiscing about departed loved ones with colorful altars, or ofrendas, is celebrated annually Nov. 1. Garcia Marquez died on April 17, 2014 and Mercedes died on Aug. 15, 2020.Fernando Llano/AP
Each year, Nov. 1 marks the beginning of Día de Muertos, or Day of the Dead, in Mexico.
The holiday is a day of remembrance for those who have died. Its origins can be traced to pre-colonial Mexico, when it was believed that the souls of dead loved ones returned to their families once a year so that their lives could be celebrated.
Today, families commemorate the day by creating ofrendas, the Spanish word for offerings that colloquially is used to mean altar for Día de Muertos.
Ofrendas can be customized to your liking, but many of them have some key elements.