Online internet courses by Call of the Page

Are you interested in a Call of the Page course? We run courses on haiku; tanka; tanka stories/prose; haibun; shahai; and other genres.

Please email Karen or Alan at our joint email address:
We will let you know more about these courses.

Call of the Page (Alan & Karen)

Saturday, July 27, 2019

monobun haibun prose+haiku hybrid poems


is somewhere between violet and green—if the colour doesn’t lie—that connects us; we are really not infinity, but you left me, you destroyed my pale heart, and a coffee, left unsaid, and unanswered.
rambling journey
I become a trifold
of my past

after Claude Monet, 
from a letter to Paul Cézanne

fairygrowth©Alan Summers

It's the small things...

that count, and I read that they too will die, the unknown and unseen insects who befriend roses, on the window ledges of prisons.
mosaic rain:
the cul de sac
of shadow

after Sylvia Plath

perspective©Alan Summers

The uncertainity principle...

is something that haunts so many of us just starting out on life, hovering just beyond the periphery of parental constraints, where we fly or fall on a single smile, and…

blustering wind 
does she really love me 

after Heisenberg

3 monobun©Alan Summers
monobun term created by Alan Summers

Three monobun (over two issues) of Human/Kind journal:

Please do leave a comment, we love them!

Haibun - From one-bun to monobun to longer pieces of prose with haiku writing and Journeys 2015 in at no. 7 in Amazon Hot New Releases

Friday, June 21, 2019

new haiku and tanka Summer online courses for 2019!

For those who have written haiku for a while now, these online courses might assist with a useful 2019 revisit:

Intermediate Haiku (Shorter)

Intermediate Haiku Course (Longer Course)

If you have never written haiku before, or want to push yourself to get to another stage of writing:

Introducing... Haiku

We also have an exciting advanced tanka course if you've been writing them for a while:

Tanka - Shape and Sound

We also have regular email one-to-one sessions as well as our popular Skype feedback conversations!

Lead tutor/mentor Alan Summers is a Japan Times award-winning writer, and a Pushcart Prize nominated poet:

For further information or questions please don't hesitate to contact Karen at:

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

The layering of meaning beyond the immediate: The "now" in monoku

caged clouds photo©Alan Summers 2019

The layering of meaning beyond the immediate 

Underlay has two meanings, the second one being:
“In music, underlay refers to text intended for vocalization – positioned either directly or indirectly under notes on a musical staff.”

Here is my meaning as to haiku:
Underlayment: The layering of meaning beyond the immediate, noticeable meaning.

So although they appear quirky, which is part intended, there are ‘under-meanings’ too: Many poems can have a serious “underlay” alongside the device(s) of humour. 

One line haiku (in English) often carry a number of devices or techniques or approaches, which include aspects of other ways of writing in one line, including a wry sense of humour to deliver another type of message.

coffee refills reminiscing "what if" scenarios

Alan Summers

Publication credit: 
proletaria  politics philosophy phenomena (04 July 2019) 
ed. Elancharan Gunasekaran
proletaria is a journal dedicated to the art of literary one-liners. 

I called this a monostich (a single line  poem) but it could also be a one-line haiku (monoku) and is part of an ongoing Edward Hopper series, mostly but not exclusively around Edward Hopper’s groundbreaking painting ‘Nighthawks’ (1942):

Many writers, and others, enjoy occupying cafés for a long while. Everyone has their reasons.

What are the layers beyond the immediate in this one line ‘prose/poem’?  For a writer it might be what if the plot to the novel I’m writing on develops this way, or another way? A poet, of any kind of genre, might be applying a poetic version to that of the novelist.

But what of another kind of person? Is it simply a day off, or a holiday for one somewhere anonymous? Is the ‘home’ environment too uncomfortable or chaotic? Is this someone laid off, or attempting to work out why a relationship went so disasterously wrong. Perhaps they had too much alcohol to drink, and ended up somewhere else, and barely escaped, crept out of an apartment at 6am in the morning?

The wording and order of those words is straightforward from ‘coffee refills’ which suggests a certain type of coffee house, rather than buying a fresh cup each time, it’s cheap coffee and either a server does the refilling, or there’s a machine. It could be a chain hotel, and waiting for the breakfast room to open up, and there’s thoughtfully a machine or two already prepped. Someone might be on some kind of course or conference, and simply going through the most important pitch of their lives. 

The verb used is reminiscing which usually means going over past experiences that you remember with pleasure. But is that always the case? Or if it is, perhaps a guilty holiday romance, usefully short, and with someone from a different town or city or country?

The concrete image of ‘coffee’ and ‘refills’ has its abstract partner of “scenarios” where we can really launch ourselves in different ideas of what that could mean!

plural noun: scenarios
  1. a written outline of a film, novel, or stage work giving details of the plot and individual scenes.

Definitely a writer here!


"A series or development of events which could be anyone this time."
Even though the word feels closely related to those in the writing or creating drama/documentary occupations  (a written plan of the characters and events in a play or film) aren’t we all, if observed by someone else, looking like a character from a television/streaming video/movie scene, and more likely a soap opera?

In Japanese the term (noun or verb) of reminiscing is:


Translated into “Made to remember.” That brings a whole new ‘nuance’ to everything, in my book! 

Enjoy your own versions, don’t feel guilty though. I like to feel it’s a time to be ourselves, enjoying a good coffee and wrapped into its steam, as we go back in time. Perhaps to ‘what if’ but hopefully in a good and enjoyable manner.

a dreaming forest busy as Hitchcock

Alan Summers
weird laburnum ed. Michael O’Brien (May 2019)

This is both a play on Hitchcock’s film Birds, and for of course where Alma Reville was often responsible for the edginess in Alfred Hitchcock films, most famously and allegedly creating the shower scene in Psycho that still makes some of us nervous when alone in our home or elsewhere with a shower curtain obscuring our view, if we hear a noise in the next room, or at the entrance door. A forest is both a dreamlike place, but it is a business for natural residents from birds to four legged animals undertaking what they have to do to survive each day. We are not only destroying forests, and woodlands, but each property development, where with existing buildings or not, have trees unnecessarily destroyed. We don’t seem to respect the homes of other animals, and after all we are but another animal species, aren’t we?

when yellow is round I miss your apostrophe

Alan Summers
weird laburnum ed. Michael O’Brien (May 2019)

Perhaps just for fun and mystery. It’s also part of ongoing giallo/yellow series of haiku and haibun/tanka stories around various themes, including violence in the saffron trade.

trucks in the violin mimicries of D-sharp minor

Alan Summers
Otoliths ed. Mark Young (Feburary 2017)
From “Not when she’s in Kansas” haiku sequence haibun hybrid

The violins piece is about a very dark part of 20th Century history, although it’s been repeated in this one too, but by different people.

each window its own night train

Alan Summers
Award credit:
Honourable mention, 
The British Haiku Society Awards 2018/19 (Haiku Section) judge: Scott Mason

This is from my experience on the Caledonian Sleeper to Scotland. Also watching my wife set off or arriving by train from various meetings etc… each window is a story, each person is a story, each glance is a story. Are we are our own window…on a night train to somewhere?

And I’d like to end on a commentary by highly regarded Scott Mason (author/editor of The Wonder Code) who was the judge for the haiku section.

eye of the song a blackbird touching the void

Alan Summers
Award credit:
Winning haiku, 
The British Haiku Society Awards 2018/19 (Haiku Section) judge: Scott Mason

Judge's commentary by Scott Mason:
“A good haiku can contain and convey a telling moment in just a kernel. A great haiku can implant that kernel in the reader’s or listener’s consciousness, making its moment live on. 
This year’s competition produced many haiku that I would consider “good” by the standard suggested above. A dozen or so approached greatness in my estimation. I am honored to share my five favorites here. As diverse as these poems are, they have one thing in common: they each tantalize. They do not aspire to teach or resolve; instead they leave room to intrigue and involve. In this way they gain our attention, sustain our interest and make the moment last. 
A Rubik’s ku of perception and intuition held together with synaesthesia, the winning one-liner beguiles and haunts me. What and where is the “eye” of a blackbird’s song? How does that eye “touch” the void? What void are we talking about here anyway – some nexus of negative color (blackness), sound (silence) and capability? ... the focus of Emerson’s “transparent eyeball” turned inward? These questions and others draw me into a state of dreamlike reverie, impelled by a creature in equal parts totem and flesh. (The last “literary” bird to transport me like this was a thrush, in Burnt Norton.) 

There are many different ways of looking at this magical blackbird haiku (easily thirteen, if not four and twenty), each with its own rewards.”

Scott Mason: 

See also:
Travelling the single line of haiku


travelling the monorail - one line haiku:

We regularly run courses, and one-to-one email feedback and Skype sessions:

For further information please don't hesitate to contact Karen


Saturday, March 09, 2019

Haiku at Slimbridge Wetland Centre | WWT - a haiku writing walk

SALE: Bring a Friend!! Two places, with the second half price!

flamingo at Slimbridge Wetland photo©Karen Hoy

Booking is now open for Haiku at Slimbridge; a visit to the famous wildlife sanctuary in Gloucestershire, in the south west of England, where Call of the Page will be holding a haiku poetry workshop and ginko on April 6th 2019

More information about the event at Slimbridge Wetland Centre: 

duck photo©Alan Summers

Karen Hoy & Alan Summers, Call of the Page

Monday, February 25, 2019

The 2019 Turtle Light Press HAIKU CHAPBOOK CONTEST

Long awaited manuscript competition from the brilliant 
Turtle Light Press

For submission details go to:

Great publisher, great judge, great opportunity!
Highly recommended, even without having met Rick Black in person, and knowing that Susan Antolin will be fantastic as the contest judge!


Alan Summers
President, United Haiku and Tanka Society
co-founder, Call of the Page

Call of the Page founded by Karen Hoy & Alan Summers runs regular group online courses, and one-to-one email and/or Skype sessions:

Friday, December 21, 2018

Introducing... Haiku - a new online course for continuing our fascination with the haiku genre

An exciting new course for those of you either new to writing haiku, or would like more support on a journey you have already begun.

Evocative exercises will expand our understanding of what these tiny haiku poems are capable of, and encourage our senses of observation, and of the moments we'll capture. 

Feedback is given in a safe and nurturing atmosphere. 

By the end of the course we'll have an inspiring foundation on which to continue to move forward with our writing. 

Start Date: Thursday January 31st 2019

End Date: Thursday March 28th 2019

Friday, November 02, 2018

Why haiku is different and Basho never wrote them in English

The term haiku in Kanji

Why haiku is different
An ongoing article by Alan Summers

Haiku (plural and singular spelling) began to be written in the 1890s onwards. It was?! 

I often read that haiku is called ancient, but doesn’t that mean hundreds if not thousands of years old? That’s not really true, and anything modern or fairly modern has its roots back in ancient times, from coffee, macchinatios, pizza, bread, wine, beer, food and drink in general etc… We wouldn’t surely walk into a café and ask for an ancient cup of coffee, and ask for an ancient sandwich. We might risk our health by doing so!

So yes, haiku is not actually that old, but comes from another type of poetry that is older, and that older poetry comes from an even older poetry and so on and so on. It was the journalist Masaoka Shiki (正岡 子規 1867 – 1902) who used a rarely known term called ‘haiku’ and made it into a specific (and new) role in poetry, thus creating a genre around that term, which continues to be popular today. 

Shiki wasn’t a fan of the common and popular activity where poets gathered to produce a number of verses together, where the final poem was all their joint verses linking each other which was called a ‘renku’. The special verse that kickstarted a renku group poem was called a “hokku”.

“At first Shiki used both “hokku” and “haiku” but then started to use solely “haiku” to replace “hokku”, because “hokku” implied that other stanzas were to follow and became inappropriate.”

The Importance of a Sense of Humour in Haiku by Susumu Takiguchi

Throughout this article I will intersperse haiku, to hopefully show how different styles can make up the genre called “haiku”. 

But first, I’ll pop in two hokku, but without the rest of the group poem.  

The term 'hokku' in Kanji
[from Japanese, from hok beginning + ku hemistich]

斧入れて 香おどろくや 冬木立

hokku or haikai verse by Yosa Buson (1716-1784)

ono ire te ko odoroku ya fuyu kodachi

[Romanised version]

cutting with an ax
I am surprised by the scent
of winter trees

English “translation version” by Alan Summers

すず風や 力いっぱい きりぎりす

hokku or haikai verse by Kobayashi Issa(1763-1828)

suzukaze ya chikara ippai kirigirisu

[Romanised version]

a cool breeze
and with all its strength
the cricket

Summer verse

Translation version in English by Alan Summers

むざんやな 甲の下の きりぎりす

hokku or “haikai verse” by Matsuo Basho (1644-1694)

muzan yana kabuto no shita no kirigirisu

[Romanised version]

is it sorry, I wonder,
hidden by the war helmet
is a cricket 

“English re-interpretation” by Alan Summers

“Actually what we call haiku is a modern term.”
David Landis Barnhill, author of Basho's Haiku: Selected Poems of Matsuo Basho (2004)

So there’s an earlier verse form called hokku:

The most famous hokku writer could be said to be Matsuo Bashō (1644–1694) although there are those before and after him until the late 19th Century, that are still written. Hokku tend to be closer to being a ‘form’ fixed in various ways, including the famous idea of sound units groupings of five units, seven units, and five units, as well as strong links to the force of nature called zoka. Of course this is an over-simplification about hokku, but I felt I should put it out there.

Also I feel I should indicate that Basho; Issa; Chiyo-ni; and Buson never actually wrote hokku/haikai verses in English, it’s always down to the work of a translator from modern or contemporary times, and that they should be credited as well, as they’ve created a separate poem, as well as a translation.

A hokku or ‘haikai’ verse by Matsuo Bashō from his iconic book often known as The Narrow Road to the Deep North (1689).

First of all in its one line Japanese original version:


Romanised Japanese (for Westerners etc…): 

araumi ya Sado ni yokotau amanogawa

Now a word for word (in its original order) version put into English (with the exclamation mark deliberately spaced apart, as it represents a special punctuation word called “kireji”:

rough sea ! Sado over stretch-across heaven 's river

A three line translation by Alan Summers:

a rough sea…
Sado Island stretches
the River of Heaven

It’s difficult to emulate his sublime hokku writing, but it is good to attempt them from time to time:

green wind…
all the leaves shining
so sharp 

Alan Summers
Under the Basho online publication (‘hokku’ category, Autumn Issue 2013)

Back to haiku, which not so long ago celebrated one hundred years of being written in English, and which I can highly recommend the book where this haiku from myself appears:

down side streets -
gulls turning the sky
in and out

Alan Summers
Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years (W. W. Norton 2013) 
ed. Jim Kacian, Philip Rowland, Allan Burns
plus Introduction by Billy Collins

I recommend the above anthology of haiku for a number of reasons, one of which is that it shows how different haiku can be, compared to hokku and other pre-haiku verse. 

image and idea Paul Conneally 2011
The jam was made & sold with the haiku labels for the Japan Earthquake Appeal in 2011
Thanks Paul!

The main (earlier) reasons I suggest why haiku has become less and less like hokku – its brother/sister albeit fixed form – is because of the initial and rapid industrialisation of Japan (1868-1890), its creation of factories and cities linked by railways throughout the late 19th century and beginning of the 20th Century, and the later consequences of World War Two (1939-1945) which brought about the American military occupation of Japan (1945–1952). 

Compare these two famous verses, first of all Basho’s famous summer grasses hokku, and then the haiku by Yamaguchi Seishi:


natsukusa ya tsuwamonodomo ga yume no ato

summer grasses: 
the remains of warriors 
and their dreams 

Haikai verse by Matsuo Basho
English version by Alan Summers

Basho’s haikai verse is from a climatic section in Basho’s travel journal (haibun), The Narrow Road to the Interior (Oku no Hosomichi).


natsukusa ni kikansha no sharin kite tomaru

summer grasses—
the wheels of a locomotive
are coming to a stop

haiku (Japanese) by YAMAGUCHI Seishi (1901 - 1994)
English translation version by Alan Summers

Yamaguchi Seishi
山口誓子, やまぐち せいし

Versions taken from
Europe meets Japan - Alan's Haiku Journey 
on Japanese Television NHK World (September 2015)
“Contemporary Haiku where are we” 
Lecture and Presentation by Alan Summers,
Bath Spa University, October 2015

Haiku continued to capture modernity, and difficult subjects:


Shinishi hone wa umi ni sutsubeshi takuan kamu

Kaneko Tohta 金子兜太 (1919 – 2018)

dead bones into the sea I chew pickled radish

English version by Alan Summers

“This haiku is about the horrific aftermath of WWII Japan suffering atomic attack radiation in some parts, and food shortages and extreme poverty across Japan. Pickled radish is very loud when chewed, like bones being crunched, and human bones were disposed of in the sea. Hunger, and no choice but to dispose of so many bodies, became an unforgiving duet of death and informed much of Kaneko’s post-war work.”

The G-force of Blue | Touching Base with Gendai haiku by Alan Summers 
Lakeview International Journal of Literature and Arts Vol.1, No.1 February 2013
The article is in memory of Shimada Seihô (1882-1944) who died from torture by Japanese Secret Police due to his protests against his country entering WWII.

All these factors, from 1890s onwards, increased the swapping of ideas and ways to create art between Japan and the rest of the World, and further distancing haiku from its similarity to hokku verses, and in the process making haiku both a tough yet ephemeral genre, rather than a fixed form.  

Here is one simple and easy haiku to break down as a reader, and then a more complex, possibly perplexing approach:

night train
each window carries
its own little rain

Alan Summers
Brass Bell: haiku journal (September 2017)

night train
a window screams 
out of an owl 

Alan Summers
Bones - journal for contemporary haiku no. 14 (November 2017)

The history of the tiny verse called haiku, and of course its earliest roots in Chinese and Japanese literature, is possibly longer and more complex than any of the larger poetry genres and forms elsewhere. Therefore I’ll touch briefly on the late 1940s onwards and race forward. This is because haiku constantly evolves, both in Japan and from outside Japan, and is more of a genre, than a (fixed) form: It’s as slippery as a snake, and regularly sheds its skin, making it equally fascinating, daunting, and often frustrating but also gloriously refreshing as we chase its tail. It’s also like an attempt to grasp smoke with our fingers; it just won’t play the game that we might prefer and gain control over it. It keeps us on our toes! 

Hokku did evolve, and Basho was a pioneer of pushing it ever forward, and visiting enterprising haikai poetry groups, although the verse still tends to stay more as a ‘form’: For instance we are unlikely to see “one word hokku,” unlike the case for haiku, which have been penned regularly with one, two, or three words.

Here are two incredibly short Japanese haiku:


Hosai Ozaki (1885-1926)

Coughing, even:

Ban’ya Natsuishi:
Technique used in Modern Japanese Haiku: Vocabulary and Structure by Ban’ya Natsuishi, from Japanese Haiku 2001 (Modern Haiku Association, Tokyo, Japan, 2000).

Here we have an even shorter haiku where quite possibly Japanese poet Ōhashi Raboku (1890-1933) holds the record for the world's shortest Japanese-language poem!

Just four Japanese letters, this haiku means "Sick with the sun" 
(translation: Donald Keene).


haiku by Ōhashi Raboku at 4 Japanese characters.

Romanised version:

hi e yamu


translation version by Alan Summers

One topical and “other-nature” example by myself:

depleted plutonium        
the creases in a photo
run across a face

Alan Summers
Honorable Mention, 2nd World Haiku Association Contest 2017
(Fujimi, Saitama, Japan)

消耗したプルトニウム 写真のしわ 顔を横切る

Japanese translation by Ban'ya Natsuishi

The above haiku could be considered ‘gendai’ which can either be a politically charged haiku, or one that absorbs and uses surrealism or magic realism etc…

A British author inspired, years later, the American beat poets, who in turn inspired North American and other people, whether poets or not, to write haiku.

R.H. Blyth, British author but Japanese resident before, during, and after World War Two, created four volumes simply called Haiku (first published in 1949) which later attract the attention of Beat poets Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder; and Jack Kerouac who publishes The Dharma Bums (1958), and Trip Trap: Haiku along the Road from San Francisco to New York, with Albert Saijo and Lew Welch, on a car trip across the U.S. in 1959. 

Kerouac stated:
"A 'Western Haiku' need not concern itself with seventeen syllables since Western Languages cannot adapt themselves to the fluid syllabic Japanese. I propose that the 'Western Haiku' simply say a lot in three short lines in any Western Language.”
”Explanatory Note" to "Some Western Haikus," Scattered Poems, City Lights Books, 1971.

From rock to rock 
Up up just the flash 
Of his boot bottoms

A hidden (embedded) haiku from The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac (born Jean-Louis Lebris de Kérouac, 1922 –1969).

Although both hokku and haiku were/are traditionally written as one line in Japan, the rest of the world explored various unsuccessful variations, finally falling onto the three line (tercet) version that is prevalent today, although more and more one line haiku in English are penned. 

Richard Wright, novelist and poet, one of the early forceful and eloquent spokesmen for African Americans lies sick and bedridden in Paris in 1959 as he reads Blyth's four-volume Haiku. The result is 4,000 haiku which he sifts down to 800 and calls This Other World. Richard Wright's daughter Julia says:

Haiku are "self-developed antidotes against illness, and that breaking down words into syllables matched the shortness of his breath” and that he continued "to spin these poems of light out of the gathering darkness.”

Just enough of rain
To bring the smell of silk
From umbrellas

Richard Wright, c. 1960
Richard Wright “Writing America at Home and from Abroad”
edited by Virginia Whatley Smith (2016)

By the end of the 1960s the interest in haiku can no longer be considered a fad. In 1985 William Higginson and Penny Harter bring out the highly influential The Haiku Handbook, published by Japan's Kodansha International. In 1989, Japan's Modern Haiku Association; the Association of Haiku Poets; and the Association of Japanese Classical Haiku form Haiku International Association to promote friendship and mutual understanding among poets, scholars and others who share a common interest in haiku, though they may live in very distant parts of the world. 

river bank I fill out an unknown space 

[one line haiku]

Malintha Perera, Sri Lanka
ISBN-10: 1329915410  ISBN-13: 978-1329915411

The Haiku Society of America is created in 1968, with a growing membership from all over the world, as is The British Haiku Society, founded in 1990, both holding close links with many contemporary Japanese haiku poets as well. 

From 1998 to 2000, Alan Summers, as General Secretary of the British Haiku Society, witnesses an incredible increase in haiku activities and the 21st Century sees haiku as the most popular form of poetry around the world. 

There are innumerable haiku organisations, groups or societies around the world, too many to mention, but in January 2017 Alan Summers became the current President of the United Haiku and Tanka Society where again seeing a global membership enfolding, where there are no borders and differences, as if we can see ourselves and our blue planet from the surface of the moon, or even further afield. Where does this all take us? An openness to everyone, regardless of culture, race, religion, genders, or politics, and for everyone to be equally embraced as individuals that share the love of reading and/or writing haiku.

"Today it may be possible to describe haiku but not to define it."
Hiroaki Sato: Author; Columnist; and Editor of "One Hundred Frogs: From Matsuo Basho to Allen Ginsberg”

Even in Japan there are no hard and fast rules and definitions about haiku, and that’s perhaps because enough poets keep it fresh and relevant, and only use aspects of the genre to increase the value of haiku poetry. Outside Japan, English-language haiku is often as short as six seconds to read, and they don't tell, but allow us to enter the poem, and in our own way. Despite perhaps falling into the category of “poetry,” haiku are equally at home as non-fiction observations, a kind of short-hand for remembering events or incidents: This can also mean they can be therapeutic, plus exercising both the right and the left side of our brain, which is highly beneficial in a time of growing concerns over dementia, and debilitating consequences of extreme loss of memory.

Originally haiku were rooted in natural history and the seasons, and could make us conspirators with wildlife, and this can still stand, where nature can half-write a haiku before we've even put pen to paper. What haiku have managed to do, to keep itself highly relevant, is that it is also large enough to include topical aspects and issues of society that are both ongoing, universal, or particular to our corner of the world, but can reach out to others. 

starless liberian night... 
the fireflies were bullets 

[two line haiku]

Momolu Freeman
ISBN-10: 1329915410  ISBN-13: 978-1329915411

From an article recently published by the Haiku Society of America:

Loading a Gun: Imagery in Haiku 
David Grayson 
pages 105 -108 Frogpond vol. 41:3 fall 2018 

Machine gun: between his eyebrows a red flower blooms
haiku by Saito Sanki
Note: Saito Sanki, in Hiroaki Sato, “From the 2.26 Incident to the Atomic Bombs: Haiku During the Asia-Pacific War,” The Asia-Pacific Journal (Volume 14, Issue 21, No. 3 - Nov 2016). 

Ezra Pound admonished poets to “use no superfluous word, no adjective, which does not reveal something.”
Ezra Pound, “A Few Don’ts by an Imagiste,” Poetry: A Magazine of Verse (March 1913). 

Saito Sanki does not waste a single word in his haiku. In this English translation, each of the three units is essential. “Machine gun” and “between his eyebrows” represent the subject (indirectly) and direct object, respectively. The third element, “a red flower blooms,” is both literal and figurative. A blooming flower conveys the sudden onrush of red blood from the gunshot, forcefully describing the denouement. What some might consider to be an inherent handicap when compared to other forms of writing (less words) is an advantage for Sanki. Brevity compels the elimination of each extraneous word. 

inside the apple core 
a pocket full of sorry 
kills the gun

Alan Summers
hedgerow, a journal of small poems #111 ed. Caroline Skanne (2017)

Non literal work, from LANGUAGE poetry to some gendai haiku, forces the reader to see words afresh, outside of their normal sequence and context. In Alan Summers’ haiku, the phrase “apple core” conjures something essential and constitutive. The line “a pocket full of sorry” evokes considerable (“full”) pain and regret. “Gun” is the final word and it closes with a hard consonant. It seems that something vital has been extinguished. Three disparate images combine to convey a sentiment of pain and death. While semantically non-linear, it’s important to recognize that Summers’ words are sharp and concrete. 
Loading a Gun: Imagery in Haiku by David Grayson 
pages 105 -108 Frogpond vol. 41:3 fall 2018 (Haiku Society of America journal)

But not all haiku involve our baser instincts:

tidal beach –
I decide to inhale
a contrail

Alan Summers
Troutswirl: A Sense of Place: The Shore – smell ed. Kathy Munro (July 2018)

Perhaps this is a fusion of hokku/haikai verse and haiku?

I start to rain
and into falling leaves
my childhood

Alan Summers
Troutswirl - The Haiku Foundation - A Sense of Place: HIKING TRAIL – sight ed. Kathy Munro (October 2018)

I feel it is more helpful to know the difference between hokku/haikai verses and haiku, and we certainly have to much to learn from each approach to poetry.

So what is haiku and why is it different from the “haikai” poems of Bashō’s era? Thankfully there are incredible resources both online, and in print, where you can start to answer these questions if you are so inclined.  Enjoy the many contradictions as haiku defies being pinned down, and please consider that as a refreshing phenomenon, and as an open invitation to add to the mix that abounds and bounces around the world via social media!

But remember, if it’s Basho, it’s hokku or a haikai verse, and he never wrote in English, so it’s in Japanese! Anything you see and read in English is a version by a translator, and that person should be named, and ideally the Japanese original should be included!

Enjoy hokku and the old haikai verses, and enjoy how haiku leapt into the new centuries via Basho and Shiki!

Alan Summers
co-founder, Call of the Page

Previously published: The 13 Alphabet – MAGAZINE (August 2017)


Alan Summers, Wiltshire, England, was filmed by NHK TV of Japan for Europe meets Japan - Alan's Haiku Journey:

You can find various articles and pieces about haiku at his Area 17 blog:

He is also President of the United Haiku and Tanka Society, and co-founder, and lead tutor, running online workshops in haiku, and related genres, for Call of the Page. Alan is also the author of the forthcoming Writing Poetry: the haiku way

Twitter account: @CallOfThePage

Alan Summers, alongside Karen Hoy, regularly run online courses in haiku, and are available at their Chippenham home for one to one sessions or group workshops. 

See Special Payments for online email and/or Skype sessions: