for a moment of joy or moments no one pays for, i give myself a ‘jornal’. this makes me rich. try it.

‘the colour plum’ in a quartet of (non-haikai*) 3-line poems…and why

I think I’m veering farther and farther away from haiku, but the structure has stayed like a template in my being; hence, my lines insist on being ‘three’, of two parts often unrelated (juxtaposition). While I still draw the essence of my poems from Nature, what comes out no longer expands contemplation but rather, the lines focus often on painful truths. I know there’s enough pain swirling in the universe right now (as is perceived) and it’s what I can’t seem to whitewash with the beauty of virgin snow. I wish I could but in writing haiku, the practice of finding ‘two-sides’ in a whole, has stayed with me as a simultaneous numbra/penumbra, thus, these non-haikai* poems. Still, it could just be a phase that has slipped in with grey November, which spring will lift up.


the colour plum

hints of pay back



bramble flower

still not enough

prickly stares


isolation bars

no matter our fingers

in knots


speckled steps

dare you break

rain patterns


moon basket

in it I carry

a widow’s comb


*nod to Johannes S. H. Berg, who coined it


November 28, 2014 Posted by | comment, non-haikai, poetry | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Einstein, haiku and me, and a summer triptych

“You don’t truly understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother.”–Albert Einstein


Makes me wonder…how would I explain haiku to my Inay (Mama’s mom) and my Lola (Papa’s mom) both of whom I’m sure could not have imagined I write it? How could I explain it if to this day, I’m still truly not understanding its complexities, hence, I write it like a thief–looking behind my back in the process, and holding my breath when I finally bring it out to the sun to be seen/read? When someone finds in it a heart I know not from whom or whom I had stolen, I wonder then if I were both the thief and the miser from whom the treasured heart had been taken. And what or how much value does it have? How would Inay or Lola understand all that?!!


Like this triptych on summer:


scampering heels–

i go to school

with a mushroom


a window of bitter

gourds shuts down…

summer solstice


hanging around

just in case a tired horse–


July 16, 2014 Posted by | comment, haiku | Leave a comment

What is ‘zoka’? (Prompt at NaHaiWriMo: My response, added comment and Alan Summers’ reply)




15/10/12 (prompt by Scott Abeles: zoka)

Zoka is defined as “the process of creation, transformation, and destruction in nature”. The presence of “zoka” separates “object-based” haiku from “activity-based” haiku. Indeed, some argue that an object-based, zoka-free poem is not, by definition, a haiku.

Not quite sure I get it but here are my attempts at a response to the prompt:

sniveling wind
a puppy looks at me
for a nod

oak shadow—
a nesting moon rusts
on cloud mist

autumn stillness
a doddering mosquito’s
(Comment I added) 

Honestly, the prompt almost made me sleepless as the term, ‘zoka’, intimidated me but I wrote three, in case, any might be the right response to the prompt. This happens every time I’m confronted with Japanese terms. And yet, as I’ve been resistantly dealing with my doubts whether or not I’ve been writing haiku, I realized like the other evening, some of what I’ve tried to put in lines are quite ‘zoka’.

Learning more of this poetry form is constantly challenging given the many ‘voices’ that spangle the haiku-sphere. I do read and hear them as ‘voices’ rather than this and that ‘form/term’ because as in any art, each line for me, is of the writer’s/artist’s world.

Again, this too, had confused me when first reading haiku. It was a challenge to be ‘objective’ (stripped of the personal or hints of it as perhaps I misunderstood), a view quite alien to Poetry as I know. But I’ve persisted and still do bravely write haiku the way I filter a seeming sea of knowledge on it from a mosaic of my own lenses. I wonder though if it’s valid, ‘voice in haiku, I mean.

(Alan Summers’ reply)

Yes, all debates such as this do enlighten greatly. Thanks for the discussion. And thanks for the challenge, Scott!

Honestly, the prompt almost made me sleepless as the term, ‘zoka’, intimidated me but I wrote three, in case, any might be the right response to the prompt.

It made you write some good haiku using that prompt. Sometimes too easy prompts do not push us into stretching.

You should never feel uncomfortably intimidated, just enough to stretch those writing muscles.

In fact I’ve observed you, and many others, become incredible writers of haiku, in various styles, through NaHaiWriMo prompts, thanks to MDW!

This happens every time I’m confronted with the Japanese terms. And yet, as i’ve been resistantly dealing with my doubts whether or not I’ve been writing haiku, I realized like the other evening, some of what I’ve tried to put in lines are quite ‘zoka’.”

Exactly! What’s good about the NaHaiWriMo page is that we are all in this together, and out of that support there has been some incredible work.

When I did my recent prompt courtesy of MDW, I was astonished how many fine, not just good, but very fine haiku I had to reduce to the nominated number for the forthcoming anthology. And it was a difficult prompt too!

You can always use Google or Bing to search these terms out. I have a huge database backed up on my computer for the benefit of my workshops.

You can always email or FB message if you are not sure. We are always learning, so I keep up to date as much as possible, and have a useful set of resources.

Learning more of this poetry form is constantly challenging given the many ‘voices’ that spangle the haiku-sphere. I do read and hear them as ‘voices’ rather than this and that ‘form/term’ because as in any art, each line is of the writer’s world.”


Again, this too, had confused me when first reading haiku. It was a challenge to be ‘objective’ (stripped of personal perception as perhaps I misunderstood), a view quite alien to Poetry as I know. But I’ve persisted and still do write haiku the way I filter a seeming sea of knowledge on it from a mosaic of my own lenses.”

You have a remarkable style and voice in haiku, it’s a privilege to know you and read your work.

I wonder though if it’s valid, ‘voice in haiku, I mean. Yes, all debates such as this do enlighten greatly. Thanks!

Having a voice in poetry is what we all aspire to, and so I’d say we can also have our own voice in haiku. After all Basho wanted his students (and in a way, we are his students too) to go their own way in haikai literature, not to copy what he had done.

We don’t know what he’d like or dislike but I think many of us would be both surprised and delighted that he’d like certain developments and progressions in haiku. Alan Gibbons

January 26, 2013 Posted by | background, comment, haiku | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

For World Poetry Day: Transformation by haiku (a commentary on Basho at Notes from the Gean)

on a bare branch

a crow settled down

autumn evening


(trans. by Jane Reichold)

“How true!” was all I could say of these lines, the first of Basho’s that I have read– my introduction to haiku. The spare lines also stunned me yet they opened up spaces akin to meditation. Perhaps, I had thought, I should read it slowly as in praying and I did. The passing scenes I’ve seen in drives had suddenly turned into an immediate moment and I, in it. I recognized the feeling; it also happens when a painting or performance draws me in.  Of course, I was reading a poem and I understood it or so I had thought.

I can’t recall from what collection I read ‘on a bare branch’ among the few books I found at the Enoch Pratt Library eight years ago in Baltimore, where I was then staying. I had just stumbled on haiku, surfing the web for poetry and clicking on the page of Baltimore haiku poet Denis Garrison.  Browsing through the posted works, I thought how easy to do it and so, with the spunk of an ignoramus, I wrote one, responding to his submission call. He sent it back with kind words. It had possibilities, he said, and he even rewrote a line. How encouraging!

I had just ended a long career in media and journalism and on the daring of a friend, had taken up fiction writing in New York and later, poetry—dreams that long hovered in my hard working years. I thought haiku would come as easily as both, which I tackled the way I had wielded words in thick gray slabs. I had studied American, English and continental literature in the Philippines, a country closer to Japan, but had not been aware of haiku until then. And so, I wrote a few more of what I thought was haiku, imitating how Denis demonstrated it and sent these again; I received an outright rejection that miffed me. Yet his advice (or was it a command?) for me to read up on haiku goaded me up the marble steps of the Baltimore library.

The haiku shelf nestled in an alcove of special collections on a mezzanine. The small table felt almost intimate. The few haiku small books felt ancient in my hands, the pages fragile. I could not take them home. I had to take scrap paper from the librarian’s desk to write on. Only Basho’s ‘bare branch’ remains among bales of my notes and haiku drafts. I’ve read more of Basho and volumes of other haiku poets since. I’ve learned that the simplicity and immediacy of the ‘bare branch’ that entranced me had also deceived me. Haiku, after all, is a centuries-old art.  I realized I might never get to an iota of what makes it what it is. But haiku has transformed me since.

Nature and I have turned into lovers, for one, as if I’m seeing clouds, the sun and the moon for the first time, or flowers and birds. Yet, as a child, I prowled bamboo groves and shaded streams to catch dragonflies and wait for the kingfisher’s shadow. As an adult, I walked on streams of blossoms shredded by the wind, relishing fragrances and dreams. I used to throw open our windows for the full moon for me to bathe in. I thought I had shed them off when I left home for North America where I finally live the four seasons with blossoms like daffodils and cherry blossoms or trees that inflame in the fall like the maple that I used to know only as words in poems and songs in a borrowed language from an implanted culture I memorized as a child. But haiku has lent me ways to see things simultaneously through the past into the present, as well as from a pinhole as in a bee wading in pollen to the vastness of a punctured moonless summer sky. I leap from image to thought and feeling simply and exactly losing myself in what a moment presents like how I felt reading ‘bare branch’ the first time.

Some writings on Basho especially in his later haiku identify such a moment as Zen. As a Southeast Asian, I know Zen. It’s part of my heritage. But how come I’m ignorant of haiku? It must have been our destined Western colonization that encrusted our Eastern beginnings with layers of European and American culture, hence, blocking it. In an unfortunate historical accident when Japan occupied the Philippines during World War II, my parents could have learned haiku and passed it on to me. Instead, those years inflicted so much pain that I grew up with my mother’s family trying to survive a pall of sorrow from my grandfather’s execution by the Japanese Imperial Army. Japan, for me, represented the horror of cruelty. Then came haiku. I hadn’t thought of that sadness I inherited when I first started reading on it, delighting even at Basho’s Oku-no-hosomichi (Back Roads to Far Towns) leading me by inroads to Japan.  When the Fukushima tragedy struck last year, I plunged into it, writing a haibun about families being rescued and some haiku, finding myself in tears. I realized a healing has crept deep in me, of which my grandfather must have had a hand.

From my first imitations of Basho, I kept writing haiku that I later found out from rejections were but fragments. Yet two flukes won for me awards in 2007, one from a growing volume of fragments that I kept tweaking as a single entry to the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival, the other, another failed haiku I expanded as free verse for the Passager Annual Poetry Award (Baltimore, MD). These fired me to keep on. I haunted more sites on the web, picking beds for my haiku. Peggy Willis Lyles, my first editor, sent back my submission to The Heron’s Nest, the first journal I dared to submit with kind sweet comments yet I pushed more; until she died none of my haiku made it (one later did with Fay Aoyagi who took over Peggy’s contributor’s list). Werner Reichold of LYNX, on the other hand, loved my first submission. Still, more rejections from other journals pounded on me to give up.

But my prose and free verse had started to crackle with a ‘textured richness’ as one editor described it–obviously influenced by my practice of writing haiku—and made it to literary journals. I’m writing less of both these days, finding in haiku the closer bridge to pure image and thought—more of my haiku, a few tanka, haibun and haiga have been published in other journals since. I’m also reading less of descriptive texts, dropping the first sentence if lacking the synthesis in a line like haiku. I can’t hope to fully know all I must or even write a perfect haiku but I step into its waters everyday and steep myself in its calmness, its virtue that first drew me in.

Notes from the Gean, 3:4 March 2012 pp. 61-62

March 21, 2012 Posted by | comment, haiku, poetry, reflection | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Here is how I used to post in my blog. The haiku is but part of the text I wrote as a comment at PEN International’s blog. And I was still going by the idea that I would pay myself a ‘jornal’, (daily wage) with each moment of bliss or come to think of it, a haiku moment! Hence, my blog’s name, ‘jornales’. My readers though didn’t pick up on it so I dropped the idea. This would be my 360 something post. If I persevered with my idea of giving myself wages, I’d be a multi-billionaire, by now! Maybe I should start all over again. Because the haiku here is my first and so far, only award-winner, I should double the ‘jornal’ I gave myself then at $2000.


How can’t I not pay myself a ‘jornal’ of $1000 for the beauty of cherry blossoms? I’m sure you agree.

I used to live half of the year in Baltimore. A trip to Washington, yes, at the Jefferson Memorial and the Mall was like a ritual for me and the friend I stayed with. 

But the very first cherry blossoms I’ve seen and I thought it a miracle was at Washington Square by New York University in Manhattan; we then lived a block away on Cooper Square. And later an even more breath-snagging burst of blossoms on a day the sun descended at its tenderest happened at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens.

Of all the spring blossoms, indeed, that of the cherry tree draws the most awe. How can’t a cloud of pink not make one think of a state or place other than this brown earth. Even just being under the shade…

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March 15, 2012 Posted by | comment, haiku, poetry | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

abducted fireflies (haiga7 for 19 Planets Art Blog)

haiga7 for haiga-a-day made with clip art on Microsoft Publisher

abducted fireflies
glowing in its eyes

Another post for Rick Daddario’s haiga-a-day challenge at 19 Planets Art Blog, which I created from a clip art on Microsoft Publisher.

And what’s behind the image of the frog? This…

Noticing what could be unseen or merely imagined, magnifying the significance of what would be otherwise, some speck lost in the swarm of air particulates, this is what poetry, especially haiku, does to me. My mind cannot seem to work within limitations of space and time, or even sensations. What’s beyond a simple object in a single moment becomes a truth that breaks through thought barriers. Take the frog.

Basho has immortalized its break out of anonymity with his famous haiku, ‘old pond’. Reading it again and again, one steps into the monastic peace of an old pond until a frog that one hardly notices among stones, plops, and animates the peace with the sound of water. In a moment, the old pond turns into a universal moment of any moment that once was lifeless, suddenly, breathing from the unexpected.

My haiga is hardly a takeoff from Basho’s frog. It does not have the quietness of it, nor of the objective quality that identifies the poet as the observer but in whose mind, reality is arranged into three lines that total into a truth. While an observation as well, mine is less objective in that I state what I suppose in what I see, namely, the glow in a frog’s eye–seen especially in the dark. Knowing what it feeds on, I imagine fireflies and connect it with that glow. In reality, it is far-fetched as we know that anything creatures eat ends up far from the eyes, in the stomach. If a glow ever shows in the eye, it is that of satisfaction. But what I have done here, or think so, anyway, is tweak reality and made it slide into poetic thought, some other truth.

September 16, 2011 Posted by | comment, haiga, haiku, poetry, reflection | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

More on my haiku from “hearts” Sketchbook Haiku Thread

Or when my haiku works as in these…

Editor’s Choice “hearts” Haiku Thread ~ Karina Klesko, US

his heart’s dips and coasts
but where is love?

# 73. Alegria Imperial, CA


“This is one that steals away the explanations of technology. There is no machine thus far that can record the heart, soul of a human.”

Guest Editor’s Choice “hearts” Haiku Thread ~ Bernard Gieske, US (Dimension of Images, Senses, Feelings)

“Thirty-five Poets from these twelve countries wrote one-hundred-sixty-six poems for the “Hearts” Haiku Thread: Australia, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Finland, India, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Trinidad and Tobago, United States.

I appreciate this opportunity to make these haiku/senryu picks. I often read and see works on this site about which I would like to respond. In making my picks I looked for those haiku that created for me a second or third dimension of images, senses, feelings; due to the choice and arrangement of words: haiku/senryu that do more than just sit there.”

Read this (next one) by Alegria and see if you agree.

cut in half—
such hollow hearts

# 65. Alegria Imperial, CA


“A delightful picture of strawberries and perhaps a surrounding pleasing aroma. A straight forward picture of halved strawberries. The key word is hollow and destroys the whole picture. This is unexpected and changes the reader’s feelings completely but exemplifies a fact of reality. Sometimes friends don’t prove to be true.”

Editor’s Choice “hearts” Haiku Thread ~ John Daleiden, US (With an introductory poem, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways”, Sonnets from The Portuguese by Elizabeth Barrett Browning)

Maternal Love

her hand on her belly
searching for it

# 71. Alegria Imperial, CA


“I have selected these haiku as choice because they represent the heart(s) theme in explicit and unique ways. They also are exemplary haiku, well constructed and meet many of the following attributes of haiku:

• constructed in a fragment and phrase manner; a haiku written in two syntactical parts seperated by a grammatical or punctuation break. See Jane Reichold’s article: Fragment and Phrase Theory;
• uses kireji: written with punctuation or an obvious grammatical break in the syntax of the lines.
• contains 5 7 5 or fewer syllables
• uses the second line a a pivot structure, effectively creating a haiku without resorting to writing an English sentence spread over three lines. Example above: # 123. Bouwe Brouwer, NL
• makes / uses a literary illusion: # 29. Cristina-Monica Moldoveanu, RO
• uses a kigo”

Read the one-hundred sixty-six poems written for the Heart(s) Haiku Thread in Sketchbook Jan-Feb 2011 Issue Vol. 6. (click on it on my blogroll)

April 7, 2011 Posted by | comment, haiku, poetry | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments