Robin D. Gill: Fly-ku!

Itô Yûki talks with Udo Wenzel: Forgive, But Do Not Forget: Modern Haiku and Totalitarianism

Michael Dylan Welch: This Perfect Rose: The Lasting Legacy of William J. Higginson

Susumu Takiguchi: Karumi: Matsuo Bashō’s Ultimate Poetical Value, Or was it?

Charles Trumbull: Meaning in Haiku

Martin Lucas: Haiku as Poetic Spell

Bruce Ross: Haiku Mainstream: The Path of Traditional Haiku in America

Robin D. Gill: Can One Hundred Frogs All Be Wrong?

Jane Reichhold: Building an Excellent Birdcage

Charles Trumbull: Between Basho and Ban’ya (Bypassing Barthes): A New Brand of Haiku?

Zoe Savina: The Influence of Japanese Culture on the Contemporary Society


Vol. 11, No 19, Winter 2014

Angelee Deodhar: Haiku Silence 

Steve Wolfe: Bards of a Feather Lost Between Heaven and Earth

Klaus-Dieter Wirth: Haiku in German-Speaking Countries

Beverley George: Haiku and the Seasons

Bruce Ross: Haiku as an Absolute Metaphor

Klaus-Dieter Wirth: The Haiku in Europe

Ferris Gilli: The Power of Juxtaposition

Jim Kacian: The Way of One

Toshio Kimura: A New Era for Haiku


Vol. 11, No 18, Spring 2014

Stephen Wolfe: Death in Deep Autumn

Klaus-Dieter Wirth: The Haiku at the Crossroads?

Michael Dylan Welch: Getting Started with Haiku

Richard Gilbert: Haiku and the Perception of the Unique

Robert D. Wilson: TO BE OR NOT TO BE -
An Experiment Gone Awry

Jane Reichhold: Should Senryu be Part of English-Language Haiku?

Jim Kacian: Skinning the Fish: Interpenetration in Haiku

Michael Dylan Welch: The Practical Poet: On the Art of Writing


Vol. 10, No 17, Summer 2013

Robert D. Wilson: What Is and Isn't

David G. Lanoue: Animals and Shinto in the Haiku of Issa

Interview with Professor Peipei Qiu by Robert D. Wilson

Richard Gilbert: Kigo and Seasonal Reference in Haiku

Tatjana Stefanović: A branch with birdsong

David G. Lanoue: Write Like Issa


Vol. 9, No. 16, Summer 2012

Chen-ou Liu: Read It Slowly, Repeatedly, and Communally

Jim Kacian: So: Ba


Vol. 8, No. 15, Winter 2011

Jim Kacian: Haiku as Anti-Story

Chen-ou Liu: The Ripples from a Splash: A Generic Analysis of Basho’s Frog Haiku

David G. Lanoue: Issa's Comic Vision

Ikuyo Yoshimura: Kato Somo, the First Japanese Haikuist to Visit the United States

Dr. Randy Brooks: Haiku Poetics: Objective, Subjective, Transactional and Literary Theories

Vincent Hoarau: Suggestiveness in haiku through the work of Svetlana Marisova

David Grayson: The Sword of Cliché: Choosing a Topic

Robert D. Wilson: To Kigo or Not to Kigo

Saša Važić: What's the Use

Tomas Transtromer awarded Nobel Prize


Vol. 8, No. 14, Summer 2011

Haruo Shirane: Beyond the Haiku Moment: Basho, Buson and Modern Haiku myths

Geert Verbeke: Haiku Study & Photo Haibun

David Burleigh: In and Out of Japan: The Contours of Haiku

Robert D. Wilson: Kigo – The Heathbeat of Haiku

Michael Dylan Welch: Haiku Form and Content

Richard Gilbert: Kigo and Seasonal Reference: Cross-cultural Issues in Anglo-American Haiku

Robert D. Wilson: Study of Japanese Aesthetics: Part I: The Importance of Ma

Matthew M. Carriello: The Contiguous Image: Mapping Metaphor in Haiku

Richard Gilbert: The Disjunctive Dragonfly: A Study of Disjunctive Method and Definitions in Contemporary English-
language Haiku

Bruce Ross: The Essence of Haiku

Robert D. Wilson: Study of Japanese Aesthetics: Part II: Reinventing The Wheel: The Fly Who Thought He Was a Carabao

Anatoly Kudryavitsky: Vera Markova’s “Ten Haiku Lessons”

Anatoly Kudryavitsky: Tranströmer and his Haikudikter

Anatoly Kudryavitsky: Haiku Poets' Last Line of Defence

Michael F. Marra: Yūgen

Robert D. Wilson: Simply Haiku Winter 2011 issue's Featured Poet: Slavko Sedlar



Aubrie Cox, USA


Clarity in the Unsaid




In a handful of words haiku strikes a careful balance between individual moments and universal resonance. In order to achieve this balance, the poet has to be attentive to individual words and their connotations. Leaving something unsaid and maintaining clarity are two sides of the same coin - not unlike the individual and universal - and both can make or break a haiku.

The Unsaid

While the poet must provide enough for context (and for some, season), haiku treats the reader as co-creator, someone that must meet them halfway. As haiku poets we relinquish control of the full story to allow the reader room to ruminate and fill in part of the poem. What's unsaid creates ambiguity and the possibility for multiple readings, which in turn creates intrigue. To strike a balance between the said and unsaid requires strong editing skills and the ability to let go.

In determining what to leave in or take out, I'm reminded of Craig Ferguson's three questions he asks before speaking rashly: "Does this need to be said? Does this need to be said by me? Does this need to be said by me now?"1

In haiku, I might ask: Does this need to be said to understand the poem? Does this need to be said by the poet? Does this need to be said in this poem (or should it be another poem)?

Here are a few haiku by poets who thought carefully about these questions.

she translates
only part of the message

Julie Warther2

no farther
than I want to see
autumn mist

Ann K. Schwader3

Warther's haiku not only leaves the message unsaid, but what part "she" translates. The tension is only heightened in its juxtaposition to "mockingbird". Meanwhile "no farther" by Schwader leaves it up for the reader to determine what "I" wants (or doesn't want) to see. The mist in the final line emphasises the lack of visibility and hazy situation. For some poets, it can be difficult to let go, but there are still ways to add detail while not revealing everything.

saying you're sorry
the time it takes for fish to bite
without bait

Karen DiNobile4

head cold
she asks why everything
is post-something

Bill Cooper5

DiNobile includes several striking details: An apology by "you" and fishing (without bait). The haiku is lengthier than the previous two, but it leaves just as much unsaid: Why an apology, what kind of waters are being fished, and exactly how long it does take for a bite under those conditions? Cooper's "head cold" sets the stage with illness and ends in questions without answers. "Post-something" adds character; "something" can be switched out for anything, spiralling out from the physical to the philosophical.

editor's desk -
a spider mends
her web

Barbara Snow6

frost on the pumpkin the child who might have been

Margaret Dornaus7

Webs break, but Snow's haiku makes the reader question how it became damaged, and its relationship with the editor's desk. Is it located in a back corner, or does the haiku ask the reader to push into the metaphorical relationship between web-mending and editing? Equally, Dornaus' one-liner begs the question (again, without answers) of not only the child who may have been, but any child that is. Who might anyone who isn't have been? Who are we not and what could we have been? It's not something that can be answered within one poem, but must be addressed by each individual reader in his or her own way.


Clarity is not just about efficiently getting an idea across, but the images the right words can produce. If the poet wants the reader to be able to engage in the poem, the reader has to be able to visualise what's happening. The less time a reader has to puzzle over what the words mean for the physical situation, the more time he or she can spend exploring the possibilities of the unsaid. One sure-fire way to help your reader orient him or herself is to establish location.

cloud reflections
the pond path softened
by pine needles

Deb Baker8

final lecture
a butterfly comes
in the window

Mike Fessler9

Baker's haiku thoroughly grounds the moment. I not only imagine myself near a body of water, but possibly in a patch of woods or park. I'm on the path, and the path is near or under pine trees. The clarity of the physical details allow me, as the reader, to explore my own senses in the moment - the smell of the pine needles and the way they quiet my footsteps, the coolness of the shade from the trees. In the combination with the cloud reflections, I have an overall calming feeling.

While Baker's haiku as a whole focuses primarily on the physical location, Fessler wraps up the overall setting fairly quickly. "Final lecture" directly takes me to a classroom, and likely the end of the spring semester. The latter thought is reinforced by the butterfly. Because Fessler clarifies this is the final lecture, the butterfly's entrance has a slightly different connotation than if it were just any other day in class - rather than just the restlessness all students feel when the weather turns nice in the spring semester, there is heightened sense of new beginnings and anticipation whoever is in the class will soon discover what else is beyond the window.

Clarity in physical details and setting roots haiku in reality, but it can also be helpful to clarify relationships and identities of persons as well. This brings us to the one of the more difficult aspects of clarity. If we were going to be 100% clear, we would perhaps tell our readers everything, and we've already established this is not a good quality in haiku. Yet, we must tell the reader something, whether it be the time of year, who a person is, or what is happening. When giving information, it comes down to what you're telling, and how much.

summer's end
leaving his stepson
at the new school

James Chessing10

autumn sun
she says no
to further chemo

Marcus Larsson11

Like Fessler's final lecture, the time of year bears some importance. Here, there's the start of a new year at a new school. And it's not just his son, but his stepson. I can't help but imagine that this parent-child relationship is relatively new, and that because of the marriage and possible move, the son has had to change schools. All the while, the stepfather attempts to be a parent to the child, taking up duties such as taking him to school. Identifying this relationship creates tension, which evokes an emotional response. If the last two lines were "leaving his son / at the new school", the emotional response would still happen, but the tension would be less. Having both the emotion and tension creates a more dynamic poem.

"autumn sun," probably has the strongest amount of telling among the four. But it's the telling that makes this haiku so powerful. Not to mention the clarity and simplicity of the phrase "she says no". This poem could have ended with that: autumn sun / she says / no. It works as a haiku with its juxtaposition and room for the reader to wonder what the she said no about and why, but I think Larsson's choice to include "to further chemo" is a wise one. Clarifying what the she says no to, while it cuts off some possibilities, creates a whole new dimension that most readers probably would not consider. In providing a little more guidance, Larsson's haiku also sparks a whole new range of emotions and questions that hits sooner and greater than if found by the reader's interpretation of "no".

The aim of clarity is not to limit the reader, but to open the most potent doors.

1 Craig Ferguson, Does This Need To Be Said?, directed by Keith Truesdell (2011; Comedy Central, 2011), DVD.
2 A Hundred Gourds 2:2, March 2013.
3 Modern Haiku 44.1, Winter-Spring 2013.
4 Ibid.
5 A Hundred Gourds 2:2, March 2013.
6 Frogpond 36:1, Winter 2013.
7 A Hundred Gourds 2:2, March 2013.
8 Modern Haiku 44.3, Fall 2013.
9 Ibid.
10 Ibid.
11 The Heron's Nest XV.4, December 2013.


This article originally appeared as two separate pieces published on "The Last Page" of Ripples, the Haiku Society of America newsletter, in July 2013 and March 2014. The original pieces appear here and here. This article has been rewritten slightly by the author to make it a cohesive whole, and appears here with the kind permission of the author.

Republished by the author's permission.