Next Line, Please

This Week’s Haiku to Become Next Week’s Tanka

By David Lehman | March 22, 2016


We garnered 103 comments comprising more than that number of haiku entries (some comments contained more than one haiku). And many submissions were inventive, clever, and informed by a most convincing clamor for spring, the real thing, to turn up!

I chose this quartet of haikus from Eduardo Ramos Ruiz

Aubade of springtime:
A young western scrub jay cries—
Where has winter gone?

The color of spring
In summer vegetables—
Winter is pickled

A tropic spring night,
Making Mole poblano—
We drank wine with ice

Beetroots at harvest:
Spring of picker’s purple hands—
Taproot stains for life

But I wanted to single out other worthy entries such as Sarahsarai’s whimsical

On Lexington Ave.
Spring is just another word
for “You wanted Park.”

And Pat Blake’s anthropomorphic extravaganza

I melted on him.
Nothing accumulated.
Spring undid winter.

And John Weerden’s celebration of red

Girl in a red dress
picking poppies in springtime,
O pick me, pick me

And Charles Bingham’s local habitation and a name

Whales feed on herring,
flowers bloom; spring is here in
Sitka, Alaska.

And Tyler Goldman’s masterly seven-syllable middle line

After the false spring:
the spring. The ducks (here too soon)
have already left

And Winona Winkler Wendth’s “Green”

Bent grass knows only
bending—not who lay with whom
or why just that spring

And Karen Topham’s begonias

Begonias scarlet
Prove too much spring to ignore
Buy three, maybe four

And Leonard Kress’s mini-ode to jazz

Walk to the river
Play “Round Midnight” in your mind
Miles to go till spring

And Marissa Despain’s excursion into gastronomy

Sibling Rivalry

Japanese eggplant:
slimmer sweeter sibling of
Italian eggplant.

I tried my own hand at the exercise in what turned out to be less optimistic than most under the title “The Odds”:

Spring is in the dice
If what is past is prologue—
But is it? (Cat’s eyes.)

Kudos to everyone.

Now let’s build on this foundation. For next week, I ask you to pick one of Eduardo Ramos Ruiz’s four haiku—and to add a two-line stanza, each line consisting of exactly seven syllables. The result will be a tanka. The tanka is a Japanese form with a rich heritage; Basho was a master, and Columbia professor Donald Keene is a great advocate and explainer of what can be done with the form, which was a favorite way for poets to collaborate.

For example, one poet would write a three-line-stanza, the next poet would write a two-line stanza, and the third poet would write a new three-line stanza without seeing anything but the two-line stanza. In such manner the poem would be extended and would take twists and turns inevitably as each poet operated with limited knowledge of the renga in progress—renga being the Japanese term for such a collaborative poem.

In your submissions, please indicate which of Eduardo Ramos Ruiz’s haiku you’ve chosen and then enter your two seven-syllable lines.

Deadline: Noon on Sunday, March 27. 

Permission required for reprinting, reproducing, or other uses.

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