Haiku competition, August 2010

The World Haiku Club

Haiku Competition on the Theme of

"The Death of One's Beloved"

Introduction by Susumu Takiguchi

Some dodge tax by avoidance or evasion. However, no one can cheat death. Everyone knows its inevitability and certainty. Moreover, there is probably no one who does not take death seriously. And yet few talk about it, especially friends and relatives of those who have been left behind by their beloved, be it their spouse, partner, parents, brother or sister, or close friend. Death is the last taboo in human society and is likely to remain so for a long time to come. Because of all this, one who is left behind by the death of one's beloved has to deal, to all intents and purposes, with bereavement alone, the one who is least capable of doing so.

I have myself been a case in point. My wife, Diana, died of cancer on 11 February 2007. Three and a half years on, my grief is nothing but stronger. One of the many ways I have had to contrive in order to combat the intense devastation is to try to turn whatever sentiment I feel at any given time to haiku poems. Luckily, because of this intensity many of such haiku have come on their own accord. They were born rather than made. Most of them were published every month in the Tamamo, a most prestigious haiku magazine in Japan of the Hototogisu School. And the climax of this particular haiku journey (which is still continuing) is that these haiku poems formed a major part of my latest haiku anthology in Japanese, Okkusufohdo no Zaregoto (The Twaddle of An Oxonian) dedicated to Diana, which was published in April 2010 as part of the official project of The World Haiku Festival 2010 In Nagasaki. A few samples of them:

shinasete to iware nirami shi haru no yoi (please let me go.../I just stare into spring dusk/at my wife's pleading)

haru-same ya boroboro naku zo kono ware mo (spring rain.../profusely I too/shed tears)

dasu gomi mo hitori-bun nari haru no asa (spring morning.../even the amount of rubbish/is of one person)

tsuma no ji no recipe yomi tsutsu natsu-ryouri (reading the recipe/in late wife's handwriting/I cook a summer meal)

doku-go shite aki-saburu niwa shouyou su (talking to myself/I wander around/autumnal garden)

tsuma no te ni ari shi akagire ware no te ni (I see on my hands/the chilblains I saw only on/my late wife's hands)

boh-sai no tsukai shi skaafu kari te miru (I let myself/borrow the scarf/my late wife wore)

I wish to introduce another haijin who is in a similar state of affairs. A business consultant, Mr. Moriaki Nagai lost his beloved wife, Toshiko, to cancer. Before she passed away he had offered a promise to keep a diary until the first anniversary of her death, putting down every single day in haiku and prose (effectively haibun) her memories and how he would have lived without her. Not only did he do it but also he had the diary published ("Tsuma-e" or To My Wife), first in Japanese and then with English translation. When I read the two volumes, I felt as if I was reading a novel. The book is indeed effectively a novel, depicting a happy family life with two sons and a daughter, making frequent trips to different places and mountains, growing vegetables and flowers and generally leading an exemplary life in terms of morality, social justice, environmental issues etc., all of which got suddenly shattered by his wife's serious illness and subsequent death. Some haiku samples:

natsu-tsubame yobe do sakebe do kaerazaru (summer swallow!/I call out to you...I shout/but you don't come back)

samidare wo kaeru ya tsuma no shi wo fusete (through the long May rains/I went my way home,/my wife's death secret from all)

keikoku no hotaru ka tsuma no hi no tama ka (Is that a firefly/in the river gorge, or the/spark of my wife's soul?)

tsuma koe ba higan wo hedatsu kiri no tani (yearning for my wife/I'm cut off from the far shore/by a fog-filled gorge)

yuki zo furu sono mama tsuma to chi no soko ni (snow is falling;/would that with it I could fall/underground to her)

tsuma no hone tachimachi kiyuru fuyu no kawa (my wife's ashes/disappear in an instant,/winter river)

te wo nobasu ozuru te nashi fuyu no yoru (I stretch out my hand;/ But no hand reaches for mine/this night in winter)

Details of the Books:

(a) Okkusufohdo no Zaregoto, The Twaddle of An Oxonian, all in Japanese, by Ryuseki (Susumu) Takiguchi, Published by The World Haiku Club through Ami-Net Oxford International Press, United Kingdom, Created by Geibun-do and printed by SK-i Corporation, Sasebo, Japan, ISBN 978-4-902863-18-5 C-0092, First printed 6 April 2010, Price: 4,500 Yen (The book is available for purchase from:susumu.takiguchi@btinternet.com )

(b) Tsuma-e, To My Wife: A twelve-month haiku diary of love for my wife, volume I & II, in Japanese and English, by Moriaki Nagai, Translated by Dr. D. P. Dutcher, Published by Zodiac Corporation, Tokyo, Japan, Printed in Japan 2008, ISBN 978-4-916069-14-6 C-0095, Price: 3,800 Yen each (For purchase or any other enquiries, send e-mail to the author Mr. Moriaki Nagai at: mori7@pro.odn.ne.jp )

The Results

Many poets submitted moving and heartrending haiku about their thoughts and experiences of the death of the beloved. Reading them, I realised that it is not in good taste and maybe even sacrilegious for anyone to put these raw, deep and vulnerable emotions into such a harsh thing as competition. No single haiku of bereavement can or should be better or worse than any other. However, some choices had to be made. To solve this dilemma, I have decided to separate the practical and functional side of haiku convention, i.e. the selection in terms of the form, content, rhythm, grammar, musicality, pictorial and sensual quality etc. on the one hand, and the spiritual side of the exercise, i.e. sharing and understanding of the outpouring of grief, sorrow and most private of all emotions, on the other.

The former will be published in a usual format and the latter will be done by presenting the whole submission from each poet with the minimum of editing and/or selecting out. In this way, the reader can really appreciate each author’s feelings more to the full, in addition to appreciating the chosen poems.

The Diana Award

snowy Sunday

the light is beautiful

his last words

Huguette Ducharme

The Toshiko Award


the funeral pyre

a falling star

Rohini Gupta, India

Two Runners Up


the beautiful wrinkles

of her face

Richard Krawiec

"I'll be gone in a minute!"

Mom pulls off the oxygen mask --

moon in the window

Howard Lee Kilby, USA

Seven Honorable Mentions

(In no particular order)

death in the family--

nothing left but paw prints

and traces of fur

elehna de sousa

sweet smelling

cemetery grass

our first garden

Irene Furness

My father’s old chair

now my mother

grows old in it

Garry Gay

again, in the dream

I feel his anger at me

. . .but why?

Peggy Heinrich

Soft finger prints

left on my soul

absent your gentle touch

Christine Howard

Garden of Honor -

I sow my son's saved seeds

of forget-me-nots...

Zhanna P. Rader, USA

your last breath -

the twitter of swallows

in our garage

Angela Sumegi

Haiku of Merit

(In no particular order)

thundering night

my father told us ghost tales

from that rocking chair

Rosa Clement

the calendar´s

page not turned

mother´s gone

Rosa Clement

empty house

only the echoes of

bird song

Rohini Gupta, India

His breath abandons

susurrant exhalation

her cries fade in the wind

Christine Howard

On Christmas Eve

white horse and carriage-

Uncle's last midnight mass

Liette Janelle

no, she's not gone / warmth of her thought / here,there,everywhere

vishnu p kapoor, India

lonely path / before we met and / after she left me

vishnu p kapoor, India

summer day visit -

so cold the marble stone

on my father’s grave

Priscilla Lignori , USA

above the cemetery,

laser beams from the disco –

a soft cricket chirp

Tomislav Maretic, Croatia

Uvijek prisutna

naštimava kazaljke

sata sudbine

Ever present,

Death winds

the clock of destiny


when you last talked to me

i saw an angel of death

dancing above your lips

Zoran G. Mimica

Mother's body-

a handful of ashes

nothing else

Vasile Moldovan, Romania

silencing all noises

my grumble and repentance-

you died

Aju Mukhopadhyay, India

Three soft moans -

your heart stops... hot forehead...


Zhanna P. Rader, USA


his empty house and his grave,

my sorrow roams...

Zhanna P. Rader, USA

Mother's Day -

I bring fresh flowers

to my son's grave...

Zhanna P. Rader, USA

Baking cookies

for our troops abroad -

in my son's memory...

Zhanna P. Rader, USA

summer evening stroll

only my shadow


Geethanjali Rajan


the first wife’s name


Carmel Lively Westerman

Haibun Presentation

by Hans Jongman

Losing One’s Parents

Not far from my childhood home is a cemetery. This is where my father was buried in April 1950, one month before I was born. While growing up during the 1950s, I had a sense of foreboding about the place and always found it frightening. I therefore stayed well away from it. My mother never took me there either. It was merely within walking distance. Perhaps she wanted to protect me from the sorrow which had become such a huge part of her life and which she did not wish to share with me.

shades of green . . .

on the opposite bank

a lone gull soars into view

One day a schoolmate who was a son of the cemetery's groundkeeper took me there and invited me to his home situated within the cemetery gates. I plucked up the courage to ask him if he could help me find my father's grave. He obliged but unfortunately his effort was unsuccessful. My father's burial plot was not to be found.

clouds . . .

i reckon minutes

before the sun is back

Why on earth did I not ask his father for help? Was it because I felt myself unworthy of addressing to an adult? Maybe so. Children were not expected to speak to adults unless spoken to and I was adhering to this rule to a ridiculous degree. Of course there was such a thing as a ledger to help enquirers to find a particular grave they wanted to visit. I just did not think of it. But even if I had, my father’s remains had, I found later, already been dug up and moved to be added to the bones in the common ossuary. Ten years for a dead body to decompose. It is the custom in overpopulated Holland to move our remains to such a mass grave. The rich can of course pay to keep their graves in perpetuity.

stained-glass window

in the chapel

scent of honeysuckle

Then in 1964 my mother passed away. On the day of her funeral a relative warned me sternly not to have the last look at my mother before she was buried. It was rather unrealistic of him to expect me at my pubescent age to follow such an advice. There was a glass window at the top of her coffin. On closer look it was obvious to me that no embalming had been done to her. My mother's face which had looked so beautiful only three days before now turned colours to undreamed-of-bluish. This changed appearance of my mother shocked me to the core. And I felt that death was sneering at me as if to punish me for disregarding the considerate advice of my relative.

snowfall . . .

the glassblower's lips

on the casket

Much water under the bridge and I have just celebrated my 60th birthday, an age that both of my parents were denied.

glacial wind . . .

on a boulder, the sunlit crest

of a cardinal

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