Friday, April 17, 2020

Wild Fridays #15: I Wish I'd Written This


stifling a cough
on the checkout line

deli encounter
giving my neighbor
the Vulcan salute 

pandemic meal plan
stretching the pasta and sauce
to last a second day

my hands raw
from washing

pandemic news
I take a break
to do my taxes

panning for gold
finding hand wipes
inside my purse

eating all
the chocolate

out for a quick walk
a wren warbles on the top
of a weeping cherry

eating days-old

even the deer

the dogwoods
wait to bloom

the anxiety
of extroverts

millions of lab rats
in cages

home not alone
a couple watches TV
in separate rooms

empty cities
the sound of a virus

pandemic spring
the weeping cherries
bloom without me

– By Amy Losak

This is a small selection of haiku and senryu inspired by the current pandemic, which Amy has shared in my facebook group Haiku on Friday as well as on her own facebook page. (Sometimes she goes for the traditional 5-7-5 syllables per line; most are simply short-long-short, which is acceptable nowadays too.) Although they can't help but build up a collective picture, each is to be read separately. I just grabbed some of the ones I like best – so far – from even more which she's been posting over recent days. (These were not necessarily written to follow each other in the sequence you see here.) I don't expect she'll run out of inspiration any time soon!

The first two above were labelled as being written before the stay-at-home orders, and I read them in a facebook group she recently asked me to join: Haiku in the time of COVID-19.  (The group is administered by Johannes S. H. Berg, whose own one-liner there is superb: 'we'll meet as winds over the mustard field'.)

In fact, although I plucked individual pieces from Amy's various postings, the sequence I arrived at is roughly chronological and does (even unintentionally) reflect the progress of our response to the disease, from stifling a cough at the checkout line (before lockdown) to couples watching TV in separate rooms!

And yes, by now a number of people are writing on this topic – after all, it's the subject uppermost in all our minds – and even writing haiku on it. Just now, of course, members of this community have been focusing our attention on it together, in response to Magaly's Weekly Scribblings #15. (Scroll back one post if by any chance you missed that.) And I have recently discovered that Rajani, who blogs at Thotpurge and is no stranger to this community, has been doing a wonderful series of haibun since March 24, recording her reflections during India's lockdown, under the ongoing title Curfew deeply thoughtful and original work, as one has come to expect from her.

But Amy's haiku on the subject, which began even earlier, were the first I saw – surely among the first to be written so consistently, with such commitment to documenting all the small yet momentous experiences involved. I was immediately enraptured, by the verses and the whole concept. I love the pithiness with which she uses this form to address the subject; and I love that she is doing such an extensive series of them, presenting the topic with many fine shades of meaning. I like that I instantly identify with so many of them (e.g. the third above) and also the momentary surprises, or surprised recognition, in others (such as 'pandemic / the anxiety / of extroverts'... I'm an introvert, you see).

Most of them are senryu, dealing with human behaviour, sometimes with a humorous twist.  The few nature-based haiku here might not seem to add up logically – but then, when was poetry about logic? In haiku, juxtapositions of ideas or images can allow for a wealth of meaning in the unsaid. So the dogwoods and deer, whilst presumably factual, might also be suggestive of a mood; and the final piece above is all too clear, and poignant.

When I asked her for some details about herself and her writing, Amy kindly sent me the following, adapted from her bio-sketch on the Haiku Foundation’s website  (its registry of poets):

Amy Losak is a veteran public relations professional specializing in healthcare and science media relations. After decades of excelling at top PR agencies in New York City, today Amy freelances and consults.

Amy's mother, Sydell Rosenberg , was a New York teacher and published writer, and a charter member of the Haiku Society of America in 1968. After Syd's unexpected death in 1996, her family decided to publish one of her poetry manuscripts for children. One of Syd's long-held dreams had been to publish a picture book.

In 2018, Penny Candy Books released Syd's H Is For Haiku: A Treasury of Haiku from A to Z, with illustrations by Sawsan Chalabi. This collection consists of 26 "city haiku"; a number were first published decades ago in leading journals. It also includes a short essay by Sydell which first appeared in Wind Chimes #3, 1981, and a new introduction by Amy (available on Amazon, etc.).

H Is For Haiku has been honored by the National Council for Teachers of English as a "Notable Poetry Book" in 2019.

Amy also is a member of a group of award-winning Jewish children's authors and illustrators, all women, The Book Meshuggenahs.

Today, Amy writes and publishes her own short poetry. She hopes to publish a second picture book that combines her and Sydell’s haiku. 

Penny Candy Books also has on its website a very nice, and more personal account, of Amy's own development as a writer, as well as the details about her mother's book.

At The Book Meshuggenahs, Amy says (and I very much agree):  

Haiku poems are the briefest form of poetry, but arguably the most expansive. While they are traditionally taught to be written in three lines of 5-7-5 syllables, today’s haiku are usually shorter. Content–capturing moments, experiences, feelings, observations–is more important than syllable count. Haiku poetry celebrates “small moments” in our daily lives, and makes them “big.”

It seems to me a particularly apt form of expression whilst so many of us are in social isolation, inevitably turning our immediate focus on the small and everyday, even while staying up-to-date on the global picture.

Material shared here is presented for study and review. Poems, photos, and other writings and images remain the property of the copyright owners, usually the authors.


  1. I’ve seen quite a few pandemic haiku over the past month or so, but none of these. I particularly like:
    ‘pandemic meal plan

    stretching the pasta and sauce

    to last a second day’
    ‘empty cities
    the sound of a virus

    1. I had intended to post this a month ago, when I hadn't yet seen any others doing it – but Bruce Dawe died, which I felt needed remarking, and then it was Easter, which also rated a mention ... and yes, by now many others have had the same idea as Amy. Which I had to do some rewriting and acknowledge. But still, these are worth sharing. The ones you picked are among my favourites too.

    2. On the other hand, the fact that this post appears on International Haiku Day is serendipitous! (Smile.)

  2. I so enjoyed reading the selection of haiku and senryu which revolved around and are inspired by the current pandemic, Rosemary! Amy Losak's style is refreshing for the senses as it contains depth of meaning, substance, lightheartedness in equal measure to seriousness of the subject matter; something which is commendable when it comes to short forms.

    Thank you so much for introducing me to her work!💝💝

  3. I have embraced haiku poetry since my first encounter. I love writing it, reading it, sharing it. Thank you so very much for this post!!!

    1. Yes, me too – but there came a point when I had to ease off a bit. It is such a different aesthetic from Western poetry. Initially I hoped that writing haiku would help me write my other poetry cleaner and clearer. It did – but after a few years I noticed it was in danger of becoming prosaic and banal! I had to rediscover metaphor and imagery for my non-haiku verses.

  4. A wonderful post, Rosemary … and for me: very timely. I am currently putting together 3 short essays (to be posted over at the website I recently started) to encourage those visitors to my blog who (I suspect) have not ventured into the joy of writing poetry - to begin. (Indeed, the title of my first essay is: Why this is a good time to begin writing short poems.)

    It seems to me that Japanese poetry is a good place to start, as beginners are less likely to get lost in that seductive forest of words, in 3 to 5 lines. Also haiku, senryi and tanka can convey so much with such impactful brevity, they dramatically illustate the case for the power-of-poetry. so beautifully … as this series of pandemic pieces demonstrates.

    Thanks for this, Rosemary.

  5. Thank you Rosemary, very much for the Haiku boost. I hadn't seen of it until Thursdsy night when I looked for the theme prompt to use today did I know that today would be International Haiku Poetry Day. That was told in the 2016 prompt. I posted this morning on the Imaginary Garden and read those who are returning comments and left comments on those.
    Tonight at nine I have had kne comment from an old, old blogging friend and only four other readers who did not leave comments. I try to write for my readers, but now there aren't very many. I notice others are having similar situations. I will be loyal to those at NaPoWriMo and still to you and my loyal readers but it seems new posting folk aren't writing for their readers. I generally try them a couple of times and then no more.
    Thank you for all the hard work you do for this page. I love to read it.

    1. Thanks for your comments, Jim. I'm glad you'll still write for your appreciative audience here!

      And I'm glad you love reading the Friday page. Luckily I very much enjoy creating it, even if it does take a bit of work.

  6. Love this collection of haiku...simple accessible personal and favourite genre.

  7. Fantastic post, Rosemary. The last three made me sigh. Short forms, like haiku and senryu, work so well to illustrate this times.

    1. I always love the short forms — a lot harder to do well than we might imagine. Amy’s are very sneaky, I find — they kind of stay with me and jump back into my consciousness unexpectedly.

  8. Thanks for showcasing Amy's haiku, Rosemary. They are delightful to read.

  9. These remind me a bit of those time lapse photography videos. She chose her imagery well.

  10. ah, poetry inspired by the pandemic! yes, i loved the humour (and also the pathos) in the senryu. i can relate to the "panning for gold", stifling a cough (even when masked), and days old pizza. It certainly leaves us some time to think and reflect, and see how actually how vulnerable us intelligent humans are.
    I too have taken to writing a "diary" of sorts from the first day of lockdown here. Of course i could not help sneaking in a senryu or two in the series. If you like to read it, click on this link. It is still ongoing and I hope to write a post a day.
    Thank you for sharing this excellent post.

    1. It's a good thing to do, I think. Everyone's experiences will be 'the same only different' (as we used to say when I was a kid).

  11. I read a few at facebook. Was nice reading them here as well


    1. Ah yes, haiku poets tend to connect with each other on facebook. (Smile.)

  12. Thanks to all for your kind comments. And thanks again, Rosemary, for this amazing showcase! Onward and upward ...

    on the wings
    of starlings ...
    morning moon (published in Hedgerow, Autumm, 2018); Daily Haiku, 5-1, 2020


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