stifling a cough
on the checkout line
giving my neighbor
the Vulcan salute
pandemic meal plan
stretching the pasta and sauce
to last a second day
my hands raw
I take a break
to do my taxes
panning for gold
finding hand wipes
inside my purse
out for a quick walk
a wren warbles on the top
of a weeping cherry
even the deer
wait to bloom
millions of lab rats
home not alone
a couple watches TV
in separate rooms
the sound of a virus
the weeping cherries
bloom without me
– By Amy Losak
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.
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.