|by Michael Dylan Welch|
In an earlier post about haiku, Writing on the Head of a Pin, 2019 Haiku Editor Kaye Linden suggested that each word must count, each word must offer meaning.
Our guidelines also noted that the widely-practiced 5-7-5-syllable format isn't necessary. Japanese haiku is based on sounds, not syllables, and many of our haiku entries--as in other contemporary literary journals--vary in number of syllables (see Haiku Society of America and their journal, frogpond).
We invited haiku with "a juxtaposition, a flash of surprise, an interesting perspective on life," and the symbolism in Michael Dylan Welch's Haiku First Prize winning work arises from a juxtaposition of action/variety of flower/ Chinese Zodiac sign.
The Chinese Zodiac, represented by twelve animals, corresponds to a cycle of years. From February 5, 2019 to February 24, 2020, for example, we are in a Year of the Pig--the pig a symbol of wealth whose chubby face and big ears denote good fortune.
I've added in parentheses below a few qualities of each of the twelve animals, so you can see the clever depth of Welch's few words. For example, in the "year of the rat" (the rat characterized as quick-witted and persuasive), someone who has damaged a violin leaves three exotic African violets with the mended violin as a charming and disarming apology.
It is our good fortune to have haiku master Michael Dylan Welch's work in Bacopa Literary Review 2019, and I leave readers to further discern the symbolic range of sign-flower-action in his prize-winning haiku:
Shēngxiào / 生肖
year of the rat-- (quick-witted, persuasive)
three African violets
by the mended violin
year of the ox-- (patient, kind)
left in the letterbox
year of the tiger-- (authoritative, courageous)
the glow of cineraria
in misty moonlight
year of the rabbit-- (compassionate, sincere)
the unfinished painting
of purple jasmine
year of the dragon-- (fearless, charismatic)
a bleeding heart
fallen to the mantel
year of the snake-- (introverted, smart)
for the election winner
year of the horse-- (impatient, independent)
a pair of calla lilies
nodding in a vase
year of the goat-- (mild-mannered, peace-loving)
a red carnation
in the journalist's lapel
year of the monkey-- (fun, active)
the encyclopedia opens
year of the rooster-- (independent, practical)
talking so much in the garden
she misses my gladiolas
year of the dog-- (diligent, faithful)
rose bushes hiding
a garden gnome
year of the pig-- (loving, appreciative of luxury)
* * *Michael Dylan Welch has served as Poet Laureate for Redmond, Washington, runs National Haiku Writing Month and his website Graceguts, devoted mostly to poetry. His poems, essays, and reviews have appeared in hundreds of journals and anthologies in more than twenty languages. He lives in Sammamish, Washington.