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We are nearly twelve years old! Founded in January 2007, Shamrock Haiku Journal has since been published regularly. On this occasion, we have prepared SHAMROCK HAIKU JOURNAL: 2012-2018, a print edition of the twenty issues of Shamrock, Nos. 21 to 40, as they appeared on the Shamrock website. This paper-based collection covers the full range of English-language haiku, from classical to experimental, as well as haibun. Also included are English translations from one of the most prominent Japanese haiku poets of the 20th century, Ryuta Iida, and an essay on translating Matsuo Basho's haiku.

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Shamrock Haiku Journal: 2012-2018
Edited by Anatoly Kudryavitsky.

Copyright © 2012-2018 by Shamrock Haiku Journal.

All rights reserved.

Published in Dublin, Ireland.

Printed in the United Kingdom.

Price Euro 16.92
ISBN 978-0-244-9767-9-8

Trade paperback. 302 pp.
5.8"x8.3", perfect binding.

Preview available here

IHS International Haiku Competition 2018 announced!

The Irish Haiku Society International Haiku Competition 2018 offers prizes of Euro 150, Euro 50 and Euro 30 for unpublished haiku/senryu in English. In addition there will be up to seven Highly Commended haiku/senryu.

Details and previous winners here:

All the entries shall be postmarked / e-mailed by 30th November 2018.

Good luck to all!

Shamrock Haiku Journal Readers' Choice Awards 

We invite all the readers of Shamrock Haiku Journal to vote for the best haiku/senryu poem published in 2018, i.e. in the issues THIRTY-NINE and FORTY (you cannot vote for your own poem, though). 

To vote, send an e-mail to irishhaikusociety[at] with "Best haiku of 2018" or "Best senryu of 2018" in the subject line. Please insert the full text of the poem you vote for (only ONE poem in each category) plus the name of its author in the body of your e-mail. The deadline for vote is 28th February, 2019. The best poems will be named in the next issue of Shamrock Haiku Journal.

a cluster of mushrooms
the snake's quiet

shifting light
wind pulses
across the marsh grasses

a red-winged blackbird
fluffs up as it sings

budding maple
the here and there
of warblers

deep winter
the rhythms
of the goats' cuds

morning chill
the scritch-scratch of a nuthatch
in the king pine

-- Hannah Mahoney (USA)

tapas moon
the lush undertones
in the flamenco

whisky moon
the piper wets
his whistle

afternoon rain
wasps nesting
in the eaves

owl call
the stillness of
the valley

-- Ben Moeller-Gaa (USA)

first day of fishing
on the creek bridge
fathers, sons, grandsons

the slow slide
of water on a leaf –
the blink of an eye

afternoon break
a soft breeze
flips the page

-- Adelaide Shaw (USA)

thick morning fog –
the thousand year old call
of a red deer

loafing rocks –
the orange clicks
of bill-tapping puffins

abandoned abbey –
a lone kestrel
among the jackdaws

-- Keith Polette (USA)

longest day
an extra syllable
in the rooster's crow

a dawn
before the dawn

in the dark
the howl's wolf

-- Edward Huddleston (USA)

peat bog
the spreading fire
of cloudberries

frost settles...
many moons dot
the dark field

wild iris
a familiar song
in its throat

-- Debbie Strange (Canada)

friends of friends
of our second cousins...
a cherry tree blooms

koel's call
the housecat's tail
beats time

the end
before the beginning
ebb tide

-- Lorin Ford (Australia)

up-lit cloud
a rise of rosellas
flushes the sky

late winter magnolia petals in the koi pond

morning breeze
casuarina needles flicker
in the stream

-- Gavin Austin (Australia)

night cycle
waxing moons glanced
in tidal mudflats

swollen lake
girdled about
with birdsong

the haar lifts
a seagull floats above
the hissing surf

-- Ian Turner (England/France)

autumn equinox
the lightness
of a leaf

earth tremor
a falcon takes the wind
under its wing

edge of winter
the scrape
of a heron call

-- Martha Magenta (England)

a drumlin's shadow
across a rooftop
the starling's closing song

drizzle-softened hills
fledgling swallows
strengthen their wings

out into the depths
of the darkening lough
a mute swan's ripples

-- Thomas Powell (Northern Ireland)

petal from
a misty-blue flower

in a glass of ice water the moon's eye

Bloomsday –
a beach-bound trickle
of straw hats

-- Anatoly Kudryavitsky (Ireland)

rising sun
a lizard basks
under a sandstone arch

beach sunrise
the pastel patina
inside a conch's shell

-- Jay Friedenberg (USA)

warm wind
a green dragonfly
clings to lavender

cold night
a subway door opening
between stations

-- Bill Cooper (USA)

the cabochon
waxen moon

my walking stick
goes first
frozen lake

-- Seren Fargo (USA)

no bridge
a small cloud
crosses the stream

waiting for spring
bare branches
wear the stars

-- Natalia L. Rudychev (USA)

a crow with more
than a thing or two to say
sour wind

-- Chad Lee Robinson (USA)

desert evening
time enough to outwait
a coyote

-- Frank Hooven (USA)

blue moon
the vein
in my father's hand

-- Jennifer Hambrick (USA)

first winter storm –
the weathervane
points north

-- Michael Dylan Welch (USA)

monks at once
dismantle their web
orb weavers

--dl mattila (USA)

early spring
the lift of a robin's breast
just before the song

-- Nola Obee (USA)

pretending I hear
the crackle of fireworks –
July rain

-- Nicholas Klacsanzky (USA/Ukraine)

clatter as rain starts
a chipmunk sliding
out the downspout

-- Noel Sloboda (USA)

night fog
the uncertainty
of silhouettes

-- Bryan Rickert (USA)

yard bobcat –
our quiet deck steps
not quiet enough

-- Tony Burfield (USA)

old moon
where will I go
when I am gone

-- Perry Powell (USA)

morning rays
rabbit ears
follow my footsteps

-- Liv Saint James (USA)

first sip of tea
bare cedar branches
cup the moon

-- Chen-ou Liu (Canada)

spring heat...
goslings float
on large waves

-- Marshall Bood (Canada)

city lights
above the neon haze
falcon cries

-- John Hawkhead (England)

moving day
you leave behind
the welcome mat

-- Louise Hopewell (Australia)

night breeze
nightingale picks up
a robin's melody

-- Padmini Krishnan (Singapore)

an addition
to my coffee:
two spoonfuls of rain

-- Polina Reprintseva (Russia 

sultry night
a mosquito sips 
my dream

-- Lucia Cardillo (Italy)

midnight cooking...
the flames reddening
grandma's eye

-- Nureni Ibrahim (Nigeria)

clear sky –
the smell of fresh laundry
from a garret window

end of summer –
in the 'Reduced' section,
a naked mannequin

no one around...
a summer shower
kicks the football

finally home –
on the car roof,
snow from abroad

-- Nikolay Grankin (Russia; translated from the Russian by Anatoly Kudryavitsky)

loud buzzing
in the sun-warmed grass –
the stream's quiet gurgle

April is here –
a swarm of bees splits up,
forms two cloudlets

the late light
of the July sun –
her hair turns fiery red

once a wheat field,
today a new hardware store...
what more do I need?

-- Gerhard A. Spiller (Germany; translated from the German by Anatoly Kudryavitsky)

The original poems have been published in "The Meadow Bathes in Yellow" by Gerhand A. Spiller – Anton G. Leitner Verlag, 2018

Gods & Fate

by Anna Cates (USA)

     The Golden Ass –
     Hecate waits
     at the crossroads

In the days of old, city states devoted themselves to the moon goddess. Snakes entwined her sinewy arms, while the wood nymph hugged her sacred tree. Shady consorts encircled Zeus with his definitive thunderbolt.

Constellations guided sojourners across rough seas. Chalices filled to bacchanalian levels; cornucopia, lubricity, garlic wreaths, agape, and the wings of victory. And thus, the villagers danced with goat-footed Pan, centaurs, and satyrs. Hermaphrodites donned laurel leaves. Sacred bees swirled from hyperborean sunshine into crazy starlight.

Oedipus pondered the unknowable future, the will of the gods, a world where kings, queens, and paupers strut and fret through divine drama. No mythology, the truth he beheld at his blindness.

     distant thunder –
     pausing in the shadow
     of the Sphinx

Dental Gold

by Ruth Holzer (USA)

He drills and pries until the old crown pops out, its original brilliance dimmed by years of grinding. He explains that he always removes a crown carefully to preserve the largest possible piece of gold. He cleans it and sets it aside. Depending on the day-to-day market price, of course, you might get a little money – one patient sold his for fifty-five dollars.

I toss it into a drawer with paper clips, tacks and stray buttons.

     in the mind's eye
     new and old

Found in Translation

by Geoffrey Wilkinson (Wales)

No. Let's start again... What does Bashō say just before the haiku?

In the domain of Yamagata there is a mountain temple called the Ryūshakuji. Founded by the revered priest Jikaku, the temple is a place of pure tranquillity. Everyone keeps saying we should see it, so we double back there from Obanazawa, a detour of about seventeen miles. It is still light when we arrive. We arrange lodgings at the foot of the mountain, then climb to the shrines near the summit. The mountain is made of massive rocks piled one on top of another, covered with ancient pines and oaks. Earth and stone are time-worn and smooth with moss. The shrines perched on the rocks all have their doors shut. Not a sound. We work our way round the sheer cliffs, crawling on hands and knees from rock to rock and worshipping at each shrine. In the hushed beauty of these surroundings, the heart knows nothing but peace.

      Pretty straightforward until we get to 'the heart knows nothing but peace', kokoro sumiyuku nomi oboyu. Key word is sumiyuku, 'becomes transparent': here describes a state of mind – or 'heart', the literal meaning of kokoro, which works fine in English – that is now crystal clear, like turbid water after sediment has dissolved away. In its inner state, the heart exactly mirrors the 'pure tranquillity' of the external surroundings.
      How do other translators do it?
      At one extreme, Nobuyuki Yuasa spells it out very fully with 'I felt the purifying power of this holy environment pervading my whole being.' At the other extreme is Sam Hamill, who pares Bashō's prose right down to 'I sat, feeling my heart begin to open.' 'I sat' is poetic licence as Bashō doesn't say whether he is sitting or standing at this point, yet it's imaginatively justified, and 'feeling my heart begin to open' is simple and direct. And directness is what matters, the experience before any attempt at understanding or explanation...
      What about going all the way to 'the heart knows nothing but itself' – the heart so transparent, the sediment so completely dissolved, that nothing clouds it, not even awareness of the surroundings?
      Problem: 'the heart ...itself' might be misunderstood as making 'heart' synonymous with 'consciousness', or with 'self' in the familiar sense of our awareness of 'I-ness' or 'me-ness'. And that would look like an act of cultural hijacking because, whatever else Bashō may mean by kokoro sumiyuku, it has nothing to do with an inward-looking consciousness or the 'I/me' self – on the contrary, surely he's suggesting a suspension or negation of the 'I/me' self. Keep it simple and stick with 'knows nothing but peace'.
      Why 'the heart' and not 'my heart'?
      No help from Bashō, who doesn't use personal pronouns or their determiners, but it's true 'my' is the obvious choice. Trouble is English demands pronouns, and we've already committed – you agreed – to 'we' to recognize that Bashō has climbed to the summit together with his companion, Sora: 'our hearts know nothing but peace' would be presumptuous (Sora might be feeling something completely different for all anyone knows!), while switching to 'my heart' is both awkward and avoidable since 'the heart' is equally natural in this context. QED.
      All right... We've come full circle, back to the haiku:

     shizukasa ya
     iwa ni shimiiru
     semi no koe

      Back to the haiku, and back to our three complications. Firstly, the translation of shizukasa ('stillness', 'quiet') should also evoke something akin to sabishisa (with the nuance 'serene solitude' rather than the dictionary definition, 'loneliness') because, instead of writing shizukasa with the Chinese character normally used for that word, Bashō has chosen a different character that visually conveys a sense of sabishisa. In Japanese it works almost as a form of synaesthesia – the ear hears shizukasa, so to speak, while the eye sees sabishisa – but can the effect be approximated somehow in English? Second complication: shimiiru has a spectrum of possible translations, ranging from 'permeate' or 'seep in' at the softer end through to 'pierce' or 'bite in' at the stronger end. Which to go for? And thirdly, Japanese does not distinguish between singular and plural: are you going to translate iwa ni as 'into a rock' or 'into the rocks', and semi no koe as 'a cicada's voice' or 'cicadas' voices'?
      Start with the singular/plural conundrum... How about making iwa 'the rock' and then it's as ambiguous as the Japanese: could be a single rock – 'that big one over there' – or many rocks treated as a sort of collective noun – 'the rock of the whole mountain, made up of individual rocks piled on top of each other'.
      Done, 'into the rock'. Have to make an explicit choice, though, with semi.
      'Cicadas' plural is more plausible because it's unlikely there would only be one cicada among all those trees on the mountain. On the other hand, a single cicada is quite capable of making its presence known by its repertoire of distinctive sounds, some of which are ear-splitting in volume and pitch. The decider: where 'cicadas' anticipates a rolling, repeating cacophony extended over time, 'cicada' anticipates sound focused into a single moment, which is better suited to the arrested-in-time feel of a haiku. One cicada it is.
      Next the shizukasa/sabishisa question. Some translators seem to ignore it altogether. Hamill has 'Lonely stillness' – 'stillness' for shizukasa and 'lonely' for sabishisa. Yuasa opts for 'utter silence' – 'silence' for shizukasa and 'utter' perhaps for sabishisa. Any improvement on their attempts?
      Yes, maybe, although it involves a bit of lateral thinking. Or cheating, depending on how you look at it. In the course of their 1,500-mile journey around northern Japan, Sora recorded almost all the haiku composed by Bashō, himself and others, and his record reveals that in Bashō's first version of this haiku the first four syllables were not shizukasa but yamadera, 'mountain temple'. Now 'mountain temple' immediately recalls the images of the Ryūshakuji and its precincts that Bashō has conjured up in his prose description, especially the early-evening atmosphere, the shrines with their doors closed, and the unbroken silence. These are all images of deep solitude and serenity – just the qualities of sabishisa suggested by the Chinese character Bashō has chosen to use. If we take the 'mountain' of 'mountain temple' for what the eye sees in Japanese, sabishisa, 'stillness' for the what the ear hears, shizukasa, the first line of the translation becomes 'Mountain stillness'. May be as close as we can get to the the semi-synaesthetic effect Bashō achieves. More or less happy with it?
      Yes... provided you don't forget Bashō's fifth syllable, ya, the kireji or 'cutting word'.
      As its function is to indicate a pause, somewhere between a comma and a full stop in duration, closest equivalent in English is probably a dash. Agree with 'Mountain stillness –'?
      That leaves shimiiru. Let's not beat about the bush. Or the tree. The back-to-front subject of the verb, the thing that's doing the shimiiru, is semi no koe, 'a cicada's voice'. There's our clue: a cicada doesn't have a 'voice', and nor does it 'cry', 'trill', or 'sing', as some translators would have it. There are species of cicadas that screech, shriek, or shrill, make harsh and unnerving sounds that, fortuitously, are sibilant in English – 'a cicada's shrieking', 'a cicada's shrilling' – and complement the assonance of Bashō's i-wa ni shi-mi-i-ru se-mi (which in turn perhaps mimics the sound of one or other species?). But it's not the main point, which is that 'screech', 'shriek' and 'shrill' do not, or not obviously, invite softer translations of shimiiru such as 'seep in' or 'sink in'. Some trial and error required.
      OK, trial and error. Put it all together, try first with 'sink in' and see what happens:
     Mountain stillness –
     a cicada's shrilling
     sinks into the rock

      Hmm. Apart maybe from 'mountain' for sabishisa, it's faithful to the Japanese, uncontroversial, safe... Too safe? Translated this way, what is Bashō saying?
      Perfect stillness is broken by the shrilling of a cicada. The shrilling sinks into the rock, and stillness returns. Paradoxically, the stillness is all the greater for the sudden breaking of it.
      Difficult to object to that interpretation, yet still can't help feeling it's non-committal. What if Bashō means that the shrilling is lost not just in the rock, but in the stillness itself? The stillness is so profound that it cancels out or, a very free translation of shimiiru, 'swallows up' the shrilling?

     Mountain stillness –
     a cicada's shrilling
     is swallowed up in the rock

      Or what if he means the exact opposite – it's not the stillness that prevails, but the raucous sound of the cicada? In that case, definitely need to go to the more forceful end of the shimiiru spectrum:

     Mountain stillness –
     a cicada's shrilling
     penetrates the rock

      Is there a paradox after all? There was stillness, then a loud noise, and now either the noise is gone or the stillness is gone...
      Yes, I see what you're trying to do.
      One way or another, you're trying to tidy up or explain away the paradox.
      Well, why not? It's not some uniquely Western intolerance of contradiction, if that's what you're implying. Lots of Japanese readers also find this haiku perplexing and feel that a screeching insect makes nonsense of perfect quiet.
      Not necessarily an East-West thing, no... Hear this out. Think word order. Even to arrive at the most conservative translation, 'a cicada's shrilling / sinks into the rock', we've had to reverse Bashō's middle seven and last five syllables, iwa ni shimiiru semi no koe. If the priority is to be true to the Japanese and produce meaningful English, and it is the priority, there can't be anything sacrosanct about Bashō's word order – and that includes the placing of his first five syllables, shizukasa ya. So, take a deep breath, move our translation of shizukasa ya from the beginning to the end and... far from evading or resolving the paradox, we confront it head-on. Go further. Make the paradox completely inescapable, amplifying the noise of the cicada still more by changing 'penetrates the rock' to 'pierces the rock', and deepening the quiet of the Ryūshakuji still more by changing 'mountain stillness' to... to... 'unbroken silence':

     A cicada's shrilling
     pierces the rock –
     unbroken silence

      Translated that way, what is Bashō saying?
      The stillness of a mountaintop temple and the shrieking of a cicada are not contradictory or mutually exclusive. Beyond – or within – what we perceive as paradox, they are two aspects of one and the same reality. Bashō's semi no koe stands for the reality of the ephemeral, particular world of cicadas, rocks and trees, poets, and ourselves. But it's a world that comes out of the timeless, undifferentiated reality represented by shizukasa ya – the śūnyatā of Mahāyāna Buddhism, seemingly an absolute emptiness that yet contains the possibility of every thing and every being that is and might be. The reality of the world is self-evident, insistent, all too present. To know reality in its timeless, undifferentiated aspect, the heart itself must be empty, unclouded, kokoro sumiyuku.    


      I must be getting old. Why else would I find myself constantly going back over the past. Regretting so much of it.
      Have the courage of your convictions, boy!
      In his irritable, soldierly way, Colonel Toker had tried to be encouraging as I dithered over my answer to a question in his algebra class. Nevertheless his words live on as a reproach for something in my response that was wanting then and, all these years later, seems to remain wanting. A relation to the world lived at the softer end of the spectrum, more seeping and sinking in than piercing and biting in. Non-committal. No wonder I've always been drawn to ambiguities. Small, manageable ambiguities. Contradictions nicely balanced out: on the one hand this, on the other hand that. Big, unmanageable ambiguities – inescapable conflicts – evaded altogether: anything but confront them head-on, which would mean making an explicit choice. Which would mean committing. Non-committal.
      And now this new voice in my head:

     shizukasa ya
     iwa ni shimiiru
     semi no koe

     A cicada's shrilling
     pierces the rock –
     unbroken silence

      What to make of it? Do I believe in my own translation? Is it wishful thinking? Am I misrepresenting Bashō? I've turned his haiku into a baffling question-and-answer exchange that, in the manner of a Zen kōan, confounds the rational mind and, by confounding, hopes to jolt it into a spontaneous understanding of some truth. The truth here is, for want of a better word, the interchangeability of everything and nothing:

Question: What is the sound of absolute emptiness?
Answer: The screeching of a cicada.

      Is the kōan in the haiku or have I put it there myself? Whether or not shizukasa ya does represent śūnyatā, Bashō's image of the heart becoming clear – an image of the 'I/me' sense of self suspended or negated in a moment of profound insight – itself suggests a Buddhist element in the haiku. Specifically a Zen element? Am I unduly influenced by knowing that from about 1680, when Bashō was in his late thirties, he briefly studied meditation under a Zen priest, Bucchō, and therefore may have had direct experience of kōan–like exchanges? It's not much to go on. What if I've fabricated the kōan... ?
      Enough. Enough. Even if I have fabricated it, even if there is nothing in Bashō's haiku to baffle the rational understanding, there's plenty to baffle us in what we know of reality. We know, as Bashō could not have known, that the universe – and with it the possibility of our world and everything else that is and might ever be – literally came out of a great emptiness, a primordial nothingness, 13.8 billion years ago. So another truth, literal, metaphoric, or however we wish to take it, is that there are as many ways of being in the world as there are possibilities in nothingness and, in a sense, they are all valid. We are where we are, as the saying goes, and we are what we are. And this has been and is where I am and what I am, a quietly overwrought schoolboy who struggled to be fully part of his world and grew up wondering whether he wanted to be part of it at all. Is that defeatism? Weakness? Complacency? Laziness? Convention judges us. Other people judge us. We judge ourselves. Yet what judging is there – who or what is to say that one way of being is right and another wrong – in the great nothingness from which we all come?  
      It's been a long time in the making, Colonel Toker, but here's my answer:
      If a is zero, b is an indeterminate value. That's just how it is. QED.

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Copyright © 2018 by Shamrock Haiku Journal. All rights reserved. All the Shamrock Haiku Journal contents are copyright by the indicated poets/artists. All the rights revert to the authors and artists upon publication in Shamrock. Any unauthorised copying of the contents of Shamrock Haiku Journal is strictly forbidden. The Shamrock logo image is copyright © by Christine Zeytounian-Belous (Paris, France).