International Women’s Haiku Festival: Senryu by David Oates


Photo: Dave Bleasdale/Creative Commons.Flickr

David Oates explores the happy chaos of family life in today’s feature of the International Women’s Haiku Festival.

two young women
with three young children
try to visit

The scenario Oates describes in this delightful poem plays out (literally) in parks, on play dates, and at extended family gatherings everywhere: Two worlds – that of children and that of the adults charged with keeping them safe and teaching them how to behave – collide.  With the operative word “try,” Oates hints at the children’s mischief and the women’s frustration – in short, at the pandemonium of family life.

David Oates is the host of “Wordland,” a radio show of spoken word on  He is the author of three haiku collections: Shifting with My Sandwich Hand, Drunken Robins and, forthcoming, The Deer’s Bandanna.

International Women’s Haiku Festival: Poems by Michelle Schaefer

why is the sky blue?

Photo: Optick/Creative Commons/Flickr

Michelle Schaefer writes of lace and sea glass in today’s feature of the International Women’s Haiku Festival.

sea glass
I find myself
piece by piece

With its sharp edges worn smooth by the tumult of the ocean, “sea glass” is a beautiful metaphor for what, ideally, happens to us over the course of our lives.  The self-possessed older woman who embodies that special kind of ease in her own skin didn’t necessarily get there easily or overnight.  She likely had to comb a lot of beaches and pick up loads of flotsam and jetsam before finding the lovely sea-gems that sit well in her soul.  Schaefer’s poem gives us a road map – let the ocean of life smooth out our rough edges – and reveals the wabi-sabi kind of beauty of the works-in-progress that we are.


the edge of lace
still means no

The classic decoration for women’s undergarments, lace is a vivid signifier of feminine sexual intimacy.  Intriguingly, “the edge of lace” is serrated like a knife blade and, in Schaefer’s poem, suggests a protective boundary or even a weapon against sexual violence.  The lace metaphor here is an extraordinary symbol of a woman’s right to autonomy and a reminder of boundaries that are not to be transgressed.

Michelle Schaefer is a poet-in-progress.  She has spent many years learning and writing the art form of haiku.  She has been published in various haiku journals and anthologies.  Her poetry can be found in Acorn, Frogpond, Modern Haiku, Mariposa and Heron’s Nest.  She is also featured in NY Seitkatsu’s online publication as a regular semifinalist in the Ito En Haiku Grand Prix.  She has recently won Frogpond‘s Museum of Haiku Literature Award in its most recent volume.  She hopes that poetry touches people in extraordinary ways.  She lives in Bothell, WA with her husband.

International Women’s Haiku Festival: Haiku by Debbi Antebi

Moonflower, illuminated by the moon

Photo: Mike Lewinski/Creative Commons/Flickr

Debbi Antebi writes about moonflowers and our mothers’ dreams in today’s feature of the International Women’s Haiku Festival.

mother opens up
about her dreams

Because it happens so often, a woman’s setting her dreams aside to nurture other people has become almost a cliché.  The ethereal image of the night-blooming moonflower imbues the mother’s inner awakening – under cover of darkness – with hope.  Maybe it’s not too late for her to rekindle those old passions, to tap into her unique potential, and to nurture the pars of herself that have for so long been eclipsed.

Debbi Antebi (@debbisland) lives in London, UK, with her beloved husband and books.  Her work has been featured in magazines and journals around the world.  An award winning poet and a member of the British Haiku Society, she exhales oxygen while writing poems.

International Women’s Haiku Festival: Poems by Amy Losak


Photo: Scott Robinson/Creative Commons/Flickr

Amy Losak explores the plight of the older woman in the workplace in today’s feature of the International Women’s Haiku Festival.

millennial workplace
the boomer colors her gray
more often

Western culture’s obsession with youth is in part responsible for making aging more spiritually difficult than it needs to be.  And even though millennials have a bit of a PR problem when it comes to common (mis?)perceptions of their work ethic, younger workers still seem more highly valued than older ones.  Raise all of this to the third or fourth power when it comes to women, in particular.  Losak’s “boomer” –  who can hope only to erase with the dye bottle the effects of the years because the years themselves won’t come off – is a sympathetic character who speaks for many.


peeling tree bark
she hides her spotted hands
in the interview

Losak’s haiku paints a picture of an aging woman’s subtle act of desperation.  Surely the spots on the hands are not the only clues about the woman’s age, but they might be the only clues the woman thinks she can hide from those who hold in their hands the fate of her livelihood.

Amy Losak, of Teaneck, NJ, is a public relations professional.  She recently started writing haiku and senryu in honor of her late mother, Sydell Rosenberg, a charter member of the Haiku Society of America in 1968 who published her work in journals and anthologies.

International Women’s Haiku Festival: Poems by Debbie Strange

edited_imagePhoto: Patrick Lentz/Creative Commons/Flickr

Canadian poet Debbie Strange sees strength in a cancer diagnosis and humor in a pair of skinny jeans in today’s feature in the International Women’s Haiku Festival.

cirrus clouds . . .
she donates hair
before chemo

Debbie Strange turns those wispy clouds that look like pony tails into locks of hair on the stylist’s floor.  The woman in this haiku is a picture of proactivity, strength, and generosity in the face of possible death, embracing her diagnosis with eyes and heart wide open.


laundry day . . .
my skinny jeans
fat with wind

It’s not enough that the thought of wearing skinny jeans strikes fear and dread in the hearts of some; the wind has to rub it in.  The image of the puffed-up skinny jeans pokes fun at our warped obsession with weight and body image, leaving us to laugh at how quickly we abandon more noble constructs of authentic beauty, and thus the paths to true contentment, in the pursuit of pretty packaging.

Debbie Strange‘s creative pursuits bring her closer to understanding the world and herself. She is an award-winning Canadian short form poet, haiga artist, and photographer. Debbie is the author of Warp and Weft, Tanka Threads (Keibooks 2015) and A Year Unfolding (Folded Word 2017). You are invited to visit her @Debbie_Strange.

International Women’s Haiku Festival: Poems by Mary Stevens

The Beach

Photo: Nicki Mannix/Creative Commons/Flickr

Beach bodies, goth girls, and Mom make their way into haiku by Mary Stevens in today’s feature of the International Women’s Haiku Festival.

selecting poems
at the beach
I edit the bodies

And, if we’re honest without ourselves, wouldn’t we have to admit that we do the same?  This senryu backs into the issues of our obsession with appearances and our pathological need to throw stones, even when we know we all live in glass houses.  That the poem comes close to being a campy ars poetica takes some of the sting out of its commentary about human nature.


sun in my eyes
my mother will never see
all of me

The relational ground between a daughter and her mother is sometimes almost too treacherous to navigate.  My guess is that Stevens is right – no mother will ever see all of her daughter.  The mother’s expectations of and dreams for her daughter might blind her to the more valid reality of her daughter’s own self-realization.  And the daughter’s striving to show her mother what she has become, implied so effectively in this haiku with the image of “sun in my eyes,” takes on a tone of desperate futility.


a little too loud
the goth girl’s laughter
at her boyfriend’s joke

The desire to be desired shows up here in the form of, I imagine, an adolescent girl who’s trying a bit too hard.  She may grow out of it or, if she doesn’t find the genuine love she really seeks, she may not.

Mary Stevens lives in the Hudson Valley, New York, among much wildlife.  A member of the Haiku Society of America since 2003, she presented “The Cicada’s Voice: How Wabi Sabi Can Teach Us How to Live” at the 2015 Haiku North America, Schenectady, New York.  She aspires to get out of her own way when writing haiku.

International Women’s Haiku Festival: Poems by Julie Thorndyke

Quince fur :-)

Photo: Storebukkebruse/Creative Commons/Flickr

Julie Thorndyke writes about plump quinces and an overloaded bookshelf in today’s feature of the International Women’s Haiku Festival.

plump quinces
the velvet skin
of your memory

Like a plump quince itself, Thorndyke’s haiku changes texture the more you linger with it.  There’s a fleshiness, an implied juiciness to the “plump quinces” in the first line.  Then the second line unites the “velvet skin” of a quince with the fuzziness of the memory and takes us into a relational No Man’s Land.  What began as a seemingly luscious fruit poem ends on a dark note, or at least with a question mark: Did the fuzzy memory forget something of monumental significance to the poetic speaker?  Does it suggest the beginnings of dementia?  After this final turn, the tartness of even a plump quince continues to resonate in our experience – and to linger on our tongues.


overloaded bookshelf no gaps in my diary

The bookshelf and the calendar are so overcrowded that this poem has to be squeezed into a single line.  This poem is a deft reflection of lives crammed full of material goods and busy-ness, leaving no time to reflect and no empty space in which to do it.  If we find ourselves asking how we ended up in this hand basket, Thorndyke’s senryu at least hints at an answer.

Australian writer Julie Anne Thorndyke graduated with merit from the Master of Creative Writing program at the University of Sydney.  She has published poems and stories in many literary journals.  A winner in the U.S.-based Tanka Splendor competition in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009, she was also awarded an honorable mention in 6th International Tanka Festival Competition 2009 (Japan).  She facilitates a local tanka writers’ group, participates in collaborative poetry presentations and leads creative writing workshops.  Julie won the 2011, 2015 and 2017 FAW Pauline Walsh short story competitions.  Two collections of her tanka poetry are available from Ginninderra Press.  Her first picture book for children will be published by IP in 2018.  In 2017, Julie was appointed editor of  Eucalypt: a tanka journal by founding editor Beverley George.

International Women’s Haiku Festival: Poems by Christina Sng

Marcus Spiske Pasta Machine, Creative Commons (2)

Photo: Markus Sipske/Creative Commons/Flickr

Christina Sng writes of princesses, pasta machines, and all of our baggage in today’s feature of the International Women’s Haiku Festival.

pasta machine
braiding her hair
like Elsa’s again

For whatever reason, maybe as an expression of a latent desire to be desired, it seems little girls go through a princess phase.  When there’s a trusted guide, like a Princess Elsa doll, a girl’s journey into imaginary princesshood can be important child’s play, no doubt best conducted while wearing diaphanous dresses and dime-store tiaras.  Sng’s senryu cleverly connects this picture of youthful innocence nourished through play with the kitchen through the parallel imagery of an emerging hair braid and emerging stands of pasta.  Even more, the poem transforms an implied mother figure into the handmaid charged with fussing over the princess’s hair, a fascinating role reversal that foreshadows different relational dynamics down the road.


crystal clear lake
no one sees the debris
at the bottom

This poem speaks to the reality that, in this messy life, things are not always as they seem.  Experiences accrete onto our souls like barnacles glomming onto ships.  Yet we are expected not to reveal any of that baggage to the world.  For all our calm comportment, there’s just so much stuff way down deep.

Christina Sng (Singapore) is a poet, writer, and artist.  She is the author of two haiku collections, A Constellation of Songs (Origami Poems Project, 2016) and Catku (Allegra Press, 2016).  In the moments in between, she finds joy in tending to her herb and bonsai garden.  Visit her at

International Women’s Haiku Festival: Poems by Joshua Gage


Photo: Liz West/Creative Commons/Flickr

Joshua Gage talks lingerie and oatmeal in today’s feature of the International Women’s Haiku Festival.

Valentine’s Day
last year’s lingerie

One possible reading here is that last year’s lingerie remains unworn because the interested parties skipped the skivvies and went straight to …  But the alarming candor of the text and the bluntness of the final line – “unworn” – suggest a far less rosy force at work in this senryu: The prospective wearer of the lingerie opted for a less romantic scenario.  And imagine that the lingerie was a gift.  One must then ask: When a man gives a woman lingerie, is the gift really for her?  Gage’s senryu tiptoes stoically through this treacherous terrain.  If we are to read a haiku as the expression of an observed moment in time – as, in essence, a wee snippet of autobiography – then Gage’s poem becomes as much confession as caveat emptor.


morning oatmeal
my daughter’s gloves warm
from the heat vent

Oatmeal, a child’s woolly gloves, a heat vent – this poem exudes coziness.  The gloves on the heat vent suggest winter and that the gloves and their wearer have been tumbling about in the snow.  Through three crisply drawn images, Gage at once implies the frightful winter weather outside and paints a picture of a family’s home and a father’s heart aglow.

Joshua Gage is an ornery curmudgeon from Cleveland.  His first full-length collection, breaths, is available from VanZeno Press.  Intrinsic Night, a collaborative project he wrote with J. E. Stanley, was published by Sam’s Dot Publishing.  His most recent collection, Inhuman: Haiku from the Zombie Apocalypse, is available on Poet’s Haven Press.  He is a graduate of the Low Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing at Naropa University.  He has a penchant for Pendleton shirts and any poem strong enough to yank the breath out of his lungs.

International Women’s Haiku Festival: Poems by Marietta McGregor

moods of a rose-luminous

Photo: Leslie Main-Johnson/Creative Commons/Flickr

Marietta McGregor’s haiku are full of unfolding roses and spidery script in today’s feature of the International Women’s Haiku Festival.

unfolding rose…
i stroke her hand
around the cannula

The paradox of the unfolding rose is that, as vibrant and beautiful as it is, it is also in the process of dying.  This haiku is full of life and death, of the frailty of the flesh and of the love that sustains us through all trials, connecting us even across the divide.


attic spring-clean…
her spidery script
a brittle scorecard

The spiders that we imagine are uncovered in the “attic spring-clean” and the “spidery script” on old items convey a masterfully subtle relational discomfort.  And all of it packed away in the attic, hidden in the remote recesses of the private realm, suspended in a web of unease.

Marietta McGregor is a Tasmanian botanist and journalist who lives in Canberra.  Her haiku, haibun, and haiga appear in international journals and anthologies, and have been featured on Japanese television.  She has gained poetry awards in Japan, the UK, the US, and Australia.  She belongs to the Australian Haiku Society, the Haiku Society of America, and the British Haiku Society.