f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

December 18, 2008

the allure of HSA’s “dandelion clocks

Filed under: Book Reviews,Haiku or Senryu — David Giacalone @ 11:16 am

dandelion clocks – Haiku Society of America Members’ Anthology 2008 (Roberta Beary and Ellen Compton, Editors, 2008; cover)

Like kids of all ages, I’ve always been attracted to the downy white globe of seeds that forms at the top of a dandelion.   We called them dandelion puffs in my Upstate New York hometown, but they’re also known as “dandelion clocks” to people around the world.  They’re used for making wishes, and telling time.  They bring a smile to the lips of young lovers, and a curse to the tongue of many an elderly homeowner, for whom they symbolize a neglected lawn and an enemy guerrilla army fighting an endless war over precious turf.

It was a treat, therefore, to hear that a poem I wrote featuring dandelion clocks was selected by editors Ellen Compton and Roberta Beary for inclusion in this year’s Haiku Society of America Members’ Anthology.  It was also a surprising honor to recently learn that the title of this years Anthology would be dandelion clocks.

As we’ve written in prior years, the HSA Members’ Anthology includes one haiku or senryu from every member who submits poems for selection by the volume’s editors (see the guidelines).  This year, 177 members participated in the call for entries in the 2008 Anthology; they come from the USA and ten other countries.  The result is an impressive collection, chosen with care by Beary and Compton, who came to the task as last-minute pinch-hitters, but brought with them the experience gained editing fish in love, the HSA 2006 Members’ Anthology, which won a special 2007 HSA Merit Book Honorable Mention for Anthology.

The Introduction to dandelion clocks is written by HSA President Lenard D. Moore, who says:

. “This collection of haiku indicates the diversity that is prevalent in the twenty-first century. During the fortieth year of the Haiku Society of America, editors Roberta Beary and Ellen Compton perhaps had gender and culture in mind while selecting the best available haiku from members of the Haiku Society of America.  What about identity and its meaning in this rich anthology? How do the poets engage political, social, and cultural dimensions in a technological world?  What subjects are important to the poets in this book in the first decade of the century?  How do these poets transform haiku?  The answers are in the poems, though with stylistic differences. . . “

Association President Moore tells us, “This book illustrates that haiku is still evolving.  Beary and Compton have assembled a haiku anthology that is at once symbolic and promising.”  But, English Lit. Prof. Moore also reminds us that “haiku is more about reality than imagined events” and:

“Traditionally, haiku poets have depicted the sounds, sights, and sense of the natural world.  Yes, the natural world and its spiritual presence are at the center of haiku.”

As Lenard foretells, “dandelion clocks is about memory and remembrance.” It represents well the art, craft and mood of the membership of the Haiku Society of America in 2008.

.. Seventeen members of the f/k/a haiku family participated in the HSA 2008 Anthology.  Here, in alphabetical order by author, are the poems from each of our Honored Guest Poets that were selected by the editors of dandelion clocks.  Six of the poems have not been previously published elsewhere (and we hope that HSA poets and editors will continue to submit unpublished gems, which help make the  annual Anthology even more valuable).

hair of the dog–
in the mirror a trace
of autumn

…. by Roberta Beary – Simply Haiku 5:4 (2007)

razor wire
soldiers in the alley
tossing dice

… by Randy M. Brooks

Indian summer
chocolate kisses
on my cheek

… by Yu Chang

letter from home
the snow muddy
wherever I step

… by Alice Frampton – The Heron’s Nest 9:2 (2007)

back from the wake
his lawn invaded
by dandelion clocks

… by David Giacalone

fortune-telling machine
I re-pocket
my quarter

… by Carolyn Hall – Acorn #18 (2007)

late night news–
a narrow road
in the headlights

…. by Gary Hotham – NOON #5 (2007)

at the end of Lent the taste of you

… by Jim Kacian – Taboo Haiku (2006)

hazy sun
two tugboats chugging
into brown

… by David G. Lanoue

I weigh
the options–

… by Peggy Willis Lyles – Modern Haiku 39:2 (2008)

sequoia that fell
long before my birth
the path around it

… by Paul M. – Modern Haiku 39:2 (2008)

Mother’s Bible
the binding peels
in my palm

… by Pamela Miller Ness – Frogpond 31:1 (2008)

long night
I search for an ex
in cyber space

… by Tom Painting – Modern Haiku 39:2 (2008)

Ed. Note:  In his Introduction to dandelion clocks, HSA President Lenard Moore says this about Tom’s haiku: “The poem unravels memory and remembrance strikingly, representing humanity, no matter how ironic the meditation.”

February snowfall
the wipers
push it aside

… by John Stevenson – Upstate Dim Sum (Spring 2008)

somehow becomes
this blue crocus

…. by George Swede

lazy day . . .
I give her wind chime
a stir

… by Michael Dylan Welch

prairie morning–
only bluebells
only sky

… by Billie Wilson – The Haiku Calendar 2008 (Snapshot Press, 2007; 1st place, May)

. .  All of the above poems can be found, along with 160 others, in dandelion clocks – Haiku Society of America Members’ Anthology 2008 (Roberta Beary and Ellen Compton, Editors, 2008). Only 250 copies were printed for the first edition.  Here is the information to purchase a copy:

Price per Copy: $20.00 in the United States, Canada or Mexico. $23.00 for all other overseas locations. Postage is included.  Send to HSA Secretary, Paul Miller:

Paul Miller
31 Seal Island Road
Bristol, RI 02809

Payment: Please make checks or money orders in U.S. currency only payable to “Haiku Society of America”.


  1. David:

    Love George Swede’s “Self-scrutiny”
    – thanks …


    Comment by Don — December 18, 2008 @ 7:06 pm

  2. Hi, Don, thanks for stopping to chat. George knows I’m not as thrilled with psycho-drama-ku as with his customary fare.

    Comment by David Giacalone — December 18, 2008 @ 10:43 pm

  3. As someone who is actively involved in both the psychodrama and haiku communities, I’ve always been amused by the fact that both terms are so widely misunderstood and misused. Thank you, David, for your efforts on behalf of haiku. Please give psychodrama a break. Like haiku, it has depths that are unsuspected by those who use the term lightly.

    Comment by John Stevenson — December 19, 2008 @ 6:24 am

  4. Hi, John, thanks for sharing your perspective and for having patience with my reluctance to go where some of my haiku heroes seem to want me to follow in the name of growth, creativity, innovation, and even democracy. Don told us what poem he particularly liked and I responded that it’s not my preferred style of haiku from the oeuvre of a poet whose work I have often praised and featured here at f/k/a. That’s what people do about every other kind of literary and poetic form, and it is about time that such stated preferences be permissible concerning haiku, and that critics not be told they just don’t understand the depth or artistry of the less-appreciated piece.

    As a consumer of haiku, I’m going to continue to state my preference both as a matter of taste and of genre quality — and, to remind even my haiku heroes of their own recently stated standards for what makes the best haiku. The “trick” or gist of the best haiku is that it leads us to share the poet’s insight through the use of sensory images, it doesn’t tell us what that insight, travail or vision is and then ask us to appreciate its depth.

    p.s. Of course, I was not critiquing Psychodrama itself, merely haiku-like poems that embody psychodrama. I’m much more tolerant of psycho-drama in theaters (and sometimes bedrooms), than when found in haikai.

    Comment by David Giacalone — December 19, 2008 @ 9:35 am

  5. David,
    Your insights in the genre of modern haiku deserve a wider audience. Please consider doing a book of your posts. I would purchase it and when I say purchase I don’t mean book swap. I even have a suggested title, f/k/a haiku.
    Thank you for raising the bar a few notches and challenging us to do better.

    Comment by Roberta Beary — December 19, 2008 @ 10:37 am

  6. Thank you, Roberta, your sentiments mean a lot. That would be a very good title, because I do not want to wake up some day and have to say “that’s the stuff that was formerly known as haiku.” Meanwhile, I’m not likely to compile or write a book on haiku theory. Spending too much time doing so would surely detract from my personal enjoyment of haiku.

    By the way, thanks are in order for you and Ellen for taking on the oft-thankless task of editing the HSA Members’ Anthology. You’ve done us proud again.

    Comment by David Giacalone — December 19, 2008 @ 11:45 am

  7. One characteristic of haiku that I find attractive, in contradistinction to the overall tenor of western formal and informal verse, is that it is suggestive. While western poetry (broad generalization alert!) either tells a narrative (in epic and dramatic poetry) and sings a song (lyric poetry) that is meant to be understood correctly (even if the correct meaning is surreal, fantastical, or otherwise deeply personal), the haiku simply whispers: See this.

    The haiku poet, from inspiration to manuscript, steps back from projecting self and puts the images of perception in front of the reader for the reader’s own inspiration and interpretation. The more successful the haikuist is in showing only the seminal imagery, the more the haikuist becomes transparent to the reader. This is the magic of haiku: reading the briefest of verses and having one’s mind and heart opened intuitively in response to the imagery.

    There is something of a zero-sum game aspect to the equation of [imagery:poet] in haiku. Every syllable spent on the poet is lost from the imagery. It is ineluctable.

    It is a commonplace to say that the readers of haiku “complete the poem.” And, it is true. Concomitantly, the reader of haiku is the sole arbiter of its success. The customer is always right! This is a far cry from the general tenor of western verse in which correctly understanding a poem is greatly valued.

    As we all know well, the study of haiku is the work of a lifetime. There is much to know, if one would write haiku well. There are a broad variety of opinions on various aspects of the art, held passionately by some. The community seems to always be striving for orthodoxy: what is right? what is true?; but for haiku in English, orthodoxy is chimerical. Haiku in English is in the early stages of becoming; orthodoxy will come, eventually, from the pens of poets, not from the analyses of critics. Poetic practice will, with generations of use, produce orthodoxy; not the fiats of even the greatest experts can substitute for the verse itself. In such a climate, to suggest that critics and commenters upon haiku in English hew to some orthodoxy, to some agreed use of terms of art, to someone’s standards of terminology, is just too much. The art of haiku in English is happening now and all voices commenting upon it should speak freely.

    I very much enjoy f/k/a for the fresh ideas and opinions expressed here. Thank you for allowing me my rant.

    best wishes,

    Comment by Denis M. Garrison — December 19, 2008 @ 4:37 pm

  8. Many thanks for taking the time to offer a thoughtful “rant,” Denis. Please come back often with more of your insights and opinions.

    There is a difference between proclaiming an orthodoxy and attempting to describe a genre that has a long tradition. If poets (and editors) will indeed decide what the contours of the haiku genre is, they need to be humble in the face of that tradition, and respect the expectations of readers. At some point, the poets, critics and editors might want to consider creating a new genre, rather than insisting on pushing the envelope of the existing genre until it rips open and no longer has any recognizable shape.

    Comment by David Giacalone — December 19, 2008 @ 5:29 pm

  9. reading the poems taken from dandelion clocks reminded me of why yvonne & i presented fish in love best anthology in the 07 mildred k. book contes.

    props & bows to roberta and ellen for another stellar job of editing.

    ed markowski

    Comment by ed markowski — December 19, 2008 @ 10:52 pm

  10. Fantastic..
    Dandelion Clocks has been well
    received by all…and I especially
    love the”Quick Definition of Haiku” as it is difficult in this
    area to explain just what it is
    I do.
    Thanks for the info.
    P>S> How does one join f/k/a

    Comment by Merrill Ann Gonzales — December 21, 2008 @ 2:45 pm

  11. Thank you for your kind words, Merrill. I enjoyed your “rake/mint” haiku in Dandelion Clocks.

    f/k/a doesn’t have “members.” Over the past five years, I have occasionally invited haiku poets who have an extensive body of published work that I admire to become an Honored Guest Poet — which really means I’ve asked for permission to post their past and future poems here, offering them a forum that mostly attracts persons not previously aware of real haiku.

    For a couple of years, I wrote a post every day and included poems by an Honored Guest or two (and something from dagosan). That allowed me to feature each Honored Guest about once a month. I’ve slowed down a bit the past two years.

    There are, of course, far too many fine haiku poets for me to attempt to follow them all.

    Comment by David Giacalone — December 21, 2008 @ 3:33 pm

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