Friday, October 30, 2020

Kyle Flemmer : Contemporary Haiku


Kyle Flemmer : introduction

Catherine Vidler

Gary Barwin

Khashayar Mohammadi

Mark Laliberte


Rasiqra Revulva

Rob Taylor

Yoko's Dogs

Yoko's Dogs

 folio : Contemporary Haiku




In Birdland

twilight comes later
the white-throated sparrow’s call
shortens the mountain path

in Birdland
the singing was never as lovely

nobody in the hammock
but the blue pillow

you can’t teach a melon
how to be a melon

eight-hooter rain owl
wood owl striped owl hoot owl barred
owl lifts from the trees

drive and drive
the road goes up and down, to and fro



Haiku evolved out of Japanese linked verse; originally, they weren’t stand alone poems. What is so interesting about linked verse is the leaping, the lacunae between verses. Haiku is a way of seeing, one of the ways of Zen, and seeks to capture a moment of resonance, whether of harmony or incongruity. The season word keeps haiku and us grounded in the natural world. We have refined the prosody in our rengas to 17 syllables or fewer. This preserves the constraint and can even intensify it. The connecting two-liners we limit to 14 syllables or fewer.

I love Roland Barthes’s metaphor for haiku albeit dated in the digital world: “it is the flash of a photograph one takes very carefully (in the Japanese manner) but having neglected to load the camera with film.” That metaphor captures the effervescence, the ephemerality of the haiku moment. And to paraphrase a Basho poem, haiku is the sudden flash of lightning without commenting that life is brief.



Yoko's Dogs is a collaborative writing group formed in 2006 by poets Jan Conn, Mary di Michele, Susan Gillis, and Jane Munro. We experiment with a variety of collaborative approaches to poetry, originating in but not limited to the traditional Japanese practice of linked verse or renku. We are perhaps unique in renku in that we remove our individual names from the finished poems we create. Our collections include Whisk (Pedlar Press, 2013) and Rhinoceros (Gaspereau Press, 2016). Visit our website Yoko’s Dogs (

Jan Conn is a poet and biologist who writes from Great Barrington, MA. Her most recent book is Tomorrow's Bright White Light, Tightrope, 2016.

Poet and novelist Mary di Michele lives in Montreal. Her latest collection is Bicycle Thieves, ECW, 2017.

Susan Gillis’s most recent book is Yellow Crane (Brick Books, 2018), part love poem to Montreal and part meditation on ecologies of place, writing, and desire. Visit her online at Susan Gillis ( and Concrete & River (

Jane Munro’s most recent collection is Glass Float (Brick Books, 2020). Blue Sonoma was awarded the 2015 Griffin Poetry Prize. More at

Rob Taylor

folio : Contemporary Haiku



          the baby gifts us
silence and
the sound of it



my father’s voice becomes
my daughter’s cry



          another sunrise
but I am awake
for this one



I aim to follow in the tradition of Matsuo Bashō and Kobayashi Issa, poets who are vital to my writing practice (haiku and otherwise), while also acknowledging the language, ocean, centuries, and talented haiku poets between us. When it comes to form, I follow Bashōs lead when he said Even if you have three or four extra syllables, or even five or seven, you neednt worry as long as it sounds right. But if even one syllable is stale in your mouth, give it all your attention.” (trans. Sam Hamill) In practice, that manifests in my using seventeen syllables as an unofficial “upper limit,” and ten or so as a lower limit. But my central formal goal is to include not one unnecessary syllable.




Rob Taylor is the author of three poetry collections, including The News (Gaspereau Press, 2016), which was a finalist for the 2017 Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize. Rob is also the editor of What the Poets Are Doing: Canadian Poets in Conversation (Nightwood Editions, 2018) and guest editor of Best Canadian Poetry 2019 (Biblioasis, 2019). His fourth collection, Strangers, will be published by Biblioasis in Spring 2021. He lives with his family in Port Moody, BC.


folio : Contemporary Haiku




periods break &
are broken by passages
of tranquil reprieve



we can't see the
mountain under so much snow
yet the mountain peaks



no game show tonight
audience: ask & answer
your own questions



I have consciously (and perhaps unconsciously) harvested what I like most about the haiku I have read. There is a kernel of something in every great haiku (only a kernel because of the restrained length); it may be profundity, reflexivity, or . . . whatever it is, it is almost always delivered with light, deceptive simplicity. I have endeavoured to achieve this effect with double entendre or non sequitur. I would like to evoke the “huh?” (question) that evolves into the “aha!” (realization), but I don’t know if I’m there yet.





mwpm is the author of two chapbooks, cryptopoems (The Blasted Tree, 2018) and tm (timglaset, 2018). Their writing has also appeared in filling Station, (parenthetical), untethered, Touch the Donkey, Our Teeth, baldhip, and Plenitude. mwpm lives and writes on the Haldimand tract, traditional territory of the Neutral, Anishnaabe, and Haudenosaunee peoples.

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