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with Kevin McLaughlin

Kevin MacLaughlin, poetry magazine, haiku

Beware the Ghost Cave


The chief quality of the haiku poet is mindfulness. Most everyone reading this column will have heard the injunction to live in the moment. It is extremely difficult to accomplish. Daydreaming is very pleasant, and in so doing, you can disappear down a Ghost Cave for hours, time during which you do not fully exist. How soothing it is to replay events in our mind, shifting around the actual events to provide more felicitous outcomes that could have been. When you are distracted or in a Ghost Cave, you are unlikely to write a haiku of any value.


The other noteworthy quality is an understanding of impermanence. The world, the universe, is driven by impermanence. Each moment brings changes on a moment by moment basis, passing too swiftly to be noticed. All entities and systems conform to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, as any haikuist will soon discover.


Golden orb weaver,

Perfectly still in its web,

In the mangrove swamp.


Kevin McLaughlin


Diana L. Frybarger of Knoxville, Tennessee, has composed a set of linked verse that can be appreciated both individually and as a chain with a common image.


Hummingbirds staggering

to and fro — sweetness

at the lilac festival


Hummers repenting

if only the lame and blind

could touch the hem . . .

Hummers at the drawing board —

magnificent ensembles

for only the sweet


Hummingbirds nesting

on humongous tulips —

Holland’s elitist!


Hummingbirds flocking

to a tulip extravaganza —

black and white excluded.


tiny hummingbird

transforming basic mindset —

justice for the oppressed


(This is renso, an association of ideas with the hummingbird image nuanced in each of the haiku.)


Diana L. Frybarger


Carol Barrett, from Oregon, holds doctoral degrees in both clinical psychology and creative writing. Her books include Calling in the Bones, which won the Snyder Prize from Ashland Poetry Press. Her haiku have a delightful theme that, like Ms. Frybarger’s haiku, can be enjoyed separately or read as linked.


Calico paws raised,

She finagles tenderness.

Now a new trick: watch!


Cat jumps on suitcase.

Travel delayed.  Belly rubbed.

I buy a cat tote.


Faculty meeting—

Webcam set.  Across my face

Her wide tail swishes.

A circle of light

For naps.  A drippy faucet

To sip.  Paradise!


(Note that throughout her set, she employs deft punctuation.)


A bevy of quail

Scurrying past her crouch, saved

By kamikaze spider.


She steps on my chest,

Launches a buttery purr.

Eyes plead: sushi please.


(Ms. Barrett understands cat nature. Not many do.)


Carol Barrett



Ingrid Bruck, from Pequa, Pennsylvania, has recently been published in Failed Haiku and Halcyon Days. Her first chapbook, Finding Stella Maris, was released this year. Even in a form as slender as haiku, Ms. Bruck successfully employs an impressive economy of syllables.



groove and beat

my drum house


plink plunk plunk

falling all day

poplar leaves


tall pine

a squirrel

runs up the sky


(And from the sky to far flung galaxies . . .)



rumble marches forward

raindrops tapping leaves


Ingrid Bruck

James B. Nicola of New York City sagely writes, “Americans tend to adopt a style, form, or genre, and then make it their own.” Brilliant observation! He has been published in many journals such as Antioch, Southwest, and Atlanta Reviews. He won two Willow Review awards.


clothes weep in the dryer

lint tears I (with love) remove

restored, slightly less


unkissed cheek at hand

budding leafless early May

torture everywhere


only in this heat wave

can I think of you

and cool down


sudden summer rains

trap, surprise, refresh, cool, dry—

what a balm for minds!


rising eastern star

late-night glimmer’s fresh face, yum

firmament, swallowed


(This is an artful arrangement of words that conveys a fresh, insightful take on the eastern star.)


heaven rolls and falls

blue skies whitened, gray and wet

turn earth green then brown


James B. Nicola

Avery F. Thompson has a poetic vision, and a range, that has settled in the haiku format. That shiny stag beetle can only be seen by poets who look deeply into the nature of things.


Shiny stag beetle—

Pointy pearly tiny lance

Claimed by his last joust


A ripe brown plantain

Melting on the countertop . . .

Forlorn gate of hell


(Magnificent juxtaposition. Countertop forms an effective cutting word.)


Time with Mom today

And also mom’s father—

Peering, the hourglass


Sleeping on roadside,

The furry thief distended

With rigor mortis


Rotund gentleman—

Squishy meows reek of an

Unwanted diet


Avery F. Thompson


Rachel Zempel is a 911 dispatcher from Minnesota. She has been published in numerous journals and reviews. Her “funneling water” haiku could be used as an example of how to write a haiku; it contains the most critical of elements and has an unusual specificity — this is not just a rock in the third line, it is a basalt rock.


gold, scarlet, and orange

pirouetting from the trees

Autumn foliage


First published in Three Line Poetry.


funneling water

a deep cerulean blue

over basalt rock


First published in 50 Haikus.


percolating grounds

seep through coffeehouse chatter

Sunday smatterings


Rachel Zempel


Angela Davidson has produced a haiku which perceives one drop of water in an infinite ocean. William Blake perceived eternity in a grain of sand. Ms. Davidson’s vision is just as insightful; she also glimpses eternity, but in a drop of water.


Full moon in blue sky

Squirrel scurries along fence

Morning sun rises


One drop of water

In an infinite ocean

Waves swell out to sea


Angela Davidson


Joseph Davidson has removed many of the impediments that would block spiritual advancement. His silent birds attest to an inner monastery that has learned to reside peacefully in the world of red dust.


Childish heart laughing

Eyes embracing mystery

Alive in moment

Thick humidity

Silent birds on slate gray morn

Still grass awaits rain.


Misty morning moon

Ebbing into horizon

Night’s pyre burns in East


Joseph Davidson

Tracy Davidson lives in England and is not directly related to the two preceding haikuists. Her “turning tide” is the rhythm of all existence. And this tide connects the poet with all the whales of the oceans.


solar eclipse

your halo

slips a little


Honorable mention, Haiku Poets of Northern California.


my footprint fades

with the turning tide

hint of whale song


Honorable mention, Robert Spiess Memorial Haiku Awards.


Perseids . . .

the shower

big enough for both of us


First published in A Hundred Gourds.


Tracy Davidson

Kiersta Recktenwald, born in New England, was raised in Saudi Arabia, China, and Japan, educated in Japan and at Colby College. Kiersta has an extensive background in philosophy, religion, and psychology.


red-eye night flight

gold-bright flame-white stars watch

silver clouds streaming


night’s kindness sparkles

joy engenders gendering

hope plays peek-a-byes


(Night’s kindness is, yes, a joy and a time to peer between the veil that separates the natural from the supernatural.)


kind faces burnished

laughter poised with dancing

languishing solo


in closed steamed windows

oval scenes light fervent dreams

ridden through slowly


water-born tumblings

sea-woven wordless missives

straw anchors to sand


(This poem has a delightful rhythm, an unusual quality in 5-7-5 form.)


your eyelids flutter

would for this moment one still

be seeking enlightenment


Kiersta Recktenwald

Deborah P Kolodji is a native Californian who loves botanical gardens and beaches . . . great territory for a haiku poet. Her first book of haiku/senryu, highway of sleeping towns, won a Touchstone award from the Haiku Foundation.


the beach

emptier and emptier

moonless night


First published in the San Gabriel Poetry Journal.


bathroom lights

my illness reflected

in the mirror


two cups of tea

by the saucer magnolia

wind chimes


First published in Miju Poetry & Politics.


mackerel sky

shining days between

the bad


(Mackerel sky . . . a sublime image.)


Deborah P Kolodji

Ethan McGuire is a healthcare information technology professional from the beautiful beaches of the Gulf of Mexico. He is a proud member of the West Florida Literary Federation.


Wrinkling mirror;

grass, dirt, and sky reflected.

I pray to God here.


Tree blossoms, heat breeze,

falling leaves, white water dreams:

seasons never fail.


(A Classical haiku that contains all other Classical haikus. A masterwork!)



oak, full of tears, splinters, holes.

If only you talked.


Ethan McGuire

The best haiku, even if they don’t conform to the classical style, represent an impermanent moment of intense perception.


Kevin McLaughlin

Yet once more I encourage all haiku writers to share their work, their insights into the nature of all things, with fellow poets and BTS readers.  

For those interested in haiku,

I recommend you cast back into the BTS archives and reference the September 2016 column.  It provides a pretty thorough explanation of the basic format.

Kevin Mclaughlin

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