Shamrock Haiku Journal

Haiku from Ireland and the rest of the world

Issue 2



Haiku Journal

of the Irish Haiku Society


Focus on



We showcase here a selection of haiku from four Scandinavian countries: Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden. As we are planning to publish a special Swedish issue of Shamrock in the foreseeable future, this selection highlights work by only one Swedish poet, notably Tomas Tranströmer.





May Day dawning...
the letterbox clicks
in the dark


each stone
next to its shadow –
April sun!


misty morning
she walks her aged poodle
around the cherry tree


my neighbours' wind chimes
and mine...
same sound


spring breeze
the fields slightly tinged
with green


road signs
for whiteness

-- Allan Dystrup



Golden-brown roadside trees…
the felled ones
still green


yet halfway up the wall –
orange roses


My wedding bouquet:
weeds of meadows and fields
mingled with roses


Half a chestnut on the path,
a spiny shell in my pocket
for arthritis


On the wall,
the vine and sunset glow –
indoors, only art


rotting leaves piling up
on the lake surface –
the current

-- Hanne Hansen



Special offer at Tesco:
gorgeous roses
in plastic pots


A rosebush, just purchased –
digging a deeper hole
for it


Plenty of green freckles
on rosebuds:
hungry plant-lice


Flying summer…
long threads in the air,
new-born spiders


Invisible aeroplanes…
white trails in the blue sky
form a cross


Bright moon
the last birds of summer
dissolve in the night

-- Sys Matthiesen



Winds go quiet –
leaves cling to the branches
averting autumn


Sun creeps into my room,
stays there
in eclipse


Quietness in the air –
they forgive each other
for a while


Man away from home –
dark girls in the moon


The moon
too round to hide behind
these cypresses


The sky breathing –
we can see silver fillings,


Rain falls –
no home for it
up aloft

-- Lone Munksgaard Nielsen

Translated from the Danish by Anatoly Kudryavitsky






Summer cycling –
keeping me company,
my shadow

-- Riita Rossilahti



a man waiting for a train
behind the pillar


morning bus
a procession of shadows
on book pages


in the park:
today a greener day
than yesterday

-- Jari Sutinen

English versions by Anatoly Kudryavitsky






the noise of a train
over a gaggle of geese
this morning


on new asphalt


cold draught –
through the open door,
winter stars


almost home…
a buzzard soaring
on spread wings


a colder day
the gibbous moon
on new ice


the faltering patter
of high heels


dull day
my neighbour’s gate

-- Odd Gurre Aksnes (English versions by Anatoly Kudryavitsky)






Tomas Tranströmer

Haiku poems from
The Great Mystery


The lamasery
with hanging gardens –
a battle-piece


Thoughts at a standstill:
in the palace yard


Standing on the balcony
in a cage of sunbeams –
like a rainbow


Humming in the mist –
a fishing boat out there:
trophy on the waters


The wall of hopelessness –
arriving and departing,
faceless pigeons


A stag basks in the sun –
flies flit and sew the shadow
on the ground


Shaggy pines
in this tragic swamp –
for ever and ever


November sun –
my gigantic shadow drifts,
becomes blurry


Death bends over me –
I’m a chess problem, and he
has the solution


Afterglow –
looking at me, tugboats
with bulldog‘s faces


Rifts and troll-paths
on the ledges –
the dream, an iceberg


Climbing up a hill
in the full blaze of the sun –
goats devour fire

In the library of half-wits,
a sermon-book on the shelf


He writes on and on…
glue flowing in the canals;
the ferry across the Styx


Thick forest
the abode of the penniless god –
the walls shine


A black-and-white magpie
jumps stubbornly, zigzags
across the fields


Cringing shadows…
we're lost in this wood
among clans of morels


See me sitting calmly
like a beached skiff –
I'm happy here


The rising grass…
his face, a rune-stone
raised in memory


At a certain hour
the blind wind will rest
against the façades


Blazing sun here –
a mast with black sails
from the days of old


The roof cracks open
and a dead man sees me –
this face…


Hear the sough of rain…
I whisper a secret
so that I can get in


A scene on the platform –
such a strange calm
the inner voice


The sea is a wall –
I hear gulls scream
they wave to us


The divine tail-wind:
a soundless shot coming –
the prolonged dream


Ash-coloured silence –
the blue giant goes by,
cold breeze from the sea


Strong and slow wind
from the seaside library –
I’ll rest here


Translated from the Swedish by Anatoly Kudryavitsky






Tranströmer and his Haikudikter

by Anatoly Kudryavitsky


Tomas Tranströmer was born in 1931 and grew up in Stockholm. A former psychologist, he now is one of Sweden’s most important poets, with many published volumes of poetry and numerous translations of his work into most European languages.

He started writing haiku quite early, in 1959, after visiting a fellow psychologist who worked in the Hällby Youth Custody Centre. Tranströmer then composed a short selection of haiku that contained these:

Extracting chanterelles
from his pockets:
caught fugitive

Night lorry rolling by,
making inmates’ dreams

Years later, Tranströmer’s “prison haiku” were published in book-form as Fängelse / Prison (2001).

The poet’s next collection entitled Den stora gåtan / The Great Mystery (2004) contained forty-five haiku written over the course of more than forty years. Tranströmer called these poems Haikudikter, however the readers won’t fail to notice that he writes haiku in his own way. The Swedish haiku poet Helga Härle asserts that Tranströmer 's Haikudikter  “hardly could be called haiku or senryu”, as they are “rich in metaphors, sometimes also reclining on an abstraction..” On the other hand, some of the Haikudikter  were first published (in another translation) in "Blithe Spirit", the magazine of the British Haiku Society. Indeed, many of these pieces are nothing short of the qualities we admire in haiku, and the author undoubtedly experienced what we call a "haiku moment". In the following piece Tranströmer uses the technique of the sketch, or Shiki's shasei:

November sun –
my gigantic shadow drifts,
becomes blurry

The imagery in Haikudikter  is extremely rich, and these poems are highly "visual". The following haiku is hard to forget once you've read it, as it contains a striking image:

Afterglow –
looking at me, tugboats
with bulldog‘s faces

If we take a look at the usage of season words in Haikudikter, we’ll see that it is quite sporadic. Of course, some of these texts have little in common with haiku. The author every so often employs a “non-haiku” technique; e.g. he sometimes writes about abstract things (“the wall of hopelessness”) and uses a direct metaphor, as well as a simile without dropping the word “like” (“like a rainbow”). There are some other things quite unusual for haiku poetry here, e.g. the mentioning of 'the penniless god' and, in another poem, “the ferry across the Styx”. But again, we may not deny an author who would write haiku about, say, the flying Pope the right to call himself a haijin.

In Haikudikter , Tranströmer mostly uses the 5-7-5 form. We have to say that Swedish is far more suitable for writing 5-7-5 haiku than English. Compare one of Tranströmer's original poems to a 5-7-5 English version of it:

Taket rämnade
och den döda kan se mig.
Detta ansikte.

(From: Tranströmer, T. Den stora gåtan. Albert Bonniers Förlag, Sweden, 2004)

The roof broke apart
and the dead man can see me
can see me. That face.

(transl. by Robin Fulton. From: Tranströmer, T. Den stora gåtan / The Great Enigma. Radjhani Publications. Kolkata, India, 2006)

This is the reason why the translations of Haikudikter  on these pages are free-form haiku. A new translation of 28 haiku from this book was made especially for this publication.

Overall, we would describe Haikudikter  as an experiment in haiku, all the more interesting because it was performed by one of the best-loved European writers of today. "We can hear the poet’s inner voice in his haiku," the Swedish critic Torsten Rönerstrand wrote about Tranströmer's Haikudikter. Indeed, the initial silence in these short poems transforms itself into a very unusual language, which really is the language of the poet’s soul.





The Northern Moon

by Tatyana Golovina (St. Petersburg, Russia)





Haiku & Senryu


on St Patrick’s Day
shamrock confetti showers
she thinks of her home

-- Barbara A Taylor (Australia)



St. Patrick‘s Day –
not knowing any better,
lambs dance a set


the moon globe
hanging on the horizon…
an unshed tear


low autumn sun
crimsoning the mountain –
rutting stags roar

-- Paddy Bushe (Ireland – transl. from the Irish by the author and Anatoly Kudryavitsky)



winter sunrise
rust on an unused
stretch of track


sharp blue sky
the strangeness of a stile
without its fence


rising tide
all the wigeon
backsliding upriver

-- Martin Lucas (England)



more hammering –
one way and another
April wind


uncertain sky
the edge of a rose petal
curling back


noon sun
above the vineyard –
a cluster of friends


iced in –
the puppet show
slowed by a knot


"Rhapsody in Blue"
fogged windows holding
winter out

-- Peggy Willis Lyles (USA)




long shadows
the pochard's bill
tucked into his breast


flood debris
the flexing legs
of the spring dipper


a stonechat lands
on the highest bramble
evening sunlight


morning haze . . .
the shades of twigs added
to the magpies’ nest

-- John Barlow (England)




returning home…
towering sunflowers
hunched into their leaves


winter solstice
steam rising
from the gutter

-- Helen Buckingham (England)



the dying dog hears something
i can't


home forclosure...
a jehova's witness comes
peddling paradise


St. Patrick's day...
in our pot
a watery broth

-- Ed Markowski (USA)



sunlight shifts
with the cumulus--
flight of a curlew


shifting currents…
a coot scrambles
to stay mid-river


snow whirls
through climbing-frame bars
the squirrel's leap

-- Matthew Paul (England)



golden leaves
she opens a bag
of lemon drops


old headstone
cobwebs fill a cracked


sunlit mason jar
Grandma and Grandpa
exchange fingerprints

-- Dustin Neal (USA)



a few spring flakes
the old birdhouse nailed
to a dead tree

cool morning
the pond's stillness
after the duck

-- Bruce Ross (USA)



man with a limp…
his arthritic dog
keeps pace


museum –
a dead beetle
in the armour

-- Quendryth Young (Australia)




the mountaintop...
only here do I see
its many sides

higher than the fence post
I know is there

-- J.D. Heskin (USA)




flutters with the wind
four eyes evanescing
web trapped butterfly


encircled by my fingers
the crescent moon
sails lakes of tea

-- Jenni Meredith (England)




one exhalation
among many in the bus
fogs up the window


in the shower’s steam
a rope of hair twists and coils
as I clear the drain

-- Ivy Alvarez (Wales/Australia)



new town
the sound of the house


old lover...
letting her fingers run through
what's left

-- Robert Lucky (Thailand/USA)



pearl moon
at twilight –
wet footprints glisten

-- Sian Evans (England)




home late
a rotting flower
blocks the doorway

-- Matt Hetherington (Australia)




after the neighbour’s wife
on a hot day

-- Jeffrey Woodward (USA)




wedding cake
for breakfast
hungry still

-- Jo McInerney (Australia)




alone this cold night
knock knock
of the radiator

-- Philip Miller (USA)




clouds begin to clot --
shorn lawn suddenly
a deeper green

-- Richard Stevenson (Canada)




gardenias –
a butterfly zigzags
through their perfume

-- Nathalie Buckland (Australia/Wales)






The Day That Elvis Died

Northern Ireland, August 16, 1977


by Barbara A Taylor (Australia)



crows’ calls in elms
   wet earth on timber
      remembering them

My mother bravely waves her king farewell. I cry tears for words not said. Pallbearers carry his open casket past us, through the great hall onto the porch between Doric pillars, down wide gray steps, as he had wished, to slowly pace the winding white-fenced avenue towards copper beeches and grand spreading chestnut trees. It was my father’s favourite, to walk there with his faithful hounds. A Bunuel scene this gloomy Irish day with its drizzly rain, the bowler hats, chequered caps and bobbing black umbrellas. Aside the white-fenced driveway the snorting stallion canters close by the crawling hearse. A line behind, of mourners, shuffles steady steps on pebbles towards the old stone gate-lodge. Armoured tanks with bullet-proofed British soldiers stop, search me on my way to the cemetery. I stand stooped in soaking rain to see his coffin slowly lowered. Steely, long faces mutter blessings. At home that night, after the grievers leave our house of death, when my mother, still distressed, pulls apart the heavy velvet curtains (no longer is my family home to be so sombre as a funeral parlour subsumed with sympathies), to take my mind away from sorrow I watch the news, learn that The King is dead. Death follows us all day. All week. All month. Each time the lounge-door handle turns we raise our heads, look expectantly for daddy. More silence, only acceptance that he won’t be back. My grief, my fear, is strangely transposed to that “Gracelands” mansion, gripped in Memphis-fever-swallowed tears. I cry. Two idols are gone.

Today, another year is over. Another anniversary comes. The media, in Elvis frenzy, asks: Where were you the day that Elvis Died? It’s thirty years since they both departed. Oh, my papa, to me you are so wonderful. We sang these words together. We are still here, we are still singing There will be peace in the valley one day.

sparkles in signals
   on speckled tree trunks
      after the rain