This haiku elicited some great commentaries, and drew out responses from me that were unexpected, but useful as I continue to be a poet.

many thanks!

Haiku Commentary

the sewing pins
of rainfall

Alan Summers (UK)
Modern Haiku volume 48.3 Autumn 2017

Commenting on a master’s haiku is always a gamble, but fundamentally … fortuna adiuvat audaces. At first, I wondered what the light of the river was: the brightness of the river’s surface or the lights on its shore … then I realized that it didn’t really matter and that I didn’t have to rationalize too much. The image that reaches me is immediate: dark, a light that reflects on the river and on falling raindrops. The raindrops, if illuminated by an intense light in the dark, can highlight and hypnotically catalyze the eye. Enlightenment that reveals what would otherwise escape us. And here, they are clearly evident: these thin needles that sew the river with the sky, the darkness with darkness, in a single landscape.

This haiku, masterfully expressed in a few words, has…

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Poets are always influenced by other poets, and sometimes we want to acknowledge that in a poem. What better way than to add ‘after …’ as I’ve done here with Fay Aoyagi, and Jim Kacian, as well as the artists Edward Hopper (‘Nighthawks’); and Michael Te Rakato Parekowhai’s He Korero Purakau mo Te Awanui o Te Motu: story of a New Zealand river:

Alan Summers

weird laburnum

the river the mouth makes its own mothership

after Jim Kacian

the sodium streets
sizzle in its rain

vertical slat weather
a lonely cash register
crosses the street

black cow soda
the cherry topped stools
that can spin

diving in and out
of doorways of rain
bandana trilby

a lost cafe
returning with its ghosts
from the war

after Hopper

who plays
the blood red piano
[at] tequila sunrise

after Aoyagi & Parekowhai

Alan Summers

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Bristol Museums haiku event banner Screenshot 2019-08-19 at 13.37.12

Japanese Print usage permission by Bristol Museum and Art Gallery


A rare opportunity to discover the sensory nature of haiku in the beautiful surroundings of the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery.

5 September 2019


Discover how to write your own haiku inspired by a visit to our Masters of Japanese Prints: Nature and Seasons exhibition which features the iconic Great Wave off Kanagawa by Hokusai.

The event will be facilitated by poetry experts Bertel Martin, Alan Summers and Karen Hoy, and a selection of participants’ haiku will be read aloud on the night:


When I went to this Van Gogh exhibition, things happened beyond the paintings. It’s an extraordinary experience being with Van Gogh, because people are drawn there, as if he is a talisman, but we are never aware of the different ways he reaches out to all of us. But something changes, the air is charged, I witnessed people gathering courage for non-art related challenges, and somehow he helps, with, and beyond, the paintings themselves.

Perhaps because he suffered so much from one lost love and somehow survived, despite being incredibly scarred. He gave everything back to another experience which somehow benefits others that he would never know.

“Van Gogh’s combat fatigues” is about one very young woman going through great changes at a time of social uncertainity. She wore combat fatigues with Van Gogh art, and I think Vincent will stay with her.

How I wrote about the paintings and the people past and present comes from two new exercises I’ve developed. I’m delighted that a big exhibition, in September, has invited myself and Karen (Call of the Page), and it will be about some of the art that had such a large impact on Vincent van Gogh. Intrigued?

Alan Summers
co-founder, Call of the Page

weird laburnum

The EY Exhibition: Van Gogh and Britain
Tate Britain 2019

the man who isn’t
with anyone
stops alongside
different people

choosing them
over the paintings

he has birds
in his arms

and loose locks
of hair made from thought

there are small lives
within the frames of paintings
having candlelit dinners

and the last door
out of the exhibition
will begin to sound
like a trombone
taking leave
of someone

we hear the chatter
between airlocks
it’s news of a hundred
and two decades old

as the hours close
in on themselves
the trombone reflects
on Louis Armstrong
talking to Vincent

backend rain…
a pair of canvas boots
framed by the door

Alan Summers

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I have developed a surrealist bent, in some of my work, partly as it showcases truth in a different set of brackets, partly as I cannot be hemmed in by one approach. I’ve watched documentaries on both 20th century world wars as a child, and my parents still had food ration vouchers in the kitchen drawers, even though the final rationing stopped way back in 1953, although there might have been other kinds of rationing even later, in Britain. 

In total war, usually military, but now a corporate one against nature as ‘nature’ won’t buy consumer goods, there is a diminishing of both birdsong, and of insects. We are actually getting to the point where so-called peace time has a lack of birds and insects which you would only expect in front line situations.

So the piece is a combination of the human/government/corporate attack on all other wildlife/nature, underpinned by the mythological big football match on Christmas Day during World War One. And there’ll always be Kafka as well, of course, dealing with bureaucratic mazes and insects waking up as humans, or is it humans waking up? 

Alan Summers

weird laburnum

Pliny’s Idea
the spells and charms
of bees in lust

don’t we all have
some rights?

Christmas moon
the sheen rolling off a football
close to enemy trenches

the sun crawls
to a stop

frying an egg
off the car hood…
forgetting pollen

Brief Encounter
it’s still illegal to kiss
other lifeforms

Martian townships
how do we start to make
new prejudices

a weaving sky
into synonyms

Alan Summers

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Delighted to have some of my more unusual haiku published!

weird laburnum

a dreaming forest busy as Hitchcock


linear radio the triangle in rope’s darker receptacles


traffic snarl the wolf with me plays dog


when yellow is round I miss your apostrophe


into the day
of disappearing corners
the Vega star


plasma rain
the moon clicks
its QR code

Alan Summers

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mythical river

the colors of the sun

up to moonrise

Alan Summers

Read and enjoy the excellent and perceptive commentary of this haiku by Miriam Sagan.

Miriam's Well: Poetry, Land Art, and Beyond

mythical river

the colors of the sun

up to moonrise

This haiku is very evocative, but it has hidden subtlety. The description of the river as “mythical” seems to put us in the realm of the fairy tale, or imagination. And yet I am reading it as a real river, made supernatural by the play of light. The colors of the sun can be day merging into sunset until the moon rises. Both sun and moon share the sky, which is in itself archetypical–a kind of East of The Sun and West of The Moon feeling. These cosmic sources saturate the small poem and it is colorful–although none of the colors is ever described directly. It is the reader who provides this reaction shot.
How lovely!

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