summer grasses
a man from Georgia
tells his dream

—Peggy Lyles

From Modern Haiku, 35:1, 2004.

In honor of Martin Luther King's speech of August 28, 1963.

About the author: Peggy Lyles is an Associate Editor of The Heron's Nest. Her most recent book is To Hear the Rain, Brooks Books 2002.

Contact: plyles at

Responses to the haiku for 28 August 2007 by Peggy Lyles

    Josh Wikoff
    2007-08-28 08:15:49

    You've honored Martin, Basho and everyone with a dream!

    Well done Peggy.

    Andrea (andrea dot cecon at gmail dot com)
    2007-08-28 10:02:29

    beautiful ku!

    Mike Farley
    2007-08-28 10:26:22

    Your name is esteemed in haiku circles while I am a relative novice and student seeking to learn and understand, and I know there are no "rules" per se, but may I please ask (1) should a haiku be a "tribute" to someone, i.e., an intellectualization?, and (2) shouldn't haiku be "in the moment" rather than looking back 44 years? Sincerely and with thanks, Mike

    Bret Wooldridge
    2007-08-28 13:19:34

    The incomparable Peggy Lyles. Always a pleasure to see one of your haiku spread its wings and fly off into the bright blue.

    Vasile Moldovan
    2007-08-28 13:21:40

    A stirring tale.

    Listening to
    the tale of a true man...
    summer grasses

    2007-08-28 15:27:52

    Mr. Mike Farley, I think D. F. Tweney can also answer your questions, if Ms. Lyles is not available to answer.

    b. m. richardson (orgbob at webtv dot net)
    2007-08-28 16:18:05

    mike farley, interesting point. yet, there is division; those who observe rules, and those who don't. i'm of the latter group. mike, be the adventurer. it will give you clarity. i've read, "one must know the rules before you can effectively break the rules"; conceivable.

    this being said on writing a haiku...


    dawn's reflection
    cross the mirrored lake--
    lingering mist

    2007-08-28 18:03:46

    Beautifully presented on so many levels, Peggy.

    wiliam nelson
    2007-08-28 18:14:04

    the interesting thing about this sketch is that without the dedication beneath the author's name it would be very difficult to
    tell that this was anything other than an anonymous man from georgia speaking to someone in a grassy field. in the "moment" the sketch provides no clue as to king's speech. i think this fact renders the piece
    ineffictive in the author's actual intent.

    2007-08-28 22:02:20

    Actually, WN, all good poetry should be open-ended enough to provide many layers to its readers. This piece does just that, with or without the note regarding Dr. King. In addition, anyone with any modicum of a western education would have caught the "dream" reference to King's famous "I Have A Dream" speech.

    charlie smith (charlie at deltaforce dot net)
    2007-08-28 23:19:45

    we all have a dream
    martin luther king's last dream
    still awakes others

    way to go Peggy !!

    Alan Summers
    2007-08-30 04:07:10

    Many in the Western world will know who, while others can google, which is a good result in itself if they do! ;-)

    It's always imperative to read English-language translation versions of contemporary Japanese haiku writers' work. They are multilayered in allusion, which many Western haiku writers forget.

    This is a fine example of allusion to Dr King (and a nod to Basho & his haiku)! ;-)

    b. m. richardson (orgbob at webtv dot net)
    2007-08-30 05:22:16

    alan, sad, many in the world won't know who, nor will they google; but, you did say "if they do".
    even in reading the english translation of contemporary writers' works, this point will be missed. why! many writers and readers haven't forgotten, many have never been broadminded; nor will ever be, while languishing in singlemindedness.

    after this, i perused ed's "lunar eclipse", again...

    toby evans
    2007-08-30 12:40:28

    head winds...
    the movement of crows
    across an alabama bridge

    spring sunset
    the emptiness
    of a memphis balcony

    now we have a tryptch of dr. kings brilliant bravery.

    Alan Summers
    2007-08-30 14:35:08

    Thanks for comments b.m., and I like very much Toby's haiku, very moving, very evocative.

    Mike Farley
    2007-08-30 22:50:33

    It still seems like Peggy's "summer grasses", along with Toby's two more to complete his tryptch threesome, all seem to be an excercise in honoring Dr. King's speech and bravery in 3 lines or less, i.e., to make the author's point, which shouldn't be the point of haiku, should it? To me, they all three seem contrived to make their points and lack any sense that they are anyone's real experience.

    2007-08-30 23:14:37

    Hi Peggy,
    I love how the grasses continue to speak...
    across the years, and through countless dreams.
    It's one of my favorites by Basho, and I felt a shiver
    of delight when you connected it to Martin Luther King.

    Alan Summers
    2007-08-31 04:08:44

    The linking allusion between "summer grasses" and Dr King is not only bigger than those two allusions, but a stroke of genius.

    It far expands "merely" honouring Dr King & his "Dream", though that is macro enough, and yet touches us in a micro way, to be part of haiku poetry.

    I prefer tingles down my spine with poetry; this haiku does; as does the subject Dr King does.

    toby evans
    2007-08-31 15:38:00

    to return to nelson's point, without a qualifier, how would one really know that
    "crows crossing an alabama bridge" had anything to do with something other than crows crossing a bridge. there's no contrivance until the tribute to dr. king is mentioned. keep in mind the origins of haiku.sake shop hokku skewered and honored
    many people. mike, what is the point of haiku?

    b. m. richardson (orgbob at webtv dot net)
    2007-08-31 17:11:44

    there are life incidents familiar to but a few. those outside this familiarity oftentimes take the singleminded approach. one being knowledgable allows for a unique visualization. if there's confusion, research the possibility of ambiguous meanings.
    the most unrealistic occurrence, i can assure you, has happened to someone, somewhere.

    i would use sweltering asphalt 'stead of summer grasses

    Collin Barber
    2007-08-31 19:27:01


    A great haiku that has sparked an interesting discussion.

    Toby, Memphis is my hometown. I love both of your haiku, even if they are contrived. Works for me.


    Mike Farley
    2007-09-01 11:57:41

    Toby - Again, I'm certainly willing to learn, but I've always understood haiku as best being an honest and intuitive response to nature and the nature of things rather than an intellectual statement designed with a poet's purpose to honor someone or some historic event.

    b. m. richardson (orgbob at webtv dot net)
    2007-09-02 04:47:03

    mike, we are what we're taught; better said, "we are what we learn".

    i'm of the frame of mind, it's good to be taught things, it's great to learn things; but why stop there. it's magnificent to go beyond the way things were done previously; striving to excel. it's call progress.
    i'm appalled by, "if i understood correctly, a haiku is suppose to be..."

    morning sky
    so blue--
    not really

    Mike Farley
    2007-09-02 17:12:13

    Bob, are you saying that, for you, a haiku can be anything?, and that there are no defining characteristics at all for this wonderful form of poetry? I ask you the same question that Toby asked me and which I tried to honestly answer - what is the point of haiku for you? Just what is it in your view, and is this one of yours a representative sample?

    morning sky
    so blue--
    not really

    toby evans
    2007-09-03 14:18:08

    for mike farley...

    from dawn to dusk
    the woodpecker's rhythm...
    labor day

    have a good one!

    Mike Farley
    2007-09-03 14:59:00

    Thank you Toby! Now THAT'S a haiku!

    labor day
    a stack of breakfast dishes
    in the sink

    have a good one yourself!

    d. f. tweney
    2007-09-03 17:06:06

    Mike, as I understand it there is a long tradition of allusion and literary/historical homage in haiku. Peggy's haiku echoes this one by Basho:

    summer grasses
    all that remains
    of warriors' dreams

    However, you are right that haiku should evoke an immediate experience. The historical dimension should be an added layer, not the primary point--else it becomes a mere epigram.

    toby evans
    2007-09-03 18:34:16

    glad you liked the poem. here's another...

    labor day dawn...
    the wake of a beaver
    washes ashore

    a beaver's dam reaches
    the opposite bank...
    the longest day

    have really enjoyed exchanging ideas on this topic.


    b. m. richardson (orgbob at webtv dot net)
    2007-09-04 04:32:43

    mike, i have only 400 characters per comment. part of your comment i can readily answer. others require deeper thoughts

    morning sky
    so blue--
    not really

    it is a haiku for me. if you're asking is it representative of what all haiku(s), to me, should be; my answer is NO. per chance you've read many works of the masters, they strayed from the stringent rules some would have you follow today.

    Peggy Lyles
    2007-09-05 09:48:58

    Warm thanks for the careful attention. I was ill on the 28th and am still convalescing. While there are numerous examples of fictional haiku by haiku masters, mine usually come from deeply felt experience, immediate or remembered. Tomorrow I will add a note about how this one came to be.

    b. m. richardson (orgbob at webtv dot net)
    2007-09-06 05:48:08

    mike, your "what is the point of haiku... in your view". in your words, i tried to find a clarifier. easier to answer, what does the traditional haiku mean to me. today's haiku has a new image, though clinging to aspects of the traditional. evoking sight, smell, and/or sound in the natural world, dreams included. in some, a dual meaning, in others merely a turning point. consisting of a line(s).

    Peggy Lyles
    2007-09-06 08:18:15

    The haiku dates to August 28th, 2003, when the "I Have a Dream" speech captured attention around the world.Hearing it repeatedly,in the context of current events, and reflecting on the 40 years since the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, affected me deeply.Ornamental grasses were looking bad as summer ended.The ongoing hope of Dr. King's message seemed vital contrast to "warriors' dreams.

    Mike Farley
    2007-09-06 11:25:43

    Hi Peggy. Nice to meet you if only in cyber-space. I own a copy of your book "To Hear the Rain" and love it.

    I guess my feeling about 'social commentary ku' reflects a matter of taste on my part. I FAR prefer your real and magical 'in-the-moment' pieces such as ...

    Indian summer
    a turtle on a turtle
    on a rock

    and ...

    spring sunbeam
    the baby's toes
    spread apart

    Best, ... Mike

    toby evans
    2007-09-08 14:42:53

    the "old friends" poem at mainichi is fantastic. wanted to let you know but knew of no other way. so, thanks to dylan for providing this convienient way to communicate.

    Lesley Dewar
    2007-09-24 17:19:35

    Fairy floss Haiku
    Pink mist drifts from sweet lips
    Sugar grain crunch, absent.

    Traditional Haiku is wonderful and very powerful - and sometimes seems like fairy floss - so quickly springing to mind, without true substance, in the traditional sense.

    Other times, in a moment, a Haiku comes which may not meet the criteria of "traditional" but which still conveys the emotion of the moment.

    Vsile Moldovan
    2009-01-12 16:40:04

    dream of a summer night:
    to listen to the grasses
    growing up