so like bones
the bone-white branches
of the birch tree

17 Responses

  1. Frances Ruth Harris Says:

    The natural world enchants, always.
    Thank you.

  2. syllable?17 Says:


    Yes, Bill, birches have this chalky, bony knobblyness and flaky skin quality. Ghostly and yet corpse like. Etherial (whatever time of the year,) and yet of the mulch and soil. Ambiguous creatures. And yet, there’s a little grove, near where I live, which always reminds me of a gathering of elvin royalty.

    winter birches

    ? ?17


  3. Norman Darlington Says:

    Wonderfully haikai – I love it!

  4. angie Says:


  5. syllable?17 Says:

    Senryu, Norman Darlington, not haikai!

  6. Rhoda Galgiani Says:

    How can you say this is a Senryu syllable17, when the subject is about Nature? I believe that is the difference between the Haiku and the Senryu form of poetry? Great posting Bill…

  7. syllable?17 Says:

    A senryu is about, more or less, anything that falls out of the conventional mesh of a haiku, Rhoda Galgiani. For example, and with respect to Bill, this would be my haiku version of the original senryu :


    so like bones
    the bone-white branches
    of the winter birch


    check ‘senryu’ here, at Tom’s excellent site:

    Bill Waters’ (whose Twitter account I have joined,) senryu finds a visual echo, *non-seasonally*, between the appearance of birch branches and human bones. A nature spun senryu!


    winter birches
    something of the giraffe
    an albino?


  8. L.G. Sand Says:

    as with all your posts, syllable?17, you are taking a very narrow and personal view of Bill’s haiku and attempting to foist it upon a larger readership. Rhonda, you’re right on.

    Even after all this discussion, my impression is of animal bones bleached by the sun – no human element for me, not that there is anything wrong with the human element in haiku. I’m sure I don’t need to remind you that it is acceptable to write of the human element in modern English language haiku – urban ku for example. After all, whenever I enter the forest or the ocean, I enter the food chain and not necessarily at the top. If that isn’t a basic example of the natural order, then. . . .

    So, if it is “true haiku”, or “tru ku” you seek, then you have come to the wrong site. Dylan has and continues to do a good job of editing a fine site of modern English language haiku, tanka, senryu and micro poetry. Thank you for your efforts Dylan.

  9. syllable?17 Says:

    Yes, L.G. Sand, clearly, Bills’ senryu is indeed a senryu. I quite like it. As for definitions, a rose is a rose by any other name, right? What has Dylan got to do with it? Leave the poor guy alone!

    a dog in the snow
    chases its tail
    for a laugh

    ? s?17

  10. Bill Waters Says:

    Over the years, I?ve seen senryu defined in a number of intelligent ways — so many ways, in fact, that I?ve come to see the defining of senryu as an overlay of spectrums: simple to nuanced, traditional to experimental, Japanese-centric to Western-centric, and so on. I?m not surprised, then, that there is debate over whether this poem is senryu or haiku. All I can say with certainty is that I intended the poem as a haiku (and even its status as a haiku might be debated by some because I chose to use an overt simile).

    In any case, I?m glad you found my poem enjoyable — thank you, everybody, for your comments! Through conversation, we all win as we sharpen our understanding of the craft and deepen our appreciation of its products. :- )

  11. syllable?17 Says:

    No simile in this senryu of yours, Bill – a permitable allusion in the type of white you designate on the tree, I would hazard. Issa was fond of doing this in his haiku – a lot (by way of an authentic example).

    I think, sadly, what we have to live with are two different definitions of ‘haiku’ :

    The popular, Western, definition, which uses (confuses really) the term ‘haiku’ to designate any Japaneseque short form poem, whatever rules, or not, employed.

    The Japanese definition (in my own view, the benchmark), which has certain requirements; seasonality (including cultural events which honour the big wheel turning,) being somewhat crucial to a Taoist/Zen, et al, ethos.

    This is where senryu and zappai are useful categories, being that they provide a local habitation and place for all the non-haiku poems (including much jetsom and flotsam!) which use SOME of the structural elements of a haiku proper, but for non-haiku porpoises, typically.

    But, at the end of the day, and to repeat, ‘a rose is a rose by any other name,’ right?

    ? ?17

  12. judith ingram Says:

    Bill . . . I like your haiku very much and can see the white bones in every sense of the word.

    Syllable 17, I think it is time for you “to get a life”!

  13. angie Says:

    @syllable?17 —

    “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
    By any other name would smell as sweet.”
    Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

    proper, at the end of the day?

  14. syllable?17 Says:

    Good point, angie, After all is said and done, a rose remains what it is, a rose. How much more so a ku, which either works or not?

  15. syllable?17 Says:

    How so, judith ingram?

  16. Jeanne Kirby Bruneau Says:

    Your imagery is so strong and compelling–I'm really tempted to use your poems as idea for paintings (with your permission, of course). i can really "see" the words.

  17. martin1223 Says:

    within the birch forest
    the moonlit skull

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