first cold night--
the click of your domino
as we play by the fire

—Michael Dylan Welch

Geppo XXI:6, Nov.-Dec. 1998, p. 5.
Pontoon #9, 2006, p. 69.

This poem was originally written for the Geppo's "challenge kigo" column, where you write a poem with an assigned kigo, or season word -- in this case, "first cold night."

About the author: Michael Dylan Welch is editor/publisher of Tundra: The Journal of the Short Poem. A long-time vice president of the Haiku Society of America, he was also cofounder of the Haiku North America conference in 1991, cofounder of the American Haiku Archives in 1996, and founder of the Tanka Society of America in 2000. He has published his poetry in hundreds of journals and anthologies in more than a dozen languages, and has won first prize in each of the Henderson, Brady, Drevniok, and Tokutomi contests, among others. Though originally British, and having grown up in England, Ghana, Australia, and Canada, Michael now lives with his wife and two children near Seattle, Washington.

Responses to the haiku for 9 November 2007 by Michael Dylan Welch

    b. m. richardson (orgbob at webtv dot net)
    2007-11-09 04:07:23

    first cold night
    was it at my birth--
    midst november insomnia

    2007-11-09 07:53:11

    frosty window...
    my tired mind shams renga
    -on line-

    Helen Buckingham
    2007-11-09 08:30:50

    wonderfully atmospheric

    2007-11-09 09:11:00

    indian summer
    shocked into reality
    first cold night

    Vasile Moldovan (vasilemoldovan at yahoo dot com)
    2007-11-09 13:11:51

    the moon is cold too...
    my hands warming one another
    by the fireside

    paul winters
    2007-11-09 13:18:28

    brevity should apply to the bio also.

    the rumble of boggle cubes
    as we sit out the storm

    b. m. richardson (orgbob at webtv dot net)
    2007-11-09 13:59:41

    paul, what constitutes brevity; oops, paul winters, what constitutes brevity.

    Michael Dylan Welch (WelchM at aol dot com)
    2007-11-09 14:59:37

    Thanks, all, for the comments and poems. I've sometimes heard people say that haiku (and even other writing) should use the fewest words possible. Instead, however, I think it's best to use the fewest words necessary. That's an important difference.

    b. m. richardson (orgbob at webtv dot net)
    2007-11-09 17:30:58

    michael, too often an explanation isn't sufficed within a few words. fewest words possible/necessary suggests sterility. brief words, even when synonymous, leaves much to be desired. i waiver. żbrevity? "conciseness" better serves. is there a difference, if quality is being observed.

    validity of what others say?

    cool night air
    rustling through the fronds
    this spider continues to web

    Michael Dylan Welch
    2007-11-09 18:06:29

    The distinction I'm trying to make is that "fewest words possible" tends to lop off useful words (such as articles), as if merely shortness were a virtue. Some things are novels, some things are tanka, some are haiku, some haiku are refined by saying what's needed. "Fewest words necessary" strives to say what needs to be said, which includes the avoidance of sterility. That's the point.

    Collin Barber
    2007-11-09 18:10:30

    Enjoyed the poem and the discussion.

    judith ingram
    2007-11-09 19:48:38


    Gosia Zamorska
    2007-11-10 09:03:17

    I like the haiku very much. The domino matches to the other pieces, as You match to her in this peaceful, quiet and warm evening -- together at home.


    b. m. richardson (orgbob at webtv dot net)
    2007-11-10 12:53:20

    begging to differ; while observing 400 characters rule. haiku fail from (counting of syllables) syndrome. haiku are rendered senseless by fewness. "i'm trying to make", is there a difference had your words been, "i'm making"? (few) has never equated to (what's necessary). a novel is expected to be of many pages; but isn't necessary

    coldest night
    dominoes click
    as we play, fireside


    Michael Dylan Welch (WelchM at aol dot com)
    2007-11-10 13:50:40

    I think we agree. Your revision isn't the same, obviously, and that's my point. It veers towards the fewest words possible, and isn't the fewest words necessary -- which require saying what needs to be said, for meaning, tone, music, tradition, and other things. To me, your revision isn't an example of the fewest words "necessary" at all. In other words, how long is a piece of string?

    b. m. richardson (orgbob at webtv dot net)
    2007-11-11 06:22:58

    string's length, (about this long). some sophistication to the question, thoughts of (php:a server-side html embedded scripting language); now is not the time for that discussion.
    there's been agreement to certain points in your response; hashing this, i drew a proverbial line ;-)
    my remake, yes, fewer words, even fewer renders it nonsensical

    old aches
    sun shines brighter on
    new day

    judith Ingram (super dot ingram at verizon dot net)
    2007-11-11 14:23:14

    Gosia, I likeyour response very much. For me, you are "right on"!

    2007-11-11 16:51:34


    Michael Dylan Welch
    2007-11-11 22:42:27

    How long is a piece of string? As long as it needs to be. I mean that the best piece of string will be exactly the length it needs to be for a particular purpose, the way an engine has no unnecessary parts -- as opposed to being "as small as possible."

    And yes, Gosia, thanks for your comments -- something I hadn't even realized about my own poem (yet subconsciously there). Much appreciated.

    b. m. richardson (orgbob at webtv dot net)
    2007-11-12 19:08:35

    interesting analogy; again, i differ. (a) often is an indefinite article. in your question, the identity of the referent seems unknown(not this nor that piece...). (a) better phrase, "how long is (the)..."; or use partitive article, reflects an unknown amount. rumor has it, there are no english partitive articles. too often, a piece of string isn't the exact length needed(too short/long). "best"?

    Lesley Dewar
    2007-11-12 19:23:08

    first cold night
    kangaroos thud by, as we shiver
    in our hammocks

    Thus was our introduction to our bush block in Australia, on Christmas Eve.

    paul winters
    2007-11-12 19:27:17

    none of this addresses the issue of the bio
    dwarfing the poem. but that's ok.

    picture window
    my face obscures
    the mountain view

    Michael Dylan Welch
    2007-11-12 20:22:08

    Never mind the analogy if it doesn't work for you. Cut the string exactly to the length needed, and don't put up with pieces of string that are the wrong length. Regardless of the analogy, a haiku should find its ideal length and form to fit what needs to be said (Denise Levertov referred to this as organic form). Again, there's a difference between shortest possible and shortest necessary. :-)

    b. m. richardson (orgbob at webtv dot net)
    2007-11-13 10:42:58

    presumptuous, (the) string isn't too short.
    michael, much in life one has to deal with; yet, we find ways of making it work. (a) thought on (the) haiku, in our haste to write a(an) haiku, there's too (much) disregard of (the) original language being (a necessary) factor; albeit, from our blissful moments, we attempt to make it work...

    sidebar paul w, answer (the) question.

    Michael Dylan Welch
    2007-11-20 00:05:02

    Of course, we always try to make our experience work in haiku. That may well be a separate joy from the challenge of crafting a haiku. Either way, in polishing a poem of any length, seasoned writers will tell you that, in the process, the poem finds its rightness. For me, one way I describe that rightness is by saying that it should have the fewest words necessary, not the fewest words possible.

    b. m. richardson (orgbob at webtv dot net)
    2007-11-20 09:02:42

    sigh, that proverbial can of worms.

    rightness, even justness(shorter) impedes the thought process.
    rightness: conformity with some esthetic(aesthetic) standard of correctness. sure, your seasoned writers might agree.

    rightness, & the haiku wouldn't have developed, nor further evolve.
    albeit, i hope(to wish for something with expectation of its fulfillment) you respond again ;-)