A Little Inn
Of the countless excellent haiku that appear in journals and contests, the
best evoke emotion or sense of mood and offer unexpected insight. Indeed,
these qualities largely define haiku. As one who reads these brief poems
daily while wearing an editor’s cap, I am often reminded that while
the poet’s hand is invisible in an outstanding work, the crafting of
a successful haiku requires skill and percipience. Each word must be
carefully considered, no element of the finished haiku is random.
In order for a haiku to gain special notice from this journal’s
editors, its disparate images in juxtaposition must create a satisfying
resonance. A haiku often possesses other positive qualities, bonus qualities
if you will, that engage our attention. The September issue’s
Editors’ Choice Award winner is that kind of haiku:
a little inn
with a swinging sign-board . . .
the evening chill
By alluding to a well-known person or literary work, one that is meaningful
to the reader, a poem may create resonance beyond the significance of the
immediate imagery. Yet another layer of appeal surfaces when a haiku evokes
the memory of an event similar to that in the haiku. Michael
McClintock’s poem does both for this reader. Its ambience and
musicality initially draw me into the moment, and I am immediately
reminded of the small inns in Europe where I sometimes stopped many
The Japanese masters often paid homage to widely-known authors or their
works. The author of “a little inn” is in good, even revered company.
McClintock’s timeless haiku could have been as true a century or more
past as it is today. Shiki or Santoka might have stayed at such an inn
as this one, and like Basho, Issa, and other famous haijin, they wrote of
the inns they visited during their travels. In one of his most popular
haiku, Basho depicts tiredly searching for an inn and finding wisteria in
The repetition of short “i” sounds in “a little inn”
creates a pleasant assonance, enhancing a mood that invites me to enter
McClintock’s poem and linger awhile. I easily imagine coming upon
this inn, its sign-board softly creaking as it rocks in the twilight wind.
I am journeying alone, and the promise of human contact draws me closer.
Already feeling the evening chill, I walk to the door. The fire that is
surely crackling in the hearth will warm me. Soon, with a hot toddy
comforting my insides as well, I know that here is where I will spend