Global Haiku Tradition
Millikin University, Spring 2002

Rachel Perry

Rachel's Haiku



Breaking the Rules for Love or Haiku:
Masajo Suzuki and Alexis Rotella

Alexis Rotella and Masajo Suzuki have lives that are years and miles apart. Alexis grew up in Pennsylvania and attended many different schools, learning many different skills. She now works as a healing professional practicing acupuncture and colortherapy. Alexis is known for her very contemporary haiku. Most haiku are short poems written in 5-7-5 syllable form, that capture a moment. However, rules were made to be broken and very few authors still use the 5-7-5 format. Alexis does not abide by this rule, and she sometimes doesn’t even include nature in her haiku (another common theme). Alexis’ haiku appear to be very personalized, exploring fictional perspectives and imaginary states through her haiku. She writes with intense feelings, conveying an honestly of emotional states. Many times her haiku are sensual and embrace very intimate moments. This ‘deviant’ way of writing haiku is something that makes her poetry so enjoyable and on the flipped side, disliked.

On the other side of the world Masajo Suzuki was making a name for herself in many of the same ways. Although Masajo is much older than Alexis, they seem to be on the same wave length with their haiku. Having lived in Japan all her life Masajo did many things for a woman. She owned a pub and she and her husband ran a hotel. She also had a scandalous love affair. This was never to be spoken of and was considered to be dishonorable to family members in Japan. Although Masajo’s haiku consistently have a seasonal element, they too are very personal and raw in exposing Masajo‘s thoughts and feelings and passions. Both women pick very similar choices to write about.

In the guest room
where my mother slept
I look for comfort.

Alexis Rotella
The Haiku Anthology, p.173

talking to myself
consoling myself once more...
snow in spring

Masajo Suzuki
Love Haiku, p.66

Both of these haiku have a great feeling of loneliness. In Alexis’, I see a woman going through the old things in her mothers empty room. She has much on her mind and needs comfort and escape that can best be provided by her mother. After reliving memories by seeing all the furniture, and pictures, she curls up in the chair in her mother’s room. In this chair she was told stories as a child and rocked back to calmness when up-set.

I get the same curled up feeling in Masajo’s haiku. Clearly she has trouble on her mind and is trying to comfort herself by acting as someone else. She holds her knees in tight like she’s hugging someone, rocks back and forth, giving herself advice. Both these haiku leave the reader with a great sense of emptiness, as if someone had taken all the insides and feeling out of the person, creating a want to have someone to make them feel anything at all. Whether these feeling be hate, envy, or happiness; having feelings is always better than none at all.

Trying to forget him
the potatoes.

Alexis Rotella
The Haiku Anthology, p.172

into a white peach
like stabbing someone
the knife’s edge

Masajo Suzuki
Love Haiku, p.58

Alexis and Masajo both possess sweet malice in these haiku. We (the readers) get the feeling both ladies are trying to keep clam during a time of rage and we see that malice begin to slip out with their physical tactics.

Masajo may be spearing a peach to eat when she notices how much the skin of the peach resembles human flesh. The thoughts of her broken heart due to turmoil in her love affair begin to melt away as she slices the knife deeper into the peach.

Alexis on the other hand has a more subconscious way of releasing her unrest. We see her cooking, perhaps making mashed potatoes. Rather than mashing them with a fork she starts to use a knife taking out her aggression on the large brown potatoes. They both think food will distract them form the hurt, but noting can stand in the way of feelings.

After an affair
all the rooms.

Alexis Rotella
The Haiku Anthology, p.172

quenching my thirst—
a sinner’s face reflected
in the spring

Masajo Suzuki
Love Haiku, p.56

The reason I picked these two haiku to compare was because realization is the driving theme behind both. The women portrayed in these haiku have committed some sort of a sin, whether they slept with a married man or are married themselves and having an affair. I think the internal conflict within these haiku are astonishing and quite intriguing, even if the author didn’t intend opposition happen.

Alexis’ haiku is a very good description of the feelings one has after they’ve done something they shouldn’t. In this imaginary sequence, we get the impression that someone has just been with her lover and although that may have been a wonderful experience, she is now facing the reality of her actions. Overcome with guilt, anger, frustration or even emptiness, she feels she must do something...the first thing that comes to mind. She sweeps the floors of her home vigorously; maybe in an attempt to make something clean.

In Masajo’s haiku we get the feeling that she and her lover have sneaked off to a field to be alone with one another. After a particular steamy and wonderful meeting near a stream, Masajo gets a drink. Walking on air till she gets to the water where she sees the proof of her sins. Her disheveled hair adorned with grass and flushed cheeks brings her back to reality with guilt and pain. It makes us wonder how she really feels about her situation. She has the internal conflict between being madly in love with a married man, when she herself is also married and trying to uphold the laws and morals of the Japanese society.

Waterlilies . . .
in a moment he’ll ask me
what I’m thinking.

Alexis Rotella
Global Haiku, p.88

not a word for me
he just continues to watch
the winter waves

Masajo Suzuki
Love Haiku, p.42

I really enjoy each one of these haiku by Alexis and Masajo. Both have a hint of antithesis between the subject matter and illustrations. Both give us a beginning of the drama each woman leads in daily life, and leave us to figure out the story line. In each haiku we see a very soothing aquatic scene.

In Alexis’ we see a pond with water lilies floating atop. Plants and water have a very calming effect on people, so we can imagine the couple peacefully soaking in the scene. We are set up with such soothing images but then are taken in a different direction by what may be on her mind. Why isn’t the woman talking to him? The irony of how well she knows him, knows what he’s thinking, yet not given the honor of being his wife is a heart stabbing idea that comes to mind. Alexis leaves us in a very pensive mind frame after taking in this haiku.

Masajo’s has a similar theme only the roles are flipped. She is the one wanting to know what he’s thinking, what he’s going to do next. While he is more contemplative. In Masajo’s haiku the scene is set up with a couple sitting on large boulders watching the sun set into the ocean. The warm colors of the orange and yellow are melting into the cold blue and white, mixing hot and cold. This would be a beautiful picture if left alone, however we are introduced to the couple holding tension together on the rocks. We get the feeling they have met a fork in their relationship and the outcome is consuming the thoughts of both him and her.

In both haiku the uneasiness of the people contrasted with the sereneness of the surroundings is a beautiful example of the pull between good and bad times in our lives. Without these moments, life would not be worth living, because we’d have no understanding of how amazing life can be or how we are just humans, trying to understand our feelings.

I think both of these women have an amazing ability to let us (the readers) into the perspectives of contemporary women struggling with relationships. Both seem far more attracted to creating haiku with intense internal struggles than haiku focused on nature or ‘becoming one’ with nature. Both of these women seem to have very large hearts and great passion for life and living life the best they can. Two different worlds, yet very similar themes of being a woman in the contemporary world.

—Rachel Perry

©2002 Randy Brooks, Millikin University, Decatur, Illinois || all rights reserved for original authors