Betsy Quiqq

Ruth Yarrow's Haiku

Global Haiku Tradition
Millikin University, Spring 2001

Betsy Quigg



Ruth Yarrow's Haiku

Haiku, as I’ve come to understand, is the celebration of a moment captured through the mysterious absence of description. It is illustrative, simplistic and perpetually necessitates interpretation. But this does not explain our love for the poetry involved in haiku. We have come to cherish this ancient art form not for its structure, but rather for the raw human association involved in a haiku moment.

When written well, a haiku says what can accumulate to equal pages of other poetry genres. A haiku moment transforms us to a place, time or memory that becomes an intimately personal poem. We are made to laugh, cry and most importantly, remember.

As I have come to know her, Ruth Yarrow seems to be a master of capturing this raw human condition. She is able to recognize moments in life, both significant and insignificant, and transform them into art. Her work is highly universal and yet creates such an exclusive moment for all that read her work.

In the following haiku, Ruth describes a seemingly casual moment that easily reflects the awkward reunion of any reader.

a pause
before each hug

In the same universal fashion, she illustrates a seemingly insignificant moment, accessible to most every reader, in the following:

windblown Christmas lights—
still place
between lights

In response to these similar haiku, perhaps Ruth’s genius lies, not in her lyrical word choice, but in her ability to see a haiku moment in the most infrequent of settings.
Ruth has an obvious love for nature that reflects throughout her work. Whether or not a reader can identify with her distinct adornment of the environment in no way prohibits the enjoyment of her haiku. Although I personally am not often moved or inspired by nature haiku, I can certainly appreciate the beauty of all that her work encapsulates.

In the following poem, Ruth transforms her audience to an early autumn night.

first cool evening
between the cricket chirps
the longer silence

Although she renders an illustrative platform, Ruth provides her audience room for imagination.

In an even greater allowance for interpretation, Ruth illustrates a romantically mysterious haiku:

after the garden party . . . the garden

Although this haiku is somewhat obscure, I found it refreshing and utterly delightful.
Ruth paints a haunting picture in the following:

spring ocean fog
invisible waves and gull cries
swelling together

In this haiku, her word usage is both expressive and vivid: a compelling combination.
Perhaps the most unique quality of Ruth’s haiku is her personal perspective as a woman and mother. The emotion and content of these particular haiku are unparalleled and could not be replicated by anyone but a mother.

In the following haiku, Ruth realistically captures a few "baby moments":

Sunrise path:
at each step the baby’s shadow
releases her foot

And again in:

the baby’s pee
pulls roadside dust
into rolling beads

In the tender haiku to follow, Ruth narrates as she quietly observes her sleeping baby.

low winter moon:
her cheek curves the shadow
of the crib bar

In reading this, one can almost hear the baby breathing as her tiny chest rises and falls. Ruth’s word usage is effective in an almost hushed rhythm.

In perhaps her most renowned haiku, Ruth profiles perhaps one of the most preciously intimate moments of a woman’s life.

warm rain before dawn:
my milk flows into her

As a more candid moment, Ruth writes a haiku capable of several applications:

before the sled moves
the little girls already

This scene is probably familiar to sisters, mothers, fathers and even big brothers.
Ruth Yarrow is a haiku master. She is also a woman, a lover of nature and a mother. Her work reflects her loves and impels her audience further into their own interpretations. She sees poetry in otherwise insignificant situations, and perpetually refers to the human condition.

Ruth revolutionizes the ever-evolving haiku art form.

—Betsy Quigg


©2001 Randy Brooks, Millikin University, Decatur, Illinois || all rights reserved for original authors