Global Haiku Tradition
Millikin University, Spring 2003

Tricia Scholl

Bill Pauly

Tricia Scholl

Tricia's Haiku



Bill Pauly’s Haiku of the Inner Spirit

Bill Pauly is a contemporary writer and photographer. I have decided to study his haiku found in his published book Wind, The Clock, Bittersweet and the Global Haiku anthology. He is currently living in Iowa and just recently quit his teaching job at Loras College. He taught poetry and haiku to the students at Loras for over 25 years. Pauly has won major international contests; he received three First Prizes’ in the H.G. Henderson Awards and has won an award at the Hawaii Education Association Haiku Contest.

As I was searching through books looking for an author to study I was particularly draw to a haiku written by Bill Pauly in the Global Haiku book. This haiku, like many of Pauly’s haiku raises deep, unspoken discussion with myself and was read several times. I did this because I wanted to create not only a vivid picture in my mind but also so I could fully understand if this is the image that was in the mind of the author. Several questions arose when reading his haiku because it is very mysterious. An image is created, but not usually clear and crisp, my mental picture is clouded and thirsting for more information. This intrigued me. Below is the first haiku of Pauly’s that sparked my interest:

snowmelt . . .
she enters
the earth on her knees

Where is she? What is she doing? Is she crying or rejoicing? Happy or sad? Is the snowmelt indicating that the season is exiting winter, or is the snow melting under her knees because of her warmth and she might have been kneeling for awhile? These are some of the questions that arose when I first read this haiku. So I read it again…and again…and again…and the same image appeared but a little more vivid with each reading. After reading the whole haiku, my image was sad. I pictured a young lady standing in the middle of a graveyard in front of a grave stone. Her cheeks are rosy red and her skin the color of milk. She holds a single flower in her hand and the snow softly falls onto the already white ground from snow that had fallen days before. Tears run down her cheeks and she falls onto her knees. Her soul is weak from mourning and even the coldness of snow doesn’t stop her from her fall and it dares not force her to get up. Her pain is so deep that if she could bury herself, her pain would melt away. This haiku is by far my favorite.

I have found that much of the haiku by Bill Pauly has a sense of nature but are more ambiguous. Much of the nature sensed in his haiku is of a more metaphorical moment in nature and human response or action. Through many of my experiences with haiku I have noticed that when authors put a seasonal element into their haiku the majority of the time it can be very random and not fit the puzzle as it should. Or the seasonal element will just describe the weather, or the moon, or a flower. But the interesting element of season in Pauly’s is that the seasonal action mask’s the human action. And the matching of these actions is very indirect, but I believe this is the reaction Pauly wishes to receive. Here are some haiku below that ground my thoughts:

white undersides
of birch leaves in the storm
undressing each other

This haiku was found in the Global Haiku book. This haiku is also an example of his haiku that is easily over looked because of its subtleties. The question I ask is if this haiku is about strictly about nature or if it is another metaphor towards human nature, which is the way I read this. When I broke this haiku down I thought that the white undersides of the birch leave are a representation of skin under clothing. The reference to the leaves flailing in a storm indicate that the two undressing each other are passionately...well, ripping each others clothes off. If there had been no mention of a storm the image would have been a little softer. I believe that Bill Pauly has a very passionate and a romantic outlook on relationships. When he writes about the loving actions between a man and a woman, his words are very sexual.

fish on their lines rocking
the rowboat making love

Like the one previous this haiku is also very intimate. Not only do I imagine two lovers getting distracted by one another while fishing, the rocking of the fish on the lines is a perfect example of the rocking of the boat while they are in the middle of this action. Of course the haiku doesn’t come out and say that it is two person’s making love on a boat while they are fishing. But the fact that the first line indicates that the fish are left on their lines and forgotten, but are rocking. And the second line usage of the words “rowboat” and “making love” puts the image clear in my mind that two persons did forget about catching fish and are making love. This next haiku is a good representation of another metaphor easily disregarded.

sound of her voice
carrying eggs
across the ice

I get the impression that Bill Pauly speaks delicately of woman in some of his haiku. This haiku represents that thought through his line “sound of her voice” and then “carrying eggs”. Almost like she is trying to speak loud but it still comes out a whisper because in the third line “across the ice” indicates that carefulness of the situation she is in. Instead of her actually carrying eggs, she carries her voice delicately like an egg because she doesn’t want to break the ice that is beneath her.

hunchback cats
on a spine

I really enjoy a lot of Bill Pauly’s haiku because of the different interactions between human and nature or in this case between animal and thing. When I think of a hunchback cat, I think of the stereotypical Halloween cat with an arched back and a hiss behind its teeth. So I find this haiku to be rather ironic because it is a “hunchback” on a “spine” fence because it is the arched cat spine’s that I picture in the “hunchback cats”.


This haiku is one of my favorites. “hard remembering you” is such a simple phrase that says so much. I can only image looking into my past and trying to remember a certain moment or a certain person I met, etc. but it is so far back in the memory that pulling up the full recollection is a chore…and unfortunately, the thought is on the tip of your tongue. When this happens I am tainted all day with the memory I am trying to remember. One of my favorite parts about this haiku is the placement of these infamous words, the sharp corners represent the difficulty in the situation.

skull in the woods
eye sockets
in violets

This haiku is creepy. A “skull in the woods” indicates that someone or something died and all that remains are the bones. “eye sockets”, which are indelicate words anyway, “in violets” suggest that the violets were the only witnesses to the death of what died. I like this haiku because of Pauly choice of words but I find it rather creepy and a bit disturbing.

All in all I really enjoyed reading his haiku. Bill Pauly’s haiku keeps my attention in place. His haiku intrigued me because while reading several of them I found myself asking various questions about the particular haiku. Pauly has a unique way of pulling together words to represent a situation, occurrence, still life, etc. As a writer he has inspired me to continue writing one haiku a day in my journal and testing out an approach similar to his own, which is the intertwining of seasonal surroundings and the human character.

—Tricia Scholl

©2003 Randy Brooks, Millikin University, Decatur, Illinois || all rights reserved for original authors