Haiku by Michael Dylan Welch

First published in Hojas en la acera: Gaceta trimestral de haiku / Leaves on the Sidewalk: Quarterly Haiku Gazette (HELA) No 39 Año X, Septiembre 2018,

Gaceta Internacional de Haiku, pages 29–36 (first page shown here). See PDF file. Also reprinted on the Brotes de haiku (Haiku Shoots) website. See also “Featured Poet: Michael Dylan Welch.” The following indented paragraphs are my own writing, quoted from various sources on Graceguts. The English translation of the following content not originally written in English is by Michael Dylan Welch, with the help of Google Translate.

by Leticia Sicilia Saavedra

My path to haiku began in a high school English class, where Mr. George Goodburn introduced haiku as a seventeen-syllable nature poem. I’ve long preferred short poetry, so I immediately gravitated towards this form. For years, all of my “haiku” were rather ill-formed and ill-informed. About a decade later I bought my first haiku book at a Japanese bookstore [Kinokuniya] near St. Paul’s Cathedral in London—a collection of Bashō’s haiku translated by Lucien Stryk. Shortly thereafter I started buying every haiku book I could find (I now have some 3,000 haiku books and magazines). [Now probably 5,000+.]       +


The person who expresses himself in this way is Michael Dylan Welch. Founder of the Tanka Society of America and former vice president of the Haiku Society of America, this writer, editor, and photographer is passionate about haiku, senryu, and tanka. He was born in Watford, England, in 1962. His youth was spent between Ghana, Australia, and the Canadian prairies, and he currently lives in Sammamish, Washington, with his wife, whom he met on one of his many trips to Japan [she’s Japanese, but we met in California], and their two sons.

     After graduating in English and communications, he obtained a postgraduate degree in poetry and literature of the 20th century. He works as an editor and content manager. He has been writing haiku since 1976 and has been teaching it since 1990. He has won numerous awards and his haiku, senryu, tanka, and longer poems have been translated into various languages.


first snow . . .

the children’s hangers

clatter in the closet


primera nieve . . .

las perchas de los niños

tintinean en el armario


A multifaceted and multidisciplinary man, he has edited and directed a multitude of publications, and given haiku workshops, both for adults and children, in the United States, Canada, and Japan.

     He edited the quarterly haiku magazine Woodnotes from 1989 to 1997, and later edited Tundra: The Journal of the Short Poem. He is a founding partner of The Haiku Foundation. He is also the editor of Press Here, which has published countless award-winning haiku and tanka books since 1989.


Haiku and photography have much in common. Just as haiku are often objective, image-based, and record an instant in time, so too are photographs. Many of the best photographs succeed because of contrast, juxtaposition, colour, subtle shades, or through various compositional techniques. So too of haiku.       +


tulip festival—

the colours of all the cars

in the parking lot


festival de tulipanes—

los colores de los coches

en el aparcamiento


Some people think of haiku as focusing on nature, with senryu focusing on people, but this is misleading. The fact is that many haiku by the Japanese masters also focus on people, so having human content is not a distinguishing factor. Furthermore, haiku is actually a seasonal poem, not strictly a nature poem (many of the kigo that haiku aim at are in fact not nature-related), although nature often comes along for the ride. Instead, it is usually tone that differentiates haiku and senryu. Haiku tend to celebrate their subjects (even if dark), whereas senryu tend to have a “victim,” and may or may not be humourous. Haiku typically treat their subjects reverently, whereas senryu do so irreverently. Where haiku might be said to inflate their subjects, senryu tend to deflate them. Haiku try to make a feeling, and senryu try to make a point. And if haiku is a finger pointing to the moon, senryu is often a finger poking you in the ribs.       +


toll booth lit for Christmas—

from my hand to hers

warm change


puesto de peaje iluminado por Navidad-

de mi mano a la de ella

el cambio tibio


Asked about what he advises for a person who is new to haiku, he answers:


Read books of and about haiku in Japanese and English. Then read more. Support your fellow poets by buying their haiku books. Study them. And write as much as you can, every day if possible, or as much as your time allows. Keep a notebook in your pocket so you have no excuse not to write down what you notice, even if it’s just haiku seeds. And with that notebook in your pocket (pull it out often!), don’t be surprised if you start noticing things you have to write down more and more often. [source unknown, but similar to the content covered in “Jump Into Haiku”]


first star—

a seashell held

to my baby’s ear


primera estrella

una caracola sujeta

junto a la oreja de mi bebé


In 1991 he cofounded the Haiku North America conference, now a nonprofit corporation of which he is a director. In 1996 he cofounded the American Haiku Archives at the California State Library in Sacramento, the world’s largest public haiku archive outside of Japan.


tarnished silver

the only guest

eats in silence


plata sin brillo

el único invitado

come en silencio


In 2000, he founded the Tanka Society of America, serving as its president for five years, and is currently its webmaster [and also president again, since 2018]. For many years he has been vice president of the Haiku Society of America, and coordinator of the Haiku Northwest group. He is vice president [now president] of the Redmond Spokenword Association (for which he works as a reading series manager, and for which, in 2013, he edited and published the group’s first poetry anthology, Here, There, and Everywhere).

     With Emiko Miyashita, he has published a monthly haiku column in Asahi Weekly, a famous Japanese newspaper.

     In 2010, Michael created NaHaiWriMo, or National Haiku Writing Month, which was first celebrated in February 2011 (the shortest month for the shortest genre of poetry). NaHaiWriMo also has a very active Facebook page.


spring breeze—

the pull of her hand

as we near the pet store


brisa primaveral—

el tirón de su mano

al acercanos a la tienda de mascotas


low summer sun—

the shadow of an earring

on your cheek


Bajo sol de verano.

la sombra de un pendiente

en tu mejilla.


On March 24, 2012, the United States Postal Service issued a postage stamp to commemorate the 100th anniversary of cherry trees in Washington, D.C. This “forever” (first class) stamp was printed in an initial edition of 100,000,000 copies. All of them sold out within the first two weeks of release, at a rate of more than a million a day, prompting the postal service to print 50,000,000 more, making it one of the top three best-selling U.S. stamps in decades. On the backing paper of each set of twenty stamps is a translation by Emiko Miyashita and Michael Dylan Welch, from their 2008 art book, 100 Poets: Passions of the Imperial Court (PIE Books, Tokyo). The poem by Ki no Tomonori from ninth-century Japan is in the form of a waka, now known as a tanka.


As founder and first president of the Tanka Society of America, it gives me great pleasure to see this genre of poetry receive such attention, and I can think of no broader or better way to bring such poetry to the people than through a postage stamp.       +


hisakata no hikari nodokeki harunohi ni shizugokoro naku hana no chiruran



Ki no Tomonori (c.850–c.904)


the light filling the air

is so mild this spring day

only the cherry blossoms

keep falling in haste—

why is that so?


la luz llenando el aire

es tan suave este día de primavera

sólo los cerezos en flor

siguen cayendo apresuradamente.

¿por qué es así?


His haiku have also been chiseled in stone, printed on balloons, and read for the Empress of Japan in Tokyo and at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.


scattered petals . . .

the thud of my books

in the book drop


pétalos esparcidos . . .

el ruido sordo de mis libros

en el buzón de la biblioteca


I have now enjoyed haiku poetry for over twenty years [written in 1997]. The genre continues to reveal its many hidden faces and I find myself always learning. As I discover more of its Japanese origin, history, and current developments, as well as its worldwide changes and adaptations, I learn the heart of humanity itself, for haiku is the world and her people. Haiku is a window into ourselves. I’m grateful that being named after Dylan Thomas has led me, in a round-about way, to this window’s vista. It’s a window I look forward to keeping wide open for many years to come.       +


summer moonlight

the potter’s wheel



luz de luna veraniega—

la rueda del alfarero



crackling beach fire—

we hum in place of words

we can’t recall


el fuego crepitando en la playa—

tarareamos en vez de cantar

no podemos recordar


meteor shower . . .

a gentle wave

wets our sandals


lluvia de meteoritos . . .

una suave ola

moja nuestras sandalias


an old woolen sweater

taken yarn by yarn

from the snowbank


un viejo suéter de lana

sacado hilo por hilo

del montón de nieve


after the quake

the weathervane

pointing to earth


tras el terremoto

la veleta

apuntando a la tierra


home for Christmas:

my childhood desk drawer


en casa por Navidad:

el cajón del escritorio de mi niñez




Books by Michael Dylan Welch

The full list of books he has published can be found on his website. The last ones he has published are:



This latest book, a 400-page art book with photographs, is a cotranslation with Emiko Miyashita of the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu, a 13th-century collection of Japanese waka poems collected by Fujiwara no Teika. Their translation on the back of a United States postage stamp came from this book.


Author’s website:



This article was published in September 2018 in the digital edition of the gazette, Leaves on the Sidewalk.