The Seasons of Tea

Tea is my favorite beverage, and I love the whole spectrum, from fresh, unadulterated loose-leaf tea brewed in a pot, to sweet, milky boba tea. Oolong is my favorite variety (I still remember the moment I had my first sip of ti kuan yin oolong). I was interested in the way tea shows up seasonally in haiku, and decided to make that the focus of a post.

Tea does not appear as a kigo in Haiku World: An International Poetry Almanac, which is my guiding haiku text for 2022. However, there are many saijiki in the world, with different interpretations of the seasons. In The Five Hundred Essential Japanese Season Words (PDF), available from the Haiku Foundation, there are three entries that relate to tea:

  • tea picking (late spring)
  • new tea (early summer)
  • tea flowers (early winter)

In Jane Reichhold’s A Dictionary of Haiku Classified by Season Words with Traditional and Modern Methods (PDF), also available from the Haiku Foundation, there are two entries that relate to tea:

  • tea garden (summer)
  • drinking tea (winter)

Ultimately, I don’t agree that tea-drinking should be confined to the season of winter. Just as coffee drinkers take their beverage of choice hot even in the worst of summer, many committed tea drinkers take their tea hot all year long. In the examples I’ve come across so far, tea in general seems to be an all-year word, dependent on the context of the poem to connect it to the seasons.

All Year

Tea in a vintage floral cup
Tea in one of my vintage floral cups

swish of the whisk
green foam clings
to Mum’s tea bowl

Lillian Nakamura Maguire, Haiku Canada Members’ Anthology, 2018

While personally I associate green tea with spring (thanks to a former colleague of mine who believed it was best in spring), matcha can be consumed at any time of year. Not only that, but formal Japanese tea ceremonies take place throughout the year, meaning there is no specific season in which to consume matcha. For an in-depth overview of the ways in which tea ceremony changes throughout the year, check out Kaiseki: Zen Tastes in Japanese Cooking by Tsuji Kaichi.

sipping turmeric tea
grey curtains catch
the wind

Erica E. Benson, Haiku Pea Podcast, Series 5, Episode 6

I initially wrestled a great deal with where to place this poem. Turmeric can be grown and harvested all year in temperate zones, and it’s not clear that the turmeric tea in this poem is from a fresh root; it could be dried turmeric, and thus could be consumed at any point in the year. In addition, wind happens throughout the year. As I did not feel there was an overpowering seasonal element, I chose to place this as an all-year poem.

troubling dreams
loose tea eludes
the infuser

Brad Bennett, Failed Haiku #76

Brad Bennett’s senryu likewise doesn’t contain a clear seasonal element; tea in and of itself is not enough to serve as a kigo here. (I know that many people argue that senryu do not/should not contain seasonal words. I believe that kigo are appropriate to senryu. While they’re not mandatory, they can be a compelling element to the poem. I take a nod from Haiku World and incorporate senryu into this project, and note the seasons accordingly.)


first light. . .
I sip birdsong
with green tea

Neena Singh, Haiku Pea Podcast, Series 5, Episode 6

At first, I was torn between placing this as a spring or summer haiku. My instinct said spring, but early morning birdsong is common in summer as well; I’m thinking of the sparrow nest outside my studio window at my previous apartment. Jane Reichhold lists the word “birdsong,” as a spring kigo, so with her backing me up, I’m following my initial instinct and placing this haiku in the spring category. Note that the tea itself isn’t necessarily seasonal; it’s the birdsong that grounds this haiku in spring.


A glass of Moroccan mint tea next to a silver teapot, on a silver tray.
Moroccan mint tea in the set that John brought me from Morocco!

you bees
may share my cup of tea
I’ll grab another

Ronald K. Craig, Haiku Pea Podcast, Series 5, Episode 10

Bees connote summer, and thus the (presumably hot) tea is not being consumed in the winter. There’s no modifier indicating iced tea (and in the United States, at least, we’re more likely to say, “a glass of tea” when referring to the iced version of the beverage). Even the bees don’t mind hot tea on a warm day!


As of this writing, I haven’t found any examples of tea haiku that are clearly grounded in autumn. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t exist! Please let me know if you find any.


A cup of black tea
Black tea in one of my favorite cups.

lavender tea
before and after
the first snow

Hifsa Ashraf, First Frost #2

The mention of snow is important in this haiku. Since the tea is lavender, a reader might initially place the poem in spring or early summer, if they assumed the tea was made with fresh flowers. In Hifsa Ashraf’s haiku, lavender tea could be seasonal, but the word “snow” overrides any seasonal associations that lavender might have.

sea smoke rises
from icy harbor
I sip earl grey

Pam Joy, Haiku Pea Podcast, Series 5, Episode 6

Although Earl Grey tea could be enjoyed at any time of year, I find that the floral aspects of the blend create a spring connotation for me. However, that’s a personal association; I don’t think Earl Grey tea is inherently seasonal. Even if it was, the image of the “icy harbor” again grounds the poem in winter, regardless of what other season the tea might or might not suggest.

froth on my green tea empty winter

Alvin B. Cruz, Haiku Pea Podcast, Series 5, Episode 6

Once more, the explicit mention of the winter season makes the setting for this poem undeniable. As I work through the tea-related haiku that I’ve collected so far, I can’t help but feel that tea is an all-year word, unless the context of the poem indicates otherwise.

Episode 1: Agnes Eva Savich: The Redemption of the Pear

Welcome to the first episode of The Culinary Saijiki podcast! I talk with Agnes Eva Savich, leader of the Austin Haiku Study Group (among other things) about eight of her haiku. Along the way, we discuss holidays, motherhood, fruit, and the fun of Haiku North America conferences.

Agnes’ blog:

For long-form essays and haiku commentary, visit the blog at

If you would like to be part of the podcast, visit this URL for details:

To support this project, buy me a coffee! Link:

Initial Observations Part 3: Seasonal Modifiers

In my May 10th post, I noted that I have observed three broad categories of food words in haiku:

  1. Food words that are a definite seasonal referent;
  2. Food words that are not a part of any specific season;
  3. Food words that become seasonal with an additional modifying word

In the May 10th post, I also wrote about the first category. In the May 24th post, I focused on the second category. Today, I’m wrapping up the series by discussing the third category.

As of this writing, I’ve collected 140 haiku and senryu related to food. Based on my initial collections, category #3 represents the smallest proportion of haiku I’ve collected thus far.


Ginger cookies on a metal rack
Ginger cookies fresh from the oven. One of my favorites!

So far, winter contains the highest proportion of foods that become seasonal through a modifying word. My hypothesis is that because in the northern hemisphere, winter is the holiday season, a time when we’re often making special foods (such as Christmas cookies) that otherwise might fit all year. A chocolate chip or peanut butter cookie might show up in spring or fall (and even summer if you’re willing to turn on the oven). Christmas cookies, on the other hand, tend to be more elaborate, and some people make half a dozen different kinds. And while they’re festive, when juxtaposed with the right image, they can create a sense of melancholy. In Robert Witmer’s haiku below, I get a sense of loneliness.

baking Christmas cookies
the black and white TV
snows all night

Robert Witmer, bottle rockets #46

Likewise, holidays have their own particular candy. Christmas has (among other things) candy canes. Homemade candy in the form of fudge, taffy, peanut brittle, or buckeyes is common as well. While Christa Pandey’s haiku uses the generic “holiday sweets,” I see this as a winter or Christmas poem. The second and third lines, referencing the old country, make me think of homemade confections passed down from generations. In my experience, homemade Christmas candy is a little more common than homemade Easter, Valentine’s Day, or Halloween candy.

holiday sweets
last reminders
of the old country

Christa Pandey, Failed Haiku #70


Spring holidays also have their own candy. The empty heart in the first line modifies chocolates in the second line. Chocolate could appear at any time of the year, but chocolates that come from a heart-shaped box connect to Valentine’s Day.

an empty heart
the chocolates
all gone

Line Monique Gauthier, bottle rockets #46

I admit that it was challenging for me to list a Valentine’s Day poem in spring. In the haiku calendar, Valentine’s Day falls in early spring. Certainly in Texas, where I’ve lived for 14 years, Valentine’s Day can feel like spring (Snowpocalypse 2021 aside). But in many other parts of the country (and the world!) Valentine’s Day still feels like deep winter Still, for the sake of tradition, I’m including it here.

Photo by Ksenia Chernaya on

Robert Witmer’s poem connects to spring because the word blue brings to mind a robin’s egg. In fact, when I put it into my saijiki database, I wasn’t entirely sure it could be considered a cooking poem; perhaps it was simply a haiku about a robin hatching. However, when I read it, I also couldn’t stop thinking about the fresh chicken eggs I used to get from a friend’s back yard. They were typically smaller than grocery store eggs, and also came in a range of colors, including blue and green. This could be a hatching poem, a cooking poem, or both.

a small blue egg

Robert Witmer,


Photo by Tembela Bohle on

In Haiku World, William J. Higginson lists beer as a summer kigo. I was surprised by that, and although upon thinking about it I don’t think he’s entirely wrong, I don’t entirely agree either. There are so many styles of beer, and some are more appropriate for certain seasons than others. For example, I wouldn’t drink a port or a stout in summer—they’re too heavy, and best saved for winter. Lagers, pilsners, and shandies are best for summer. Sue Foster points to the tradition of Oktoberfest, turning beer into an autumn kigo. While I understand Higginson’s rationale (an ice-cold lager is exceptionally delicious) after a day of yard work, my opinion is that beer is an all-year term, and it requires either modifiers or specific names to ground it in a season.

fierce Texas sun beats down
Texas thirst meets iced
Oktoberfest beer

Sue Foster, Lifting the Sky: Southwestern Haiku and Haiga, ed. Scott Wiggerman and Constance Campbell.


Photo by Zen Chung on

Adelaide B. Shaw’s poem is perhaps my favorite example I’ve collected for this post, in part because it made me learn something new. Apples are normally an autumn kigo. I’d never heard of a windfall apple, so I looked it up. I learned that windfall apples are fruits that appear early, dropping as early as June! I realized I’d come across windfall apples already in my life, I just didn’t realize it. At my partner’s family farm, one of the apple trees was producing abundant fruit last July; I picked a fresh green one to use in my Fourth of July coleslaw. The modifying word “windfall” places this poem squarely in the summer season.

windfall apples
in my pockets
enough for a pie

Adelaide B. Shaw, bottle rockets #46

If you have any thoughts about seasonal modifiers for food, please let me know in the comments. I appreciate hearing from you! Don’t forget that the Culinary Saijiki podcast launches on June 21st!

Bonus Post: Spring and Summer Celebrations

First, thanks to Pamela Pfautsch for buying me a coffee and supporting The Culinary Saijiki. I appreciate that people I haven’t (yet) met in person are as excited about the project as I am.

This bonus post features haiku and related forms from community readers. Thanks to everyone who sent me their work. I had fun reading it, and I plan to do more of these in the future. Look for announcements of future bonus posts in August and November.

I was also excited to have poems from across the world! I love to eat cuisines from all over (I think Korean food is my favorite . . . but it’s a tough call!), and am glad to be able to represent different traditions here.

Photo by Anna Tis on

Oche Akor brings us two spring haiku. While I admit that they didn’t quite touch on the holiday aspect of the prompt, I still wanted to include these two in the post because I loved them so much. (I’ve been known to be a stickler as an editor, but a poem that surprises or intrigues me can override that tendency.)

This first haiku resonated with me because I’ve had weevils infest flour and rice . . . but also am in a position where, though the waste is lamentable, I can toss out the tainted food. This haiku is a compelling reminder that not everyone has that option.

spring breeze
the taste of weevils
in my beans . . .

Oche Akor, Lokoja, Kogi State, Nigeria

While the spring planting season isn’t specifically a holiday, there are traditions and cultures where it’s a festive time. Planting of crops is an investment in the future, a hope for a bountiful harvest in the fall. I feel the poem below contains a sense of wariness, which, given the state of agriculture around the world, certainly makes sense. These days, it seems natural to temper optimism with something else.

corn planting . . .
footprints in the sand
Going nowhere

Oche Akor, Lokoja, Kogi State, Nigeria
Photo by Markus Winkler on

Hwaro gives us two haiku that celebrate sharing food. During COVID, my partner and I have gotten into the habit of going on picnics. It’s a way to enjoy good food outdoors, and at a distance. Hwaro’s first haiku reminded me of our picnic dates. (Also, tteokbokki is one of my most favorite foods. As I type, I’m wishing I had some!)

Gimbap roll for each
Tteokbokki to pique the tongue
and enjoy the spring breeze

Hwaro, Coquitlam, British Columbia, Canada

While the haiku below doesn’t explicitly mention Father’s Day, I felt a strong connection with that particular holiday. Sometimes, it feels like there’s no way to fully honor your parents and all they have done for you. Yet the act of sharing a meal together, and being totally present, can sometimes be enough.

Father, I’ve got
nothing to offer you
shall we share jjajangmeyon?

Hwaro, Coquitlam, British Columbia, Canada
Photo by Archana GS on

Pamela Pfautsch brings us a tanka-style poem that made me think of all the delightful treats that emerge in summer. Whether enjoying a cold ice cream on a hot day, or the natural sweetness of fresh berries, cherries, and peaches, summer is a season full of sweetness. Haiku Haven captures the lushness of a berry bush, or the dessert spread at a picnic.

A breezy wisp
Of honeycomb sighs
Whoosh of treats
Flutter on honeybee wings
Summer’s sweet begins.

Pamela Pfautsch, Frisco, Texas, USA
Photo by Gustavo Peres on

I admit that I can’t resist a good pun, and Peter Schmidt made me laugh with this haiku. Peter packs a great deal of imagery into this small poem, and the picture of fudge and melting ice cream merging makes me think about the ways in which long, hot summer days can melt into each other, with time slowing down in the heat.

Chocolate Sunday
Hot fudge sun melts ice cream breeze
Scoop of May in June

Peter Schmidt, Lexington, MA, USA
Photo by Maria Orlova on

Geoff Pope offers this haiku with a bit of mystical quality to it. I love coconut soup, and there are many variations; they can range from creamy white to orange or green, depending on the other ingredients. In Geoff’s poem, I picture a moon-white bowl of soup, enjoyed at night at a solstice festival. The bowl has a bit of glow to it, maybe from outdoor lights, or maybe from something a little more magical. I like the idea of being able to eat moonlight, and Geoff’s poem makes that feel like a possibility.

summer solstice—
a bowl of coconut
moonlight soup

Geoff Pope, Paducah, Kentucky, USA
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on

Robert Epstein was the first person to send haiku for this bonus post! These haiku invoke the delights of family. In fact, in my acceptance letter to Robert, I noted that the child in the monoku below could easily be my nephew! The word “river” invokes water, so I picture a blue-raspberry Popsicle running in rivulets, dripping onto the lawn below.

that river of popsicle down the bare-chested toddler

Robert Epstein, El Cerrito, CA, USA

While the she in this poem isn’t necessarily a child, I picture a young girl here, someone young enough to not care what someone might think about her spitting watermelon seeds on the ground. I think a child would also find it amusing to time their spitting with the show. When I read the following haiku, I can’t help but think of a girl making extra fun for herself on a summer night.

watermelon seeds—
she spits them out in concert
with the fireworks

Robert Epstein, El Cerrito, CA, USA

While Robert’s last haiku is based in memory and written from the perspective of adulthood, the wonder of childhood runs through in this haiku. Maybe the children didn’t appreciate the efforts at the time, but as an adult, you could feel a sense of reverence for the way in which your mother took the time to cut small pieces of cool melon on a hot day.

the simple way
she cut into small pieces
the cantaloupe for us

~ in memory of my mother

Robert Epstein, El Cerrito, CA, USA
Originally published in The Helping Hand Haiku Anthology, ed. Robert Epstein, 2020
Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on

Mary Stevens brings multisensory haiku that to me capture the quotidian essence of summer. In her first haiku, I picture someone sitting out on a porch in the evening, as the air cools down. Maybe the neighbors are cooking, maybe they’re eating, maybe they’re even arguing. You can probably hear them because the windows are open. This haiku makes me think about how everything seems open and permeable in summer (at least when it’s not so hot you have to lock yourself in with the air conditioner).

summer evening
the neighbors’
kitchen sounds

Mary Stevens, Hurley, NY, USA
Originally published in Upstate Dim Sum, 2021

Even though this poem also doesn’t name a specific holiday, the way the middle line serves as a linchpin for the first and second lines makes me want to read it over and over. This haiku not only makes me think of eating an antipasto platter on a warm evening (one of my favorite summer dinners), but it’s packed with sensuality despite being only eight words long.

pitting an olive
in my mouth
his name

Mary Stevens, Hurley, NY, USA
Original published in Modern Haiku 50.3, 2019

Mary’s final haiku incorporates music. This poem reminds me of the ways in which ice cream truck music can be jarring. Sometimes it’s one consistent tune, but other trucks will cycle through a variety of tinny renditions of old songs. The music gets stronger as the truck approaches, but then after the ice cream is purchased, the music fades away, just as summer fades into fall.

summer’s end
the counterpoint melody
of the ice cream truck

Mary Stevens, Hurley, NY, USA
Originally published in The Heron’s Nest XXII, Number 4, 2020

Thanks again to everyone who sent work for this bonus issue! In June, I’ll wrap up my series on initial observations about food and haiku. Also, be on the lookout for the podcast launch on June 21st!

Observations Part 2: All-Year Food

Before diving in, I’d like to thank Geoff M. Pope for being the first supporter of this new project. I’m now officially making progress on my goal of covering website costs for the year. If you would like to support the Culinary Saijiki project, you can visit the Buy Me a Coffee page here:

Second, don’t forget that tonight is the deadline to send your haiku and senryu for the May 31st bonus post. Note that although the deadline is 11:59 p.m. CST, I will be asleep when that passes, so if you slip your haiku in during the wee hours, I’ll still take them! You can find the submission form here:

Notes on All-Year Food

In my May 10th post, I noted that I have observed three broad categories of food words in haiku:

  1. Food words that are a definite seasonal referent;
  2. Food words that are not a part of any specific season;
  3. Food words that become seasonal with an additional modifying word.

This week, I’m focused on the second category.

As of this writing, I’ve collected 125 haiku for the project. Of those, the greatest proportion are all-year words, making up 36% of the current total. Although I haven’t collected statistical data every time I add a haiku to my Scrivener file, I know that when I first started collecting, the all-year food words were an even higher percentage. As I’ve added to the collection, the proportions have evened out somewhat, though the all-year words still come up more frequently. As yet, I don’t have a hypothesis as to why that might be.

In Haiku World, William J. Higginson identifies the following food-related words in the All Year section of his saijiki:

  • Meal
  • Cooking
  • Beverage
  • Coffee
  • Pots and Pans

Although I have collected a range of all-season words beyond these five, as a nod to his work, in this post, I’ll discuss the haiku I’ve collected that relate to his original list. None of these appear in Haiku World; they’ve all been published recently.


Breakfast is a common meal that shows up in haiku. Morning and evening seem to be inspiring times of day for haiku poets, and if you have the luck of enjoying peaceful, leisurely breakfasts, I can see how the first meal of the day would lead to inspiration.

morning meditation;
thinking about not-thinking
. . . and breakfast

Shir Haberman, bottle rockets #46

rising early . . .
a half-finished haiku
for breakfast

Tony Williams, Failed Haiku #70

I debated whether classifying Johnette Downing’s lunch haiku as all-year or not. On the one hand, there isn’t a clear seasonal referent. On the other hand, a lunch box implies school. As school runs most of the calendar year, though, I didn’t feel right assigning this haiku to the autumn category. A lunch box could also imply summer camp. Therefore, I designated this one as all-year. If you disagree, let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear your thoughts! (Johnette, if you happen to see this, please do chime in about what you intended!)

lunch box
her doll
a stowaway

Johnette Downing, bottle rockets #46

The act of setting the table can be a meditative experience that can yield haiku moments. It doesn’t have to be a formal dinner arrangement; a simple home arrangement for a small family brings new moments of awareness.

table setting
for three
bun in the oven

Brittney Ritoff, Failed Haiku #70


A vintage drawing of a blonde woman, with text saying, "I'm just a girl. Standing in front of the fridge. Hoping dinner will make itself."

At present, I haven’t found much in the way of cooking-related haiku, senryu, or zappai that don’t have an additional seasonal modifier. Ronald K. Craig’s humorous poem reminds me of the pitfalls of having to cook for oneself: not wanting anything you have in the fridge, hoping dinner will cook itself, and trying to talk yourself out of takeout.

often the fridge door of opportunity opens

Ronald K. Craig, Failed Haiku #70


Tea is the most common all-year beverage I’ve collected so far, and ultimately, deserves to be a topic of its own, on par with coffee. That being said, varieties of tea can become season-specific words; a colleague of mine talked about how green tea makes her think of spring. I’m certain that tea will get a post of it’s own in the future!

teacups filled
with fallen blossoms
closing time

Shiela Sondik, tinywords 18.2

blue days
Mom pours what ifs
from her teapot

Adele Evershed, Haiku Pea Podcast, Series 5, Episode 6

Sunday morning
head bowed, hands clasped
around my tea

Kristen Lindquist, Kristen Lindquist, Haiku Pea Podcast, Series 5, Episode 8

In Gary Hotham’s poem below, the cup could refer to tea, coffee, or something else entirely. The presumably empty beverage vessel connects to rich memory, nostalgia, and perhaps grief. I’m also intrigued by the extent to which mothers come up in the haiku and senryu in this section.

Mom’s home
the last cup
she drank from

Gary Hotham, Rightsizing the Universe: Haiku Theory, Yiquralo Press, 2019


Coffee is one of the most popular all-season food words I’ve collected so far. I’m certain that if I went through the list of all the haiku I’ve written, coffee would be the food/beverage word that features most frequently. While coffee can be modified to reflect the season (more about that in June), a hot cup of coffee seems appropriate just about any time of the year. (And if you’re not sensitive to caffeine, it’s appropriate to any time of day!)

coffee shop date jitters

Marsh Muirhead, Failed Haiku issue 70

waiting for your call
the coffee percolator
welling up

David Gale, First Frost #1

coffee milk cloud
another day to figure
out the finances

Crystal Simone Smith, First Frost #1

hot black coffee
ad-just-ing my eye-sight
between sips

Paul Callus, Haiku Pea Podcast, Series 5, Episode Episode 8

Pots and Pans

As with most of the cooking-specific haiku I’ve collected so far, most of my pots-and-pans haiku have a seasonal modifier, taking them out of the all-year category. However, left to their own devices, this is definitely an all-year word. We have to cook regardless of season!

our first saucepan cooking for one

Maurice Nevile, Failed Haiku #70

silence . . .
water comes to a boil
in a silver pot

Seth Kronick, Haiku Pea Podcast, Series 5, Episode 8

Do let me know your thoughts in the comments, and don’t forget to send me your bonus post submissions by tonight! I’m already putting it together with the work that has come in so far, and I’m looking forward to sharing it with you.

Initial Observations Part 1: Food Kigo

I’m about seven weeks into my yearlong study of saijiki. While my personal writing practice isn’t centered around food, working with Higginson’s Haiku World, as well as the companion volume The Haiku Seasons, have been invaluable as I also explore the ways in which food and the seasons work in haiku.

Photo by Josh Hild on

As of this writing, I have collected 93 haiku that incorporate food in some way. Taking a cue from Haiku World, I am organizing them by season, as well as maintaining an All-Year category. Based on what I have collected so far, I have observed three broad categories:

  1. Food words that are a definite seasonal referent;
  2. Food words that are not a part of any specific season;
  3. Food words that become seasonal with an additional modifying word

I will focus on the first category in this post, the second category in my May 24th post, and the third category in my June 14th post.

Some Observations

At this point in the project, inherently seasonal food words make up the smallest proportion of haiku that I have collected. Most of the poems in my Scrivener file involve all-year food words, or foods that become seasonal through additional modifiers. The greatest proportion of inherently seasonal food words falls into the summer category. Spring and winter have the lowest proportions. However, I have nothing close to a statistically significant sample size, so I won’t be surprised if the proportions change as I go.

As I’m still early in my journey of collecting haiku, I’m only giving 2-3 examples for each season of food kigo.


As spring is the planting season, seeds are a specific kigo. Even if there is another food referent that might indicate a later season, as in Cherie Hunter Day’s haiku below, the presence of seeds grounds the poem in spring. Seeds speak to the potential food we will eat in the future.

hidden in the seed packet star songs

Stuart Barrow, bottle rockets #46

starting a lemon tree
from seed

Cherie Hunter Day, First Frost #1

The sugar maple is another image of food that is not yet ready for consumption. It also illustrates the challenge of working in two traditions. Sap harvesting season runs 4-6 weeks, and can start as early as February. While that’s still deep winter for those of us working with the Gregorian calendar, in the haiku calendar, it’s spring. There’s also no accounting for climate. You can be well past the spring equinox and still get snow in areas where sugar maples thrive!

sugar maple
pressing my tongue
against the wood

Genevieve Wynand, Kingfisher #3


The best iced tea is that which has been brewed slowly. Sun tea is a perfect summer beverage, and therefore a summer kigo. The heat of the sun allows for a long, slow infusion of tea leaves. Then, you can pour the tea over ice for a refreshing beverage.

my writing
slow as that snail
sun tea

John S. Green, First Frost #2

Tomatoes are one of the quintessential summer foods in the Western hemisphere. I remember that some years, my parents struggled to get theirs to thrive, and other years, we had more tomatoes than we could handle!

heirloom tomato
the want ads

Aidan Castle, Kingfisher #3

Ice cream is a treat best enjoyed in the summer. It’s cold, rich, and a delightful treat during hot weather. I still remember the ice cream socials held in June and July in the town where I grew up.

maternity dress
a scoop of homemade
ice cream

Deborah P. Kolodji, Kingfisher #3


Apples are a quintessential autumn fruit. Cultural motifs might include apple picking, pressing cider, making apple pies a Thanksgiving, and bringing an apple for the teacher at the start of the school year.

cut apple slices
the star
in all of us

Gillen Cox, Haikuniverse, March 27th, 2022

in the old orchard
sad apple trees
concede their mortality

Phil Huffy, Haikuniverse, April 1st, 2022

apple blushed and ripe
I close my eyes with the taste
yes, Eve, yes

Ellen Rowland, Kingfisher #3

Kale is one of the last greens to be harvested in the year. One of the hardiest cruciferous vegetables, it grows late into the season, which makes it a fitting fall vegetable.

picking kale—
the darkened veins
in grandma’s hands

Jacob Salzer, Kingfisher #3


At first I was undecided about whether to consider sweet potatoes a fall kigo or a winter kigo. While they are harvested just when it’s starting to get cold, they’re stored in root cellars, and eaten during the coldest months. I see sweet potatoes as providing nourishment when the gardens and fields are fallow.

sweet potato
the peeling away
of intimacy

Joanna Ashwell, First Frost #1

Even without a seasonal word such as wind chill, like in Lenard D. Moore’s haiku below, the idea of rich, warm hot chocolate as an antidote to the cold makes it a winter kigo.

wind chill
the hot chocolate
still too hot

Lenard D. Moore, Kingfisher #3

Tthe gingerbread house, along with other variations of gingerbread, is a winter image, associated with Christmas. (I’m partial to the Kemp’s gingerbread men ice cream sandwiches . . . it’s definitely weird to be eating ice cream in winter, but they are also delicious.)

a gingerbread house in this economy

Aaron Barry, Kingfisher #3

I’d love to hear your thoughts on these first observations in the comments. Also, don’t forget to send me your haiku for the special themed bonus post at the end of May!

Bonus Post: Call for Submissions

All members of the haiku community are invited to submit poems for an upcoming Culinary Saijiki bonus post. I want to showcase haiku that incorporate food and are also focused on the topic of late spring or early summer holidays. Examples of holidays include Labour Day (International), Mother’s Day (International), Memorial Day (United States), or religious holidays. There are plenty of others to pick from as well!

Photo by Sandeep on

While my writing on this blog is designed to be more analytical, as someone who has worked as an editor for a variety of literary publications, I love providing venues for poets to showcase their work. Since we have an extra Tuesday in May, I thought that would be a good time to do a themed community showcase.

Submission Guidelines

  1. Submit 2-5 haiku via this form:
  2. Haiku should both incorporate food and relate to late spring or early summer holidays.
  3. The deadline is Tuesday, May 24th, 2022 at 11:59 p.m. CST.
  4. Haiku in all languages are welcome. Please provide an English translation.
  5. Previously published haiku are welcome. Please provide prior publication information so I can give proper credit.
  6. I will notify all poets of their submission status by Friday, May 27th, 2022.
  7. Selected haiku will be published on the Culinary Saijiki blog on Thursday, May 31st, 2022.

I look forward to reading your work!

Groundwork Part 2: Seasonal Inspiration

In my April 12th post, I talked about how I came to saijiki study, and how I incorporate both the Gregorian seasons and the lunar seasons into my haiku practice. Through my decision to work with a saijiki for a year, I got inspired to think about how we approach food in haiku. Like many of my ideas, it had probably been building for a while, but it seemed to come in a flash. I to create a large-scale project related to haiku, but didn’t feel I had anything specific to talk about over the long haul.

I decide my saijiki topic or word for the day first thing in the morning. After I brush my teeth, I sit down at my kitchen table with Haiku World and my notebook, skim through the list, and settle on a focal point. Exploring the saijiki right when I get up primes me to pay attention to the world around me as I walk Astrid every morning. Our first stroll of the day lasts around 30 minutes, and usually, I’m able to get at least one haiku related to the theme of the day by the time we come home. I don’t carry a notebook and pen when I write; I have to hold the haiku in my head as we walk, and take care not to let it slip away. Not only does this allow for a fair amount of mental revision before I even sit down at the notebook, but it serves as a sort of meditation. Since I started my saijiki practice over a month ago, I’ve discovered that the amount of time I spend ruminating on the walk has gone down dramatically. My mind is too occupied with haiku to be able to focus on my worries about the day ahead!

I started my saki study on March 20th, 2022. The idea for the Culinary Saijiki project came to me 24 hours later, as I was taking my dog, Astrid, for her morning walk. The topic I’d chosen for March 21st was the word “March,” and the Haiku World example was a poem from Allan Curry:

middle of March
the first lemonade stand
has a slow day

Alan Curry, Haiku World (ed. Higginson), p. 45

In the “March” entry, Higginson notes that the topic of “lemonade stand” is really a summer kigo in the northern hemisphere (p. 45). Allan Curry creates juxtaposition by contrasting the defined spring season with a summer image. (Even in Austin, March is often not ideal lemonade stand weather!)

A photo of a lemonade stand
Photo by RODNAE Productions on

Astrid and I had just stepped off the apartment grounds and into Houston Street. I was pondering the concept of “March,” as well as Allen Curry’s poem. Suddenly, I was reminded of the fact that food is seasonal. Yes, in the United States, we are able to get produce year-round, regardless of whether or not it’s actually in season. But fundamentally, food is connected to the changes of spring (planting), summer (growing), autumn (harvesting), and winter (resting). The agricultural year has a rhythm, and food follows it. I wondered what it would be like to create a saijiki entirely around the concept of food.

My mind was so captivated by the idea that I barely managed to find a haiku on that dog walk. By the end of the day, I decided to structure the project as a blog, in hopes of fostering discussion and collaboration with other haiku poets. I had also decided a podcast would be a fun complement. I wanted to be able to not just write about my own perceptions of food and haiku, but have direct discussions with others as well. Before I went to bed, I’d bought the website URL and made a to-do list.

I’ve been slowly building this project for about 5 weeks now. As of this writing, I’ve collected and tagged 65 food-related haiku, just from the print journals I have on-hand, as well as PDF publications in my hard drive. After just one day of struggling to find an organizational system in Microsoft Word that I liked, I jumped ship and bought a copy of Scrivener. I’d attempted to use Scrivener as a budding fiction writer about 12 years ago, but it didn’t resonate with my process. However, I plan to work on the Culinary Saijiki for a while, and the thought of a folder filled with hundreds of Word documents, or one giant Word file of doom, made me feel overwhelmed. I realized that Scrivener’s binder approach would make it easy for me to organize and tag the haiku I collected.

My current Culinary Saijiki project has a folder for each season, plus an All-Year category. I have a template for typing out the entries, and I tag each one with relevant keywords. I can sort by season, by type of food, or some other aspect. Being able to do so will help me structure future commentary on food-related haiku, and eventually compile a print book (though I don’t plan on that happening for at least two years). At the moment, I’m only adding haiku that I find myself, but stay tuned on the blog. Every now and then, I’ll post calls for themed submissions for special bonus posts, and those will end up in my database as well. (Don’t worry, I’ll be sure to get permission if I want to include them in the book, but that’s still far in the future.)

A screenshot of a Scrivener project layout
A screen shot of my Scrivener project

As for the podcast, I’m launching that in June. I’ve had several blogs over the years, so I was able to get started on that right away. Plus, I consider the blog the foundation of the project, so it made sense to start that first. Finally, since I’ve never produced a podcast before, I needed to give myself time to set up an infrastructure and learn the basics.

While I’ll be soliciting a few podcast guests, especially as I try to get things up and running, all haiku poets who want to talk about food are welcome to join in. Please fill out the form at the “Join the Conversation” page so I can get to know you and your work a little more.

In my May 10th post, I’ll be talking about the preliminary ideas I’ve developed in my study of food and haiku so far. If there are other topics you’d like me to cover in the future, please leave a comment!

Bonus Post: Join the conversation!

As I mentioned in last week’s post, The Culinary Saijiki isn’t just going to be a blog. I’ve been wanting to create a podcast since 2015, but I didn’t have any sense of a topic or voice. When I got the idea to do this blog, I quickly realized that a podcast would be an excellent complement to the written work. And I want you to be part of the conversation.

Photo by lilartsy on

I decided that while I wanted the blog to primarily be my own thoughts on the topic of food and haiku, the podcast should be conversational. I love podcasts, and have an extensive listening queue. Reflecting on what I most enjoy listening to, podcasts that are a dialogue or panel discussion remain my favorite format. I want to hear what other poets have to say about food and haiku, and I want to be able to do that beyond a blog post comment thread.

If you would like to have a conversation about food and haiku on the podcast, please visit the Join the Conversation page and fill out the Google Form. I look forward to hearing from you!

Groundwork Part 1: Haiku Seasons

A tree at Blue Hole in Georgetown, Texas, March 2021
A tree at Blue Hole in Georgetown, Texas, March 2022

Years ago, at a Poetry at Round Top workshop on Aimee Nezhukumatathil gave us Robert Hass’ definition of haiku: “A three-line, poem, with syllables of 5, 7, and 5, written in Japanese.” She emphasized, “in Japanese” with such gravity that the definition has stuck with me to this day. Obviously, as an American haiku practitioner, I don’t 100% agree with it. Yet the haiku is so embedded in Japanese history and culture that American haiku is not the same. I believe that all poetry forms are culturally malleable (the sonnet did well moving from Italy to England), yet some are more grounded in the place where they emerged. I am an American poet, and so I write American haiku.

This past December, my friend Jenny came over for tea. The conversation turned to haiku, and then we ended up talking about renga. I thought it would be fun for us to write our own; I selected the 20-link nijuin form, since it was just the two of us, and we were both new to writing linked verse. I pulled out my copy of Bruce Ross’ How to Haiku for quick guidance. Jenny was also new to the concept of kigo, so I grabbed my copy of William Higginson’s Haiku World off the shelf to show her the seasonal lists. I’d found a like-new copy at Half Price books a few months earlier, but hadn’t made time to give it my attention. Flipping through the entries, I got inspired. I decided to spend a year working through the saijiki. But I didn’t want to start on January 1st. I was in the home stretch of my third failed attempt at the Buson challenge (where you attempt to write 10 haiku a day for 100 days), and wanted to take a break. So I decided on the spring equinox as my starting date. Though I’m not a particularly spiritual person, I do love the sense of symbolism of the spring equinox as a new beginning.

A dog with its tongue out, lying on grass
My dog, Astrid, enjoying summery Texas weather in September 2020.

One of the things I’ve learned as a teacher is that it doesn’t matter how often you present information to someone: it won’t sink in until they are ready to receive it. I’ve seen this play out time and again with students in my technical writing courses, and I mention it here to offer myself a sense of grace. Certainly I didn’t get much, if any, instruction on the lunar seasons when we composed our little three-line poems in elementary school classes. My haiku interest began to develop in 2015; I established a regular haiku practice in 2017; I became serious about deep haiku study during lockdown in 2020. I have every reason to believe that I must have crossed paths with a breakdown of the haiku seasons, which run on the lunar calendar, at some point in those years. Yet somehow, I didn’t figure out that haiku seasons and Gregorian seasons weren’t entirely compatible until January 2022. I know the information was there; I just wasn’t ready for it yet.

I realized that my plans for a haiku year weren’t going to start on the first day of haiku spring; they’d be starting in mid-spring according to the lunar calendar. By the time I realized this, the calendar year was already underway. It was too late to revise my plan and start on January 1st. As a perfectionist who likes to do everything right and have things just so, I was disappointed in myself regarding my lack of proper research and planning. In that time, I also encountered possibility that my focus on saijiki study wasn’t going to be fruitful as an American practitioner. In “Haiku Talk: From Basho to J. D. Salinger,” Sato Hirokai states,

[I] think creating what might be called a seasonal paradigm to the one that exists in Japan is going to be difficult for mainly two reasons that have nothing to do with the size of the country or climactic variations.

“Haiku Talk,” p. 18

Rather, the differences are cultural. Sato goes on to say that,

One difficulty arises from the fact that Japan is culturally uni-centered whereas the United States is multicentered . . . This cultural uni-centralism has allowed the creation and maintenance of things like the seasonal paradigm—not a likely possibility in this country.

“Haiku Talk,” p. 18

I’d heard other people write about the struggles of developing consistent seasonal words, but they had, as Sato noted, related their troubles back to the geographic diversity of the country—not an unreasonable complaint. I’m currently writing this on an April morning in Austin, Texas, which looks quite different from an April morning in Cleveland, Ohio, where I grew up. What Sato, argues, though, is that climate differences don’t matter as much; after all, Japan has its own differences as you traverse north to south, and between mountains and coast. Rather, it’s that Americans as a culture are so individualistic that the idea of developing a consistent seasonal framework is impossible.

Sato also points to the lack of a student-teacher relationship in haiku societies as a primary reason why a seasonal paradigm would never work:

American haiku writers also form groups or associations, but they do so mainly for the casual purpose of getting together with other people or having their pieces published. They do not do so to have one ‘teacher’ or ‘master’ and allow themselves to be guided and led by that person. Most American haiku writers would be shocked to learn that the primary task of the head of any haiku society in Japan . . . is to revise his or her students’ haiku at will, automatically, routinely. Americans are too independent to allow that kind of thing to happen.

“Haiku Talk,” p. 19

His statement does reflect some of what I’ve witnessed: while there are some haiku mentorships out there, many of the haiku groups in the United States are more egalitarian in nature. There is one haiku practitioner I know of who offers yearlong haiku intensives as a teacher, but his programs range from $1,100 to $4,500 a year . . . out of range for many of the haiku practitioners I know.

A dog standing on a tree in a city park.
Astrid enjoying a mild Texas autumn at Emma Long Metropolitan Park in Austin, Texas. November 2021

Reading Sato in the COVID world, I agree that Americans, as a whole, are too individualistic. I’ve spent the past two years acutely aware of how rampant individualism has caused the death of 982,000 people (as of this writing), the suffering of thousands more, and has had an unfortunate ripple effect through the rest of the world. However, while American haiku practitioners are enmeshed in an individualist paradigm, I’ve also found them to be serious both about bringing the essential parts of Japanese haiku into American haiku, as well as revising their own poems. Yes, some people are resistant to feedback, but for the most part, I find haiku poets earnestly seek revision advice. Those who refuse any and all constructive criticism are in the minority. It’s true that most of the time, feedback is requested and offered in a more egalitarian way than a formal teacher/student relationship. Even when a more experienced poet gives feedback to a less experienced one, the interaction is less forma and hierarchical. In addition, I do often perceive a resistance to unsolicited feedback. I know many of my haiku peers who would be happy to have their haiku revised at will, but I know just as many who would be annoyed by unrequested revisions. We cannot completely replicate the structure of Japanese haiku societies, but I don’t think that’s the point. American haiku is simply not gong the same as Japanese haiku. What matters to me is the way in which I see American practitioners doing their best to bring the essence of haiku into the time and place in which they live.

Just as I cannot completely replicate the Japanese approach to haiku as an American, I cannot and should not get too hung up on seasonal designations. In his introduction to Haiku World, Higginson notes that that,

[I]t is important to remember that these traditional assignments are simply a convenient way to organize our observations of seasonal phenomena and poems about them. Astronomical seasons may stay the same, but perceived seasons can and do vary considerably from year to year, even in the same place.

Haiku World, p. 28

Seasons have their characteristics, but they also have liminality. Spring may begin in February in the lunar calendar, but when I lived in Ohio, February definitely never felt spring-like (except for that one day of false spring you’d get somewhere in the last third of the month before being plunged back into the cold). Even March felt more like winter, and snow on my April birthday was rare, but not out of the question. Yet the last two weeks of May always felt like full-blown summer, to the point where being stuck in school another two weeks after Memorial Day felt cruel. For most of the time I lived in Texas, January felt like spring (though the past two Februaries have been heavy on the winter side). Meanwhile, in both states where I’ve lived, August never felt quite like fall (due to the heat), but also not quite like summer (due to the shortening days).

Higginson also reminds us that,

Blinding oneself to the actual phenomena of a given place and time because of some loyalty to the saijiki will only interfere both with creating poems and appreciation of the phenomena themselves.

Haiku World, p. 28.

So far, I’ve found my saijiki study useful to my haiku practice; I also know that no collection can be definitive. In my haiku notebook, as well as in the pages of Haiku World, I’ve been making notes of other seasonal terms, both related to Texas and elsewhere, that are useful to have on my own personal list. A saijiki is a starting point; it is a mode of inspiration; it is a guide. It’s not the sole authority of your haiku practice. (Though perhaps that’s just my individualist American nature asserting itself.)

Four friends standing side-by-side on a sunny day.
Enjoying a wintry day with friends in Austin, TX. January 2022.

Ultimately, I am a poet focused on a form born from a culture that is not my own. I live according to one calendar, and write from a poetic tradition that uses another. But as I mentioned above, it’s not as though the seasons themselves are clearly-defined entities (especially in the current phase of climate change). What I can do is embrace the conflict. I did start my saijiki study on the spring equinox as originally planned, with the distinction between the calendars at the forefront of my awareness. Rather than limiting what I’ve been able to create, I’ve found that embracing the fact that I am simultaneously in two modes of spring, one Gregorian and one lunar, has created another liminal space: one where I have more room to observe the world as it exists right now, and to write to that current manifestation.

Of course, I’ve written nearly 2,000 words, and have yet to explain how my interest in saijiki study led to my desire to create a blog about food in haiku. My April 26th post will detail the inspiration to compile food-related haiku into a saijiki of its own, and to create a podcast around it. In the meantime, take the opportunity to consider how you relate to the seasons in your own haiku practice. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section!


Higginson, William J. Haiku World: An International Poetry Almanac. Tokyo: Kandasha International, 1996.

Ross, Bruce. How to Haiku: A Writer’s Guide to Haiku and Related Forms. North Clarendon, VT: Tuttle Publishing, 2002.

Sato, Hirokai. “Haiku Talk: From Basho to J.D. Salinger.” On Haiku. New York: New Directions Publishing, 2018. pp. 3-20.