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spring breeze . . .
a new nun shivers
in the cloister

Woman shrugging
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© Marina Balmaceda Paredes

We start with a kigo, or seasonal reference. A spring breeze could mean many things: how flourishing carries on, how a new beginning is prolonged, and so on. The poet uses an ellipsis (. . .) appropriately, signifying that something is continuing. Putting the haiku in italics shows the effect of the breeze.

From the second line, we have a new nun who is shivering. What is she shivering from? The spring breeze, excitement, nervousness, or something else? We are not told, but that mystery makes readers compelled to read further and to investigate the haiku.

In the third line, we have a cloister, which is a covered or open walk/sanctuary in a nunnery or monastery. So, it seems this haiku is portraying the first few moments a new nun has outside the actual nunnery. By having “a,” the poet leaves the experience open to other nuns as something universal.

Personally, “shivers” sounds spiritual to me. It could be the feeling of the holy spirit, and the spring breeze is also reminiscent of the holy spirit that is supposed to flow through holy people. The poet left just enough room for us to ponder it and to find something remarkable in its juxtaposition.

The sound of the haiku is important too. “new nun” has alliteration and sounds better than “novice nun.” The “i” sound in “spring,” “shivers,” and “cloisters” makes reading it more impacting.

An all-around strong haiku.

– Johannes Helmold

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