Watching four or five monarch butterflies dance around our swan plant (Gomphocarpus physocarpus) last evening was a delight – sadly though, unless I intervene, there likely won’t be a new generation as nesting wasps consume any caterpillars until about the end of February when the predator’s diet changes.

Leaving that unfortunate thought aside, I thought I’d browse my bookshelves for butterfly-related haiku and there in the first book I opened, on the first page I looked at was …

on the manuscript
the shadow of a butterfly
finishes the poem

Nick Virgilio
from naad anunaad, an anthology of contemporary world haiku (2016)

Heartened, I continued …

summer butterfly
between my fingers the thickness
of a playing card

Katsuhiro Takayanagi (tr Koko Kato)
from A Vast Sky, an anthology of contemporary world haiku (2014)



Monarch  butterfly. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Two from the internet:

my son noticing . . .
the attention i pay
to butterflies

John Stevenson
from The Heron’s Nest 1.1 (1999)

kiiro-gumi shiro-gumi [chô] no chidori keri

yellow gang, white gang
the butterflies claim
their turf

Kobayashi Issa, written in 1820 (tr David Lanoue)

At his website, David Lanoue notes: Chidori is an old word, a form of the verb chidoru, which means to measure out a lot on which to build a house.

And back to the bookshelf …

blue butterflies
a knife without a handle
on the lichened stone

Peggy Willis Lyles, 1939-2010
from Haiku 21 (2011)

longtailedBlue - Copy - Copy

Long-tailed blue butterfly (Lampides boeticus). Photo: Sandra Simpson

first white butterfly
my cabbages
not yet planted

Elaine Riddell
from the taste of nashi (2008)

traffic lights
all eyes follow
the butterfly

Belinda Broughton
from Third Australian Haiku Anthology (2011)

4 thoughts on “Butterflies

  1. “Gang” isn’t the word to use of butterflies! And to associate butterflies with planting crops is pretty plebeian. What happened to the poetry? And butterflies and knives???
    Nick: You write very well, but like roughly 90% of people now, your punctuation is faulty. You need a comma after “the last page I looked at.”

    • Hi John, Thanks for taking the time to visit, read and make a comment. If you visit the Issa website, you’ll see he wrote more than one haiku in 1818-20 in which ‘yellow’ is pitted against ‘white’. In each case the translation is ‘gang’ (I took it to be like a gang of kids fooling around). Unfortunately, I don’t read Japanese so am unable to tell you which word has been translated that way.
      Sadly, Nick, considered one of North America’s best haiku poets, is unable to comment – he passed away in 1989.
      I daresay there are thousands upon thousands of butterfly haiku in English, these happened to be the ones I found this morning – and there was no cheating. The first one I found in each book was the one used. Best wishes, Sandra

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