As part of the FT’s haiku/senryu competition, poet Jim Kacian, our judge, offers contestants inspiration on the week’s topic: the commute.

Poems should be sent to by Wednesday, October 15.

Here is what Mr Kacian has to say:

Commuting is a relatively recent phenomenon. In feudal Japan, apart from raiding a neighbouring kingdom’s castle, people largely stayed at home, working the land (and being taxed heavily to do so) or providing some service to the village.

One of the few opportunities for mobility was the annual changing of servants, not really calculated to be a happy event in the lives of those compelled to move (translations from the Japanese are my own, and often are “updated” to make them feel more contemporary):


migrant servant –

laid off

at age sixty

after Issa


Even when the change was amicable, it was hardly without some fraught emotion:


departing servant:

holding her umbrella

she gazes into the twilight

after Kyoroku


Commuting is, of course, much more part of our contemporary world, including in Japan:


boarding a commuter train –

the next forty minutes

all mine

after Kitsune


It often has a public aspect . . .


morning commute –


most of the strangers

by Dorothy McLaughlin


. . . which is quite often somewhat numbing:


commuter train . . .

the clicketyclack

of foreign tongues

by Charlotte Digregorio


But we are a resilient species . . .



the commuter studies

plum flowers

by Michael Fessler


. . . and capable of making the most of our time:


morning commute –

before I finish the sports

he turns the page

by Barry George


But even if we are resourceful, we have to wonder what it is we are doing with our time:


winter morning

the long commute

from a dream

by John Stevenson


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