A haiku hike through

climbing stairs

Hiking to the galleries. Photo by Dinah Cardin

Perhaps it’s the reverb left from the excellent Massachusetts Poetry Festival at PEM last month — suddenly I can’t stop writing haiku about the fascinating objects, old and new, in this museum.

To curb my wordiness, I’ve followed classic haiku structure: line 1, five syllables; line 2, seven syllables; line 3, five syllables. But I’ve let myself stray from traditional subjects of nature and seasonal change in order to be playful, speculative, sentimental—whatever mood the object evoked. Though I work at PEM as an editor, concerned with accuracy and articulateness, here I’m totally off duty.

Are you inspired to write a PEM-related haiku? Send one in a comment to this post. I’d love to read it!


What have I become?

Can’t let go of my baggage—

it’s too beautiful.

Face it—no escape

from authority figures.

Keep an eye on them.

island wedding

Wanted: headless guy

with shell obsession, to flirt,

talk art, impress guests.

mr. nobody

Take your withheld self

off the shelf. Trust it. It’s no

Mr. Nobody.

turner waves-2

Sea versus Turner.

Both confident, powerful—

a great match to watch!


Eyes dark gray yet bright,

outward gaze and inward sight—

Hawthorne’s amplitude.


In King Penguin’s realm

ancient meets recent. He loves

browsing the iPad.


Loves me, loves me not—

plucked petals meld, a disc of

shadow, sheen, fragments.



Nick Cave, Soundsuit, 2013

Attributed to the Pollard Limner, Portrait of Benjamin Lynde, about 1730; Jangseung (village guardians), by an artist in Korea, 19th century; Lamqua, Portrait of Mouqua, about 1845

Brian White, Island Bride, 2002

Michael Linn, Everybody, 2011–12; related to Mr. Nobody, by an artist in China, late 17th century, also at PEM

J.M.W. Turner, Waves Breaking against the Wind, about 1840

Charles Osgood, Portrait of Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1840

King penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus), about 1820, from the Falkland Islands, shown with other objects in the East Indian Marine Hall

Anish Kapoor, Halo, 2006


  1. Susan Flynn says:

    Clever and witty
    you made me giggle out loud
    on a dreary day.

  2. gail spilsbury says:

    Loved all of this! Let’s do a treasure book of your PEM Haiku for the mass market! It will be eaten up.

  3. Lisa Schneier says:

    Your haiku helped me see the art in new ways! What an interesting and enjoyable pairing of art forms.

  4. You’ve found another way in. It feels like we are viewing the PEM’s amazing collections from above. What a creative way to reach a whole new audience!

  5. Claire Keyes says:

    Wonderful, Susanna. These are some of my favorite works at the PEM. You have brought them newly alive. Thank you, Claire

  6. Janet Sylvester says:

    I love Hawthorne’s amplitude! Nice to see his return.

  7. Sherri Dietrich says:

    Lots of shells up here in Maine; I’ll keep my eyes open for headless obsessives and refer them to PEM.

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