Several poems this week are interesting for what they can teach about trying a bit too hard. The topic perhaps lends itself to this phenomenon: while the equinox is a real and demonstrable thing, it’s difficult for most of us to actually experience the equality of light and dark. So the equinox as felt is as much an abstraction as a real event, and your treatment of it suggests exactly that. Of the fair number of poems that used the conceit of a midpoint pause, this was, I felt, the most clever:
In Galápagos the turtles pause [Evan Flaschen]
This is what we call a “desk-ku,” one obviously not written en plein air but imagined. There’s nothing wrong with desk-ku, but usually the author is trying harder to disguise that fact. No need here, just enjoy the surreality of it all — hoary ancient creatures with cultural status on their home island very close to the equator (where the equinox is virtually indistinguishable from any other day) pausing — in the mind of the poet.
When your inspiration was derived from observation, your content became more generally centered on the overall shifting of season: weather and birds and flowers.
Spring chill — on the homeless even lice shiver [David Dayson]
Does this seem a desk-ku to you? Do you think it the result of close observation, or rather of thinking about a situation, and then manufacturing a poem about it? Is it even possible for lice to shiver? To my mind, this is clearly an attempt to channel the reader’s response in a certain direction, rather than allowing the truth of the reality speak for itself. It shows the difference between what the writer wishes to say, and what there is to be said. That’s not to say that a writer cannot say what s/he wishes in haiku, only that the images under scrutiny must be chosen with care or they will not support it.
Similarly, all these poems seem to me to be striving after effect —
first Spring walk — the hunchback's stick a little shorter [David Dayson] Spring sadness — arms full of daffodils this too will pass [David Dayson] Spring couriers — counting back swallows as they return [David Dayson]
Each of these seems to me to have some small betrayal, some exaggerated reach, some compromise with the actual in an attempt at pathos, or gravitas, or some other emotion. They all have the fingerprints of the poet on them. We can appreciate the author’s point, but as poems they are too caught up with making that point in time to become timeless. It’s nearly impossible to serve two masters in such a small poem (or truly, in any poem), and featuring my truth will make it more difficult for the truth to out.
My top choice this week also has traces of desk-ku, but combines it with what seems to be actual observation:
Spring clouds — there in the same place as last year [David Dayson]
It seems unlikely the clouds are in exactly the same place this year as last, but saying they are is very suggestive. It conjures the cyclical nature of the season without announcing it in so many words. There is also a bit of drear in it, a foreboding that another poet voiced by saying “April is the cruelest month.” And at the same time it is likely an accurate bit of reportage: weather patterns depend on geographical features as much as anything, and the “there” there is likely to recreate its patterns. This poem has a classical feel to it — like something Buson might have expressed — without being overly imitative. And the poem is allowed to say what it has to say, without overt authorial interference. So this one has a bit of everything, and in just the right balance to make the whole feel quite satisfying. And, as balance is the theme of the day, nicely weighed.
single-handedly welcoming the strengthening sun a sad work desk — Ernesto P. Santiago * ducks during lunch hour so close to breaking even — Mark Gilbert * twenty March — this morning’s lesson is Earth's axis tilt — Angiola Inglese * spring solstice the Easter bunny hard at work — Rachel Sutcliffe * vernal un-equinox the pay greater than my beginner’s skills — Valentina Ranaldi-Adams * spring equinox snow finally gone from the boss’s heart — Paul Geiger * carpe diem — I surrender to spring today — Anna Maria Domburg-Sancristoforo * the night leaves me in awe . . . Dama de noche — Willie Bongcaron * spring equinox Miss March in tall clover — Michael Henry Lee * where daylight lengthens evening retreats spring too between us — Ron Scully * with longer days the work day feels shorter creeping buttercups — Devin Harrison * Digital download Light and darkness on one document — Benedetta Cardone * equinox moon the roll call of ancestors in the oracle’s song — Sonam Chhoki * March equinox on the coffee break red ants — Martin Gottlieb Cohen * spring equinox better half brings home scent of jasmine — Srinivasa Rao Sambangi * equinox sun i linger with the bees by a blackthorn hedge — Polona Oblak * post-verbal dispute the room in equal halves — Anthony Rabang * spring equinox she marks her holiday in red — Andy McLellan * spring sunshine behind bars zoo animals — Olivier Schopfer * on the desk begin to bloom some daisies — Eufemia Griffo * school garden . . . children with teacher portray Spring — Elisa Allo * equinox — a revolution around the sun — Angela Giordano * office astrologer checking the charts March equinox — Christina Sng * march equinox — for working days and nights equal salary — Goran Gatalica * march equinox I take a cardigan just in case . . . — Madhuri Pillai * aequa nox — silently daisies bloom in the janitress’ hair — Maria Laura Valente * Shunbun no hi clearing weeds from my cousin’s grave — Lucia Fontana * night recedes into the spring a minimal promotion — Timothy J. Dickey * the new sun — the snowman’s nose falls — Antonio Mangiameli * vernal equinox orchids blooming on my screensaver — Debbi Antebi * early sunlight reclaiming the lost hour i skip the monday meeting — Jennifer Hambrick * we leave the intern with the new fax machine March equinox — Lee Nash * the boss prefers to keep us in the dark march equinox — Michael Stinson * red rose on her desk secret admirer revealed March Equinox — Karen Harvey * swallows in the sky — again in the office air conditioner their nest Rondini in cielo — nel condizionatore di nuovo i nidi — Lucia Cardillo *
Next Week’s Theme: The Boss’s Spouse
Send your poem using “workplace haiku” as the subject by Sunday midnight to our Contact Form. Good luck!
From October 2014 through April 2016 Haiku Foundation president Jim Kacian offered a column on haiku for the London Financial Times centered on the theme of work. Each week we share these columns with the haiku community at large, along with an invitation to join in the fun. Submit a poem by Sunday midnight on the theme of the week, from the classical Japanese tradition, or contemporary practice, or perhaps one of your own, which you might even write for the occasion. The best of these will be appended to the column. First published 15 March 2015.