Welcome to re:Virals, The Haiku Foundation’s weekly poem commentary feature on some of the finest haiku ever written in English. This week’s poem was
plum blossoms a specimen of my dream sent to the lab —Fay Aoyagi, Beyond the Reach of My Chopsticks (2011)
This week’s poet, Fay Aoyagi, gives us a couple of lines on the inspiration behind the poem:
The writing process of this haiku started with the word ‘specimen’ which I wanted to use after a visit to a doctor for a regular check-up.
You’ll never know where an idea for haiku would come from . . .
Norie Umeda has this to say:
The author’s dream has extracted the essence from a specimen, and it will
“plum blossoms” lying in the lab . . . as the vision of the East.
Edwin Lomere tumbles between hope and dread:
At first I’m struck by warm breezes. What else could waft the blossoms
Then I think of plum preserves.
We use mason jars to collect this year’s new life into preserves.
Maybe the color of her plums is spring twilight. Maybe her blossoms are
Maybe the dream aspect of L2 tumbles us back to reality. We gather in
specimens of death. Death is ordained in spring. The cool microscopy of
bee wings and cool glass labs could be hopeful or dreadful.
If the chemo goes well, we have a little plum wine.
Nicholas Klacsanzky meditates on the mystery:
This is an appropriate haiku for the season we are in now, as plum blossoms are a seasonal reference for early spring. The hope and magic of this time is apparent: snow is melting, unearthing what has been laying dormant; flower buds start to form, or begin opening; and people’s moods begin to rise as the signs of winter’s cruelty fade.
This feeling shows the connection between the two parts of this haiku. The plum blossoms, a beloved symbol of early spring, are juxtaposed with the author’s dream (whether it is a dream related to sleep or a dream the author hopes to achieve, it is up to the reader). Plum blossoms are often attributed with having an ethereal quality, as they bloom when snow is still on the ground, making them even more outstanding to a viewer (they are often white with a red center). This ethereal quality is superbly matched with the imaginative last two lines. Through the power of the kigo and the associations we make with plum blossoms, the connection is clear.
In terms of sound, the letter “m” pops out the most. Besides the musicality, I think it gives the poem added dignity and seriousness. The haiku is laid out in a common short line/longer line/short line format, and needs no punctuation because of the clear separation between lines one and two. I find it interesting the author chose “a specimen” instead of making it more definite. I believe it adds to the mystery of the poem and gives it a more mystic atmosphere. Much of the art of haiku is knowing what to leave out, and this is a fine representation of this knowledge. Even though “the lab” has a definite article, it is still ambiguous. We do not know if it is the author’s lab, an imaginary lab, or a lab in a hospital or institute. These elements make this haiku more awe-inspiring.
This haiku is an excellent example of how subtle and imaginative connections can be found and created within haiku.
As this week’s winner, Nicholas gets to choose next week’s poem, which you’ll find below. We invite you to write a commentary to it. It may be as long or short, academic or spontaneous, serious or silly, public or personal as you like. We will select out-takes from the best of these. And the very best will be reproduced in its entirety and take its place as part of the THF Archives. Best of all, the winning commentator gets to choose the next poem for commentary.
Anyone can participate. A new poem will appear each Friday morning. Simply put your commentary in the Contact box by the following Tuesday midnight (Eastern US Time Zone). Please use the subject header “re:Virals” so we know what we’re looking at. We look forward to seeing some of your favorite poems — and finding out why!
how many become one sound of rain — Jacob Salzer, Frogpond 38:3