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
rumble of thunder... his question falls into my silence — Rebecca Drouilhet, Butterfly Dream, July 23 (2015)
Lynne Rees puts on her critical hat:
I’m unsure if this haiku edges too close to cliché, in the way the rumble of thunder acts as a premonition of the suggested rumblings of disagreement between the two people, and the possible arrival of a metaphorical storm. But I do like ‘his question falls/ into my silence,’ and the idea of something dropping, something not caught but left to fall, illustrates the emotional distance very effectively. As does ‘his’ and ‘my’ which indicate two separate areas of ownership. And the ellipsis at the end of the fragment in line 1 cleverly mirrors what remains unsaid in the following phrase.
Am I being too picky over the pathetic fallacy? Probably. Perhaps I’ve read too many haiku that use thunder to mirror actual or potential arguments. And, as I say above, there is enough here for me to enjoy in Drouilhet’s haiku once I take off my critical hat.
Nicholas Klacsanzky gets connected:
Questions can sometimes be scary, but just like the rumble of thunder, they too pass away. I feel this haiku could be about a romantic relationship, where the boyfriend or husband asks a difficult question, and the poet decides not to answer out of either shame or disgust at the question. Making the comparison between this event and thunder gives the relationship an epic feel, as often relationships feel like.
The ellipsis shows the time it takes for the thunder to simmer down, and also for the question to pass away from their attention. The “r” sounds in the first line aptly show the “rumble,” and the “s” sounds in the last two lines could be portraying the hissing sound after a lightning strike or the sound of the wind in a thunder storm. The pacing of lines, with suspense created in the second line, works well to astonish the reader, like a small bit of lightning.
A haiku that connects nature with human relationships in a seamless manner.
Alan Summers questions the silence:
I like the musicality of the opening line, giving us the heavy silence before and after the thunder. Often people are unnerved by what they deem as silence, and have a need to break it, even if it interrupts a wonderful silence and noise dynamic of thunder.
The opening line avoids a direct verb, leaving us with a single and strong verb in the second line. At times of heightened silence some of us may want to use that for our thoughts, while others use it as a catalyst to ask a question, possibly even totally unrelated to the phenomena unfolding before us. Do we stay humbled or break up the experience, with our own dramatic utterance?
Silence, although I don’t consider it as an absence of noise and action, can be the trigger for all kinds of things. Here it’s a question that falls into someone’s quietness, and we might wonder if it’s ever answered in words.
Some very strong key words from “rumble” to “question” to “silence,” and either an unanswered response by the spectator, or one thankfully interrupted by either lightning or another drum roll of thunder.
As this week’s winner, Lynne 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!
overnight train a handprint smears the moon — Paul Chambers, This Single Thread Alba Publishing (2015)