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
where the wild things might have been... the autumn sky — Angela Terry,The Heron's Nest, XVIII:1 (2016)
Jacob Salzer goes global:
This is a powerful haiku. It immediately brings to mind the extinction of several species on Earth due to destructive human activities. The autumn sky brings a feeling of emptiness, but not a joyful one, as it is now devoid of certain forms of life. I see this haiku as a warning and also as an opportunity to reevaluate how we live. How can we lower our carbon footprint? How can we lower our dependence on coal power plants? I prefer a simple life, but, on a mass scale, our dependence on technology and the damage that has been done (and continues to be done) to the Earth has deep, long-term consequences. Some species are already gone due to destructive human behavior. Apparently, some humans don’t realize the importance of various species within a complex eco-system that we depend on. Also, the colors of the autumn sky brought to mind an explosion, as if the sky was on fire in its emptiness and this seems to reinforce the dangers of several human activities. But, at the end of the day, we have within our power a choice: and that is to make small decisions that make a difference. Even one person may inspire several people to act more responsibly with intelligence and kindness. “Act local, think global.” There is always a choice.
Nicholas Klacsanzky saw the best wolves of his generation destroyed by silence:
This brings a sense of sadness, and points to the global crisis of deforestation. It reminds us of the desolation that is to come to most of the world in the coming future if we continue on our present course. In my hometown of Woodway, which used to be an almost pristine wilderness with a few houses here and there, more and more forest is being cut down to meet the demands of the population growth in Seattle. The coyotes had stopped from howling for more than decade, until they miraculously began again just last year. Angela lives close to my hometown, and I’m sure she feels the effects of Seattle’s growth as well.
The barrenness of autumn and the ellipsis create a strong mood of desolation. The “w” sounds in the first line also produce a sense of something frail, which add to the atmosphere of the haiku. I think this poem effectively makes the reader feel the devastation that will come in our era of climate change, and perhaps prompts us to do something about it.
Dana Grover tames the beasts:
The first thing that comes to mind is the classic book for children by Maurice Sendak, “Where the Wild Things Are.” In it, a young boy, Max, who has been naughty is sent off to his room without supper as punishment. The room mysteriously transforms to a jungle where Max encounters fantastical wild beasts, tames them, and is named “King of the Wild Beasts,” and a “wild rumpus” takes place. Max gets homesick, though, and returns to his room where a hot supper is waiting for him. I have read that story many times to my children and now to my grandchildren.
The above haiku, like many, can speak in different ways to different people, each reader bringing his own thoughts and experiences to the image presented. In this case it could be that a “Max,” now in the autumn of his years, no longer capable of a fantastical escape from a punishing situation, has to deal with what is rather than what could be.
Fred Krink wonders what might have been:
The first line has me thinking about the children’s author Maurice Sendak,
and his both infamous and famous book “Where the Wild Things Are” (1963).
The story has only 338 words and is about a boy sent to bed without supper
(I think that happened at least once to me too). My own bedroom had a
scary universe underneath it, which I was forced to check out before I
tried to get a night’s sleep.
Instead of a Time Bandits scenario (Time Bandits is a 1981 British fantasy
film co-written, produced, and directed by Terry Gilliam), the bedroom
becomes transformed into a liberating experience, a forest of experience,
which starts as frightening and ends happily in both worlds.
The second line of ‘might have been’ could mean all our ‘might have beens’
if we hadn’t made a brave leap of faith, or just allowing our imagination
to roam, under that autumn sky.
As this week’s winner, Fred 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!
funeral wind I wonder how heavy the trees are — Lori A Minor, Frameless Sky Issue 7 (2017)