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
clover in flower the Holsteins come with four stomachs — Dan Schwerin, Modern Haiku 49:2 (Summer 2018)
Garry Eaton gets environmental:
Several native American writers, William Least Heat Moon among them, have drawn attention to the destructive effects on the environment when the American milk and beef cattle industry fenced off millions of acres of what used to be open range, ran millions of head of cattle on it, and cultivated millions more acres of crop land for cattle fodders such as clover. From their holistic perspective, it is a very inefficient industry. This haiku slyly and humourously alludes to this massive 19th Century historical change, the closing of vast prairie frontiers, by highlighting the mindless, mower-like and digester-like efficiency of cows as in massive numbers they convert landscapes into milk and excrement in an endless search for more green.
Mark Gilbert keeps it brief:
Distinctive, quirky, a wonderful image of cows approaching a fence to investigate the strange person holding a pad and pen.
Radhamani Sarma googles:
Many a big thanks to the THF blog for having given me an opportunity to google and to know the meaning of Holstein and much more. Dan Schwerin admirably weaves strands in this haiku to drive home the idea of luck favoring the cattle in the form of leaves and flowers. Clover is usually a three-lobed plant, but with four leaves it is supposed to bring luck and prosperity to whomsoever comes across it.
The ordinary day to day event of cattle being fed on clover leaves has been given an extraordinary poetic touch, synchronising with the image of “four stomachs.”
Julie Warther ruminates:
A poem of receiving abundance! Clover in flower is above and beyond run-of-the-mill grass. It is the icing on the cake. What ruminant wouldn’t be attracted? So the Holsteins come just as they are, with their four stomachs, ready to take in the bounty.
Although this haiku appears to be a straightforward “cows-enjoying-clover” poem, the unspoken question provides the resonance. . .What do we come with?
We each have our empty places looking to be filled. We hold common yearnings for love, acceptance, safety, sustenance and purpose. The natural world and those in it have much to offer. Do we come ready to receive? Do we return hungry for more? Do we have the capacity (four stomachs worth?) to take in the goodness, beauty and bounty surrounding us?
Ah! To be as open and accepting as a Holstein!
As this week’s winner, Gary 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!
no moon at month’s end: a thousand-year cedar in the grip of the storm — Matsuo Bashō (trans. Keith J. Coleman), Presence 35(2008)