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
leaves blowing past the school windows my row of cursive a's Cor van den Heuvel, at the top of the ferris wheel: Selected Haiku of Cor van den Heuvel (2017)
Garry Eaton finds language ‘mid the leaves:
This haiku recalls a moment early in the poet’s school career, perhaps in the first grade, when neither the leaves blowing past the window nor his own penmanship would likely yet be of consuming interest to the fledgling poet, but when the resemblance between the cursive form of ‘a’, with its little tail, and an oval leaf, with its stem, might well have been very interesting. The poet finds a simple way to highlight this odd observation, placing the two items side by side without comment, relying on the reader to discover the similarity, and thereby create a haiku. Could this haiku represent the young poet’s first glimmer of understanding of the relationships between nature’s often tragic beauty and his lifelong engagement with the creative uses of language? I think so.
Note also, that the letter Cor chose is the alphabet’s first, ‘a’, which is also the first letter a student would likely attempt to create for himself. I don’t think it is fanciful to observe that this familiar fact helps create a feeling of inevitability about the creative experience. Did Cor experience his first ‘a’s as tiny drawings of leaves? Certainly conceivable.
There is also for contemplation in this haiku a broad and striking contrast, one that school children in countries with temperate climates have been forced for many generations to contemplate, that between an eager beginner at the start of his learning year and the evidence of the end of the naturally maturing year which looms. If ‘ripeness is all’, the poet has already, somehow, started on this quest.
Cezar-Florin Ciobîcă hears the leaves rustle:
A euphonic poem, especially due to the liquid consonant “l” that in combination with fricatives and sonorant consonants makes the reader hear the leaves’ rustle that symbolizes in a way nature’s freedom of expression, its song, while the student, must sit at the writing table and practice the cursive a’s. This monotonous homework can be seen as a burden (“row”) in comparison with the spectacular variety/show that nature offers him.
Maybe the final line of this ku represents the start of something very important: an inclination to notice the invisible threads of nature that weave beautiful images and govern our everyday language/senses.
Therefore until it’s not too late wake up, feel and try to pen at least a line.
Radhamani Sarma perceives the interpenetration:
I’m delighted to comment upon this haiku by Cor van den Heuvel, an American haiku poet and archivist. This is a simple haiku of observation of Nature, its close-knit movements affecting the surroundings and humans.
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!
the wood’s edge, that dark life of the trees, touches the hospital — Marcel Smets, From A Wide Window (1997)