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
and then the gloomy earth revolves, revolves around a rooster’s cry — Abigail Friedman, First Prize, Mainichi Haiku Contest 2014
Christina Pecoraro unlocks the song:
Abigail Friedman’s award winning haiku has an intriguing mix of elements: an unknown antecedent, gloom, movement, sound, hope.
Its first two words, “and then” presume a prior period. We might say that that period was left shrouded, since the rest of the first line reveals that earth, and by implication earthlings, have been wearing the heavy coat of “gloom.”
What could earth’s bleak “before” have been? Whatever it was, it could not ultimately halt the coming of earth’s cadenced movement, enhanced by the repeated “r” sound, as in “earth,” “revolves,” “around,” “rooster,” and “cry.” Especially the rhythmic repetition of “revolves, revolves” seems to pull everything, including us, into its circling motion.
Robert Frost’s famous couplet comes immediately to mind:We dance round in a ring and suppose, But the Secret sits in the middle and knows.
In Friedman’s third line we learn that what earth, and so we too, are circling is the sound of “a rooster’s cry.” In that learning, the before-time surrenders something of its secrecy. A rooster, we know, is a precursor of sunrise, or as Shakepeare’s Horatio tells us, ”a trumpet to the morn.” What its “cry” signals is the end of darkness/ gloom and the dawning of day. It announces that whatever kind or length of the disaster may have come before, like a black, starless night it is not is the end of the story. Not even death has the final word. In Christianity the rooster symbolizes resurrection or awakening to new life.
Another feathered creature, Thomas Hardy’s darkling thrush in his poem of that title, presents a fitting parallel. Like Friedman’s “gloomy earth,” Hardy’s world was “spectre-grey.” His poem laments the dead century that is coming to a close and the dead future that is about to begin. Then he, who has been deadened too, hears an unexpected sound. Not the cry of a rooster, but the “full-hearted evensong” of an aged thrush.
Hardy concludes:So little cause for carolings Of such ecstatic sound Was written on terrestrial things Afar or nigh around, That I could think there trembled through His happy good-night air Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew And I was unaware.
Whether unlocked by the cry of a rooster or song of a thrush, the truth/secret is that even in gloom there resides “some blessed hope.” What awaits us then is sunrise, surprise and music for our dancing feet.
Nancy Liddle holds out Hope:
For me the word “gloomy” is pre-dawn, maybe around 4 am when the night is at its coldest and loneliest. And lo, a rooster cries out into the coming day. It’s a positive image – a command to wake up and get on with life. Get out of bed! And the world understands this cry, this urge to get through the next day, and the next.
“Gloomy earth” could also be a reference to the state of the planet as we humans rise up each day to further our destruction of Her. Bound as we are to rise up, so we continue our negative impact on the planet. The cockerel commands us, the rising sun floods out over the plains and the planet is bound by gravity and physics to revolve into the next day and so it goes.
The cycle of life becomes a cycle of ever-impending gloom. Natural ties between the bird and the planet contain seeds of Hope.
Radhamani Sarma looks at the haiku from dusk till dawn:
Very much privileged to comment upon the haiku of Abigail Friedman, US diplomat and senior advisor; in her translation Wait for the Moon: 100 Haiku of Momoko Kuroda Friedman says this of Momoko, the most reputed poet of Japan:
“She embraced the idea that haiku did not have to be about the blessings of nature. She confessed regret and shame at having failed to heed early critics of nuclear power, and she took a public stand along with other artists against nuclear power. Looking back, Momoko believes that the events of March 11, 2011, forced a transformation within her, altering her perspective on life and nature, as well as haiku.”
A close reading shows that this haiku is close to this perspective, claiming man’s disastrous desire is like a roosters call. It is not about a bright sunny morn, or spring in its opulence, but earth in all its darkest moments, possibly at dusk. Saddened by all traffic and trade, ill luck and quirky fate, and occasional fabulous events of success, which are, however, not permanent, there is pale of gloom; hence gloomy earth, also the day long activities come to an end leading on to dusk, again when people reconcile to their loss, waiting for the dawn when roosters caw.
From the viewpoint of a reader, it could also echo the aphoristic saying “if winter comes, can spring be far behind”? Dawn and dusk are twin sides of the coin one has to accept.
The image of roosters can also be synonymous here with greed or establishing assertion over others. Mankind’s temperament is analogous to that of a rooster’s cry.
As this week’s winner, Christina 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!
unfolding a map the ocean between us — Ben Moeller-Gaa, tinywords 17.1 (2017)