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
The old rooster crows... Out of the mist come the rocks and the twisted pine — O.Mabson Southard, American Haiku 3.1 (1965)
Nancy Liddle gets leary:
What an image — the old major crows and his army of ghosts appear out of the mists of time. Colours of grey and black, twisted bark and drab olive pine, the mists and the rain all contained in these 3 lines. The theme of loyalty, of Kent’s love for and protection of Lear, fealty to the king is the quickening of the ancient followers to rise up out of the shades and stand behind him united. Grand old majesty!
Radhamani Sarma infers:
The haiku begins with “The old rooster crows…” with a pause before the beginning of the second line, meaning much room is left for readers to infer and imagine and complete the meaning. Furthermore, ancient beliefs say that a rooster’s call brings luck.
What follows is the appearance of rocks and twisted pine, typifying sturdiness and solidity and growth.
Here is a quote by his daughter Barbara Southard, regarding her father’s poetic oeuvre:
“Southard strongly believed that haiku should be based on concrete experience, and his keen observation of nature was cultivated in the course of frequent wanderings in the wilderness. He rejected literary criticism that emphasized the symbolic in his poetry. Whatever symbolism might be construed by others, the poet avowed that the verses he wrote flowed from concrete moments of enhanced sensibility.”
Cezar-Florin Ciobîcă exits night and enters light:
The first line of the poem highlights the image of the rooster, which, it is known, symbolizes escape from the darkness, a new beginning, the need for light.
The bird’s crowing seems to bring up the sun and due to the ellipsis the loud cry reverberates around, among the landscape’s elements.
Some might say that the adjective ’old’ is not appropriate for this haiku, but on the contrary it reveals that it’s about an active element that animates the atmosphere, turning it into an vivid one.
The second part of the poem is a pictorial one and it’s clear that we are dealing with a sumi-e painting. We can see how the stones and the pine go slightly through the shroud of the fog, tinting softly the grey void.
The adjective ‘twisted’ refers maybe to the difficulties/windings of life that strengthen us and make us to move forward, being much more confident in our own forces.
In addition, phonetically speaking, the alliteration (‘st’) and the assonance (‘o’) reveals the harmony of the poem, its musicality that continues to follow us long after we have read the verses.
The poem, as a whole, underlies the idea that we must get rid of the veil of ignorance and try to see beyond the deceitful surface of things.
As this week’s winner, Cezar-Florin 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!
late summer what the cicadas insist I know — Julie Warther, tinywords 18:2 (2019)