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
winding road for the next eight miles Coltrane — Cherie Hunter Day, Modern Haiku 43:1 (2012)
Paul Miller takes the Trane:
I have always enjoyed this poem by Cherie Hunter Day. The middle-line pivot allows for two simultaneous readings—“winding road/for the next eight miles” and “for the next eight miles Coltrane”—that come together to create a wonderfully free form mood. A “winding road” sign is a warning to prepare oneself for potential hazards, but here the poet embraces the time and turns, much the way a jazz musician does. The poem is a message to enjoy the journey.
Garry Eaton wonders:
I started by asking myself, why eight miles, rather than nine, or seven? It occurred to me that eight on an actual road sign would be given as an 8, the one numeral that best illustrates a winding road. Combine that with a saxophone soundtrack by Coltrane, with his typical winding variations, involutions, and free jazz improvisations around some theme, and the combination seems to work to smooth the physical and emotional wrinkles induced by the stresses of life on the road, behind the wheel.
Christina Pecoraro is moved:
What would it be like, I wonder, to drive an eight mile stretch alone on an otherwise car-less road—its twists and turns inviting improvisation in speed—with nothing but Coltrane’s jazz for company? Might it be ecstasy? Catharsis? Prayer? It could, I think, be any one of them, or all three, especially if his album LOVE SUPREME were filling the universe with sound.
In a NY Times article of 28 September 2017, Gia Kourlas writes:
“It probably doesn’t make sense to call a work of art perfect, but for “A Love Supreme,” John Coltrane’s four-part musical masterpiece recorded in 1964, the word sacred feels true and right. It’s an offering, one that seems more invincible and raw with each hearing.”
Like the brief “eight miles” in Cherie Hunter Day’s haiku, Coltrane’s life of forty years was short. Yet unlike their brevity, he traveled a long, and yes, “winding road,” through addictions to become the ground-breaking musical giant we know.
As I read Day’s ku I instinctively ask ‘What of my own journey?’ The little word, “next” in the second line reminds me that like the author’s, a portion of it has already been completed. Ahead lie miles of “winding road.” Citing their precise length—in this case, “eight”—seems to make those miles consequential, especially with Coltrane’s jazz to tap into the deepest parts of my spirit.
In a prayer at the bottom of the liner notes for his album, Coltrane himself wrote “No road is an easy one, but they all go back to God.” Believers or not, we cannot hear his wondrous jazz without being moved and, I believe, irrevocably changed.
As this week’s winner, Paul 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!
spring evening I play with the last kitten to be given away — Chuck Brickley, Earthshine (2017)