Welcome to re:Virals, The Haiku Foundation’s weekly poem commentary feature on some of the finest haiku ever written in English. This new posting is a bit of milestone — not only does it mark the beginning of a new century of re:Virals, but it also announces a changing of the guard. Jim Kacian administered the first hundred posts before handing it over to Danny Blackwell, who has administered the last hundred posts and who is now, in turn, handing over the reins to Clayton Beach and Theresa Cancro. Clayton and Theresa are both looking forward to your insights on a whole new collection of poems. Please support them with your very best commentary. Danny wishes to thank all the contributors of re:Virals, who made his time here as editor so rewarding, and to extend his best wishes to the new editors. This week’s poem was:
sore to the touch his name in my mouth — Eve Luckring, Modern Haiku 42:3
Hansha Teki ponders what is in a name:
In some traditions a person’s name is a true expression of their inner reality e.g. following his profession of faith in Jesus as the Messiah, Simon was given a new name—Cephas (Peter/the rock)—for such he was to be.
In Luckring’s poem the name of the unnamed male is uttered with pain just as the tongue tests the pain of a sore tooth or as a willow branch seems to touch on some boil.
Pris Campbell explores the bitter aftertaste:
I really like this haiku. My first association to it was the slang, ‘leaving a bad taste in my mouth’, referring to something or someone affecting you in the wrong way. The haiku takes this a step further. She speaks of a sore mouth, a hurt much deeper than superficial. Just saying his name is enough to bring up the old pain he incurred. The haiku is well written and conveys a complex feeling and story in a way I can immediately relate to, thinking of men in my own life who ‘done me wrong’.
Theresa Cancro traces of the contours of grief:
This striking monoku speaks of the aftermath of a relationship. My first thought is of two ex-lovers or ex-spouses. Whenever the narrator “touches upon” the other’s name — saying it, writing it, or thinking it — the conjured memory is an emotionally painful one, reflective of the last months of their time together. Alternatively, this could easily describe the grief experienced soon after a loved one has passed away, especially if the individual died suddenly. Upon contemplating this poem closely, I find that the pain of grief strikes me as the more authentic interpretation. In a way, the passing of a loved one, family member, or close friend is the end of a relationship. “sore to the touch” implies that the two were close and the death of one causes a great deal of pain during the first depths of grief, possibly as disbelief, regret, anger, or other strong emotions. This also shows that the one left behind is not ready to enter into another relationship: S/he would probably flinch at the touch of someone new.
Nancy Liddle finds the pain palpable:
Such a powerful, densely ambiguous one-liner. To say his name hurts like a punch in the face or guts. To touch the face or place hurts. If it’s the heart that hurts after a break-up, an insult to the soul, a death, then saying his name cannot heal the wound but only renew it. Or after a mutual fight with fisticuffs the cowboy damns his opponent to hell with respect. This monoku cannot be known but is known by everyone!
As this week’s winner, Theresa gets to choose next week’s poem, which you’ll find below. We invite you to write a commentary on 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!
monologue of the deep sea fish misty stars Fay Aoyagi, Modern Haiku 33.3 (autumn 2002)