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
ill all day... a crime novel in both rooms — Alan Summers, Blithe Spirit, vol. 17 no. 1 (2007)
Radhamani Sarma imagines a fractious scene:
Alan Summers’ senryu possibly veers into the sequential mood of either a couple or friends, maybe housemates. The first line — “ill all day….” — Is not complete, allowing more room for readers to speculate. The lovely pair, perhaps not in good humor that particular day, sleep in different rooms. Why “Ill all day”? It could be, also, that they are not feeling well healthwise. But a more possible interpretation is that due to their quarrelsome, petulant moods, they are spending time in different rooms.
The next two lines — “a crime novel/ in both rooms” — indicate that the mood is not one for romance. Hence, the pair settles down with crime novels, each reading in a different room.
“in both rooms” also implies not only that they are reading novels, but the mood or ambiance is set for crime analysis: Who is to blame or what is the reason for the clash that day?
Terri French uncovers the true crime:
In Alan’s poem, I first focused on the first and third lines. Being ill all day is no fun.
There are those back and forth trips between the bedroom and the bathroom. I imagine a book on the night stand and a book resting on the back of the commode. But then I jump back to the middle line. Why are they both crime novels? Is it simply because the writer likes crime novels? I read a little something deeper here. This person, who has been ill all day, has, in fact, had his health snatched away from him — stolen. That is unfortunate. Some might say a true crime. I hope he finishes the books quickly and his health is returned to him!
Harley King finds escape for the invalid:
We have all been there — so sick we don’t feel like doing much of anything, except maybe read or watch television. We move about the house just to feel we are doing something, hoping we feel better soon.
Reading brings escape from this world — from the upset stomach and headache. Crime novels allow us to enter a world where someone has it worse than we do. Maybe the victim has been poisoned or shot in the head or had his throat slit. The cop/private investigator is tough, yet hungover and stumbling his way through a nasty cold.
The poet in this haiku is reading multiple novels so he is able to move between worlds. If he grows tired of one, he can find himself in another one by simply moving to a new room. This, too, is part of the escape from the illness — visiting multiple universes, solving multiple crimes. We leave behind our illness to find excitement somewhere else — to become someone else
As this week’s winner, Harley 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!
november evening the faintest tick of snow upon the cornstalks — John Wills, The Haiku Anthology (2000)