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
flowing by water making room for water — Gary Hotham, frogpond vol 42:2 (2019)
Radhamani Sarma goes with the flow:
As I write from Chennai, India during the peak of summer, I’m witnessing pots and buckets in queues near street taps, water flowing thin, dripping, the cacophony of crowds. This senryu by Gary Hotham thus stirs many layers of meaning. “flowing by” denotes rich opulence or liquidity; it depicts a positive aura of ongoing activity.
The second line — “water making room” — is the catch of the write. At the outset, we tend to wonder: What does “water making” signify? How can one make water? Is there any provision for water “making room”? These tricky questions can be partially answered only through personal experience, I humbly feel. “water making room” also implies storage, where water for drinking might be gathered, purified, and reserved in bottles.
Another probable interpretation is that in the process of gathering, purifying, storing water, or filling bottles, a tube is attached to a container for handling the flow, in the water-making room, where water streams all around. Water is not a solid substance when transferred from one place or container to another. Solids fall as they are, but water, being a fluid, spills automatically, hence “all around.” Dynamos when handled for propelling water emanate sparks, which are also a flowing form.
Linguistically, “flowing” has a show and flow effect woven around the water image. This aspect of language offers a contrast: As opposed to solid substances, the “flow” flows with water, water in the making room, all for water again. Whether in one’s cupped hand or a tin can, a running state of water — liquidity — is captured in the image with a showing and telling effect.
For Cezar-Florin Ciobica, the elements prevail:
The poem probably speaks of the rainy season or, in the worst case, about floods. Forcing his imagination a little, the reader can feel the coolness of the water across his face. The image makes me think of the flood mentioned in the Holy Bible.
The surprise in the third line increases the value of the poem: water makes room/ for water. Water seems to claim its rights. The construction sounds threatening; something bad is predicted, insinuating that man would have no chance before the elements of nature. In fact, not surprisingly, the presence of man is not even mentioned, which means that everything is under the sign of the impersonal.
Phonetically, liquid consonants and the use of assonance throughout the poem (“o” and “a”) create the sound of rushing water, but, at the same time, suggest the desperate voice of an ancient choir that has the role of anticipating ominous facts.
After all, water reminds us, all shall pass in time. What remains is our image in the memory of others.
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!
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Independence Day my boy refuses to wear the safety harness — cezar florescu, The Mainichi, Daily Haiku in English (2020)