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re:Virals 183

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

 
     spring evening
     I play with the last kitten
     to be given away

          — Chuck Brickley, Earthshine (2017) 

Radhamani Sarma ponders the end:

Privileged to comment upon the haiku of Chuck Brickley, a noted American haiku writer, whose widely published works have received universal acclaim. As most haiku lovers, his writing is often about getting to know more about Nature’s wondrous glory and beauty.
The first line “spring evening” highlights both the season preferred by all of us and the time.
A close reading of the second line, “I play with the last kitten”, leads us to much speculation. Again we ponder why is it the “last” kitten? As evening falls into night slowly, the cute kitten searches for its abode of rest, or tries to join its clan.
The third line “to be given away” focuses upon the parting or departure. Metaphorically also the haiku implies, as seasonal shifts are imperative, the fun and farewell we have to accept. Could the poet be referring to his own self, getting ready for the final call?

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As this week’s winner, Radhamani 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!
re:Virals 183:

 
     ladybugs 
     the stained glass window
     comes alive
                                             
          — Barabara Tate, Failed Haiku 4:39 (2019) 

This Post Has 17 Comments

  1. Dear Radhamani, your commentary is very nicely and succinctly done.
    .
    “The first line “spring evening” highlights both the season preferred by all of us and the time.
    A close reading of the second line, “I play with the last kitten”, leads us to much speculation. ” – Radhamani
    .
    And there we have it: “spring evening” . . . spring is the season of birth, of beginnings, but the time of day is evening, the day’s ending, symbolic of dying. We are aware of the layers inherent in our perceptions of life, the everyday ambiguities, so by the time we come to “the last kitten to be given away” we’ve already been prepared by the author for the ambiguity that lifts this haiku beyond the realm of mere sentiment and draws us in.
    .
    What is the backstory? We can’t know for certain. There are people who don’t have their female cats spayed. There are people who dump their female cats when they move house or go overseas on a holiday. Kittens get dumped, too. More than 40 years ago now, I heard, then found, five mewing kittens huddled a cardboard box in the lane behind where I then lived. I found homes for 4 of them and kept the last, a timid little female tabby (who subsequently lived to be over 18 years of age)
    .
    I see the “I” of this haiku as a young boy, though that’s not necessarily intended. However Chuck Brickley came by the kitten he plays with, it is the last to be given away. It may be that all of the kittens are to be given away and this one is the last to go. It may be that, of all the kittens, one or more kittens are to be kept as family pets. We can’t know.
    .
    All we can know is that the boy spends time with, affectionately plays with, pays attention to the kitten who, like some or all of its brothers and sisters, will soon be gone from his life.
    .
    – Lorin

    1. Dear Lorin,
      Warm greetings! Appreciate your approach. Mentioning about Spring, ……the evening, day’s ending, “symbolic of dying” I agree , with you.

      Next,
      What is the backstory? We can’t know for certain. There are people who don’t have their female cats spayed. There are people who dump their female cats when they move house or go overseas on a holiday. Kittens get dumped, too. ”

      Piece of information, something new to know.

      Really we feel sorry for these dumb creatures, yet mewing,sweet and pensive, at times.

    2. Lorin, hey
      Radhamani, hi again,

      “I see the “I” of this haiku as a young boy, though that’s not necessarily intended.”

      Exactly, I get that. And thank you for penning that because:

      I want to ask: why is it usually we see the speaker as the I in the poem( implied or explicitly stated in the poem)
      Are most of haiku personal in the sense that they have a connection to the life of the haijin?

      This is a question I grapple with all the time, even in mainstream poetry, but more so in haiku and other allied forms, there are different schools and different thoughts on this, but they seem more like the mode of writing they have adopted, it does not clear the air for me at all …

  2. Spring, always a new beginning in the cycle of life. A kitten, (spring) the evening for the family where it was born has arrived in it is being given away. A new spring awaits the kitten in its new home but it is a sadness, an evening falling for the human and the mother of the kitten who will realise the absence, the joy the full-of-spring kitten lent to the home while it was there. The last sentence is perhaps a cry, a realisation of the perhaps callousness in the necessity of giving the last kitten away. The ones who went before the last one didn’t have the same impact. Perhaps it is the last litter the mother will bring into the world?

    1. Dear petru J vijooen,
      Greetings! in your analysis, mention of spring and new spring for the kitten though it is sad, highlighting the predicament and the last two lines,

      “The ones who went before the last one didn’t have the same impact. Perhaps it is the last litter the mother will bring into the world? ” very thought proving.

        1. Petru, wonderfully said:

          “the evening for the family where it was born has arrived in it is being given away. A new spring awaits the kitten in its new home but it is a sadness, an evening falling for the human and the mother of the kitten who will realise the absence, the joy the full-of-spring kitten lent to the home while it was there.”

          I missed the angle of the the evening for the family. Thank you for writing that

  3. hi all,

    it is a difficult poem for me to write on and I do hope some of you reading this do chime in, discussions cannot happen with a few voices …
    …letting go has so many shades to it…this human heart is capable of so much love and giving and yet there are all the horrible things in their different shades of dark intensity…
    giving away anything the heart is getting fond of is so so so difficult.

    Even now, it is surprising how many people do not knwo that kittens, puppies and a lot of other little innocences can be left at the animal shelters, where they can be adopted… there are a lot of abandoned little lives for saving …

    anyways … back to the poem:

    Radhamani’s: why is it the last kitten …is such a pithy question. I want to say that look Radhamani, all the others found a family to share their love with…and not focus on the dark aspects of this …

    but most of all, I want to say this :
    deliberately reading different nuances in the lines:

    spring evening : I take it to mean the evening of what is spring or the first phase of life, here that of the kitten and maybe that of the speaker too,

    I play with the last kitten: why last kitten, because some are babies longer, the others have transcended into cats …or big cats 🙂

    to be given away: giving away …how many ways does it resonate. Here, I am led to recollect that a bride is given away by her father… or parent, the bond is stronger, but there is also a sense of letting go…

    the lopsided aha moment of my theories:

    it is a filial feeling that is emoted here, and even though it is a kitten, the attachment is very real, and that does not mean that the sadness of the shift in the paradigm is going to be sad too, there is still this moment to be savoured, there is still the lightness and happiness of crazy kitty antics that can still make the speaker laugh, there will be the moment when kitty goes home, but for now, the playing is somehow all the more holier, the moment more real for the happiness that accompanies the realisation that the parting is soon to be

    as I write this, I am grappling with the truth that on 21 March, it will be one year of losing my dog suddenly, letting go is not easy, but my puppy gives me the succour to smile and be my self again.
    what would human life be without other beings? I wonder

    1. Dear Pratima,
      Warm greetings! Always a delectable pleasure in reading through your careful and wonderfully drawn analysis, so educative and inspiring too Step by analysis for every line and your reply for my query in my comments box thus :

      “Radhamani’s: why is it the last kitten …is such a pithy question. I want to say that look Radhamani, all the others found a family to share their love with…and not focus on the dark aspects of this …
      Very apt and interesting . Next your observation,

      but most of all, I want to say this :
      deliberately reading different nuances in the lines:

      spring evening : I take it to mean the evening of what is spring or the first phase of life, here that of the kitten and maybe that of the speaker too,

      again Impels me to capture into the insightful content. Appreciate.

  4. A marvellous verse you have chosen, Radhamani, and one, no doubt, will be read in many ways, but for me this comes to mind –
    ‘bread of heaven feed me till I want no more’

    1. Dear Carol,
      Greetings! Thank you indeed for your lovely words of appreciation.Your quote

      ‘bread of heaven feed me till i want no more’ remarkable saying impelling many a reading into it.
      Really awesome

      1. Hi Radhamani

        I wish they were my words. They are part of an English translation from the Welsh language by William Williams – Guide Thee, O Thou Great Redeemer (Jehovah)

        Yes, awesome indeed.

  5. Dear esteemed poet,
    Warm greetings! Yes,going through the link -earth shine and the Comments on the blog : winner,The Touchstone Distinguished Books Award,- needless to mention- a delightful pleasure. Worth buying a copy soon.
    with respectful regards
    S.Radhamani

    1. a wonderful response to the poem, Radhamani. And a great pick for next week…

      warm wishes
      PB

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