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re:Virals 201

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!

re:Virals 202

     of the deep sea fish
     misty stars 
          Fay Aoyagi, Modern Haiku 33.3 (autumn 2002)

This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. e:Virals 200
    Sore to the touch his name in my mouth

    — Eve Luckring, Modern Haiku 42:3(YEAR
    Thanking Haiku Foundation, for giving this wonderful opportunity for haiku/senryu lovers to experiment and augment our skills. It is indeed a learning process too. This week’s monoku by Eve Luckring, a lucid example of experiment of converting sound and smell -all in one perception of seeing and feeling.
    One can envisage an unpleasant background or imaginary character inflicting pain leading on to the persona’s translating her feeling, into sad dovetail of pain and past or possibly a friendship converted into enmity due to love failure or friendship ended due to circumstances beyond control.
    What the afflicted speaker attempts here, her anger bordering on hatred; hence the very name of the person mentioned , very utterance itself is an eyesore in the sense, she hates to see , and touch him; even stretching beyond this the very name should not be pronounced in her mouth, height of hatred even the name should not be whispered.
    A powerful monoku expressive of feelings debarred seeing and feeling and touching ;
    eye/smell / touch- converted all in one single lined monoku

  2. ” … aggressors of ‘domestic violence’ are often protected by the authorities …” – I’ve just read an article by Rebecca Solnit on Lithub on this very issue. I provide the link in case there’s interest:

    The way Eve Luckring, Mary Kendall and others use the haiku/senryu form to describe gender-based abuse is liberating.

    And yes, it is very nice having the comment feature to this feature back!

  3. The ‘sore to the touch …’ reminds of when one has burnt one’s mouth when having eaten something too hot. Alan’s perception of the writer having suffered abuse, whether physical or psychological, therefore comes close to my own perception. I myself have trouble uttering the name of a person who has done me (in this case psychological) harm. The word doesn’t sit well within the mouth, a very sensitive area of the human physiology.

    The monoku here serves the telling well in so far, if it was a three-line haikai, there’d be a continuity which one would want to avoid. The monoku also tells of how one would breathe over such a sore mouth in order to soothe the pain.

  4. Like Alan, I feel the haiku incorporates physical as well as emotional pain and I would potentially characterise it as #MeToo or #AfterWeinstein. Thanks Eve for writing it.

  5. re:Virals 202:
    of the deep sea fish
    misty stars

    Fay Aoyagi, Modern Haiku 33.3 (autumn 2002)

    Always a pleasure to read and comment the posts here, tapping and enlightening our creative aura. This week’s haiku by Fay Aoyagi,opens up some fresh vistas of and animal (here)fish -deep sea fish; also metaphorically viewing, one can see human perspectives, in different situations.
    Converting the very first line “monologue” in terms of sea environment, one can perceive that it is the adaptable technique of deep sea fish, its gurgling sound , to swim and stay in dark water
    Below the surface; A profound study of oceanic animals and structures reveal that some species are blind and some are gifted with eyesight. Those that can see, during diving and adaptations, are gifted with the power of sight, hence light comes out. This illumining gaze, or blink whatever
    One may attribute, may be termed as the misty stars in the ripples of water. A combination of body and sound – seen in the production of “ misty stars”.

    Metaphorically speaking, an afflicted person’s reaction either in the form of long speech or outlet of emotions, as a result of his turbulent situations, his uncontrollable anger leading on to
    His own bemused state, wherein he sees clouds or indecision blocking his smooth sail, hence misty stars. A sea image or angry human voice delving into dark passages of analysis.

  6. In theater, monologue is a speech by a character to himself/herself. Most often this literary device is applied to expresses aloud the thoughts, feelings of a solitary character. The critics of this theatrical device are pointing toward its lack of feeling real, true and are describing it as static, improbable and even boring.

    If a man/woman alone is not expected in real to talk aloud, how improbable is to expect a lyrical outburst, a confession from a fish? Not any fish, but a „deep sea fish”.

    Not revealing the exact name of the fish, Fay Aoyagi gives free hand to her readers to imagine what kind of fish is the one that delivers the monologue. Hence, I assume that the speaking I of this monologue is an ankoo 鮟鱇 (あんこう) (anglerfish), an awkward looking fish, that lives in the bottom of the sea.

    It would be interesting to find out the gender of Aoyagi’s anglerfish.

    Taking into account the major physical differences between the male and female anglerfish, I assume that the content of the monologue has to be pretty different, depending on the imaginary speaker’s gender.

    The piece of dorsal spine that protrudes above their mouths like a fishing pole, that gives the name of this fish, is worn only by females.

    The male anglerfish, which is significantly smaller than the female, has no need for such feature, because it has evolved into a permanent parasitic mate. When a young, free-swimming male angler encounters a female, he latches onto her with his sharp teeth. Over time, the male anglerfish physically fuses with the female, losing his eyes and all his internal organs, except the testes. A mature female anglerfish might carry more than one male on her body.

    Stepping further into the white space provided by Aoyagi, I am going further with my assumptions and imagine that the speaking I of this monologue is a blind male anglerfish.

    Eventually, identifying the one who delivers the monologue, I finally understand the hidden drama of this haiku, drama mainly revealed in the last line of the haiku, that discloses who is the audience of the monologue.

    This is the moment when I sense the power of this ku that constructs a surreal arch that connects the bottom of the sea with the sky – all trough the pathos and weight of an imaginary monologue delivered by an awkward, ununderstood creature: a parasite, a blind male anglerfish.

    My last question would be: what makes the starts look “misty”? Probably, they too, feel for Aoyagi’s character.

    The haiku I selected for eventually being commented is:

    winter fog
    an old man turns back
    into a tree

    John McManus, The Heron’s Nest, Volume XIV:4 (2012)

  7. Thank you for putting back the comment feature. Although the original series did not include this option, ever since it was left by accident, we’ve had some incredible discussions.
    I cannot know what the author intended, but as aggressors of ‘domestic violence’ are often protected by the authorities in various countries, I feel violence in this verse:
    sore to the touch his name in my mouth
    — Eve Luckring, Modern Haiku 42:3
    Either the aggressor has physically assaulted the person in the verse, perhaps shouting ‘say my name’ or it’s psychological abuse day in, day out, and now even the name of the person is like bruises or a mouth full of ulcers.
    Another meaning, as one line haiku (monoku) can be broken up even more than a tercet haiku, could be consensual or non-consensual sex within a relationship.
    Of course, again, it could be someone deeply loved who has passed away, a parent or partner, and it’s too painful to say their name at the funeral or afterwards, or even the horrible time arranging the funeral and not wanting everyone to remind you every second.
    Would the pre-haiku verses of hokku and other haikai verses before the emergence of the genre of haiku dare approach this kind of topic? Post-1896 when haiku came out of the shadow of hokku and grew into its type of poetry I wonder if hokku writers would or could write with such pain about the inequity of human nature: Even senryu seemed to shy away.
    It’s interesting that the Italian sonetti when placed in English, covers abuse, and is opening the veil of our society, but haiku was there first, with the New Rising Haiku movement, and others brave enough to step outside the classical era of haikai subject matter.

    1. Alan, my comment, quoting you didn’t post in the right place. I must’ve ‘misfired’. (smiles)

      1. Deeply appreciated your comments, and the link. I believe the Russian Federation’s government has reinstated that family/domestic abuse is a private matter separate from the law, regardless of the outcome.
        I think Britain is trying to change things, slowly slowly.
        A friend/colleague was one of the first people to be involved in the Victim’s Support Unit, because there was absolutely no support from any department of the government, outrageous.

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