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9th Sailing

 

Sails is a section of troutswirl that is devoted to presenting questions for discussion and debate on the nature and possibilities of haiku. Sails is overseen by Peter Yovu. For an introduction to this section, see Sails.

 

. . . 9th Sailing . . .

BY Peter Yovu

How do you feel about emotion in haiku?

 

I’m going to keep the intro to this Sailing brief, and simply invite a discussion about emotion in haiku. Are there limits to what the genre can encompass? Taboos? Things to avoid? What role might culture play in considerations about emotion in haiku? Do you write in order to discover what your feelings are about an experience, or simply to express them? Are you influenced in any way by a wish to connect with the reader?

Perhaps none of these suggestions will speak to you, and I trust you will find your own question, and hope you will articulate it. Beyond that, I think this is a good opportunity to gather a range of haiku which speak to the question. And so, I invite and challenge you to present haiku which you find embody emotion in significant ways. Do you know of one or more examples which in your opinion handle any of the following well: joy, anger, jealousy, compassion, envy, awe, confusion, bitterness, resignation, exultation . . .?

There are others of course, some hard to name, and one might argue that not all feelings are emotions. But as I said, I’m going to keep this brief.

 

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This Post Has 39 Comments

  1. I too appreciate Michael’s clarity and expositions here. I have never ceased to feel the “naive novices” each time I attempt to grapple with trying to find the words that can contain such things. I feel the haiku full blown in my mind, but that’s even before I’ve begun to try to determine the words, the context, etc. of how to reveal what my mind comprehends. In addition once I’ve brought the haiku to birth, I have found times when I realize that what I have written may be meaningless to others
    and I am again faced with the impossible task of finding the way through that too. And yet, keeping it as simple as the instant of the awareness. I am indeed a naive novice.

  2. Michael, I’ve enjoyed the clarity of these posts of yours. Some things do need to be said again and again, since there’s always the danger of losing our grounding. Thank you!

    Lorin

  3. Wordsworth once defined poetry as “the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.” This could hardly be more true than it is of haiku. Our recollection may be just a few moments after the “moment” that inspires us to write, or it may be weeks, months, or years, but the power of that emotion is what matters, and whether we can convey it in our haiku.

    Michael

  4. Martin, I hope none of us get beyond being naive novices at haiku. That’s surely what keeps us striving to learn more, and to enjoy each haiku as it comes. The emotions they capture need not be extreme (in fact, Basho’s notion of karumi, or lightness, speaks to subtlety of emotion, I believe — among other things), but if they are real, that’s what matters.

    At my haiku workshops, I routinely say that if people are going to write down just one thing from the workshop, it should be this: Don’t write about your feelings. Instead, write about what CAUSED your feelings. That’s the secret of showing rather than telling. (To me, by the way, that cause may or may not be the season word in the poem — the secret to haiku is to relate the causes of your feelings, not the feelings themselves.)

    Michael

  5. Adelaide wrote that “It’s easy to show an image, but how do you show an emotion?” Gabi, you wrote “In traditional Japanese haiku, this is done via the appropriate choice of a kigo.” I think you overstate the case, Gabi, suggesting that this is the only way. Kigo is not the answer to every question posed about haiku! In fact, whether one uses a kigo or not can be independent of whether the poem “shows” or “tells.” Obviously, yes, a well-chosen kigo, used in certain ways, can imply emotion, but that’s just as true of carefully chosen words that are NOT kigo. Moreover, one can employ a kigo that does NOT necessarily “show” anything, emotional or otherwise. My point is that the use of kigo does not directly correlate to whether a haiku “shows” vs. “tells.” It’s how you USE the kigo that matters. And it’s how you USE other images in the haiku that matters. A kigo itself won’t necessarily make the poem “show” rather than “tell.”

    Michael

  6. Regarding the Roseliep poem: given its complexity and deep subjectivity, I thought (somewhat reflexively) that it would be best to leave it open to discussion if that’s what wanted to happen. Yes– disgust, shame, and also fear. The poem is an example of one where our response may be tied to knowledge which was (I’m not sure about this) not so much in the foreground when the poem first appeared as it currently is…

    The two “uh” sounds, the sound one might make when punched in the gut, carry a lot of painful weight.

  7. Peter, why not name the emotion(s) in the Roseliep haiku? I see self-disgust coupled with shame. “brushing my sins” is very effective and a wonderful first line. It conveys the imagine that some sins are too terrible to be washed (brushed) away. I remember from my children’s catechism that, “God knows and sees all things, even our most secret thoughts.”

  8. P.S> The above haiku is by Eileen Sheehan and I found it in”where the wind turns” – Sorry I pressed the send button before I had finished.

  9. When I come to a haiku like this one:

    pauper’s graveyard
    only the long grasses
    have names

    What strikes me is the way haiku is able to handle complex emotions without being emotional. The image is what it is…even if you feel some sort of emotion…the image itself has no emotion in and of itself.

  10. Lorin Ford brings up an important matter when she talks about “texture” as connected to haiku. I think she means as subject matter—seersucker; river/barefoot—and that is one approach. But the one I want to throw in is the texture of the poem itself, of the words, as conveyors of feeling. Here’s a celebrated (on this thread and elsewhere) poem by Marlene Mountain:

    pig and I spring rain

    It’s usually thought of as a joyful poem and I won’t argue with that. If you like to linger on the sound and body of a poem as I do, perhaps you’ll see/feel/hear the rolling contrast and alternations of short vowels (the repeated short i’s) with the long “I” and the “a” of rain. They do different things to the body when spoken. Both short vowels are delivered by “p” sounds, which adds to the delight. Other things can be spoken of as well. Its almost like one roly-poly word which means exactly what it says, and feels exactly how you feel. I do think that if one really takes the sound/texture/rhythm of a poem like this in, it will unfold several shades, not only of meaning, but of feeling. This poem has, for me anyway, some of that cubist quality I mentionned: I enjoy reading the word *spring* as a verb and also as an adjective. Makes for a kind of… ejoyculation.

    Here’s a poem by Raymond Roseliep which I’m sure evokes shades of emotion I don’t need to name, but whose texture/sound is integral:

    brushing my sins
    the muscatel breath
    of the priest

    I’d be other interested to see some other poems where emotion is conveyed through sound. (I’m looking for a good one evoking disgust; Roselieps’s maybe?).

    Finally, on the subject of “show don’t tell” let me offer three poems without commentary:

    a single tulip!
    hopelessly,
    I passed on
    Michael McClintock

    On the way towards
    the fountain I lag behind,
    and how calm I feel!

    Izumi e-no michi okure yuku yasukesa yo

    Ishida Hakyo

    A wind vast and slow
    from the ocean’s library.
    Here’s where I can rest.
    Tomas Transtromer

  11. No need to apologize for haiku when it comes to “emotions.” Basho: “by the fishing fires ,/ a bullhead — under the waves / choking in tears” (Barnhill). Attracted to the fire, the fish, though under the waves, feels doom, for he “knows” he will be “caught.” He IS caught: he is in the “power of death.” But humans too are fascinated by “the power of death.” While I say this haiku expresses despair, some may say “compassion”: there’s no compassion without a recognition of absolute evil. The hyperbole “choking in tears” (with the serio-comic image of tears in water) only provides the reader an excuse for not facing her own fascination with the power of death. Since death is a “given,” why are we fascinated? We can’t accept it. We are in that sense, unlike the bullhead, metaphysical beings. The difference is held in the tension of the haiku: this is haiku’s great strength as a literary form and why it commands growing attention in an age characterized by a refusal to deal with mysteries as such (we’d rather think of them as problems open to definitive solutions).

  12. At the moment, it seems, Troutswirl is like a kind of mama-bush onto whose rootstock a number of berries have been grafted and are at different stages of ripeness. Some have been squeezed a bit and left juice stains on my screen; others have been barely touched. To extend this metaphor a little, I’d say these are the sorts of berries that ripen only when picked, handled and tasted…. Here are a few subjects I’ve picked up on:
    *the importance of haiku* (personally and as part of the whole field of poetry;
    *shadow and duende*;
    *show don’t tell*;
    what I’ll call *cubism* by which I mean the presentation of multiple shades of meaning and interpretation, and sometimes ambiguity—this came out in Judith Christian’s: rising from your bed/ remembering/the train whistle, though other poets, like Scott Metz and Marlene Mountain, probably fit this description of “cubism” better;
    I’d say the matter of *subjectivity and objectivity* are also present (they’re never far)—Christian’s poem could be discussed in terms of subjectivity, while Kato Shuson’s (presented by Michael Dylan Welch in Viral 5.6); the anglerfish frozen/right down to its very bones/is hacked to pieces—
    could be discussed in terms of objectivity. (subjectivity as history/memory, objectivity as sensation/presence).

    There are two other subjects. *Emotion*, the basis for this forum, and *beauty*, as presented by Michael in the aforementioned Viral, dovetail nicely I think. Here’s something Michael said: “A… useful topic of discussion would seem to be what subjects are appropriate for haiku, and if we have biases that preclude a certain range of topics. I think perhaps we do. We may CHOOSE to write about beautiful things only, but making that conscious choice [is] better than unthinkingly defaulting just to certain subjects or tones. Again, as Hackett wrote, ‘Lifefulness, not beauty, is the real quality of haiku’. This understanding is a crucial one for haiku, and facilitates the dark as well as the light”.

    One could easily rewrite this using different keywords associated with emotion and the point remains. I’ll take it personally: do I have biases that preclude a range of topics and emotions? Yes, but I welcome the challenge to examine them. It is not just that I want to write with greater variety, but, as poetry for me is one portal to inner/outer experience, I want that portal to be as wide open as I can tolerate. Discovery otherwise is impossible, or limited.

    So as not to strain the board, I’ll continue this on a separate post. Stay posted.

  13. Lorin,
    I would say yes, our bodies are the medium here–
    for whatever it’s worth,
    a friend once offered this distinction:
    feelings are the sensations in the body,
    and emotions are how we process those sensations through the mind, an interpretation of the physical sensations.

    I agree, I think our cultural conditioning, as well as our personalities, play a huge role in how we access feelings and process them, let alone how we express them.

    A few poems from another side of the spectrum:

    After an affair
    sweeping
    all the rooms.

    Trying to forget him
    stabbing
    the potatoes.

    Alexis Rotella

  14. ps… both use texture, or the tactile sense, so that ‘feeling/ emotion’ is embodied, and we approach the emotion through the body. Which is where emotion registers… the mind is secondary, with emotion, perhaps. If we don’t feel it in the body, on the skin or in the gut or (as in fear) in our hair, or other parts of the body, is it really emotion, or just an idea about emotion?

    I have no argument for this…it’s just something that’s occurred to me now. Do we need our bodies to feel emotion, or respond emphatically to emotion? If we were disembodied minds, would we feel the range of emotion that we do?

    Lorin

  15. ‘What role might culture play in considerations about emotion in haiku? ‘

    Peter, this is an interesting point, as I think culture plays a great part in the way we express emotion. Having read some Romanian and Israeli haiku, and Dimitar Anakiev’s essay in the latest Red Moon anthology, I realise that there are cultures which more freely encourage overt emotion, in haiku and in general expression, than my own. Even some American haiku (certainly not all) can seem overly sentimental to me. I don’t believe that emotion in haiku has to mean wearing one’s heart on one’s sleeve, and a sensitive reader will pick up on the emotional qualities in haiku, as in other poetry. My own cultural bias is toward the non-declarative, the implied.

    Nevertheless, the most recent haiku I’ve read that expresses a joyful, expansive emotion I can fully relate to is not by an Australian, but an Englishman:

    summer river –
    when I’m barefoot
    it’s forever

    Martin Lucas (‘Presence #39’)

    And here is a recent American one which delighted me, where the nostalgic emotion is clean and light and difficult to define in terms other than the author used, since she has chosen a stunningly simple and accurate ‘objective correlative’ (for want of a better term):

    the kind of breeze
    I knew as a child. . .
    seersucker

    Jennifer Corpe, (‘Notes From the Gean #3)

    Lorin

  16. I thought that I had better show accomplished haiku to illustrate my point of deeply felt experiences I believe that the writer shares with me:

    Muttering thunder…
    the bottom of the river
    scattered with clams

    Robert Spiess

    starry night –
    biting into a melon
    full of seeds

    Yu Chang

    meteor shower . . .
    a gentle wave
    wets our sandals

    Michael Dylan Welch

    a robin listens
    then flies off
    snow eddies

    William J. Higginson

    Therefore, Mr. Welch, what do you think of what I said and do you agree from Basho to Mr. Higginson they experience and write their hokku and haiku with the intensity provoked by their emotions.

  17. I have been reading haiku and writing my attempts at haiku for the last ten years and I cannot get beyond being a naive novice at it. I struggle in understanding haiku but what drew me to it are the extreme emotions that I experience through it. Where the moment shows the wonder and transcendence in the ordinary:

    the mountaintop dimples under the strider’s leg

    clouded night
    algae glow in the bow wave

    marsh lightening
    the tree’s blossoms open
    into egrets

    Sorry, these are weak but I experienced these events in awe.

  18. When teaching Japanese kids to write haiku, they are told to write two lines with some kind of experience, event or observation. And the third line should be …
    it makes me happy,
    it makes me sad … or any kind of emotion.

    Then the teacher gives them some samples of kigo that express this emotion, and they can substitute it.

    Here is more on the lessons I attended at our local school
    http://happyhaiku.blogspot.com/2004/01/teaching-children.html

    Gabi
    (the one with the red jacket in the photo … grin … )

    Here is one from a student of the fifth grade, after my lesson about the worldwide haiku efforts …

    bright autumn day –
    around the world
    in just one moment

    .

  19. “As Michael wrote, “Show, don’t tell.”
    It’s easy to show an image, but how do you show an emotion?
    Adelaide ”

    In traditional Japanese haiku, this is done via the appropriate choice of a kigo. That is one reason why Japanese haiku poets study the saijiki in their “free” time, to have the vocabulary ready when needed.

    Gabi

  20. As Michael wrote, “Show, don’t tell.” It’s easy to show an image, but how do you show an emotion?
    A poet can describe the scene, but the reader provides his own emotion, which may or may not be the same as the poet’s.

    waiting for her
    to get well…
    slow rain-clouds

    John Kinory, Bottle Rockets, winter 2010

    When I read that I had a pang of sorrow remembering the wait during my mother’s last illness. For me, the emotion is sorrow. The wait is over, but for the poet there is still hope.

    And, sometimes we experience the same emotion the poet feels.

    spring at last
    letting the stallion out
    into the pasture

    Randy M. Brooks, Acorn, Spring 2008

    Sitting here in late winter with sleet falling and waiting for another 10 in. of snow, I can vicariously experience the joy of the stallion and the poet. Perhaps, if I reread this in mid-summer, not as I did today, the emotion felt would be less.

    Adelaide

  21. Gene said: “As far as it can take us.”

    I suppose we can do that, and that wasn’t my argument as such, but the danger (silly word, but I’ll use it for now) is we get a whole wave of statement haiku attempts without any depth but just emphasing, or attempting to draw tear-jeaking or hair pulling reaction, or as someone has called them, “pun-ku” etc… etc…

    I am not here to list all of my credits, books, ISBN’s, ect. As a genre of poetry, haiku should be able to take us to the limits. Haiku is a genre of poetry isn’t it?”

    Well, it’s just polite to list them, as I appreciate being published, and it’s procedure to show the haiku has been accepted as haiku by major publications.

    I said: “I would venture that emotion has or can have a key part to play in haiku, and could even be considered as much a device as the array of devices or techniques available elsewhere to haiku.

    The danger is that if it is overemphasised it can lead to a great number of ’statement’ verses.

    True, all good writing should, almost by default, evoke emotions on a scale of 1 -10.

    How
    far should haiku be used as a vehicle for emotion though?”

    Chris said: “The best work (which includes most of what’s discussed on Troutswirl) engages both head and heart. Or elicit emotions that are conflicted or stifled:”

    The boy
    taught not to cry—
    white chrysanthemums
    Paul Pleeuger, Jr.

    I have my own haiku that goes…

    scooter fall –
    a boy grasps his pain
    outside an art café

    Alan Summers
    Snapshots 9

  22. I think of emotion in haiku as subtle, expressed indirectly through nature imagery.

    Where do other poets draw the line (or overlap) between haiku and senryu?

  23. The best work (which includes most of what’s discussed on Troutswirl) engages both head and heart.

    pensioned—
    filling the days
    with late tomatoes
    D. Claire Gallagher

    third blizzard—
    the untuned piano’s
    middle C
    Roberta Beary

    It can be written in major or minor keys, or strike chords which are both humorous and sobering:

    Thanksgiving—
    holding a bite
    through the prayer
    Collin Barber

    Or elicit emotions that are conflicted or stifled:

    The boy
    taught not to cry—
    white chrysanthemums
    Paul Pleeuger, Jr.

    Or perhaps hard to define:

    dry thunder
    the sound of sparrows
    in sunflowers
    Sandra Simpson

  24. “how far should haiku be used as a vehile for emotion though?” Alan Summers

    As far as it can take us.

    I am not here to list all of my credits, books, ISBN’s, ect. As a genre of poetry, haiku should be able to take us to the limits. Haiku is a genre of poetry isn’t it?

  25. Alan’s example – above – illustrates something I particularly like about haiku, which is how it can handle mixed emotions or an emotion that is complex and not easy to put into words.

    The haiku I enjoy most often have a kind of sad happiness or equanimity with longing or some other emotional paradox.

  26. The following haiku seems to hit a chord with writers, and with the
    general public either new to poetry or turned off by poetry. I often use
    haiku to get people ‘re-interested’ in poetry after bad experiences at
    school, or peer pressure.

    I often read, perform, or display haiku accessible to members of the public.

    lime quarter …
    an icecube collapses
    over jazz

    Alan Summers

    1. ‘City: Bristol Today in Poems and Pictures’ 2004 ISBN: 0954811704
    2. BBC 1 – Regional arts feature November 2003
    3. Haiku Friends ed. Masaharu Hirata, Osaka 2003
    4. BeWrite.net eMagazine 2003
    5. Bristol Evening Post article//Latimer’s Diary 2002
    6. Presence haiku magazine ISSN 1366-5367 January 2001 No.13
    7. BroadcastLab project: Haiku with Alan Summers by Ambidextrous and Soft
    C (ArtsWork Bath Spa University): recorded as part of Alan’s haiku
    poet-in-residency at Bath Spa University 2006 – 2007 undergraduate
    programme with student bodies ambidextrous & Soft C
    8. Seven Magazine (Bristol Evening Post) full page feature: “Three lines
    of simple beauty” Saturday April 29th 2006

    all my best,

    Alan
    http://area17.blogspot.com
    .

  27. I would venture that emotion has or can have a key part to play in haiku,
    and could even be considered as much a device as the array of devices or
    techniques available elsewhere to haiku.

    The danger is that if it is overemphasised it can lead to a great number
    of ‘statement’ verses.

    True, all good writing should, almost by default, evoke emotions on a
    scale of 1 -10.

    How far should haiku be used as a vehicle for emotion though?

    I do have a haiku that people have used for comfort when they have lost a
    member of the immediate family. One gentleman even used it as a kind of
    mantra to stay focused and calm.

    the rain
    almost a friend
    this funeral

    Alan Summers

    1. Seven Magazine (Bristol Evening Post) full page feature: “Three lines
    of simple beauty” Saturday April 29th 2006
    http://area17.blogspot.com/2006/05/seven-magazine-literature-feature.html
    2. BeWrite.net eMagazine 2003
    3. First Australian Haiku Anthology ISBN 0 9577925 9 X 2003
    4. ‘The New Haiku’ Snapshot Press, 2002, ISBN 1-903543-03-7
    5. ‘Hidden’ British Haiku Society Anthology 2002 ISBN 1-903746-26-4
    6. ‘The Omnibus Anthology’ haiku and senryu 2001 Hub Editions ISBN
    1-903746-09-4 Hub Haiku series
    7. Cornell University, Mann Library, U.S.A. “Daily Haiku” poet for Oct 2001
    8. Blithe Spirit article On minimalism and other things DJ Peel Vol 9
    No.3 September 1999
    9. First Australian Anthology (October) 1999
    http://users.mullum.com.au/jbird/as6.html
    10. Snapshots 4, Snapshot Press ISSN 1461-0833, Highly Commended
    Collection, Snapshots Haiku Collection Competition 1998
    11. Azami haiku magazine Osaka, Japan No.28 September 1995

  28. I would venture that emotion has or can have a key part to play in haiku, and could even be considered as much a device as the array of devices or techniques available elsewhere to haiku.

    The danger is that if it is overemphasised it can lead to a great number of ‘statement’ verses.

    True, all good writing should, almost by default, evoke emotions on a scale of 1 -10.

    How far should haiku be used as a vehicle for emotion though?

    I do have a haiku that people have used for comfort when they have lost a member of the immediate family. One gentleman even used it as a kind of mantra to stay focused and calm.

    the rain
    almost a friend
    this funeral

    Alan Summers

    1. Seven Magazine (Bristol Evening Post) full page feature: “Three lines of simple beauty” Saturday April 29th 2006 http://area17.blogspot.com/2006/05/seven-magazine-literature-feature.html
    2. BeWrite.net eMagazine 2003
    3. First Australian Haiku Anthology ISBN 0 9577925 9 X 2003
    4. ‘The New Haiku’ Snapshot Press, 2002, ISBN 1-903543-03-7
    5. ‘Hidden’ British Haiku Society Anthology 2002 ISBN 1-903746-26-4
    6. ‘The Omnibus Anthology’ haiku and senryu 2001 Hub Editions ISBN 1-903746-09-4 Hub Haiku series
    7. Cornell University, Mann Library, U.S.A. “Daily Haiku” poet for Oct 2001
    8. Blithe Spirit article On minimalism and other things DJ Peel Vol 9 No.3 September 1999
    9. First Australian Anthology (October) 1999 http://users.mullum.com.au/jbird/as6.html
    10. Snapshots 4, Snapshot Press ISSN 1461-0833, Highly Commended Collection, Snapshots Haiku Collection Competition 1998
    11. Azami haiku magazine Osaka, Japan No.28 September 1995

    The following haiku seems to hit a chord with writers, and with the general public either new to poetry or turned off by poetry. I often use haiku to get people ‘re-interested’ in poetry after bad experiences at school, or peer pressure.

    I often read, perform, or display haiku accessible to members of the public.

    lime quarter …
    an icecube collapses
    over jazz

    Alan Summers

    1. ‘City: Bristol Today in Poems and Pictures’ 2004 ISBN: 0954811704
    2. BBC 1 – Regional arts feature November 2003
    3. Haiku Friends ed. Masaharu Hirata, Osaka 2003
    4. BeWrite.net eMagazine 2003
    5. Bristol Evening Post article//Latimer’s Diary 2002
    6. Presence haiku magazine ISSN 1366-5367 January 2001 No.13
    7. BroadcastLab project: Haiku with Alan Summers by Ambidextrous and Soft C (ArtsWork Bath Spa University): recorded as part of Alan’s haiku poet-in-residency at Bath Spa University 2006 – 2007 undergraduate programme with student bodies ambidextrous & Soft C
    8. Seven Magazine (Bristol Evening Post) full page feature: “Three lines of simple beauty” Saturday April 29th 2006

    all my best,

    Alan
    http://area17.blogspot.com
    .

  29. The point of haiku is emotion, don’t you think? That emotion is best implied, of course. Show, don’t tell. The virtue of the two-part juxtapositional structure in haiku is that it creates a gap whereby, indeed, something may be implied. What else is implied, in most cases, but some sort of emotion? Robert Creeley talked about poetry being a transfer of energy, and that energy is often a transfer of emotion. As I always say in the haiku workshops I give, don’t write about your feelings; write about what *caused* your feelings. The point is that one’s emotion will carry through in your careful description of what caused your feelings.

    Michael

    P.S. Folks in the Pacific Northwest and Haiku Canada have seen a presentation I’ve given called “The Joy of Haiku,” which presents all sorts of joyous haiku, yet also makes a case for “dark” beauty and joy (think of aspects of the movie *American Beauty*, especially the scene showing that white plastic bag blowing against the red bricks, and the movie’s final scene).

  30. emotions are fine as lomg as they are implied. One needs to lean how to seperate themself from their emotions.

    spring mist–
    a mallard paddles
    through our stillborn’s ashes

    Gene

  31. And this has the opposite effect:

    hot afternoon
    the squeak of my hands
    on my daughter’s coffin

    – Lenard D Moore

  32. When I think of JOY, I think of these two haiku:

    a poppy . . .
    a field of poppies!
    the hills blowing with poppies!

    Michael McClintock

    * *

    pig and i spring rain

    marlene mountain

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