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pink = zero

Started by Jim Kacian, April 09, 2011, 10:25:58 PM

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Jim Kacian

Hi All:

Today's Per Diem offering is one of my most favorite recent haiku, by Eve Luckring:


still pink
close to the bone

To me this poem is in conversation with Emily Dickinson, but I wonder if it is so obvious to others. I'd welcome your thoughts on this, as well as offering other poems you feel might be similarly influenced by other "mainstream" poets.



Hi Jim,

I hadn't realised this was a nod to Emily Dickinson as I haven't read her closely.  But I'm impressed with her modern take on language for that time, and how loose yet controlled, and never stifled or stifled.

I love this final stanza in A narrow Fellow in the Grass:

But never met this Fellow,
Attended or alone
Without a tighter breathing
And Zero at the Bone.

    Emily Dickinson (1866) first published as The Snake

I'd say that Eve Luckring's haiku is not only a homage and a thanks, and an allusion, but touches on ekphrastic angles, as surely Emily Dickinson's work can be considered art, as much as a literary piece of work.



Hi Jim,
          No, I must say that, though I like this haiku of Eve's a lot, find it powerful, I didn't (& still don't) associate it with Emily Dickinson's work at all. That 'narrow fellow' poem Alan has quoted is a particular favourite of mine. . . I certainly share Emily Dickinson's feeling upon meeting one of those 'narrow fellows'! and no-one has ever put the 'body shock' feeling of such a meeting so well as she does -- "zero at the bone".


still pink
close to the bone

- Eve Luckring

What I get here is the power of words to hurt, to cut deeply. Knives, a knife is involved. The metaphor, 'objective correlative' or what anyone wants to call the image is that of meat, perhaps a roast chicken; cooked on the outside but when sliced into, still raw and pink close to the bone (literally). And 'close to the bone' is such a common metaphorical expression in English when something touches us so deeply that it really hurts.

There could also be an allusion to femininity in a world that is tough on women and expects them to have no vulnerable feelings in  'pink close to the bone'.

I love it that Eve has renewed this common expression 'close to the bone', bringing back it's original life and power, fulfilling William Carlos Williams dictum to "make it new!". Yes, words can have the effect of cutting 'close to the bone'.

Both poems, though, do have this in common: an awareness of the body sense, sensations. It could be (though I don't want to make any rash claims) that what Emily Dickinson and Eve Luckring's poems here have most in common is the obvious, that they are written by women , and that it's possible that women are more aware of (or just more used to expressing?) bodily sensation than human males, who are said to be more sight-oriented.

- Lorin

Mark Harris

pink=zero . . . I'll bite

here's something that happened in my workplace. One of the guys (we are all male) in my department was given the job of building 2 toolcarts, to be shared by 4 of us. Each cart was built with 2 drawers. The plan: paint each drawer, and the tools stored inside, an identifying color. We had 4 cans of spraypaint on hand: bright orange, leaf green, sky blue, and hot pink. As Arrow (yes, that's his name) was painting the drawers, I walked by, and said, "Who gets the pink drawer?"

I think Arrow was intending to give me the pink drawer (he was the new guy, I'm 10 years on the job), but instead he gave me blue. He gave Keith the pink drawer. Keith, who is a team player if ever there was one, refused to mark his tools with pink, which undermined the project, and ultimately led to all of us grabbing a tool when we need one regardless of color, catch as catch can, as Caroline says in the Lou Reed song.

btw, we work in an art museum, are all artists of one kind or another, and have used the color pink many times, in other situations, without qualms. The power of pink.


 ;D ;D ;D :-X

... for what it's worth, Mark,  I've never worn pink since I could speak/ yell and I wouldn't have accepted the hot pink drawer, either. I might be pink on the inside, but who wants to go around insides out? And there are other, ruder names for 'hot pink', most of them referring to anatomy... 'cat's/pig's ring pink' is probably the only one acceptable on a public internet site. The only people I've come across that truly adore hot pink are the more extroverted transvestites and cross-dressers!

But why didn't someone just get a spray can and paint the pink drawer the colour/s of their choice, even if it meant getting a couple of new cans of paint? All artists of one kind or another, after all, and hot pink is surely grounds for modification that'd stand up in court under 'work-related harassment'.  8)

- Lorin

Mark Harris

to paint the drawer another color is to admit a troubled relationship with pink. Uneasy territory with a whiff of prejudice and/or denial. For Keith to confess he felt pink-harassed, well--you don't know Keith if you think he'd ever make such an admission.

As for your reference to transvestites and cross-dressers, that's partly what I was getting at, and maybe part of Eve's thought-process. Rather extraordinary, isn't it, that a narrow range of hues in the color spectrum continues to be provocative.

Mark Harris

I know another snake poem by E. Dickinson that begins:

In Winter in my Room
I came upon a Worm--
Pink, lank and warm--


My goodness, I don't think I've read that one of Emily's, Mark. Doesn't sound like the sort of poem one could read aloud to a year 9 class, either! Can you imagine the 'in-depth discussion'?  :o

- Lorin

John McManus

That Dickinson poem should come with a parental advisory sticker. I agree with Lorin that it would not go down well in a room full of curious adolescents.

As to Eve's haiku, I was thinking along the same lines as Lorin when she was saying about the term cutting close to the bone and how words have the power to do this to people. I also see the connotations between the word pink and females, in particular young females, and as we all know there are few groups who more cruel with words than small children. So perhaps this could be about a bit of playground bullying that Eve encountered?


Mary Stevens

I saw "pink" as meaning "still bloody" and "still alive." I interpreted the poem as a poet "writing down the bones," getting to what is essential, the marrow, the meat of things.

My favorite Dickinson snippet:

     A word that breathes distinctly
     Has not the power to die...

Words, in the hands of a good poet, are still breathing, still alive. If the poet can choose living, breathing words, the poem lives forever in people's hearts, is understood by all the generations that follow.
"A word that breathes distinctly
Has not the power to die..."

            —Emily Dickinson

Peter Yovu


still pink
close to the bone

What a wise-guy Dickinson was, as well as a Wise Woman. I'd go back and ask for a hug, if I didn't think I'd get a shock instead.

There are poems of hers, such as "the Crickets sang" which with only a little tinkering, could be a series of what we call haiku.

One thing she does with "A narrow Fellow in the Grass" is more or less disarm the reader with rather "cordial" language which at times ("Nature's People) borders on the cozy before hitting home with the weird and wired "Zero at the Bone". Was anyone prepared for that?

Maybe it takes a longer poem (than haiku) to set that up. I notice, however, that most haiku poets stay within a rather narrow range of sound, or tone, or diction, which doesn't allow the shock of surprise, or freshness.

D's leaps are electric. Her dashes (she could run a hundred yards in less than second) are like cut power lines spewing spark.

Writing about the fragments of Archilochus and Empedocles, Heather McHugh says: ". . . their missing parts (like Dickinson's dashes) are indispensable connectors".

The spaces in many haiku and in Luckring's poem are something like indispensable connectors-- like superheroes we have to jump in, grab the raw ends, and let the electricity flow through us. We are the missing part, the arc of spark, the ark connecting the present flood to the future field. "Now you're getting carried away!" all my paired creatures complain.

Certainly there are connections in Luckring's poem that remind of D's, among them the word "bone" itself, the two long Os of "close to the bone" the capitalized Words, some of which (words) Noah's animals must have taught him, leaving us to the imagine the pink reek of what the crocodiles had to say. . .

Mark Harris

Cuts like a knife, down to the bone, what's bred in the bone, playground pink--I think all the associations offered here are valid.

Surely the first line, capitalized, is a signal from Eve to us that her poem is also to be understood on the level of the etymologies, associations, sounds, shapes, literary uses of words that individually and together invite multiple interpretations, some of which are subversive and not immediately evident.

Hi Peter, I see you've posted while I was composing. I agree. And the capitalization of Words is crucial, I think.

[edited a superfluous line]


I wondered about the reason for the capitalization of 'Word', Mark.

I've not seen that done before with the plural. The only associations with the singular I have are 'the Word', in the Christian bibles Microsoft Word.  ::) Come to think of it, there are connections between these two...several! Scary stuff!

Thanks!  ;D

- Lorin

Mark Harris

my associations with Words in caps were along different lines...

if we accept Jim's notion of a reference to Dickinson's poems, which I do, then the choice of capitalizing Important Words, in the manner of the source, makes sense.

also, I had in mind the email and forum sensitivity to all-cap EMPHASIS, which might prompt the request, "please don't shout".

but Wait, eve luckring's own website has the first line as


is she here consenting to collusion,

is the poem as reproduced here a revision?



well, yes, the capitalization of 'important words' in Dickinson's poems , and those of lesser poets of her time, and the public announcements, shipping announcements etc of her time, but I've never taken that as being anything other than a convention of the historical period.

That's interesting that 'words' has no cap. in the version on Eve's website.

I've just googled. Though I haven't found a website, I've found a pdf of Eve's selected haiku. The poem appears there without a cap. at the beginning of word', too. There is also what appears to be a related one-liner:

sticks and stones. . . in the beginning was the word

- Eve Luckring

Modern Haiku Vol 41.1, 2010

There is a note, too, that the ku we're discussing here was among her haiku in that issue of Modern Haiku

"all of the above (some in slightly different form) from Modern Haiku Vol 41.1, 2010 " perhaps 'word' had a cap. in the version published, but was subsequently changed?

- Lorin

modified: added from "I've just googled" on.

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