Rooms with Guest Editor Marietta McGregor
The month of July is about a room of one’s own, or someone else’s. Many of us spend more time within four walls than we do outside. We are born, die, sleep, eat, write, paint, sew, sing, converse, discourse, learn, worship and interact in enclosed spaces. Often we seek out or create these spaces because they provide creature comforts. Animals have rooms of their own. A bear seeks its den to hibernate. Wombats and rabbits dig to create burrows. Birds build nests. Virginia Woolf extolled the advantages of a private income and one’s own space. Rooms can be working sanctuaries, but if our enclosures become overly constricting or confining, we may feel the walls are ‛closing in’ on us, as many felt during pandemic lockdowns.
next week’s theme: Looking In
Looking into or around a room you’ve visited – in museums, cottages, friends’ homes, hospital wards, in a dream, in your mind – and recalling impressions which interested, frightened, uplifted, consoled or otherwise moved you.
The deadline is midnight Eastern Daylight Time, Saturday July 22, 2023.
Please use the Haiku Dialogue submission form below to enter one or two original unpublished haiku inspired by the week’s theme, and then press Submit to send your entry. (The Submit button will not be available until the Name, Email, and Place of Residence fields are filled in.) With your poem, please include any special formatting requirements & your name & residence as you would like it to appear in the column. A few haiku will be selected for commentary each week. Please note that by submitting, you agree that your work may appear in the column – neither acknowledgment nor acceptance emails will be sent. All communication about the poems that are posted in the column will be added as blog comments.
Below is Marietta’s commentary for Looking Out too:
Grateful thanks to all poets who sent in poems inspired by my first “Rooms” prompt. You made the selection task very rewarding. I enjoyed glimpses through many different windows, some tightly closed and others flung wide to let the outside in. Some haiku were gently humorous in true haiku tradition, others poignant or contemplative, recalling memories. A glazed window could be a barrier in a threatening situation, reveal an unexpectedly joyful scene, shut out wintry weather, or be opened to birdsong. Closing or opening blinds bookended passing days. While many poems published in last week’s blog were worthy of comment, here are some comments on a selection. I hope you enjoy them all and add your own comments about the poems you love. Thank you as ever to Managing Editor Kathy Munro and Post Manager Lori Zajkowski for all your hard work and thanks to The Haiku Foundation for facilitating the blog.
a snail tacks its passage
across our window
I was struck by what I felt was the nautical flavour of this haiku. The descriptive fragment of Line 1, “wanderlust skies,” is a wonderful and original description of the sky which evokes clouds scudding in a high wind. It had me in mind of tall sailing ships on strong swells. Then in Line 2 we pull focus right back from the wide sky to a snail on the outside of the glass. The action has moved from swift clouds to the slow progress of the snail. However, the snail is not simply crawling. Adding to the breezy feeling in Line 1, it “tacks its passage,” angling across the window like a fat little dinghy across a bay. The contrast in movement, together with the change in perspective from the distant to the domestic, are effective poetic devices for setting a memorable scene.
all the landscapes
begin to unravel
trains never taken
Here is a poignant senryu which conveys a sense of loss, or mourning for what might have been. Are the landscapes being evoked in Line 1 those of the mind? Are they the dreams of the poet who had hopes of traveling widely, read books set in the many places they wished to see, then much later realised this travel would never become reality? I enjoy watching television train shows, and can imagine myself crossing Canada, skirting the Cairngorms, trundling through New Zealand, or following Paul Theroux on the Iron Rooster. As I’m unlikely to travel on trains through these and many other landscapes, I imagine my hopeful plans of future journeys will surely “begin to unravel.”
the whole world through my window . . .
sparrows . . .
What a shock over three lines! The haiku opens calmly in Lines 1 and 2. The poet’s window frames an apparently peaceful view of a backyard world – house sparrows busily pecking crumbs and grass seeds or at a bird feeder. The unusual repeat of an ellipsis to end-punctuate Line 2 encourages the reader to pause a second time, to fully appreciate the scene. Then in Line 3 things change fast – a sparrowhawk dives, panicking the small birds, maybe making off with one. The repetition of “sparrow,” linking Lines 2 and 3 in the poem, emphasises the interconnectedness of everything in nature. It is indeed a “whole world” out there, a natural cycle which may be benign or hostile, and is sometimes deadly.
some singing bird
all I see is
a yellow fence
This senryu made me smile. Line 1 could foreshadow a bucolic nature haiku about the calls of an unseen songster. That scene doesn’t eventuate. In my view, Lines 2 and 3 set the tone of the poem. I imagine someone draws the poet’s attention to an unusual bird they’ve spotted in the garden. Perhaps they excitedly beckon the poet over to have a look and listen for themselves. The poet duly looks through the window, not seeing the elusive songster. All they see is the painted fence where the bird may, or may not, have perched. Line 1, “some singing bird,” (my italics) then could be read as ironic, especially as even the colour of the “yellow fence” receives its own special emphasis!
a white-tailed deer stepping
into my reflection
Several poets wrote on the image of their own reflection looking back at them. I imagine in this haiku the poet is in a comfortable spot by a particular window, perhaps reading or sewing. They sit there for some time, sometimes looking up and glancing out into a garden. Dusk draws in, and as the light goes the poet sees their own face in the glass. Maybe they are lost in thought, and when the shadowy figure of a deer materialises, it’s an unexpectedly mysterious and wonderful juxtaposition of the familiar indoors and the wild outside.
hospice window —
the painting she thought
was a view
This haiku resonates because it could be a metaphor for how age may affect anyone – eyesight, perception, comprehension. Hospices are places of comfort where those in need, perhaps suffering from dementia, are cared for with great kindness. We’re not told about the actual view from the hospice window – it may be of a brick wall, a bare carpark or a busy intersection. Some good soul has instead hung a painting of a lovely scene, and, for the subject of the haiku, this picture is enough to lead their eyes and mind out and away. The haiku gains added poignancy from employing the past tense, which isn’t usual in haiku – “she thought.” It may be that a relative is packing up personal effects. Looking at the painting, their thoughts turn to a loved one who is no longer with them.
storm outside —
the room’s eye
opening and closing
An interesting example of personification, this haiku works because it vividly evokes the sense of a violent storm, perhaps a tropical downpour when rain lashes the window one minute, followed by gusty squalls, thunder and lightning, then more driving rain. When the storm is at its height, we lose the visual acuity we’re used to – being in the room feels like we’re trapped behind our own shuttered eyelids. The use of the word “eye” to describe the room also has overtones of a cyclone’s eye, intensifying the feeling of the “storm outside.”
rushing to catch
a glimpse of sunset
Lorelyn De la Cruz Arevalo
I love the way this haiku connects us and our day-to-day labours with the natural world. We don’t know where the poet works, but we guess that whatever the job may be, there’s no clear view of the sky. The poem is a gentle reminder that there is something to be seen beyond four walls, and if we make an effort to find it, that moment will be enriched.
Join us next week for Marietta’s selection of poems on the theme of Looking In…
Guest editor Marietta McGregor is a fourth-generation Tasmanian who has made her home between Australia’s national capital Canberra and the scenic south coast of New South Wales for over four decades. A lover of the natural world since childhood, she went on to study botany and zoology, and has worked as palynologist, garden designer, science journalist, editor, university tutor, education manager, and grants developer for the national wildlife collection. A photography and travel enthusiast since retiring, she enjoys capturing fine detail of fleeting moments. She came late to haiku, which appealed for its close observation and poetic expression of ephemeral experience. Her haiku, haibun and haiga have been widely published, have won awards and appear in anthologies.
Lori Zajkowski is the Post Manager for Haiku Dialogue. A novice haiku poet, she lives in New York City.
Managing Editor Katherine Munro lives in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, and publishes under the name kjmunro. She is Membership Secretary for Haiku Canada, and her debut poetry collection is contractions (Red Moon Press, 2019). Find her at: kjmunro1560.wordpress.com.
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