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re:Virals 11

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

     wind and rain
     the hand I reach for
     in the dark
          — Peggy Willis Lyles, Frogpond XVIII:3 (1995)

Many people were moved to comment on this haiku. Marion Clarke was to the point:

I found this haiku sad, unsettling but comforting. Quite a feat in just three lines, really.

Ellen Olinger offered this heartfelt recollection that the poem stirred in her:

There are many ways to read this beautiful poem by Peggy Willis Lyles. This is part of the poem’s craft and beauty. When I was young, my mother and I held hands. When she was very old and ill, and then dying, we held hands again. We had a saying, when I was a child, that we said with our hands, not aloud. It was about unconditional love. When she could not speak, this response was still available. After my mother’s passing, I held the Bible I had read to her. This book now is held together with tape, in the Psalms section. I handle with care. It has been in many places and I sometimes hold it again in wonder. And read again, here and there.

Paul MacNeil found a biographical thread to the poem:

When a beautiful college woman married a handsome young man, his dress uniform from The Citadel Military College, this haiku was obvious from the photographs. Here was a lady with an officer and a gentleman. Peggy Willis and Bill Lyles were in love. Many years later, on the day she died, they were still in love.

Peggy, a master of haiku in English, made a “love match.” Her haiku is about that love.

And Oonah Joslin found these redemptive features on display:

A cold beginning that makes us feel exposed, turns in the second line in such a way that the comfort sought engenders familiarity with the elements. The wind and rain that might threaten, actually make us feel more comfortable like lying in bed on a stormy night — listening. Somehow they make the darkness of the last line become a place of nurture — a womb, not a threat. And the hand we reach for, be it parent, sibling or partner, is familiar, too, and certain.

It is a poem of belonging. It encompasses our truth: that we each live in our own little pond of safety where we feel we can weather all life’s storms.


As this week’s winner, Oonah 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 11:

     lough sunlight
     this desire to walk
     on water
          — Marion Clarke, Under the Basho 
          Carousel Summer Haiku Competition (First Prize, 2014)

Please consider making a donation to The Haiku Foundation during our Fundraising Drive, November 26 – December 6, and help the Foundation continue its important work. And visit our Gift Shop to get cool haiku gifts in return for making your donation. Thank you.




2015 Fundraiser Schedule


  • November 26: In Memoriam, a tribute to haiku poets who have left the community in the past 2 years; the release of Raymond Roseliep: Man of Art who Loved the Rose, a biography of the pioneering haiku poet by Donna Bauerly.

  • November 27: The Haiku Foundation’s Black Friday Gift Shop promo; re:Virals 11.

  • November 28: Linda Papanicolaou gives a final accounting of Renku Sessions 3: “A Bowl of Cherries”; a new Old Pond Comics cartoon “Goose Neck”.

  • November 29: THF Reports: “Our Frogpond Journey,” Francine Banwarth and Michele Root-Bernstein’s discussion of their editorship of Frogpond; THF Social Media Day highlights of our social outreach from the Foundation’s social media director Stella Pierides.

  • November 30: THF Interviews: Gayle Bull; a new Book of the Week: small town by vincent tripi.

  • December 1: THF Galleries: “Haiga of Stephen Addiss”; the new World of Haiku country for December: Australia.

  • December 2: “Librarian’s Cache”, selections from the Foundation’s holdings by Digital Librarian Garry Eaton; results from the annual THF assessment survey.

  • December 3: THF Readings: Tom Clausen; a challenging haiku crypto-quiz from Anita Krumins.

  • December 4: THF Lectures: Zinovy Vayman on “Humor in Haiku”; re:Virals 12.

  • December 5: “Touchstone Gardens” around the world, where winners of the Foundation’s prestigious Touchstone Awards have displayed their award stones; a new Old Pond Comics cartoon “Jamming Crabs”.

  • December 6: THF Lectures: Ruth Yarrow entertains and instructs us in “Haiku with Feathers,” from Haiku North America 2015; a report on the Foundation’s Grant Proposal to the National Endowment for the Arts in 2015.

  • December 7: The summary report from our THF Fundraiser 2015; a new Book of the Week: jazztronaut by Geert Verbecke.
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