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re:Virals 13

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

     pain fading the days back to wilderness
          — Jim Kacian, Roadrunner VII:3 (2007)

This challenging poem offers many avenues of approach, but defies certainty of interpretation, making it a useful exemplum for analysis.

Marion Clarke took “pain” to be its center:

The words in this monoku seem to blend into each other, making the moment difficult to pin down. This is effective in reflecting how, during an illness, the days also blend into each other, especially when strong painkillers have been prescribed. The pain may be fading because of this medication but, as a result, the narrator feels at a distance from the rest of the world.

And Oonah Joslin follows that line:

Maybe it’s the bewildering nature of wilderness that makes this so good. ‘Pain fading’ could mean that that pain is no longer sharp and so the days pass more easily but ‘pain fading the days’ would mean that pain becomes the norm and blanks out the whole of life in one bewildering question — why? In the wilderness all is ubiquitous. It’s easy to lose oneself. It’s easy to give up. And we have all been there either physically or mentally. One line of universal feeling. The human condition.

But Tzetzka Ilieva focused on release from pain as its primary characteristic, and for this relief is this week’s winner:

I like the liberating feeling that comes with the word “wilderness”. We start with pain but we end up free of it. It doesn’t matter if the pain is fading, or if it makes the days to be fading, because even if it were the latter, then when all the days disappear, the pain would be gone too. A gorgeous haiku with many possible readings.


As this week’s winner, Tzetzka 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 13:

     virgin snow
     a fox makes prints
     for the morning
          — Alan Summers, Icebox, Hailstone Haiku Circle Japan (2010)
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