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
plum blossoms I make plans for my ashes —Carolyn Hall, The 2006 Spiess Memorial Contest, First Prize
Peter Newton finds equality:
Spring is a time of renewal. So it makes sense that one’s thoughts might turn to planning for the future. But the hard truth in Hall’s poem is a future in seeming contrast to the light-hearted theme set out in the first line. Sometimes, those of us who will be cremated speak of what will happen to our ashes. When I think of those conversations they are somewhat light-hearted. Carefree in a way. Some people want their ashes scattered in the sea, in a lake or over a meadow but usually the action is the same–that of scattering. Letting go. Surrender.
The plum blossoms in Hall’s poem are also scattered it seems, though the action is implied. That’s where the ashes come in. These short-lived plum blossoms are the poem’s triggering image. There’s a whimsical, familiar and fanciful tone to the usually somber act of planning for one’s ashes. Perhaps this speaks to the specific character of a poet, or a haiku poet—one familiar with the characteristics of plum blossoms. Maybe the ashes will be scattered among them. Hall’s poem is intensely personal and tender as if to say plum blossoms, people . . . we are all equal in the end. The reader can’t help but pay respects for the living.
As this week’s winner, Peter 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!
rolling a cigarette the canoe drifts just where I want to go —Michael Ketchek