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
dark sea surging to the brink of words — Eve Luckring, The Tender Between Ornithopter Press (2018)
Alan Summer´s gets Homeric:
The opening line has me thinking about our epic journeys, and of Homer, where the wine-dark sea is a common interpretation of “oinops pontos.” Both the sea and wine have both acted dually as muses and both as our last stand, and sadly, sometimes, our demise.
“Even so I yearn day after day, longing to reach home, and see the hour of my return. And if some god should strike me, out on the wine-dark sea, I will endure it, owning a heart within inured to suffering. For I have suffered much, and laboured much, in war and on the seas: add this then to the sum.”
“Homer: The Odyssey Book V“. (Trans. A.S. Kline)
The opening line of dark sea moves into its companion line that suggests the surge of tides, but also being carried to the brink, but of what, our sanity, hope, fears? The last line is of words, quite literally our main means of communication with ourselves, and to others. This poem can feel foreboding, but it could also be about the conundrum of being a communicator using the medium of poetry.
Is the poem about being a writer, and physically close to the sea, where the surge of its breakers and power is creating a rhythm in the poet to write? Is it the surge and push to make ourselves heard against the multi-billion voices of people, electronics, and white noise from other quarters?
We all have our journeys, those epic external or internal ones: We need not always travel as far as Homer, or come to a beachfront, on a war footing, it could just be a decision to sink or swim within our words, rather than without them.
Nathan Sidney speaks of the unspeakable:
This dark sea could be literal or metaphorical, as in the Buddhist expression, “the mind is an ocean”. In this latter interpretation we experience a surge of emotion, some powerful feeling such as grief or anger, surging forth but not finding an expression in words. Perhaps the author holds back for fear of upsetting someone or perhaps the feeling is ineffable/unspeakable. It could be a comment on the act of writing a haiku, the possibilities of a poem dissolved together in the unconscious surging towards the tip of the tongue but not quite spilling over. This reading is also supported if we understand the dark sea to be a literal one. The author confronting this powerful oceanic presence and struggling to turn the world into breath/poetry, again we encounter the ineffable, where the experience of the ocean is ultimately indescribable but the poets confrontation with the ocean is ocean itself, surging, vast, mysterious, hidden. The line between mind and world disappears, like the line between sea and land, no hard border but rather a liminal zone of exchange, one becoming the other, back and forth, mind is ocean is ocean is mind . . .
As this week’s winner, Nathan 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!
where the wild things might have been... the autumn sky — Angela Terry,The Heron's Nest, XVIII:1 (2016)