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re:Virals 151

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

 
     incision
        clear
        water 
        flailing open
       
          — Eve Luckring, Roadrunner  11:3 

Sadly we got no comments in for this week’s re:Virals. Please scroll down to see the haiku I’ve selected for next week.

virus2
In the absence of a winner this week, editor Danny 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 151:

 
     ラジオ鳴って留守か留守居か花マンガ
 
     Radio blaring.
     Is he out, or just pretending to be out?
     Mango flowers . . .

          — Taki Katsuya (勝谷多喜), Translated by Danny Blackwell. Original Japanese sourced from The National Diet Library, Japan.

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. There comes a time for most of us when the effort made to comprehend and appreciate a given haiku appears greater than any possible return on the investment.

  2. This haiku made me think of Runaway Pond here in Vermont. Trying to improve the outlet of a high pond, the workers failed. The pond drained instead. There is a sign along Route 16 in Glover explaining the event. Basically: oops!

  3. I’m not sure if the haiku comes from the MASKS aspect of Roadrunner, and the authors’ names are revealed at the end, a feature we at Bones Journal used to do, but here’s the issue:
    .
    .
    Roadrunner:
    .
    R’r KU 11.3 (December 2011)
    “particles with integer spin”
    ed. Scott Metz and assistant editor Paul Pfleuger, Jr.
    http://www.roadrunnerjournal.com/pages113/R_r_11-3_ku.pdf
    .
    .
    Some truly fascinating entries here, quite groundbreaking, and as a whole, quite mesmerising.
    .
    .

    incision
    clear
    water
    flailing open
    .
    — Eve Luckring
    .
    .
    The opening line is almost uncomfortable to read, is this a surgical procedure, is it legal? Indented underneath, but not as exactly as it appears at first glance, is the idea of good water flailing, and open. What does it mean?
    .
    Water thrashing can make sense in a neutral sense of course, but ‘flailing open’?
    .
    This is not Chungliang Al Huang’s Quantum Soup: Fortune Cookies in Crisis:
    “Splash in the water with your arms flailing. Open your mouth to the cooling downpour. Let yourself fill with the joy and power of this gift.”
    .
    .
    Or is it simply about cutting a fruit apart and washing, sluicing the cut fruit? Or is it a sluice room in a hospital?
    .
    Laundry and Sluice Room:
    https://www.independentliving.co.uk/cp-editorials/laundry-sluice-room/
    .
    .
    Is it about cutting away infection, and being clean?
    .
    The words, and the arrangement, are fascinating, whatever the intent.
    .
    warm regards,
    Alan

    1. Alan, generous of you to provide some thinking about this poem. It seems to exist as pure sensation, rebuffing all attempts at story, or reason. I suppose, if I were to attach any kind of story to it, it would be the moment when a very precise action, precise and invasive at the same time,
      has a violent, or forceful reaction. The “flailing open” may be a good thing, as of a heart too long
      closed down– a hard heart does not melt, but breaks open, flailing with feeling.
      *
      clear/water I suppose, could be anything pure and whole. But I find myself flailing as I talk about it.
      Maybe this was the poet’s response to someone diving into a pool. But I come back to sensation over story.
      *
      This is the kind of poem that feels opaque at first reading. It ends up not gradually entering the reader’s consciousness, but revealing, perhaps, what the reader expects and wants, and then thwarts expectation.

      1. I’m so glad that you have both left some comments. Thank you! This is one of my favourite haiku!

        I think what I particularly enjoy about it is how each word seems to unsettle and unseat the expectation that the previous one has set up. They are so precisely chosen and arranged on the page (see original). The words themselves appear to flail out of the word ‘incision’. The double line spacing and the selection of a different vowel sound for each word forces one to read it slowly and deliberately, like a series of punctures.

        After ‘incision’ I expect to hear about blood, but the next word is ‘clear’. I then imagine some kind of clear fluid emerging from a wound, but am confronted with the word ‘water’. The fact that the words are separated by two lines, makes each a surprise and sharpens the slight disjunction between them. The whole experience of reading it is rather disorienting as a result. Once I am at ‘incision clear water’ I have already been presented with a slightly confusing, disjunctive and unnerving image that I am struggling to make sense of. At this point I found it really started to get under my skin. Then to be presented with ‘flailing’ just heightened this effect. I have no idea what this clear water coming out of the incision is, and now it seems to have a life of its own. Not only is this clear water flailing out of some kind of wound, but the use of ‘open’ for the last word is genius. Now the water pouring from an incision is opening – is it opening the incision, keeping it open, or is it opening itself? The clear water is emerging from the incision but also appears to by emerging from itself maybe in the way that water can appear to when it is gushing so fast that it is overtaking itself.

        Of all the haiku I have read this is one of the ones that has stayed with me. It is like a Gestalt that is constantly open and impossible to close like the incision it describes, so the mind keeps going over it. I think it is wonderful.

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