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re:Virals 153

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

     just-fledged light
     chips of wren song
     from the log pile
          — Claire Everett, Presence #45 (2001) 

Marion Clarke finds humour:

This is a breathtakingly beautiful haiku from Claire Everett showing a keen observation of nature and a hint of humour in the final line.

The description of light as having been ‘just-fledged’ delicately depicts the moment when the growing dawn becomes full daylight, and the use of ‘chips of wren song’ is an inspired choice, as this particular bird’s song is a series of short, clipped sounds. I also found light humour in the last line as there is the suggestion that the wren’s unseen notes fly (at up to 700 per minute) like woodchips from a log pile!

Greetings from Radhamani Sarma:

Dear readers,
Greetings! Despite my limited perspective of haiku knowledge, as writing haiku is somewhat new to me, I humbly take up this venture of commenting upon this haiku. Claire Everett has woven a beautiful haiku about the chirping of this small, beautiful bird. Like a three dimensional spectrum, the three lines consecutively show the images or different concepts–all related to the wren and its environment.

The wren raises the newborn chick and the song cautions other birds not to enter its roost while nesting. As regards the line “just-fledged light,” the poet has meticulously coined the term; the new born chick with still tender wings with which to fly, while the mother wren takes care of feeding the fledgling.
In the second line, the concentration is on the wren song: “chips” could also possibly mean echoes, repeated calls of birds resembling whistling.
The third line (“log pile”) shows us the wood, or forest atmosphere; blocks of wood, dead wood, or timber, where the bird picks up pieces of wood to build nests, to raise chicks.
The bird’s uncontrollable merry singing and jubilation starts from the logs as the bird carries pieces of wood to construct a nest. This poem is so dexterously, beautifully drawn, and is itself a wren song by Claire Everett.

Mark Gilbert interprets the fragments:

Line 1 is a delicious way to describe daybreak and it chimes with L2/3 which is another unexpected yet welcome emergence. Note that the wren itself is not ‘just-fledged’ or he would not be singing: I think ‘fledged’ refers to the song, not the bird. At first ‘chips’ seems out of place in this poem, and I’m still not sure it is wholly successful. Yes, wood turns into chips when it is shredded, and ‘chips’ hints at both the ‘chirps’ and ‘cheeps’ of the wren’s song. But also ‘chips’ emphasises the fragmentary and chaotic output of the male wren, stopping and starting, improvising yet apparently effortlessly repeating. To me the synesthesia of this poem compares the sound of the wren with mottled speckles of sunlight emerging though gaps in the woodpile and illuminating its shadow. The whole poem evokes the arrival of Spring in the sudden flowering of a lifeless woodpile one morning.

Scott Mason chips in:

Claire Everett’s poem shares not just a lovely moment but the dynamic sensory processing of that moment through some stunning sleights of pen.

Just how can one convey the impression of simultaneous sensory stimuli with sequential (if brief) lines? Here the poet pulls it off through conflation and foreshadowing. Eschewing the usual formulation of “first light” in L1, she gives us the wondrous “just-fledged light” instead, borrowing a modifier from the avian world. When an actual bird appears in L2, its staccato tune issues forth not in notes or even chirps but in “chips.” Those chips anticipate (and confirm) the setting of this event: the log pile of L3.

We witness and partake in both the visible birth and audible celebration of a new day.

Through Everett’s perceptiveness and craft we’re privileged to experience not so much a quaint nature vignette as a moment of near-mystical union.

As this week’s winner, Scott 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 153:

     clover in flower
     the Holsteins come
     with four stomachs
          — Dan Schwerin, Modern Haiku 49:2 (Summer 2018)

This Post Has 11 Comments

  1. In the UK, ‘chips’ has a connotation with grease and stodge which for me interferes with this haiku. Not so in the US where wood chips are more ubiquitous. I wrote a novella called ‘Cedar Chips’, but it was set in California.

    1. Interesting observation Mark. I knew it was unusual, but knowing how powerful one small wren can be when you are trying to record haiku out in the open. Even a hundred feet away it was louder than roadworks further down the hill.
      Regarding sound, I’m hoping that Karen will submit her mountain sound haiku to the Sense of Place feature at THF. As a former sound engineer in various wilds including the Serengeti, and an avid but former climber of peaks in the Lake District, she has an unusual but equally accurate term for her sound.
      Ah, fish and chips, brought to the U.K. by refugees/immigrants of Jewish and/or Portuguese cultures. So many of us bless them unknowingly, and even Winston Churchill wouldn’t have it rationed during WWII.
      Actually a well-known and popular fish n’chips haiku came up on Virals, where I did a little research too!

      1. Dear esteemed poet,
        Warm greetings! Interesting observations – small wren -sound and fish
        and chips. Eager to read Karen’s haiku on sound in THF.
        Virals exposes us all to a furthering knowledge of knowing more and more of haiku from talented writers.
        with regards

        1. Thank you S.Radhamani, I will especially encourage Karen to submit the haiku. She rarely submits her haiku and senryu, so I hope I can make sure she does this time. 🙂
          Claire Everett is exceptionally fine at capturing nature which is more akin to Natural History.

    2. 🙂
      Much as I enjoy a parcel of fish and chips, especially on the beach with a crowd of seagulls, when I hear a wren going “chip-chip-chip-chip-chip” (as they do) fish ‘n chips do not enter my mind, any more than potato chips occur to me when I chip my nail polish. Nor, many decades ago now, did chips as food occur to me when I had to chip wood for the bath heater.
      wren song:
      Claire evokes the sound the bird makes, as Scott notes well. I love the light humour. (Wood chips and stone chips have been around longer than fried potato chips.)
      “I wrote a novella called ‘Cedar Chips’, but it was set in California.” – Mark
      🙂 Mark, I note you didn’t call your novella “Cedar Fries.”
      – Lorin (from Australia)

        1. Hi Marion,
          I don’t know how to find PMs here at THF, if that what you mean. Sorry, I’ve just read this of yours now.
          (I did note your “… the suggestion that the wren’s unseen notes fly (at up to 700 per minute) like woodchips from a log pile! ” Which is right on, imo. 🙂
          If you’d like to contact me I still have the gourds email address.



  2. Thank you so much to everyone who sent a commentary about this haiku I selected last week. I’m going to create a pocket of time to appreciate your comments.
    And thanks to Danny who keeps this important feature alive!
    warm regards,

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