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
Sunday evening rain the texture of etcetera — Jim Kacian, After Image Red Moon Press (2017)
Marion Clarke reminisces:
Oh, this immediately transported me back to Lille, France, and my university placement year as a language assistant. Sunday evening represented the end of the weekend and a very early alarm call to travel to work. Like Ireland, it seemed to rain a lot in Northern France and the fact that it is wet in Jim Kacian’s Sunday evening makes it feel even more bleak. The half rhyme in lines 2 and 3 ring of monotony and make this a deliciously depressing haiku!
Peter Newton finds new definitions:
Like much of modern art the viewer sees what he wants to see. In this case, the art is a contemporary haiku, in which I suppose I hear what I want to hear. First, the right margin alignment is noteworthy in the sense that it highlights the first line as if “Sunday evening rain” were a title almost. And it certainly sets the scene, placing the reader on the cusp of something. There’s the steadiness of the rain reflected in the repetition of sounds in lines 2 and 3: “the texture of etcetera” flows right off the tongue. Also, there’s a sameness here in the short “e” sounds of “texture” and “etcetera” and the word “etcetera” itself suggests its own definition: “and so on and so forth.” The words reflect the actions they express.
But why all of this anyway? What’s the poet trying to say? I often question poems this way. My answer arrives only after multiple readings aloud and to myself. There’s a soothing quality of sound to the poem that mimics the soothing quality of rain—or rather, a runner-up anyway. There is no substitute for a slow steady Sunday evening rain. Except maybe in a poem. And the power of words precisely placed to call our attention to the multiple layers of sound. Is it the patter of rain I hear or the “texture of etcetera?”
A successful poem transforms the way the reader experiences the world. Rain now holds a new texture I hadn’t quite heard before. The ennui of a Sunday evening rain is redefined.
Jean LeBlanc examines dreaded textures:
Sunday, precursor to Monday, a day from the doldrums that holds none of the promise of the weekend and all the worry of the week to come. Jim Kacian’s opening line, “Sunday evening rain,” makes me want to crawl under a quilt and hide. I should probably seek professional help because of the sadness those three words evoke in me. The Morse-code-like, irregular tapping of the rain leads so well into the word “texture,” an empty word there in the middle. What texture? I thought when I first read this haiku. It took me a few readings to think of the texture of rain, and then link that insistent tapping with “etcetera.” All the rest, and more, too much to itemize…in other words, the week to come, insistent, persistent, dreaded. Even the rhythm of the word “etcetera” sounds like rain against a window. I tried to reread this poem while imagining a gentle spring rain that would awaken the world…but my bias against all things Sunday is too strong. Thank you, Jim, for naming this for me, for making me examine the texture of that dreaded day.
As this week’s winner, Jean 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!
visiting graves... we flicker as we walk down shadowed rows — Michael McClintock, Shadows in Time: Sixty Short Poems (2005)