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re:Virals 165

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

 
     to tangle or untangle
     the willow —
     it’s up to the wind

          — Fukuda Chiyo-ni (1703-75), translated by Yoshie Ishibashi and Patricia Donegan, Chiyo-ni: Woman Haiku Master (1998) 

Radhamani Sarma branches out:

Pleased to comment upon the haiku by Fukuda Chiyo-ni. She is a Japanese poet, who became very famous at a time when women had to live with so many constraints and only men excelled in haiku writing. Very much influenced by Basho’s writings, Chiyo-ni, like the Romantics, admired Nature and in almost all her haiku, images of Nature prevail. 
Beginning with a preposition, the haiku veers round the image, the willow tree, that stands for copious growth and incredible lofty heights with a gigantic majestic appearance, and with sturdy trunks. To quote Patricia Donegan, the translator (alongside Yoshie Ishibashi) of this week’s poem:
” ‘Oneness with nature’ seems especially resonant in Chiyo-ni’s haiku. Basho’s theory of oneness with nature was that the poet should make a faithful or honest sketch of nature. ”
                                                                 
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As this week’s winner, Radhamani 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 165:

 
     streets of childhood
     another memory
     resurfaces 
                                                 
          — Rachel Sutcliffe, Failed Haiku 32 

This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. .
    to tangle or untangle
    the willow —
    it’s up to the wind
    .
    — Fukuda Chiyo-ni (1703-75), translated by Yoshie Ishibashi and Patricia Donegan, Chiyo-ni: Woman Haiku Master (1998)
    .
    .
    If ‘classical’ tanka were often coded messages for romantic meetings, and other things, I wonder, as we know hokku and haikai verses were often allusions to something or someone else, even the fish that were “crying” in Basho’s haikai verse, that perhaps this verse was both a straight nature poem, but also a parallel comparison to the author’s own hair that morning or on a windy day?
    .
    I also wonder if this haikai verse inspired perhaps the most famous of all tanka collections, including Salad Anniversary, and that is of:
    .
    みだれ髪: Selected Tanka from Midaregami
    Yosano Akiko (1878-1942)
    https://briefpoems.wordpress.com/2017/03/21/tangled-hair-some-tanka-by-yosano-akiko/
    .
    .
    I would love to know the reaction as Fukuda Chiyo-ni read her verse out at a haikai (kukai perhaps) or renku meeting?

    1. Dear Mark Gilbert,
      Greetings! ” ‘ willow is kigo for spring” your take.
      I understand. Apart from its relevance for Spring, I viewed the metaphorical perspective ;in fact “willow ” also stands for sadness, Shakespeare’s willow song,as well all know . Many such interpretations. That way the femininity, also creeps in here.
      with regards
      S.Radhamani

      1. Dear S.Radhamani,

        Yes I agree with you and Petru that a word such as ‘willow’ may have many symbolisms both in Japanese culture and in others. I did not look too deeply into the meaning of this poem this week – I wanted to leave it to others – but today it does remind me of the English expression about the month of March, that it comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. Thank you for highlighting an interesting poem for next week.

  2. I like what Radhamani said about the haiku starting with a preposition, indeed a near question to which the answer is given: let nature decide what happens – human interference therefore seems to have been an issue in the 18th century already!

    I couldn’t help but take the willow as metaphor for female: and again, to not let maleness decide what to tangle or untangle – with much respect to men aware of the problems women face.

    1. Dear Petru,

      Greetings! Thank you very much for your understanding of the situation in the
      contemporary scenario; also the “willow as metaphor for female”.
      Thanking you once again

      with regards
      S.Radhamani

  3. Hi Radhamani

    Your choice of haiku certainly has many ways to be read ‘streets of childhood’
    so much within the opening line.
    Will be interesting to see the responses to this one.

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