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re:Virals 170

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

 
     if trees could be landlords

          — Eve Luckring, Heron's Nest XVII:3 (2015) 

Christina Pecoraro states her conditions:

Eve Luckring’s one-liner, it seems to me, perfectly fulfills the definition of haiku offered by Ogiwara Seisensui (1884 –1976), whom Alan Summers quoted last week: “a haiku is a circle, half of which is created by the poet, and the other half completed by the reader.”
To me “if trees could be landlords” sounds like a prompt a teacher of creative writing might use to elicit something imaginative, fanciful or humorous from his/her students. It calls out for completion—or as Seisensui might say—for another half, a mate.

The conditional “if” invites us to fantasy and conjecture. This is reinforced by the equally conditional “could be.” What “could be,” isn’t—or isn’t yet— though it harbors possibility and potential.

The trees aren’t landlords, or not yet, Luckring seems to say. Who knows? If they could be, perhaps they’d forbid anyone to cut them down or uproot them so that dwellings could be fashioned for other creatures. Why not stone, instead, or mud or brick or something else?

I like to think the opposite, however, that “if trees could be landlords” they’d actually urge us to make dwellings of wood, offering their very substance to that possibility. For when reading Luckring’s haiku, I thought immediately of the wisdom attributed to Native American, Chief Seattle. “The earth does not belong to us,” he says, “we belong to the earth.” Which is another way of saying “We are not earth’s landlords, earth is ours.” Though addressed to humans who too often ignore that, it could also be addressed to trees who don’t. Trees get it. They are, after all, in the business of sheltering…rent-free. If they could be landlords besides, my guess is that they’d also give themselves with abandon to such groups as Habitat for Humanity—and for payment accept nothing at all.

Radhamani Sarma ponders the comparison:

Very delighted to comment upon Eve Luckring’s haiku. Eva is a Delaware born poet and in this one-lined haiku, beginning with a conditional clause (‘If trees could be landlords’), the images of objects of nature and humans are interwoven. Viewed in proper perspectives, both trees and landlords symbolize strength. One common feature governing both the images is that both trees and landlords stem from the common feature of sharing the soil, tilling and similar purposes. Another possible hypothesis is that landlords are supposed to be very strict and stern in their dealings, in all related agricultural activities, whereas trees have no such stringent measures. Eve Luckring might be perceiving trees to be gifted with the same power of landlords.

For further reading, I suggest the following from Eve Luckring’s website:

“Eve Luckring makes art at the intersection of language, image, and sound.

For the past several years, she has been translating traditional Japanese poetic forms into the visual realm to negotiate the contested binaries of nature/culture, subject/object, and self/world. Her work questions the assumptions—and experiments with the boundaries—that define place, body, and habit.”

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As this week’s winner, Christina 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 170:

 
     Votive lamp's flicker
     distracts his eyes from the stars

          —Gerald (Jerry) Wild, from “THE HAIKU CHALLENGE AT TWILIGHT TO JAZZ” (2018)

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. if trees could be landlords

    — Eve Luckring, Heron’s Nest XVII:3 (2015)
    .
    Yikes! Can anyone think of anything more distant in nature than trees and landlords? If trees could be landlords, they’d be charging the possums, squirrels, birds, insects etc. rent, making piles of money to invest in commodities , become richer, form nations (after forcefully stealing the land from other trees who’d created a society without landlord trees) invest in more and more military means to defend their positions of power, to access commodities belonging to land owned by trees in foreign nations and subsequently hold morose remembrances when their most successful warmongering leaders passed away.
    .
    If trees could be landlords they’d force trees with differing religious beliefs out of their land, despite the efforts of wiser, Ghandi-like trees.
    .
    If trees could be landlords there would be many slave creatures, peasant creatures and homeless creatures. Those creatures most successful in flattering and providing required services to the landlord trees would be charged less high rates for use of the trees’ solar panels (leaves) to provide warmth and light. Perhaps the trees would convince the peasant squirrels that a wall needed to be built to prevent the invasion of squirrels from another landlord’s domain.
    .
    I could go on and on . . . Philip K. Dick did it better than I ever could.
    .
    A landlord is a landlord by any other name and has been since civilization began, way back. If trees could be landlords they’d be landlords, whatever their more charming attributes. It would be quite a dystopia.
    .
    It would be a dystopia very much resembling the dystopia we’ve had through much of human history and that we have today, just with a different species of life in power,
    .

    In few words, Eve Luckring has cleverly engaged readers’ imaginations. Wherever our imagination might take us we must come back to the key word, ‘landlords’ and understand it for what it is.
    .
    – Lorin

    1. Thanks Lorin for making some sense of this. It goes to show how easily the search for profound insights can mislead us, or blind us to the fairly obvious. If Trump could corner the market, they might stop cutting trees. But then the sparrows would have no homes, and the trees would be full of peacocks.

      Garry

    2. Dear Lorin,
      Greetings.
      Your detailed analysis, and the following bears ample testimony to your keen observation of humans and society, behavior of individuals. .
      very interesting.

      “if trees could be landlords there would be many slave creatures, peasant creatures and homeless creatures. Those creatures most successful in flattering and providing required services to the landlord trees would be charged less high rates for use of the trees’ solar panels (leaves) to provide warmth and light. Perhaps the trees would convince the peasant squirrels that a wall needed to be built to prevent the invasion of squirrels from another landlord’s domain.”

  2. Thanks Danny. Am in awe of how you get to the core of a commentary — in Radhamani’s case with “ponders the comparison,” and mine with “states her conditions.” That’s something I appreciated in earlier postings too.
    Wish I could be so pointedly succinct! Among other things, that’s what signals a gifted editor.

    Thanks to you too, Radhamani. Reading your commentary, I see we both zeroed in on the “conditional” element in Luckring’s haiku. I like your thought that “(v)iewed in proper perspectives, both trees and landlords symbolize strength.” Also your observation that while landlords are routinely “strict and stern,” “trees have no such stringent measures.” Cheers!

  3. Dear Christina Pecoraro,
    Greetings! While going through your comments, your analyzing perspective on earth and subsequent on trees, very interesting, I like it.

    “For when reading Luckring’s haiku, I thought immediately of the wisdom attributed to Native American, Chief Seattle. “The earth does not belong to us,” he says, “we belong to the earth.” Which is another way of saying “We are not earth’s landlords, earth is ours.” Though addressed to humans who too often ignore that, it could also be addressed to trees who don’t. Trees get it. They are, after all, in the business of sheltering…rent-free. If they could be landlords besides, my guess is that they’d also give themselves with abandon to such groups as Habitat for Humanity—and for payment accept nothing at all.”

    with regards
    S.Radhamani

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