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re:Virals 182

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

 
     winding road
     for the next eight miles
     Coltrane

          — Cherie Hunter Day, Modern Haiku 43:1 (2012)

Paul Miller takes the Trane:

I have always enjoyed this poem by Cherie Hunter Day. The middle-line pivot allows for two simultaneous readings—“winding road/for the next eight miles” and “for the next eight miles Coltrane”—that come together to create a wonderfully free form mood. A “winding road” sign is a warning to prepare oneself for potential hazards, but here the poet embraces the time and turns, much the way a jazz musician does. The poem is a message to enjoy the journey.

Garry Eaton wonders:

I started by asking myself, why eight miles, rather than nine, or seven? It occurred to me that eight on an actual road sign would be given as an 8, the one numeral that best illustrates a winding road. Combine that with a saxophone soundtrack by Coltrane, with his typical winding variations, involutions, and free jazz improvisations around some theme, and the combination seems to work to smooth the physical and emotional wrinkles induced by the stresses of life on the road, behind the wheel.

Christina Pecoraro is moved:

What would it be like, I wonder, to drive an eight mile stretch alone on an otherwise car-less road—its twists and turns inviting improvisation in speed—with nothing but Coltrane’s jazz for company? Might it be ecstasy? Catharsis? Prayer? It could, I think, be any one of them, or all three, especially if his album LOVE SUPREME were filling the universe with sound.

In a NY Times article of 28 September 2017, Gia Kourlas writes:

“It probably doesn’t make sense to call a work of art perfect, but for “A Love Supreme,” John Coltrane’s four-part musical masterpiece recorded in 1964, the word sacred feels true and right. It’s an offering, one that seems more invincible and raw with each hearing.”

Like the brief “eight miles” in Cherie Hunter Day’s haiku, Coltrane’s life of forty years was short. Yet unlike their brevity, he traveled a long, and yes, “winding road,” through addictions to become the ground-breaking musical giant we know.

As I read Day’s ku I instinctively ask ‘What of my own journey?’ The little word, “next” in the second line reminds me that like the author’s, a portion of it has already been completed. Ahead lie miles of “winding road.” Citing their precise length—in this case, “eight”—seems to make those miles consequential, especially with Coltrane’s jazz to tap into the deepest parts of my spirit.

In a prayer at the bottom of the liner notes for his album, Coltrane himself wrote “No road is an easy one, but they all go back to God.” Believers or not, we cannot hear his wondrous jazz without being moved and, I believe, irrevocably changed.

virus2
As this week’s winner, Paul 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 182:

 
     spring evening
     I play with the last kitten
     to be given away

          — Chuck Brickley, Earthshine (2017) 

This Post Has 11 Comments

  1. 🙂 Danny, I, too, will lay odds that, this century, the winding road in Cherie Hunter Day’s haiku is about be traveled by motor vehicle. Not by horse, camel or bullock wagon. I’d also wager that the motor vehicle is equipped with a cd player. Unlike Basho, we have the luxury of choosing the music we listen to whilst driving. (Great choice, Cherie! )
    .
    – Lorin

    .

  2. As Gary Eaton observed: why eight miles? I think the traveller would have reached her destination by then. There’s purpose to the journey beyond going from one place to another. What did Coltrane have to offer this traveller that no other jazz maestro could – for these eight miles? The conjectures are many.

  3. hi all,

    Gosh, is it the Paul Miller…:-)

    for me it is just the music providing the tempo as i drive across, eight miles…that is very measured and specific, and while I have taken in the other responses, I am unsure why such a specific reference to the distance… is the music playing on the audio system 8 miles long? Or is the destination, 8 miles away? But I agree with those who have mentioned the journey, that it is always better to have something as energetic as Coltrane playing equinox or even the blue train, rather than the silence of traffic and nothing else …

    is there a certain kind of anticipation that is being implied in there, about the destination and how familiar music seems to make it all easier? LIke I said, I don’t know, but yes, I see the pivot,
    I see myself driving up the mountain with hairpin bends and the slight nervousness that accompanies the drive but also the exhaltation of the atmosphere changing with the help of the music, in this case Coltrane… a heave of sigh for the choice of music

    very nicely put, and a great choice for discussion

    afterthought: in eastern philosophy, 8 is a symbol for prosperity and 8 seems to wind into itself, like it is a loop …there are no ins and outs, like a glass bowl or life itself …

  4. DANNY,
    Appreciated your succinct on-target leads:
    ‘Paul Miller takes the Trane’
    ‘Gary Eaton wonders’
    ‘Christina Pecoraro is moved.’
    .
    PAUL,
    Love your observation that “the next eight miles” could hook up with either or both the first and third lines of Day’s haiku, creating (for me at least) a deeper read. Also that ‘a winding road,’ which could signal ‘potential hazards,’ holds out instead the ‘time and turns’ unique to jazz. Kudos on a well deserved win.
    .
    GARRY,
    Found intriguing your take on the winding form of the number 8 and its parallel to a Coltrane soundtrack with its ‘variations, involutions, and free jazz improvisations.’ Also enjoyed your lyrical stating that ‘the combination seems to work to smooth the physical and emotional wrinkles induced by the stresses of life on the road…”. Yes!

  5. .
    .
    winding road
    for the next eight miles
    Coltrane

    — Cherie Hunter Day, Modern Haiku 43:1 (2012)
    .
    .
    Regarding: “ Garry Eaton wonders:
    I started by asking myself, why eight miles, rather than nine, or seven? “
    .
    Pure speculation on my part, but this poem might possibly be in reference to the song “8 Miles High” by the Byrds, which was musically influenced by the works of Ravi Shankar and John Coltrane (Wikipedia). Winding roads are often situated in the mountains, which would play into the double entendre of “high”.
    .
    .

  6. Dear Christina Pecoraro,
    Greetings! I appreciate your full analysis. While quoting, Gia Kourlas you made a mention thus: ” In a NY Times article of 28 September 2017, Gia Kourlas writes:”…
    And your subsequent notes are revealing.

    Like the brief “eight miles” in Cherie Hunter Day’s haiku, Coltrane’s life of forty years was short. Yet unlike their brevity, he traveled a long, and yes, “winding road,” through addictions to become the ground-breaking musical giant we know. some info very vital. also the concluding stanza,

    Also the concluding lines,

    In a prayer at the bottom of the liner notes for his album, Coltrane himself wrote “No road is an easy one, but they all go back to God.” Believers or not, we cannot hear his wondrous jazz without being moved and, I believe, irrevocably changed.

    amazing and very interesting

    1. Thanks, RADHAMANI.
      .
      For me the comparison in your own Coltrane commentary of the traveler’s mindset with the path gives Day’s haiku added heft. I like too your musing about the possible intonation of ‘winding road.’
      .
      I had not known of a Coltrane race-horse, and particularly appreciate your thought of ‘unknotting the significance’ of such an image. How true it is that Cherie Hunter Day’s poem is, as you point out, ‘a storehouse of multiple meanings.’

  7. winding road
    for the next eight miles
    Coltrane

    — Cherie Hunter Day, Modern Haiku 43:1 (2012)

    Happy to comment upon the haiku of Cherie Hunter Day, American Poet whose haiku poems we are privileged to read in many journals of repute. Probably the theme is about journey- journey on road. Poet envisages winding a traveler’s point of view along side experiencing pleasures and pains of travel on a long journey by road. It could also be a jolly good ride on horse by seasoned
    Person.
    The first line” winding road” showing the map of the travelling path; certainly not a straight path, but it is a meandering one,Picturing the mindset of the persona or traveler. The message is a loaded one. Phonetically too, “winding road” with proper Intonation, emits a stress in point of view. Leaving the option to the readers to speculate what comes after this.

    The second line “ for the next eight miles” gives us a clue that already some mileage has been covered.Anxiety and tedium expressed in the “ The next eight miles” forayed by a hurry,
    has to be raced through. Flying high in his imagination by a racing horse.

    The third line “Coltrane” obviously throws much light on the breed of the -racing horse called Coltrane. Distance and time needless to mention, to be raced through by Coltrane. Efficacy of Cherie Hunter Day’s writing lies in unknotting the significance of Coltrane -horse image, adding to the descriptive lustre of her tension ridden passage to be covered. Each line by itself is storehouse of multiple meanings inherent in it.

    1. Radhamani,

      thank you for mentioning the fact that Coltrane is a thoroughbred. I did not know. Did you see : colt is hidden in coltrane…

    2. If I was a betting man, I’d say that the poem was almost definitley about Coltrane the musician and not a horse.
      Although I know betting on a horse is more common.

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