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re:Virals 184

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

 
     ladybugs 
     the stained glass window
     comes alive
                                             
          — Barabara Tate, Failed Haiku 4:39 (2019) 

Petru Viljoen bugs out:

I couldn’t find out more about Barbara Tate, who doesn’t seem to have a website of her own. So I researched the ladybug instead. Since moving to the countryside I realised they can bite! It’s decidedly painful. No reflection on Barbara Tate, the person, even if her poetry isn’t always comforting.

Ladybugs, or ladybirds as we call them here in South Africa, according to legend are so-called after the Virgin Mary who was prayed to by farmers whose crops were being destroyed by pests. This during the Middle Ages. The farmers noticed the beetles eating the pests after their prayers were said and thus the name. The red is said to represent Her cloak and the spots Her seven sorrows.

Leading to the next line of the stained glass window. There are many kinds of ladybird/bug, with various marks and colours as there are many different designs and colours in such a window. The beetles are attracted to the light and colour of a building. The two-dimensional surface of the stained glass is animated by the movement of the bird/bugs. The craft/art of stained glass has its origins in the Middle Ages, and was an important feature of Gothic churches. The glass produced was imperfect with bubbles (perhaps metaphor for ladybirds/bugs) which made the light in the windows to dance.

The coming alive: the veneration of the Virgin bringing life to spiritual endeavour; preserving life through saving of crops so the ordinary woman and man remained nourished on more than one level.

Or perhaps Barbara Tate spent a lazy, sunny afternoon watching ladybirds/bugs congregating on the stained glass window of her home and marvelled at how it made the window take on the appearance of life. Perhaps, even, a few actual ladies came calling, making a lazy, boring afternoon come alive with their actual presence.

Cezar-Florin Ciobîcă filters the light:

It’s spring again and nature revives and starts presenting its wonderful show. As a major form of pictorial art, the main purpose of the stained glass window was not to admit light but rather to control it. In this context one can say that the ladybugs animate the image, giving it a new aura; so, the inside becomes congruent with the outside, making symbiosis possible. Obviously, we can not keep the miracles under wraps. In this way, the consonant “s” seems to transmit, at a phonetic level, the idea of bursting (breaking the mold), that illuminates our path.

Radhamani Sarma finds beetles among the bugs:

I thank immensely The Haiku Foundation Blog for this wonderfully educative feature, and I am very much delighted to comment upon this haiku by Barbara Tate whose powerful haiku and senryu are always a delectable pleasure.

The very first line “ladybugs” brings, to my mind, the beetles which crawl on my window panes and in my garden plants as a slideshow; I carefully view them inching upwards, on clusters of leaves and eating insects. Tactile marauders are they!

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As this week’s winner, Petru 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 185:

 


         frayed feathers
     beneath the dogwood tree

            silence

          — Mary Kendall, Acorn, 41 (2018)

This Post Has 34 Comments

  1. Dear Danny
    and poets all,

    Have enjoyed this week’s chosen selections as well as every syllable of every commentary — all of which had bite. Learned a lot from the ensuing conversation.
    .
    In my own experience, especially as a teen, used to liken immobile ladybugs to nuggets of costume jewelry which “came alive” when they stirred. When reading Babara’s ku, then, thought that unmoving ladybugs with their glistening coats and polka dots might actually have been a segment of stained glass.
    .
    While Barbara herself makes clear that wasn’t the case, it’s fun to imagine the possibility.
    .
    Kudos, Petru, and all.

    1. I originally wrote this poem 3 years ago while in church at Easter Sunrise Service. We have billions of ladybugs here in Tennessee because of the large amount of farming in the area. When the sun warmed the stained glass window the ladybugs swarmed. It looked like the colors were alive!! I wrote this on the back of the church bulletin and stuck it in my Bible.

        1. I have learned a lot about these little ladybugs these past few days. Funniest part of that Sunday morning was when the ladybugs would land in women’s hair–maybe they liked the fragrance of hairspray!!

      1. Oh, goodness, here you are. How nice of you to speak about your fantastic poem. We all had so much fun discussing it.

        Yes, the spontaneous poem is something of a wonder isn’t it?
        Thank you so much Barbara.

        1. This has been so much fun! I’ve enjoyed each and every one. Met new friends along the way. Can’t tell you how much this has meant to me. Thank you. The selection was a complete surprise and I am so honored.

      1. Hi Petru 🙂 “. . . your house is on fire your children have gone . . . ”
        .

        (Excellent commentary, btw.)
        .
        – Lorin

        1. Found it! I have the original collection of fairy tales collected by the Grimm brothers. Grim stuff indeed!

    1. Ladybird, ladybird fly away home, 🙂
      .
      (It’s not a bug and it’s not a bird: it’s a beetle, and it’s a beetle I appreciate every spring when my roses are budding and the aphids appear en masse. )
      .
      It’s due to the fact that the USA has dominated ownership of media throughout the 20th century that many American versions of words have replaced the original English words. This change has quickened in the 21st century with the internet (& spellcheck,which always reverts back to USA English no matter which other version one selects!)
      .
      Something familiar can “come alive” or be “brought to life” . . . be suddenly interesting when we find it has a story to it. I like to think that it’s the story of how the ladybird beetle came to be called the ladybird / ladybug that makes the stained glass window “come alive”. (I see a stained glass church window depicting Our Lady in Barbara Tate’s haiku I don’t see ladybirds literally swarming over it . . . I’m not even sure that they do swarm. The sort I welcome to my yard each spring don’t swarm… and don’t bite, either. Some beetles do bite, though.)
      .
      – Lorin

      1. South Africa is a tough country, perhaps that’s why the ladybirds/bugs (aka beetles) learned to bite?

        I once had a few women over – we were watching the eclipse of the moon. The next night the same amount of ladybirds/bugs came through the airhole into the house. Never saw it again though.

        I wish I could get them to eat the aphids on my brocolli plants.

      2. Here in Tennessee we have billions (not millions) of these because of the amount of cotton fields and farming in the area. Ladybugs are everywhere when the weather gets warms–they literally swarm the insides of windows in the sunlight and warmth–Like the Sunday I wrote this poem.

  2. Thank you all for your comments. It has been a very enjoyable journey.
    I would though like to attempt the vision of the poem from a different perspective, using my own experience.
    I had the pleasure a few years back of working on the exterior of a period building. The property remaining on a site of a former munitions factory that had left a crater after an accident had occurred, now faces out over hillside allotments with a pond at the bottom. Quite a pleasurable sight considering past events.
    Existing by a seaside inlet in an industrial environment where brewery and factory emissions rise daily.
    On the day I witnessed, and later on speaking to the client found, that each year the cottage is plagued by ladybugs.
    The building and windows stained by whatever the weather had brought In from the surrounding area. ( I have in mind; tree/ fruit and vegetable flavours, salt, stagnant water etc). I ponder at whether some of the flavours on the building exterior is the attraction..
    To see the milling around of these colourful bugs in such large number is a very enjoyable experience. As for their bite, it has certainly left an impression in my mind.

    1. According to the research ladybugs/birds are attracted to the light and colour of buildings. I only read the one article so there may very well be other logical explanations. Especially if they like mildew as Alan Summers mentioned. There’s no poison in their bite so the mark (and pain) goes away almost immediately, thankfully.

    2. I meant to add: perhaps Our Lady has something to do with the pond and the cottage after what happened, with the bugs taking care of the mildew?

    3. Robert, I have never known that they bite, leave alone caught one to crawl up my hand…but I do not know which is worse, a ladybug bite or a wasp bite, I got used to those and would eventually just wince… it was fun to show off the sting-bump all red and sore to my friends,

      it was nice to read this, yes, it is a probability, I wonder what they eat on walls and glass…

      but,

      I was also thinking: how much more animate they must seem when compared to the very still figures on the stain glass…

      1. Hi Pratima.
        Yes, perhaps it is / was a combination of mildew that Alan mentioned., and the bright building. This was white.
        Re the sting / bite. I have known them to bite. Though I do not recall a reaction. Unlike the wasp sting in some people. You must have a good immune system.
        Having googled the question,i found that the harlequin ladybird is the species. This in itself conjours up colourful images.

  3. what i have is questions and questions and more questions for this week’s poem. My apologies for choosing to comment and respond instead of sending in, …I am not good at selecting the poem for the week next…

    well, that said, my first question …the one I puzzled with the most is this: where is the speaker or the narrator? Outside or inside?
    how low or how high is the window? Most holy places of worship have long wide windows high up. So how many ladybugs were there? Or if the speaker is on the inside, is one little ladybug skirling inside on the window doing a spotted dot dot skittle on the glass which seems like a dark moving spot on the inside? Is it an animated “pacman” doing its thing but keeping the speaker absorbed during the whatever going on, on the inside?

    Now, for the outside bit where the speaker is on the outside:

    most stain glass windows have these fused elements and the border often is the coats of armour. the story scene is in the middle of this coats of armour border.
    From the outside, the coats of armour look like bugs due to their shape and the fused pieces, the fused bits of lead or foil.
    I think this is what the speaker alludes to, but hey who says that is possible? Probably possible.

    here is a link to copy paste and look at the buggy bits of stained glass:
    https://www.pinterest.com/pin/265853184226131582/

    ladybugs, oooh, thank heavens I found out that ladybugs too are not just female…but then, maybe there is a little ire-tinged whatever in the way the poet writes it, sorority sisters perhaps …I don’t know …just guessing but I place my cards on the speaker on the outside, in the garden ladybugs, on the window stained glass shapes of them…

    okah, outtah here

    1. Everything that grows takes both sexes Pratima, so ladybirds/bugs too. Perhaps it were the males who bit me? Probably not.

      1. Petru,
        are you sure about that, …I will argue with earthworms and dinosaurs etc etc, but this was a fun piece. Wish the poet could step in with a comment on what got her writing this …

  4. .
    Sadly my commentary wasn’t selected for the feature, but I hope some of you might appreciate it, so just in case, here it is, ladybugs and all. 🙂
    .
    .

    ladybugs
    the stained glass window
    comes alive
    .
    — Barbara Tate, Failed Haiku 4:39 (2019)
    .
    .
    I know or guess the journal’s name is part of an “in-joke” that in the past if someone’s haiku was insulted it could be called a senryu, as if that was a bad thing. This verse, whether you see it as a haiku or a senryu is wonderful, on both counts (or genres). The senryu magazine thankfully snatched up this wonderful ‘action’ haikai verse (hah!) and we get to see and enjoy the action.
    .
    Although stained glass can be appreciated inside the building, it’s when we are outside, at night, and the lights powered by electricity and candles, really comes alive.
    .
    So what a treat, the ladybugs aka ladybirds, accumulating during the day, presumably on the outside, giving the illusion that the depicted scenes and people in the glass design are actually moving. The last two words are both literal, but also a nod that one or two half-asleep individuals notice movement in the glass, and perhaps the stories they are depicting (possibly from the Christian Bible) feel real and immediate. There is a gentle amount of humour in this verse, with other hints, and digs, at the occupants of the building.
    .
    In the first line we have a clear Summer season reference, in Japanese haiku and beyond, and gardeners like ladybugs as they apparently save so much by eating insect pests. But there are vegetarian ladybugs!  They like to eat fungus, and some like mildew.  Are the ladybugs then on the inside, if they are vegetarians and feasting on mildew and mushrooms? Is the stained glass an individual piece of art in a garden, or part of a kitchen window? Ladybugs and mystery combined, and again we have a fun connection, and dare I say it, but some light mischief from the author?
    .
    The construction of this haikai verse (and senryu can have seasonal references and kigo, as they can break the rules of haiku) is solidly built up from the opening line, giving us one kind of context (season, nature, protagonist) and further enlarging upon the setting and context in the second line, with the combination of both lines directing us to the very fact everything is apparently coming alive. Haikai verses can benefit from including “an action scene” and this certainly achieves a very vivid and unforgettable one.
    .
    .
    A deftly executed haiku or senryu or hybrid of the two.

    1. hi all,

      and what a fun poem with so many diverse responses.

      Petru,

      I did not know so much about the religious connotations that a ladybug carries or that they bite. Thank you for sharing.

      Alan,

      Like you, I too was thinking about the outside of the window. but, there the common factor ends. I like the response, I wasn’t exactly sure about what a hybrid was, now I think I know a little more. Responses to these little gems are very educative aren’t they?

      Cezar,

      the symbiosis is spot on, yes, the outside becomes as animated as the inside thanks to the little critters

      Radhamani, greetings, lucky you, what I do get here are a lot of bees, bumblebees, wasps etc
      but are they really tactile marauders, are they tactile, are they marauders? What I did notice from your response is the emotional connect in the reader with the poem, and that is a great thing.

      1. I was rather (happily) surprised myself Pratima – about the Virgin Mary that is, not the fact that the beetles bite. It’s quite sore I can assure you.

    2. Dear esteemed poet,
      Warm greetings! In your lively response, in the following paragraph,

      “the first line we have a clear Summer season reference, in Japanese haiku and beyond, and gardeners like ladybugs as they apparently save so much by eating insect pests. But there are vegetarian ladybugs! They like to eat fungus, and some like mildew. Are the ladybugs then on the inside, if they are vegetarians and feasting on mildew and mushrooms? Is the stained glass an individual piece of art in a garden, or part of a kitchen window? Ladybugs and mystery combined, and again we have a fun connection, and dare I say it, but some light mischief from the author? ”
      the vegetarian ladybugs—— very interesting, made me read over and again and again.

  5. Dear Radhamani sarma, thank you very much for your kind words. I truly appreciate that you resonate with my thoughts.

  6. Dear Cezar,

    “as a major form of pictorial art, the main purpose of the stained glass window was not to admit light but rather to control it. In this context one can say that the ladybugs animate the image, giving it a new aura; so, the inside becomes congruent with the outside, making symbiosis possible. Obviously, we can not ……” yes—- your observation, the image being animated with a new aura — splendid.

  7. ladybugs
    the stained glass window
    comes alive

    — Barabara Tate, Failed Haiku 4:39 (2019)

    Thanking immensely The Haiku Foundation Blog for this wonderfully educative feature, I am very much delighted to comment upon this haiku by Barbara Tata whose powerful haiku and senryu always a delectable pleasure.

    The very first line “ladybugs” brings to my mind, beetles which crawl on my window panes and in my garden plants as a slideshow; I carefully view them
    inching upwards, on leaves of clusters eating insects. Tactile marauders are they!
    But the ladybugs mentioned here, with their usual red and black colors known
    for climbing windows and occupying wooded planks command our attention.

    In the second line, the poet observes,“the stained-glass window/comes alive/” The
    juxtaposition of almost an idea of warp -disfigured or discolored with that of rekindling or infusing fresh akin to that of rebirth. The ladybugs -with their presence and interaction, what happens, how do we infer?

    Interpreting the line as “ the stained glass window”, the glass pane,completely
    besmeared, no housewife to remove the dirt or bits of unhealthy particles hanging
    on the window for long like a hard soot; also small insects on which the
    ladybug the seasoned predator feeds upon killing them all. Here the ‘s’ in
    stained should be in small letter. The adjective “stained” gains an aura of multiple
    meanings.
    In the third line, “Comes alive” a sensational image is pictured or painted by the ebullient brushes of the poet.
    “ the Stained glass window” the “S” in capital springs forth another meaning.
    Stained glass window is a colored glass window with chips of pictorial designs -when unattended or dust laden or discolored, wherein the colorful ladybugs add their exuberance in a way -kill or breed, adding a fresh tempo to the window, attributing to the busy modules of the ladybugs.

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