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re:Virals 186

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

 
     beach sand shimmer —
     her shed clothes
     she doesn't fold 

          — Michele L. Harvey, Modern Haiku 50:1

Lorin Ford orders words:

The scene is clear and familiar to me: it’s a bright summer afternoon, a woman or girl arrives at the white-sand beach, drops her towel, sheds her clothes and in a flash she’s already in the water. She’s not only shed her clothes and left them behind her, she may well have shed her work day or school day, too. Only an Irish Setter could seem more blissfully happy.
 
What is striking and strange about this haiku is the inverted syntax of Ls 2 & 3. I’m familiar with Michele’s haiku and as far as I know, English is her first language, so I’m pretty sure this decision to invert syntax was deliberate. What happens when we invert a normal sentence so that the object of the verb precedes the verb? Here, we see the “shed clothes” first, rather than the woman/girl they belong to, and then we are left with the lingering observation that the woman/girl (the subject) “doesn’t fold” the clothes she has shed. Thus our attention is drawn away from the woman/girl and the clothes she’s shed. It is drawn, instead, to whoever is making this observation about what the woman/girl doesn’t  do.
 
Is a judgement being made? Is Michele writing from the p.o.v. of, for example, an indignant, obsessive-compulsive aunt? From the p.o.v. of an old-school Japanese headmistress reporting on a student’s shamefully un-Japanese behaviour? (Careful folding is part of Japanese culture.) Interpretations such as these are quite possible and certainly not invalid, but I suspect that the main authorial intention was otherwise: it’s possible to see that by inverting the normal syntax Michele may have embedded a subtle ‘Concrete’ element into this haiku by ‘folding’ her Ls 2 and 3, making a kind of visual pun.

Christina Pecoraro takes a dip:

A ‘beach sand shimmer’, it seems to me, has something dynamic as well as lovely about it. Shimmering, after all, has movement. Reading Michele L. Harvey’s haiku, I wonder if the glistening of that shimmer is worn by the sand alone or also by the beach-creature who ‘shed(s) (her) clothes.’

One imagines those clothes (perhaps some of them, perhaps all of them) strewn randomly about, since the ku pointedly tells us ‘she doesn’t fold’ them. Why, one wonders. Is she carefree? Careless? Finished with caring — especially what others may expect or think?

Or is it simply that the shimmer is caused by the setting sun, in which case she might do well to hurry into the waters for a last swim before dusk? This is the scenario I’d like to imagine. Perhaps it’s late enough for the beach population to have dwindled, the life-guards to have called it quits. Late enough for the shimmering sands actually to be seen. If that’s what’s happening, I’d love to run with her into the waiting waters for one final splash before dressing up and going home.

Pratima Balabhadrapathruni sees also shed skin:

There is a story of what you did while at the beach. What is it that you thought was decadent and indulgent and memorable?
I do not have an answer to that and all I can do is speculate. But there is a lot that reads like this in my mind:

“To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour”
W.Blake (Auguries of Innocence)

The innocence belongs to the reader, for the diva in there knows exactly what transpired at the beach. The poem teases the reader, allows for speculation.
The sand clings on. She realises that to move one grain of sand would be to change the world from what it is . . . and was a few moments ago.
The clothes stay with the glimmer of more than beach sand, as she is bound to something not exactly tangible but was real enough to want to keep everything she has shed . . . for the moment, and hold that eternity in an hour.

Form and melody in the poem:
There is a two beat melody followed by two rapid beats in the first line, followed by the three beats of the two line fragment, the longer first line therefore carries with it what is to follow.

About the dash:
I am questioning myself as to whether I would use the dash . . . the line break suffices I think. But, yes, the flat of the beach can be seen in the dash, I think.

Afterthought:
Are the shed clothes like ecdysis, something left behind so that the “she” of the poem is free and refreshed enough to move on? I wonder…

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As this week’s winner, Lorin 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 186:

 
     one egg
     rattling in the pot
     autumn rain
 
          — Sandra Simpson, The Haiku Calendar 2009

This Post Has 18 Comments

  1. Ecdysis (lovely word)…perhaps, a selkie, as if imagined some shimmering beach sand mirage?
    In any case, I was brought back to that brief unhibited time in the ’70s when those of us would escape to Hippie Hollow outside Austin, TX. There to skinny dip and preen in our glorious naked youth along rock ledges on lake Travis like so many harbor seals. Was the best of times… Betty

  2. Why won’t this program let me post a reply to Michele? Maybe it’s because I included a url to a photo of my beach?
    .
    Trying again, using copy & paste, without the photo .
    .
    Dear Michele,
    re: ” the speed and abandon of the exuberant bather, who didn’t stop for a moment, nor look over her shoulder as she disrobed. ” certainly comes across. 🙂 For me, it’s all there already in your first two lines. the brilliantly chosen ” beach sand shimmer—” (which, in my experience, places me on a white sand beach on a . . . probably . . . summer afternoon) . . . then the perfect choice of “shed” for the verb (making her disrobing a natural and automatic thing, not something thought about at all)
    .
    The clothing items, after the towel, fall on the sand where she drops them. (What need would there be to fold them? ) So the last line (“she doesn’t fold”) takes me back in a curve (and a curve is halfway to being a fold) to “her shed clothes”.
    .
    To me it just seems normal that a woman who intends to go for a dip puts on her bathers under her clothes before going to the beach, so I don’t have the distraction of wondering if, after shedding her clothes, this woman ran down the beach starkers or not. 🙂
    .
    Your haiku literally inspired me, Michele. On Tuesday, which was a warm, still, blue-sky autumn day, I checked the tides, found my bathers i hadn’t worn for several years and caught 3 kinds of public transport down to my special spot on my childhood beach, where I shed my clothes and my Garfield the Cat towel and happily walked out through calm water past the 2nd sandbank until I was floating . 🙂 So glad I made the effort, and thank you for the timely inspiration. 🙂
    .
    (It’s a bay beach, not a surf beach)
    .
    – Lorin

  3. Kudos, LORIN—
    .
    Your “in a flash” precisely captures for me the hurry/likely impatience of the swimmer in Michele’s ku. I enjoy imagining, as you do, that perhaps “[s]he’s not only shed her clothes (but) her work day or school day, too.” Smart girl/woman!
    .
    Love too your addition that maybe “[o]nly an Irish Setter could seem more blissfully happy.” That would be hard to match, or top.
    .
    Found your structural observations instructive. Thanks. Beyond them, the thought that Michele could possibly be writing from the p.o.v. of an “obsessive-compulsive aunt…. (or) an old-school Japanese headmistress” further lights up the whole poem for me.
    .
    DANNY is right: I’d love to take a dip in those waters. Wouldn’t you? —Christina
    .
    .
    PRATIMA, hi.
    .
    You make an intriguing connection between Michele’s ku and Blake’s famous “To see a World in a Grain of Sand….”.
    .
    “The poem teases the reader,” you say, and “allows for speculation. The sand clings on… [T]o move one grain of sand would be to change the world from what it is…and was a few moments ago.” True. Am not sure I agree, though, that “she realises” that.
    .
    But I do wonder with you: “Are the shed clothes like ecdysis, something left behind so that the “she” of the poem is free and refreshed enough to move on?”
    If so, I say again, Smart girl/woman! You are too.
    — Christina
    .
    P.S. ‘Ecdysis’ is a new word for me. Thanks.

    1. Thanks, Christine.
      .
      I wrote up a reply to Michele, but for some strange reason, the robot message tells me I’ve already said that, so won’t post it. Let’s see if it lets me post this reply!.

      Lorin

  4. The Editor in me, green eye-shade and all, prompts me to comment on our next haiku to discuss:
    .
    one egg
    rattling in the pot
    autumn rain
    .
    – Sandra Simpson, The Heron’s Nest 9:2, 2007
    .
    This is the original credit for Sandra’s excellent haiku. It was one of the 3 Editors’ Choices for that issue. The haiku was later anthologized in the 15-year anthology of “best of” for the first 15 years of the Heron’s Nest… “Nest Feathers” page 92. [still for sale at cost, hardbound 174 pps.– see website, forgive me the advertising, please] Lorin, is of course very correct… it was again deservedly anthologized as it is credited 2 years later in the Haiku Calendar.
    .
    I do look forward to reading the various analyses of this classic haiku.

    ***

    I am always please to see work by BOTH Lorin and Sandra, excellent! haikuists, in our Journal and at THF …
    .
    Returning you now to your regular programming,
    .
    lightly, – Paul MacNeil, Associate Editor, theheronsnest.com

    1. Whoops!
      .
      Dear Paul,
      Please accept my apologies. My source for Sandra’s “one egg” haiku for this commentary was/is White Lies – The Red Moon Anthology of English- Language Haiku, 2008, so that’s also what I relied on for first publication credits. These things happen and, unfortunately, there is no way to change a print entry such as this (apart from individual owners of a copy of the volume entering the correct accreditation, which I will do in my copy in a second).
      .
      That’s life!
      .
      I’m sure that those who intend to write a commentary on Sandra’s haiku for next week will include the correct first publication credits at the top:
      .
      one egg
      rattling in the pot
      autumn rain
      .
      – Sandra Simpson, The Heron’s Nest 9:2, 2007
      .
      – Lorin

    2. Hello Paul@editor of the nest,
      thank you.
      So you guard the wards in the nest do ya? I hope you will not try to shoo away the munkeys… like me,

      it is so wonderful when these surprises happen Paul…

      😉

      1. I did mean my comment in a light vein, not one of disagreement. Lorin knows me and understands … she is also a Journal editor. Now I see the Sandra’s haiku has yet another place in another anthology… Red Moon. Great! I think most volunteer journal editors in our field are a little bit protective of first publication. I also happened to be Sandra’s editor (we have 5) for that very haiku. I proposed it and we all published it.

        First publication credit is a common courtesy that is voluntary certainly but is a part of the haiku publication process. It is no one’s fault here … certainly NOT Lorin’s. No one makes any money in haiku journals.
        – Paul

        1. yes, Paul, got it. Thank you for making things clear. This poem too is going to be fun discussion.

          … We get the humour Paul, haijin usually do, …no fret there, thanks to Senryū, I learn a lot from the editorial picks in THN

          thank you for being here

          ( my long name got to be prat because my autofill is an imp …look at the name on the first comment of mine…)

          1. Paul…
            thank you a billion times over. Many are reading this, and many will -if not already doing so -will mention the first published space – the in future.

        2. Yes, indeed, Paul. When a poem is re-published, correct first publication accreditation is essential for historical accuracy, each and every time.
          .
          Like the rest of us, though, anthology proof-readers (who, as far as haiku goes, are all too often the same editor/ editors who have done all the other work in preparing a volume for the printer) are fallible and mistakes or oversights sometimes happen.
          .
          If I’d had my wits about me, it might’ve occurred to me that there was something a tad odd about a haiku supposedly first published in The Haiku Calendar,/i> 2009 appearing in the White Lies anthology published in the year 2008,/b>. (Duh!)
          .
          Upon checking, I find that Sandra’s “one egg” haiku appears in the results of the 2008 Haiku Calendar Competition:
          .
          “RUNNERS-UP
          Sandra Simpson (New Zealand )‘one egg’ ”
          .
          http://www.snapshotpress.co.uk/contests/thcc/results/thcc2008results.pdf
          .
          Which means (I think, anyway) that it would’ve been published in the 2009 calendar, subsequent to the publication of the competition results in 2008.
          .
          Considering that The Heron’s Nest 9:2, 2007 went online in June 2007, and that the Haiku Calendar Competition accepts published or unpublished haiku, it’s pretty obvious to me that the haiku was first published in The Heron’s Nest .
          .
          John Barlow (Snapshot Press & The Haiku Calendar Comp.) was one of the 10 editors of the White Lies anthology, but so was Peggy Willis Lyles , who was also one of the The Heron’s Nest editors at the time. Unfortunately, Peggy is no longer with us.
          .

          – Lorin

  5. My thanks to Lorin and Christina, Radhamani for enjoying and taking time to remark on my little poem. Lorin, you’re right about english being my first language and using the inverted syntax on purpose. It indeed was an observed moment, but so speedily done as to be over in an eye blink, the sand and the air being oppressively hot. I’d hoped the inverted syntax would express the speed and abandon of the exuberant bather, who didn’t stop for a moment, nor look over her shoulder as she disrobed. Her heart and mind were set on the moment of immersion. It wasn’t yet evening, but by her haste my guess was she’d just gotten off work (probably waitressing) in a touristy, seaside town. There was lots of skin, but I believe she came fully prepared for her afternoon dip. And on the contrary, I was in awe of the bather’s uninhibited quality as one of the great attributes of vigor and youth! I definitely felt the joy of her joy!

    1. hello Michele, thank you for being here…I now see where the inspiration came from. Joy is infectious, especially youthful joy…

  6. Lorin and Christina, Radhamani, really nice observations.

    Lorin, I did not think that there was a concrete visual and attributed it to a singsong telltale kind of flavour to the poem,

    Christina, your say about it being the setting sun resonates with me. What I left out from my write was this: What if the clothes belong to someone who took one dip and did not return? I left that out, because I may be influenced bu last weeks poem and discussions.
    It is difficult to see what is influencing one when one is reading and discussing continuously…

    Radhamani, I do not know whether it is day or night, but there are so many speculations playing in my mind as to why she has not folded the clothes she has shed…is it a nod to transcending… the body being left behind, I don’t know…
    it could just be the lingering aftermath of whatever it was she has participated in…which works just fine

    I really appreciate all the takes on the poem, and wonder what it was that the poet really saw …

    1. Dear Pratima,
      Greetings! Sorry for the delay in my response. Very interesting to know about reference of clothes coming in. I like your entire comments……” lingering aftermath” i like it very much.
      with regards
      S.Radhamani

  7. Re virals 185

    beach sand shimmer—
    her shed clothes
    she doesn’t fold

    — Michele L. Harvey, Modern Haiku 50:1

    Profusely thanking Haiku Foundation blog for regularly featuring haiku thereby giving room for our critical and creative speculation. Delighted to comment upon the haiku of Michele Harvey,well known writer, whose images of beach highlight many a reading into this.

    First line “beach sand shimmer”—- after an intentional pause, possibly delves into many a confluence of ideas poetically envisaged. By itself, first line, beach sand shimmer when? When in the hot sun, piercing rays sparkle, though walking upon it is Impossibility for us all.

    Following two lines, “her shed clothes/She doesn’t fold” now takes us into the sea; sea’s swathes of rolling white surf gyrating, coming to the shore, breaking into waters spreading upon sand, into a cooling process. Sea’s white foamy surf/ her shed clothes, no going back, hence, she does not fold.

    Another possible inference is the cool moon shines in the night,Upon the beach sand; Moon’s pouring are -shed clothes- cannot be folded.

    One more drawing is upon disembarkation of ship, all who sailed come out to their destination after the final journey, their prided feed touching upon the shimmering sand. Not immediately going back.

    During evolution,the age long process of sands deposited, getting accumulated -sea does not fold sands into her penfold. Finally, seagulls or shore birds by the shore close to the sand, upon pecking their feathers, do not gather them. Poet might have noticed a shore bird, leaving the feathers shed unfolded.

    Here is my choice for next week

    A red yellow green
    falls to the window; inside
    autumn is in bloom

    ( Christopher Keller)cc

    https://haikujournal.org/e-issues/

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