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
one egg rattling in the pot autumn rain — Sandra Simpson, The Haiku Calendar 2009
Marion Clarke finds comfort in the sounds:
The simplicity of this poem is one of its strengths, beginning with the matter-of-fact statement in L1 that there is a single egg. The verb ‘rattling’ in L2 is a surprise, because wouldn’t an egg break if it were rattling? But then we learn it is in a pot. Ah! This is the sound of a boiling egg clinking against the side of a pot that is being described…which can be quite a comforting noise.
But then we come to ‘autumn rain’ in L3, which introduces a much more sombre tone. When the reader goes back to the beginning, to that solitary egg in the pot, it is a sad story now. Perhaps this is a person of a certain age who used to cook for a whole family, and had a pot full eggs happily rattling away on the stove, but now there is only one. Or it could be that the narrator lived much of her early life with a another person who has left or passed on.
The use of sound in this haiku is excellent. The egg is clinking against the metal pan, echoing the ticking of the autumn rain on the kitchen window pane. Does the narrator perhaps feel a little like that solitary egg rattling around on her own? For me, Sandra’s poem is a great example of the technique of mono no aware. She has captured pathos and a beautiful sadness in this scene with the sights and sounds of a single egg boiling in a pan and that autumn rain. Wonderful!
Robert Kingston dreams of electric sheep:
First thoughts on this haiku was of a scene from the film Blade Runner.
Set in 2019, the scene shows Pris, a female replicant, dipping her hand into a boiling pot of eggs, then removing one and throwing it to J.F Sebastian, an engineer in some form of robotics. He had an age-degenerative disease that showed him as a middle aged man, his actual age being much less. His only companions being his own creations.
The connection comes, I believe through sadness. We have a lone egg rattling in a pot. Was it a self observation by Sandra or that of a witness to someone of whom she cares about, who she was visiting? The lone egg perhaps indicating that previously, two eggs were boiling, one for a partner. The rattling being the stirred emotions of change. The autumn rain, the tears that fell on account of his or her loss, or the sadness of being alone.
Reading deeper, we have an egg being cooked. The foetus being denied an existence. The narrator perhaps feeling angry after having had thoughts of the chick that could have been. Has the narrator reached an age whereby she sees the world differently? Has she reached her Autumn years and is reflecting on the event unfolding in her midst and this is the reason for her sadness?
From a more upbeat angle:
We have a mature mother-to-be who has become pregnant, perhaps having gone through an IVF programme. Her first visit to the clinic revealing that one egg has been successful.
A wonderful haiku, that teases all our senses.
Petru Viljoen also dines alone:
Breakfast for one. Presumably breakfast. Though I am reminded of many dinners consisting of a single egg on a slice of toast. Is it only the lonely ones who do that?
This haikai tells of a before and after. There once was more than one. We don’t know how many. Autumn follows a full summer which was preceded by a spring. I imagine a life fully lived and here we have the beginning of the end – it’s not quite winter yet for the protagonist, who is the only one left and there isn’t much to look forward to. She (is it a ‘she’?) is rattled by her/his dismal situation – what’s the sound of one hand clapping?
The line breaks are perfect. I don’t miss a hyphen or other punctuation to indicate the cut to the third line.
Cezar-Florin Ciobîcă starts at the beginnning:
Ab ovo, this ku drew me through the noises that fill in the empty spaces…
In the first part of the poem, the focus is on the egg that, by boiling, makes probably a disturbing noise; the egg seems to be a percussion instrument, which through the rapid succession of short, sharp and hard sounds, tries to accompany the autumn rain from the second part, which highlights the monotony that predisposes us to depression, anxiety.
Why an egg and not two? Because it’s about a single person who, while preparing their breakfast, probably thinks about something or remembers fragments of their own life. The rain makes the narrator forget about that boiling egg and transports him or her in the past.
The overall picture points out the distress, the emotional void, and this idea is emphasized at a phonetic level by a suite of harsh consonants that make you hear the same ominous sounds…
As this week’s winner, Marion 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!
dark matter the dreams I cling to — Brendon Kent, Failed Haiku #1 (2016)