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re:Virals 202

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:

 
     monologue
     of the deep sea fish
     misty stars 

          Fay Aoyagi, Modern Haiku 33.3 (autumn 2002)


Mark Gilbert ponders the fish:

To me, the anthropomorphic ‘monologue’ works to suggest the constant gulping action of a single solitary fish in the ocean’s depths, poignant perhaps because there is no audience. The fish may even be one of the last of that species. ‘Misty stars’ adds to the tone of loss and regret. There are other interpretations of the third line but these are probably too literal.

Kyora Umeda finds poetry:

The unknown stars murmur an endless story.
We can’t hear the words of the deep sea fish and stars.
An infinite number of scenarios disappear into the darkness of the universe,
and the deep sea and human’s inner space are a part of universe. 
This work has infinite space.

Nancy Liddle takes a trip:

The juxtaposition of deep sea and deep space and the beings within.  The communication of beings reduced to a monologue telling of an apparent loneliness, a singularity of being.  The black velvet of both vastnesses, the murmur of one small voice continuing.  Such an evocative haiku that travels the reader both up and down into wells of incomprehensible depth and width that we are lost, muttering to ourselves.  Thank you for the trip!  

Rich Schilling measures a sense of space:

Fay’s haiku starts from the thoughts of a fish, deep in the ocean and ends up in space. So it is a poem of distance, measurable distance, but also a distance that can’t be measured, from the internal to external. Both the stars and fish are basically alone in a darkness, existing as part of a world, but they may never interact with. There is loneliness in every line of this haiku. It gives me the sense that we are sometimes self-contained within our own thoughts and even though we know there is so much more than ourselves, sometimes it is hard to make a connection. This haiku has an unclarity (misty), a darkness, and the seclusion of life. I think of stars as distant and out of reach but using the word misty makes them dreamy, gives them a softness; possibly giving a bridge to escape the isolation. Maybe it’s a caveat of the way to not get lost within ourselves, to see the stars and ourselves among others even if it is a little unclear, as life usually is.

Reka Nyitrai immerses herself in the depths:

In theater, monologue is a speech by a character to himself/herself. Most often this literary device is applied to express aloud the thoughts, feelings of a solitary character. The critics of this theatrical device are pointing toward its lack of feeling real, true and are describing it as static, improbable and even boring.
If a man/woman alone is not expected in real to talk aloud, how improbable is it to expect a lyrical outburst, a confession from a fish? Not any fish, but a „deep sea fish”.
Not revealing the exact name of the fish, Fay Aoyagi gives free hand to her readers to imagine what kind of fish is the one that delivers the monologue. Hence, I assume that the speaking I of this monologue is an ankoo 鮟鱇 (あんこう) (anglerfish), an awkward looking fish, that lives in the bottom of the sea.
It would be interesting to find out the gender of Aoyagi’s anglerfish.
Taking into account the major physical differences between the male and female anglerfish, I assume that the content of the monologue has to be pretty different, depending on the imaginary speaker’s gender.
The piece of dorsal spine that protrudes above their mouths like a fishing pole, that gives the name of this fish, is worn only by females.
The male anglerfish, which is significantly smaller than the female, has no need for such feature, because it has evolved into a permanent parasitic mate. When a young, free-swimming male angler encounters a female, he latches onto her with his sharp teeth. Over time, the male anglerfish physically fuses with the female, losing his eyes and all his internal organs, except the testes. A mature female anglerfish might carry more than one male on her body.
Stepping further into the white space provided by Aoyagi, I am going further with my assumptions and imagine that the speaking I of this monologue is a blind male anglerfish.
Eventually, identifying the one who delivers the monologue, I finally understand the hidden drama of this haiku, drama mainly revealed in the last line of the haiku, that discloses who is the audience of the monologue.
This is the moment when I sense the power of this ku that constructs a surreal arch that connects the bottom of the sea with the sky – all trough the pathos and weight of an imaginary monologue delivered by an awkward, misunderstood creature: a parasite, a blind male anglerfish.
My last question would be: what makes the starts look “misty”? Probably, they too, feel for Aoyagi’s character.

Clayton Beach talks of masks:

This haiku is dense and perhaps a bit unapproachable to some readers, with its cryptic idiosyncrasy. I often find clues to the meaning of a haiku in other poems by the same author. Each provides a lens, and in the connecting of threads we can trace the contours of an author’s ongoing themes and general style.

summer festival—
my Astro Boy mask
has lost its power 

          — Fay Aoyagi, In Borrowed Shoes 

Aoyagi’s subtle but pithy humor and sense of whimsy are perfect evocations of haiku humor, a touch of sadness in the symbolic fading of power, but also the childlike innocence of summer and cartoon characters.

Reading a swath of Aoyagi’s work reveals a playfulness and humor that warms the poetry. Her puckish humor often involves masks of one kind or another, such as here where the author is eager to assume the role of a crustacean:

cold rain—
my application
to become a crab 

          — Fay Aoyagi, Haiku 21

We may read this as a playful way of saying that the author is grumpy on a cold winter’s day, with a hint of melancholic hyperbole reminiscent of T. S. Eliot’s “I should have been a pair of ragged claws.”

In this sense, we can imagine the deep see fish as the author, and search for a hint of setting. “Misty stars” gives us a sense of night, perhaps with a deep fog that makes one imagine being a deep sea fish, a humorous or lonely monologue delivered while wandering the foggy streets at night in a distracted, dreamy mood.

“Moonlight and rain” as a trope in Japanese literature is associated with the supernatural, of which Aoyagi is no doubt aware, so the surreal initial impression and eerie undertones linger even if we manage to find ourselves comically as a fish entering the misty twilight murmuring a soliloquy.

virus2

As this week’s winner, Reka 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 203:

winter fog
an old man turns back
into a tree

     — John McManus, he Heron’s Nest, Volume XIV:4

This Post Has 32 Comments

  1. monologue
    of the deep sea fish
    misty stars
    .
    Fay Aoyagi
    Modern Haiku 33.3 (autumn 2002)

    The first time I read this haiku I was transported to a fishing boat. Predator fish are often caught at night. I can picture the fish gasping for air as if to say, “What are you doing to me?” The stars are misty because of tears. Perhaps the fisherman’s tears and/or the fish’s? There is an inevitability to this haiku. The hunter is now being hunted. Perhaps for the first time the fisherman is conscious of the fish’s suffering which then torments him? Having said that, the word monologue would suggest that that is not the case. Perhaps it’s the fish’s tears? Is there an onlooker onboard?

  2. Usually, I don’t talk about my haiku. I believe a poet opens the door for a reader and he/she/they can complete the journey. But, if I say ‘mist’ or ‘misty XXX’ is a Japanese spring kigo and I write haiku in the first person (I am a deep-sea fish!?), it will change your interpretation?
    Anyway, I was flattered and honored to read everyone’s comments.

    1. Thank you Fay, it’s always a brilliant response when the author posts.
      .
      .
      monologue
      of the deep sea fish
      misty stars
      .
      Fay Aoyagi
      Modern Haiku 33.3 (autumn 2002)
      .
      .
      It’s certainly a delightfully daring juxtaposition for some readers. The Spring Kigo can act as if a person is emerging from Winter, perhaps a little blurry, perhaps even a few tears. From diving into literal meanings of simply a deep sea fish at Spring, to wondering if the author has placed herself in that situation, or compares herself, as if a fish out of water, perhaps, it’s a wonderful adventure for the reader as explorer.
      .
      Thank you so much for stepping in, Fay! 🙂 However different all our interpretations have been, the allure of the haiku remains, and will continue to be enjoyed and admired.

    2. Thanks for this explanation Fay – it makes me think that you are a mermaid using your irresistible song (monologue) to lure sailors 😉

  3. It is said that one sees what one wants to see, and I am guilty of this confirmation bias in the reading of this week’s haiku:
    .
    monologue
    of the deep sea fish
    misty stars

    Fay Aoyagi, Modern Haiku 33.3 (autumn 2002)
    .
    .
    In the first two lines monologue/ of the deep sea fish/ I wonder what type of fish can talk and in seeking an answer to this question I come up with the carp.
    .
    Carp are various species of oily[1] freshwater fish from the family Cyprinidae, a very large group of fish native to Europe and Asia (Wikipedia). Of course the carp does not fit the definition of the deep sea fish as explained in the Wikipedia entry on deep sea fish, but they are adaptable and can live in deep brackish water. Carp also means to talk, babble, or chatter; to censure, find fault
    .
    In Japan and other Asian countries, the carp has been domesticated and bred for color. Koi (鯉, English: /ˈkɔɪ/, Japanese: [koꜜi]) or more specifically jinli or nishikigoi (錦鯉, [ɲiɕi̥kiꜜɡoi], literally “brocaded carp”), are colored varieties of Amur carp (Cyprinus rubrofuscus) that are kept for decorative purposes in outdoor koi ponds or water gardens. The words “koi” and “nishikigoi” come from the Japanese reading of Classical Chinese words 鯉 (common carp) and 錦鯉 (brocaded carp) respectively. In both languages, the former can refer to many Asian carp species, including (and most commonly referring to) some invasive species in the United States.
    .
    In Japanese, “koi” is a homophone for another word that means “affection” or “love”, so koi are symbols of love and friendship in Japan. And “koi” is also a pun on the English word “coy”, which can mean “affectedly and often flirtatiously shy or modest, bashful”.
    .
    The third line, misty stars, makes me think of dusk, which can be a romantic time of day, or possibly the idea of fate/destiny, as in “it’s written in the stars”.
    .
    When I put it all together, the poem makes me think of someone bereft of their lover, pining, or possibly suffering from unrequited love.

    .

    1. princess, ( is that your name,…????)

      I cannot but not think in terms of fish, like researched from any kind of resources, it sort of makes me want to never write another poem plus …It destroys the intrinsic human element in there ..one that is sort of not being able to get away and …be stuck in there where one feels stuck in and alone… for whatever ever so many reasons one can conjure, it could even be a party… I feel deep sea fish denotes a mood that is in tandem and runs parallel to misty stars…both are inaccessible to me as the reader.

      but I did enjoy learning that koi are a kind of carp, koi do not have teeth, did you know that, imagine not being able to bite.. aaaarrrrrrgrrr

      1. Carp have very strong ridges in their mouths. When they clamp down on your finger you can feel the pressure most keenly. We used to catch them in the Inabe River after a flood had washed them out of the tanks they were raised in. Mostly we returned them to a carp raiser, or to the pond in the garden of the municipal office. We kept one big white one in an aquarium at home.

  4. Reka , hi

    you say: “This is the moment when I sense the power of this ku that constructs a surreal arch that connects the bottom of the sea with the sky – all trough the pathos and weight of an imaginary monologue delivered by an awkward, misunderstood creature: a parasite, a blind male anglerfish.”

    And I wonder about the relevance of single or plural in the word: fish
    and wonder further whether : the male fish – if plural – would have the same kind of monologue, which explains the singular implied – monologue

    In my native language there is an idiom: bharinche vade bharta – the one who bears it all is the husband…
    and I have long wanted to sort of turn it upside down, which you have more of less done for me, brava !
    I further wonder whether the female can speak her mind or even enter into a monologue
    ummm

  5. Hi everyone,

    this is a fantastic poem for discussion. There are very nice responses.

    The questions I am asking myself and perhaps the poet are:
    the fragment is : monologue / of the deep sea fish
    the phrase is: misty stars

    how are they tied together?
    is it a riddle unraveled by the phrase: what is the monologue of deep sea fish? Answer: misty stars?

    Perhaps the most pertinent ask from me is: is the middle line acting like a pivot?
    What does that do for the reading?

    there is a monologue
    and then there is the fragment: of the deep sea fish/ misty stars
    aha!
    the deep sea fish as further away from me as the stars. And then the monologue. I see myself seated somewhere, listening to a lecture on deep sea fish,

    the word misty, because, the tiny fish on the podium screen are lighted up by some kind of light to allow for the audience to see them, the movement of water, and the seemingly similar appearance to the stars in the sky

    accept it or reject it, it is another reading with a lot of ifs, whys, is its…but I like to speculate on the improbable and this is how it is supposed to be? ^^

  6. re:Virals 202:

    monologue
    of the deep sea fish
    misty stars 

    Fay Aoyagi, Modern Haiku 33.3 (autumn 2002)

    Always a pleasure to read and comment the posts here, tapping and enlightening our creative aura. This week’s haiku by Fay Aoyagi,opens up some fresh vistas of and animal (here)fish -deep sea fish; also metaphorically viewing, one can see human perspectives, in different situations.
    Converting the very first line “monologue” in terms of sea environment, one can perceive that it is the adaptable technique of deep sea fish, its gurgling sound , to swim and stay in dark water below the surface; A profound study of oceanic animals and structures reveal that some species are blind and some are gifted with eyesight. Those that can see, during diving and adaptations, are gifted with the power of sight, hence light comes out. This illumining gaze, or blink whatever one may attribute, may be termed as the misty stars in the ripples of water. A combination of body and sound – seen in the production of “ misty stars”.

    Metaphorically speaking, an afflicted person’s reaction either in the form of long speech or outlet of emotions, as a result of his turbulent situations, his uncontrollable anger leading on to
    his own bemused state, wherein he sees clouds or indecision blocking his smooth sail, hence misty stars. A sea image or angry human voice delving into dark passages of analysis.

    1. Radhamani, always a refreshing read –> your replies to the responses.

      “Converting the very first line “monologue” in terms of sea environment, one can perceive that it is the adaptable technique of deep sea fish, its gurgling sound , to swim and stay in dark water below the surface;”

      I don’t know, …I don’t know whether that is a monologue of the fish or on the fish. People often use on- and -of – one for another.
      I wish the poet would speak on the poem…
      somehow, too much of detail, spoils the ethereal effect of the poem,…

      you said: “A sea image or angry human voice delving into dark passages of analysis.”
      yes, maybe

      1. Dear Pratima
        Thank you for you are always encouraging with your positive comments. The term ‘monologue’ how much of interpretations ,it invites.
        with regards
        S.Radhamani

  7. Dear Rich Schilling,
    Greetings. in your dwelling comments on this monologue, this mention of space and distance – is quite interesting and vibrant,

    “Fay’s haiku starts from the thoughts of a fish, deep in the ocean and ends up in space. So it is a poem of distance, measurable distance, but also a distance that can’t be measured, from the internal to external. “

  8. Dear Reka ,
    Greetings. Indeed a very detailed ,vivid analysis of deep sea fish, varieties of fish and co conclusion who is the speaker etc.,
    Doubly delighted to read over again the comments; following is the arresting and interesting take:

    “This is the moment when I sense the power of this ku that constructs a surreal arch that connects the bottom of the sea with the sky – all trough the pathos and weight of an imaginary monologue delivered by an awkward, misunderstood creature: a parasite, a blind male angler fish.”

  9. Dear Nancy,
    Greetings.
    In Nancy’s trip, so much to learn, the following quotes,quite catchy.

    “The communication of beings reduced to a monologue telling of an apparent loneliness, a singularity of being. The black velvet of both vastness’s, the murmur of one small voice continuing. “

  10. Dear Mark Gilbert,
    Greetings. GOING through all the eight lines – crisp and insightful interpretation. Regarding “misty stars” the comment ” adds to the tone of loss and regret”, amazing.

    “The fish may even be one of the last of that species. ‘Misty stars’ term -adds to the tone of loss and regret. There are other interpretations of the third line but these are probably too literal.”

    with regards
    S.Radhamani

  11. monologue
    of the deep sea fish
    misty stars
    .
    Fay Aoyagi,
    Modern Haiku 33.3 (autumn 2002)
    .
    .
    Fay Aoyagi deftly executes classical haikai aspects with modern urban environs from the physical ones to the ones we psychologically have to adapt or diminish.
    .
    .
    Deep Sea Fish:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deep_sea_fish
    .
    .
    Everything is about light (lack of, glimmers, and creating or avoiding ‘light’) and the deep sea fish are a small minority in a very difficult environment. This is sadly even more topical after the current trend(s) of selecting ‘out’ minorities to be attacked by the authorities, most recently Windrush and Squad members of humanity.
    .
    .
    The lanternfish is, by far, the most common deep-sea fish. Other deep sea fishes include the flashlight fish, cookiecutter shark, bristlemouths, Rhinochimera atlantica, abyssal grenadiers, anglerfish, Pelican eels, viperfish, and some species of eelpout. WIKIPEDIA
    .
    Just like humans from ethnic minorities, whether migrated or born in certain countries, there are layers and areas of society both physically geographical, as well as territorially, and emotive, and charged, just like the areas of the seas. We have to carry our own lantern, don’t we, unless we ‘tone’ ourselves into the backdrop, and hide in plain sight.
    .
    Ah, to see the stars, blurry and obscured if we ever get close to the surface, break that surface. Maybe one day.
    .
    “The monologue of the deep sea fish” is another one of Fay Aoyagi’s blisteringly powerful haiku.
    .
    .
    The haiku is from Fay Aoyagi’s extraordinary first collection, available as a PDF (with permission) at the Haiku Foundation Digital Library.
    .
    Chrysanthemum Love
    Haiku by Fay Aoyagi
    Keiko Matsumoto (illustrator)
    Blue Willow Press (2003)
    https://www.thehaikufoundation.org/omeka/items/show/5

    1. To Alan Summers,
      Dear esteemed poet,
      Greetings, Going through your insightful analysis of this deep sea monologue, the variety of fish mentioned, for us a lot more to learn about environment etc.,far into learning process in its own way, Further, the following comments,by your good self,quotes for us to re read and remember

      “Just like humans from ethnic minorities, whether migrated or born in certain countries, there are layers and areas of society both physically geographical, as well as territorially, and emotive, and charged, just like the areas of the seas. We have to carry our own lantern, don’t we, unless we ‘tone’ ourselves into the backdrop, and hide in plain sight.”
      .

      1. Dear Radhamani sarma,
        .
        Thank you so much for your response, it’s humbly appreciated.
        .
        If you haven’t read Fay Aoyagi’s haiku collection, you will definitely enjoy discovering her work.
        .
        warmest regards,
        Alan Summers

    2. Dreary Alan
      Thank you for providing a link to Faye’s book.
      And for opening my eyes wider in this forever deepening ocean.
      Best wishes
      Rob

        1. Dear Robert,
          I try not to be too dreary. 🙂
          .
          At least you did spell my name correctly, although you misspelled Fay’s given name. 🙂
          .
          Fay Aoyagi is a must read, both with her three collections; articles by her or about her too.
          It was Bill Higginson’s book review which became an article as well, on Fay, that inspired to do a run of book reviews that were also articles. Bill’s book review of Fay’s very first collection changed everything, so enjoy hunting it down and seeing why. 🙂
          .
          hopefully not so dreary Alan from ‘Nam

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