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:
celebrate the day pay no attention to the years —Susan Le Roberts, Haiku Foundation Per Diem (August 2019)
Sanela Pliško seizes the day:
I find this haiku a great reminder that when focusing our lives celebrating only anniversaries, birthdays, jubilees etc. we often forget that every given day is special. The past and the future take a lot of unnecessary time and energy: so many words, debates, wonderings, “what ifs,” “if only’s” instead of paying attention to the details that are happening now. Will we be happier next anniversary than we are today? It doesn’t matter, happiness cannot be scheduled. Carpe diem.
Radhamani Sarma discovers bliss:
Many thanks for giving us a haiku by Susan Le Roberts highlighting joy and a merry world of happiness. Obviously, it is about a birthday; with joy, celebration, a party, cakes and candles. The mood is about the event, a moment of jubilation in the first line “ celebrate the day”…
With “pay no attention/to the years” in the following lines, the readers are prepared for a different view, different perspective, prolonging to a period of Years—during which suffering, sacrifice, pain and pleasure, gain and loss
are incurred. Forget about the years, live and relive the moment, the day of bliss.
Theresa Cancro is drawn into the moment:
Susan Le Roberts’ haiku puts me in mind of a birthday or anniversary celebration. She seems to suggest that we should gloss over the many years that have transpired and instead focusing on the day and festivities, perhaps home in on the immediate present. When we focus on the “present moment,” we put aside concerns about the past and future. The past is behind us. The future will be influenced by the present and what we decide to do each day, but obsessing over past and future keeps us from enjoying what is right in front of us. I think “day” is the operative word in line 1 as we revel in the celebratory moment. Certainly, we will reflect on past good times with loved ones and as individuals doing the things we enjoy. We will look forward to more of the same in the future. However, in lines 2 and 3, Le Roberts seems to be urging us to stop for a moment and relish everyone and everything in our midst—nature, friends, family, and perhaps meditative interludes alone when we can truly fathom our inner selves. Indeed, Tolstoy put it well in The Gospel in Brief (1881),
“And so, be not downcast, but live in the present by the spirit. For the life of the spirit, there is no time.”
As this week’s winner, Theresa 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!
Gita chanting birds become the ellipsis — Kala Ramesh, Triptych,Red Moon Press (2019)
This Post Has 8 Comments
Susan’s poem touched me with sincere simplicity reveiling determination to focus on the beauty of now. Thank you very much. Congratulations. Seize the day in its true meaning with spontaneous flow of observing outer and inner world needing no impuls of reaction – in the sense of introspection with no predetermined subject. Is this serenity?
I hear you. Carpe Diem …
Thank you to all for your comments. I have read
little poems and maybe I could not say for certain
that they were haiku but maybe it did not matter
because there was something mysterious going
on which made me linger on them a while. There
is no big mystery with this one except maybe
why someone thought it was a haiku and maybe
with all sincerity.
I don’t know how to go tangential with such a poem. This poem is not play for me, this is serious work.
The theme for Per Diem August 2019 by Sondra J. Byrnes is birthdays. And after reading the list of poems there in the comments, I was relieved to read a positive one by Susan.
That said, I dive off the fork and head towards a poem by Takahama Kyoshi:
worries and difficulties
time may solve
awaiting the spring*
and yes, the Kyoshi poem has a seasonal reference, a positive indication towards: new beginnings.
And we have Susan’s poem:
celebrate the day
pay no attention
to the years
It seems like something my aunt would say or my mum. Not that I regret growing older and saner hopefully … and I see candles on the cake, the focus though is not on the candles, but on the cake, the blowing of the candles and the laughter and camaraderie.
Rightfully said, Susan.
However, I wish there were visuals, or even a certain element of soulful contemplation that can be experienced in the silence of the unsaid…( Hello Clayton@ last re: Virals response)
For me, haiku is in the beauty of that which is said and that which is glaringly left unsaid…that which I stumble upon, after thinking, after sinking myself into the words and the probable though that went into the poem.
Let us consider the Kyoshi poem:
I can read it as
worries and difficulties time may solve/
where the speaker is welcoming the fresh start signified by/hinted by the word: spring. However the way the poem unravels differs from the other read below.
worries and difficulties /
time may solve awaiting spring
Here, when read this way: the poem is more of a lament. The speaker in my mind seems to be sharing her woes with me: So many worries and difficulties. But time will solve it all, surely the downs will turn into ups. The other read is more philosophical or reads more as a maxim would( Hi Simon)
Looking at Susan’s poem: there is really only one way to read it for me.
If however, we were to leave out the last line: to the years, what we have is a fun poem:
celebrate the day
pay no attention
which would read as incomplete to some, maybe many haijin even. Nevertheless, what we have is a poem that fits the theme of the Per Diem, and is also sort of a risk. I don’t know what the others have to say, but Susan, you got me thinking and writing some serious stuff. Not many can do that. Thank you.
That is all folks from me for this week. I am feeling so serious in my head, I think I need to write a review.
No. A pithy didactic maxim. Nothing tangible, or conceptual. No cut. No.
My first time posting here. I have an earnest question. Is this a haiku? Please discuss
and thank you.
I’m no expert, Arvan, but I would not call this a traditional haiku. I think it fits more into the senryu form, for lack of a seasonal reference and lack of juxtaposition for that aha moment, and because it is more focused on a human dilemma than on nature. That isn’t to say that it isn’t a worthy poem, but it seems closer to a short poematic adage to me. What we refer to as haiku seems to be a moving target for me! It depends so much on the person doing the defining and how rigorously they cleave to the traditional English haiku form. I look forward to seeing anyone else’s more articulate and better informed response to your question!
In my opinion, no, it is not a haiku, not a senryu, not even approaching haiku and not even any kind of poem. At least the computer ku of the late 20th century were funny & clever, sending up the po-faced imitations of ‘wise & mysterious quotes’ that became popular in the West:
Three things are certain . . . Death, taxes, and lost data . . . Guess which has occurred.
The Tao that is seen . . . Is not the true Tao . . . Until you bring fresh toner.
You step in the stream . . . But the water has moved on . . . Page not found.
But it takes more than removing capital letters and punctuation from a two-sentence maxim to make a haiku:
Celebrate the day. Pay no attention to the years.
As Simon says: no … no… no. Goodness, no!
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