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:
桃咲くやすぐに忘れる他人の死 peach blossoms open — how soon we forget the deaths of others — Kyōko Terada, Haiku Universe for the 21st Century (2008)
Kyora Umeda gives us the cultural context:
First I was surprised by the direct expression in this work. Sometimes, Japanese people associate the image of death with the cherry blossom, but usually the peach blossom is not associated with the idea of death.
In recent years, over-enthusiasm with cherry blossom viewing has made the peach blossom hardly noticeable. There is certainly a time when people get excited about cherry blossom viewing, but the majority of people don’t care a bit about the peach blossom.
Traditionally in Japan, the peach blossoms bloom around March third of Hinamatsuri in the lunar calendar. Hinamatsuti is the festival to wish for girl’s happiness. We decorate the Hina doll with peach blossoms in Hinamatsuri.
But the peach blossom’s season from the lunar calendar has some distance from the solar calendar, though the custom in which the peach blossom was decorated in Hinamatsuri remains symbolically. So we buy peach blossoms from distant areas from florists during the Hinamatsuri season on the solar calendar.
The birth rate in Japan has continued to decline, and it is not often that the family celebrate Hinamatsuri without a little girl in one’s own family. The climate in the northern part of Japan is different from Tokyo. So today it is hard to share the feeling of season with everyone across Japan.
Anyway, “peach blossoms open”. It is the long-awaited sign of spring in the snowy regions. But the second line, “how soon we forget”, it is perhaps too direct, but exacting.
Mostly, we are under the mistaken impression that our own death is distant. But if we feel the transient close to us, the peach blossom’s color may remain too vivid in our mind. The color and smell refresh one’s memory. There is the beauty which involved pain.
Cezar Ciobica seizes the day:
The first part emanates a luminous, transparent atmosphere due to the ineffable image of the peach blossoms, but in the second part we can clearly see the wave of regret that runs through the poem and invites us to reflect on the inexorable passage of time…
Maybe it isn’t the best way to sink into oblivion the deaths of others, but we have no choice, you know the show must go on. The present is a wonderful gift which deserves to be unpacked with (im)patience, curiosity, relish and delight. Furthermore, the beauty of nature offers us every day so many opportunities to celebrate, that’s why it’s wrong to remain stuck in the past.
All we experiment in different moments of our odyssey highlights the transiency of life and happiness. Therefore, the best religion might be CARPE DIEM and cast the ballast of the past from the platform. Otherwise, you will not really know what ascension means. However, thanks to God, the souls of the dead live with us in each of the wonders around us.
Radhamani Sarma balances life and death:
This week’s ku deals with birth or blossom in juxtaposition with that of the death of humans. In the first line “peach blossoms open” the present tense verb, with a symbol of pause leaves options to the reader, to configure more and more possible images.
Going deeper, the peach symbolizes with ever growing property, youth and state of never-ending bliss, or a deathless position.
In the second line, “ how soon we forget,” the position leading on to “the death of others” establishes connectivity with the first line so that we get immersed with the season of birth; enjoying the peach fragrance, the vitality and exuberance.
“how soon,” implies as fast as we can, faster than the moment of blossoming, or even sooner than the last breadth of the deceased.
The contrast between flower image and humans, birth and death is naturally woven. It is all about events happening in our nature; birth and death, only our reactions to these, in different perspectives, so well portrayed.
As this week’s winner, Kyora 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!
two ballerinas in one skin a newborn foal –Peter Yovu, H16