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re:Virals 220

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:

    two ballerinas in one skin a newborn foal        
     –Peter Yovu, H16

Marion Clarke finds amusement:

An amusing jux that is an accurate observation of a new foal finding its legs.

Because a ballerina is associated with grace and perfect balance, the image is the antithesis of the wobbly creature that has just landed on straw. However, if we add a second ballerina into the mix, like unrehearsed actors in a pantomime horse costume, we get the picture! Very clever.

Peter Newton enjoys the metaphor:

How instantly at odds these eight words appear to be. And yet they convey the awkward first moments of a just-born horse trying to negotiate its new body with its two sets of legs just learning the rules of gravity. This poem holds within in it a time-released extended metaphor of two dancers who will one day master their own bodies performing together in a graceful dance similar to that of a running horse. The poet has given this reader a new way of seeing the world. What a gift.

Nathan Sidney goes en pointe:

Peter Yovu has created a truly surprising image that completely transforms the idea of a newborn foal. Where usually we would see clumsiness and struggle, instead we are asked to imagine the tottering and prancing of the foal as if it were the elegant movements of ballerinas, albeit in this case a pair of dancers stitched into the same costume. The foal kicks and steps as if en pointe, and a whole glossary of ballet terms comes to mind to describe the awkward movements of the foal, allegro, ballon, chasse etc. The front and back legs seem to move in opposite directions, like the complicated choreography of a pair of dancers, responding to but not copying each other. That the poet places the ballerinas first in the poem heightens the feeling of surprise when we read the words “a newborn foal”, for it is surely not an expected juxtaposition. Also, the lissome form of ballet dancers is echoed in the foals newborn frame. The joys of spring are also brought to mind in an echo between the birth season of animals and the joi de vivre of ballet, with its springs and leaps, bright costumes and makeup, lively music etc. A humorous poem with a light touch, that while very subjective, belonging as it does to the world of imagination, deals with care and compassion with the perennial theme of birth and rejuvenation.


As this week’s winner, Nathan 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 221:

   my breath
   rare orchid
     –Stephen toft, is/let, August 2019 

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. This haiku of Peter’s has long been a favourite of mine. Two long pairs of legs, the sudden exertion of trying to stand and coordinate, the muscles not yet used to bearing weight. The seeming leaps and falls.
    Nathan Sidney has done a wonderful job of explication. I can almost hear the music. (Maybe it was The Rite of Spring? Maybe it was Sleeping Beauty? 🙂 )
    – Lorin

    1. well, musical intepretation is a rather personal thing, like reading a poem… but for me:
      Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping beauty for me is more like a waltz, something the foal would dance to with the ballerinas in her feet/hooves as a young mare…
      Stravinsky’s The RIte of Spring, I see not a newborn foal as much as a young foal exploring her boundaries of freedom, her legs not tottering at all
      But, in the Pastorale, there is a certain tottering in places, the short music and the pauses in between, that I have come to see in the past few days as the tottering of the foal, it is humorous in tone …as I see it, neither of the other two can be even remotely viewed as that,
      though, …Handel’s water music carries some of that broken kind of exuberant soft distortion that is very musical…I am writing this spontaneously… so I hope my words convey at least part of my thoughts…it is really a matter of pace and tone …

  2. there is nothing I can add, given the exceptional responses,
    I do like the rhythm in there, musical even
    and given the melody of the words, the pauses are dictated by the sound of the words… or so it seems when I read it aloud or play the beat on the table.
    One thought says, the sound of the words seems like the tottering around of the foal…
    I almost want to read this again listening to Beethoven’s 6th…Pastoral …
    is it not funny how a few words can generate a host of peaceful thoughts
    I can see the foal and I can hear the music, there that is the answer to the music challenge to this poem…Beethoven’s 6th 🙂

  3. two ballerinas in one skin a newborn foal

    –Peter Yovu, H16

    Many thanks for giving us a monoku by Peter Yovu.
    The write clearly speaks about dancing, dancing steps as observed by the sharp and recorded by his ebullient stroke of pen. “ two ballerinas in one skin” forays much after delving into the after observation of two ballet dancers, their dancing like a whirlwind, reeling in such speedy steps –
    their becoming one;

    “in one skin” compressed in one visual image, two bodies, movements, dancing steps, emotions;

    “ a new born foal” — we see a new born colt. The question arises “do we see literally a new born horse? also into a puzzle, how two ballerinas can produce a foal? Can we see with our naked eyes, a newborn foal?

    Finally the monoku evokes a metaphorical image, out of two ballet dancers, The supple elegant movement of their legs, lifting up, the hands going up, tucked up a flimsy costume, another magic trick , fast movement of legs- flying perhaps-hence a newborn foal- height of poetic perception.

    1. you are reading it right.
      And because it is a Peter Yovu poem and he likes a good laugh as any, I want to fool around and read it as:

      two ballerinas in one/ skin a new foal

      yikes, I need my cuppa now Radhamani … whoosh

    2. “ a new born foal” — we see a new born colt. “- Radhamani sarma
      Hmmm… I don’t see a colt, so I don’t belong in your inclusive “we”. The foal could be a filly or a colt. Neither has been specified by the author.

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