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
deeper shadows where the walls meet... autumn rain – Mark E. Brager, The Heron's Nest, Volume XXI, Number 3 (2019)
Mary Stevens intuits the moods within introspection:
Outdoors, it is hard to see shadows on a rainy day. Inside, the gloomy fall day makes interior spaces dark, with the shadows literally darker in the corners of a room. A depiction of this keen observation would have been enough for a good haiku.
But there’s more. Our thinking, too, perhaps moves from a neutral introspection to darker thoughts about our real and potential losses, regrets, and limitations. It becomes boxed in. The fine gradations of shadows in a room perfectly represent the subtlety with which our mood can shift under restricted thinking.
Radhamani Sarma discerns symbolism:
A symbolic meaning, since walls are considered as dividing factors, is that during wars when armies clash, or after a cessation when peace is not restored, the tense situation could be construed as shadows. Hence, “where walls meet…” is inconclusive. “autumn rain” might be armies, weapons and clashing armies. The poet has converted the images of rain and armies with weapons in a dexterous way.
Lynne Rees steps into the human experience:
I imagine a corner, two walls meeting at right angles. I can see the depth of shadow there. If I reach out, I am sure the surface – rough brick or smooth masonry – will be cooler; perhaps because the autumn rain I now notice has started to fall.
The places where people meet are more emotionally complex, stepping, as we may have to, from the comfort of the familiar to the challenge of the unfamiliar. Those “deeper shadows” may be rich with empathy and gratitude. Equally, they may be fraught with conflict and umbrage.
Brager’s haiku shifts me from inanimate objects to human experience. I sense loss through the image of “autumn rain,” or at least an understanding, or acceptance, of inevitable change that results in something being left behind.
Perhaps change, even for the better, always leaves a small echo of sorrow, for what, or who, was once a part of us.
As this week’s winner, Lynne 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!
mountain wind the stillness of a lamb gathering crows – Matt Morden, Stumbles in Clover, Snapshot Press (2007)