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re:Virals 225

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

     she wonders where
     the waves come from
          — Rachel Sutcliffe, The Heron’s Nest, Volume XVI, Number 4 (2014)

Radhamani Sarma details the metaphorical image:

Rachel Sutcliffe’s senryu begins without any mention of a name. “adopted” takes us further into the matter. In the second line, the child ponders her origin or who her biological parents were. The continuation of the second line into the third line  is the crux of the senryu. With the image of “waves,” we get the idea of a sudden lift, even opulence. The child’s environment is shifted into better ambiance. Either the child after much affliction wonders at the sudden stroke of luck or kindness from a different setup or delights at the extreme level of entry. This conversion of a metaphorical image is the highlight of the senryu.

Garry Eaton finds a universal longing:

Like Odysseus on a great voyage, looking for home, an adopted child longs unconsciously for the real mother who bore her, questioning the waves that arrive from our great common mother, the sea, as to their origins.

A fine haiku evoking our universal longing for answers about our individual fates and the natural heritage we share.

Jacob Salzer considers our common origins:

A strong and effective juxtaposition. The great ocean is full of the unknown, as is the adopted child, especially if he/she is adopted at a very early age. It seems the conscious mind is one with the universal mind, as the mundane is linked to the profound, just as the waves of the ocean are forever one with the dark, silent, and unfathomable depths beneath the surface. The waves appear separate from each other, but really it is only one great ocean moving in sychronicity. The sea also perhaps invokes a sense of longing to truly know our origins. In a way, I feel like we are all adopted children of divinity, living in dreams within dreams, as in human life, we are all only visitors here.

As this week’s winner, Jacob 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 226:

     just one me and this whole sky an orchestra of insect noise
          — Matthew Moffett, Bones, no. 18 (2019)

This Post Has 13 Comments

  1. seldom have I seen so many comments on one poem. I have enjoyed reading the opening comments and those following.
    For me the poem runs deeper than the surface words, hence why I believe it holds strong as a haiku.
    The juxtaposition I would suggest is found in the depths of the waves.
    The strength of gravity depending on the moon’s cyclic position can have huge effect on people and nature.
    Rachel’s words link perfectly the emotional pull many adopted people have to explore all avenues of their origins, just as many of us delve deeper into space to explore the same.

  2. I saw an adopted girl or woman and the ocean. The definition of juxtapose is: To place side by side. I saw the woman or girl standing by the side of the ocean. To make it clear, while the poem itself doesn’t have a hard break or keriji, (usually necessary to juxtapose 2 images), the poem did create a subjective experience of 2 images relating to each other, e.g. it created a juxtaposition for me. And that is what I meant about it being a juxtaposition. This is NOT an objective statement, I assure you, but is only my own experience reading the poem.

    Warm regards,

  3. It is very interesting to read the original three comments and the comments that have been added. Thank thank you all. There is a lot of room for interpretation in Rachel’s poem and I like that. As for juxtaposition I don’t think there is one but there is a definite break. The first line ‘adopted,’ is stark, an announcement or a statement, then a natural break. The way I initially interpreted lines 2 and 3 was probably informed by my listening to adopted people who have wondered if the should try to meet their birth mother, the push and pull of wanting to know but being scared to find out just like the ebb and flow of the waves.

    Liz Anne Winkler’s thought Is another possiblility, though I hadn’t thought of it before I read her comment. Perhaps the speaker is wondering if her wavy hair was inherited from her birth mother’s side of the family.

  4. I congratulate Radhamani Sarma e Garry Eaton on their sensitivity, it was a pleasure to read them

  5. Really deep the comment of Jacob Salzer, which reverberates my feeling every time I read this haiku. Maybe there isn’t a strong contrast between the first and the second part … but the first verse is definitely a fixed point, a “status quo”, and spontaneously requires a deep pause before entering the suggestion of the other two

  6. I thought the waves were those in her hair, an interest in genetic heritage. The more profound interpretations are definitely more intriguing

  7. For me, there is a juxtaposition. Between the perfectly normal child’s questioning wonder at the natural phenomenon of endless waves in the waters and on the other hand, her incomprehension of the contradictory waves of longing for belonging, of anger, of love, the waves of muscle- push that birthed her, waves of sadness at her loss. All inherent to adoption.
    I find the haiku profound.

    1. I appreciate that there are many different conflicting and complementary interpretations of the poem but taking just the words themselves I don’t see two objects or images (given that the first part of the poem consists entirely of an adjective). The first line clearly refers to the ‘she’ of the 2nd line, therefore there is one image here to which the all-seeing eye of the narrator has given the reader some additional insight. Yes there are other possibilities but I think these rely more on the reader’s imagination than the content of the poem. I don’t see a juxtaposition in the poem itself. There could easily be a comma after the first line, there is already a pause – and what is a comma but a pause anyway? I don’t think the writer is trying to create a juxtaposition.

  8. Three excellent comments on this subtle haiku. I have to take issue with Jacob, however, as I don’t think there’s a juxtaposition in here. And I feel the haiku is all the better for it.

  9. Dear Jacob Salzer,
    Greetings. The following notes from you, linking to the ocean, is interesting.

    “The great ocean is full of the unknown, as is the adopted child,….”

    with regards

  10. Dear Gary Eaton,
    Greetings. I like your observation, linking to the sea- common mother.

    “Like Odysseus on a great voyage, looking for home, an adopted child longs unconsciously for the real mother who bore her, questioning the waves that arrive from our great common mother, the sea, as to their origins.”

    with regards

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