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re:Virals 226

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

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

Liz Ann Winkler finds interconnectedness:

I delight in the contrasts in this monostitch – the”one me” and the “whole sky,” the “orchestra” with its imagined harmonies and the “noise” of the insects.   I feel the interconnection and inclusivity of all life, big and small, noisy and melodic, singular and many.

Karen Harvey explores contrasts:

I like this poem very much. It reminds me of how small and insignificant we can feel when we observe the vastness of the sky. Yet the whole sky is filled with the sound of insects, relatively insignificant creatures, but an army of them is capable of filling the air all around us with sound. There is a great juxtaposition of what feels small and what feels large at play here.

Cezar-Florin Ciobîcă encounters the music in the wonders of nature:

This ku reflects the power of nature to turn man into what he should be: A receptacle of the wonders that roam around him. We can say that the poet suddenly has a revelation: He has reached the stage of his evolution which helps him to understand that he deserves to experience through all the pores of his being the spectacle of the world. Each one of us can be a conductor if he knows how to decipher the musical notes, the signs, which are subtly woven into an infinitesimal network of meanings. The mission is to transform the primary noise, in its many forms, into pure music.

The shape of the poem, a single verse that easily touches you like a feather, ensures fluency, harmony of the transmitted idea. “s,” as a fricative consonant, suggests those whispers of matter/nature that are just waiting to be put in a different pattern, in sheet music for example. Let’s try to think of singing!

Radhamni Sarma discovers a multisensory ensemble:

We may infer that the season behind the poet’s imaginative intent is summer. “the whole sky” creates room for us to imagine that the sky pours out with illuminating stars, the moon, and the blue whole permeates. Below, we are enthralled; the ground is a reflection of what is above in literary, poetic and creative perspectives. “an orchestra of insect noise” weaves into an image the speaker as singer or the notes of excited seclusion becoming an orchestra, or a group instrument analogous to that of summer insects coming out to enjoy, so much so that the insect noise is quite audible. The onomatopoeia is the collective noise made by the insect ensemble. Overall, we find a combination of self and stars taken in its totality, aided by the summer insect “orchestra.”

The  singularity of this monoku is in both the auditory and visual images combined to great effect.

Garry Eaton speculates about influence from Yeats:

This one liner might have been inspired by Yeats’ poem “The Lake Isle of Innisfree,” insofar as each focuses on a person escaping from the sterile confines of the city to enjoy communion with nature in the form of insect noises that suggest nature’s productivity. Whatever assortment of insects Matthew heard, he converts them inwardly into a metaphorical orchestra, finding at least some suggestion of unity of purpose in the clammer.

For those who don’t know the Yeats:

The Lake Isle of Innisfree
by William Butler Yeats

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

As this week’s winner, Garry 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 227:

     My two plum trees are
          so gracious . . .
          see, they flower
    One now, one later
          — Yosa Buson (1716 - 1784)

This Post Has 17 Comments

  1. I enjoyed reading all of the commentary on this week’s haiku:
    just one me and this whole sky an orchestra of insect noise
    — Matthew Moffett, Bones, no. 18 (2019)
    The only point I might add is that the primary reason that insects “perform” is to woo potential mates, and has been a key to the survival of the species. I’m not sure, but I think it is only the males that perform, by rubbing their legs/wings together. It is a risk for the insects to make a noise, as they are vulnerable to predators by making their position known, however, it seems that the prospect of mating outweighs that risk.
    I think that in the sense that insects are winged is possibly allusive to an orchestra which may consist primarily of wind instruments – winged travelling on the wind.
    So there is “just one me” and a whole sky full of “love-song” (if you will) from a horde of male insects seeking mates so that the species may be propagated. And it is left to the reader to determine the emotional content of the poem.

    1. Interesting, yes it does fit.
      what do you think is the relevance of the word- sky ? I am unable to come up with anything except for the great expanse that is very visible.

      (and stridulation…especially in cicadas and crickets…and their silence … )

      1. .
        Well pratima, now that you have asked me to think about it some more, the sky in the poem resembles a “hive mind”, defined by Merriam Webster as: the collective mental activity expressed in the complex, coordinated behavior of a colony of social insects (such as bees or ants) regarded as comparable to a single mind controlling the behavior of an individual organism.
        Quoting from a Scientific American article on hive mind: “Every decision you make is essentially a committee act. Members chime in, options are weighed, and eventually a single proposal for action is approved by consensus. The committee, of course, is the densely knit society of neurons in your head. And “approved by consensus” is really just a delicate way of saying that the opposition was silenced. ..
        In essence, despite our feeling that we are singular, unified agents, we are more like hive minds unto ourselves, our brains abuzz with multiple, often conflicting plans and interests that must be managed.”

        1. And I suppose this would fit in with the “chamber” music that an orchestra plays…

        2. Are we singular? In reading haiku and being introduced to concepts such as yin-yang, wabi-sabi, etc…I see duality at the core of non-duality.
          In the Upanishads, I think in the first one, it is mentioned that the soul is eternal and as close to the Supreme Omniscience, and then we have Marx and Engels, and we have the hero and anti-hero, we have matter and anti-matter,
          Does that make us hive minds? It is a stream of thought, and one, which I am not familiar with as of now

          Now for the word sky: When I am introspecting, I either lower my gaze and scrutinize my inside terrain as my feet trod the ground. But when I am looking for the answers to questions that bother me, I look up to the great expanse, …is that a general thing, or is it just me? Is it ingrained into my genes that the One above has all the answers? Then, why did the Universe/Universal Omnipotent create the mind and the questions there in

          I am still baffled by the word- sky
          I am also terribly stubborn when it comes to looking for answers. So maybe three months from now, I will come back to re: Virals 226 and scribble another utter nothingness
          thank you P’ cess 🙂
          Do you read PSmith?

          1. I have not read PSmith, but will check it out – thanks! and good luck with your quest of the sky.

  2. Innisfree! Any idea why Yeats refers to a ‘purple glow’? Was he influenced by Theosophical theories about colours? The answer is simpler. Innisfree comes from the Irish ‘Inis’ (Island) and ‘fraoch’ (heather: genitive case ‘fraoigh’). So, Island of Heather, but – alas! – you wouldn’t know that from the meaningless Anglicization.

    1. Indeed, Gabriel, and one can google up some very pretty photos of the Lake Isle, some with the purple heather.
      Just for fun:
      Ezra Pound, who became Yeats’s secretary and who shared his interest in Japanese aesthetics especially the No plays wrote his own poem, in a humourous key, after Yeats’s ‘Lake Isle of Innesfree’ and even titled it ‘The Lake Isle’ so there would be no mistake. Those unaware of it might enjoy it. Garry, you might (or might not! ) share the humour as I do.

      1. ***
        Save this damn’d profession of writing,
        17 where one needs one’s brains all the time.***


  3. Thank you, Pratima, for your kind words!
    A big thank you to all the commentators whose interpretations determine us to see the poem with other eyes, which is a gain for every reader indeed.

  4. The Tangential:

    It is the aesthetics of wabi-sabi that are inherent in the one-liner.
    Why Wabi?
    Because there is this expression of solitude: just one me
    Is it self-imposed, is it forced upon, is the narrator feeling left out? I will not go there, it is left to the individual readers to arrive at their own conclusions.
    Why Sabi?
    Because; the sabi of the wabi is the outward expression,…in the MM one-liner it is the poem itself, it is the way the insects orchestrate their noise, and nothing in the world can convince me that this noise is musical.
    (I hate mosquitoes buzzing around when I want to fall asleep. The bees buzz around with so much energy and the ants go marching shouting hurrah hurrah…:) )
    What am I trying to say?
    …that the insects, are in it together, and the narrator is on the outside of this orchestration. The word orchestrate fascinates me, because any orchestration is an attempt to put together a presentation. It is a presentation, not factual. That the big insects may be preying on the small insects that are bawling and tired and hungry is not for the narrator to see or understand.
    All the orchestration is not lost on her/him.
    About the sky:
    Is that a night sky? Day sky? I dunno. I imagine myself in a hammock, counting trillions of stars and those darn mosquitoes and them chirping crickets or cicadas or what have you, and throw in a frow and owl, a few bats, but they are not insects, neither are the noisy kids by the campfire, but to me all these are insects, critters that make me stay awake, just me, I want to zzzz, but look the entire world up there in those stars is conspiring to make me pay attention to every single thing I don’t want to. UGH!

    And that is what I read in the MM one-liner. I think Innisfree and any other space of place owuld be like that if one wants to get away from it all or seems left out and everything is deemed insignificant in that pitiable, self-pitiable moment.
    I don’t know. All I know is that Radhamani’s — ground is a reflection of what is above– makes sense as does the speaker’s thirst for peace in the Yeats poem,

    What I do not agree with: that there is music in there. Noise is noise, even when orchestrated. And to the ruffled mind, it is not music, never,…

  5. It is new year, that time for new beginnings. One of the resolutions I have made is that I will send out a submission to Virals, at least once in a month,…
    Perhaps, deconstruction is not as difficult as it seems. I remember, when I first stumbled onto Virals, I read a few and learnt more from the responses than reading many books of haiku.
    It is one of my favourite weekly reads, it stimulates the mind and shatters the way I think about the poem and in general everything beyond it. If I have changed as a person,and bettered myself, Virals is one of the contributing factors.
    I have always tried to be the contrarian, and will try to do so, sometimes, I forget because a week seems a dot, a porthole, an impossibility and too much of everything piled on.
    Now that I have waxed rather ineloquently, it is time to pen the tangential:

  6. Liz Ann,
    I for once concur… with your response, it is interconnection and also a kind of interdependence…

    the small and insignificant in your response brought to mind the Whos of Whoville and Horton’s : A person is a person, however small …( paraphrasing ) . Yes, the jux works for me too !

    that it is summer, I did not think that point out, so thank you for sharing.
    I like this from your response: **“the whole sky” creates room for us to imagine that the sky pours out with illuminating stars, the moon, and the blue whole permeates. Below, we are enthralled; the ground is a reflection of what is above in literary, poetic and creative perspectives. “an orchestra of insect noise” **

    I always find something incredible in what you have to say. You say it is like sheet music, yes indeed!!!

    your poem selection works so well with the theme, and so I had to dig this one up for the music of it all… it is said that when the music ends the poetry begins, with its heightened voices and Yeats did read it that way…with a raised sing-song voice as most in his times did… some to this day too. Lorin thanks for sharing the link.

    The song is Fireflies by Ow City. It is a wee bit old but newer than the poem and it too sort of echoes the poem by Matthew Moffett

    I will arise and go now, how beautifully that is used twice

    ok, here is the song, the lyrics are on the screen…

  7. As soon as I saw Theresa’s “Garry Eaton speculates about influence from Yeats.” on the re:Virals title page (before clicking to read the commentaries) I had a bet with myself that the Yeats poem in question was ‘The Lake Isle of Innesfree’ and am pleasantly surprised to find it is so, as it’s one of those indelible favourites of mine. 🙂 “the bee-loud glade”, “evening full of the linnets’ wings”, “peace . . . dropping slow” and “lake water lapping with low sounds”, all conjuring sounds from nature, sounds that are magically present as resonating from “the deep heart’s core”. It’s still a hypnotic poem for me.
    To hear him read it shows that the poem is to be read as a lyrical chant:

    I find in Matthew Moffet’s one-line haiku two possible readings of “just one me and …” . (a) There is only one listener present, “me”, to witness/ appreciate ” this whole sky an orchestra of insect noise” and (b) “me” (the listener/ hearer) and ” this whole sky an orchestra of insect noise” are the essential parts of one thing.
    As Radhamni writes, “we may infer that . . . the season is summer”. For a winter listener in a “long” poem quite as evocative as Yeats’ we may go to Wallace Stevens’ “The Snow Man.”
    – Lorin

  8. Going through all the commentators, their unique individual perspectives, starting from Liz Ann Winkler, – amazing with rich
    experience. Liz Ann’s “contrast” ,Karen Harvey’s intuitive observation of our insignificance in comparison with Nature,
    Gary Eaton’s quoting influence of Yeats, incorporating message of peace — all a pleasure to read.

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