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re:Virals 231

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

     low winter moon:
     her cheek curves the shadow
     of the crib bar
          — Ruth Yarrow, Lit from Within: Haiku and Paintings (2016) 

For Garry Eaton, shadows highlight the contrasts:

Conditions of low illumination are often the genesis of haiku observations. They are ideal because of the ambiguities they tend to introduce. When light is low, and shadows merge with shadows, detail is obscured, and suggestive distortions awaken the imagination. Yarrow’s haiku uses this effect in the bedroom of a sleeping girl child to suggest a conflict between the forces of fear and hope. The distortion of the straight shadow caused by the girl’s round cheek highlights an interplay between the child’s vulnerability, and the hard-edged world. In this interplay, the person looking in observes that the soft, vulnerable cheek of reality is reassuringly unchanged by the crawl of nighttime shadows suggestive of a prison. In Yarrow’s deliberate choice of words, it curves the shadow/threat, rather than being obscured by it.

Randy Brooks limns a parent’s perspective:

I’ve always loved this haiku by Ruth Yarrow. Shirley and I first published it in 1981 in a small mini-chapbook called “No One Sees The Stems.” We were new parents at the time, and these haiku resonated deeply with our own new experiences. The collection featured several haiku from a young mother’s perspective.

In this haiku, I imagine a parent up late, perhaps on their way to bed, pausing in the baby’s nursery. The winter moon is low on the horizon and illuminating the snow across the countryside out the window. It is also illuminating the nursery, providing us with a glimpse of the sleeping baby. The curve of light focuses us even more on how much the baby has grown with rounded cheeks. This is a haiku of peace and contentedness . . . all’s well for now and beautiful. A visual lullaby.

As this week’s winner, Randy 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 232:

     overgrown bridge 
     I tread lightly through 
     my childhood
          — Aubrie Cox, Tea’s Aftertaste (2011)

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Once I understand “crib” as it is in USA English ( it’s the same thing as “cot” in Australian and British English) I read “her” as most likely referring to a female human infant.
    The haiku works very well on a visual level: the moon with its curved side, the curve in the crib bar’s shadow being the shadow of the child’s cheek are clearly and accurately observed. What’s implied is a mother checking on her infant in the night (as we do) and all is tranquil, serene and, (one assumes) well.
    What’s interesting is the uncannily active, though quiet, thing: the cheek of a sleeping child. It’s shadow (the cheek’s shadow) seems alive, awake and independent, a magical thing that changes appearances, at least in the moon shadow world.

  2. I enjoyed this poem very much and as a new father 30 plus years ago, the first haiku poem I ever wrote was:
    Opening the door
    Little ones laughter I hear –
    A fathers reward

  3. Wow! I had a completely different take on this poem. Because the kigo was the moon, a winter one, and low, I took the tone to be that of loss or sadness, similar to what Radhamani Sarda perceived. So for the phrase part of the haiku, I imagined a woman sitting gazing into an empty crib with the light coming from behind her, and it is her cheek that changes the shape of the shadow.

    I love reading different interpretations!

  4. re:Virals 231:

    low winter moon:
    her cheek curves the shadow
    of the crib bar
    — Ruth Yarrow, Lit from Within: Haiku and Paintings (2016)

    Many thanks to Haiku Foundation for this usual feature of
    Publishing haiku related writings,giving us an opportunity for
    Our furthering our knowledge.

    It is all about the shape and season. The very first line “ low winter moon: the poet allows readers for a chance to configure and imagine shape and impact on the surroundings.
    The adjective “low” can be probably applied both for winter season (low) now and moon at its lowest ebb. No shine in its full ambiance, implying a dimmer position; you are surrounded
    by a gloomy atmosphere, diminishing your prospects.

    Second and third lines “ her cheek curves the shadow/ Of the crib bar/Metaphorically converts the meaning that the brightness emanating from the curvature of the low moon impacts the shadow of the child positioned in the crib bar.Crib bar representing not only the cradle,also the cute infant lying,on which impact of the moon.
    Moon,not only embodiment of Beauty,Growth,why even in poetic terms lunacy;here,an extension of moon in its bay – seasonal impact on surroundings; multi-dimensional mirror in which horizons of shrinking and expansion – all reflected, by the ebullient streaks of the poetic pen.

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