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