skip to Main Content

re:Virals 235

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

 
     ill all day...
     a crime novel
     in both rooms
          — Alan Summers, Blithe Spirit, vol. 17 no. 1 (2007)

Radhamani Sarma imagines a fractious scene:

Alan Summers’ senryu possibly veers into the sequential mood of either a couple or friends, maybe housemates. The first line — “ill all day….” —  Is not complete, allowing more room for readers to speculate. The lovely pair, perhaps not in good humor that particular day, sleep in different rooms. Why “Ill all day”?  It could be, also, that they are not feeling well healthwise. But a more possible interpretation is that due to their quarrelsome, petulant moods, they are spending time in different rooms.

The next two lines — “a crime novel/ in both rooms” — indicate that the mood is not one for romance. Hence, the pair settles down with crime novels, each reading in a different room.  

“in both rooms”  also implies not only that they are reading novels, but the mood or ambiance is set for crime analysis: Who is to blame or what is the reason for the clash that day?

Terri French uncovers the true crime:

In Alan’s poem, I first focused on the first and third lines. Being ill all day is no fun.

There are those back and forth trips between the bedroom and the bathroom. I imagine a book on the night stand and a book resting on the back of the commode. But then I jump back to the middle line. Why are they both crime novels? Is it simply because the writer likes crime novels? I read a little something deeper here. This person, who has been ill all day, has, in fact, had his health snatched away from him — stolen. That is unfortunate. Some might say a true crime. I hope he finishes the books quickly and his health is returned to him!

Harley King finds escape for the invalid:

We have all been there — so sick we don’t feel like doing much of anything, except maybe read or watch television. We move about the house just to feel we are doing something, hoping we feel better soon.

Reading brings escape from this world — from the upset stomach and headache. Crime novels allow us to enter a world where someone has it worse than we do. Maybe the victim has been poisoned or shot in the head or had his throat slit. The cop/private investigator is tough, yet hungover and stumbling his way through a nasty cold.

The poet in this haiku is reading multiple novels so he is able to move between worlds. If he grows tired of one, he can find himself in another one by simply moving to a new room. This, too, is part of the escape from the illness — visiting multiple universes, solving multiple crimes. We leave behind our illness to find excitement somewhere else — to become someone else

virus2
As this week’s winner, Harley 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 236:

 
     november evening
     the faintest tick of snow
     upon the cornstalks
          — John Wills, The Haiku Anthology (2000)

This Post Has 13 Comments

  1. Dear Harley,
    .
    .
    re:
    .
    ill all day…
    a crime novel
    in both rooms

    First Publication credit: Blithe Spirit vol. 17 no.1 (2007)
    Later journals: Disclaimer, (Bath Spa University 2008); haijinx vol. III issue 1 (2010)
    Anthology: Haiku Friends Vol 2 ed. Masaharu Hirata (Osaka, Japan 2007)
    online feature: Day’s End: Poetry and Photography about aging ed. Ray Rasmussen (2011)
    .
    .

    I was relieved I could read a paperback book as I was too ill and light/sound sensitive to watch or listen to television or radio. Watching daytime Hallmark type movies is something I’ve been guilty of in the past, especially Christmas romances! 🙂
    .
    A strange choice in some ways as I also watch dark crime thrillers or science fiction as well. 🙂
    .
    My whole existence narrowed down to a sofa and the throne and the journey to the W.C. which would usually take seconds as it was a small apartment, but might take a couple of minutes or longer that particular day.
    .
    I’ve always enjoyed a sense of justice being carried out hence I read crime novels where injustice is cancelled out unlike the ‘real’ world.
    .
    I wish I could have made a note of the two crime novels now. 🙂 It might have been private detectives, but I do also like and prefer female protagonists righting the world against injustice often perpetuated by male antagonists.
    .
    Just as I watch streaming video as well, I might visit the many universes offered in different drama series and drama genres, flipping from a current city scene, to a historic or futuristic one. I’m enjoying Picard at the moment, but also a European pan-crime squad in current day, and also different treatments of WWII, both fictive, one science fiction, one historic.
    .
    I’ve certainly become many “become-someone-else” personas as I’ve shifted from one occupation to another, from security work (plainclothes) to managing a small gift shop, to running a bar, and a French/Italian restaurant, to a general builder to a full-time poet.
    .
    Here’s my Pushcart Prize nominated haibun that depicts the vagaries of checking suspect explosive devices, using humour, haiku, and prose:
    .
    Living in a second haibun human/kind issue 1.4 (March 2019)
    https://www.humankindjournal.org/contrib_alan_summers/issue-14-alan-summers
    .
    .
    The part of the haiku that has “in both rooms” has echoes in my strange security era checking sometimes up to a dozen suspect (IRA) explosive devices, culminating in the large evacuation of Central London (England) since the Second World War.
    .
    I hope you enjoy the haibun too!
    .
    .
    warm regards,
    Alan

    .

      1. I was set a delightful challenge to create a longer haibun, and include humour around a dangerous activity.
        .
        Too often the trend in haikai journals is to have very short haibun. That’s okay sometimes, but it denies us longer pieces. We wouldn’t expect a novel to be a single paragraph would we? 😉
        .
        I hope you manage to get to the end! 🙂 It was five years of constant danger, but it was good to have put my life at risk to save potential hundreds of mothers and children, and men.
        .
        warm regards,
        Alan

  2. Dear Terri,
    .
    Being ill over several days is certainly different than a strange and sudden affliction that hasn’t built up a momentum but delivered it in seconds. Very disturbing.
    .
    .
    The first and third lines:
    .
    .

    ill all day…
    .
    in both rooms
    .
    — Alan Summers
    .
    .
    Very slow trips between the lounge (I must have been able to raise from my bed before it got so bad) and bathroom. I had to gain small energy to leave the bathroom so it made sense to have a book there to read. I don’t think it was a violent bathroom trip, but I guess the book was in easy grasp.
    .
    You said:
    “Why are they both crime novels?”
    .
    The logic would be that I was keeping to the same genre of writing. I was far too weak to do any intense study of haiku for that day to be sure. 🙂
    .
    I do mostly read crime fiction to unwind before sleep, and as a change from my intense scrutiny of haiku. Sometimes it’s children’s fiction or teenage YA fiction, currently it’s six books of a zombie apocalypse where the ‘dead’ are not portrayed as the enemy, but sacrificing themselves to protect the rest of humanity. It’s a change from seeing the enemy in everyone. 🙂
    .
    Yes, you are right, the sudden full blast of this unknown 24 hour illness, did snatch my physical freedom of movement, and access to internet, television, radio, and other communicative means. It was really perturbing.
    .
    My health returned the following day as if nothing ever happened. I continued to finish both books with their crimes solved. 🙂
    .
    Thanks for the commentary!!!
    .
    warm regards,
    Alan

    1. Glad you are now well. I also escape to crime novels, mysteries, horror to give my haiku brain a rest!

      All the Best!

      1. Thanks Terri!
        .
        That mysterious bug was thankfully way back in 2007, and was literally 24 hours long, though I felt every minute of it. Horrible.
        .
        Currently, some 13 years later, we have a different situation. Karen and myself have been self-isolating for quite some time. Our town appears to be clear of the virus, but we are not taking any chances: Karen is in the vulnerable part of society, as she has M.E.. Also both of us have not fully shaken off a second cold virus caught earlier this winter.
        .
        And I often find The Walking Dead restful after watching the UK version of Master Chef! 🙂 It’s not screamy as in other countries, and has more of the hero’s arc aspect, and it keeps us on the edge of our seat.
        .

  3. As Mark Gilbert said: a topical ku. I had to check the date … I linked the two rooms to two people self-isolating in two rooms and thought of the crime novels as metaphor for the crime against humanity of the coronavirus and its consequences.

    1. That’s the fun part of a haiku written in one ‘era’ by readers existing in a new ‘current’ era. 🙂
      .
      But it was one person, two rooms, two books. I’ve done that before, but while healthy, reading two or more books, in different rooms. Though this time it was because I was so ill over 24 hours that I couldn’t carry the weight of even a paperback book.
      .
      Thanks for your reply, and it just shows that the reader is the arbiter once the poem is released. 🙂
      .
      warm regards,
      Alan

  4. Dear Radhamani Sarma,
    .
    Thank you for selecting this haiku to be discussed! 🙂 Deep bow!
    .
    .

    Re:
    “Radhamani Sarma imagines a fractious scene”
    .
    I was too ill to speak or to be irritable and Karen keeps in remarkable good moods despite testing times. 🙂
    .
    Karen would have been around during the day, but my sound sensitivity was as incredibly high, on the level of when Karen had myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) at its very worst. As long as I had a book to read I was okay, and Karen could work from her little office at our apartment in Bradford-on-Avon, and from time to time check on me.
    .
    But it was just me, and two different crime fiction novels, with one by me at the sofa, and one in the bathroom, as I was too weak to physically carry even a paperback book a couple of yards.
    .
    A very little bug/virus laid me low, and they are common, and I couldn’t work out where I could have picked it up. I often use cafés to read from my computer and work out feedback on our courses. It would take only one staff member from the kitchen not to wash their hands either handling raw chicken, or returning from the toilet, and a waiter would carry a touched plate of food within a minute, and effect a customer. It’s still common for Kitchen staff, even cooks or chefs, not to wash their hands after being in the toilet. It’s a major reason for food poisoning.
    .
    But of course we do have the occasional argument, but very rarely heated, and stomping off to separate rooms, as we love each other’s company too! 🙂
    .
    Thank you again for choosing this haiku, and the fascinating insights into how the reader takes command of the poem once it’s been released into the atmosphere by the author.
    .
    warmest regards,
    Alan

    1. Dear esteemed poet,
      Greetings. Honor and delight to discuss your wonderfully depicted write. Going through the narration, a very interesting one. To know more about Karen, “mention of her good moods” ” despite testing times”… very much of vital interest.
      How hand washing is a must- gently carried through. As always, a very pleasant task to go through and comment.
      with regards
      S.Radhamani

  5. All I would add to these analyses would be the way the surprising last line emphasises the nature of the ‘illness’, with one of the rooms being the ‘smallest’. Then the reading of the novels push the culprit towards being a stomach bug or food poisoning (I don’t think someone suffering a bad hangover would be able to concentrate on one crime novel, let alone two). So the mystery, perhaps, is where did the writer catch the illness. Suddenly topical, too.

    1. Thank you Mark! 🙂
      .
      .
      ill all day…
      a crime novel
      in both rooms
      .
      Alan Summers
      First Publication credit: Blithe Spirit vol. 17 no.1 (2007)
      Later journals: Disclaimer, (Bath Spa University 2008); haijinx vol. III issue 1 (2010)
      Anthology: Haiku Friends Vol 2 ed. Masaharu Hirata (Osaka, Japan 2007)
      Feature: Day’s End: Poetry and Photography about aging ed. Ray Rasmussen (2011)
      .
      .
      It was a mysterious 24 hour bug that I’ve never had lay me so utterly physically low before. I don’t know what it was. I was house-bound, which is unlike me. I was noise and light sensitive to an incredibly high degree, so no radio or television. Just low light and a book. I spent half my time on the sofa and the other half in the smallest room in the house, not necessarily being violently ill, just those two places were my places.
      .
      Even a medium sized paperback was impossible to carry to the bathroom, so that it seemed practical to have a book in each room.
      .
      As I’d normally read and study haiku for up to eight hours a day or more back then, I’d often read crime fiction or children’s fiction or YA Literature to wind down and be transported elsewhere.
      .
      I have no idea what M.E. is like other than twenty years with Karen where her health meant everything had to be done for her at one point. Until it got better and better she was limited to bedroom, sofa, and bathroom (with help). That hellish 24 hours of a simple but effective bug gave me a small window into years of debilitation that M.E. sufferers experience every minute of their day, every week, every month, every year sometimes.
      .
      I have had extremely vile hangovers, and twice, when much younger, two “week long” handovers, and also experienced while in India, Shigella Dysentery, which never stopped me. But that little 24 hour bug and it was at least twenty four very long hours, still haunts me.
      .
      I have been able to concentrate even while having one of my most severe hangovers, back in the 1990s, and still meditate, so a crime novel would be easy in comparison. 🙂
      .
      I was deeply honored that Hortensia Anderson went out of her way to email me to say how much she liked this haiku.
      .
      It’s one of my direct experience haiku, and how my world narrowed to a sofa in one room, and the throne of the smallest room in the building. 🙂
      .
      warm regards,
      Alan

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back To Top