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re:Virals 252

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

     sparks a galaxy
     between us
          — Rajan Garg, 2nd Place, World Haiku Contest (2016)

Carol Prost senses universal harmony:

As I have an affinity to galaxies and campfires, this haiku sparks joy and connection in me.

I feel the memory within my body of sitting in the black and starry night with the hint of faces and bodies across the fire circle, or for that matter across the country or the world, or perhaps even the universe, and yet we are all viscerally connected in heart and soul.

The crackling of the fire is the only word spoken or needed.

I remember that the mapping of the creation of the galaxies is as to the creation of a child in the body of a pregnant woman; reminding me that despite so much conflict in the outer world there is harmony in the larger existence.

Radhamani Sarma envisions a world beyond:

At a time when we are locked down and ire and corona fire are raging globally, I’m delighted to read and comment on this senryu that sparks a jubilant note as visualized by Rajan Garg.

In the first line, “campfire” tells us that the narrator is going to detail glowing fires. In this setting, the fire maintains heat and warmth, even enabling campers to cook. The atmosphere depicted here is an aura of sparks, brightness and illumination.

The campfire continues in the second and third lines. “campfire/ sparks a galaxy/ between us,”  takes those in the assemblage to a congregation of stars, implying that they are shining with sparks and in stellar counts. “Camps” could also be construed as consisting of tents, perhaps war camps, with a hint of a hostile atmosphere. In contrast, the fire emanating from enemy camps converts the assemblage into a bright spark, hence the sense of a galaxy. How much of a change this might be in the imagination of either the persona or the congregation, the fire and sparks. From unpleasant to pleasant, the members of this group are transported to the world of a galaxy.

Another potential inference is the unsettling atmosphere of a camp where darkness prevails when the fire emits flames only in intermittent gaps, where cooking goes on nearby or far off, and a star of hope or a spark shines on the faces of people all around. It is all a word game, converting the thought or experience or happening of the poet’s mind into his own idiom, and also allowing us as readers into this world in our own way.

As this week’s winner, Radhamani 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 253:

     in the cathedral
     a lost soul asks me the way
     to the gift shop  
          — Mark  Gilbert, Shortlisted, H. Gene Murtha Memorial Senryu Contest (2017)

This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. To All commenters: *Please* use the contact box as provided in the text of this past week’s posting when submitting your commentary for re:Virals #253 (*not* the “leave a reply” box)! It just makes things more equitable overall. If you don’t, I may be forced to disable the comments in subsequent postings. Thank you for your understanding.

  2. in the cathedral
    a lost soul asks me the way
    to the gift shop

    Sometimes a little offering like this makes you leap for joy and you know it will stay with you for a long time, certainly every time you visit a cathedral – you’ll be waiting for a ‘lost soul’ to approach you, maybe while you’re studying other lost souls whose names are recorded on memorial tablets round the walls, perhaps killed in some war to end wars or just passing on, having been resident organist for 55 years. You might even ask yourself, if only for a moment, “Am I just such a lost soul as this?” – like the sixteen month old, dead since July 1857, whose name is etched (‘sacred to the memory of…) in the well-worn paving slab you’re walking over.

    Cathedrals are full of lost souls, alive or dead.

    What makes Mark’s three-liner so memorable is that it is anchored somewhere familiar to one haunted by time & place and gives every appearance of having been written on the spot, more or less spontaneously. The colloquial ‘lost soul’ starts out as maybe a poor old lady (say) who wants to be able to send some small something or other to a relative at home as a record of her visit – such a meagre, if human, response to the glory of an ancient edifice built in the spiritual past. A gift shop in a cathedral does not really fit with, for example, prayers for the departed; if the lost soul had asked for the way to the cloisters the three-liner would have had no resonance whatsoever.

    What also makes this three-liner so memorable is that you get all the many layers of meaning in an instant: the ‘lost soul’ becomes fleetingly not just a passerby but a spirit straying from a sarcophagus who ought really to be asking for the way back – a comment that I hope reflects the lightness of touch & nice sense of humour in Mark’s piece which takes it place for me in a little notebook of highly memorable haiku/senryu of the same kind that the dear ‘lost soul’ Ken Jones used to keep for himself.

  3. in the cathedral
    a lost soul asks me the way
    to the gift shop
    — Mark Gilbert, Shortlisted, H. Gene Murtha Memorial Senryu Contest (2017)

    ‘In the cathedral’ sets the tone for us as to where we are. Are we members or visitors in a famous place? Immediately the reader wonders and we read of ‘a lost soul.’ Well, lost here, lost in an unfamiliar city, seeking solace for past sins. Perhaps he/she asks us and though spiritually lost decides just to get a postcard or trinket. But maybe we don’t know the gift shop whereabouts being strangers in town ourselves. Lots of thoughts we can spin up in contemplation besides the simple and amusing spiritual/gift shop trinket that pops to mind so easily.

  4. The mention of “cathedral” and “lost soul” immediately elevate the poem to a spiritual level, while the mention of “gift shop” drops us back down to earth with a thud. We don’t know why the poet feels like the person is a lost soul, unless he or she is spiritually omniscient, or why someone would need directions to the cathedral gift shop (if cathedrals had gift shops they’d be right off the entry.). But we could suppose that the lost soul wanted to buy candles or a rosary. Maybe the poem is about redemption. Since haiku traditionally were observances of nature, this piece allows the poet to make a value judgment.

  5. Another haiku that is nice, that is just okay. Not much to say about it.


      1. Thank you for asking. I might comment on a haiku which I find
        intriguing. Don’t want to be negative. Probably should not have posted
        to this one, as it is more or less negative.

Comments are closed.

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