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
nowhere to run from the skeleton within — windmill raven — Allan Burns, Bottle Rockets #28 (2014)
Radhamani Sarma turns the verse over in her mind:
Many thanks for featuring this senryu revolving around the image of a “windmill raven.” This reminds us of summer when wind speed is the potential gift for birds like crows and ravens: The wind at high speed is the gift of their birthright and energy, while they swim in mid-air. Machinery enabling such a super power is the gift of their wings, their modus operandi. Like humans, birds have a special instinct to survive, to build and sustain themselves depending on their surroundings.
Allan Burns, or the persona, pictures a “windmill raven,” taking us into this bird’s shelter where it has a habit of constructing after gathering quills and twigs, pointed wooden sticks, carrying them all in its beak, then arranging them in order until the construction becomes fully impacted within the windmill.
Now, we have to establish connectivity with the forgoing lines — “nowhere to run/ from the skeleton within.” Windmills turn, rotate and agitate the air, and are even a pleasant sight for onlookers, but a painful syndrome for a raven that has hardly any space within the supportive rubric of this particular windmill. We imagine the raven flying or running at the rotating windmill with twigs stuffed among its panels. There’s a musicality of rhythm running from “nowhere to run/ from the skeleton within.” The grudging remark by the poet reminds us that the raven is outside the windmill, helplessly viewing all the extra fittings for survival within the windmill’s gambit.
Another interpretation might be that the raven is stuck within the windmill’s thin framework and cannot find a way out among the hanging domes and twigs that obstruct the bird’s passage. The raven is simply enjoying the game of rotation.
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!
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we talk about survival rates winter sky — Rachel Sutcliffe cattails, Issue 1 (2014)