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
the open lids of grand pianos sailing a sun-struck wall — Jo Balistreri, NOON, Issue 16 (2020)
Keith Evetts observes:
The greatest music is but a shadow of butterflies.
Radhamani Sarma takes note of a congenial mood:
Jo Balistreri’s monoku veers around the theme of music, releasing our stress during these COVID times and their devastating repercussions. The poem is all about the joy, the exuberance experienced during a piano recital, and not simply that of any piano, but a grand piano.
The monoku’s beginning highlights the instrument in plural — ” grand pianos” — the structure and rendition after which the sounds vibrate to the highest pitch.
Readers here are assigned the role of listeners as well as onlookers, when high-strung notes from the high-pitched strings of grand pianos affect the open lids. One is forced, or rather drawn, to the magic charm the monoku’s wording: The open lids are sailing where? In the descriptive verb “sailing,” readers, here spectators, witness the operation or flight of piano lids that open to the sun–struck wall.
In big, broad, grand pianos, freedom is unlimited due to their open lids: They are sailing straight to the sun-struck wall. The mood is also congenial, for ambience from the sun shining on a wall is synonymous with the warmth and congenial mood of an artist in high spirits, with voluminous notes produced by the artist. The notes affect the speed of the open lids so as to reach the sun-struck
I am reminded of Wordsworth’s immortal verse, “My heart leaps up when I behold/ A rainbow in the sky…” reflecting sentiments similar to the piano lids flying to reach the sun-struck wall.
Alan Summers runs with his imagination:
This single line haiku simply sails along! I’m reminded of a piano shop that I would regularly pass by at different times of the day through different seasons of the year. I’m sure most of us have seen at least one piano with its lid open to the musician and the audience. We’ve even possibly passed by a shop selling pianos, or at least a variety of musical instruments. We might have seen the sun glancing off the piano lids and thought of sailing boats and ships passing by, if we let our imagination run riot.
I asked Jo Balistreri, the author of the poem, about her work, and this is what she said:
“We were in the Steinway showroom just looking, and the sun was coming in the front window. I commented on how that couldn’t be good on all the grand pianos when that thought was erased by the scene on the wall — the sun had created a regatta of sails out of the upraised lids of the pianos, as if they were moving to some music we could not hear. Such beautiful harmony. The haiku kind of wrote itself.”
Donna Fleischer discovers an opus:
This straight-lined monostitch, or one-line haiku, transforms poetry into music, into painting. It literally is a horizontal plane where words like musical notes and dust motes, float, waft, sail . . .
“the open lids of grand pianos” resemble sails upon an open sea as they reflect upon a wall of sun, ultimately sound.
A complete world is given to the reader in almost a single breath, and its direction is almost as surprising. When this reader opened the lid, I expected death, as in an an open coffin lid. The haiku steers us away from death this time. Thank You.
As this week’s winner, Donna 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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yellow ginkgo leaves shedding our inhibitions on the Zoom meeting — Sari Grandstaff, The Haiku Foundation's Haiku Dialogue (November 2020)