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
midnight blue a grandma-shaped crater on the moon — Hemapriya Chellappan, The Blo͞o Outlier Journal, Issue #1 (2020)
Marion Clarke reflects on larger-than-life grannies:
The rich and vibrant midnight blue of line one combined with the humorous visual of the second line suggests a grandmother with a larger-than-life character who was a lot of fun. In fact, this haiku reminds me of my own grandmother, Granny Campbell, still much missed after twenty years. The loss of a favorite grandparent who colored our lives during childhood has a huge impact, and Hemapriya’s haiku reflects this well.
Radhamani Sarma moves through various phases:
Thanks to Hemapriya for kindling our imagination on the specific shape of the moon. East or west, the moon and celestial stars have been agile tempers for writers augmenting their descriptive aura. Creativity finds a unique platform when one writes about the moon, its round shape and bright, waning or waxing phases, as well as the shades and shadows embedded on it — various images to suit the writer’s immediacy of purpose.
The persona who weaves a tale of woe could be either a sad man or woman, viewing the moon’s odd shapes and phases.
The first line, “midnight blue,” sets the tone of unhappy, somber surroundings. He or she is in deep distress, unable to control the memory of loss, death, a bygone event, perhaps experiencing an uncomfortable sleep or some inexplicable void or cloud. All of this taunts the persona, who may be rolling to either side of the bed in the dead of night, midnight, the irony of depression passing through. If it were day, it might result in the narrator’s scream or wail; his running and jumping might be the outcome. Yet it is midnight, and this is happening in silence, eerie silence.
The second line, “a grandma-shaped crater,“ manifests in this image on the rounded beauty of the moon, until some creepy hollow or dent has formed on it, as visualized by the narrator at midnight. Hollowness, or perhaps a chipped cavity on the moon, is carved like a grandma, all shrunken due to age. It could be that the hollowed size or gap is Grandma warped on the moon.
Another possible inference is that the person recollects the bard’s feeling, and he or she wants to outwit the moon’s speed as it crosses the sky. As the moon moves along, he or she sees gaps and shadings, somewhat like Grandmother gliding along the gaps of the moon.
“on the moon” implies a gradual disfiguration of this celestial body. There is contrast between the cool, rounded beauty and the thieved, chipped hollowness. Taken in its totality, the poem shows that what was once in the past now is the present condition. The visitation of Grandmother on the moon takes place in this poet’s imagination.
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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peeling layers of childhood green mango chutney — Neena Singh, Heliosparrow Poetry Journal (2020)