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
new year morning — knee deep in the snow left by last year — Arvinder Kaur, The Mainichi Daily (2021)
Lakshmi Iyer considers the past year in light of the new:
Arvinder Kaur’s haiku deeply resonates during the present coronavirus pandemic. It’s been a long year in the wait. Every minute and every second with the passing seasons, one always tends to have a low day. It may either be a stressful journey or a depressive mood. “knee deep in the snow”: How long can one stand in the snow? Millions of people face problems every day — unemployment, shortage of funds, etc. The repercussions are strong. In spite of the vaccines, a cure will surely take time. The after effects of the pandemic will still remain in the pages of history.
“new year morning” is a strong image, throwing light on positivity and a new horizon. Maybe, every morning, we will see a new beginning.
Radhamani Sarma ruminates on one year melding into the next:
Thanks to Arvinder Kaur for welcoming in the dawn of 2021 with his haiku. Here, in the first line, is the start of the “new year morning,” with suspense and mystery hanging like a pendulum. In this introductory line, with its pause, more and more poetic images and interpretations, like cherry blossoms in the offing, are to be expected.
For us all, a new year enters with peals of joyous bells, gifts, the exchange of greetings, cards, blessings and benedictions. Some may be found on the porch, sitting and ruminating over bygone months, unfulfilled dreams, with a hope beckoning their moods of new prospects in the days to come. After all, the new year portends blooming prospects of dawn and creativity that can be extended to a larger extent than might be envisioned by ordinary perception.
But what follows is another inference, possibly a sad irony hinted at below, irreconcilable and uneasy to digest. In a dramatic shift, the second line, “knee deep in the snow,” offers a juxtaposition in conjecture of meaning. It highlights a significant seasonal effect compressed between two stages. Poetic imagination delves into that entity and what it is, being man or woman, deer or sage, seer or some animal or flora and fauna. It could be a thick layer of forest covered by frost or snow, or a frozen pond or river; “knee deep in the snow,” frozen, cold and dead. The poet’s greatness lies in leaving it unmentioned, the victim, one of the above, or many.
Now, the last line, “left by last year,” connotes so much. Life, or breath — the life source — is gone; it is adumbrated. “last year” signifies that in the days preceding the much awaited new year, life leaves. There is space for many to mourn and weep. In a way, it is not “new year morning,” but mourning, and as such, is clothed in subtle terms by the persona.
In between new year’s morning, and the past year’s cruel touch or clutch of snowy, knee-deep predicaments, a widening gap silences our breath. Thus, our new year’s morning is much expected with intense jubilation.
In between beginning and end is that sad middle; how surreptitious and subtle, how slow and silent: a riddle in the new year’s morning about many things.
Peggy Bilbro approaches from two points of view:
This lovely haiku by Arvinder Kaur can be read two different ways, depending on which “you” is brought to the reading. If you are reading with your adult self, you will concentrate on the new year, which brings fresh beginnings, and the last line indicating that being knee-deep in snow is a sign of the many issues still hanging over your head from the previous year. This is probably the way Arvinder meant it to be read and how most of us will see it.
But let us go back to your child self and look at the middle line with a younger, more innocent eye. New Year’s Day and knee-deep in snow! That means snow forts, snow people, snowball fights, snow angels! The line between last year and this new year is not one of dread, or of need to put on your big girl/big boy pants, but a moment of pure joy. School is still on holiday, the sun may or may not be shining, but all that snow from yesterday is still with you on this fresh new day of a fresh new year. I know that probably isn’t what was meant, but this haiku told me just for this short minute, we should go outside and make snow angels and enjoy some of the joys mixed in with the burdens carried over from last year. Thank you, Arvinder, for letting my imagination loose!
As this week’s winner, Peggy 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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Sun on the horizon a child throws sand back into the sea — Sylvia Forges-Ryan, frogpond, vol 35:2 (2012)