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re:Virals 282

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

     so tiny
     beneath the silent pine —
     mouse bones
          — Laurie D. Morrissey, Wales Haiku Journal (2020)

Radhamani Sarma observes the minimal:

Many thanks to Laurie D. Morrissey, for giving us a melodic world of music when we are caught in a noise trap.

In this haiku, we are given a curious mix of melody and malady. The first line — “so tiny” — allows room for the reader’s speculation and extended imagination. The term “silent pine” could refer to a tall pine, amidst rustling wind in chill weather, breathing silence and void. Where pine fruits hang, so do the sweet and tasty, the small along with an inviting aura, perhaps for a mouse that might burrow holes up and down, with every possibility of being crushed by the branches of the pine tree. The structured skeletal system of a mouse is such that upon death, the narrowed bones, the bare bones in barren soil, invoke pity from onlookers. This is beautifully captured by the poet. Here, as one observes the minimal when nullification through death occurs, the outlook is “so tiny.” Shrinkage is aptly compressed in “mouse bones.” The contrast between a tall pine with hard branches and the crushed mouse bones beneath the tree is implied. Another inference could be the height of the tree, its majesty and power, that could easily crush tiny animals, both economically and in all aspects.

Imagining and setting a mouse trap is one thing, but the ghastly sight of mouse bones is another horrendous, indigestible factor the reader can’t ignore.

Cezar-Florin Ciobîcă meditates on transient nature:

You don’t have to analyze the poem in a didactic way to realize that it is a very good haiku. Neither the form nor the seasonal word should prevail in such poems, but the haiku moment, that fabric of unnamed deep meaning that reveals the emotion that follows you long after reading it. One can read between the lines the pain, the sadness that this ‘ku generates.

Until he reads the last verse, the reader does not know what the first part of the poem refers to, so it is a delayed surprise that gives the poem a well-modulated tension. The poem gives you the feeling that the pine seems to keep a moment of silence in the memory of the little creature of which only the bones remain. Thus, we can say that the pine is each of us who witnesses this emotional scene that makes you simply meditate on our transient nature.

The absence of verbs reveals a static landscape, which enhances the created atmosphere and gives it a tragic aura. The alliteration (“n” and “s”) and assonance (“i” and “o”) also subliminally highlight the thrill that invites you to contemplate this sad picture.

Furthermore, the tiny bones can be seen as an ellipse that makes you think critically about life and appreciate the moments you have at your disposal. As for the pine, that represents wisdom and eternal life. Its static image seems to reflect consternation.

In conclusion, enjoy this poignant poem that makes us aware of how fragile life is.

As this week’s winner, Cezar-Florin 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!

The Haiku Foundation reminds you that participation in our offerings assumes respectful and appropriate behavior from all parties. Please see our Code of Conduct policy.

re:Virals 283:

     I slide a kigo
     into the gun
          — Alan Summers, tinywords, Issue 20.2 (2020)

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. The pine, with it’s long life, tough timber and evergreen needles stands like an obstinate mountain; which is juxtaposed with ” so tiny, mouse bone”. The silence of the indomitable pine against the horrors of the events that could have happened the last night , and the remains of it bring to my mind one of Basho’s best..
    summer grass
    all that remains
    of a Samurai’s dream

  2. Dear Cezar-Florin Ciobîcă
    Greetings. In your analysis, the following observations, give a deeper insight .
    A chance to reread furthering aspect of pronunciation.
    “The absence of verbs reveals a static landscape, which enhances the created atmosphere and gives it a tragic aura. The alliteration (“n” and “s”) and assonance (“i” and “o”) also subliminally highlight the thrill that invites you to contemplate this sad picture. “

  3. This is a question for Theresa Cancro (and all) which I ask here because it may be of use generally. Or maybe not. I am wondering if there are any expectations of how readers may or should respond to haiku offered in re:Virals. There are no stipulations I am aware of, but I wonder if, as I asked before, criticism is allowed– or encouraged. I often have reservations about what I see, but am reluctant to say anything because the prevailing tone seems to be one of appreciation. A fine thing, that is, but surely there are instances where some sense of questioning about how a haiku is written may come in.
    Or maybe this is not the place for it. Maybe appreciation is the way to go, avoiding the possibility of quibbling or worse over the merits of a haiku. And if one finds fault, or does not entirely appreciate, let it go. I would be grateful for thoughts on this.

    Thank you.

    If I recall right, the description very early on for comments to re:Virals was broader, essentially
    asking for whatever response one may have. It seems to be narrowed down now.

    1. Dear D Parseff,
      You are, of course, welcome to submit any commentary on any of the featured poems. There is no stipulation about commentary being (or not being) complimentary, or a critique, or anything in between. I will consider all submissions. You may (as you have done here and for past re:Virals) post comments on the commentary and the poems.
      Best regards,
      Theresa Cancro

    2. Thank you D Parseff for asking this question, and Theresa Cancro for replying. On a personal note, I have noticed times when I posted a kind of critical response to a poem and it seemed to close off further comments. That could just be something I imagined had happened, maybe from feeling a little unsure about saying things that went “against the grain” of other, more appreciative

      If you look back at the original Virals, you will see a lot of pushback (as well as appreciation) on certain poems offered. And quite a variety of poets commented! Where have they gone? It was often pretty spirited. I don’t know why re:Virals couldn’t bring in some
      of that energy.

      I wonder if limitations have been set by the very set-up of the feature as: “The Haiku Foundation’s weekly poem commentary feature on some of the finest haiku ever written in English.” A bit of hyperbole there, perhaps intended to entice. But perhaps it would be better to be more explicit about what is acceptable, even encouraged, as commentary, to include (respectful) critique.

      What do you think?

    3. As for discussion, you can always take it to the “forums”, start a discussion, for example, about words that may or may not be overused in haiku, such as “lone”, “old”, “silence” and others. You might have more luck with that than I have had. A bit awkward, it is, to start a discussion topic and be met with . . . silence.

      Worth a go anyway.

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