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
hundred — Grandpa claims to be older than the banyan tree — Akila G., Creatrix #27 (2014)
Radhamani Sarma glimpses propagation:
Being in the peak of summer in India, I’m very much delighted to read and comment upon this haiku with the image of a banyan tree, fanning us all, with shade and shelter from wind and the blazing heat of summer, serendipitously, with a cool aura permeating thereon.
Starting with “hundred,” the writer leaves options for the widening speculations of fertile imaginations. The general content arrived at after reading all three lines is affluence, rich propagation.
In age, in their longevity both Grandpa and the banyan tree share similar characteristics and more: The banyan tree is supposed to have sturdy, strong roots and longevity. The banyan with all its age, in ancient tradition, is symbolic of protection and spreading one’s lineage. It is synonymous with culture and strength embedded in its roots. Now, Grandpa ruling with majesty and unmindful of his age, governs here. Not merely in a similar way, but also more in his own way, Grandpa hits a hundred years and claims to be equal or more so in many aspects. “hundred —” synchronizes with hundreds, even a thousand offspring, such as grandchildren, great-grandchildren, roots in lineage which go beyond their imprint. Grandpa is not only proud, but also sees his great-grandchildren playing and growing, which propagates his pride, legacy, and the carrying on of culture before his eyes. Viewed this way, he has no age limit, no restrictions; he surpasses the hundred year limit, crossing the boundary and beyond.
In all its propagation and blessing, the banyan goes down in literature, tradition and culture as an emblem, an image unequalled, of protection which is longstanding. Grandpa sits in the evening, calm and in a mood of introspection, feeling doubly happy for his being, stature, undiminished, though aged and aging.
Lakshmi Iyer encounters parallel images:
The poet has intelligently woven a beautiful village scene using the words: hundred, Grandpa, and the banyan tree!
Upon reading this heart-warming senryu, I sense warm family bonding and togetherness, along with love and respect. Who doesn’t like to be with their grandparents? It seems, the poet’s constant visit to her village since childhood must have compelled her to write this senryu.
I shall say, this is “Reminiscing the Conversations with Grandpa.”
What better word than “hundred” in the first line! The poet places an em dash to draw the attention of readers. This is to emphasize the strength of the number and the reflection of that with a parallel image, “the banyan tree,” in line two. Undoubtedly, banyan trees are the oldest. They act as a witness to all the happenings around them.
Here is a humorous twist! The hero of the story, Grandpa with the capital letter, enters the second line. This is a psychological revelation. The aged claim themselves to be the most experienced, eldest and the oldest in the village. Their statements stun all as they claim to be older than even the banyan tree. It’s like saying, “I have seen the tree grow in front of my eyes.” Isn’t this funny? But, a hard hitting conversation, very genuine and innocent. I give credit to the poet for her simplicity.
As this week’s winner, Lakshmi 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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filigree on leaf ... what is of what was — Priti Aisola, Under the Basho (2020)