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
horse pasture the prairie wind moves with muscle — Chad Lee Robinson, The Heron's Nest, Vol. XXII, No. 4 (2020)
Lakshmi Iyer considers the poet’s use of close association:
The structure of any haiku is not only dependant on observation and experience, but also the visual effects which make the whole haiku vibrant with layers.
“horse pasture” sets the scene of large acres of grassland that provide healthy pastures of high quality.
Chad Lee Robinson seems to love the horses, literally owning them. He recreates events with a connecting second image in line two — “the prairie wind.” This takes me to my geography class, where I learned about prairies being part of temperate grasslands that strengthen the ecosystem. But the poet strikes a very serious note on the prairie wind that destroys most of the pastures, with dust storms storming in. Here, he uses “moves with muscle.” Usually, this idiom is used in a negative phrase, but here the poet has laid an icing —”the prairie wind moves/ with muscle.” This is the whole truth of what the poet has visualised, isn’t it? Personifying the prairie winds with the power of muscles shows the intense concern of the poet to protect the pastures of his dreams and subject: the horses!
The technique of close association is visible here with the horses, their pastures and the prairie winds. They are closely linked with each other, yet connected to the outside world to protect our ecosystems: the issues of global warming and the need of a pure and clean environment.
I appreciate, with due respect, the poet’s concern not only for the environment, but also for the animal kingdom. He has carved out the image with subtle sincerity and absolute truth!
Mark Gilbert uncovers the instinctive:
I find it difficult to write too much on an intellectual level about this haiku. Yes, it compares the prairie wind with a horse, a thousand pounds of muscle evolved to perform a few simple tasks very well. And like the way a single horse is dwarfed by the multiple horsepower of a single car, human machines are themselves dwarfed by the enormous invisible and unthinking strength of a single gust of wind, sweeping through the prairie and continuing over the earth’s surface to bend blades of grass and trees and to move water until running out of energy somewhere still to wink out of existence.
So, to me, this haiku is visceral, or even centered in the muscle itself, like the way a hand will instinctively recoil from a flame without wasting time, sending an electrical signal all the way to the brain and back.
As this week’s winner, Mark 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.
the dance of periwinkle buds it’s a boy — Isabel Caves, The Haiku Foundation's Haiku Dialogue (April 2020)